Friday, April 24, 2015

A to Z Challenge: U is for Unambiguity

Welcome to April. With its customary showers comes the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. For those who are unfamiliar with it:
The brainchild of Arlee Bird, at Tossing it Out, the A to Z Challenge is posting every day in April except Sundays (we get those off for good behavior.) And since there are 26 days, that matches the 26 letters of the alphabet. On April 1, blog about something that begins with the letter “A.” April 2 is “B,” April 3 is “C,” and so on. You can use a theme for the month or go random – just as long as it matches the letter of the alphabet for the day. (Source) 
The A to Z Challenge is a great way to get into the blogging habit and make new friends. For more details and its history, go HERE 

My theme this year is EDITING

I'll be posting practical advice for editing any story, novel, or other piece of writing. Editing is something most authors struggle with, and after years of doing my own as well as that of others, I have a pretty good eye for what needs work. I'll be doing short posts on editing topics and (hopefully) dispensing simple, valuable advice to help everyone out there self-edit.

U is for Unambiguity

Yes, that's totally a word. More importantly, it starts with U. :D

Last year at a conference, I went to a class on writing middle grade. Now, I don't actually write middle grade. But one of the main characters in my high-fantasy WIP is a young boy. I wanted some tips on making him more realistic.

The woman teaching the class said something that really stuck with me: Sacrifice everything for clarity. She was talking about how middle-grade readers really don't know how to read between the lines, yet. So they won't get sarcasm or symbolism or even much foreshadowing. But the phrase stuck with me.

Really, that shouldn't be a rule just for middle-grade, but for writing in general. It's not a practical tip you can apply to your manuscript, but keep it in mind.

Does this mean you can't be mysterious and keep your readers guessing by being non-specific? Of course not. Totally do that. Really we're talking more about the actual writing here, rather than the content.

Bottom line: If you're trying to decide whether or not to cut something, but your editors or beta readers have reported being confused by it, cut it. Kill your darling. Sacrifice everything for clarity.

Are you unambiguous in your writing?


  1. I try to be. But that is good advice about young people - they don't know how to read between the lines.

  2. Kids are very literal, it's true, which means they probably wouldn't get/like my writing. I am purposefully vague and ambiguous a lot of the time, which I appreciate is not everyone's cup of tea (especially younger kids).

    1. Yeah, I know my writing would be over most kids' heads too. I have teenaged brothers who do just fine with it, but when they were younger, they couldn't understand it at all. So, like you, I'm not much of a middle grade writer.

  3. I'm writing a story that is mostly targeted at a younger audience, teenage. So this is good information. I'm a very sarcastic writer and do write between the lines frequently. I guess I'll have to reread what I write and see if I can pick up on it. I've never thought about taking a writing course before. I'm wondering if it's something I should look into.
    Before this month, I've never heard the expression 'kill your darling', but I've heard several people refer to it. Again, more food for thought.

    1. Even if you have a pretty good idea what you're doing, writing courses are always good things. There's always something new to learn. To be fair, mine was a one hour workshop at a writing conference, so it wasn't like a college course or anything. But still, I learned a lot. :D