Do you ever worry when you're writing something that your potential reader just won't get it? Not just the big picture stuff, but every tiny detail that you've put hours and hours of effort into writing? What if they miss the symbolism, or all of the intricate character details that you've thrown in? What if you spent forever crafting the perfect sentence and they breeze through it without even stopping to think? Is this something even worth worrying about? And how do you deal with it while you're still writing?
Think about all of the tools you use when you're writing as if they were on some metaphorical writer's utility belt. You've probably got pens or pencils, white-out, scissors, maybe. Well, my fake utility belt has a sledgehammer. If I feel like a reader isn't going to get it, then I want to bash them over the head with the idea until they do. What this usually means when I'm writing is that I'll spend a lot of time devoting words to a particular idea to make sure it sticks in the readers' heads and they understand what I'm trying to say.
This usually results in a huge amount of overkill. If you're constantly saying to yourself, "no, they won't get it," and then you write another sentence to make sure they do, how strong can that sentence really be? What are you saying that you didn't say before?
You should probably understand that not every reader is going to get every single detail. You can't be there next to someone reading your book, pointing to each significant line and saying, "Did you get this part?" I think readers would be annoyed if they had to deal with that. They want to be able to enjoy the story. And if they get it without your help, they would probably be even more annoyed, thinking, "Yes, I got it! Can we move on please?"
I think the solution is to just relax a little. Just say what you need to say and let the readers interpret things. They don't have to be babysat throughout the whole book. There's a moment in my manuscript where one character is basically giving in to his dark side, and I thought a good way to symbolize that was to have him wear a black shirt. But there was this nagging voice in the back of my head, sledgehammer in hand, telling me to add a sentence. Have the narrator say something like, "I guess he was giving in to his dark side." But I knew I didn't need that sentence. The reader will most likely understand this fact without me having to point it out to them. And if they don't, then so what? It's not the end of the world. Not everyone is going to pick up on everything, and that's ok.
So take the sledgehammer out of your writer's utility belt. You really don't need it. You can trust yourself that you got your point across without overdoing it, and you can trust your readers to understand.
Anyone else have a sledgehammer in their tool belt? Have you ever had to hold yourself back from overwriting something?