Writer Wednesday: On Overwriting

Overwriting.  Not the opposite of an insurance agent’s underwriting.  Nope.  I’m talking about the tendency in our writing to say something, then restate it.  And then, just in case the reader still wasn’t paying attention, we add in another example.

Another example of overwriting is when we start the scene too early.  But does the reader really need to see everything that happens before our heroine arrives at the heart of the story?  Same applies to the end of the scene.  That’s my classic M.O. I tend to continue the scene for too long after the important moment happens.  Summing up the feelings. Or following the main character out the door and into the night.  It’s in the draft form of every novel I’ve ever written.

Because I know this about myself, it’s an easy fix. In the revision stage I simply look at the end of each chapter and chop off that last paragraph or two.  By leaving the chapter in the midst of conflict or at that very moment when things have happened, I can really strengthen the story.  It leaves the reader thinking and feeling.  And readers will assume that your character will ruminate on what’s going on, or that the heroine will leave the scene and go out into the night.

So let the reader get involved by getting out of the way.

I could say more here. Restate my point a few other ways and give you a bunch of examples. But maybe it’s best if I just stop.

Or… I could tell you I’m walking away from my computer, down the stairs, to get a cup of coffee, and then into the night, where I’ll ponder the complexities of overwriting, and I’ll think that maybe now I’ll…

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2 thoughts on “Writer Wednesday: On Overwriting

  1. I enjoyed reading your post. I find that sometimes I tend to overwrite, and people who edit me catch repetition. “You said this two pages ago, Barbara. Do we need to hear it again?.”

    Other times, I tend to leave things out that should be there. My buddies in my writing group have been great beta readers. It’s hard for any writer to see their own mistake.

    Thanks for a great post.
    Barbara of the Balloons

    • Hi Barbara,

      Thanks! And so true.

      We all need other people to read our work and give us honest feedback. We writers are so in our heads that we know exactly what we mean to say even if the words on the paper aren’t doing the job. And it often takes another person to point out what’s missing or what is being repeated or overstated.

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