Writing: Don't overdo it

As you read a difficult book, consider what separates a truly excellent writer from most of us.
In Nuce: Literature and Language Geekland
Awake! O Lyre! the song upraise,
Awake the sleeping sound.
Figures of speech always represent some departure from simple expression. When authors garnish common ideas with uncommon meaning, the resulting figurative language makes the original thought more vivid and intense.

But a good author does not overwrite. You might, and I do, but the Greats don't, at least they don't in their Great Books. 

...untune that string,
And hark! what discord follows...
Troilus and Cressida, Act I. Sc. 3.
Overwriting "untunes the string," and the result is literary discord. Consider the following passage:
As our hero was slowly walking toward the sage's abode, depending on his gratitude and friendship for a temporary shelter, one of those lightning flashes of thought which often illumine the profoundest abyss of affliction darted across his mind. Recalling the image of the critic, he remembered that he had seen that ornament of "The Asinaeum" receive sundry sums for his critical lucubrations.  
Bulwer-Lytton, Paul Clifford*
Too much.
In Nuce: Literature and Language Geekland
It wakes! it strikes upon the ear:
It's thrilling notes astound.
In 1755, John Holmes light-heartedly categorized common writing flaws.
Six faults of metaphors:
Figures unnatural, senseless, too fine spun,
Over-adorned, affected, copious—shun.

Nine faults of tropes:
Of tropes perplexed, harsh, frequent, swoll'n, fetched far,
Ill-representing, forced, low, lewd—beware. 
In Nuce: Literature and Language Geekland
Till passion roused, retaliates
In an exulting bound.
Check out the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest website for more good bad writing. 

Sources:  Parker and Cynicus

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