Tag Archive - Overwriting

How Novelists Can Say More with Less

Less is more. More impacting. More riveting. More intriguing. Throughout history, marriages have failed and wars have been won or lost over a mere word or two. Jesus said, “Let your yes mean yes and your no mean no.” Simply stated, as was his style.

I often share with my clients something my eleventh-grade English teacher used to spout frequently: “Say what you mean. Don’t say what you don’t mean.”

The best way to say what you mean is to use only the words you need—the most appropriate words for your context—and discard the rest. Think of the pages of your novel as expensive real estate. Writers who want to write well should aim to be as picky about the words they string together as the foods they eat or the clothes they wear. Pickier.

Bogging Down Your Writing Is a Bad Thing

Your novel’s pacing will be greatly affected by word choice. If you bog down your sentences with unnecessary words, your scenes will drag. In addition, using boring, flat, or weak verbs and adjectives will make the reading dull, no matter how exciting your plot might be.

Take a look at this Before passage and see if you can spot some of the problems. Then read my revision and compare. Continue Reading…

Avoiding the Vague Swamp

This month we’re taking a hard look at Fatal Flaw # 3: Weak Construction. Last week editor Rachel Starr Thomson showed us the many pitfalls of weak writing as manifested by our sentence structure and bland choice of words. This week editor Linda Clare warns us about the “Vague Swamp” and how to stay out of it.

The fictional world you’ve created for your novel exists in your mind as fully imagined. This means there are a myriad of details you’ve assigned to the world—far too many details to write down in any one scene. The details you do share with readers will shrink drastically if you employ words that aren’t precise. Using vague or generalized words to describe the world you so fully imagined takes away from the experience you wish readers to have.

We can divide “Vague Swamp” words into three general categories: Intensifiers, Diminishers, and Vague-aries. These words are nouns or modifiers (adjectives or adverbs) that are meant to give a word more precise meaning but which do little work to define the object. Intensifier examples include: very, really, mostly, many, large, a lot, huge. Diminishers: small, tiny, little, some. Vague-aries: something, situation, circumstance, thing, stuff, problem. Continue Reading…

The Perils of Purple Prose

We’re wrapping up our look at Fatal Flaw # 1: Overwriting. Fiction writers often overwrite, and have trouble seeing how this manifests in their work. Our savvy editors have covered repetition and redundancy, how much detail to include and leave out, and just plain clunky writing. This week editor Robin Patchen dives into purple prose to show you what that is and how to avoid it in your writing.

What do you want people to experience when they read your novel? Do you want them to marvel at your fabulous writing skills? Are you hoping they’ll be impressed by your outstanding grasp of grammar? Perhaps you want to dazzle them with your exceptional vocabulary?

Or do you want them to experience a story?

Truth is, often times, you can either impress people with your prose or you can tell them a story, but you can’t do both. So many of my editing clients’ manuscripts are riddled with prose so filled with flowery language that the meaning is lost. I find myself offering the same advice over and over, my take on Nike’s slogan: Just say it. Continue Reading…

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