Friday, June 15, 2007

Saying Just Enough

Yesterday I got feedback from my writing group on fifty pages. Mostly they liked it a lot, which is always nice.

However, the parts they felt needed more work had problems of two kinds, directly opposite to each other. Or, you could argue, two sides of the same nickel. In some places, I'd hit people over the head with what I was saying, and in others I'd left too much to the imagination.

For me, getting this balance right is and has always been the hardest part of writing. If someone has discovered a guideline that works (other than getting feedback), I'd love to know.

What I'd really like is a clarity meter, a little gizmo like a photographer's light meter that can be held close to the page and that will then register the exact degree of balancing needed.


billie said...

Hey, we both read on the same day. :)

My issue has to do with making the three voices more distinct and varying the rhythm/pace.

Fascinating - some of the feedback is almost identical to what I got on the first novel. I think I've gotten better but the core issues remain the same!

I came home and tore through the pages again - major reordering, which is for some reason the most difficult thing for me to do when editing. So I was happy I was bold enough to leap in and really shake things up to try and get it right.

When you find the clarity meter, would you pick one up for me? :)

Richard said...

Peggy, I don't know if this fits your situation, but the writer Tom Williams(no one down here knows him although he won a National Book Award and was a finalist a second time) once said writers tend to write too much about things they don't know, or of uncertain about. It's almost like we're struggling to prove our authority.

Conversely, we sometimes tend to write too little when we have a great deal of knowledge about something - maybe as if assuming others share that knowledge, too?

Anonymous said...

I'm getting in many requests for the clarity meter. Inventors, take note.

Back when I was mainly a travel writer and reluctant photographer, a pro photographer persuaded me in front of a bunch of other people that there was an attachment that removed phone lines from landscapes as you were shooting the picture. There's a market for that item too.

Congratulations, Billie, on leaping right in. You're especially good at that, I think.

Richard, I think your friend Tom is dead on. I remember in college when I took the first American lit survey course, I sat next to a buddy who was doing independent study on Faulkner. I, on the other hand, considered myself an expert on James.

When exam time came, we had to write three essays, which were graded separately. We each got an A our essays on the author we knew least about--and we each got a B on the one we knew more about. There was frustration all round.