Wednesday, October 6, 2010


I am one of the many people diagnosed with over-write-itus. It can be fatal in some cases, but I work hard to trim fatty sentences and reduce word waste, thereby giving my books a chance at being readable.

Honestly, it’s hard. Not the cutting of chapters or scenes, which in most cases I can come to accept quickly. When I look at something and think “this doesn’t really add anything,” it’s easy to decide something must go. If it’s something I really like and really feel is vital, then I just sit down and think why anyone would suggest it gone. Maybe I can rework it into other chapters. Again, not a problem.

My trouble is I use ten words when two will suffice. It’s hard to sit down and look at something long and find the exact words that can make it short, sweet and readable.

Plus, I tend to add unnecessary description, especially towards the beginning of the book. Some extra description is necessary to orient the reader, but too much just makes it boring. I’m looking at you, self. Wait. Let me get a mirror. Now I’m looking at you. And get that smug look off your face.

So I implore: make each word count! Cut, combine, condense! Don’t attempt to be lyrical or descriptive. If it happens, it happens, but you can't make it happen. I guess you could say the whole is greater than the sum of its words. Losing/changing some does not change the story and should not change your voice (some books—some—do need every word, but these are usually first person; even so, some changes wouldn’t be terrible).

Perhaps most importantly: don’t think you’re above over writing. Very few are and they’re more endangered than pandas. And please remember that one perfect word will stand well where ten could not hold a sentence.


Emergency Edit: Karen Jones Gowen at Coming Down the Mountain is going to give away cookies. Cookies. She's made it her business, so I'm thinking they're good. So now that you're thinking about overwriting, visit her blog for cookies.


  1. This is the absolute best thing any writer can do to improve their craft. Overwriting is deadly!

  2. I am a huge over-writer, guilty of all the types you mentioned above. I used to write complete chapters that, I discovered later, lead the story nowhere. Now my biggest problem is extra words. I hardly ever see them until my critique partners point them out. Once I do condense a long paragraph into a single sentence or two, I realize I got the same message across, only much better. Twitter helped me learn to write concisely too.

  3. Guilty! My prob is not the descriptions it's the redundancy. I've already got a post lined up on this very subject for tomorrow.
    I tend to restate what I've already explained, but in different words. I need to go in and edit strictly for that issue alone. Most of the time we don't even miss those descriptions when we remove them. They do tend to bog the story down. I think we're more or less desribing to ourselves... but the reader only needs a few concise details to get a clear pic.

  4. I'm a new follower!!! Great to meet you! Great topic!!!

    I'm not an over writer, in fact I keep most of the ideas in my brain and as many thoughts as I can get on paper. I'm one that jumps because the idea is so strong in another chapter!!!


Please validate me.