The Over-Polished Manuscript

There's been a trend toward smile-whitening that's gotten completely out of hand in the past few years. We've all seen celebs whose teeth are so bright, our retinas start to blister if we stare at them too long. After a certain point, bleached teeth no longer look attractive; they simply appear fake.

The same goes for manuscripts that are overly polished. Mostly, it's the opening chapter that's in danger because that's the one most likely to have run the critique group/workshop/contest gauntlet with the writer eagerly (and sometimes indiscriminately) incorporating every single suggestion anybody gives. When overdone, the result is a blandly-homogenized piece of writing-by-committee with every bit of author's voice bleached out of existence.

Has your opening chapter been over-polished? To find out, honestly answer the following:

1. Have I been unable to get past the opening for tinkering with it?
2. Has the opening strayed from my original vision for the book?
3. Does this chapter sound more like its been written in the voice/style of a critique partner/mentor/judge than my own unique slant?
4. Does the chapter seem like it was written by the same person as the rest of the book?
5. Have I accepted all advice that's been offered, even when it conflicts with my own preferences and instincts?
6. Am I using editing/revision to avoid finishing the manuscript?

If your yeses outnumber no's, you may be suffer from a lack of confidence. Sure, it's important to listen to advice that resonates, but as with any other good things, the polishing impulse can be detrimental when its overdone.

Any over-polishers out there? Anyone who's been guilty in the past?


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