X: eXtraneous. Don't be.

i'll never forget an interview i read on marieke's blog (last fall).  she interviewed leah cypress, author of mistwood. leah said when she writes her first draft, it's as though the story is taking place in white rooms.  NO DETAILS, NO DESCRIPTIONS.  then she goes back through and adds that stuff in.  I LOVE THAT. (so much that i know i've mentioned this before, but can't find my own post link.)

you know why don't you? 

i'm a recovering overwriter.  and what better way is there than NOT to have that pressure on me to write all the details.  no shakes.  no hyperventilating.  no temptation. because  i've removed the vile need to binge on flowing, descriptive, purple flowery wordy strings of sentences.


just. write. the. story.

just. create. the characters

i promise you.  I PROMISE YOU.  your voice will improve.  your tone will BE there.  your writing will be CONSISTENT. 

your focus will not be lost.

you MAY find later that you don't need to add much in at all.

better writing.  cleaner writing.  less dusting required

(won't your merry maids aka beta readers be pleased???)

not pertaining to...impertinent...out of place...
not vital...unrelated...irrelevant

(why do you want to add in a bunch of irrelevant stuff? tell me. why? 
PLOT people.  CHARACTERS people.  that's what it's about. 
do you need to set the scene?  yes. 
sometimes can the setting BE so amazing it's like a vital character.  yes. 
BUT do it without irrelevant flowery page-filling garbage you call details. 

hahaha.  an X book...did you think i couldn't do it?  did you? 

(before i get too cocky, i guess i kinda cheated.  they don't actually START with x.  what?  extraneous doesn't either?  how many days until Z?)

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  1. Yeah, overwriting in the first draft is definitely not a problem I have. I always have to go back in and layer the description and details. The first draft for me is all about the plot.

    Anne Lamott says all first drafts are shitty. Isn't that liberating?

  2. I'm the opposite. I am a notorious underwriter and then get all grumpy when my CPs tell me to add more description. I must read too many toddler books!

  3. I'm with Vicki and Christa - my first-draft word counts are pitiful and only dialogue. But you're right - setting is important, even in contemporary.

    Sorry you're tired again. It's almost the weekend...(and I can't believe it's snowing again. boo)

  4. LOL! I went from a notorious overwriter to a notorious underwriter, and not in the insurance sense... :D don't overcorrect. xoxo

  5. Sounds like you've found your balance. Some (a lot) of this depends on genre, too. I'm reading a literary novel right now that any crit partners I've read about in the genre blogs I follow (or write) would be seriously distressed over re: so many intricate descriptions. It won prizes. Major prizes. But you zeroed in on the key: if the words are eXtraneous for what you're writing, cut 'em. (Hey, there's a 'Z' word!)

  6. Thanks for the reminder. I strive to learn so much so quick that sometimes I lose sight of "just write" and get stuck on technicalities.

  7. It's okay, I don't mind if you cheat a little since it was such a great post. I used to overwrite too and now my style is a little more like Leah. I love how she describes that, a white room. Perfect!

  8. That's great advice. I am all over the place in terms of how much description I include. In some places, too much. In others? Hardly any.

  9. I don't know what I'd write about if I didn't have all that extraneous stuff. (I should start a Bad Writer's Club.) ;)

    Alas, no 'X' books on my shelves. However, I do have a copy of The Cannae Sutra, which is a really funny book written in Scots about a recreational activity that ends in 'x'.

  10. I'm definitely guilty of extraneous wordage :P But I'm working hard to fix that!

  11. I think I've only been by once since the challenge and I know you'll understand! I'm so glad I made it today. I'm going to try the White Room approach when I start my third novel in NaNovember. Great stuff. I'm so definitely an overwriter who does a lot of dusting and general renovating.


    My X is the exotic Xi'an in China...

  12. You guys are so right! Overwriting is a BIG problem for many writers (I do it a lot.) The odd thing is I notice it right away in other writers, but I have some kind of weird blindness when it comes to my work! (Why is that??)



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