Thursday, January 27, 2011

Faygo indeedio!




I'm working on manuscripts for the critique sessions at Murder Goes South.

One of the things I'm noticing (and I also see this in queries a lot) is the tendency to over write. Not all things need to be explained. In a moment of high dudgeon we know the hero is hitting the steering wheel with frustration. We know he's frustrated because of what's happening. You don't need to tell us.

The problem with writing everything is that it ruins the pace and rhythm of your paragraphs. It's as though the little bouncing ball in the Faygo ad hits every letter, not every word. We can't tell what's important, what to focus on.

Your readers will fill in the expected: he hugged his mom lovingly. Only if it's killingly would we need an adverb.

Let your writing bounce, not plod.

17 comments:

Josin L. McQuein said...

She shook her head, understandingly, but wondered, questioningly, if perhaps, occasionally, adverbs couldn't be applied in excess, yet sparingly. Doubtfully not, but she made wistfully puppy eyes, hopefully.

Interestingly enough, the shark gnashed her teeth gnashingly. And the "l" and "y" keys cried out desperately for help, but the writer cared not, callously! She continued to type away relentlessly, and in the end, finally, she had to edit endlessly!

Shannon said...

Double writing, that's what someone else called it. But, I think this is more than just double writing.

Either way, it is my nemesis. It's the reason why I haven't started querying my MS yet. I'm editing it all out (hopefully, I'm catching it all). *grabs her hair at the temples and starts to pull*

Janet Reid said...

Double writing is saying the same thing twice. Like "she adjusted her tiara, pushing it higher on her bouffant"

It's ok to do that on purpose of course; what's not ok is when it creeps in and doesn't add to the rhythm, pace, or vitality of the piece.

Vanessa K. Eccles said...

Great advice. You will have me searching through my query letters now in search of the fluff. I will do anything to improve my query letters, so thank you for your post! :)

Corinne O'Flynn said...

Thank you for that Janet. I don't think I will ever forget it, either, thanks to Faygo!

Shannon said...

Hmmm ... yes, my problem is more in the double writing area, not over writing.

I'm just glad it was pointed out to me before I started querying.

Kristin Laughtin said...

Indeed! We can usually tell the way a character will perform an action if it's obvious from context. It only needs to be pointed out if it's unusual or unexpected--and if you do it all the time, those unusual moments aren't going to stand out.

stephen matlock said...

I probably do this in the first draft because I'm thinking and feeling and I want to get it all out.

Then I go back and read my stuff and start editing. My writing mentor's advice is usually pretty good: about 25% of what I write can be simply stricken from the story with no loss of effect.

It's still funny to catch it, though, especially when I write something like "he shook her head, understandingly" -- not that I've ever done that in particular. Still, I do make other mistakes.

I've noted that one of my habits is to open a scene with a weather report: "It was a hot day." Meh.

Julie Hedlund said...

OMG I LOVED this commercial as a kid. Thanks for the trip down memory lane (and the writing advice)...

Bri Clark said...

Adverbs...it's an epidemic.

Simon Hay Soul Healer said...

Yes, I've done that. I spent 4 days searching for specific words and phrases and then deleted or changed. When I read start to finish I read through the over writing. Random bite sizes work for me.

Sarah W said...

Thank you for the reminder!

Trust our writing and trust the reader's intelligence - got it.

Joshua Peacock said...

I hate adverbs so much.

dylan said...

Dear Ms. Reid

Yet another Off-Topic Comment

Possible Blog Goody:

Sublime Rhapsody

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=snPQ1z5FoqQ

dylan

John "Ol' Chumbucket" Baur said...

Who was it who said, "Adjectives are the enemies of noun?" That goes double for adverbs and verbs. Look askance at any word ending in "ly."

stephen matlock said...

"He looked askancedly at his wife" is just wrong.

So much better "He looked askanced, and his wife asked 'What?'"

Or "He looked at his wife in askancement."

I used avoid using words ending in "ly" until I wrote a book about Sally going to Paris in July and landing at Orly. "Sal" wasn't so bad, but it got confusing when I used "Ju" for the month and "Or" for the airport.

LaleƱa Grantham said...

When it was first pointed out that I was doing this in my critique group, I opened up word hit find and typed in ly. I was amazed. Since then I have been working on showing not telling, but it is still so tempting at times. Thanks for the reminder and I will double check my query letter as well.