1. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Under-write or over-write - which are you?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by OurJud, Jul 29, 2015.

    I'm very much the former and hate reading back my work because of it. It took me a while to realise that this was why my style sounded so staccato and light, but even knowing I still struggle to get any real bulk into my passages.
     
  2. Stacy C
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    Stacy C Banned

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    Underwrite, but intentionally. I like terse prose, both as a reader and as a writer, but as you noted, I have to be careful about rhythm.
     
  3. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    How do you go about finding work that caters for that taste?
     
  4. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I would say middle ground leaning towards underwriting. When I write I like to turn the scene in my mind and pick details from it. Nothing too fleshed out just something simple to work with and carry on. I think it's cause my writing influences have been a definite mix - though I love Nabokov I find him kinda windy, and prefer some brevity ( I love genre & poetry. )

    My writing doesn't change too much from the first draft unless I deliberately add a scene. When I feel like I need to add something to a scene it's usually some action to enhance the dialogue or a simple sentence to enhance the setting.
     
  5. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think this is an approach I really need to get on board with. Rather than beating myself up because my first draft is light, I should treat it as a skeleton on which to build.

    If only the unconscious part of my brain would listen to me.
     
  6. Stacy C
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    Stacy C Banned

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    Trial and error, mostly, but I don't have to read too far into a book to know it's going to be too 'purplely' for my taste.
     
  7. Aaron Smith
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    Aaron Smith Contributing Member Contributor

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    I underwrite a lot.
     
  8. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I definitely under-write. My first drafts are really lean, and I always cringe when reading it afterwards because even though I wrote everything I saw the first time around, It feels like it's moving too fast and don't dig deep enough into the characters motivations, emotions and fears etc.
    I solve that by going over my ms several times after I've written it, adding things like thoughts, actions while the characters are speaking, description of the setting etc etc. In my first drafts I hardly describe anything at all, and I have to add that too during revision. I think you shouldn't worry about how the first draft comes out, you can always add what's missing later, when you've realised what it is.
     
  9. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Actually light can be good.
    I have a really overwritten story I gave up on because I couldn't decide what to keep and what to ditch. The skimpier drafts are easier in my IMOHO because you've already show yourself that you can do brevity. So no matter what you put in it will be necessary. Not just extravagant.
     
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  10. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is exactly my thoughts when I read back my own stuff.

    Thanks. That's really quite encouraging :)
     
  11. tanstaafl74
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    tanstaafl74 Member

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    I definitely over-write. If I'm not careful my first draft can easily slip into purple prose without me noticing. When I'm done writing I go back and hit my writing with pruning shears.
     
  12. Daemon Wolf
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    Daemon Wolf Active Member

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    I'd have to say somewhere in the middle.
     
  13. Nightstar99
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    I suppose I do both. Some parts get stripped out, some look very bare. I do think it's surprising how less really is more sometimes.

    My last piece starts with a guy sitting in a bar drinking margaritas on his own. I spent forever in the first draft trying to describe how he was feeling, where the empty glasses were, what he could see and how he felt about it.

    In the second I stripped all that out and just said he was sitting in a bar drinking margaritas and feeling pensive, and it became just about readable.
     
  14. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    An interesting set of replies.

    Food for thought, that many of you are saying under-writing is good, but personally I still think over-writing is preferable.

    I say this because under-writing, I feel, does present more problems than over-writing. There's the old adage that it's easier to remove material than add, but I also think under-writing poses as a stumbling block to the finished piece as a whole.

    For instance, take two writers - one who under-writes, the other who over-writes. They're both aiming for a 100,000 word novel. The over-writer gets down his first draft at 120,000 words, while the under-writer struggles to finish with 60,000 words.

    I've always said, give me the plot for a 100,000 word novel, and I could write it in 10,000.
     
  15. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Here's a quote from Stanley Elkin, from his Paris Review interview:

    This sums up my position very well! Thanks, Mr. Elkin. :)
     
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  16. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Didn't Flaubert also say that every word he wrote down was 'like the tearing of flesh from my body.' ?
     

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