Have you ever tried to cram ten pounds of stuff into a five-pound bag?
As writers, we tend to succumb to this temptation more than we want to admit. I’m very guilty of this. I have to weed out all those parenthetical phrases and asides I just love to put into my writing.
Why? Why do we do it in the first place? What drives us?
It’s not a psychological deficiency. I like to think of it as excessive generosity. You see, writers, in the course of research and transmitting information, want to share everything they find out. As someone I know might say, “It’s all such lovely stuff.”
Unfortunately, this compulsion to share ends up being as big a disaster as sitting a starving man down before an banquet of rich, exotic food. It’s just too much, and it’s not what he needs.
The end result? He’ll probably end up vomiting his guts out and be worse off than he started.
No writer wants to make her reader barf.
The good news is that we can avoid this by feeding our readers only what is informationally “nutritious.” Give the information to them in sufficient quantity and quality for what they need.
Sometimes you can use appendices, footnotes, and (my favorite) post scripts – the snack cupboards of writing — if you just can’t contain yourself. Just make sure they are pertinent.
Here’s an example of what to avoid and how to fix it:
The machine, which was made by a company founded in the late 1800s by a tinsmith peddling his wares through the streets of New York City on a cart drawn by a former thoroughbred horse down on its luck, processes screws (created with such precision that the clearance is less than 1/100th of a strand of a human hair) for surgical use.
Translated: The machine processes screws for surgical use.
Writers, don’t throw out all that other information. You can always use it for something else and for readers who have the “palate” for it. (Hmm, maybe I can write a novel about a tinsmith and his horse.)