Editing Challenge Day 22: Pull out the Explanations

This is a new part of my 30-Day Editing Challenge. Start at the beginning or find other days here.

There are only nine days left to go, editors. You’ve been working hard and diligently on that story you first printed out twenty-two days ago, and I bet it looks quite different from the way it did on day one. I’d love to see your marked up pages; tweet a picture to me @bhurley and I’ll be delighted to retweet.

So today I’m suggesting you do just a bit more cutting. Just when you thought you couldn’t cut any more, you discover a new spot that is redundant or weak or just over-explaining the magic of the scene that you’ve worked so hard to create. Today, do a pass with the story and look for places where you’re over-explaining the meaning of the story. We all do it; it comes from a simultaneous burst of braggadocio and insecurity. On one level, we want our readers to appreciate how smart we are. See that metaphor over there? See what I did with that parallel between the father and his son? Yeah, I know, it’s pretty great. Here, let me show you my brilliance. And at the same time, it’s the insecurity: I don’t know if you can tell what I’m trying to do here. Maybe I was too subtle. Here, let me help you.

As a general rule of thumb, readers are smarter than we give them credit for. We need to remember that they can pick up on clues, and more importantly, they want to draw their own conclusions from the story.

So today, take that pass and again look for moments where you are over-explaining. Take a breath. Have a little faith that your ideas are there, and they’re good.

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