Thursday, June 24, 2010

Write THEN Tell

We've all heard of "show don't tell" in writing, but I've discovered something else that's a problem - telling someone about a story before it's written. And I don't mean because someone will steal the idea (which is also a possibility). No, I refer to the fact that if you try to tell someone about a story you're writing, you may find you can't exactly explain things in the easiest way possible.

This is an especially big problem for me. Of the last few ideas for books I've had, only one of them doesn't require much explaining. "Fictional story based on the events described in a Facebook status about the night of Rob N Eoin's gig." Everyone in the college gets that. They'll ask "Whose status?" but that's about it. But an idea for YA Fantasy novel, and two books whereby the events are inspired by some morning crazy, one with some strange time travel and another with some sort of religious reference even I don't get... they're a little more difficult to explain. I won't bother here, as, you know, you might steal the ideas, but the stuff is a little mad, and when I mentioned it to someone, he replied "do I star?" I told him he does, a bit, which isn't a lie, but it's not the whole truth, and then tried to explain what the book was about without actually revealing the plot.

Bad idea!

I proceeded to confuse myself. The only upside is that I found the explanation I need to make more reader-friendly. (Side note the first: in the midst of writing this, I explained it to Amy from the Literary Den - I found my explanation already!) My advice: pick a friend to talk about something you don't understand yourself. Trust me, if you write a complicated enough story (human minds and the laws of the universe are very complicated), then you'll need to have this talk, because you won't understand everything. By the end of the first draft, you might. Or during edits. But I think the sooner you figure it out, the better. Before it's written...

So, two things to take from this... I'm realising these are I go along. Two things... Write THEN Tell and Discuss THEN Write. In reverse order, that's Discuss (to work out the details), Write (to actually do the work) then Tell (because apparently word of mouth is the best way to sell something).

If this blog post has been too difficult to follow, try reading my fiction before it's finished. It doesn't make sense until at least half-way, and even then you won't know what's going. But you'll want to know. Trust me on that one.

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