Monday, 31 January 2011

Boo! Hiss! Get off!

Writers like to stick 'notes to self' on their computer screens. 'Show, don't tell!' seems to be a popular one, as is 'be brave!' or 'get on with it!' Until now, all I've had on mine is a zigzaggy snake and a sticker saying 'old stuff rocks' (presents from my children). I wanted a post-it too, but what? For a while 'Facebook can wait' was a serious contender, but then I read this excellent post on layering by Victoria Mixen, and one phrase jumped out and bit me:

...get the heck out of the way.”

Which I take to mean: the author's place is round the back, pulling the strings, not prancing on stage, waving his learning/research/vocabulary/ego about. Or in other words:

Don't get between the reader and the story.*

Now, this isn't news to me – I've been learning it the hard way for years -- but seeing it end the sentence “Say what you’ve got to say, say it quick, and get the heck out of the way.” brought on that post-it note moment for me.

What do you have stuck to your screen? Wise words? Or ravioli?

*Yes, I know it's different for literary fiction:-)


  1. That's a good one Thomas. I rather like Elmore Leonard's "If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it" - which isn't a million miles away from yours.

  2. Yes, that's an excellent way of putting it. And not a million miles from Orwell's 'Good prose is like a windowpane'.

  3. I had a post-it reading "More Tension!" which I needed to counteract my unfailing ability to defuse the dramatic tension halfway through a chapter. But it's fallen down now - maybe I need one that says "better glue."

  4. Nick, maybe just use a permanent marker.

    Ah, Rachel. I get the feeling you don't agree with me.

  5. Not about not starting a sentence with "so" :)
    I now have "so" stuck to my pc!


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.