Hello everyone. My name is Loni and I have a problem with oversharing.
I recently got feedback on a chapter from my critique group and the general consensus was “too much exposition”. Easy enough to deal with. I’ve already removed two-thirds. I needed to keep one piece, so I asked for help from my gang and after discussion it clicked in my brain how to make it work. I adjusted without complaint and moved on.
The thing is… Shouldn’t I have learned by now? If someone is actively working on their craft and they keep making the same mistakes–are they just not trying hard enough?
I can’t recognize when I have too much exposition in my own writing. I can with other authors. It tormented me when I went through the prologues of the first couple of books of the Belgariad. Gah. Definitely too much for me there. But dang if I don’t have the same problem.
And I’ve heard all the advice. “Only add it when its relevant.” “Use it when it’s useful in that moment, otherwise leave it out.” I know all that, so I don’t need tips or suggestions of when or when not to include it. The problem is I’m incapable of identifying how much people-who-aren’t-me need, and to my group who have helped me with my writing for a full decade, it possibly looks like I’m ignoring all their excellent help. That’s not the case. I know I have a problem, but I can’t recognize when it creeps up.
How does one address a problem they can’t see within themselves? Because exposition’s not the only problem I have. I could also discuss inappropriately unconcerned characters, but it’s the same story–I can’t tell if the character is underreacting. I can only react to the feedback and fix it after I’m informed.
And speaking of reacting…
IWSG Question of the Month – Do you remember writing your first book? What were your thoughts about a career path on writing? Where are you now and how is it working out for you?
Once upon a time, I had thought being a full-time professional writer might be a thing I wanted. It’s not. The traditional route held no appeal and after researching, I opted to go with doing it myself. I probably shouldn’t have. My first book has so many issues that I cringe over now, and I do my best to deter people from reading it. I don’t stop them, but I recommend going in with low expectations. This next book will be better (at least it darned well better be for all the effort I’ve put into it), but I don’t intend to market it for personal reasons. There will be 3 more books, and a companion novel, and possibly novellas. But career? Eh, nope. I’m happy as a programmer.
Before I go, I will leave you with my latest finished artwork. An art discord group (Paintable) has a monthly project and March’s was Sorceress of the Forest. Ira might turn mass murderess eventually, but at the point in the picture, she hasn’t done anything to earn the label villain yet.
Have you found problems in your writing that you can’t identify yourself? Do you ever feel like you aren’t growing? What areas do you hope to grow in?
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21 thoughts on “Exposition Addict #IWSG”
I think it’s not a bad problem to begin with a lot of details and a robust exposition. It helps you know your characters well and have a clear picture of your world. It’s the revision process that helps you whittle it down. Recognizing what you don’t need is the challenge. It sounds like you have a good critique group to help with the process.
I don’t think it’s a sign that an author isn’t trying hard enough…and I’m definitely not saying that because my CPs are constantly having to say things like, “Hey, cool it with the dialogue. No one needs a 20-paged conversation about French toast.”
Maybe it’s a good sign that you recognize that you *can’t* always tell if there’s too much exposition or if a character’s reactions come across as off. It’s a good sign that you seek feedback to help you make necessary adjustments.
As always, I love seeing your artwork!
I hear you. I can’t tell when I’ve gone off on some writing tangent, so I rely on my keen-eyed writer friends to steer me onto the course again. One thing experience has helped me with is recognizing when they’re right and when they aren’t.
Dig the artwork.
Hey, I’m the opposite – not enough description. And you would think I’d learn to add more by now!
I often have too much information and need my critique group to help me decide what to cut. It’s not a bad problem if you can fix it. Eventually, you’ll figure out what to leave out on your own better.
I think knowing we have blind spots and being able to fix those blind spots might be two different things. That’s where trusted first readers, critique groups, etc can help. But don’t give up, Loni! Keep trying! 🙂
It’s hard to see the problems in our own writing now matter how long we’ve done it and how many times we’ve made the same mistake. That’s why we reach out for input so don’t beat yourself up for not learning. We all do it in some way.
Is there a way to make a list of what too much exposition looks like so you could have it right there while you work? Maybe that would help you to see it.
I go to my critters because I’m too close to my work to see it clearly. I know the flaws are there somewhere and I do my best to make it as clean as possible. But the bottom line is, I’m blind to some of them. Try not to feel bad, I’m right beside you. We need their eyes and feedback to ge
Nothing wrong with that. 🙂
Anna from elements of emaginette
Just because you are aware you have a weakness doesn’t mean you will necessarily spot it when you do it. But it does make you open to others pointing it out and your being willing to fix it in the moment. Kuddos to you. I think we, as Anna said, just get too close to our writing to see it ourselves.
You know, sometimes there are things that we are just bad at. We can get better at them with practice. But there’ll probably always be a deficit, so the trick is to find a way to work with it.
You might just need to have critique partners who need to point out when something has gone on too long. You will get better at recognizing it over time. But it sounds like you just need the sheer repetition of doing it over and over. And that’s okay. One day you’ll recognize it. Maybe.
It is hard to see our own problems. But if you accept others’ critics without getting bitter and fix the problems after prompting from your writing friends, that should be enough.
I love your illustration. There is a possibility of evil there, a hint that it could go either way, and that ambiguity makes the image all the more striking.
Love the artwork!
I think it is always harder to see the flaws in our own writing. When I’ve edited certain words that are usually unnecessary, I wonder how I can get myself to stop writing them in the first place. But I think it’s ok to get everything out at first and then cut it down to what it needs to be. I think that’s easier than the other way around, at least!
I’m an under-sharer. Same kind of idea in reverse. I think we’ll get it eventually–at least that’s what I’m telling myself!
Oh, man, there are so many problems in my writing! My wife picks up on a lot of them, my editors many more. Sometimes, when I go back and read things I wrote years ago, I cringe. “What the hell was I thinking? How did I not see how terrible this is?”
Still love your illustrations. You should do illustrated young audience books, or even some sort of comic books. Use your skills together.
And get your printer fixed!
Don’t feel bad. I find myself falling into the same bad writing habits too. Maybe you could determine a word count that’s acceptable for exposition (e.g. if there aren’t any quotation marks within 500 words, it’s too much…?) Love your artwork, btw!
We are blind to the issues in our own writing. I’m an editor. I can spot things so easily in other authors’ works, but not in my own. I get embarrassed by what my critique partner finds. I feel like I should spot everything in my own work, but it doesn’t work that way. We’re too close to our stories to see the mistakes, receptiveness, oversharing, telling, etc. It happens. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with you, and this doesn’t mean you’re not growing as a writer. And it certainly doesn’t mean you’re not giving it your all.
I go down a lot of research rabbit holes. Because I want to know details. My brain wants to know more about the car Xavier is driving, the expensive clothing Jez is wearing, the food they’re eating, and more. And then I have to leave or cut chunks of that out. There’s a HUGE scene from Fractions of Existence that was cut down to a few lines. It stopped to describe the fancy, elaborate bathroom that Xavier has at his apartment. To me, it set up the fantasy of how rich he is, and that something is going on that such a room exists in Manhattan, and reveals something about his character that he’s interacting with fish while he’s shaving. But it didn’t work for readers.
I think maybe it’s because we don’t all think the exact same way. What matters to my brain, or your brain, won’t to a different readers’ brain. And maybe you even see it in the works of others because it feels odd for others to notice certain things? I’m not explaining very well. There’s a tv show called Monk. The guy is a super detective because his mind thinks differently, he processes more than others, he sees what other people overlook. What’s more is that he is aware that other people don’t notice these things, and knows what they do see. I think it’s kind of like that, maybe.
But I’m now rambling in a blog comment. Quick, call the editor!!!
Happy IWSG day! Here’s a giveaway- rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/4fa90ac761
It’s April, so I’m focused on the #AtoZChallenge.
Proof of Existence, book two in my dark urban fantasy series, is out this month.
I’m running another giveaway on my blog.
J Lenni Dorner (he/him 👨🏽 or 🧑🏽 they/them) ~ Reference& Speculative Fiction Author, OperationAwesome6 Debut Author Interviewer, and Co-host of the #AtoZchallenge
Some of us like to wax lyrical with descriptions, some cut to the chase. I would have enjoyed being a writer in the days of the classic novel, when description was a key element of enjoyment. Now you just get told to get rid of it. Boo hoo.
Of course, you may just be too hard on yourself. Expecting perfection when deep down you know you’re a much tighter writer than you were when you started. That critique tone is why even the very best in the business have editors. Because we miss stuff. We’re fallible. We all are! And you do have a lot on your plate. Job, kids, husband!
I’ve read your work and you’re so much better than you give yourself credit for.
I also have problems with my writing I can’t see until years pass and I’ve forgotten the story and read it with fresh eyes. Same thing happened to Stephen King, or so he says in On Writing. Som that means it happens to the best of us.