[Tipster] When Too Much Writing Is Too Much

tipster post Nov 04, 2022

I’m a decorating nut. My home has been featured in both Country Living and Flea Market Style magazine. And in Spring 2023, it will be published in a book called Lived In Style.
 
My style certainly isn’t for everyone. I am what people in the design arena call a “maximalist.”
 
As you might guess, maximalism is the antithesis to minimalism. It’s the idea that more is more. More art. More color. More texture. More layers. More.
 
The more-is-more philosophy is dangerous, though. 
 
It’s akin to giving your child free rein of their Halloween candy bucket. Most kids don’t know when too much is too much.
 
Maximalism demands restraint even its muchness.
 
The trick is knowing when to stop, or strip some of it back.
 
Because, let’s be honest, too much can be too much. 
 
Writing Like a Maximalist
 
Some writers are minimalists, like Dave’s favorites, Ernest Hemmingway and Cormac McCarthy.
 
Minimalist writers embrace short sentences, matter-of-fact observations, and precise minimal language. 
 
Maximalist writing, on the other hand, is layered, complex, and reliant upon a wide variety of literary devices and techniques, like Don De Lillo’s.
 
But like a maximalist decorator, a maximalist writer is deliberate—even restrained—in her craft. The writing isn’t haphazardly jampacked with flouncy adjectives and adverbs, overwrought metaphors, and meandering sentences.
 
That’s overwriting.
 
And let’s be clear, there’s a difference between maximalist writing and overwriting.
 
The Struggle of Knowing When

Most new writers (and many seasoned writers) struggle to know when they’ve added too much. 
 
Just this week an author, who is working on the editing process of his first novel, reached out to me and asked that very question: “When is too much writing too much?”
 
Of course, the answer is subjective. There’s no real formula for determining when to hit the save button for the final time.
 
But, you must start by honestly answering a primary question: “Are my additions adding a layer that develops the character, the plot line, or my meta-idea (or thesis) of my writing? Or are they simply flourishes?”
 
Overwriting, or “flowery writing,” often slows down the pacing and pulls the reader out of prose. 
 
One obvious way to find out if you’re slowing down a reader, is to find a reader. Ask specifically, “Where in my writing do you feel like bailing because I’ve lost your interest, or confused you?”
 
The feedback will help you know when you’ve tried to do too much. It will help you know when too much writing is too much.
 
But the developmental editor in me says, “Don’t become paralyzed by the idea of overwriting in your first draft. Release your fear. Move it forward to completion.”
 
You can worry about the too-much syndrome in the revision stage.
 
Now buckle up and write.