This is a less-than-attractive title,
but those are the best kind, right?? But seriously, I think that it’s very apt for the problem I have been encountering more and more as I get further on in my story. The fact is, sometimes I just write too damn much, and I just can’t figure out how to stop!!
I’ve always known I had this issue. I used to get told time and again back in elementary school that when the teacher asked for a one-page book report, that didn’t mean five pages. Freshman year of high school we were supposed to write a five-to-ten page story about a super hero character. I wrote twenty pages, and probably could have kept going if I hadn’t run into the due date. So the fact is that, where I’m concerned, why write fifty words when you could write ten thousand and fifty? (Needless to say I’m terrible at flash fiction.)
But we live in a world that appreciates concise language in our books. We want to know whats happening right away. That isn’t to say that we don’t like complicated words sometimes, or that you can’t describe things, but it is no longer the age of Charles Dickens writing at a penny a word to feed his family, and therefore penning long-winded monstrosities like “Tale of Two Cities.” (Easily my least favorite book of all time, perhaps only beaten by “Moby Dick.”) And I understand! I don’t like to read those either! The insane amounts of description in Tolkien’s books were a major deterrent to me for years. (Though fantasy books by design tend to run into this problem more often, because of the world-building involved.) So why would I do it myself?
The fact is I just can’t help it. Especially when I write in first person, as I’m doing for “Life of Gaia,” it just seems imperative to word-vomit every last thing my character is thinking at any given moment. To give her thoughts on what has happened. What she thinks will happen. How it effects her now. How she’s feeling about the salmon she had for lunch. It’s like every barrier dissolves, and I write EVERY. LAST. THING. Characters have to do or think SOMETHING in between every line of dialogue. And it is ruining my book!
You might think the fact that I can write this post must be a step in the direction of recovery, but I’m not so sure. Right now I can honestly say that probably a good 50% of my revisions for LoG will simply be trimming. Cut cut cut, snip snip snip. And that thought is painful. Am I so cocky that I think every sentence out of my brain is such gold that I can’t bear to part with any of them? I hope that’s not it, because that just sounds so pretentious. But I guess I write out what I know my character is thinking and feeling, and things that I think are important. But everything CAN’T be important. (Right???) So picking and choosing? Madness.
This was sort of highlighted at one of the Creative Writer meetings I attended when it was pointed out that I did a LOT of describing in the chapter where Gaia first goes to the city. “Do we really need to know all about these streets?” someone asked me honestly. “Or all of this about the weapons shops and stuff? To be honest, I had already decided in my mind what this place looked like within a few sentences, and after that the rest was something I would just skip over.”
Our brains are pretty amazing things. While I’m sure there are some people out there who need an author to hand-hold them with every setting and character, most people’s imaginations will fill in the blanks with your basic descriptions as support beams. I might have my own, detailed, intricately-planned idea of what each setting looks like, but does that really matter? No. Because if I say a few well-chosen aspects that stand out, my readers will take up the torch and fill in the rest for themselves. And that’s half the fun of reading. (Even if it kind of hurts to hear.)
(On a random note, I went back and realized that nowhere did I describe one of my main characters, LOLOL. Nowhere. There’s no physical description of her whatsoever. Funny to think that I can have this problem and STILL manage to miss something so important, but there you go. I have made a note to address this first when I do revisions.)
(I have a band-aid on my finger and keep having to re-type everything. Dx BAH.)
So… I guess I’m just looking for some support, ha ha. Does anyone else find themselves word-vomiting all over when they write? Or do you actually write too LITTLE and have to go back and add some description? (A problem I could never imagine, personally.) Do you have any suggestions for me, ways to weed out the unnecessary when I’m writing or revising? Thoughts are always nice!