How much is too much? You need to learn what is necessary for the story. These come with experience, but a beginner can start developing them by recognizing the problem.
The problem is love. You love your story. You love your characters. You love the world you've invented. You want your readers to see them, appreciate them, and understand them just as you do yourself. And since you don't want your readers to start with the wrong impression, you pile up descriptive scenes as soon as the story opens. Or you drop in a big lump of description right after that 'grabber' first line you know you're supposed to have, in order to steer the reader into your vision.
The car plunged through the barrier and over the cliff.and so on.
Nadine prayed the airbag would save her, her generous mouth opened in a scream, her periwinkle blue eyes fixed in horror on the ocean below, her auburn hair, thick and luxuriant, streaming behind her, her elegant, long legs braced for the crash.
Nadine had always been strikingly beautiful, even as a child. Her hair, less golden then, was always held back by a blue ribbon. In summer a few delicious freckles dusted her nose. Wide shoulders had led, in adolescence, to a bosom of graceful proportions. Her hands were elegant and beauticians often commented on her healthy nails, nails that were now digging into the car's upholstery....
How can we avoid this mistake? Rewrite your work, excluding every scrap of description. Now how does the story read? If a detail was not necessary, its absence will not be noticed. You'll be surprised how little description you actually need.
Use action to describe.
|From Careless in Red by Elizabeth George|
Use dialog to describe. (In the example below, we know their are trees, a fence, markers and in clear view of a house.)
|From One Last Breath by Stephen Booth|
A basic rule of writing: don't add anything that does not propel the story. Two people rushing through the night to the hospital is action, two people arguing in the car as they rush to the hospital is character development within action. The fact that one of them is six foot tall with blue eyes is neither action nor illumination.
Advice for beginners: cut. And keep cutting until you think you have reduced your story to a skeleton. The skeleton is your story. The rest is blubber.
Check out Corra's blog about characters today!