Of course I’m talking about writing.
One of the main problems I see with new writers is a tendency to overwrite. Sometimes it’s like reading a play replete with stage directions. Every move is explained in excruciating detail. “He lifted the glass with his left hand, while his right hand idly stroked his thigh, which was covered by fine wool trousers in a shade of gray not unlike brushed steel. The ice cubes, square, not round, clinked against the glass as he sipped the single malt Scotch. His tongue darted out to catch an errant droplet, and then he wiped his lips with the back of his right hand before letting it come to rest on the hand-crocheted cotton armrest cover protecting the upholstered arm of the Chippendale chair.”
We haven’t even gotten to what happens when someone speaks to him and he responds, or when he rises and leaves the room. (We are lucky, in this regard.)
If we’re writing a short piece about a man enjoying a Scotch after work, perhaps this would be somewhat less painful. I say somewhat, because even then this is overwritten. However, if this shows up in a crime novel, and he’s a suspect about to be interrogated, well … there are simply too many words. There’s no tension here, like there should be in that situation. It’s a word painting (not a very good one, but I’m no writer), not part of a tense scene.
Earlier today I asked my tweeps (that’s Twitter connections, people, peeps–tweeps) if anyone had links to good posts or articles about tightening up one’s writing. As always, they came through for me. I need to thank Kristy Lin Biluni (@SexyGrammar), Kia Thomas (@KiaThomasEdits), and Emma Darwin (@emma_darwin) for their speedy responses and excellent resources.
6 Questions to Ask Your Descriptions
Eliminate Unnecessary Stage Directions
Write Tight, by William Brohaugh
And a bonus tune for your listening enjoyment.