By: Janalyn Voigt
A sign bearing this quote by an unknown author hangs in my office, a powerful reminder that I write not to massage my mind but to be understood. I’ve had to learn this the hard way.
When Eric Wilson, a NY Times bestselling author, agreed to read the first chapter of an epic fantasy work-in-progress, I labored to make it stunning with awesome descriptions and catchy phrasing. Eric came back with the gentle remark that I am a good writer who doesn’t need to grandstand. Let the story shine through, he told me. After I got over my initial reaction to this comment, I reread my manuscript. Wouldn’t you know it, but he was right. I’d been showing off my skill with words rather than serving the story. I reworked DawnSinger, and it found a publisher.
I went over the manuscript a ‘last time’ before sending it to my publisher, hoping to avoid edits. One of my strengths as a writer, I am told, is the ability to bring settings to life for readers. Playing to this strength, I added even more description, having completely missed Eric’s advice that I needed to work on pacing. Back came my manuscript for the first round of edits with many of the descriptive passages I’d worked so hard to create either crossed out or marked for shortening. Through more rounds of edits than I’d care to admit to, I learned to carve away not only extraneous description, but everything that didn’t support the story.
When I edit I always confront that dreaded monster, Purple Prose. Over time I’ve cut that beasty down to size. Edits for Wayfarer, book two in my Tales of Faeraven trilogy, were lighter, and I believe they’ll be easier yet for DawnKing, book three. Eradicating my tendency to overwrite has developed my deep instinct for story, and anything that detracts annoys me as much as fingernails on a chalkboard.
The cure for overwriting is to focus on story.
I summed up my thoughts on the difference between storytelling and storycrafting for my agency’s blog, Wordserve Water Cooler in ‘Are You A Storyteller or Storycrafter?’ In this post I make the point that story always trumps craft. That’s not to say vivid descriptions and skillful phrasing aren’t important, but in the right places. Knowing where these are takes practice, humility, and the feedback of others. I can offer a few tips gleaned from my own experience, though.
How To Avoid Overwriting:
To read the rest of the post, click here.
If you missed my writing & marketing tweets and retweets yesterday, here they are again:
- Going Paperless: Annotating Paper Books and Magazines without Marking Them Up | Jamie Todd Rubin http://ow.ly/tb6yh
- Why is it so hard to write a decent ending? http://ow.ly/tbwN2
- Numbers and Nerves: About Sales and Author Anxiety | Ania Ahlborn | The Blog http://ow.ly/tbD65
- Writability: Discussion: Do You Finish Every Book You Read? http://ow.ly/tbDo5
- Facebook Paper App: This Week in Social Media Social Media Examiner http://ow.ly/tbDwh
- Linda Clare's Writer's Tips: Writing Believable Supporting Characters http://ow.ly/tbDyB
- Ten Ways to Create Gut-Gnawing Suspense | Ninie Hammon http://ow.ly/tbDRw
- Self-Publishing: Do It Your Way | Catherine, Caffeinated http://ow.ly/tbDUl
- Self-Publishing Revolution: Adapt or Die | Lee Goldberg http://ow.ly/tbE6t
- A Step by Step Guide to Evaluating Your ePub Files on Kindles, iPads, and Smartphones — The Book Designer http://ow.ly/tbGdd
- Why I Love (And Hate) Digital Books | Author Media http://ow.ly/tbGgQ
- Writers On The Move: Dialog that Delivers http://ow.ly/tbH1j
- Novel Rocket: 7 Ways to Avoid Overwriting http://ow.ly/tbHiZ