Today we've got a guest-blog from Scott Pack, Publisher at The Friday Project and authonomy, who is sharing some tips on writing and the approaches that get a book noticed.
If you read any of the reviews I post on authonomy then the chances are you will have come across the word ‘overwritten’ quite a lot. It is my most commonly leveled criticism on this site.
But what does it actually mean? And why is it a problem?
If I had to explain it in one sentence it would be this: You are trying too hard.
And if I were allowed one more sentence, I would add this: You are using too many words.
Allow me to elaborate on that. Too much description, too many adverbs, too much padding can often get in the way of the story, and the story is the most important thing you have as a writer.
If you want to wax lyrical about a character walking down the stairs and wish to spend three paragraphs describing the stairs, the sound the stairs made, the feelings the character experiences as he walked down the stairs, the pattern of the carpet, the atmosphere etc. then by all means feel free, but would this: He walked down the stairs serve the story just as well?
I am not suggesting that you use sparse language and hone everything down to the bare bones, although it didn’t seem to do Hemingway much harm. Neither do I think it is healthy to restrict your natural voice. But a lot of first-time writers have a tendency to go on a bit and you could save yourself a lot of hassle by thinking about that before you start submitting your work.
If you are fortunate enough to have your work taken on by a publisher then one of the first things they are likely to do is take a red pen to your work of art and ask you to remove loads of words. The ones you don’t need. You stand a better chance of being published if you can preempt this by reviewing your manuscript with a critical eye. Do not be afraid to take things out. Challenge yourself. Compare your work to that of published writers in the same genre. What is the difference?
The answer is often that they don’t take as long to get to the point.
And yes, there are often exceptions that prove the rule but, do yourself a favour, assume you aren’t the exception and it could save you a lot of grief.