How to Cure Your Book of Kitchen Sink Syndrome

When you develop the seed of an idea for a book, it’s hard to keep it from growing bigger and bigger, its roots taking hold deep in your brain and excitement spindling up and out in all directions. Research uncovers fascinating new bits of evidence to support the narrative of your nonfiction manuscript, or a line of dialogue opens up new plot threads for the characters of your novel to follow. Over the course of weeks or months or even years, your book takes on a full, lush life of its own in your head. So, when the time comes to actually write it, you’re excited to highlight all the work you’ve done and share those amazing details with readers so they can see the full picture in the same glorious high-definition that you do.

Here’s the thing: That might be a big mistake.

Writers should always be aware of Kitchen Sink Syndrome. In their zeal to show their stuff, share their excitement, and tell their story, many writers pack their books with everything they know on a given subject—up to and including the kitchen sink. This self-inflicted wound comes from a well-meaning place: an overabundance of enthusiasm for the subject, fear that readers won't see the full picture without all that supporting background information, or a subliminal desire to justify the time it took to research and write the book. However, the result of not making enough edits could be a muddled, overstuffed, unfocused book that fails to convey the story effectively.

Kitchen Sink Syndrome carries several dangers. Among them:

  • Overwhelming readers with information to the point that it becomes impossible to tell what’s germane to the topic and what’s not. Your book might exhaustively detail the history of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show from 1877 to the present day, when what you’re really interested in is analyzing how the competition changed when it was first televised in the 1960s as a lever to discuss the broader impact of TV on cultural traditions.

  • Failing to get to the point could make readers impatient. Someone who picks up a book about great Formula 1 drivers might not be interested in first reading a long chapter about the components of the internal combustion engine.

  • Muddling your sense of purpose. If your self-help book about coping with divorce through meditation and yoga focuses too much on the mechanics of the poses rather than the therapeutic benefits, it could fail to differentiate itself from other instructional yoga handbooks even though it has a highly specific purpose.

  • Draining your book of necessary tension. Suppose you're writing a sweeping, epic fantasy novel about warring elven tribes. When the book uses the same number of pages to describe the weather at a tribal council meeting as it does to narrate the bloody consequences of a battle scene, then those things have equal weight in the reader’s mind, throwing the stakes of your story way out of proportion and removing any sense of urgency in the plot.

Publishing industry professionals see countless manuscripts with these mistakes, and they’ll lose interest even faster than the average reader, because they know these errors foreshadow a book that doesn’t stay on topic, tell a tight story, or make strong choices.

Whether it’s raising the tension, clarifying the purpose, streamlining details, or making tough cuts for the sake of pacing, a certified ghostwriter knows how to include the information necessary to tell your story and highlight the most fascinating research or backstory without overwhelming readers or overstuffing your book. For a free consultation to learn more, call (800) 717-3314 or email

Note: Kitchen Sink Syndrome is one of the missteps described in our free PDF, Avoid These 4 Big First-Time Author Blunders. Download your copy to learn more!

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