I just read a review of a book--wherein this word, "over-written" is used to describe books that are seen in a negative light--bloated is another word that is mentioned. That I understand. I like lean plots myself--no padding or unnecessary and or irrelevant wordage--which can be rambling and distract from the core points of the story.
But as for something being over-written--can't say that I have heard the expression much--perhaps only once.
Does it mean too wordy, too descriptive--if it does, isn't that the same as bloated?
What does it mean to you guys?
And thanks!

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Basically, the difference between journalism and fiction is that journalistm is objective and fiction is subjective. And as far as I'm concerned, journalism is far more difficult than writing fiction. But making the transition between the two isn't always easy, as many of us know. Guthrie told me the following story to illustrate the difference between the two, because he also stuggled to make the transition:

'"Newspaper writing, side from a little investigative work, is so much on the surfaace, while fiction goes a lot deeper. An example of that: a well-known man in Lexington (Kentucky) died and afterward, his widow had a full-sized portrait of him in the house, and when people came to visit, she would refer to the picture as if he were still alive, saying, 'Isn't that so, Enoch?' So you see, you can't put that in a newspaper, but it's great for fiction." (If you don't appreciate his humor, you're obviously not a geezer.) :-)
yes, objective--subjective.
I know I read (many years ago) Rise and Fall of the Third Reich--but I also remember feeling very moved, as I did with O' Jerusalem--I found that (because I read it more recently) written so vividly--but I suppose being vivid in a non-fiction book can be done without wordiness.
very interesting. i'm glad you replied to this because it's making us all think about the difference between fiction and non fiction and as we do that, we begin to understand (as fiction writers) more what makes fiction tick as it were.
Thanks so much for that! Goodness. I heard the door shut!
very vivid. i felt I was there all right. no doubt about it.
I suppose genre does enter into it. I think crime fiction (at least what I like) is sparse, lean and mean. But I also don't agree with that comment concerning reporters--I, like I.J., feel you have to know how to write (but absolutely) in order to be a journalist.
Who can forget (I as a former New Yorker cannot)! the Daily News headline: FORD TO NEW YORK: DROP DEAD. NYC in a financial crisis in the late 1970's with a less than sympathetic President. Talk about succinct!
I suppose in non fiction--you can't get too wordy (or indeed in some fiction)--a brutal rewrite paid off for you. As we're advised, kill off all the little darlings you don't need (words) can't remember if Stephen King said that.
That's what I'm doing (hopefully)!
One further comment, don't know if you guys will agree, I think times dictate style to great extent. I think beautiful, wordy prose had a place, and perhaps we've moved away from it?
Overwritten? I just read one. It wasn't a particularly long book, and it was by a well respected author. But it was as much a travelogue as it was a dramatic story. Without the tour of obscure Italian towns and treatises on the arts, it would have ended up a short story, not a novel.

My recent book is something over 100,000 words, and, although I described the countryside and other physical elements of the story, I tried to use history, culture and geographical descriptions sparingly, and only to set scene and mood for action.

How do you know when you succeed in walking that thin line? I don't know of any way but to trust your readers to let you know. Or, you can watch furtively while someone's reading your latest prose. If you catch them nodding off, you know.

Larry Payton

thanks! at the moment (yes, this very moment) I am revising for my final draft of my w.i.p.
and I am so aware of getting the balance right on setting and descriptions--and then I read your reply to this and yes! it's all about balance, isn't it? Balance relating to all those aspects that make or break a novel.
It is a fine line to tread. I would find history and detailed background info as you gave in your book very interesting.
and no, it doesn't sound over-written at all, but I know what you mean--some books--probably the one you just read was over-written.
You know, there's a comedy show over here called Little Britain and one of the most hysterical things on it was a spoof of Barbara Cartland--they have "Barbara" dictating from her sofa (eating bon bons) to her secretary--she keeps asking her what the word count is and when it's not enough she says--"well do be a darling, and just put in some pages of the phone book, dear!"
Padding--I guess is overwriting--!
thanks for your reply and I doubt anyone has ever nodded off reading your work! Mine maybe, but not yours!
Well, I was still thinking about revising and expected that this referred to making changes and deleting text (writing over the existing version), rather than saving eachy draft.
However, in this sense, it means a slow, wordy book to me. I've been bothered by novels that, though otherwise good, slow down at the end until it seems it will never stop. Very irritating -- as if the author wanted a certain number of words or protract the suspense. Writers need to consider that the end of the book is what most readers remember best.
no slow down at all!
I think we want to be swept away--nearly breathless waiting to see what the end will be--and then when it happens--we're there just long enough to take it in--etc.
and yes, so true it is the last thing we're left with.
btw this only concerned finished works--completed books etc.
thanks i.j.
I understand that being a writer(author of sorts), you try to make it easy for the reader not to have to think too much, and imagine the scene or how the characters look.
I've tried to cut down on the descriptives in my work, so that the reader can put their own ideas of how the characters look in their own mind. But, I've recently read Simon kernick's 'Relentless' and I think it was adequately descriptive without being over done. I don't really think a book can be overwritten as readers are different, some like more detail whereas some prefer less.
Just me I suppose.
As for not making the reader think too much (worthy effort in an increasingly illiterate and unimaginative world), I'm afraid you're shooting yourself in the foot by giving them all those extra words to ponder.
yes I agree but I think there are those who do overwrite--
getting a bit wordy or too detailed.
But as you say, we are all different so perhaps what's too much for me isn't for someone else.
thank you Roger.
Hi Carole,

Firstly I'd like to apologise if my reply seemed arrogant. What I really feel is that if an author's work appears to be too wordy, or possibly too lacking in descriptive material, surely it's the job of the publisher to decide what is needed to make the manuscript marketable.
Given that 'trends' and 'styles' change regularly, I think that the author he or she, should be given the benefit of the doubt, especially if like me (an as yet unpublished writer) who is in effect trying to impress, being too wordy/descriptive gives the publisher/editor the chance to whittle down any excessive wordage, to make the story work.
Perhaps this is better than the story not having enough plot/characterization or descriptive elements, and the publisher/editor finds the story seriously lacking!!

Just another couple of thoughts of mine! Bet this stirs the discussion!!


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