Things to Avoid in your Writing #4: Losing Your Balance

One giant mistake I tend to make in writing, even to this day (thank God for my editor…), is that I don’t put enough narrative in my first drafts.

Odd right?  A person who writes novels on a regular basis doesn’t put enough narrative.  Isn’t that one of the stereotypes of writers?  That we love to hear ourselves talk?  Or that we drone on and on using superfluously hyperbolic vernacular wrought to betwixt and besiege the mind of the reader so utterly and severely that one could skip two pages at a time and not miss anything important at all?   (See my point?)

Well, in my case, I can blame the fact that I write screenplays as well.  Also, I tend to write more screenplays at a time than I do novels as, for some reason I don’t understand, screenplays are a much more natural medium for me.

See, in the case of a screenplay you’re not supposed to put a lot of description.  A screenplay is a bare-bones representation of what the movie could be.  The way it looks is none of the writer’s business, only the story is our business.

So we need to put only as much action/description into a screenplay as necessary to convey the story, but nothing more.

A screenwriter’s job is to concentrate on the dialogue and story.  Period, full stop, end transmission.

Now, while that helps me in the writing of screenplays, but it’s a bit of a damper on my novels.

Granted, thanks to my editor, I have gotten better at noticing when I don’t add enough narrative and I am getting a handle on the situation.

But this is an excellent lesson for not just myself, but for every author.

You need to find a balance!

There has to be a balance between three things in your story:

  1. Description
  2. Dialogue
  3. Character’s Mindset

You cannot have too much, or too little of either one.

Besides the fact that it’s just bad form and a sign of an amateur, it’s necessary because it will definitely amp up the emotional impact of a story.

As I write this, I feel that I’m going to have to make a deeper post series on a few of the topics here only because I’m going over the very broad strokes of things, but until those come out, keep this post in mind.

See, it’s very important because if you have too much of any of these three things, your novel will drag and your readers will definitely notice.

Boresville, Population: You Bro!

Boresville, Population: You Bro!

Haha, sorry, I couldn’t resist.

Moving on, it’s very important to pace these three components out correctly for two main reasons:

  1. When paced correctly, you will have enough material/back story for each of your characters and setting to last for the novel.
  2. This avoids the drag of a very intricate stories.  You can still have a very complicated plot, and reveal more meatier details as things go.

You never want to see this in your novel:

Joe Blow just moved to Arkansas because he loves agriculture.  You see he loves agriculture because his grand-pappy 7 generations removed was once a farmer in Poland.  Blow is merely a shortened and Americanized before Blowziewski, but was dropped because his ancestors had a hard time finding work due to the foreign name.  Also, did you know it was a dairy farm that his ancestor owned?  But Joe hates cows, so he decided to have a pomegranate grove instead….

See my point?

It tends to drone, be boring, and half the time all those fun intricate little details you make up about your characters, never see the light of day into your novel because they don’t need to!

I would say that maybe on a good day 50% the back stories I flesh out for my characters end up in the first draft of my manuscript, and 50% of that gets cut in rewrites.

Of that 25% of the total that survives, it’s usually only hinted at, or implied.  It’s rarely directly addressed unless absolutely necessary.

Add that into the fact that I tend to write dialogue heavy manuscripts, and you can see where I’d run into a problem.

Strike a balance, and do it in such a way that is intricately you and no one else.

There’s really no hard and fast way to do this properly, and it can be executed however you wish.

What’s important is that a balance of those three components exists, not how they’re balanced.


So what do you think?  Agree?  Disagree?  Think I’m nuts?  Whatever you think, please leave your thoughts in the comments below.


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