Polish Your Prose
By Paula Munier
Posted on 10/112018
In my job as an agent, I review countless pages, partials, and full manuscripts every year. Certain prose problems crop up over and over again, problems that can keep writers from getting published. In this ongoing Polish Your Prose series, I’ll tackle these issues one by one.
If good writing were a textile art, it would be a tapestry. A tapestry of character, dialogue, action, narrative, inner monologue, theme, setting, voice—all the elements of fiction woven together artfully into polished prose. Your goal: Writing a tapestry.
Beware the chunks
When you are writing and revising, think tapestry. As opposed to quilt.
Many new writers tend to write in elements chunks: Here’s a chunk that’s mostly all description, followed by a chunk that’s all narrative or backstory or world-building, then a chunk that’s all dialogue or action, etc. This is also where the dreaded “info dumps” come in—the clunkiest chunks of all. This creates a patchwork of chunks—a quilt.
Tapestry in action
These chunks are often most evident in the opening lines, paragraphs, pages of a story. That’s where we tend to explain too much (backstory), detail too much (info dumping), tell too much (exposition)—bogging the story down with backstory just as it’s getting underway.