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’re conveying a particular sentence, paragraph, or theme, you may not be able to see that you’ve missed the clarity mark.

How does this happen?

Missing the clarity mark may happen even if your thoughts are crystal clear.

If those crystal-clear thoughts or intent don’t translate onto paper, you’ve missed the mark.

As the author of the piece, you know what you’re thinking, what motives are involved, what you assume the reader should be seeing.

It’s this very knowledge that may cloud your perception of what you are actually conveying. This clarity cloud can at times create a gap between what you think you’re saying and what you actually say. This happens because you’re are 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.

You can see it. You write what you see and are sure the reader will get it.

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

An example of this is a children’s picture book I reviewed. The content and illustrations were well done, but there was one big 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 a biggie. The author knew what she intended, probably a story of the MC striving and striving and finally succeeding. But, that intent wasn’t what I saw.

And, because the author was so sure of her intent, because she could see it crystal-clear, she couldn’t see that the take away value of the story could be anything but what she intended.

This is not to say that every reader would see what I saw, but do you want to take that chance, especially if you’re writing for children?

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.

The critique group is 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.

You can also ask your local librarian to read it. Maybe ask a teacher to read it. Maybe get a family member to read it. You can also get a professional critique.

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author and children’s ghostwriter/ rewriter. For tips on writing for children OR if you need help with your project, contact me at Writing for Children with Karen Cioffi.

And, you can follow Karen at:
Twitter  http://twitter.com/KarenCV
Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/writingforchildrenwithkarencioffi/
GoolgePlus  https://plus.google.com/+KarenCioffiVentrice/about


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Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Love this exercise!

Karen Cioffi said...

Carolyn, so glad you like it. I hope it encourages writers of children's books to have someone else take at look at the story before self-publishing.

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