Saturday 5 November 2011

Painting a Picture with Words

"If you can visualize the idea in your mind, you can paint the picture so the reader sees it the way you do. If you use the wrong words, or just too many, you will create mud. If you remember early art classes you will know what I mean. If you mixed all the primary paint colours, you ended up with muddy brown. Using too many words will give you the same boring mix."

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) whereby anyone can write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days:  it is like a marathon of words.  I participated in this event for the last three years; however, this year I decided to forego NaNoWriMo and to edit my picture book I'm Just a Home Child instead.  Not having looked at my book for a month, I attempted to read it again with fresh eyes, but it was a difficult task.  As my fellow writing club member, Karen, said, I was at the point where I just wanted to throw my laptop across the room and never look at my manuscript again. 

However, after about half an hour, my eyes were opened and I started to get the inspiration to improve my work.  The first order of business had to be inserting more images in the story.  How could I paint a picture with words?  How could I bring history to life?  How could I make the reader feel like he or she was sitting right beside my great-grandma in every scene of the book?  How could I show rather than tell the story? 

The second order of business was to use the correct terminology for the time and place.  I started peppering my fellow writers' club members with questions.  Did Canadians have mailboxes back in 1903?  What type of stove did a Canadian housewife cook on at the turn on the century?  What is the nautical term for the railing along the deck on a ship?  Do chickens scramble?  What do they eat?  What time of day would you hang the laundry on the line?   Did lower-class Brits live in apartments or flats or tenements?   My fellow writer, MaryAnn, who was hooked up to the Internet, found some answers to my questions.  Finally, though, my fellow writers had heard enough questions and were ready to throw me across the room rather than their laptops. 

Even so, through the process of editing, I was able to breathe new life into my manuscript.  For the first time in a long time, I was excited about my book again.  I look forward to meeting the Christian Critters again next week, opening my laptop and painting a picture with words.  While I may not paint a Picasso, I will paint an original work of art.  So where's my paintbrush?

Cartoon courtesy


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