Monday, April 18, 2011

(O) Overwriting

Today, O is for overwriting. I think there are probably lots of ways to do this, but I'm going to focus on two.

One form of overwriting that seems common and even best sellers have been criticized for is using huge words with sentence structure that is both complex and convoluted. I've heard Stephen King criticized for this, and I have no opinion because I've never read his fiction (and he's sold so many books I'd feel stupid to criticize). But I think it's possible, because he taught English for years and is a brilliant writer. He enjoys playing with language and likes to string it together to see what he can do with it. The problem most readers are devouring information and story, not necessarily focusing on words and syntax. Trying too hard, getting too artsy can lead to overwriting. Although, I think this form of overwriting also happens when a writer is trying to prove what he/she knows, or boost his/her own ego with the writing. Also, I think it happens when an author tries to distance his/herself from the work. By clogging the page with words they would never use in a conversation and focusing on grammar instead of truth, the author can hide from emotions he/she doesn't want to experience or re-experience, but in doing so they deny the author the chance to experience true emotion. This can be death to a story.

I'm guilty of another form of overwriting, though it doesn't really bother me. When I overwrite, it doesn't tend to me overstating something rather than just communicating with my reader. Instead, I write everything little thing about my characters and every part of their day. It makes for massive manuscripts, but well developed characters. And the extra can all be taken out later. I can't say I really regret that I overwrite. (I'll never have to worry about hitting a word count). But I can say cutting the excess later on is painful work. Do you overwrite?

As an aside, I've posted an editorial services page, and I can help with all forms of overwriting for free ;).


  1. Oh, it's so true! I do tend to accidentally sit down and spell out the little details of a character's day. Sometimes it's just because I'm working out where to go next, but it all has to go in revisions!

  2. I've definitely been accused of the first kind of overwriting! It always take me back to that scene in Anne of Green Gables when Gil tells Anne that her story if full of "high folluting mumbo jumbo". :)

    However, the second I'm almost never guilty of. Where other's are trimming? I'm trying to fatten up...

  3. I too am guilty of overwriting, at least where email is concerned. I tend to go on and on and on!! But since I'm studying and practicing writing childrens picture books, I have cut down on my verbage tremendously. You definitely can not overwrite in that category of writing!

  4. I overwrite when writing to people, like an email or online post, but not so much in my fiction writing. I used to, so I have no idea why I don't now. I don't think there's anything wrong with overwriting, as long as you are able to edit it well later on!

    Good luck with the last leg of the A to Z Challenge!