Monday, October 5, 2009

How Much Detail?

I have been told that I don't put in enough detail into my stories. I have come to think that this is mostly true. I have been working on writing the last chapters for my middle grade/ Young Adult novel RUN!! and have run through them quickly, as is my typical approach. When I've gone back through them I've been dissatisfied with what I've read. I've finally come to understand that there isn't enough detail in the story to engage my attention.

Recently I had a critique on RUN!! that mentioned I had too much detail in the manuscript and that the detail slowed down a very important part of my manuscript--the first page. I went back and unhappily cut out the offending paragraph, only leaving what was absolutely necessary which I often found was in the story further on anyway. I'm now writing with more detail and enjoying it and it is difficult cutting it out. I am pulled more into the story as the writer and that, in turn, makes any further writing I do more true to the story. What my wonderful 4Corners writing friend pointed out was all too true, however, so I cut!

I used to write short stories and in those I found myself easily weaving in the necessary detail. Then I turned to writing for children. Writing for children is--contrary to a lot of people's beliefs--a lot more difficult than anyone could imagine. You can put in too much detail, as I just pointed out. You can leave out necessary detail to give the breath of life to a character. You have to think of your audience.

If you write for children, which child do you write for: the four year old, the eight year old, the twelve year old or the teen and how does that determine how much detail you bring into your story?


JKB said...

I write for the 8-14 yr old age group, or the so-called MG group. I think detail is a fine line, really. Too much and they're bored, too little and they're bored.

But as long as you have a cracking plot, it makes everything better. And remember, only you can take out or put in too much! It's your story, and an editor very well might have you take it out/addmore anyways. Write it how you like it first!


Heidi Willis said...

You are absolutely right that it's hard to write for kids!! I think it's the hardest type of writing to write, so I so admire those of you who can do it!

The detail is such a fine line, and like Jen pointed out, only you can make that final decision. There are places in a book where it's needed, and places where it slows things down. I'm not sure there's a sure-fire way to know which is which!

marsh to the fore said...

I think the overriding thing is whether it slows things down. I was also finding that I wasn't pulled far enough into the story to really get into it to write it well enough without that detail so, to begin with at least, I think you have to be using all your senses on the first draft as much as you can.

Kerri said...

You are a children's writer, there's no doubt about your talent. What you do so well is create a world of the fantastic, something that pulls readers in from the beginning. I think JKR does it well, mixing details and action into the narrative. She makes the details gross, silly and extraordinary so it never feels slow or dull.