Monday, January 31, 2011

Writing is all about the pancakes

In my hometown there is a delicious pancake/steak restaurant called Smitty's. It looks something like this:
Yes, it's cute and quaint and strangely Scandinavian-looking.
To paint the scene: Smitty's is the kind of establishment that has doilies everywhere and antique plates lined across the walls. There's a large grandfather clock by the entrance and, in general, the people who eat there are three times my age.

Now, Boyfriend and I went for a late breakfast because, frankly, for me breakfast is a food group and Boyfriend claims that Smitty's has the best eggs benedict he's ever tasted. At the time, there were a grand total of two people on shift and six people in the restaurant. These six people were Boyfriend, myself, and a family of four.

So there we were. Food was ordered, juice was delivered, and everything was awesome. Then I heard thumping.

Thunk thunk thunk. It was the father at the table next to ours. Thunk thunk thunk. He was hammering on the base of a powdered sugar shaker with the palm of his hand. Thunk thunk thunk. I ignored him and went back to the conversation at hand. Thunk thunk thunk. A minute later and he was still pounding out sugar onto what must have a been a german pancake underneath that pile of snow.

Now, I've never eaten a german pancake. But I'm under the impression that you're actually supposed to be able to taste the pancake when eating it. Or, at least, see the pancake. There were two large powered sugar shakers on that table and both were over half empty. These people were not eating pancake--they were eating sugar.

Unfortunately, people do this with writing too.

No, we don't dump sugar all over our manuscripts. I'm talking about overwriting.

You've probably done it. I certainly have. I'm talking about those paragraphs where all you do is babble on about something for much longer than anyone would care to read. Or when you're trying to sound witty, so you add awkward flourishes to your dialogue. Run-on sentences fit in here too.
Make sure your writing is delicious and nutritious!
Overwriting is a product of trying to make something vivid and overdoing it. When you're making something pretty it's easy to go off on a tangent. Sometimes it's because we don't realize we're doing it. Other times it's because we're struggling for the words. Maybe sugar can spice up your manuscript, but you don't want to drown it!

So next time your trying to make something sound lovely, stop. Take a breather. Look at the sentence you just wrote and see if it needs to be pared down a bit. Like a german pancake, writing needs some sweetness--just make sure that your writing is more about the pancake than the powdered sugar!

Also, before I go, I need your help! Blogger's lack of nested comments is driving me insane. Thus, I'm experimenting with the DISQUS commenting system. I'd love it if you guys could tell me whether it's obnoxious or not. Nested comments equals more replies from me, but at the same time I don't want to scare anyone away with something annoying. Tell me what you think!


SqueezeBox said...

I am in love with your metaphors for writing. They're brilliant. In my head, though, I had to change pancakes to waffles because pancakes get icky and soggy. And I don't want icky soggy writing.

Max said...

You're witty metaphors make me chuckle. German pancakes are delicious. You should try them sometime.

Sarah Robertson said...

Haha, glad you enjoyed! :P Have you ever had pancakes at Smitty's? I was never a big fan until I broke away from the stove and had proper pancakes. It's an experience. Of course, icky, soggy writing is never good . . . so each to their own?

Sarah Robertson said...

Writing this post made me really hungry. Especially after finding that picture of pancakey happiness.

katespins said...

I like the nested comment so I would keep that. I also like your writing metaphors. Your blog is always an engaging read. I can just picture the person putting all that powdered sugar. People are like that sometimes. I have had german pancakes and they are good but I put just a dusting of the powdered sugar on them.


Sarah Robertson said...

Good to get another opinion on DISQUS. :D And I'm glad you like the metaphor too--I've been meaning to post on german pancake man for a while now.

Brenna Braaten said...

"These people were not eating pancake--they were eating sugar." Yes!!!

Um. Fantastic metaphor. Fantastic thoughts. I do this far too often. And now I'm going to have go to the dentist and rip out all my rotted teeth. Sad day. But you made me really hungry for Eggs Benedict.

Sarah Robertson said...

Haha, glad you enjoyed. Writing this post made me really hungry for eggs benedict. Unfortunately I did not get any. :(

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