Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Depth Does Not Mean More Of The Same

I often find submissions, that I really do fall in love with based on the premise of the story. That query letter really hooks me. I am drooling just to see the project.

And then...

It falls apart. What the author told me in the query was indeed the story that I would have loved, but the other stories the author added to the pages really brought the story down. Too often, an author will have a great initial story premise and then start filling it with additional subplots, conflicts and other things that detract from the story. In many cases, I honestly believe it is coming from critique partners who ask why something is happening to the character. Instead of making a rational decision for that motivation, the author will add huge elements of back story just to give the character a reason.

I see this also with great pieces of women's fiction. Again, the author has a great premise or conflict to build the story around. The protagonist is all set for dealing with the issue, and then they start adding a romance, or additional problems to deal with.

In reality, what we would love to see is a focused attention on that one issue. Create one thing to deal with in the story and do that well. Muddying the water with all of these additional points just weakens the main storyline you are trying to tell.

I have told writers this before when we talk about research papers. In these cases, writers will often add sections to their paper because they "think" they need it. What I get them to focus on is whether the idea fits with their topic or their thesis. Sure the back history of an economic event might be interesting, but if you are only focusing on the effect of it, that history might not be relevant to the thesis, and therefore, needs to be cut from the paper.

So, think about your writing. Can you simplify the story and get rid of some extra "stuff"? That word count you take out can now go to enhancing the character development or the world building.

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