More from Richard Peck

In my last post, I talked about the great advice from YA novelist Richard Peck  about “cutting 10 words from the tightest page you ever wrote.”  Over the years, I’ve heard him share lots of other very helpful advice, and here are more of his words (which I’ve also used, with his permission, in articles on writing):

“…authors over-write out of insecurity.  We are pleading with our readers to understand what we are saying.” 

I try to remember this sage comment as I work on my own stories, since I tend to over-explain.  Of course, sometimes in a first draft, we need to “tell the story to ourselves” so we can figure out what, exactly, we are trying to say.  But then it’s time to cut, re-arrange, and make every word count.  As Peck says, we need to trust the reader’s intelligence and trust that they will understand.

I certainly wish that the author of the book I’m currently reading for our book discussion group had learned this.  He is a prolific, best-selling author, but he definitely does not follow Peck’s advice.  Besides telling instead of showing (a “cardinal sin” for writers, we all know) he explains everything, just in case the reader doesn’t “get it.”  This goes on for 1,000 pages (!!) and I’m at a loss to understand how he became so popular. 

How refreshing it is to read Richard Peck’s (and others’) concise, well-crafted books instead. 

Contributed by Marjorie Flathers


3 responses to “More from Richard Peck

  1. I think we are all guilty of explaining too much. It’s a good thing to be reminded that the reader probably got it the first time. Thanks, Marge!


  2. shirleyshibley

    Yes, we can insult readers that very way. Good advice.


  3. Thanks, Marge. Although it’s sometimes like cutting off your finger, cutting does refine your manuscript.

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