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The Devil’s in the Details

We’re continuing our look at Fatal Flaw # 1: Overwriting. Fiction writers often overwrite, and have trouble seeing how this manifests in their prose. Last week we looked at wordiness and redundancy. This week editor Linda Clare explores this topic further to help you determine which details in your scenes are important and which can be tossed.

The world is full of details—and good writers notice them perpetually. Yet when you introduce your created world to readers, it’s easy to get carried away. Let’s take a look at how overwriting, or including too many details, can derail your scenes and lose readers.

You Are the Manager

As a fiction writer, you are a manager. You hold the power to guide your readers, managing their attention and memory. By stressing a certain detail or event, you are managing readers by sending the message: “Pay attention to this. Remember this.”

If you attempt to write a scene that includes a blow-by-blow account of what is happening, it may mirror real life, but readers will not know which details matter to the story and which are incidental. If you overload readers with stimuli, they won’t know what to pay attention to and what to ignore. If you understand this, it’s easier to remind yourself to write only what the readers need to know, with a few “extra sprinkles” of concrete sensory detail (CSD) to help make the scene believable. Continue Reading…

The Forest for the Trees: How to Cure Overwriting

Welcome to our new, exciting course for the year! Four editors are going to delve into The 12 Fatal Flaws of Fiction Writing and help you learn to identify and correct faulty writing that can weaken your fiction. You learned last year how to construct a solid novel, but if your writing is flawed, your book will fail.

With every post giving you Before and After passage examples, you will get a clear picture of what not to do as well as how to spot and fix such travesties. Be sure to join in on the discussion and share your thoughts and examples (both good and bad) to help your fellow writers. And ask questions if you need elaboration. We want to help you be the best writer you can be! So let’s begin!


Editor Rachel Starr Thomson tackles Fatal Flaw # 1: Overwriting

When you put pen to paper, it’s fully possible to underwrite. To fail to say what you meant to say. But just as possible, and more common, is overwriting—the tendency to say too much, in too many words, and crowd out the forest for the trees.

Overwriting takes many forms.  Wordiness. Overuse of modifiers and weak sentence construction. Vagueness. Redundancy. Convolution. Pushing metaphors so far beyond the breaking point that they cease to be enlightening and become ridiculous instead. Purple prose. Continue Reading…

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