Writing Tip of the Week: Too Much of a Good Thing is a Bad Thing

You’ve all heard this phrase before, I’m sure. It usually applies to food, but lately I’ve seen this same principal come true in the books I’ve been reading.

I’m all about a great, dramatic sentence. It captures the readers attention (usually). It makes them want to keep reading (hopefully). And it raises the stakes of the story (generally).

But it does quite the opposite when every chapter, heck, when every other paragraph within that chapter, has an overdramatic, cry me a river, okay please stop now, sentence.

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Yes. Please. Just stop. You’re only hurting yourself. I kid you not, the book I’m reading currently had five of these sentences in one chapter. FIVE! Sentences like:

“And then she walked out the door, and out of my life.”
“I could have said no, but I waited too long.”
“This was it. It was the end. We were over.”
“I would never again see her hair, her eyes, her mouth. She was gone.”
“My heart had a hole in it. One only she could fill.”

I made all of those sentences up, but don’t they just make you gag? I mean for one thing, there’s more cheese in those sentences than in my macaroni. For another, they don’t make me feel anything other than extreme dislike for the character.

So what can you do to keep this from happening in your own work? Below are a few easy tips I would suggest you try this week:

  1. Reread your work. This is so important. Read what you wrote the previous day before you start working. If anything, and I mean ANYTHING, strikes you as awkward or fake. Delete it. Don’t even highlight it to change later, because then you’ll be tempted to keep it. If you’ve been diligent about making the reader feel those things through the characters actions/reactions, then we don’t need the sappy one-liners.
  2. Have someone else read your work. This one goes without saying. You HAVE to let others read your work if you ever hope to be published. I don’t know of a single person who sent their manuscript to an agent and was picked up without it EVER being read by another person. That’s just writing suicide.
  3. Be objective. Would your character really even say/think those things, or is this just your wishful thinking? Are you really keeping that line in because you think it’s witty or deep, or because it actually is witty or deep? Again, suggestion 2 comes into play here.

I know those tips seem very basic, but sometimes the basic is worth repeating. Too much of a good thing is a bad thing. Hands down. No contest. Leave it for the end of the chapter at most. Don’t hit your reader with it every other paragraph. I tell you this because I love you, you are NOT going to get the response you hope it will.

[Agree? Disagree? Tell me! Comment below and follow me on Twitter at @tclem91.]

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