By far the most common entry-level mistake in the writing game, the thing that can get a perfectly good story rejected by an editor on the first page, is overwriting. A writing voice that is overly laden with energy and adjectives, that tries too hard, that is self-conscious in a way that detracts from the story, that is obviously the work of a writer trying to poeticize a story that doesn’t stand a chance.
Bad writing voice is like wearing a clown suit to the Oscars. Chances are you won’t make it past the lobby.
Of course, one writer’s clown suit is another’s tuxedo. Which is to say, you may believe your eloquence is palatable and beautiful, and you may feel the need to stuff all this fat into your sentences because you don’t feel they’re muscular enough as is. It’s always an opinion — yours and the editor’s, and finally the reader’s — but it’s a critical one.
The mailrooms of the big publishing houses are full of these manuscripts. Writers who try to trick up their sentences. Who reach for contrived eloquence. Who attempt to liberate their inner poet. Who overtly imitate someone famous who writes that way (J.D. Salinger has inspired more rejected manuscripts than any writer in history). Generally stinking up the place with strings of words that detract instead of enhance.
Overwriting will get your work rejected faster than a ridiculous deus ex machina in the final act.
That’s not to say stylistic writing, a voice full of attitude and personality, is a bad thing. Hell, I’m doing precisely that right here. But it’s how I write, and its seasoned with several decades worth, of professional experience (including the scars to prove it) in fine-tuning. Shooting for a level of personality in your narrative is always a risk.
The excerpt is retrieved from the book ‘Story Engineering’