Over-detailing

Over-detailing

(aka. too much detail.)
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Photo by Nejc Kou0161ir on Pexels.com

Now, here’s a problem that I’ve struggled with, many online writers struggle with, and even professional writers struggle with, and that problem is

💥OVER- DETAILING.🔥

Or in other words “writing with too much detail.”

Now, what does this mean?

When you over-detail your work,  you flood your writing with so many minutiae details, that it starts to hurt your writing.

Now don’t get it twisted, detail is important, dare I say even essential, but, when your paragraphs start to become 90 percent details and 10 percent actual story or writing, you begin to lose readers.

This happens in good books all the time too. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve has to skim through certain scenes of a good book just because the paragraphs were so crowded, and clumped up with details.

So, in this article, I’ll try my best to explain, where the problem stems from, how this issue occurs, and what you can do to avoid it.

So, what’s the big, over-arching issue? ❔ 

The big issue with over-detailing is that it often distracts or disengages your reader from the story. and, heavily slow down the pace of your story.

It’s basically the equivalent of hitting the pause button during a movie to point out all the details of a scene.

exploer

Here, check out these samples: 

Sample 1:

“As I walked through the door the first thing that hit me was the warm rich scent of coffee that drifted throughout the house. I neatly placed my dusty sandals on the welcome mat and made my way towards bustling the kitchen. ”

The sample above is fine. It paints the scene of the character walking into the house while keeping the action going. Details such as the dusty sandals tell us that the character has returned from somewhere, adding to the story.

 This is what you want, brief, flowing, and descriptive.

mug buddies

Sample 2: 

“As I walked through the door, I was hit with the fresh scent of freshly brewed dark roasted coffee from the packet I saw laying on the kitchen counter the previous day. I had passed that packet of coffee as I went to the fridge to get a glass of milk that was half off at the supermarket that day due to a sale. I then proceeded to take off my withered, lemon-colored sandals, place them gently down on the red, faded welcome mat, then strode off briskly towards the bustling kitchen on the left side of the room.”

This is over-detailing.

The story’s flow is stopped just to point details, some of which have nothing to do with the scene or contribute to the storytelling.

We don’t need to know that the coffee is dark roasted, or about milk being half off, it’s unrelated, and barely contributed to the story.

Sample 2 rips us out the current scene, goes on to go off on a random spiel about milk, and clumsily brings the reader back to the already long scene. 

This is not what you want, clunky, awkward, and drawn-out.

How does it happen? 

There are many factors that cause us to over-detail, whether it be trying idea across, inexperience, the urge to pad something out, etc.

I also believe this happens when the writer has a vivid image in their head and wants their reader to see and experience it exactly as they do.

(That of course, will never happen, that’s because, we all experience, picture, and imagine things differently. So our image of the scene will never be as exact as the author, and will always differ. )

Whatever the reason, the outcome is the same, too many details.

How to avoid it 📘 & How to fix it 🔨 

1-Try to keep a mental or even physical note to space out your details.

So, if you see too many details in one paragraph, see if you can place some details somewhere else in the story or scene.

2-If you read your story, and you notice the details are starting to slow down the flow of your story’s action, try to subtly embed it into whatever scene is going on.
For instance, instead of your character walking into a room, and inserting a lengthy description of the room, keep the action going.

Example:  

Before: As Walter walked around the room he admired the beautiful beige carpet, the luxurious tan couch, smooth imported wooden round table, and the silk blue curtains.

“Pleasant, isn’t it?”

Walter whipped around to see the old lady gazing at him from the doorway.

“When did you-?” he stuttered.

The lady ignored him and sat down on the couch.

“I don’t even want to tell you how much all these costs!” she said.

After: As Walter walked around the room, his steps leaving a small imprint on the beige carpet. He ran his finger across the smooth indents of the wooden table, “hmm, not a speck of dust.” He thought.

“Pleasant, isn’t it?”

Walter whipped around to see the old lady gazing at him from the doorway.

“When did you-?” he stuttered

The lady ignored him and sat down on the beautiful tan couch.

“The silk curtains, the fine china, – and this,” she said, patting the couch, “I don’t even want to tell you how much this cost!”

expensive

-See what I did there?

I swapped a bit of detail, such as “luxurious,” and thought of other ways to convey the expensive couch. I also thought of ways to keep the story going, while slowly trying to paint the scene. In this case, I achieved that by embedding details in the conversation and spaced out details by not having them so close together.

Remember– don’t just think of descriptions, think how you’re going to present them.

 

3-If all else fails, straight up chop out, or delete details. This part can be hard, as no one likes deleting work.

Especially descriptions they’ve spent hours typing up, or details that they would just love to use, but it’s part of the editing process.

So be ready hit that backspace button, a lot.

 

4-Consider a getting beta reader, or getting input from different people. When I started showing a few trusted people my writing, I didn’t really notice at the time, but the feedback I was getting, made my writing better.

Now, did I take all the feedback I got to heart? 

No, some of it I didn’t use because I felt it wouldn’t improve my writing, and if you feel that any advice or feedback won’t help, including this article, discard it. Just remember to be open to advice and critiques of your writing.

I’d like to end this post by saying that editing can indeed be a difficult process, and it can be especially hard to delete and restart from scratch, but as someone who had done it many times, all I have to say is that you’d be surprised how polished your writing can be.

Do you agree with my opinion on detail? Or was I too vague on a few points? I’d like to know what your thoughts in the comment section below. Until next time!

 

5 thoughts on “Over-detailing

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