As you may be aware I am currently rewriting my novel (it’s nearly ready by the way, which terrifies me) and one of the things I have been trying to do is scale back on my use of metaphors, adjectives and similes. It is incredibly tempting to over describe things when writing and whilst this can be a useful tool in early drafts to cement the surroundings, characters and action in your own head, as a reader it can be tedious because these things, for all their beauty, seriously slow the pace.
So this week I did one of my favourite little games, which I like call “spot the similes” Pick up a book by one of your favourite authors (I chose Blood Harvest by Sharon Bolton because 1. It really is good, 2. I couldn’t remember exactly how it ended and wanted to read it again and 3. It has some of my favourite characters in it; Harry, Evi and Tom.) Take a few highlighters and highlight the text every time you see a metaphor, a simile or an adjective. Here are my results for the first page:
Notice anything? That’s right; there are very few of the above mentioned sins and all the adjectives are very specific; they either refer to what is new and hopeful, or what is old and dying. It tells us that the book is going to be about just that; the new battling against the old, be it filial disobedience, new comers versus existing residents or the present battling the past. It’s one of the many reasons I love Bolton’s novels; the language is clear and purposeful, keeping the pace super high.
Try it with your own work. Highlight the metaphors, similes and adjectives and delete any that are unnecessary. And if you really love them (which I do) and you find it painful to hit that delete button (which I always do) then write those little literary pearls down and have faith. This will not be your only book. You will write others, and those lovely little turns of phrase might just find a home in one of them instead.