Sunday, July 16, 2006

Question Time

No more progress on the WIP for me this weekend. On the other hand, I did write (and largely research, BAD me) a 3,600 word paper for my MA in two days. The paper was set some time in May, and it's due tomorroow. *eyeroll* Sometimes the scale of my procrastination astounds even me.

Bear (a very dear friend of mine) posted a question in comments the other day and, frankly, I don't know the answer.

She's been having some success in writing contests (Go Bear!), and one piece of feedback puzzled her, so I'm posting it here to see if any of the wise and wonderful writer women (and men) out there have got some insights.

When someone tells you that "your narrative is trying a little too hard" what do they mean and how can I change it??

Any thoughts?


At 9:14 pm, Anonymous Julie Cohen said...

I have no idea; this sounds like a spectacularly unhelpful comment of the type that you often get with contest feedback. It could have something to do with voice; maybe an indication that, for example, there are too many one-liners in funny writing, or too much flowery language in description, or a narrative voice that's a little bit too quirky to the point of being distracting, or vocabulary that is a little overblown, or too much information in general. It seems to me to be a hint to cut and edit judiciously.

But as we all know, contest feedback is only valuable if a) you understand it and b) it's part of a consensus. That said, cutting and editing are almost always good ideas.

Good luck Bear!

Good work Anna on the essay!

At 1:59 am, Blogger Gabriele C. said...

Lol, that's so me. I can't remember a single eaasy I did not start working on a day before it was due. Or maybe a week, in case of the longer ones.

At 1:18 pm, Blogger Sela Carsen said...

I think Julie's right on target with this one. I've said something felt like it was "trying too hard" before. Like they were reaching for a certain tone and either not hitting it at all or beating me over the head with it.

At 1:31 pm, Blogger Anna Adams said...

I agree with Julie and Sela. First, how nebulous can a comment be? And secondly, has your friend heard it from more than one person?

Otherwise, the only thing I'd add, is maybe go for more emotion, less "writing." Also nebulous, except this is what I mean. When I'm particularly fond of a piece of writing, I'm pretty sure I need to cut it, because if it sounds wonderful to me, it's usually not giving me much except pretty writing, and I'm better off cutting it, writing something that gets to the point, and going for emotional impact.

Excellent work on the essay, Anna. Procrastination can be part of the process! :-)

At 3:42 pm, Blogger Kate Walker said...

Ooops! This question started an interesting discussion on ‘trying too hard’ with the BM this morning, then I forgot to come back and answer it. So combining, the BM's University Lecturers hat and freelance writer/critiquer hat and my critiquer/writer's hat (that's a lot of hats and it's too warm for extra clothing!) what we've come up with is this -

Okay – totally agreeing with what everyone else has said about the distinctly nebulous quality of the comment – but what I would feel if I read this comment on a piece of work, of if was daft enough to write it on a piece of work would probably include looking at the following –

1. That the narrative is too cluttered with incidental details of descriptions, actions and information. The descriptions could go on too long or be of such minor characters that they are overloading the reader. Or every last detail of actions are belaboured, with little or nothing left to the intelligence of the reader.
2. 2. The style is too literary and overblown – embellished and verbose- or perhaps too overly generic ‘writing too hard’ (or is that another or those ‘what the heck type of comments .. . ?) What I mean is that basically the reader’s attention focuses on the style rather than the story telling or that if trying hard for a generic style it becomes more a parody than any form of natural writing
3. The story is told with too much incident happening to o often – a bit like a conversation where one person is not happy to let there be any silences or pauses for reflection – so that in the story things are happening on a ‘busy’ pace almost all the time. Coincidences, revelations, plots twisted so tight they almost split apart would also be ‘trying too hard’ to create e an intriguing plot and only coming up with something that phases the reader.
4. Dialogue that either tries to hard to sound ‘realistic’ with all the ‘ Ums, erms, you see, you knows’ that occur in everyday speech – or dialogue that is like no dialogue anyone ever speaks because the author is trying way too hard to get facts in, details that the author wants to communicate in order to move the plot along rather than to sound like any real dialogue.

Hope some of this helps. The trouble is that nothing is specified so that it’s not easy to say which, if any of these might apply. The impression I’m getting is of a style that strains a bit – like Julie says - things that are distracting rather than an enjoyable read. There is a fine line between being - say – funny – and being irritating.
Overall, I think the reader meant that she/he was ‘being taken out of the book’ by the style in which it was written – but it would have been more helpful to say exactly what points made them feel that.

At 3:47 pm, Anonymous mary beth said...

LOL procrastinator Anna. I did the same thing when I was getting my MA. Good job finishing.
Everyone had great answers for the question.

At 10:31 am, Blogger Anna Lucia said...

Thanks so much for the wonderful input, guys, I've found it really useful, and I'm sure Bear will, too.

You're the best. I really appreciate it!

At 11:20 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! What a great response! Thanks Anna for putting my question out there (sorry for hijacking your log!)and thank you to all those who replied. I shall try and absorb all the useful comments and get editing!

Love Bear


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