Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Can You Underwrite?

Yesterday I talked about overwriting--putting too much into a story so that readers skip those 'boring' parts. So today's question is: Can you underwrite?

I think that's very possible, most especially with newbie writers. Inspiration hits them between the eyes and they're ready to write an essay or a nonfiction article. Or perhaps a short story. They've seen it all in their mind's eye and can hardly wait to get the words out. They write and write and suddenly, it's finished. Because they're excited to have a finished piece, they hurriedly send it flying off to a critique group  Or even skip that step and send it to an editor. And then....

Sometimes the critiquers, or critters as they're sometimes known, return advice that comes down to "...this is a good idea, but you need to expand on...."  or "...this is fine, but there's so much more that might have gone into the story...." It's simply a case of underwriting. An editor will either dump the submissin completely, or if she likes the basic premise of the sub, she'll send the writer a note suggesting an expansion of the idea and saying she might be willing to look at a revised version. That's one of those promising, but frustrating, rejections. It's also a second chance.

The writer's next step is to read their work with as objective eye as possible (and it's hard to read your own work objectively). Step two is to find the areas that might benefit from additional writing. Step three--go to work and fill in the needed areas. Step four--make sure you haven't overcompensated and written way more than is needed.

There's a fine line between underwriting and overwriting.  With practice, new writers learn where to draw the line.

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