1. Denied Fixation
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    Denied Fixation Member

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    Edit vs writing style...

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Denied Fixation, Jan 13, 2010.

    I have a question or comment on writing styles. It sort of fits into one of the earlier posts I just commented on about classic writing.

    To set it up... As I read through the reviews I've done, looking again for revisions... I also read through the other reviews to see what everyone else had said. I was really surprised by some of them. The stories I enjoyed the most were reviewed as "too descriptive, I couldn't get past the first part!"

    I thought they were wonderful! I liked the tone... the images they put forth... but a lot of the reviewers on here totally disagreed!

    My own work has been called the same...

    So at what point does "too much description" become a personal preference? How can you tell if some of your sentences really are too convoluted or it was a matter of reading taste? Should you edit your work to a simpler form because your tone is too thick?

    All I can think of is Anne Rice vs Stephanie Meyer. I'll take Anne Rice any day! Anyone have any thoughts on how to gauge this?
     
  2. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    You should take everything on this site with a grain of salt, that goes without saying, and if you spend a little time here you sorta get a feel of the general attitudes towards writing that are most popular, and on here, for better or worse, people don't have a lot of time for that style of writing. It doesn't mean that they're right, it's just their opinion.

    Writing is always subjective, no one can give you an absolute answer to your question because no two people will agree entirely. You should be able to tell at least if you're sentences read well, and if the writing is easy to follow (which it should be, regardless of the specific language; I'm sure you'll agree that with the classics, as long as you understand the words the writing isn't particularly difficult to follow) and as long as you are satisfied that it is, then it doesn't really matter if random people don't like your style; that's their prerogative. I don't wanna say write however you like, because that's not helpful at all, but you need to get a grasp on what is objective criticism and what is subjective, and know when to take it seriously (or not).
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Te Review Room workshop begins with learning to give a constructive, focused critique, but it doesn't end there. When you post something for critique, you learn to apply the critiquing mindset to the responses as well. You follow the critiquer's line of thinking, and evaluate whether the advice given to you makes logical sense. In many cases, you have to measure that advice against examples from your bookshelves. Ideally, it gives you another perspective to view your writing from, rather than a straight, "You should do this."

    You also learn to take advice a step further. If you agree that a problem exists, but not on what the cause is, you learn to look for oter possible causes. Did the reader already lose the point of what you were writing? Where did that happen?

    So it's more than taking the advice with a grain of salt. You don't blindly accept recommendations at face value, but discarding the suggestion is not the only, or even the best, alternative. Some suggestions will be completely off base, some will platinum, and most will be subjective or only partially applicable.

    Giving critique is most assuredly the easiest part. Receiving and effectively using critique is much harder.
     
  4. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    Writing style does greatly vary between each author, and sometimes even with the same author in different books.

    The tastes of the reader are just as mixed, as author's style.

    Whatever your style is, be it over discriptive or minimalist, there will be a reader out there somewhere.

    I agree with you on Anne Rice being an author of very discriptive books, but, for the most part, her writing flows well throughout the book. She may be big on the discriptions, but the formation of the sentences are elegant and understandable.

    There's a difference between convoluted and descriptive. Convoluted would more imply the arrangement of the words are difficult to read, but through some rearranging, the sentence could say the same thing, without confusing the reader, and without giving up on detail.

    In reference as Stephanie Meyer as a highly detailed writer, well on one hand that is true, given the length of her books, however her writing is much more simplistic. Which isn't a bad thing considering her target audience was 12-21 year olds.

    For me Meyer wasn't an adult book writer. Anne Rice is. Marrion Zimmer Bradley was another highly detailed writer like Rice. MZB wrote more on an adult level.

    Do I have a preference between these two styles, or even more minimalists ways...? Not really. I do avoid things that seem confused, overwritten, or boring. I'm not super picky as long as the story is interesting and well written, but in those two things I am very, very picky.

    As for your story, as I have read it but didn't review it, I can understand the reviewer's opinions for the over wording of some of the sentences. It reminds me of one of the Star Wars books that I read...I don't remember which one it was now, but I found my self skipping sections because all the description became boring.

    There are times when we are trying to describe a scene that we over word it a little by putting every single little detail in, when in fact, the reader only needs a few key details to make the picture come to life in their mind.

    I would venture to say your writing style is more like Anne Rice (Interview with a Vampire, and Vampire Lestat -- but not like Queen of the Damned -- which was my favorite of the series.) Interview and Lestat were both very verbose, and a times a touch confusing. Queen was highly detailed, but it felt like she choose better details to focus on in the faster paced novel. I guess I prefer a little faster pace. For me highly detailed sentences that give several details can be more tiring to read than faster paced, action/active sentences. I especially don't like things I have to read over and over again.

    Sometimes too much detail feels like the writer was trying too hard to impress the reader, but ends up giving the reader more than they really need to paint a picture.

    So I guess I prefer minimalistic adult style. There doesn't appear to be much wrong with your style except that it made me feel you were trying too hard, like it was just a little too much. Maybe don't change your style, but try rewriting one of your paragraphs with just key details and see how that works. Maybe you're just trying to put too much into each sentence or something.
     
  5. Destin
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    Destin Senior Member

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    For me the key is when the author writes descriptions that are relevant.

    For instance, if you describe a bouquet of flowers in great detail, it needs to have some importance to the story, not just a description of a nice bouquet of flowers.

    If I go through the trouble of reading said description and find it has no relevance, I feel like the author is wasting my time.

    Of course, considerable detail is awesome as long as it advances the story or describes something important.
     
  6. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    As for Anne Rice, I ploughed through her books like it was fast food and didn't find them to be over-descriptive or stagnant at any point...but generally speaking, I prefer writing that sticks to the point and says things effectively. Of the two extremes, over-wordiness and simplicity, I think over-wordiness is the greater evil simply because it bogs things down, distract from the point and take more of your time as a reader. So when in doubt, I tend to gravitate towards simple writing, as long as things don't lose their meaning. Expressing something in a clear and simple way is just as much an art.
     
  7. Denied Fixation
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    Oh goodness.. I didn't intend to paint Stephanie Meyer as a detailed author... nor an adult author. I read the entire series because my daughter asked me to. Where as I could follow the story... I wished for the adult version... Like... what did he do to that headboard? I was mainly using it as an opposite to Anne Rice...

    That said... I am soooo glad you responded to this! What you have said makes more sense to me and probably to others who have had the same type of review... it's the details brought in to the story that are too much... I can sooo understand that. And now that you've said it... I see it! I guess the word "description" just threw me. You say description... and I think adjective! As any of my posts on here will show... I do tend to be wordy!

    Cogito... yes.. that seems to be what myself and the others who had this statement made.. were struggling with. Is it subjective? I lost the reader... why? And pinpointing that exact problem. For me... without writing in a style that I just do not enjoy... how do you fix it?

    And thank you to everyone who responded... I enjoy the verbose style of writing and was starting to wonder if that would no longer work. I will keep all of this in mind as I go over that bloody chapter again and when I've reviewed something that is also being critiqued by others as too descriptive... I'll maybe be able to help clarify that.

    Happy writing everyone... thanks so much... I was really worried!
     
  8. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    Several thioughts ...

    I think you have to know what you're hoping to accomplish and whether accommodating particular readers will further that objective or not. I think it helps, too, to experience anonymous, private feedback as well as open public feedback in order to gain some appreciation of just how divergent readers and their criticisms actually are (in order to filter the divergence, as well as the overlapping you'll find in a forum where reviewers may purposely ignore or affirm what others have already said--for all kinds of reasons you're not likely to know). I also found it was very helpful to participate in a forum where published works were reviewed, because I discovered that even notable authors write fiction (especially short fiction) that prompts the same broad array of very different opinions about what's good, bad, mediocre, or fresh about any given piece of writing. You'll find some of that here in the book discussion section.

    Beyond "workshopping" forums, if you write short fiction, there are a few venues you might find that will provide you with editorial comments (maybe not much and some more than other--but at least something). I think this gives a different level of feedback, having to do with what's marketable in short fiction as seen through the eyes of the editorial staff.

    I haven't read either Rice or Meyer, myself, but if you can see stylistic differences that you find relatively different--one being more meaningful to your own tastes and style--I think that's a strong plus in your favor. The writer simply must have his own distinctive preferences, expectations, and objectives in order to figure out what to do with any feedback at all. Without that (and I've seen this happen firsthand), nothing squeezes the life out of a story faster than blindly following someone else's advice, no matter how good that advice is, no matter where it comes from, and no matter how well intentioned it is or with what kind of expertise to back it up. You simply must contribute your own sense and sensibility to deciding what to make of it all with respect to the story you hope to deliver.
     
  9. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    "Kill your darlings" is probably the hardest part of self-editing. What are "darlings"? Any part of your story that you, as a writer, absolutely love but that fails to advance the plot. For example, elegant descriptive paragraphs that fail to advance the plot are "Darlings". Kill em! A brilliantly portrayed character who serves no real plot purpose...kill em! Even an action-filled chapter that reflects some of your best ever writing, but fails to advance the plot. Kill the whole chapter. Writers struggle with objectivity when it comes to their own "genius", hence the difficulty identifying those "darlings" that need to be chopped. Definitely the hardest part of self-editing for me.
     
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  10. RomanticRose
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    RomanticRose Active Member

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    NaCl,
    Nail on the head, again.

    Falling in love with a bit of my own prose has turned into a red flag for me. I know that I have to look especially hard at the very bit I love and ask those hard questions. Is this necessary? Would the piece lose any meaning if I cut it? Is my self-congratulatory mindset blinding me to my own self-indulgence?
     
  11. Cosmos
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    Cosmos Contributing Member

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    Do I really have to decide between Meyer and Rice? Can't I just choose neither? :s Sorry, don't like either.

    Anyways, a lot of what I was thinking has been said--take the reviews with a grain of salt. Don't always accept everything you're told or advised. That said, don't push it aside just because it's against something you personally like. Myself I was often told I was "wordy" and thus I learned over the years to cut down on my descriptions. Yes I have fully crafted worlds and characters swirling in my head and I want my readers to get to learn how wonderful and magical it all is but in the end you have to decide what works best for the story, not for you.
     
  12. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    My gosh, this same thing has been bothering me for such a while now.

    I just never feel my description is spot on. Sometimes I'll feel good about it, but that's because I described it thoroughly, which I do not do all the time since some things just are not that important. So it just feels inconsistent. There are some things I'm not sure I need to describe. Like what a house looks from the outside. Of course, I will describe it, but I never find myself going right into the detail, I want to get to the point of this part of the novel. Another one is speaking to a character you only talk to once or twice in a book. "She was old and had brown hair and blue eyes" really gets old. Do I have to say anything at all? "The old lady's name was Serena." Is that better? Sorry for the rant...
     
  13. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    There are some genre that allow for wordy, flowery, long-winded descriptions, Romance, Drama, and Fantasy. However, in most other genre readers are looking to get the most bang for their buck out of the descriptions. This is where high impact descriptions work better over more wordy picture painting. It's true that it takes almost a 1000 words to describe one picture...but isn't there a way to cut that to say 50 words picking only the key details that people need that have the highest impact to the story?

    The key details are the ones that are important, that move the story along, and are what the reader needs to use as a structure to fill in the blanks with their imagination. Blending these key details into action, be it physical or mental action from the character's pov is another way to keep the details from overflowing into just describing the scene and grounds the details within the actual story. I think thats where some details become like character's themselves.

    An example of this, even though it's a movie, it's the most pronounced example I can think of...the movie Butterfly Effect (the first one.) They used the color red throughout the story as a significance to the lead character and as a forshadowing for coming events (past and present.) It was a little psychological flag for the attentive view to catch.

    Books do this too. Little details that forshadow, are unique for the character or situation, and that bring an amount of significance to the story are for me the best details. It's like incoding your own literary Where's Waldo into your story...it's quite fun.

    Wordiness isn't that big of a deal, but to keep the vast majority of the reader's attention, it's sometimes a good idea to cut back to only what is essential.

    If you're aiming to write academic literature, mainly focusing on highly educated readers who enjoy reading lots of wordiness, then you know your target audience, you know it's a small niche to fill with lots of other contenders, and that is your goal. However, looking for a critique of this style on this board...not quite the right audience. Most of us are not academia (or at least aren't pompous academia) and most don't enjoy the excessively wordy. So your critiques will reflect this with people telling you to cut back on the descriptions and wordiness.

    I don't think that taking critiques with a grain of salt is quite the best approach either, but knowing that this is how the general population of readers would probably react to your writing is good to know, even if you plan to only write for a small handful in a specialty niche. What you probably won't get here is the high end academias who would more than likely be your target audience.
     
  14. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't really believe in the extreme end of the "kill your darlings" concept. I'd only do so if my darlings began to stand in the way of making the story stick together and wrap up. Then it serves a concrete purpose to do so, as the story otherwise would be fragmented. However, killing off a great side-character just because they don't contribute directly to the plot, is a bit excessive. What if they provide atmosphere, or contribute to the theme? What if your favourite side-character also would be the reader's favourite? I'd say it's a loss to cut them out just because they don't align with a plot point. That's a bit too Agatha Christie for me. I consider a story a work of art, and it's often the little quirks that stick out which gives it personality.
     
  15. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Bear in mind that, like brussels sprouts or liver, some people like it, some people don't. It's all a matter of taste.

    Just as some people are more at home in the short story genre than longer forms. Ian Fleming was known for his tedious descriptives in the "007" books but, despite that, his books became quite popular. His G-rated pieces also 'suffered' from excess picture painting but his works have proven very popular in both print and movie forms. Sometimes, I really wish a writer had added a bit more in the way of description whereas at other times, I wish they would just learn to shut up and get on with the story!

    It's just a matter of style, preference, and brussels sprouts ... er, taste.
     
  16. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    I don't see how taking out something that is not absolutely necessary will facilitate a plot.
    Removing things that are absolutely irrelevant, perhaps, but removing something that is brilliantly written and entertaining simply because it doesn't have to be in the story?
    That seems a bit-- extremist.
     
  17. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    Removing stuff often tightens up the storyline and (almost certainly) the prose (or readability). The "darling" approach is really just a technique that gives the writer a way of identifying stuff a reader is likely to find extraneous or unusually curious for reasons having nothing or little to do with the story itself (and if there's too much of that, it'll degrade the fictional experience). Personally, when I read over one of my own stories (and I'm writing short, not long), any piece of it that strikes me as something I think approaches "brilliantly written"--not that I have many of those--I take to be a red flag that it's significantly different (and therefore at least awkward in the storyline, if not worse). I don't know if you've heard the term "uneven writing." I think that's what eliminating these significant "darlings" is intended to overcome.

    That said, I agree with an earlier take that irregularities (or wrinkles) can sometimes infuse a story with a personality or style. But a significantly unique passage in the midst of an otherwise compelling story can easily blow the whole thing. I'm not a Dan Brown fan, but I'm reading DIGITAL FORTRESS right now. There's a consistency in the storytelling I can appreciate. If somewhere in the middle I ran across an Eco-like passage of prose, I'd immediately be distracted from the story he's telling and begin to think more along the lines of what the heck was his publisher thinking!
     
  18. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If you cannot articulate a reason why a passage should remain, cut it. Your reason could be something like, "I need to break the headlong pace here, and this description also helps flesh out the setting." The passage is actually functional, and you have reason to retain it.

    But a lot of time, the real reason is, "I put a lot of thought into this passage, and it is so beautiful it makes me weep." If you can be honest enough with yourself to realize this, then sharpen your axe. You can save the passage for another story that has more need of it.
     
  19. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    I find it amusing that when I brought up the subject of "killing your darlings", some folks reacted emotionally, arguing that some "darlings" are just too good to be "killed". Even the idea causes angst. LOL

    I think the definition of "darlings" is the problem. For example, a well-crafted character that adds nothing to plot advancement IS a "darling" and should be thumped. On the other hand, such a character may contribute necessary tension, or help illustrate another character's actions. If it provides relevant contribution to plot advancement, it is NOT a "darling" to be snuffed. The real question is relevance.

    Horus said, "...killing off a great side-character just because they don't contribute directly to the plot, is a bit excessive. What if they provide atmosphere, or contribute to the theme?" Precisely my point. If such character lends significant value to the story, then it doesn't meet the definition of a "darling".

    Atari said, "...but removing something that is brilliantly written and entertaining simply because it doesn't have to be in the story?" Ironically, brilliance loses its luster when a reader finishes such a segment and wonders, "Why was that in the story? It did not tell me anything...just wasted my time."

    Defining "darlings" is an important step toward professional level self-editing. Developing the ability to step back...to see your own work without writer's bias (and that's tough!) allows you to spot such extraneous writing. Another way to discover "darlings" is through the eyes of knowledgeable proofreaders. Learn to digest external criticism without becoming defensive. A writer must suppress emotional attachment to the story if extraneous words (darlings) are to be identified and removed.

    If all else fails, ask your doctor for a couple tranquilizers before you self-edit so you can let go of those "brilliant" unnecessary passages. On the other hand, if you are lucky enough to get a publishing company to accept your work, you'll become close "friends" with the copy-Nazi (copy editor assigned to polish your book) as those "darlings" are axed without mercy...LOL.
     
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  20. Dermit
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    Dermit Member

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    Consider:

    It was a beautiful woods, with row after row of snow covered, bare-branched trees glistening in the moonlight.

    vs

    The woods are lovely, dark and deep.


    For all that the first gives you more actual detail, it's still the second that paints the more vivid picture. Why is this? Heck if I know, but it's something to be aware of: more description doesn't necessarily mean better description. Give the reader an evocative enough outline and their imaginations will often fill in the details more intricately than you could in pages of exposition.

    As for your question, I'd say if you like a lot of description in what you read it only makes sense that you should try to emulate that in your writing. You should always try to write something you'd enjoy reading.

    Take some time to examine what it is your favorite author describes in such loving detail, and try to figure out why it works for you. Make sure you're describing the right things.

    As when you take any stylistic stance, you have to be aware that it won't work for everyone. I think the healthiest approach a writer can have with critique is to take what you like and burn the rest. If, after consideration, you find you don't agree with a particular comment, smile, thank the commenter, and completely disregard the advice.

    They're just opinions, after all, and your opinion is just as valid as anyone else's.
     
  21. ojduffelworth
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    I seem to write best when I am fresh and enthusiastic. Conversely, I edit best when I am tired and grumpy. Impatiencs helps. It destroys any emotional attachment I may have with my writing. I can get sentimental over a character, passage or even a single world. I don’t want to cut them out. But when I am tired, I don’t give a damn.
     
  22. Destin
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    Destin Senior Member

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    Dermit, you've given away my carefully concealed secret. Imagination is hands down the most powerful tool available to the writer. Give a gentle stroke and watch it run wild.
     

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