In conversations or in words, we usually know what it is we're trying to say. We have the concept in our heads. We can see it. Then, the trick is to translate that concept (which is not word-based) into words. Just like in a conversation with your spouse, you don't mention every single stream-of-consciousness detail (unless it's important). "When we were driving on I-695, this truck almost ran us off the road. Oh, and the sky was blue."
Part of our job as writers is to understand what's important and what's not.
The "sky was blue" is NOT important, by the way. :)
Sometimes, though, we don't include information that IS important. Not because we're trying to trick our readers. Rather, it's that we're trying so hard to not include every speck of detail dust that we lose sight of what our readers really need to know.
I call it connecting the dots, taking the reader from one dot to the next to the next to the next... and so on.
It can be easy to miss how crucial some dots are or to meander among a whole bunch of dots or to leave out some dots altogether. And then you realize, through questions your audience asks, that you did, indeed, leave out those dots.
How do you make sure you don't miss dots?
Outline your writing (or whatever method you use to plan). Putting all the critical details in order is one way to ensure that it all makes sense.
Step away from the words. For as long as you can. Go back later, and you'll be reading your words with much more of an objective reader's mind. Then, you might see some dots you first missed.
Read it out loud. We process the world differently when we read silently than when we read out loud, and you might see some crucial connections you didn't make in the original. (Added bonus: you'll quickly hear where the words don't seem to flow quite right, as well as those missing dots. You should ALWAYS read your work out loud as part of the editing process.)
Ask someone else to read it. Believe me, she will let you know if there's something she doesn't understand.
So when you're writing, think in terms of those dots and the crucial connections you're making for the reader so that the picture becomes crystal clear.
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