Or why I can’t leave those damn adjectives alone
Overwriting. Stupidly, as I tremble with excitement embarking on the terrifying prospects of a new novel, I appear to be putting in far too many extraneous words into my carefully crafted stories, and although these words are pondered over thoughtfully, chosen wisely and considered in a rational and logical way, there are just too many of them. Do you see what I mean?
I entered a competition with the first three chapters of my second novel and didn’t even make the long list. Crushing disappointment followed naturally. What came after this crushing disappointment was some feedback from the organisers which can be boiled down to: stop putting in so many blimming words. Overwriting. The curse of the amateur. That’s embarrassing. Whilst I am not published I had unwisely considered that I was a reasonable writer and had read and written enough over the years to not still be considered a total amateur. Think again.
I can’t leave them alone. They whisper to me in all their descriptive loveliness. Calling me. Telling me that my reader will have no idea precisely what happens now in the story. They won’t know what they should be thinking and feeling to really get the most out of the plot if I don’t use loads of them. A few more won’t hurt. Only one or two. Just to be clear. Who doesn’t like a word like ponderously; where’s the harm in harmoniously
This theme is consistent through any feedback I have had for my work. Embarrassing again. You would think I would have learned by now for heaven’s sake. I can tell a good story, I can create believable characters, I can conjure up scenarios that make people excited but then I ruin it all with those damn adjectives. Scattering them willy nilly across my prose. Let the reader decide. But when I take them out, the writing seems bare to me. Sparse little sentences which are not sufficient to survive on their own. They need feeding up with adjectives for them to thrive and prosper in the heads of readers surely?
The need to explain how my characters say things is another talent of mine which is not appreciated by the publishing world. She said sarcastically; he shouted, surprised; she whispered, horrified. I pop these in because if the character says or shouts or whispers in another way then the meaning of the scene might be lost, or at least the dialogue which follows. But readers get annoyed by this and want to be given the freedom to decide how people say, shout or whisper apparently. I should have done enough in the story for those describing words to be unnecessary. Readers will get it
I have to stop it. I have to stop being such a control freak and release the story into the wild to make its own way. Not tether it to a post with unnecessary description.
If an overstuffed manuscript is like a treasure map leading the reader plodding from point to point then taking those naughty little descriptors out lets the reader enjoy the view a bit more. Maybe find another path. As an author I have to have faith that they will discover the chest full of diamonds buried in the sand and most importantly they will have enjoyed the journey much more
So that is my goal. Not an ambitious goal, or a stretch goal or a scary goal. Just a goal to de-adjective my work and see if it makes it better.