The Big Reveal

Welcome to The Big Reveal.

I enjoy reading author interviews, but often times they don’t ask the kinds of questions I wonder about. So I’ve assembled a group of writers at all levels, from unagented to published, and every week I will have a new question for them. Some of these ladies have helped me with my own work, or given me advice on blogging or writing, so check out their blogs and see what they’re about.

Do you overwrite or underwrite on your initial drafts?

Melodie Wright, Agented author
I’m an underwriter. My first draft is all about plot; once that’s in place, I develop characters during revision. I generally end up adding scenes and other info then. The most I’ve ever cut has been a chapter or two.

Ryann Kerekes, Agented author
I under-write. My books usually come out really tight and through editing I tease out scenes, let tension simmer between the characters a little longer, add scene imagery and internal thoughts/ feelings. The first draft is just all about getting down on paper what’s going to happen, then when I re-read it, I lengthen as I go, adding lines here and there to further flesh the scene out.

Ben Spendlove, Un-agented author
Oh, I like this question. Story time. I wrote and rewrote one novel three times. It peaked at 140,000 words, and then I cut nearly half of that. It ended up about 75,000 words and from a different point of view. After I get sick of my current project, I’m going to go back and rewrite the whole thing again. If you count all the drafts that I’ve thrown out, (which you probably shouldn’t,) I’ll have cut about 200,000 words! (But that’s just throwing out three entire drafts.) I learned my lesson, and my last two novels were slightly under-written. One gained about ten thousand words, and the current one will gain less, I think.

Cassie Mae, Un-agented author
I underwrite most of the time. Not saying I don’t cut anything, but I usually have to beef it up because when I write dialog I have floating heads until I go back and add some action to the scene. The most I’ve cut is 15,000 words but it was an entire rewrite so it felt like I was just writing another book entirely.

Jade Hart, Un-agented author
I tend to overwrite in description when I write my first draft and cut about 5,000 words in my final edit, however I under write in voice and feeling so those 5,000 words are topped right back up again! 🙂

 Stacie Stokes, Un-agented author
I tend to under-write and add in layers over time. I realize that I write like I’m building a house –I start with the foundation and the frame, and slowly build outward until finally I’m focused on the aesthetic details of the story.

I wouldn’t say that I cut things from my story – I typically rewrite them to make it fit better, but the general content is the same. Although I recently cut an entire chapter from my WIP and rewrote something completely different…it was hard to do, but I think the story is better because of it.

Me (Suzi) Un-agented author
I tend to overwrite, and usually end up cutting. On the flip side, I’m not good at description/setting, so I have to try hard and usually end up adding more with that. But overall, overwriting is my problem. It’s just all those unnecessary words I use. One of my early WIPs started at 115,000 words, which wasn’t gonna work for a debut YA author. I cut it to 92,000, but more will come off when I get into the heavy editing.

Joelene B. Perry, Published author
When I first started writing, I thought over-writing was the way to go. Cutting is way easier than adding. I do not feel that way at ALL anymore. Chapter four of Save The Cat has totally changed how I write. I’m totally unbothered when a first draft comes in at 42,000 words. I know there’s no extra fluff. That everything I’ve written is not only important, but crucial to the story. THEN I go in and add layers – layers to my characters (which always results in more scenes) and layers to the setting, and find a few quirks. I’m always afraid I won’t make word count, but I always do. So yes. Less is more. In my opinion. (I’m guessing that you have a LOT of different answers for this one…)

Liesl Shurtliff, Pre-published author
I mostly underwrite and then sometimes nonsense-write. (I can’t really call it overwriting so much as pointless writing.) My writing “process” is so haphazard, some days I add 20 pages and the next I cut 40. It’s a mess, but that’s how I roll.

Mindy McGinnis, Pre-published author
Overwrite, all the way. I cut over 25k from one of my YA’s.

Amy Sonnichsen, Agented author
I’m a little extreme, but I don’t think I’m alone. My first few “revisions” are usually complete rewrites. I feel like I get to know the characters better every time I rewrite a book. By the last writing binge, I would say I’m pretty balanced. When I’m to the point where I’m finally just revising, I add a bit here and take a bit away there.

My word count stays approximately the same. With that said, there was one revision in which I was determined to pick up the book’s pace, so I did end up cutting a total of about five thousand words. It felt like being on a great diet. I walked away so energized by the experience!

Are you an overwriter or an underwriter?

6 Responses

  1. Wow Ben, those are huge changes. I was impressed with myself for cutting 20,000 words. 65,000 is a whole nother novel! 🙂

  2. I am an underwriter for sure. Get the plot in and then go back to add descriptions after I’ve spent a bunch of time in the world and with my characters.

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