Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Details, Details. Too Many Details

“Even a novel that the reader enjoys for its descriptive detail will become tedious if the writer describes everything.”—Bruce Holland Rogers in Ellipsis: What to Leave Out.
Have you ever read a book that you became tired of? I have. I don’t remember which ones they were, but I recall stopping in the middle of a couple of books and putting them away. Recently, two others only held my attention for about fifty pages. Perhaps if I went back and analyzed the stories I’d find writing thick with detail—detail that I didn’t need to know or could figure out on my own.

In my own writing, I pay attention to the details I include. Sometimes I’m unsure of whether the reader needs to know certain things. This is where my writing groups come in. I submit my stories with the parts I’m uncertain about in tact and see how the members react. Some pick up on the details in question and suggest I delete them: and occasionally, no one mentions them. There have been times when I deleted details that no one complained about simply because I remained uncomfortable with them.

One of Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing is “Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip." I can’t say I’ve figured out how to do this yet, but I feel I’m getting closer.

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