Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Underwrite versus Overwrite

Thursday is going to be a Share Your Darlings blogfest, which I've decided to post on this blog instead of my writing blog in order to talk about cutting scenes and chapters even when they are loved ones. So, for today's post I'm going to discuss the difference between underwriting the first draft and overwriting it.

What do I mean?

Underwrite in a first draft is to have a draft with a smallish word count that gets the basics of the story down but runs the risk of not being long enough. Often, the second draft will involve an increase in word count as scenes are filled in, descriptions added and some minor subplots increased to give the story better weight. The word count varies based on genre and amount of underwriting.

Overwrite of a first draft involves have not only a larger word count but often includes extra scenes, characters, etc. The second draft may or may not involved cutting down/reducing word count, depending on the genre and desired word counts. Eventually, there will be cutting down within this type of writing, at some point in the rewrite process.

Both have advantages and disadvantages. Cutting scenes can be difficult because some of those scenes can be well written and interesting, but they don't serve the story enough to keep them in the novel. Underwriting requires a lengthier rewrite in order to get the novel to a proficient length and filling out the scenes takes time. Both can take time based upon what type of writing the writer does better.

What kind of writer am I?

I tend to underwrite but I'm getting better. The first draft of Tattle Tell, then called Ephram's Defiance is a YA novel that came out at 23,000 words in length, which is very low. My romance erotica novel was the first novel I'd ever finished and it was only 56,000 words. It wasn't until I wrote the first draft of the adult mutant novel, Standing Ground, did I get to a proficient length of 90,000 words. I'm not a descriptive writer and so most of the first draft is basic actions, characters and dialogue needed for the scenes. It's nice in that I don't have to cut down much of the novel to make the story work but at the same time, the rewrite is like writing a first draft. I have to write more in my second draft with the except maybe of the adult mutant novel.

What kind of writer are you?
Which do you think is better: underwriting or overwriting?


A.Michelle Navarro said...

I, too, am not descriptive in nature. *giggles* Even in reading I tend to skip the description and go right to the quotation marks.

But I do believe it is easier to have a good plot/storyline written and then fill in the gaps.

Dawn Embers said...

A.Michelle - Thanks for commenting. I sometimes skip long descriptive passages too, or glaze over them. That and for "love" scenes. lol