Saturday, February 20, 2010

You Might Be an Overwriter When ....

The person who tries too hard ... You know the type. Often prompted by insecurity, wanting to be liked or admired. You can picture him, or her, right? And you want to say, "Be yourself. You don't need to work so hard to impress me." Well, writing can be like that, too. New authors, often trying to make certain that they are getting their point across, will explain their story in such detail that there is nothing left to the reader's imagination. And that's not wise to do. The reader needs to be an active participant. Letting him or her experience the story along with the characters is the right way to go.

So, leave in the sensory details to tease your readers' senses. But let them use their own experiences to recall what a ringing phone sounds like, the roar of a crowded room, the crackling of wood in the fireplace. In other words, leave some of the details to their imaginations. You don't have to spell out every emotion, every thought, every expression.

If you are still not certain what to leave in, what to take out, here are a few guidelines:

1) If your descriptive passages seem to outweigh your action, then you might be an overwriter.

2) If the flowery, melodramatic language seems to strike you as akin to a scene from a Cecil B. DeMille film like Gone With the Wind, then you might be an overwriter.

3) If your flowery language seems to distract from the story, as if it's hiding the action behind a big purple cloud or maybe the descriptions are too unnatural, then you might be an overwriter.

4) When you have an I-know-more-than-you-do attitude and your writing goes on and on and on, making your story seem more like a lecture, then you might be an overwriter.

5) If your writing looks like a Woodstock Festival for the gathering of prepositions, then you might be an overwriter.

Bottom line, remember that your writing should sound natural -- dialog, action, description -- all of it should reflect some aspect of life. If it's forced, the reader will know. And like that person you know who tries too hard to be liked? Well, as the story goes ...

To read more on the topic, try Thanks, But This Isn't For Us by Jessica Morrell.


Sarah said...

these are easy to do when you're engrossed by the writing of the story and forget what your readers are feeling. it's a fine line sometimes.

teacherwriter said...

Sarah... I so agree. In fact, I think if I let myself get too involved looking for these, the paranoia level in me would overload! Still, when it comes to editing, it's nice to have some idea of what to look for besides my usual typos ;-)