By Raelene Gorlinsky
Ah, the eager and enthusiastic author who wants to be sure her prose is colorful, descriptive, lively, imaginative, descriptive, shows rather than tells—and did I say descriptive? She’s never met an adjective or adverb she didn’t love, and couldn’t use a hundred times in her novel. She spurns the simple “he said”; all her dialogue tags are of the “he jeered overly sarcastically under his breath” style. Her heroine doesn’t have blue eyes, she has eyes of sparkling cerulean blue, ocean blue, the blue of a summer sky, laser blue, or sapphire blue. And the author reminds you of the color every damn time she mentions the woman’s eyes! She feels that readers will get her meaning better if she repeats meanings via synonyms—“the pinnacle and peak of his desire”, “the initial, first meeting”, “scary and frightening monster”.
You can’t find the story under the verbiage. You need to take a weed-whacker to the words to find a plot. Writing like this would drive a reader crazy. Luckily for readers, these submissions drive an editor crazy, and therefore never get out in the world to torment readers. (The editors union is lobbying for mental health coverage of job-induced insanity.)
Might you or one of your critique partners or writer friends be an Overwriter? The Editorial Ass blog discusses this addiction.
(And my article title is a direct copy from her—in admiration.)
Alas, there is no 12-step program, but we’re willing to take suggestions on how to spot this problem in your own writing, and on how to break the addiction to excessive adjectiving and adverbing (and verbing of nouns).