Monday, January 05, 2009

Are you an overwriter?

Do you know if you are an overwriter? Answer: ALL writers are occasionally driven to overwrite.

It's like being that person at a party who, after they tell a funny anecdote, goes on to describe the tale another way just in case you didn't get it the first time. Sometimes, this person just thinks that repeating the story will have a more profound effect. When you meet this person, you want to say "Hey, I got it the first time!" but instead you shuffle away in search of a drink.
Such is the way of the overwriter who likes to continue stretching out description/dialogue tags or internal thoughts - just in case you didn't get it. Much like the desire to flee the anecdotally challenged, overdescriber, a reader has the option of skipping over pages of overwriting, or putting the book down completely.

I've been thinking about this subject a lot lately as I've been editing my current novel. There are MANY areas where I, too, have fallen prey to overwriting and my editor is wise to point them out, cross through whole paragraphs with a black pen and banish them to Delete Key Heaven. Often, she will add a note in the margins that I need to delete whole sections in order to "highlight the one gem" within a scene. At first, I was hesistant to do this, arguing (with myself) that these paragraphs had more fully conveyed my meaning. But then I wised up and realized I was being the anecdotally challenged party person who goes on too long, possibly insulting the attention of her listeners. After I pared down the page to highlight the gem, I realized that letting it stand alone created more intensity than trying to plant a bunch of smelly, useless flowers around it. Sometimes a single rose is more memorable than a whole garden. In other words, less is more. Said another way, a tree grows best after it has been pruned. Or rather...

(Okay, you get the idea.)

Have I mentioned how much I love editors? I do.

If you want an editor's point of view on this, go over to Editorial Ass. Here's her recent list of the "words overwriters love to use."

jeer (jeeringly)
sneer (sneeringly)
coax (coaxingly)
sudden, suddenly
anything that ends in -ingly

Read the full article here. Then go to the Search/Find tool on your computer and seek out all these words in your draft!


K. Harrington
author, Janeology


Jarucia said...

Hi ladies. I saw another blog (The Swivet) point to the recent Overwriter's dilemma.

It directed me to Editorial Ass as well, but I think your links aren't correct because when I clicked on them they lead me to a disabled Myspace page.

Here's the correct link:

Keep up the good work!

Cheryl Kaye Tardif, suspense author said...

This is a shockingly decadent post, Karen, and I promise to stop proliferating and not suddenly harrangue, coax or cajole you, or sneer or jeer at you, while I gyrate in my incredibly comfortable chair that's a bombastic hue of black.

"Editing is a surgery of words."--Cheryl Kaye Tardif, bestselling author

Cheryl Kaye Tardif, suspense author said...

Thanks for the link correction, Jarucia. Karen, I was moderating comments and saw Jarucia's comment so I went in and changed the URL for you.

Great link, btw.


Scobberlotcher said...

Thanks for catching that link issue. Doh! I copied this post from MySpace and forgot that it likes to change the links on me. Thanks for changing it Cheryl.

Oh, and you get the overwriting award of the week! LOL!

Cheryl Kaye Tardif, suspense author said...

YAY! Another award! :)

Now what would make you think I'm an overwriter?