How Much Description Is Too Much?

In today’s Journal

* Quotes of the Day
* Vacation Was Short-Lived
* Yates Briscoe…
* How Much Description Is Too Much?
* Well, Kindle Vella
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Quotes of the Day

“I finished my first novel that I seriously tried WITD on, and I’m sad to be done but also so thrilled! It was so much fun. My characters took me places I never expected. Literally, some things came up where I thought, ‘Did I just write that? I never would have planned that’.” Erin Donoho, recent convert

I wrote back to welcome Erin to the club. (grin)

“The business of business is relationships; the business of life is human connection.” Robin S. Sharma, as reported on The Passive Voice

For a friend: “Science fiction is any idea that occurs in the head and doesn’t exist yet, but soon will, and will change everything for everybody, and nothing will ever be the same again. As soon as you have an idea that changes some small part of the world you are writing science fiction. It is always the art of the possible, never the impossible.” Ray Bradbury

Vacation Was Short-Lived

But outstanding.

For the first time in two years without email as an intermediary, Dan and I slathered philosopy all the way through the drive over, the rest of that day and night, and half the next day.

The one night we spent there was exceptional. We always find something exceptional in our little camp perched on a cliff about 300 feet above the Gila.

This time, on Wednesday night, Musk’s Starlink satellite stream came up in the west a little after sundown and passed straight over us. An absolutely incredible sight.

I also got to witness for the first time in my 70 years a serious meteorite, complete with a very long green tail that lingered for a second or two after the meteorite disappeared.

Plus the requisite passenger jets bound east and west and various satellites. Oddly, the usually consistent wind/breeze appeared only intermittently, so we passed a fitful night slapping away mosquitos and gnats.

Around 1 p.m. the next day after hopefully watching clouds form and disappear, we decided to pack up and head back. Temps reached over 100, and there’s very little shade up there on the rock, and I for one am definitely not a spring rooster. (grin)

It’ll take me a day or two to get my routine under me again.

“Yates Briscoe and the Beauty of Britain”

Another short story went out free yesterday, the first in a string of ten I wrote while at, or as a result of, an earlier camping trip on the Gila.

To read it free, click If you haven’t subscribed to these free short stories, you can do so by clicking the subscribe button at the bottom of the story.

One guy who read it yesterday emailed with this:

“That one’s a keeper. Not too wordy, not too short. (Goldilocks porridge.) The fight scenes are first-rate witness descriptions, and the picture of his mother made me think of Lee Marvin in a flowered dress.”

Thanks, Gary V.

How Much Description Is Too Much?

One subject among many Dan and I broached during our brief outing. We both write into the dark, recording the story as it unfolds, and as we run through it with our characters, striving to keep up. We agreed on the answer to the question:

If your POV character(s) notice something about the setting, it goes into the story. Period.

This goes back to the root admonition of writing fiction into the dark: Don’t think.

If your characters add some description about the setting, leave it in. Don’t think maybe it’s “too much” (it isn’t) and take it out.

Likewise, if something about the description passes through your mind as you’re writing, put it in. Again, period.

For example, if you have two people talking in a second-floor formal dining room with a balcony, you can’t just open the next sentence (and scene) with “They looked out across the grounds spread wide beneath them.”

Nope. At some point in your mind, the characters made the move from the dining room through the double doors (or whatever) onto the balcony. Put that transition scene into the story. Otherwise, their being on the baclony surveying the grounds is miraculous, and you never want to do anything miraculous in your story.

Miracles don’t happen in stories anyway. Anything like that is the result of the writer not conveying to the page something that passed through their mind while writing the story.

Every scene has a resolution. Often, that resolution is a miniature scene, a transition. Write it.

The other half of the answer to the original question is this:

If you, the writer, “feel” (consciously think) that something should be added to bolster the setting, don’t put it in. That is the very definition of too much description.

So how much description is too much?

In a nutshell it’s just this:

If the POV character(s) notice it, put it in.

If he, she, or they don’t notice something, don’t include it.

Well, except while cycling. But again, that will be the characters, not the writer, adding description. After all, it’s their life story that’s unfolding, not yours.

As always, questions are welcome in the comments or via email at

Well, Kindle Vella

I decided to take the plunge and upload the first four chapters of Blackwell Ops 10: Jeremy Stiles to Kindle Vella

All four are “in review.” The first three chapters will be released all at one time (Amazon’s standard “within 72 hours.”) In an update this morning, the Zon said that all three first chapters will go live within 24 hour. Chapter 4 (the first strong action chapter) will be released on Tuesday, September 12.

I don’t know yet, but I assume future chapters (episodes) will be released later than that. I’ll keep you posted as I learn more.

Anyway, I spent the last two hours of the writing day creating a square image for the series, uploading it, and then uploading the first few chapters to Vella.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “The Life and Times of a Copyright” at

See “Interesting Math” at

See “In praise of short books…” at

See “Why Do Writers Use Different Pen Names for Genres?” at

The Numbers

The Journal……………………………… 230

Writing of Blackwell Ops 10: Jeremy Stiles
The Way Things Go

Day 1…… 1635 words. To date…… 1635
Day 2…… 2464 words. To date…… 4099
Day 3…… 1615 words. To date…… 5714

Fiction for September…………………… 17696
Fiction since August 1………………… 102655
Fiction for 2023………………………… 170005
Nonfiction for September……………… 6310
Nonfiction for the year……………… 180780
Annual consumable words………… 350785

2023 Novels to Date……………………… 3
2023 Novellas to Date…………………… 0
2023 Short Stories to Date……………… 4
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………… 74
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)…………… 9
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)… 232
Short story collections…………………… 31

Disclaimer: I am a prolific professional fiction writer. On this blog I teach Writing Into the Dark and adherence to Heinlein’s Rules. Unreasoning fear and the myths of writing will slow your progress as a writer or stop you cold. I will never teach the myths on this blog.

2 thoughts on “How Much Description Is Too Much?”

  1. Hello, there!
    I’m glad your vacation was good.

    What I would add to Erin’s quote, I think it is not just about not planning, but not thinking at all while writing. I just follow my characters and write down how their stories unfold. When I think about how the story should go, I step into the way of my characters. I always disliked the saying it is like engineering a bridge – you should know beforehand what will happen in the story, and you should build up every sentence with your knowledge. I believe writing is an art form, where what you’ve learned comes handy, but to feel it is more important. To trust your characters and your ability to convey their story is what counts in the end.

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