I never thought I’d be an underwriter. I grew up reading Tolkien and his chapter lengths descriptions and trees and Dickens’ book length description of someone’s nose, so I figured I would follow suit. I spent high school writing a fantasy trilogy that totaled over 300k words. I thought I was doomed to write sprawling stories that never ended.

I. Was. Wrong.

i was less right

Lately I’ve been realizing that I’m a bit of an underwriter. You might even say chronic underwriter if you consider it an ailment. (I don’t exactly. There ARE a lot of perks of being an underwriter.)

Because when I sit down to edit, the first draft is too short and/or there are like zero subplots and zero world building. EVERYTHING needs to be fleshed out.

For me, I think my problem is that I hyper focus on the main plot. I focus so much on getting the character from here to ———————————————- there, that I forget about taking any pit stops along the way.

So if you’re like me, and your stuff is too short or just too  – thin? Not meaty enough? You gotta take you WIP to the gym. Here’s what I find is usually lacking and how I try to remedy it.


Description: Underwriters are great at avoiding the massive pitfall of writing sprawling descriptions of purple prose that readers pretend they read but really just skipped right over. HOWEVER, our problem is, “so….what did the room even look like? Where are they?  What do any of these people look like? Can you give me imagery of some sort?????” So add more description to beef up your story.

World Building: Not only is world building fun, but it will help add descriptions (though don’t get carried away) AND, it might lead you down some new rabbit holes (and we all know rabbit holes are fun).

Side Characters: pick a side character (or more than one) with a lot of potential and run with them. Like literally. Grab their hand and drag them across a field.

Backstory: 

i don't do back story tangled

Fill out your MC’s backstory (or…everyone’s backstory. Antagonist, side characters, etc). This will also lead down rabbit holes AND will help your characters’ over all arcs.

Check for loose ends: read through your WIP and see if there are any loose ends. Is there a mayor thrown in jail that you forgot about? (haha *me*) Did your MC have an aunt in the beginning but now she’s just….not there? (also *me*)

In general, an underwriter can be kinda fun, because instead of having to CUT things, you get to ADD things *cackles with laughter* (of course then when you have to cut something out of the story it’s devastating because now you have to make up for another 2k words.)


 

What about you? Are you an underwriter or over writer?

Header photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

9 thoughts on “If You’re an Underwriter and You Know It, Clap Your Hands *claps till they fall off*

  1. Underwriter here! I’m the guy who plots until I’ve got a complete story, then I flesh everything out until it’s a book. And you’re absolutely spot-on about the pain that comes with aggressive edits… I’m thinking of mounting a decorative machete on the wall of my studio, just to make things official.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. *raise hand*
    Um hi there. My name is Underwriter. Nice to meet you. :P
    I’m getting better, but in the past, my novels would be so short, that I would have to have random things happen to drag them out. (“Oh um… what to do… Oh look! Let’s through a thunderstorm in! Oooh what if they tree next to them gets struck. This will be exciting…”)
    I learned, it is easier to edit down than it is to edit up. And I thought I had learned that but apparently the lesson hasn’t stuck entirely. *glares at current WIP*

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m not actually sure if I’m an underwriter or an overwriter. It’s true I chronically forget description, but I also will just throw in weird thematic elements that don’t fit in with the rest of the story that I have to trim down. Weird, out-of-place fairy tale references will slip in for no reason.
    So I guess I’m both? It does seem like I trim more than I add. I guess I haven’t tried editing a full-length novel yet, though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I feel like it’s one of those things that you discover the more you write. It took me YEARS to discover I was an underwriter, though I think too you can discover this even when not writing a full-length novel? But also out-of-place fairy tale references sound awesome XD

      Liked by 1 person

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