Monday, September 27, 2010

Overwriters Anonymous

Hi. My name is Christine and I'm a overwriter.

I don't mean to do this but for some reason my brain is addicted to overwriting and forces my fingers to type the words that just make my manuscript melodramatic and cliche. It is a hard habit to break and I'm looking for ways to fix my addiction.

What is overwriting? Well, I will give you an example...each day a black hole has grown, pulling me deeper into darkness.
A little flashy, yes. You see, too many adjectives and adverbs just candy coat what we are really trying to say. We know not to do this but sometimes it just happens.  I've noticed I tend to do this when I force my story or I try too hard to follow the rules.  It's something I need to learn how to stop. I also learned that overwriting can lead to losing your MC's voice. It masks over it and the poor thing gets lost.

Here is a great blog post from Nicola Morgan --overwriting post.

That's right, overwriting was the number one complaint on my manuscript. I went to the Philly SCBWI conference on Saturday and had my editor critique.

First, I want to thank all of you for your encouragement and advice. It helped me so much. I really don't know how to thank you, seriously. From your comments, I had my questions ready and I found out a little bit about what the critiquer goes through to prepare for a critique such as this. This made me feel a little more at ease. Not entirely, but a little more.

Second, the critique. I was nervous. I will not lie. The critique actually went better than I thought. I do have a lot of thinking to do and re-writing but in general it gave me validation. It made me believe that this story may have a chance. For this critique, I was required to send in my first 10 pages and a synopsis of my entire story including how it would end. The editor liked my idea and my synopsis which made my year. To have an editor say that to me was glorious. It made the negative points seem like nothing. **Which is not entirely true, it just made them easier to swallow. 

I do have some re-writing. The general idea of my first chapter is fine, I just have to strengthen my MC's voice (which I know I lost because this is my 12th revision of my first chapter), get rid of the overwriting, some grammar stuff and try to adjust the voice on some of my other characters.

So basically, I'm happy. Sure, I have a ton of work but that's okay. I'm learning, growing and strengthening my craft.  I'm really glad I did it. I better get to work.

Are you an overwriter?

Any advice on controlling overwriting?

How was your weekend? any new goals?

Thank you again guys. You support is awesome.

Have a great day! Oh and on Wednesday, I'm going to post another addiction-- "-ing" words. Little pests.


  1. Congratulations - that's great! And you were so worried.
    I overwrite just a little.

  2. Great post, Christine!

    I agree that a lot of us overwrite and I think I know at least one of the reasons. Computers.

    Think about it. In the days before typewriters, which is where I began as a boy before I could afford a typewriter or knew how to type, we used pen and paper. I remember being much more careful about what I was writing, for several reasons. For one, our family was poor much of the time, and paper was a luxury, so I had to be careful about wasting it. It was also time-consuming to have to start an entire page over if a single mistake was made on it.

    Then, typewriters came on the scene, and it became easier to write faster. Overwriting, became a factor for the first time. It was just easier and faster to type. Although, paper was still expensive (for me) and you still had to retype a page with more mistakes than you could fix with either white-out or the erase ribbon. But, for the first time in my writing life, I began to experience a problem with overwriting.

    And then... along came 'puters! Overwriting definitely became a factor. For several reasons. One, it became infinitely faster to delete material so it was easier to just "get it down" and go back later and purge stuff. Only... a lot of times it didn't get purged. More than that, though, what I think leads to overwriting with computers is that when we look at the screen or when we see the laser-printed copy, it "looks" done and professional. It almost looks like a finished book. We keep looking at that screen and it just looks good. And, many times it's not--it's overwritten.

    I see much more overwriting among my present students today than I did years ago when typewriters were the instrument we all used.

    For myself, when I find myself overwriting, I pull out my old Corona and type for awhile. Better (older) habits emerge. If that doesn't work, I'll pull out a ballpoint (or better--a fountain pen) and write on paper. I find the overwriting really stops when I do that. Once I've regained my old habit again, I go back to the computer. Another "trick" that works is that I always read my material out loud. Stuff that looks polished on that marvelous screen or that laser printout, comes out awkwardly and I know the computer has fooled me again.

    I think computers are wonderful, wonderful things in many ways... but there are also a few drawbacks. Overwriting is perhaps one.

    Blue skies,

  3. Christine, would you mind sending me our email address to me at I have some material you may find useful for your post tomorrow on -ing words. I tried to use your email link here, but it takes me to some weird Word thing that doesn't make sense or let me actually email you! Thanks.

  4. I am SUCH an overwriter! Like Les said, I just want to get it down. I really really have to look at what I'm doing in revisions to see what can stay and what can go.

    I also think you need to let some time pass before revisions. Being nearly finished with my ms. I haven't looked at the beginning since nearly Feb. and when I went to start revisions on my first act the other day I was cutting like there was no tomorrow. Some writers edit the work they did the day before, before they start writing for the day. I don't do that. I read it, but move on. Whatever is overwritten stays, until I'm ready to revise. It's easier for me that way.

  5. I have a tendency to be an overwriter too. I just go through and take out the excess adjectives/adverbs when I edit and then my crit partner helps me remove more.

    And that's great that the editor liked your idea and synopsis! :D

    And I don't like coffee either, so it's definitely hot chocolate in my mind.:)

  6. Excellent that you received encouraging feedback! I understand validation. I tend to need that.
    I'm more an underwriter actually, and have to go back and flesh out more story.

  7. Yeah I think I'm totally an overwriter too. I love this post! I'm going to be on the lookout for that too. And you know that I'm always afraid of losing the 'voice' when I revise something.

    Can't wait for your post on Wednesday! :)

  8. I'm an overwriter and I didn't know it until someone pointed it out to me and then I felt silly for not noticing it before. Glad you had a good experience.

  9. I'm testing this because I keep getting a 503 error. If anyone knows what that is please let me know.

  10. I'm an underwriter. I fill in the scaffolding after I complete the rough draft.

    Write only what the reader needs - that's my advice. Stephen King says we either need to add 15% or take away 15%. He always needs to remove, so you're in good company!

  11. Yes, I'm an overwriter in a sense. I'll write "she was singing" instead if "she sang". It adds up quite a lot of words in the end. No good advice, unfortunately, just a vigil eye when editing the first draft!

  12. I'm glad your critique session went well! :)

    I'm an overwriter when it comes to scenes, but underwrite sometimes at the sentence level because I tend to prune my sentences as I go.

  13. Yay for getting a great critique! Such a good feeling to know exactly what needs to be fixed. I never overwrite: I always underwrite. I have to go back after I finish the first draft and fill in all the descriptions!

  14. i'm a bit of an overwriter too. At least while drafting.
    The good thing about crits is, even if you made mistakes, at least now you know what to fix

  15. ...Hello Christine,
    My name is Elliot, and I'm an overwriter as well...explaining why my manuscript is currently undergoing edit round 4...clip a little here, a snip over there, and a trim-trim-trim under there!

    Yep, I'm feelin ya:)

  16. Yay! I'm so glad the critique went well! Definitely focus on the positives, Christine. :)

    I'm much more of an underwriter than an overwriter. I leave out too many details and have under-described scenes. Fixing underwriting is harder than it looks, though.

  17. I for one would swap with you anyday! I'm an underwriter and as such am able to come up with characters etc and have some writing ability yet when it comes to opening up that laptop and sitting down and saying to my fingers "go to work" my brain goes... no. Not ready. :P haha

  18. Sounds like you had a very successful critique! How awesome that an editor liked it! I'd say even the negative stuff will ultimately be helpful to you! It'll all work to whip this baby into shape. So glad you came away with a positive experience, Christine!

  19. I think I have the opposite problem. I underwrite. But, that's what revisions are for, right ;)

  20. I tend to overwrite (and use too many ing words), but fortunately it’s pointed out to me by my critique group and editors. I lost count of the number of rewrites I did on my first manuscript, so don’t give up.

  21. I'm either a overwriter. Or an underwriter. I tend to flip flop. Why can't I ever just be a write on target writer? LOL. :)