AMA: On writing too concisely

Valerie asked:
Do you have any advice for people who write too concisely (i.e., me)? 

Write more.

Okay, kidding. Honestly, I don't know how much help I can be here because personally I try to write concisely. I'm not a fan of purple prose, and I'm not sure how to write elaborate description well without falling into the purple trap (although I know it can be done).

So I aim for concise. I'm not sure you can write too concisely.

Rather than worrying about concise or verbose (which is really just word count, which really only matters if you're getting paid per word), take a look at whether the prose does it's job: to pull the reader into the story. There's like a bazillion ways to do that, but I think it can be done both concisely and verbosely. I've seen great authors do both.

Got a question? Ask me anything.


The Dieselpunkette said...

I tend to write spare too, and I keep hearing the opposite from so many people, and since I have the opposite problem, I have no advice for them :P

For myself though, what I've had to do (and I just got a request for the full manuscript based on the first 50 pages, so I must be doing it right) is go over the manuscript, often several times, adding things. I often find scenes where I've added no setting description at all, so I have to train myself for a pass to just add description, and to start tying the setting description to the mood of the scene. That helps with character development too - something I've learned only recently.

Another thing I tend to have very little of is internal thoughts, so i go through and add those in. It's something I tend to skip because I keep hearing people complain about there being too much in-the-character's-head stuff going on in amateur fiction, but it's just as bad to have too little.

Emotion is a big one for me. I'm an Aspie, so emotion isn't my forte. The agent I mentioned above noticed :P But her suggestion of tying the setting into the emotion of the scene, with little things like emphasizing the meaning of a critical object. For example, character is expecting a court martial, and receives an official looking letter that is likely it, going into describing it, and the character's thoughts speculating on whether it's the court martial or not, and what it would mean.

Adam Heine said...

Great advice, Dieselpunkette! I share some of those same problems myself :-)

Matthew MacNish said...

I learned my penchant for verbose purple description from Gary Gygax, so I would recommend reading some old modules.