I’ve been doing a lot of reviewing lately on forums and in writing groups. I feel like it really helps me focus on my own style to take apart other people’s stuff and look at the bits.
What I’ve noticed most of all (especially in fantasy and sci-fi) is that people complicate things too much. Obscure words, five words when one would do, thick dialogue, overdone description, info dumps, metaphors that don’t match the world. All of this stuff starts to stack until you have a book or a story that’s too full.
Take a deep breath writers and cut, cut cut.
If it feels confusing when you’re writing it, it will likely be ten times worse when someone goes to read it. Keep that in mind before you go spilling the guts of the world all over the page.
Keeping it simple also involves knowing what parts of the story matter and what don’t. I think writers fall in love with their characters and their worlds so much that they think people want to hear every last tiny detail that comes to mind. We don’t. We want to hear the details that matter, that are relevant to the story and keep the protagonist(s) charging forward or contain some sort of meaningful moment.
I learned a lesson about this today as I was writing a story that may or may not become a novel/la. It’s a about a girl hitching to California from Toronto. So I had her get a ride from some guy and they shared a moment by the lake. Then the moment was over, it was over and gone but still I was tempted to stretch it out, make it last. I was about to continue with them having lunch somewhere and my fingers were poised over the keyboard. But instead, I looked at the chapter and said, ‘lunch doesn’t matter, it’s irrelevant and useless, the moment is done’ and I was liberated after that. Set free by simplicity and brevity.
So look at your stories and novels writers and ask yourself if you are writing because it matters or if the moment is gone and now you’re just saying stuff because you want to hear yourself talk.
Although being complicated may be cathartic for you, if you don’t keep it simple, your readers will quickly move on.