Thursday, January 27, 2011

Aspiring Advice: Overcompensation

Have you ever received advice to improve your writing? I'd say that's a given "yes" to all aspiring authors, but how you apply that advice makes all the difference. However, you might run into a little problem when you let the feedback of others dictate your prose, leading to what I call overcompensation - making excessive corrections for fear of doing something wrong. Besides, who is to know that the source of said advice is correct? Nothing will make you want to pull your hair and shimmy up a tree like a squirrel more than finding that your changes have compromised what you've written.

Here are some of my personal examples:

-ly: commonly used for adverbs and adjectives, -ly has a notorious reputation for "lazily applying descriptive words." This is true in a sense, but I've had people tell me that I should avoid them altogether. Taking that to heart, I literally removed every -ly from one of my manuscripts. I certainly learned how to be more creative when describing things, but the end result was overkill, slowed the action and increased word count. I'll tell you this now; -ly is okay to use. Some of my favorite novels are guilty of applying -ly more than they should. Still, if you want your prose to shine, use it sparing-ly.

With my current novel, I wanted to avoid a problem that was pointed out to me from my last project, that my villain had no reason or motive to be evil. Okay. This time, I'll give him a reason! But as I've reread my WiP, I've come to find that I gave him too many reasons to be evil! It made sense at the time, but now it reads like a psychopathic mess. Luckily I caught it in time. To my surprise, the block that has slowed me for so long has finally cleared, since I cleaned up and (realistically) simplified his motive. No more random evil laugh!

Yeeeah . . . that's creepy . . .

This is not the rule, but advice from one who has been there. Receiving feedback, especially the kind that's not sugar-coated, is the best way for starting writers to grow. Take it in stride instead of overcompensating.

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to check out my Cosmic Critique Contest (the rules to enter are here).

I'm David, and Naruto is unhealthily addicting.


  1. Wonderful! Glad you caught it early and by yourself! That is a true sign of writing progress! Awesome!

  2. I like the practical take here, and understand where you're coming from.
    Great post.

    Btw, the black font on blue background is killing my eyes. Just saying :)

  3. I'm glad you are finding your way in your writing and revision process.

    Have a wonderful weekend,

  4. No, Colene. You're awesome! And thank you. This find was a huge relief :)

    Damyanti - much obliged, though I'm sorry for killing your eyes. Are you seeing all blue background, not planets amid space? That's what the background should look like, but I've been told it looks all blue on some computers for some reason. I'll look into that for bugs.

    Thank you, Lola. Good to see you :)

  5. I think I like the "well-played" one the most.