Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Is Wordiness a Part of Your Writer's Voice?

Okay this picture has nothing to do with my question, but isn't Emma just so cute? She's forever finding tight nooks to curl up into and this time it's my Hawaii bag that I see has my missing pencil case in it. So that's where it's been hiding! Thanks, Emma!

Do you ever do brainstorming with a writing buddy? Well, I did that right after my devotional time this morning and this particular fabulous writer, who is the queen of tightness, had also suggested I send her something of mine to read.

Okay, I'm going to be completely honest here (not that I'm not always honest, I just usually choose carefully what honesty to disclose on-line, like I'm sure we all do for good reason) but I hummed and hawwed over whether or not to send those chapters because . . . well, I'm wordy, and she's JUST NOT! Now I love this writer's stories, so however she tightens her writing it works wonderfully for me, but when I try to tighten my stories like she does I feel like something gets lost along the way, and that's what made me ask myself "Can wordiness be a part of my writer's voice?"

I suggested in my email that she's busy (she is on deadline afterall), so to not critique but rather just point out any glaring issues she might discover along the way of reading my manuscript. I'm feeling especially weak today, I guess. Told my hubby I think I'm PMSing and he suggested he was having sympathy pangs of it, too, so there'll be no consoling hugs this week, I suspect. :(

Even as I write this I sit in trepidation suspecting that she's going to tear that baby to shreds. And if she does I know it will be a blessing, even if it leaves me scarred and with mega work ahead. Am I alone, or do others feel this same angst when they send their work off to writer's who are far superior to themselves, even after seven years of doing so and living through it? I wonder, does a writer ever get beyond that fear?

I know I have to keep pushing myself to get better. And putting our work out there to writer's below, at, and above our writing level is one of the best ways to learn and grow. But discerning how much tightening to do while protecting my own voice and style is something I grapple with on a daily basis.

So you tell me, when is wordiness just wordiness that needs to be addressed as a writer and when is it a part of your writer's voice and needs protecting?

Surrendering to Him,



Eileen Astels Watson said...

Sorry for the messed up layout. Blogger isn't cooperating with me today. Haven't any more time to mess with it so I guess it will have to do.


Jessica R. Patch said...

I suppose wordiness is okay in my opinion if it's not repeating the same old stuff. And it depends on your character. I have one in particular that is wordy on purpose. Good question. I have no answer. For me as a reader, if the story is strong and I like the characters, wordy doesn't bother me. :)

Jeanette Levellie said...

Love the kitten, and how kind of her to help you find your pencil case!

I think we always struggle with allowing other writers to critique our stories, regardless of how adept they are. It's like having another cook taste a meal you've prepared. You wince when they share what ingredients you've left out or how you've undercooked something, but you're thankful for the help.

Agatha Christie was very wordy--it was part of her voice. It still bugs me a little, but her stories are so great, I continue to overlook the wordiness. I think if your stories shine, we'll forgive the long sentences. But I'm not an acquisitions editor!

Sandra Orchard said...

I don't think most authors get over it. I've heard tell that Terri Blackstock thinks every novel she writes is the one that will sink her career! My problem has been that it took me a long time to stop considering everyone else's advice as better than my own gut feel.

The eye opener for me came a year ago when Susan May Warren wrote a scene on her blog and then Rachel Hauck critiqued it. Then Susan gave her response which rejected more than 3/4s of Rachel's suggestions...but gave the reasons.

That to me was the revelation. I need to know why I've written something a certain way in order to judge whether a suggested change would weaken or strengthen the scene overall.

I also learned to ask for specific feedback i.e. is a scene working? suggestions for improving awkward sentences? actual copy editing? etc.

As you can tell by my comment...I am sooo not a tight writer. :-)

Unknown said...

I cringe any time someone is reading my work - other writers, editors, readers. My second book (which has been through many edits) is about to come out to the Heartsong bookclub, and I'm a nervous wreck. Every time I send a manuscript or revisions to an editor, I'm sure they'll change their minds about wanting to publish it. In other words, I think what you're feeling is perfectly natural. Just remember even those writers with 30 published books don't get their books right on the first try. As hard as it is, critiques will always be part of being a writer. Eek! By the way, I've read your writing, and I thought it was wonderful :)

Warren Baldwin said...

I've read several first-person accounts the last couple of years, and I thought they were very wordy, but they still sold well. I think it is like one earlier comment said, depends on how your audience accepts it. I tend to read faster through wordy authors, and that makes be feel good b/c I feel like I'm saving time by speed reading :)

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Thanks all for chiming in. I like the general concensus here. We all struggle with sharing our work and wordiness isn't always a killer.

And, Sandra, you are the master of tightening, maybe just not in comments. Heehee!

Gwen Stewart said...

Eileen, being a musician, I think about rhythm more than "wordiness", but I believe they're the same thing. Some writers can write wordy and still have great rhythm; other find their rhythm in succinct writing. It all depends on what makes the eye stumble...and it can stumble on too much succinct writing and too much "wordiness".

I agree that we need to send our work out, no matter how painful, to keep growing!

God bless you.

Sarah Forgrave said...

I totally get that feeling too, Eileen, whenever I send my work for someone new to critique it. I guess it's good practice for when hopefully thousands of people are reading our books someday. :)

Susan Anne Mason said...

I agree that as long as wordiness doesn't mean that a writer is saying the same thing over and over again, it's probably fine and just part of his/her unique style.

Oh, and as long as the characters aren't just sitting around discussing the weather or something! LOL.

We all struggle with our own self-doubts -no matter what! Part of the writer's angst I think!


Carol J. Garvin said...

Eileen, thanks for stopping in to comment on my post at 'The Pastor's Wife Speaks' blog today. I'm delighted to find you're also a writer and I'll have to return to peruse more of your posts.

Wordiness sounds like a negative thing, but I suspect it depends on how and where the extra words are used. I like a descriptive scene where the writer has taken time to help me 'see' the setting. But when action starts, I want the words to let me race along with the characters. Now if you're saying things like "He crept slowly to the edge of the deep blue water," I'd be gnashing teeth at the "slowly" because creeping IS slow, and at the "deep blue" because I'd want a more specific description like "cerulean". Things like "standing up" and "sitting down" get me, too, because they are redundant phrases. But I love words, so if wordiness just means lots of them, I'm more than willing to read on. :)

Carolyn Evaine Counterman said...

Hi Eileen! I'm not from around these parts. ;) I got your blog address from the members' list at I am taking part in a new activity called There and Back Again. Basically, what we do is find a member that we aren't so familiar with and read a blog post they've written. Then we write something about it ourselves. We let the original author know about it and we link up together so others can explore the network. You are the author I found for my post, and you can read it here: Finding you came at just the right moment for me (as you will see in my essay). I'm glad that God orchestrated it and that I listened to the prompting to participate this week. Thank you for your words and your wordiness! xo carolyn

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Gwen, I love how you brought rhythm into this. I'm not a music person (definitely wasn't gifted in that way) so I never thought of it in such terms, but that really hits home! Thank you! I do believe you're right, too succinct is as bad as too wordy if it doesn't fit the writer's voice.

Sarah, we're both being told that it's a very common fear for us writers from all that people are saying here. We're not alone!

Susan, now if I add a scalding cup of tea into that weather conversation would that work? Heehee! Just joking, really!

Carol, you are jam on my already peanut buttered toast! That type of wordiness I do try and catch in revisions. If I don't, my lovely critique partners usually do and I'm only too happy to fix those and grateful for the catches. For me, wordiness comes in narrative or internalizations. And if I'm honest I bet I do repeat myself alot just using different words to say the same thing, so that's where I have to really do some work!

Carolyn: Boy do I feel special today! Thanks for choosing my post and I'm so glad I'm not alone. Let's find that happy medium where we keep our voice but don't tire our reader's eyes!

Thanks all for stopping by!

Kara said...

I think being wordy is fine as long as you hold the readers interest:)

Anonymous said...

Hi Eileen! I'm popping over from Carolyn's. You are not alone in your fear of having the voice edited out of work. I've had that happen, and it took years to recover.

Yes, work to improve, but also trust your voice as it continues to emerge.