I am a lifelong Maryland resident who was born in July so naturally, I have an affinity for crab cakes. Some years ago, I was traveling for business in Omaha and sat down with a client after a long day of meetings. As I recall, the restaurant featured beef and fish (surprising I know for Omaha) but I was especially intrigued by the menu listing of “Maryland Crab Cakes” featuring the chef’s own special recipe which included all sorts of things a Baltimorean would never, ever dare to put in a crab cake. I questioned the waiter to see if the chef had ever been to Baltimore, or for that matter, ever even heard of Baltimore. That information was not forthcoming. I did, however, feel obliged to let the waiter know that Maryland crab cakes are absent one broad category of ingredients no self-respecting Baltimorean likes, filler. Yes, filler being broadly defined as anything other than big, sweet lumps of crab meat. And so, it is with this in mind that I offer writing advice for all authors. Avoid the filler!
How many times have you been reading a book and found yourself skipping a page here, a page there, then a whole chapter and so on? All too often, I find fiction authors clutter pages with non-essential scenes and detail while non-fiction authors, in some cases, might be better off making their “book idea” a magazine piece.
When I write, one of my quests is to keep everything that’s happening relevant to the plot line. Each chapter ending is its own mini-cliffhanger. As I construct the beginning chapters of a book, I will send the draft manuscript to my inner circle and ask questions like, “Did this bore you?” “Was it too slow?” “Was any part of it too confusing? “Too vague? You get the idea. I want to write the story that the reader has to stay up all night to finish. No filler allowed!
This summer, may your crab cakes and your writing be devoid of filler while the beer and the plotlines remain uniquely crisp. Remember, writing is like the old show business axiom, “Always leave them wanting more.”
Originally published May 2, 2018