Tuesday, April 26, 2011

"V" is for Verbosity

Ah, verbosity.  

A situation in which a writer, or author, if you will, expresses himself or herself in such a way that there may be a profound number of thoughts and representations throughout his or her work, and though it may be deemed eloquent, it may also, in some instances, but not all, be determined by some readers, but, as I mentioned, not all, to be distracting.

Did I lose you?  Sorry about that.  I think I gave myself a brain cramp.

Verbosity, in case you couldn't tell, refers to speech or writing with an excess of words.

It's true that, as a writer, word count is something that I am concerned with.  Each type of work, such as a novel or novella, has a word range that's more or less a sweet spot to strive for.  I need to reach these word counts, or at least the minimum required, to feel secure that the story will stand a good chance of being published in the category I meant for it to be published in.  After that, if it's above the word count, I don't mind.  To me, it's not a big deal, because some content will undoubtedly be cut in the editing process to streamline the story.  Some might be added, as well.

Basically, as long as I'm in the ballpark for a whatever type of work I'm doing, the story will be as long as it needs to be.  I'm not going to deliberately add words just to make something longer.  I guess, because of this, I'm not particularly verbose.  I like to add lots of detail and describe, but if I find myself getting lost in it, either when I'm actually writing it or when I'm reading it over later on, I'll cut it down.  I don't want my readers to get distracted or lost in a description, either.  I want to strike a happy medium so that I both reach my word count goals and have a descriptive piece, but not to be so wordy that I make poor Shelley fall asleep on her keyboard. 

I'm sure we've all read work by verbose authors.  Jane Austen comes to mind, as does Dickens, and even Tolkien.  They're all descriptive writers, but I think it's how they do it that makes or breaks their books.  I can't even get through a few pages of Austen's books without falling asleep, while Tolkien makes me hang on every word, envisioning Rivendell and Mordor in great detail.  Dickens is somewhere in between - he loses me, but then I get sucked back into the story.

How about you?  Do you tend more toward the wordy end of things?  Or are you a short and sweet writer?  Readers, which do you prefer to read?

xoxo Sarah


  1. Jane Austen makes me crazy. I like some Dickens but mostly he loses me. It was also a real struggle for me to get through the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

    I like to think I trend toward a happy medium where my writing is concerned. Depends on the character and the story though, I suppose.

  2. I can say with more than a certain amount of confidence that I am not a minimalist. It's, also, not something I enjoy reading. Mostly. Probably why I'm not a fan of Hemingway.

  3. Interesting - I think Jane's actually a fairly concise writer, while LOTR could have lost about 25-35% of the endless battle scenes and been much better for it.

    Dickens... was paid by the word, and serialized. If we were paid by the word, we'd be as verbose as possible, too!

  4. Great post :) And great V word. Verbosity is usually a bad thing, I think. Jane Austen actually draws me in more then Tolkien, though I love both of them, and Dickens too. I would agree with Beverly, that Austen is pretty concise, but Tolkien is DEFINITELY verbose.

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

  5. @MJ: I was beginning to feel like the only woman who couldn't read Austen without wanting to snooze. I'm glad I'm not the only one! I agree with you that it depends on the character and the story, too.

    @Andrew: I agree. If something is too sparse, it doesn't feel right to me. Like Goldilocks, I like the one that's juuust right. :-)

    @Beverly: I love reading other people's opinions! I completely forgot that most of Dickens' work was serialized. In that case, I'd do the same. Paragraph-sentences for all!

    @Sarah: Love your name, btw! I'm glad you liked the post. It's interesting, to me, anyway, to see the varying opinions on this. I love it!

  6. Hi Sarah:
    I am a voracious reader (another good V word for today), and it really depends on the writer if I'm engaged or not. Austin puts me to sleep. I've tried. Tolkien I love: the first 50 pages kinda set me adrift, but then..I'm in it for the entire thing, and I've read the trilogy a number of times. In my writing, I'm a bit of both: brevity when needed, some extra stuffin' when I'm feeling it. Editors, thy job is calling!
    my story, if you care to read it, is at www.stuartnager.wordpress.com/