Thursday, 14 August 2008

The best way to be boring is to leave nothing out...

Voltaire said that, and how right he is. Writing a novel is all about selection; once you've got an idea for characters and a plot, then crucial decisions about how you tell the story have to be made. And the decision that crops up the most is what to put in, and what to leave out.

I am paranoid about not boring my readers (even though, as my books are unpublished, there are so few of them. But one must plan ahead...) If I write a scene without zing, I will re-write it until it sparkles, or delete it. And I have to trust my judgment, because although I have had excellent and helpful advice on Youwriteon and Authonomy, I have also had contradictory advice, and advice that struck me as wrong.

I am the only person, in the end, who can decide what goes in my books.

My friend Alan Hutcheson wrote:

Why write a novel? Because reading really good ones is inspirational and we want to get deeper into that magic. The magic that leaves out the boring parts and takes us to a world where it is all exciting. Maybe scary, maybe funny, maybe disgusting and maybe frightfully rousing (read that however you like). But no boring parts.Great to read, even better to create.

That's why we write novels. It gives us a chance to leave out the boring stuff.

By the way, I hope I will be able to write exciting news shortly about Authonomy, Harper Collin's new website for unpublished authors.

And Catch a Falling Star is up to 24,120 words, and counting...


  1. I agree - good advice, Lexi.

    But, as with everything writing, I'd say this wasn't a strict rule; there are plenty of times where an aside or seemingly unimportant detail can be quite the contrary - that's what can give a story its spark or a character depth.

    Sounds like you're making terrific progress with the new story - long may it continue!


  2. Yes, but how do you tell the difference?

    On balance, I tend to put bits in I'm unsure about, since I write concisely; my narrative tends towards skinny rather than obese.

    Thanks for the good wishes.

  3. I'm more on the obese side, meself.

    Little tidbits just tumble on to the page and it takes a good bit of sorting to locate the really choice ones. They don't always keep the story moving briskly along, but if they are choice, and not boring, who am I to banish them?

  4. How do you tell? That's the trick innit! I'd say, trust your instincts. You know - or at least have a good idea of - what works and what shouldn't be there.

    I agree with Plumboz - they need sorting.

    I think I'm more like you, Lexi, in that I'm quite to the point in my writing. There are definitely times where asides (shall we call them that?) do wonders for a story. They might hold up the plot BUT they are important and become a part of the plot themselves, therefore, often, essential. If that makes sense.

    Waffle waffle.


  5. Maybe we just need to accept that there are writers who do the Off the Track a Bit Rambling Thing and it delights their readers and then there are writers who Grab You By the Nostrils and Pull You Through the Story and You're Happy but Breathless at the End.

    I suppose I had better do my own bit of rambling now.

  6. Minty is dead keen for me to write a scene where Ric and Caz go to a nightclub.

    I may well do this, but I was explaining to her there has to be a point to it; it has to move the story on, and change the situation somehow, or it will simply make the novel sag, however amusing it is.

    I realized recently I have a problem with some literary fiction, where you get to the end of chapter one, and all that has happened is the heroine has got out of bed, or gone for a walk. All very beautifully written, but I know what getting out of bed is like. I want something to happen.

  7. Hi - I agree with that. Lexi I'm admiring your sites. Now thatI'm not book-fiddling, it's good to look around. Can't think why you're not published yet.

  8. Hi, Lisa-Marya, thanks for dropping by.

    I don't think I've completed a saleable book yet - perhaps I will in the future.