Sunday, August 18, 2013

Writing with Clarity

Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines clarity as lucidity, clearness of thought.

Writing with clarity can be a difficult aspect of writing. There isn’t a GPS for clarity. And, no matter how clear you think you are conveying a particular sentence, paragraph, or theme, the reader may not be able to see what you intend - you’ve missed the clarity mark.

How does this happen?

Missing the clarity mark may happen even if you have clearness of thought; if that clearness of thought or intent doesn’t translate onto paper, you’ve missed the mark.

As the author, you know what you’re thinking, what motives are involved, what you assume the reader should be seeing, or understanding—this knowledge may cloud your perception of what is actually being conveyed. This clarity cloud can at times create a gap between what you think you’re saying and what you actually say. This happens because as the author, you’re too close to your own writing.

Think of a color. Now, think of a very specific hue or shade within that color. Now, try to write what you see or explain it.

This is what can happen with your story. You can see what’s unfolding clear as day, the scene, the characters, and the intent. But, your vision may not translate with clarity onto paper. You may think it has, but that doesn’t mean it actually has.

An example of this is a children’s picture book I reviewed. The content and illustrations were well done, but there was one problem. The story ultimately was about the main character having to go through a metamorphosis in order to be accepted by others. This is what a reader, a child, might take away from the story. While the story had a number of good points, this one flaw was problematic. The authors knew what they intended, but that intent didn’t show through. And, because they were so sure of their intent, they couldn’t see that the take away value of the story could be anything but what they intended.

Fortunately, there is help in this area: a critique group. Every writer who is writing a manuscript should belong to a critique group. Having three, six, or ten other writers, who write in the same genre will help you find many of the pitfalls in your story. They are the unknowing audience. They have no perceived conception of your story, so they will be able to see where it goes astray and where it lacks clarity.

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6 comments:

  1. Good post as usual, Karen. Being specific makes the story clear & also more interesting.

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    1. Janet, thank you! Yes, clarity matters.

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  2. Dear Karen,
    You are right. Using specific words that help your meaning clear is highly important in writing. Being in a critique group is definitely an asset to clear writing.
    Thank you for sharing your ideas with us.
    Never Give Up
    Joan Y. Edwards

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    1. Joan, specific words do help meaning. And, I'm a big proponent of taking advantage of critique groups.

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  3. Thank you Karen for your post. I can learn a lot reading all of yours!
    Megan

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  4. Hi, Megan, Thanks so much. I'm glad you found the post helpful!

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