It isn’t always easy to identify whether you overwrite, so here are a few clues:
Your description language is overblown. Does your narration obliterate any ‘showing’ of your story?
While descriptions are essential to set the scene, they shouldn’t be in a block of narrative.
USE your CHARACTERS to describe the scene.
Are you describing the scene at the right time?
Sometimes, the scene is introduced right at the beginning of the story – and in great detail. A writer must ask themselves, ‘Does the reader really need all of this information right now?’
USE scenery when the ACTION is in that area.
Does the descriptive language reveal something new about the character or plot of the story?
It is crucial to judiciously sprinkle narrative throughout the piece. However, there shouldn’t be any words used that aren’t important or moving the story along.
Does the narrative or description add to the theme of the story?
The theme of the story is the primary point you wish to make with your prose. The descriptive language you use should layer the theme and NOT PREACH. Making the words work takes time and patience.
Lastly, are you in love with the line of description for the RIGHT reasons?
Frequently, we write some descriptive language and find it so pleasing that we do not want to cut it out of the story. However, every single word needs to add to the story or scene – no matter how beautifully written or pleasing it is to you. Perhaps if you add something to it, to give it a function as referenced above.
So, when you work on your editing, keep these things in mind and avoid overwriting.