The Benefits of Overwriting

“Hi, I’m Beth Carter and I’m an overwriter.”

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Never heard of that term? Me neither. I thought I made it up a few months ago, but lo and behold, one of the cover articles in the September 2019 issue of  Writer’s Digest is entitled “Fix Overwriting With Expert Advice” by  David Corbett.

See, I’m right on trend, although, according to the article, I need to “fix” this issue. I tend to disagree because I’ve discovered many advantages to overwriting, which I’ll list later. In fact, I’ve been an overwriter with every single Coconuts novel. (I’m currently writing #4.) The article seems to think authors overwrite due to droning on and on, too much backstory, and using excessive description. I definitely don’t do this. I cut to the chase and grab the readers by the throat, so to speak. In fact, many of my reviewers mention I write page turners that they can’t put down. I’m heavy on dialogue, not description, and my novels are character driven. So, why do I overwrite?

#1 I believe it’s because I have multiple point of view (POV) characters, namely, Suzy, Alex, Hope, and now Cheri. They each have a story in every novel. Some of their stories are more involved and detailed than others; occasionally one character is more of a “star” in one of my Coconuts novels, but all four women meet up regularly at Coconuts to work through life’s chaos, so I’ve chosen the difficult route of including them in every novel. Sigh. I did this to myself but now I can’t alter my style.

#2 I’m a pantser. Need I say any more? (Pantsers will understand.)

#3 To keep my series fresh, I bring in many new secondary characters with each novel. Other secondary characters come and go from previous books in my series. In BABIES AT COCONUTS, there’s a mysterious French designer, Gigi, who owns Gigi’s Couture in Paris. There’s also a boisterous Italian mama named Gia who much prefers the moniker Mama Gia and her three sons, Luigi, Frankie, and Vinny, but I digress.

Let’s get to the benefits of overwriting.

  • With overwriting, you’ll always have a plethora of material, as in:  Way. Too. Much. But that’s far better than not having not enough, in my opinion (and also the opinion of the author of the above-mentioned WD article.)
  • You won’t have to add scenes to make a certain work count, which is often obvious filler to the reader.
  • I assume most pantsers overwrite because we do not have much of a roadmap, if any. Our characters take over and go on all kinds of tangents. So, really, it’s my characters’ fault that I overwrite.
  • With nearly every novel, I’ve written from 95-105,000 words, knocked my manuscript down to 75,000 while editing, only to have it creep back up again. Rinse and repeat. Happily, many times, I was able to move those scenes to the next book in the series, which immediately gave me a head start on my next novel.
  • Extra scenes may also be used as fun, deleted scenes to entice your readers in private groups or newsletters.
  • Unsure of a situation? Overwriting gives you a multitude of various scenarios for different outcomes, even potential endings. Simply choose your favorite.
  • Also, with overwriting, it doesn’t hurt nearly as much when you have to delete entire chapters because you have sooo many more!
  • It also doesn’t upset you (or your readers) as much when you have to kill a character off because there are always many more to keep everyone company.
  • Overwriting has allowed me to split two novels in two. This means my Coconuts series will now be a six-book series instead four books. I really hadn’t planned to have this many novels in this series, but as any good pantser knows, the characters take over and we lose control. Now, I’m all in, and my readers are happy about the extra novels. I am too!
  • Since I write mainly women’s fiction with romantic tones and/or romantic comedy, these novels require a big word count—80,000-100,000 words, so it’s a good thing my fingers and brain are chatty!

The downside: Overwriting takes longer. However, last year, I basically wrote Coconuts Books 3 and 4 simultaneously. Two months after my release of BABIES AT COCONUTS, I opened my file for Coconuts #4 and was thrilled that I already had 65,000 words in it. I’m currently sitting well over 89,000 words (way too many since I still have several important scenes to write.) Yikes! I’m hoping I can move several chapters to Books 5 and 6 for another head start on those novels. Again, overwriting takes longer, but I think it’s worth it in the long run.

The author of the WD article did say writing more than you could possibly ever use is one of the best writing problems to have. I agree! It seems I’m never at a loss for words, nor ideas.

Side note:  I find it ironic that I overwrite since my publishing career began with six-word memoirs (except for my awesome bylines in our eighth grade newspaper!!) By the way, six-word memoirs are six powerful, compelling words, but that’s for another post. For now, excuse me while I get back to overwriting my next Coconuts novel.  Are you an overwriter or underwriter? Tell me in the comments.

P.S. To all of my friends at #RWA19, have a wonderful time and post photos! I’ll see you next year.

Connect with Beth Carter on most social media or on her website at www.bethcarter.com and catch the Coconuts craze!

About Beth Carter

Multiple award-winning novelist and children's book author. Former bank VP and hospital PR director turned pajama-wearing writer. Find me online or at Starbucks where I'll be writing while sipping a skinny vanilla latte. If I'm not there, it's possible I'm at T.J. Maxx. Happy reading! 2017 Raven Award Runner-Up for Favorite Contemporary - SLEEPING WITH ELVIS; 2015 RONE Winner and 2015 Best Debut Author - THURSDAYS AT COCONUTS.
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10 Responses to The Benefits of Overwriting

  1. I’m not an overwriter, and I think I can officially say I’m no longer a pantster. My plots and simultaneous running stories, thrillers, are far too complicated. I see nothing wrong with overwriting as you say it gives you a running start on the next novel. Even with a plotted storyline, an author still must listen to his/her characters. Their voice/voices are never to be ignored. Thanks for sharing and now I think I better get back to the writing!

    • Beth Carter says:

      I’m still a pantser but have at least started using bullet points that I don’t want to forget in my series. I can’t wait to hear about your ThrillerFest experience. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. tamarahughes says:

    I’m a minimalist in my writing. Sometimes I wish I was an overwriter!

  3. Barbara Monajem says:

    I’m a pantser, but not really an overwriter. Enjoyed the blog!

  4. sueberger3 says:

    Always a pantser. I I wish I overwrote. Life would be so much easier. My brain doles out scenes the way Scrooge doles out pennies.

  5. Hi Beth,
    I’m a pantser, and like you I just write and the characters write the story.
    My first book had 409,000 odd words. Those words are now part of my 5 books and a series.
    And I overwrite, but I can cut out sections and use that writing elsewhere. And I too tag on to my next book the extra chapters.

    • Beth Carter says:

      Wow!! You’ve got me beat with that word count. I’m not sure I could wrangle over 400k words. I get panicked when mine creeps past 90k. 🙂 Great about your series!!

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