Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Order of Written Things

Fishy photo I took in Oregon
Happy New Year 2015! I wish all of you much happiness and productivity in the coming year.

UPDATE
As you may know, Entangled Teen is my new publisher, and my YA sci-fi novel, THE BODY INSTITUTE releases October of this year. (Woo!) I'm currently eyeball-deep working on the first round of revisions with my editor, Stacy Abrams. She made some really great suggestions, and I've been busy making changes since December 11. I've even written about 4 new scenes, which has been really fun. My cover is also being designed—cue nervous excitement!!

CART BEFORE THE HORSE
When writing or revising, I keep finding myself putting certain actions ahead of other ones, and to the reader, these aren't in the best order. It's a subtle thing sometimes, but it's worth fixing because it can puzzle someone or throw someone out of your story for a moment.

Example 1
"Oh, how thoughtful!" Tara said, grinning at Michael as he sauntered into the restaurant with a bouquet of gorgeous red roses.

Here, we see Tara's reaction, but it's not until the end of the sentence that we know to what she's referring. In a normal progression of time, Michael and the roses would happen first, then Tara's exclamation. It's usually less confusing to the reader—avoiding that momentary "huh?"—if events are described in the actual order they happen.

This is even more important in present tense, where things are unfolding in REAL TIME, as it's happening:

Example 2
Oh. My. Gosh. She's doing it again. Frowning, I watch Mom stir her ice tea and dip the spoon back into the sugar bowl for another dose of sweetener. I so despise lumps in the sugar bowl.

Again, the thoughts and reactions occur before the actions, before the reader knows what the character has seen. It makes more logical sense time-wise to show Mom creating the sugar lumps, then the main character having her internal reaction to it. Even the frown in this case comes before the reader knows what is worth frowning about.

YOUR TURN
Do you ever find yourself doing this "cart before the horse" kind of sentence structure?
What do you hope to accomplish in 2015—what are your goals?

11 comments:

  1. Good explanation. It's an easy thing to fall into, but also easy to get out of too ;)

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  2. I always notice these "pre cog" moments when I'm critiquing. However, it does seem that todays YA authors accept this sort of fore-shadowing as normal.

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  3. Great examples. And so excited that you have a big year coming up. Happy New Year!

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  4. I didn't know you had a new publisher---how wonderful! I'm glad it's good marriage for you both. I look forward to reading THE BODY INSTITUTE!

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  5. Congrats on getting a new publisher.

    Good observation of your writing. I need to check mine.

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  6. That is such a good point! I've never paid attention to that before, but now I'm going to have to go back and make sure I don't do it!

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  7. Hard to find them in my own writing. But I SURE can see them in others
    *smile*

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  8. I'm sure I do this.

    I can't wait for your book to come out.

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  9. I think I do this without realising it. I'd better add it to my "must check when editing" list of recurring problems!

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  10. I hear you! There is the RARE occasion when this kind of prose really sets off the action because you're building tension. However, that's an exception to the rule. This is one point I find myself suggesting in critiques too often. Envisioning scenes "chronologically" and then unfolding them that way is probably the best approach.

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  11. Hmmm... I bet I do this all the time! I'll have to look for it. Hope your year is off to a great start! Sounds like it.

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