Saturday, December 19, 2009


Once upon a time, long, long ago a brand-new writer put her pen to paper and scratched her first word. It was a simple word. Too simple. Way, way too simple. In fact, it was so simple she hated it. So she tore the page out and started over. Her next few words were better, but still weak and flaccid and unimaginative. She ripped those out too. And thus she began her struggle for the perfect word. And with those perfect words she strung together a beautiful sentence. And with that beautiful sentence she constructed a lovely verse. And verse by lovely verse she crafted a gorgeous poem.

Her fellow poets all oohhhed and ahhhed. They described it as lush and evocative. They raved they could smell the marsh and feel the harsh pummeling of the sun. The fledgling writer basked in their praise and wrote another lush and evocative poem. And then another. And her voice became know far and wide as poetic and evocative and lush.

Several years later, our fledgling young writer grew tired of writing lush, evocative poetry. Bored she looked around, and found a short story critique group and thought to herself (with the arrogance of youth) since there is nothing harder than writing poetry, I could easily write a short story. So she did. She strung together lush and evocative words and created a beautiful short story and she presented it to her new critique group and sat back, awaiting their ooohhhhhs and ahhhhhs--ready to bask in their admiring praise. Instead they asked her about her plot, and something about characters, and gently mentioned that traditionally something needed to happen in a story--short or otherwise.

And thus our intrepid and still fledgling writing learned about storyish things like plot and character and gmc and movement and pace. (as in she had none of the before mentioned)

Another year or two passed while our clueless (and yes still fledgling writer) struggled with the short story format. Eventually her wise and oh-so-frustrated mentors gently suggested she may want to try her hand at novel writing, where her verboseness would be more welcome--and guided her toward a critique group that specialized in novels. I (oops) she could hear their sighs of relief as the door closed on their last session.

In the novel writing group our heroine felt embraced in her verboseness and love of imagery..Until she passed around her first chapter and talk of characters and gmc and goals and pace and forward movement swiftly rose up to swat her in her lush and evocative hinny. There may possibly have been talk of nothing happening, someone might possibly have said something like "I was hoping a bomb would go off somewhere, even if it killed the heroine, just so we'd get some kind of movement here. " and they definitely suggested cutting the first twenty five pages. (even through they'd only received the first twenty)

Crushed, the now unfledged authoress slunk back to her computer to massacre some of her lovely words, in search of that elusive beast called plot.

Fast forward a few years. Our now fully fledged authoress discovers contests and receives such praise as "lush and evocative", "beautifully written" and such criticism as "when in the hell is something going to happen" and "can you spell boring?" all in the same contest. Crushed she returns to her computer and slaughters even more of her lovely words in pursuit of that elusive double headed beast called characters and action.

And year by year, less and less gorgeous words make their way into her manuscripts. Lush and evocative no longer describe her voice. Now she's called things like dark and gritty, or mainstream, even sharp and edgy. But she pines for the magical words, the lushness of imagery, both imaginative and vivid. She craves those pretty picturesque words...and she hordes them and writes them down, only to butcher them because they no longer fit the WIP in either style or tone.

Until eventually, those pretty words flee in the face of her desire, knowing their fate if they were to be seized-- sacrificed to the ravages of progression.


  1. I've been thinking of the perfect words, too. I've never written lush, but for me the perfect words bring a picture with emotion. I get Margie Lawson's newsletter, and just got one today in which she posted excerpts from The Siege by Stephen White. I was struck by all of the examples, but this one made me want to grab a pen and scribble down one word: When she looked back up at me, I saw sparks of fear and an inclination to cower spilling from her eyes like slag leaching from steel.

    The word I wanted to scribble was "leach." It's not a pretty word, but it's a perfect word to show emotion. I know I'll use it sometime.

  2. That's what the perfect word is to me too, Edie--one that when used in the right spot can transfer an instant image and/or emotion to the reader. I'm constantly searching for that perfect word for the emotion/image I want to convey.

    The difference these days is that while I struggle to keep my word choice sharp and active--I use those perfect lush words seasoning to a sentence.

    I use to write entire paragraphs of description--even pages... beautiful lustrous prose. Now it’s more like a quick/vivid punch of emotion or sound or an image, before moving on. And I find I miss those lush and evocative descriptions, but when I try to add them... well they just don't fit the work anymore. They stand out like a sore thumb. That’s when I realized just how much my voice has changed through the years.

  3. Now it’s more like a quick/vivid punch of emotion or sound or an image, before moving on.

    Exactly! Great way to describe it.