Too Much Exposition

We are authors, therefore we love to write. In fact, if given a chance, we will not stop no matter how much we are tempted to do so.

Basically, there are times when we are driven to keep on writing. Our paragraphs last for several pages. Chapters can be well over thirty or forty pages. Sentences are prosaic and beautifully crafted. Nothing will stop us in our quest to have the most important novel of the year… the century if truth be told.

Here are a couple of questions you need to consider as you pound out those carefully crafted sentences and paragraphs.

Who is going to read them?

Yes, I did ask that. Do you have an answer? Have you written sentences so long that the person attempting to understand what you’re saying was lost in the third line and didn’t remember how it began? Is your paragraph filled with exposition so extensive that someone just closed your book and demanded a refund?

Can you understand your own work?

Here’s a biggie. Because if you can’t understand what you’ve written, how can you expect a reader to understand it? Please, don’t tell me that understanding will come at some point further down the road, after I’ve struggled through four or five hundred more pages of your tome. You will hear the one thing no author wants to hear…

I quit back on page twenty and I will not be going back. Not even the most intelligent person on the planet can understand your book.

Once upon a time, literary masterpieces were expected of authors. That was back in the bad old days when authors might turn out one book in their lifetime. This is the twenty-first century, where we authors have to publish several times a year or perish under the burden of thousands of authors a week uploading their work to sales venues.

Here’s a hint for the future. Put away that book you’re working on for a few months. Start on a new project. Try a short story. Those are great teaching tools for getting action, description, dialogue, and narrative into a well-rounded story in a limited number of words. Short stories are actually making a comeback, not in the magazine market but as a standalone. People with smart phones can download one and be reading these while commuting or standing in line. They’re great for a quick lunchtime read.

Now that you’ve mastered the short story, go back to your literary classic and edit away. Clear out the chaff and see what you have left.

Goodness, looks like you found the story.


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