WRITING PITFALLS

HOW TO DETERMINE THE AMOUNT OF DESCRIPTION YOU NEED

One of the common misconceptions about writing is that you have to be a good writer. False. You don’t have to be good at writing, you just have to be good at planning and story-telling.

People have a tendency to forgive shaky writing, bad similes, and grammatical errors if the story is worthy of a read. Now if you have all of these bad elements and a terrible story, then no one will read your book except for friends and family.

I have read books where the writing is sub-par but the story is exciting and full of energy. Were there a few words that were out-of-place? Yup. Was the rhythm off? Yup. Was the writing choppy and course? Absolutely. But what about the story? Was it any good? Indeed.

I’m not going to give examples because I don’t typically like to globally smash other people’s work, but trust me…you would know some of these books.

I don’t want writers to be intimidated because of difficulties with prose. I say that you need to keep writing no matter what. Don’t be afraid to allow a friend to edit your work, and don’t be offended whenever he tells you that a few sentences here and there are shaky.

Here’s another pitfall that is on the other extreme. Some writers who are good want to show just how good they are – lacing their prose with thick metaphors, lofty words, and flowery language. This is a problem too, in most cases, because people have trouble reading through thick prose. It’s like navigating your way through a jungle of words.

WATCH:
1) She walked down the road. No cars were coming, so she felt safe.
2) Traveling down the melancholy avenue and pondering the events that which she had recently succumbed, she somehow felt imperviously secure; undoubtedly, this was due to the shortage of vehicles that often cluttered the boulevard.

There’s no need for the language in line 2 if the only purpose is to tell of her safety. Prose like line two can quickly become overwhelming, and the average reader will probably set your book down neatly on her coffee table.

On the contrary, if line 1 is all that fills the book, readers may continue reading if the story is compelling enough.

How many flowers should you plant in your garden of prose? I’d say err on the side of a few flowers for the first draft. If you find that the wording is lacking, then you can spruce it up.

Anyway. Thanks for stopping by. This week has been extremely busy for me, so I’ve been out of the blogosphere, and I apologize. I just wanted to finish the first draft of book 2, which I just finished yesterday! And I started on book 3. Sigh….

Have a good weekend…blogos-friends.

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21 thoughts on “WRITING PITFALLS

  1. Stephanie Bennis

    You make some great points here! The story you’re telling is only one aspect that makes up good writing. I personally don’t like overly descriptive work–especially if it’s not necessary.

    Reply
    1. William Stadler Post author

      I agree, Stephanie. I appreciate desciption that adds to the work rather than showing off what the writer is capable of. Thanks!

      Reply
  2. mariathermann

    Hehe, example 2) reminded me of crime writer Colin Dexter, who likes to show off his Oxford University education and peppers his novels with incomprehensible words that forces readers to rush to the nearest dictionary.

    Reply
    1. William Stadler Post author

      exactly! and even though i think it’s good to speckle dictionary words throughout the writer, if the reader has to press his mind to get through a work, then he’ll probably become exhausted and just quit

      Reply
        1. William Stadler Post author

          Absolutely! I’m just impressed that a young lady your age manages her own consistent blog!

          Reply
    1. William Stadler Post author

      Thanks, Sara! And yes I certainly agree. One of my good friends has intensely scrutinized my work, and it’s made for a better story because of it.

      Reply
  3. Patty-chan

    Yeah, I totally agree. I love the Great Gatsby, but there are SO many parts that don’t make any sense because the vocabulary is just way to dense. However, during the romantic scenes with Daisy, the flowerly language is great.

    Also, I’m reading a book now, Fallen Angel by Heather Terrell (for research purposes! don’t judge me…) and it’s got very simple vocabulary and written somewhat matter-of-factly. But, the story is intriguing and the scenes are well done, nonetheless.

    Reply
    1. William Stadler Post author

      Oh I’m judging! I am soooo judging! hahah But, nahh, thanks, man. Sometimes you can’t see the forest because of the forest with all the weird vocabulary and such. A few tough words here and there can be useful, but anything more than that is just a rough road.

      Reply
  4. inksweatandfears

    I recently tried to plod through a collection of short stories edited by Peter Straub. Some of the stories were so steeped in thick, non-sensical prose and weak, non-existent plots, that I was only able to force myself to read about half a dozen before the book became a $12 door-stop. Its amazing what does and doesn’t turn a publisher’s crank!

    Reply
    1. William Stadler Post author

      I certainly understand what you’re saying, and there’s nothing like a useless doorstop that once had another purpose (i.e. a book).

      Reply
  5. sfbell09

    Thanks. This was a great post after the dressing down a short story of mine received. While I agreed with the spirit of the critique, I still felt like the story was solid, and just the delivery was weak. It is good to know that a well thought story line can make a difference.

    Reply
    1. William Stadler Post author

      Thanks, Sfbell09. Yeah, it’s always tough to face the critiques. But we’ll have to face them someday.

      Reply
    1. William Stadler Post author

      haha! Thanks, Vikki! And I’m sure you’ve noticed by now, but I “borrowed” your picture from you homepage and posted it on another blog that I write for. I just really like that photo 🙂

      Reply

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