Overwriting: Trust the Reader


One of my writing flaws (and I’m sure there are more than one, but we’ll focus on this one) is that I tend to make things overly clear — as in I write them again and again to make sure the reader gets it and that there is no misunderstanding.

For example, I was recently going back and forth with my editor on the Achdus Club books and she mentioned that a particular paragraph didn’t need to be in the story as the problem had been clearly spelled out earlier in the story and was mentioned (and needed to be mentioned) later in the book. Further, she suggested that the later reference even be toned down a bit as it was just too spot on.

She was right.

Why then did I feel like I had to hit the issue on the head over and over again? Why couldn’t I just say it once and move on? I think part of it stems from news writing when as I try to make things as clear and concise for the reader as possible, while leaving no room for misinterpretation.

But there too if I did my job correctly it would be clear what I am trying to say without overstating it.

By constantly repeating a fact or thought a character has I am robbing the reader of a critical part of reading fiction, the pleasure of readers figuring out things for oneself.

If you’ve ever taken a literature or poetry class, you know that you can read the same piece of work and draw a different conclusion from your classmates or even from what the author intended. That is part of the beauty and allure of the written word. The connection holds true for all works regardless of what age you are writing for.

Trust your readers. If you’ve set up your story well and presented the characters and their situations in a relatable way, your readers will understand exactly what you are trying to say without you repeating it over and over again. This will make for a more enjoyable reader/writer interaction and a smoother reading experience.

OK writers, what are your writing flaws?  

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