Last Thursday my tutor told me she had discovered a problematic pattern in my writing: overwriting. So my assignment this week has been to cut enormously and mercilessly in order to gain more clarity and drive.
Sometimes people tell me things about my writing and it's like the light-bulb moment. Everything is clear and obvious. Other times... not so much and I just have to take it on faith that someone is right. Writing this week has been like that, a real struggle.
I started by cutting everything from the first four chapters of my novel that wasn't setting, dialogue or action. Mostly I cut internal thought and reflection, which my teacher thinks are the culprits. And she was right--when I cut all of that out, the writing was much clearer and faster.
Let me show you:
The blue curtain shakes. I freeze. I hear something... someone. Someone's whispering.
My back goes all tingly. "Hello?" I call out. "Is anyone there? Do you know what smells?"
The blue curtain shakes. I freeze. Is something back there? My ears aren't nearly as good as my nose, but now I think I hear something... someone. Someone's whispering.
My back goes all tingly. I don't know why. What is there to be scared of? It's just a smell, right? Right. I should figure this out. "Hello?" I call out. "Is anyone there? Do you know what smells?"
Do you see the difference? I think it does help.
But I worry about what I'm sacrificing for this increased clarity. Do I give enough background information? My teacher reminds me that I should trust my readers to understand my text without spelling everything out. I also worry about voice. Part of the reason I kept a lot of overwriting in originally was because one of my narrators talks non-stop. I'm scared if I lose sentences, I lose his personality.
So I have spent the past week combing through every sentence of my first four chapters, trying to decide what is essential and what can be cut. A frustrating writing week--but hopefully one that will take me a step closer towards improving my writing.