No Confusion! Rule #13 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever


I’m dissecting the article Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie, using it as a cattle prod to search for little nasties in my manuscript.  Yep, you can join in the fun, too.  Let’s take a looksee at topic #13

13: Don’t confuse the reader. If you write something you think might be unclear, it is. Big time. Change it or cut it.

I admit that I’ve written things that betas have said are confusing.  I brushed off their comments, and then when the second person was confused I shook my head..because, sfter all, I explained it RIGHT THERE.  Right?

Yeah, and then the third beta comes along, and you have to suck it up and admit that you might not be as brilliant as you thought you were.

Yeah, I hate that too.

But Guthrie makes a good point.  It you read something in your first draft, and you wonder if it might be confusing… just take for granted that it is and re-write it.  If you have an inkling that something needs extra work, you are probably right.  Better to fix it now than look like a big silly head when your beta readers get a hold of it.

Are you apt to change something that might be confusing, or do you wait to see if anyone points it out to you?

swish swivel squiggle

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10 responses to “No Confusion! Rule #13 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever

  1. I am much more receptive to that now that I’ve been writing for a few years. When I first started, I would get very defensive if someone criticized a passage that they thought was confusing. Now, I know that if even one person is confused, clarification needs to be made so all the other readers will not be. It only makes sense, right? 🙂

    • Yeah. It’s important to understand that if one person is confused, more will be. I just added 200 words last week because a crit partner thought my story took place underground. I don’t know why she thought that- but I added a few clouds anyway- just in case

  2. When I first started writing, I would have said, “Nope. Not me. This is clear.” Well, you know what a little experience and education can do for attitude. 😉 Now, I try to be good and fix them. But if I’m editing at the wrong time, some still manage to slip through. Luckily, betas find them!

    • Yes. I also try to distance myself between a draft and an edit for a few weeks and write something else. It makes the reading more fresh and problems pop out more easily.

  3. A goodly portion of my first drafts have a number of ‘What the fcuk was I trying to say there?’ moments. Most of ’em were because my brain was going faster than I could type, but thankfully I can sorta kinda reconstruct what I was trying to say by the surrounding context. Sometimes though, I shake my head and hit ‘delete’.

  4. Most of the time, I don’t see what’s on the page because it’s in my head. Takes a number of reads to catch the problem. Being aware has helped but I still trip up. I’m getting better at cut and trash and that’s a good start. Thanks for this post.

  5. oh man I am so hard on myself in this regard. I’ve gone through my finished manuscript three full times, editing and re-editing and re-re-editing. It’s totally worth it though. You begin to catch onto those little snags, like an annoying hangnail that doesn’t really get in the way, but if you’d just take the time to clean it up, things would feel so much better.

    Definitely agree with this point, and very glad you brought it up.

  6. I’m getting better at recognizing this type of thing, but I’m not so sure it ever gets easy to do when we’re evaluating our own work. Tough to be objective about what’s clear or not. That’s why those early readers are so important. And as you point out, if more than one reader is saying the same thing, we best pay attention!