Don’t Over-spice Your Manuscript

Photo credit: jeffsmallwood on Flickr
When writing, there’s an abundance of stylistic elements available at our disposal to add a little extra something to our writing. Telegraphic or run-on sentences, purposeful repetition, strikeouts, onomatopoeia, particular wording or structure, single-line paragraphs...the possibilities are pretty near endless. 

Occasionally, we writers will become particularly attached to a stylistic element or two, and it’ll become a sort of crutch that we use far more often than even we realize. My stylistic crutches tend to vary from manuscript to manuscript—for a previous WIP it was single-line paragraphs, and for my more recent WIP it’s run-on sentences (go figure). 

I once read that stylistic elements like the ones mentioned above should be used like spices. A little spice sprinkled across your pages will give it a particular zing, a fresh bite that that readers will recognize as part of your voice. It gives your work that little extra je ne sais quois that readers love. 

But just like a stew, something starts to happen if you throw in too much spice—the extra flavor becomes too much. It’s noticeable, but in a way that makes people frown and say there’s something not quite right. That delicious bite loses it’s effect and becomes lost in the sea of too many flavors, and before you know it, you can’t taste much of anything. 

The same thing can happen in your writing. 

The thing I try to remember while writing and editing is this: the more times you use a particular stylistic effect, the less punch it has. With every use, it becomes a little less effective, until, if overused, it has little to no effect at all. 

The key to incorporating stylistic elements into your writing is to use them with discretion. Every use should have a purpose. A sprinkle of telegraphic sentences here and a pinch of repetition there—just enough to give that zing without drowning your readers in spice. 

What stylistic elements do you like to incorporate into your writing? 

Twitter-sized bites: 
Are you over-spicing your MS? One writer discusses what happens when you overuse stylistic elements. (Click to tweet
How are writing and cooking related? Writer @Ava_Jae discusses the dangers of over-spicing your MS. (Click to tweet


Melissa Maygrove said...

Hahaha. When I first saw this, I read it as 'Do you over-SPLICE your manuscript.' I thought it was a post on formatting. *blush*

Now that I've adjusted my bifocals (and turned on my brain :P), I wholeheartedly agree. We all have our go to stuff that we overuse in our first drafts, but moderation is key. Too much of anything can become an irritant to the reader. ;)

Luke said...

Very good post! Made me think about all the run-on sentences I put in my writing, just so I can cram in those extra sprinkles of zest! I also over-use similes and metaphors! Now I need to go back and look at my writing with a critical eye! Damn!

Ava Jae said...

Ha! Over-splicing is a tad bit different, I think. I don't know nearly enough about formatting to write about it, at least not right now. :)

And yes! I agree. Too much of a good thing is not a good thing at all.

Ava Jae said...

Thank you, Luke! I personally think it's better to go overboard while drafting, because it's often easier to cut than it is to add later on. :)

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