My first language is Arabic. Please ignore the grammatical mistakes.

I've published a novel about 6 years ago, and most of the critics who read it thought that it was too descriptive.

Now I'm worried if my second novel to be published has the same mistake. It is a fantasy novel. I keep thinking whether it is too descriptive too but I think I understand why someone would say that about my first novel.

I know that I said too much in my first novel (I wrote it when I was 19). I've been through a lot and I wanted my voice to be heard. I think I wrote too much because it's hard to express yourself where I live.

I think my second novel is relatively slow-paced but full of action. It is highly descriptive too but honestly, I feel that I don't describe without a reason. I rarely describe for merely aesthetic reasons, or just to prove a point in my head. I mean, I feel deep inside that the descriptions are justified in my second novel, but I'm still a bit confused.

Do you think I should follow the critics' words or just do what I feel is right?

2 Answers 2


Unfortunately, an objective answer is impossible without first reading your book. But if you suspect your novel might contain too many descriptive passages, it's a good idea to let someone else (preferably not a relative or friend) read your work and provide feedback before you publish it.

As writers we often want to provide our readers with the exact image we have in mind. If there are twelve different scented candles on the table our protagonist is seated at, we might want to describe each smell. Also, what color the table cloth is, the expensive wood used to make the table, the flawless marble floor...

We tell ourselves it's necessary to include. But in reality, providing all that information is tedious and, quite frankly, slows the story to a crawl. It's a blessing to have a beta reader point out where the descriptive paragraph can be cut short.

You might say "won't that make the setting less clear to my readers?" Not if you provide the most important, striking details and let your readers fill in the rest. If the dining room's floor is made of flawless marble, they'll probably picture the candles and expensive wooden table by themselves.

Do what feels right when writing the first draft, listen to your beta readers, and don't be afraid to cut.

  • +1 for the don't be afraid to cut. One thing to add to it would be to cut everything your character might not notice. What is the first and most distinctive feature he notices? When he gets hit by the scent of twelve different scented candles, as mentioned above, does he really care about the table cloth or the table itself? Or can the candles portray the value of the room? Use character as a medium to paint the picture. Jul 29, 2020 at 12:55

Find a credible developmental editor (or coach), preferably someone familiar with your genre, who can give you a professional opinion on your book. They should not only give you an idea of whether you are overly descriptive, but can suggest how to improve. It's entirely possible your descriptive style is appropriate, but not for your genre.

I'm told there are a lot of readers who like to imagine things for themselves. Being overly descriptive slows your pacing and robs them of the opportunity to engage with the story.

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