Tighten the loop! Bring Clarity to Your Writing
Today, I’m thinking about fly-fishing and writing; two seemingly unrelated topics. You have probably seen fly fishermen with the funny hats and vests covered with tackle standing knee-deep in a brook. Their long bows waving high in the air as they pull their line back and forth. The fly follows the line and drops, hopefully, in front of a trout’s mouth. If the trout does not take the bait, the stream carries the fly back to the fishermen and the cast starts over again, back and forth.
My brother tried to teach me the art of fly-fishing. I went through the motions of bringing the line back and forth. My teacher kept an eye on my learning progress and would frequently shout, “tighten the loop, tighten the loop” (scaring away the fish in the process). In layman’s terms when the bait moved one way and the pole switched and the line went the other direction, the line created a loop overhead. It was important to tighten the loop creating a pinched loop so the wind did not take the fly and send it off course. I knew all that, but what I didn’t know was how to tighten the loop. How should I handle the pole? How should I move the pole? How should I stand and everything else necessary to create a tight loop. Interestingly, I don’t recall him ever explaining how. He just shouted, “Tighten the loop. Tighten the loop.”
Learning how to write, like learning how to fly-fish requires clarity from the teacher. A writer needs to learn how to lay out a story in an orderly fashion so it is easily understood and followed by a reader. Readers are not willing to work too hard to follow your story. If they become frustrated they will give up as I gave up on learning fly-fishing.
Here are some techniques for improving clarity in your writing:
- Don’t assume your readers will understand your intentions for your story – Produce clear statements. I do not believe in the philosophy of “let the readers fill in the blanks.” I want my readers to understand the story from my mind. If you cannot lead readers to your thoughts and thought processes you will lose them.
- Don’t believe your story will naturally make sense – You came up with the characters, setting, and plot. You can see the story unfolding in your mind. If you want your readers to see what’s in your mind you have to give details and not just a few quick words assuming the reader will “get” what you mean. Consider your story from the reader’s prospective as he starts reading from scratch with no preconceived ideas.
- Don’t assume your readers will see what you see – Use the five senses in your stories. See the color, write the color. Hear the sounds, write the sounds. If possible, smells and tastes will add a greater dimension to your story and put the readers deep into your scenes. If you don’t use the five senses in your writing while explaining what you see (and sense) you will lose your readers. Remember, “Tighten the loop! Tighten the loop!”