How not to write and what to do about it

I recently read the beginning of a novel from, I believe, an unpublished writer. I read the first two paragraphs, but could not read further for one reason. Every other word was a descriptive adjective. It was as if he was trying to impress by being colorful, thinking the more descriptive the better.


I do not need to know, let alone read, that “the sun was a bright fireball of orange, radiating blistering heat to the sweltering people of the brown scorched earth in the dusty town of. . .” Despite the quotation marks, the quote is not accurate, as I do not wish to embarrass  the writer, so I have paraphrased extensively. But the example is bad  enough to show what I am taking about. Less is more. 

Can’t we just say, “It was a hot day in the dry desert town of. . .” The more adjectives, the more descriptive, the sooner you lose the reader.  A reader knows when a writer is too flowery, is trying too hard. I like to read sentences quickly without stumbling blocks like trying to determine if the people in the sentence of the above paragraph are getting blisters from the radiating heat. Maybe they should have stayed indoors, turning on the air conditioner.

The unnamed writer made a classic mistake. Instead of trying to dazzle with vocabulary, one of the best things a writer can do is to read, especially successful writers. Study word usage, sentence structure, how writers use metaphor and simile; you find simplicity, not overblown descriptions.  Hemmingway was the most simplest of writers. I am not sure he knew what an adjective was.

I understand the need to describe. Many writers, when taking their first baby steps, have done the same thing. But here is a thought. Instead of saying “it was a hot day”, show it. Something along the line of, “it was the type of day where women sat in the shade on their porches, fanning themselves with anything to cool their face, a pitcher of iced lemonade at the ready.”

Show don’t tell. Cut as many adjectives as you can. Keep it simple.

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1 Comment

Filed under dalies, humor, Uncategorized, writing

One response to “How not to write and what to do about it

  1. I love your perspective on writing. I have a literary blog, so I love learning about the process of other writers. Keep blogging!


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