Blogger: Wendy Lawton
You’ve heard that it’s a women’s prerogative to change her mind. As an agent I’m going to claim the same prerogative. As I look back on some of the things I stated categorically about the craft of fiction writing over the years, I blush. Well, I strongly believed it at the time.
Here are a few of the things I’ve changed my mind about:
Setting. I believe I argued vociferously for sparse setting details in fiction. I probably said something like: If the building or the object does not play into the plot or characterization, our eyes should not be drawn to it. I probably told you to avoid giving us descriptions of towns and homes and. . . Well, that was before I read Donna Leon and her books set in Venice. She devotes pages and pages to description and it is luscious. After reading through her canon, I feel like I’ve walked every calli in Venice, traveled down every canali, climbed the 94 steps to Guido Brunelli’s apartment and tasted the fabulous dishes Paola whips up twice a day. I’m crying “uncle.” I was wrong. Done right, it is positively addictive.
Show Don’t Tell. In my early years as a writer and even early as an agent this was law. Not any more. Telling is a technique that moves the reader along as a faster clip. It’s a tool used for expert pacing. It’s also used to artfully skip over sexual content or graphic scenes. In the hands of an expert it is nothing short of masterful.
Don’t Head Hop. Head hopping, or mixing viewpoints in a scene, has become a huge point of criticism. But I’ve changed my mind on this as well. Lately, several of the experienced authors I’ve been reading head hop with impunity. The first book I noticed this in was the recently published Longbourne, where the author did it on purpose. It worked. Since then I’ve read three more ABA authors who do this with real skill. It doesn’t jar and it doesn’t confuse. So, again, it’s a technique that can be used artfully by a highly skilled author.
So what does this mean for you? It means that you need to feel free to disagree, to argue, to change an “expert’s” mind. We learn from each other, don’t we? Nothing we say here is written in stone and, as we’ve said before, we learn as much from your comments as you learn from our blog posts.
Now it’s your turn. Exercise your prerogative. What have you changed your mind about since you began to study the art of writing and the publishing industry?