Mr Adjective

It’s amazing what the eye can miss, no matter how many times I redraft something. A case in point happened a few minutes ago, when I was reading through some stuff that I’d written and was faced with the following:

Turning left, we were confronted by heavy double-doors. Through them was a large lounge, with deep leather armchairs flanked by thick wooden tables. A roaring fireplace dominated one wall of the room, while various types of rifles were fixed to wooden installations on the other three.

Hello, Mr Adjective. How are you? Please sit down and take a load off.

It’s amazing to think that I must have read that paragraph tens of times since the first draft was written, and I’d never figured out that maybe describing a series of objects with one adjective each might actually look just a teensy bit amateurish. Yes, I’m sure there are books on the shelves with similar passages of bollocks description. But when every paragraph could potentially count for or against me at this stage, I really do have to try to keep these bits of rubbish to a minimum. Observe the easy correction:

Turning left, we were confronted by heavy double-doors. Through them was a lounge, with deep leather armchairs flanked by wooden tables. A fireplace dominated one wall of the room, while various types of rifles were fixed to wooden installations on the other three.

And here we get to one of the balances to consider when writing fiction. Do you describe everything, or do you leave some details blank? I believe in the latter, but have a horrible, horrible habit of doing the former. The second version of that paragraph is so much better, in my opinion, just by cutting out a couple of words. It looks less desperate. Description is the weakest aspect of my writing by a long way, and I need to work on it majorly. I either do too much or too little. I’m like The Three Bears, if there were only two of them.

I know that that one paragraph isn’t going to be the killer passage out of 436 double-spaced pages that will destroy my chances. But when I see something like it, I feel like a fraud anyway.

Then I read something like the helicopter battle, and the negativity completely fades away to be replaced by exhilaration. Strange business, this. And despite the downs, the ups make me love it.

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