So I’ve been editing my novel, ‘Lex Talionis’, and I’ve become aware of one of my little tics. You know, that thing you do that you don’t notice and your beta readers probably didn’t notice, but your editor pointed out 0.5 seconds into reading your manuscript.
It appears I like to infer too much. Or rather, I expect the reader to pick up on subtle clues and ‘read between the lines’ stuff that they really can’t pick up on. Either because I forgot to include it / underline it in the novel, or because since my audience didn’t study literature at any point in their lives – and, therefore, do not make a habit of pulling apart novels and analysing them like little boys with their first electronic toy – they weren’t going to be breaking down my ‘between the lines’ stuff anytime soon.
As my editor likes to point out, I may have spent years in my world, but no one else can see it unless I write it down. In my rush to put into play some sound writing advice – don’t overwrite; trust your reader – I didn’t quite let the reader get enough information to start trusting me in the first place. The manuscript ends up with stuff that looks like logic holes, but are in fact just empty gaps where I could have put in background stuff to help the reader, but didn’t because I thought they would figure it out on their own. Or I edited it out in a revision pass and didn’t realise it would make the manuscript collapse on itself later like a house of cards in an earthquake. Or I just forgot.
Gah. So stupid.
So I have found one negative side-effect of letting too many of your excellent writer friends beta read for you. Writers are way more willing to infer than the ordinary reader. They have to be, or they wouldn’t be able to pull apart other people’s writing and thereby make their own better. So they aren’t the best at telling you when you’ve basically asked your reader to become a telepath.
I mean, it’s not like EBear (another of my excellent writing friends) didn’t warn me early. She told me years ago when she first got an editor that her feedback consisted of something like ‘flesh this out’ over and over again. At the time, I thought the editor was over-reacting. After all, I had picked up on all the things she was asking for in the manuscript just fine. So there was no problem, right?
Gah. SO STUPID.
Thank god for editors, okay. This appearing in public with your pants down is a lot easier if you don’t forget your underwear.
Okay, that image is…
Forget I said that.