Monday, May 07, 2007


I want you to remember this acronym.

Resist the Urge to Explain.


Why is it so important in writing? Because if we try to explain every thing down to the smallest detail, we cheat our readers of using their imagination. Not only that, but we also might bore them, which is even worse! Renni Browne and Dave King coined this acronym in Self-Editing for Fiction Writers .

So what should you resist explaining in your novel or short story or heck, anything you write?

Look at the following sentence.

She slammed the door and marched over to him. "You make me so mad!" she screamed angrily.

It's pretty obvious in this sentence what we want to delete: "she screamed angrily" isn't needed. The slamming door and what she says pretty much convey that this lady is just a little upset.
Adverbs are always a clue that you need to look at your writing and see if you are trying to explain a little too much.

But what about sections that aren't so obvious?

Here's a paragraph that is a little more difficult.

She put the beer back in the refrigerator, then pulled it out again. If she left it there, he would want to drink it again. And she didn't want that to happen. He'd been drinking too much again, and she couldn't stand to watch him stumble around anymore . But if she took it out, then she would be a co-dependent. What to do?

This paragraph analyzes this character's motivation to the extreme. In the proper context of the novel (where we already know what's happening), you could shorten it to read like this:

She put the beer back in the refrigerator, then pulled it out again, torn over the decision.

Look at all of those words we deleted! And in so doing, we didn't bash the reader over the head with information.

When you're editing your novel, look for places where you can Resist the Urge to Explain. It will help with your pacing, tighten sections that are just a little too wordy, and smooth out any rough spots.

Happy hunting!


  1. That's so HUGE! I'm all over it. Thanks for the reminder. :)

  2. Great acronym, Melissa :) I'll remember to put it beside my monitor!!!!!

  3. Great examples, Melissa. Thanks!

  4. I just had someone give me that self-editting book the other day! I'm looking forward to reading it and putting it to good use. Hopefully it will help me keep my word count under control.

  5. I love learning about books like this, what an excellent example. Thanks, Melissa.


  6. Hey Melissa, wow this is so true.. I see it with emerging teenage readers in their response to literature... Saki's "The Open Window" and Roald Dahl's 'Lamb to the Slaughter" are great examples of stories that reveal just enough to engage even the most reluctant reader.

  7. Great post, Melissa! R.U.E is something I need to remember when I eventually come to editing. I think it's going to be a painful process!!

    Sue :-)

  8. I love it Melissa, damn you write gooder than me heheheheh

  9. I think of these problems as "overwriting," or "spoon-feeding," and I try to avoid them at all costs!


I love to hear from you!

New Digs

I've got a new home on the web - stop by if you get a chance!