Welcome back to another Common Writer Mistakes! This time is over:
#6 – Unnecessary details
The plot is coming along. We’re getting to an important moment — but wait! I forgot to mention something. Let me write it down, because it’s important.
But now the reader is wondering why I stopped to describe something in the middle of the chapter.
As a writer myself, I get it. I’ve wanted to explain those silly details that may not mean something towards the plot, but they mean something for me. I created this world, and I want the readers to know everything about it. But that mindset doesn’t help the reader.
Let me give an example. This is a quote from Jeff Kleinman, who is a founding partner of Folio Literary Management.
“It drives me crazy when I’m reading a book… Janna walked down the street, tossing her long, brown curls, and it’s not really important that her hair is long and brown, but the author wanted me to know. In reality, Janna’s being chased by this guy with a knife, and the last thing Janna is thinking about right now is her long, brown curls.”
Now, it isn’t always that drastic, but it’s important to realize what’s going on. Writers are like translators from one world to the next. We want the reader to live through the main characters. If we point out details that are important to us instead of important to the reader, the story can feel off-balance.
To find these parts, we could pause at the end of every sentence and question whether it is necessary or not. That isn’t as efficient though, because unnecessary details stop the rhythm and flow of the piece.
I’d rather read the story and flag the spots where the flow seems off. Once I marked those spots, I can then go back and ask myself if those details are important.
However, those details may be personal to the writer, so it’s easier for beta readers or editors to find them. Outside opinions may be what a writer needs to realize if the detail is necessary or not.
I hope this helps!