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I recently read a book that was well-written, well-plotted, with good characters and description. And it was about 50,000 words too long.
The author was in love with dialogue. There was way, way too much of it. I found myself mentally editing out whole passages of it as I read.
I won’t name the book. I’m grateful for that reading experience, actually—it inspired this post. The point in this: every fiction writer has their “thing”, the one aspect of telling a story they’re most comfortable with. Some writers love dialogue. Others might be really good at descriptions. Maybe you’re all about exposition, transitioning readers smoothly between seasons or changes in the characters’ lives.
The problem comes when writers put too much of their “thing” into the story. They do it because it’s easy, it’s comfortable, it comes naturally. But you end up with a story that’s dialogue-heavy, or weighted down by description, or with way too much exposition (telling) when there should be an actual scene (showing).
Plus, readers can tell when a writer is being self-indulgent. The writer finds it easy to write dialogue, she’s good at it—and she knows it. But that clever dialogue or banter between characters, those flowery descriptions that highlight your skill—they slow down the story. The reader gets impatient, and soon they put the book down. (I only stuck with the book mentioned above because I was reviewing it.)
Balance it out, writer. Make sure you’re not overdoing that which comes easily, and work at the aspects you find harder. Practice them. Read passages in other books that do that aspect well, and learn from them. Your story, and your readers, will thank you for it.
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