Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bore-geous for Bore-geous's Sake

Novelist Ayelet Waldman discusses a problem nearly all writers have in an excellent little piece in the Nov. 27 Wall Street Journal (Beware the Trap of ‘Bore-geous’ Writing).

Waldman defines bore-geous witing as “meticulously constructed writing that bores even its author…A bore-geous novel is one that is packed with gorgeous, finely wrought descriptions of places and people, with entire paragraphs extolling the slope of one character’s nose, whole chapters describing another’s perambulations through a city…Bore-geousness happens when you are writing beautifully but pointlessly.”

Sound familiar?

Every writer we’ve ever worked with – or ever been – has fallen in love with a phrase, an image, a coined bit of language so clever that it seems impossible to leave it out despite its lack of value or appropriateness to the overall work.

To quote Waldman further:

“When rewriting, I inevitably find passages that aren’t necessary
to the plot…Usually I’m convinced that these passages are among
the most gorgeous things I’ve ever written. It’s then that I remind
myself of Faulkner’s painful advice: ‘In writing, you must kill your

“Good narrative writing must defend itself. Every sentence, even
every word, must be there for a reason beyond its beauty. It must
move the story along, pushing it toward what comes next. Good
writing can and should be beautiful, but it must never be only beautiful.
Bore-geous is always too much, and never enough.”

One final point on Waldman’s writing lesson. Note when she discovers her writing excesses – when she’s rewriting. More on that topic later.

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