What do I mean by over-writing? Well, I've written about it before but I've recently developed a new name for it: Trying Too Hard To Sound Like a Writer.
I've also written about it fairly extensively in Write to be Published, and I thought I'd give you a little snippet from that:
Some genres and contexts require and tolerate more poetic bits. Some books and voices differ similarly. If you’ve read lots of books in your genre, you can more easily judge what is right for your book. But, whatever your genre, you will almost certainly do yourself a favour by toning down at least some parts, and then your best bits will stand out even better. You can’t see purple against a purple background.
Mark Twain’s words, written in 1880, bear repeating: “When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don’t mean utterly, but kill most of them – then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart. An adjective habit, or a wordy, diffuse, flowery habit, once fastened upon a person, is as hard to get rid of as any other vice.”
He’s wrong, actually: it’s not hard at all. Be tough with yourself and your writing will benefit. If in doubt, cut it out. My preferred weapon is a machete. It’s remarkably therapeutic.
- Particularly avoid the repetitious and over-easy adjective+noun adjective+noun adjective+noun format
- And adjectives that were incredibly easy for you to think of - consider whether that's because they are clichés
- When you see a pair of adjectives together, consider whether one of them is better - omit the weaker one
- Be wary of adjectives that sound too flowery for the context or the character or the voice
- If you are particularly proud of one, consdier whether you're being too proud and showing off - if it's not right for the reader, axe it.