Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Got Weeds?


It’s springtime. Insert happy dance here. In my part of the world, this means that flowers are popping through dirt and bringing explosions of color back into the world. Unfortunately,

the weeds are busting loose, too. Which reminds me that weeding isn’t just for gardens.

I love beautiful writing. So much that it has kept me reading many a novel that I would have (should have) put down had the writing not been poetic and gorgeous. However, from a writing point of view, lovely prose for the sake of its beauty is like the pretty weed that adds nothing to the garden and may even take from it. Readers should not be admiring the writing alone. They should be engaged in the story. And let’s face it, sometimes sparkly writing detracts from a plot or pulls the reader out of a moment. Sadly, a writer must sometimes cut or dig out the gorgeous sentences with all their poetic symbolism simply because these lines do not serve the story.


So, as I grab my spade and head for the garden where all kinds of weeds, some of them pretty, are growing roots, I’ll be thinking about all the hard core weeding that I’ll do when I come back inside and revisit my work in progress.


When reading, how do you react when you stumble upon beautiful weeds? Do you mind being pulled out of a story for the sake of gorgeous prose?


Writers: Are you able to pinpoint and uproot the weeds in your own work?


* A big thank you to Carol at www.carolriggs.blogspot.com for tagging me with the Lucky 7 Meme Award. I have the best of intentions for playing along—really, I do. Stay tuned.


* The beautiful garden photo is by Chamomile at www.morguefile.com

67 comments:

  1. Lovely picture. :) I love Spring -- my favorite season! Atlanta is so gorgeous during time of year.

    I do love a beautiful sentence but it takes me out of the book if it happening in an "intense" moment. I love it when it happens during contemplative moments in the novel.

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    1. Great point, Karen. There is more room in those contemplative moments. Enjoy your springtime in Atlanta!

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  2. What a beautiful comparison.

    Weeds, er elegant prose, can be distracting. I think if a writer can find a balance between beautiful writing and entertaining writing, they have accomplished an enormous feat. I am still working on perfecting both. :)

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    1. Thank you, Emily. So much of writing is about balance, isn't it?

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  3. Loved your weed/prose comparison.

    When I'm really into a story, I don't always like to take a side step and meander down a trail to the meadow...no matter how many pretty flowers are blooming. I do love beautiful prose, but only if it fits the story.

    And yes, I've been weeding.

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    1. And I love how you kept the comparison going, Loree! : ) Happy weeding.

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  4. Mark Twain once said that if you write an exceptionally fine line, strike it out.

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    1. Ah, Mark Twain. I adore his wisdom and his wit. Thanks, Mark.

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  5. Great post, Cynthia. I recall a college instructor saying, "do you want the reader to know that you're a great writer - or do you want to write a great story?" Your comments are a great reminder of this truth. Have an awesome day...and happy gardening!

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  6. Funny, I was just thinking about this last night (figurative garden weeds, that is). Some beautiful weeds pull me out of the story, and I don't mind. I stop and think, "Wow, that was incredible!" If I'm really into the book I'll jump right back in without any problem. When I'm not, I might admire the weeds, but the reading is rather stop-and-go.

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    1. You're very patient, JeffO. Most admirable. : )

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  7. Awww but some weeds are good for wildlife and some are considered delicacies too (e.g. dandelions) but I so agree that in the "wrong" place they can choke and destroy other plants!

    Yay for spring! Take care
    x

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    1. Such a great point, Old Kitty. I actually like dandelions, although I will admit that they annoy me when they grow in the wrong places (as they always seem to do).

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  8. I don't like beautiful writing to get in the way of a good story. I find it smacks of the author showing off. :)

    On the rare occasions I come up with a few beautiful words, I know they have to go because they simply don't fit my story/characters.

    Isn't springtime wonderful? I love it.

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    1. That's so true, Shirley--beautiful writing can smack of an author showing off. Great, great point.

      Ah yes, springtime is wonderful--Mother Nature showing off. : )

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  9. I just had some weeds pinpointed in my manuscript at our last writer's meeting. There wasn't many, just a few, but I pulled them out, and my story is better because of it. Sometimes it is a painful thing to do, but necessary.

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    1. Very true, Janet. And sometimes it's too easy to overlook the weeds in our own stories. At least that's true for me. : )

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  10. I love your analogy. Some writers are so gifted with description, but they do need to be careful that they don't lose the interest of the reader. lol

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    1. Thanks, Donna. I agree. Descriptions can be lovely, but not if they sacrifice story.

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  11. Great post as always! Once upon a time I thought I couldn't be a good writer because my prose was never flowery enough. *snort laughs* Yeah, that was a long time ago!

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    1. Ha! I snort laugh with you, Lisa. Once upon a time I thought the same thing.

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  12. Good analogy. Sometimes, it's only on the very last edit that I can manage to rip out those gorgeous-sounding bits that only clutter my writing. You're right, makes no sense dragging a reader out of your story just for the same of beautiful prose.

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    1. Thanks, J.L. Weeding is one of the last edit tasks that I do, as well.

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  13. I just read a great story but I was continually striking out things in my mind. The writing was much too flowery for my taste and I just kept thinking how much stronger the story would have been if the author had done some slashing (or pulled those weeds!)

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  14. Oh, I'm not very good at weeding, neither the literal kind nor the metaphorical literary kind.

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    1. Well, I read your novel, Alissa, and I didn't see weeds, so maybe you're better at weeding than you give yourself credit for? ; )

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  15. Sometimes I'll come across a passage that makes me pause and go back and read it again once or twice. It doesn't happen too often, but when it does, I don't mind.

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    1. That's a testimony to beautiful writing. As writers, it's hard not to appreciate well crafted prose.

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  16. I'll stick with lovely prose for a while. But if something doesn't happen after several pages, I'm usually gone. I tend to need a critique partner or editor to tell me my wildflowers are really weeds and need to be pulled.

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    1. Because wildflowers can be so gorgeous. They are tough to pull out. : )

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  17. Great analogy. Weeds CAN be beautiful. But sniff, most of the time I'm able to yank them out if they don't contribute to the plot or character development (etc). Most of the time...

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  18. There are lots of weeds that make pretty flowers and many flowers we now like to have in our gardens came from humble weeds. They can be groomed and trained, modified and mutated.

    I like bits of lovely prose. I think without it reading would be colorless and dull.

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    1. Great point, Bish. Groomed and trained and modified sounds like revising.

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  19. I don't mind beautiful prose--I love it! But there are limits for me, personally, like when it gets a leetle too excessive.

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    1. Exactly, Lydia. Beautiful prose can go from delicious to annoying when it is excessive.

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  20. When I find a beautiful weed, I cut and paste it in a clip file. I always think I might use it later, but I rarely ever do. Lol, still it makes me feel better about getting rid of it. :)

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    1. That's brilliant, Angela. This has got to feel better than hitting the delete button.

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    2. Yes, I can't bear to hit delete! *hugs beautiful weed*

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  21. The best weeds are disguised as flowers, so only a master gardener can tell the difference.

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  22. Hi Cynthia...nice to meet you. Like the lovely flowers, I also like beautiful prose, but too much of it can take me out of the story.

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    1. Hi Rachna! Thanks for stopping by and commenting. : )

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  23. Sometimes I'm fine with beautiful prose that pulls me out of the story. I might reread a passage several times and say, "My, that's lovely," and then happily plunge back in and read on. But in order to do that, I do need to be engaged in the story. I think the best books have both plot and language.

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  24. Interesting analogy. Very thought provoking. Your garden looks gorgeous. Mine needs a makeover literally and probably metaphorically, too ;O)

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    1. Thanks, Madeleine. I wish the photo showed my garden. I had to go the photo files to find one full of flowers. : )

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  25. Yay, Spring! Boo, allergies!
    What a great analogy! I don't mind a few flowery sentences, as long as it doesn't pull me out of the story. I want to be immersed with WHAT the writer is saying, not HOW he or she is saying it.

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    1. Exactly, Adrienne. And I hope the allergies aren't getting to you!

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  26. I don't mind being pulled out a little bit from the story, but some writers are heavy with detail and beautiful prose. If the plot is strong I'll read along, but if the story is slow and the writing is consistently like that I have to stop reading.

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    1. Yup, it happens, Medeia. Thanks for your perspective.

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  27. I love reading pretty words. I really do. BUT not too long ago I read a book with so much of this that I kept thinking "Get to the point already!" I was ready for someone to get kidnapped or poisoned or something. I did stick with it and finish, but it was a bit too much for my taste. I think it's all about balance.

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    1. Writing really is about balance, isn't it, Julie. Thanks!

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  29. I love writing that lulls me with its cadence. Of course the story must move forward, too. It's a tricky balance.

    Here's to a luscious spring and bountiful stories.

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  30. I do love beautiful writing and like you I'll read on when I'd normally stop if the story doesn't hold up. But I think that's just me as a writer appreciating the words. Most readers would just stop, so, if it's a weed it HAS to go.
    Great post and reminder.

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  31. What a great point, Lynda. I agree that writers probably have more of an appreciation for beautiful words.

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  32. I love beautiful writing too, but the story always comes first for me. Most of my favorite books don't have beautiful writing. They have compelling stories and characters.

    We need flowers here. Everything is so drab, especially after spending a week in San Francisco.

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    1. True for me, as well, Stina. Wishing you plenty of flowers.

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  33. Um, I meant after I spent a week in SF, not after everything spent a week in SF. *crawls back into bed*

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  34. I absolutely hate finding the weeds in my own work, but even when I'm in love with them, I know it's better for the story to yank 'em.

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    1. It is hard to yank those most beautiful weeds from our own work. It's so much easier to notice the weeds in the work of other writers. : )

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  35. Great post! I used to never be able to pull the weeds in my own work but now I don't even think twice about it. I think it takes a long time as a writer to get to a place where you're okay with doing it, where you can put the book as a whole ahead of a few flowery gorgeous lines of prose.

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