Perhaps this has happened to you: you’ve just given a friend the latest chapter of your work-in-progress and asked for their honest feedback.
“I liked it,” they say. “Only, I…”
”What?” you ask. “What’s wrong?”
“Well,” they say, “parts of it feel like they’re a bit overwritten.”
Overwritten! What does that even mean? you wonder.
You chose your words carefully. You included figurative language like metaphors and similes. You used repetition and lots of details. You landed all the right beats. You included a wide variety of descriptive adjectives and fancy verbs. You kept up the pacing so the reader wouldn’t get bored, you laid things out so your reader wouldn’t get confused, you…
Right. Okay. You tried really hard. Clearly, you did. And your intentions were good. But the story got bogged down by unrestrained (fill in the blank here), and your reader got frustrated. Your sentences felt bloated and started to drag. Your ideas came across as overly complicated.
When writers flex all of their creative muscles at once and try too hard to impress their readers, they may be losing sight of the main purpose of their writing: to tell a story.
Sometimes the best way to say something is to say it simply.
So, here’s my suggestion: the next time a friend says that the latest chapter of your book feels a bit overwritten, consider choosing one metaphor instead of three. Don’t repeat yourself so much. Use simple language, don’t over describe things, vary your pacing, and have faith that your readers can figure things out by themselves.
Above all, use some restraint. Remember, too much of a good thing is never a good thing.