Monday, April 1, 2013

A to Z Challenge Kickoff: Let's start with A

Today is the beginning of the A to Z Challenge. This is where a bunch of crazy bloggers all decide to take the  weekdays in the month of April to post on topics that begin with a different letter of the alphabet every day. If you want to join, there's still time! Just follow this link.

A big shout out to ARLEE BIRD, founder of the challenge. What a fun idea! So glad to be able to participate!

My theme for this month will be (loosely) the ABC's of the Editing Process. This collection of random ramblings will have perspectives on editing and writing techniques that will hopefully help strengthen the quality of OUR writing and OUR final products. Yep, not just giving out advice here. I'm hoping to learn something for my own craft, too! I can't wait to hear your feedback, as well, so leave lots of comments.

So without further ado: A stands for Action

Action is the main vehicle for getting your characters from "Once Upon a Time," to "The End." Without action, your MC would never learn that he is a wizard, find that golden ticket, stand up against the oppressive regime that forces children to fight children to the death, or fall in love with his best friend. Your MC wouldn't even be able to get out of bed in the morning!

One of the main pitfalls of the beginning writer is the tendency to want to describe everything, to tell the reader about the details of setting and characters, even down to the brand of jeans or what cars are driving by on the street. We spend hours crafting the perfect sentence that will describe exactly what everything in our head (or in front of our eyes) looks like. While nothing is more important that setting the scene, when it comes to details (or the overuse of them), less is more! They call this concept "Show, don't Tell." If the detail is important, somehow it will fit into the action.

This is not to say that a manuscript should be all action, but action moves the plot forward while description puts the plot in neutral... it's not moving backward, but it's not really going anywhere. Finding the balance that fits your plot is the key. If we're having a thrilling car chase or a heated argument, the rest of the details will naturally fall in the background (into that less is more category). If the MC is pondering the meaning of life while sitting on the edge of Santa Monica Pier, it's possible that the details will be more relevant to what you're trying to convey.

While some readers are philosophers, and some texts need accurate description to be understood, most readers are just looking for the action and they'll skim right over that detailed description of what the ceremonial knife set looked like. Even if they read it word for word, there's no guarantee that what they see is what you see. There are some things that have to be let go.

I know it's hard, but take a look at your WIP (work in progress). Locate those chunks of descriptive prose. Yes, you were poetic, an artist unparalleled. Now decide if that description really adds to the theme/symbolism/plot/character in a way that the reader will connect with. Can't decide? Ask an honest friend or a crit partner. If the answer is no, consider cutting it out of the action and squirrel it away for the supplemental materials they'll want to print after your book has made you famous.


  1. Wow. Surely coming back for more. Sometimes what you really need is a big knock on the head to get the stars out there.

    The art of not saying it all is something we all need to learn. Loved dropping by. Following you for more.

  2. I'm a writer and can relate very well to this post. Good job. Good luck with the challenge! I participated last year and had a blast!

    Donna L Martin

  3. Great info for someone like me who can't write. Looking forward to more.


    The Sock Zone @

  4. Action - that's a good one. I'm currently all talk...I talk about my ideas and do nothing with them. Great post!

  5. Great post - it's always good to try to look through our work and replace storytelling with action. But so easy to slip back into storytelling sometimes.

  6. Great theme! New follower here. I'm stopping by from the "A to Z Challenge" and I look forward to visiting again!


  7. I myself am a beginner writer and your words today were perfect. I'm going to go back over my work and put some action into it!

  8. Love, love, loving this blog! I'm already hooked and we're just on "A." I am currently shuffling through the blogs at random on the A-Z Blog Tour, and this one does not disappoint! Will add you to my list so I don't miss one. :)

    Happy blogging!


  9. Come visit us at where we are doing an original poem every day for the A-Z challenge and to celebrate National Poetry Month!

  10. I'm off to do some editing...Look forward to your 'B' :)

  11. I'm showing up as anonymous..but I'm not :(
    I'm @trish_nugent on twitter this is saying my openid credentials cant be verified I'm also on enjoyed your post..and as I said to do some editing :)

    1. Thanks for commenting Trish! Sorry it's not registering your user name in the comments... don't know why that is. :(

      Looking forward to seeing you around the blogging world!

  12. I still consider myself a beginner when it comes to writing, but oddly enough, I've been told I'm kind of the opposite. I have to work on creating more of these well constructed scenes. Thanks for the tips though.

    Have fun with the challenge.

  13. Great post! I'm one of those readers who will skim over long descriptive paragraphs!


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