com-mu-ni-ca-tion = the imparting or exchanging of information or news
If you're a parent, has this ever happened to you? It's Sunday night and you're told that a special folder or project is due the next day. Or you're told on Friday night that your child was invited to a birthday party the next day and they need a gift, pronto. How long had they kept this information to themselves? Days, I tell you. Days!
Ok, so sometimes kids have a hard time remembering to share information with their parents. These moments are yet another opportunity to teach this valuable lesson--communication makes our lives much easier.
It's been my experience that in real life, and in the writing life, it's so much better to know than to not know. Here are some ways we can improve communication with our writing:
I'm still opening up on this one. In the beginning, when I read the work of others, I held back because I thought, What do I know? Something would jump out at me but I remained silent, fearing my rookie status hadn't earned me a voice in the process. But I was wrong. Each of us has a voice. Each of us has something to offer. Maybe my comment won't be helpful, but why hold back? That's not being fair to my writing buddies. If they're reading something of mine and something, anything, jumps out at them, I want to know about it. The writer then has a choice--change it or not.
Too often I assume the reader knows what I mean. All the story information that's accumulated in my head doesn't have to be dumped onto the page, but the necessary stuff should. A tweak here or there can clarify the message.
Over Communication Blues
I've also been guilty of beating a point over the reader's head. I don't want them thinking, I get it already. This is another area where beta readers make all the difference in the world. They'll holler when points are repetitive.
It helps when we share our goals with friends and family. This way they can cheer us on as we pursue our dreams, and lift us up when we experience setbacks. It also helps them understand why we might need to lock ourselves in a room and flesh out a scene or an idea. And if we're less than attentive at times, they know not to take it personally.
Do you have other ideas for improving our communication? Have you ever experienced a communication breakdown, either with friends and family or through your work? How did you resolve it? And will my sons ever get a handle on this communication thing?
Ha! I had to laugh. My daughter told me last Tuesday that her "100 Days Project" was due last Thursday. Did we get'er done? Nope. I wrote a note to the teacher and said, (without miscommunication) that I had received no advance notice of such a thing as a 100 Days Project and my daughter would not be participating.ReplyDelete
My biggest flaw in my writing is the Over Communication Blues. If it weren't for my beta's, I'd still be on that dead horse.
Wives are good at that stuff as well - and they claim they told us weeks ago! (Well, maybe she did...)ReplyDelete
And Anne has no problem with over communication in her writing!
Your post made me smile. With three sons of my own, I have experienced the dilemma you describe many times! I, too, have been guilty of over communication in my writing. One critique partner made the comment once, "you need to trust the reader." That was great advice!ReplyDelete
Earlier I used to hold back, thinking I have no right to comment over another writer's work, but that's being grossly unfair. Now, I try to say it without being rude or harsh.ReplyDelete
Loved this post, Julie. Thanks! That first paragraph described my life perfectly. Ha! I have 2 boys and a husband (so...ok, 3 boys, too. ha) so I know what it's like to have that "lack of communication" or "delayed communication". I'm also a new author and this is very helpful. Thanks again and have a great week!ReplyDelete
I'm sure this'll happen to me eventually!ReplyDelete
I don't have kids, but I do work at a library. If I had a nickel for every child brought in by an exasperated parent with a project due the next day...ReplyDelete
As a writer, I've found one thing that helps with over communicating. Read through your draft from start to finish without stopping to edit. (Do take note of things you'll need to fix later, of course.) Those repetitious scenes will jump out at you, and then you'll be able to decide which scene reveals the information in the best way.
Great post! Beta readers are a great way to find that balance between telling the reader too much and not enough.ReplyDelete
I also do whole read throughs as suggested above. They do help.
Communication is so important. For example critting people's work.ReplyDelete
Saying "I don't like this" means nothing unless one specified what makes the specific thing unlikable.
I just finished critiquing someone's manuscript. I felt unworthy because his writing skills far exceed mine. But I did have a lot say about pacing and that comes from my experience as a thriller writer where pace is everything. And I also had many comments on the behavior of teenagers since I'm experienced with them, as well. We each have a unique perspective & through that, we have much offer. My CP told me he didn't feel he had enough experience to feel worthy of judging my writing, but I learned so much from him, both from his comments (I'd do it this way instead) and by reading his writing which was almost lyrical in its beauty.ReplyDelete
I think POV is so important when it comes to communicating. Often times, I'll think a sentence is perfectly clear, until I read a message from a critique partner and realize that they read it a totally different way than I meant it. In this case, I'd done the leg work, I'd put it down on the page, I'd had someone read it, but hadn't realized there was a different way of interpreting my words. Always a very enlightening experience for writing and for life!ReplyDelete
I'm sitting here going "I KNOW!" thinking of my own kids. LOL! You're so right about not holding back. Except now I'm all paranoid. Like, what if she didn't tell me something that I should change??? :DReplyDelete
I love 'who's on first'! I print out the script every year and do the whole five pages with my students. They absolutely love it!!ReplyDelete
My first drafts are littered with redundancies - I've really got to thank my crit buddies for helping me with that one!
I don't know what I'd do without beta readers. I always think readers are right there with me and I hold back so I don't info them to death and it usually turns out that I need to give more info!ReplyDelete
I don't have kids, but I hear stories like this from one of my colleagues who has three boys AAAALL the time. "By the way, this thing's due tomorrow...but that's okay, no big deal." And she's like, "Yes. Big deal. LET'S GO."ReplyDelete
I've learned a lot about communication or lack thereof from my teenagers. It is fun to "mimick" them in my writing. I wonder if they notice?ReplyDelete
Oh, the folders and birthday parties...Ahhhhhh *runs away screaming* Okay, I'm back now. One of the things I'm always trying to balance in writing is the too much/not enough info to the reader. Beta's are a HUGE help as you said, but one other thing I've found to be helpful is stepping away from the project for a while. When I return, I start to see some of the missteps myself. Also, our dear agent has THE BEST way of fixing this problem for me, and it's so simple. She marks next to a sentence or paragraph, "Why?" Then I realize I'm in the not enough zone, which tends to be my problem.ReplyDelete
I'm still opening up to beta reads too, and I do sometimes assume people know what I mean. All good points about communicating, Julie.ReplyDelete
I've been there - done that with the projects and the 9:30 pm Sunday night trip to Walgreens for poster board. AND...your sons will get a handle on it...probably in college - te he he.
Ah, the fine line between info. dump and "what are you talking about." I'd die a thousand deaths without beta reads.ReplyDelete
All. The. Time. My 15 y/o just called me on the way home to ask me to buy poster paper for his poster project due the next day. He did this TWICE bc there were two poster projects. One after the other.ReplyDelete
*angry face* So I know exactly what you mean. Gah!
The best communication tip: Listen. Everyone has something good to say, something we can learn from. So from the communication aspect... we have two ears and one mouth to listen twice as much as we hear. From those boys? Ah... give it up. They are little men. You can only do so much with the communication thing. ;)ReplyDelete
I like what you said about not needing to be an expert to be a good beta. And I'm sure I'll get that from kids when they're older lol.ReplyDelete
I used to hold back when it came to betas too. No more. I've found a confidence in myself lately when it comes to my writing and I'm learning to stress less, keep the faith, and remember my voice counts.ReplyDelete
This is my daughter on a Sunday night - she needs cooking ingredients for Monday, and the shop just closed :-)ReplyDelete
These are excellent ideas! I always try to start a critique with what I liked about it and that seems to make the entire communication process a lot easier.ReplyDelete
Banned complain !! Complaining only causes life and mind become more severe. Enjoy the rhythm of the problems faced. No matter ga life, not a problem not learn, so enjoy it :)ReplyDelete
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