Have you ever read a book that paints a sensory picture? While reading, you can literally see images in your mind. You know the sounds, the smells, the feelings that an author is trying to relate. It really helps you enter the plot of the story.
On the other hand, have you ever read a book where the author goes on and on and one about one item, describing it relentlessly? In this circumstance, you may have skimmed over the entire paragraph, trying to figure out what happens next in the story, avoiding the drawn-out, elaborate description that bored you to tears.
As writers, sometimes it's difficult to tell the difference between engaging description and monotonous details. When is description too much? Unfortunately, there isn't a steadfast rule that I can dole out that will magically teach you how and when to use description. As a reader, you automatically know when something is beautifully descriptive as compared to a portion that is lengthy and invaluable. So if you know as a reader, why is it so difficult to differentiate as a writer?
The problem is that as writers, we are very close to our work. That isn't a bad thing. As a writer, we write what we know. We write what we love. We write what we are passionate about as people. So it makes sense that we are close to work. However, it is that closeness that also prevents us from being able to decipher the difference between adequate description and overkill.
So what's the solution? How do we know if we are boring our readers? How do we know if we need to add more description or take some away? Here are the tips that I give my clients in regard to this issue.
1. If you don't have an editor, you need one. All writers need an editor, not just the bad ones. I promise you all successful writers have an editor.
2. If your publishing company does not provide an editor and you cannot afford one at the moment, then have friends and family read your writing. Ask them to be brutally honest with you- and not just give you fluffy compliments. Then, when your friends and family do give you criticism, take it, consider it, and don't get your feelings hurt.
3. Read your work out loud. All written works of art should flow. When you read it out loud, issues that you may not have noticed before will become abundantly clear to you.
4. Use description that increases the value of your story. For example, you don't have to describe Cindy's appearance in lengthy detail UNLESS Cindy's appearance is pertinent to your plot line. If Cindy is beautiful and uses her appearance to manipulate people, then by all means, describe her fully. However, if Cindy's appearance doesn't have anything to do with the story, then you can briefly describe her beauty.
5. Make every sentence count. Don't take any one word for granted. I know I say this a lot, but if you can keep this in mind and apply it to your writing, then you literally will create a wonderful work of art.
6. Keep reading. Reading books of varying genres shows writers what TO DO and what NOT TO DO. You know what you like. You know what you don't like. Keep reading. Make a mental note of what works and doesn't work. Apply those facets to your own writing.