Being a Better Writer’s Summer of Cliche Writing Advice: Let Your Readers Breathe

Hello readers! Today’s post is going to be short and sweet because … well, to put it bluntly, I am majorly under the weather. Fever last night and through the night, stomach doing more flips than a circus acrobat, and other, less savory stuff.

Anyway, I’m pretty wiped, but I’ve got a drive to deliver to you readers what I’ve promised. So we’re going to go with a shorter post today (I hope) because I do want to curl into a ball somewhere for a little while and just close my eyes.

But first, before I get to that, there were two posts I made this weekend that drew a large number of traffic, and if you’re not a weekend frequenter (it’s not my usual time to post) you may have missed them. There was on titled What Can You Do For Your Favorite Authors about, well, what readers can do for authors they enjoy. Then there was a second post behind it called Invisible Censorship and Books which definitely got some attention, and if you haven’t read it, you should.

Okay, enough of that. I’m going to write about writing now. Or rather, writing advice. That is what the Summer of Cliche Writing Advice is all about. One thing life as an author brings is cliche bits of writing advice from every relative or well-meaning stranger out there.

The thing is, this advice usually comes in the form of quick, easy-to-recall statements that are simple to repeat, and sure, based on actual advice from somewhere. However, as we’ve discovered this summer, the act of truncating these sayings down to something that’s so quick and easy to remember, well … Sometimes it makes it less than useful advice.

Sands, sometimes it wasn’t very good advice to begin with, or has been taken painfully out of context. But either way, we take a look at it, dive into what makes it tick, and whether or not it’s worth following or repeating.

So this week? We’re going to look at a slightly less-common bit of advice, but one many young authors have still likely heard.

Let your readers breathe.

Okay, first of all, what on Earth does this mean? There is a reason you don’t hear this saying as often, and that’s because it’s a little more difficult to parse than some of the other sayings we’ve looked at this summer.

Okay, so what’s it really saying? Well … have you ever read a new writer’s first attempts at telling a story? Like, a really new writer?

It’s … a roller coaster ride. One that quite often never ends.

See, a lot of new writers sit down to work on their story, and what they’re thinking of is the highlights. All the big important moments. The action! The drama! The reveal!

And so they write all that stuff out. Action, drama, reveal, etc. In that order.

With nothing between them. They move from point A to point B because, after all, these are the important, exciting bits! What else matters?

Sands, I did this myself as a really young writer. I hit the beats … and nothing else. Because, as I saw it, those were the parts where something happened, and that’s what we want to read, right?

Well, I learned otherwise. I learned that you need to give you readers time to digest and muse on what you write, or they’ll quickly grow tired of it.

Let’s make a comparison. In music, one of the important parts to many songs is the beat, correct? Usually kept by a drum or percussion instrument of some kind.

But here’s the thing: In order for that instrument to do its job with the song, it has to pause between each beat. That pause gives the music shape. Without it, you just have constant noise.

And that’s what a story that’s constantly on the high notes is: Noise. There’s simply always something going on, and the reader never has a chance to, well, breathe.

That’s what this saying is about. Young writers need to learn to pace their story so that readers have time to breathe, digest what’s happened, and move on to the next bit.

Is this easy? NO. Pacing is one of those things that authors that have been writing for decades will still find themselves in the mud with. It’s hard.

But that doesn’t mean this is bad advice. Actually, this is one of those bits of advice from this summer that I’m going to call good advice. Sure, it doesn’t help much with the how, but even a reminder to new writers to pace things out and not suffocate their reader with beat after beat is a good one.

And that’s all I’ll say on it today. Again, sorry this is so short and to the point. I’m going to go curl up and crash now.

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