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
Let your writing bounce, not plod.
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!
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*
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.
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! :)
Thank you for that Janet. I don't think I will ever forget it, either, thanks to Faygo!
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.
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.
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.
OMG I LOVED this commercial as a kid. Thanks for the trip down memory lane (and the writing advice)...
Adverbs...it's an epidemic.
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.
Thank you for the reminder!
Trust our writing and trust the reader's intelligence - got it.
I hate adverbs so much.
Dear Ms. Reid
Yet another Off-Topic Comment
Possible Blog Goody:
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."
"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.
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.
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