Friday, January 22, 2021

So You're an Overwriter? Here are 10 tips to help.

Hey folks! Surprise! It's me. I'm alive. 

I know it's been a while, so before we launch into the blog post I have a quick, cool thing to tell you about: 

I'm going to be speaking at the Aspiring Authors Breakthrough Conference! This conference is composed of a lot of cool authors who are all going to help you learn how to reach your goal of becoming a successful author. Yayyy! It runs from January 25th - 31st, with an ending interview and Q&A on February 1st by yours truly. It's fun and free, so register now

(and yes, you can attend even if you're already published. There will still be helpful information for you!) 


Okay, let's get to it.

Due to a lot of busyness in my life, I'm going to be playing around with new blog post formats. Namely, shorter, to-the-point blog posts. Comment below to tell me how you like it! 


A white background with a stack of blue, orange, and yellow books at the bottom. The text reads: "So You're and Overwriter? 11 Tips to Help you."


Overwriter: Somebody who consistently uses far too many words, is always getting in trouble for exceeding wordlimits, and probably has a 200,000 word manuscript out there that they're convinced may need more detail. 

(side note: it does not need more detail. Stop it) 

Sounds like you? I've got your back. Here are some tips: 

1. Ask yourself: "If this detail wasn't here, would the readers miss it?" Would readers be confused? Would they lose important information absolutely vital to the worldbuilding, characters, or plot? If not, you probably shouldn't write it. 

2. Don't start the story until you know how it ends. Otherwise you'll end up with a sprawling story that just goes on and on as you struggle to figure out where it should end.

3. Remember that just because you like a thing doesn't mean other people will. You love long, ramble-y descriptions? That's cool. But will your target audience think so? No? Then stop shooting yourself in the foot. 

4. Try writing some flash fiction. Find a picture and write a 500 word story from it. It'll be really hard at first, but keep at it. You'll start learning a thing or two about concise wording. 

5. Read some good short stories. Notice how the author uses each sentence purposefully. Study how every word has a reason for being there. Take notes. 

6. Read angry reviews of long books. Look at the not-so-flattering reviews of long books and see if you notice a trend. Is it the over-long descriptions that people hated? The extraneous characters? See what it is that rubbed people wrong, then locate those sections in your own story and consider chopping them out. 

7. Trust your readers. Often people will overwrite because they need to make sure readers are understanding what's happening. Frankly, it's a bit insulting. Trust your readers to use their own brains and to pick up on subtle details.

8. Edit ruthlessly (possibly on paper). Using the question from 1, go through and slash chunks from your story. Murder your darlings. If you print your document out and slash it with a red pen, it can feel very satisfying. 

9. Use graveyard documents. When making your cuts, consider copy-and-pasting them into a "graveyard" document where you can find them again if you need them. This can alleviate some of the anxiety of chopping massive parts from your story.

10. Ask beta readers for help. After trying your hardest to cut words on your own, send your work to beta readers and ask them if they will comment on scenes/characters they feel are unnecessary. Then put your story through another round of chopping.


Have you used any of these tips before? I'd love to hear how they work for you!


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42 comments:

  1. I found these tips very helpful, Hannah! Tip 9 is a comfort to the nostalgic of us!

    I think one of the things I struggle with as an overwriter is info-dumping in character dialogue, which is pretty hard to cut out and makes the characters sound long-winded and unrealistic. I’m trying to improve on weaving detail into my stories — but I suppose unnecessary detail about the origin of three-tailed foxes and the dark backstory of an enchantress’s childhood lullaby aren’t needing to be woven into an adventure story about runaways. 😉

    I think I have improved at one thing over the past while: superfluous characters. I’ve cut down the cast of a story idea from eight characters to three...and it doesn’t even make that much difference! And anyway, erasing five characters instead of killing them off may be harder but it reduces clutter. I’m trying not to be like Darth Vader: “The Empire will compensate you if he dies. Put him in!”

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  2. I am absolutely horrible about #7, but tend to be better at #8 than I probably should be. Some of my beta readers look at me odd when I say I want to remove ANOTHER scene, or kill off ANOTHER character. Help?

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  3. Great post, thanks for the tips!

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