Spring and the Comeback of Writing Richness

By Madeline (M.M.) Gornell

Rest Stop on the Writing JourneyIf you are a follower of our Writers in Residence blog, you may have noted by now my fellow writers possess a wealth of knowledge! I’m always learning from them, especially when it comes to where to, how to, and when to.[i] You’ve probably also gathered I spend a lot of time sitting around thinking about the art and craft of writing. Time, I must confess, that might be better spent actually writing or promoting. Nonetheless, everything started blooming out here in the Mojave last month, and I’m once again sitting around and thinking some more, and still reading Ngaio Marsh, and thinking about/starting several new books that would hopefully incorporate these thoughts and goals ((key word starting(smile)).

Spring Blooms

One of the things I’ve been thinking about is the art of bringing richness to my work. So what the heck am I talking about? Around Christmas I was thinking (posting) about lyricism, and recently just finished a Surfeit of LampreysNgaio Marsh’s tenth book, and written in 1941. In this novel, there is so much richness of characters and sense of place. I became one with the Lamprey family members and with Chief Inspector Alleyn. Not to say her dialogue isn’t snappy enough, or plot movement quick enough, or descriptive passages manageable. But given there is some reading-patience required, the rewards are great!

And where am I going with this? Sometimes, no matter what the current wisdom is, you have to write what you feel, like, and admire. Contrary to that concept, last year I spent too much time trying to tighten, streamline, improve my writing in line with current-guru directions (not necessarily a bad exercise for sure.) But now though, good or badI’ve finally realized the heck with it—just not me. Indeed, to the opposite end of current writing conventions, I’m going to go back in timeembrace, not try to eliminate or modernize a certain richness of style. One reader once mentioned to me, “I like your books, but you take too long to get to the action!” That reader is right. But the nugget for me there is—how important is that to me/you to the enjoyment of the tale and the emotional remnants remaining with the reader? It might just be a matter of prioritizing preferred outcomes?

An added note in taking my ramblings into account, I still don’t have a Smartphone. Maybe I’m also just a literary Luddite (living in the past maybe?) My hopefully helpful thought is, there are still people out there like me who when reading actually do want to  feel, know about settings, locations, character feelings, and emotional impacts in depth. And dialogue alone doesn’t get you there. I’m not sure exactly how to accomplish all of what I’m talking about, but I’m certainly trying in my rewrites to incorporates all the thoughts I’ve had lately into my work. (probably with an outcome of using more adjectives and adverbs than current writing connections condone–and not getting to the action soon enough!)

I’m also thinking about “words” and how picking just the right one brings lyricism and richness…but I’m out of time. Next post. Also thinking about the “leftover emotion” and imagery left after reading a book—I can still see Lamprey’s “lift” in my mind’s eye.

Comments are most welcome! And continued happy writing trails…


[i] Take for instance, last weeks post by Jackie Houchin on Making a booklet https://thewritersinresidence.com/2017/03/15/how-to-make-a-booklet-in-23-easy-steps/

21 thoughts on “Spring and the Comeback of Writing Richness”

  1. Madeline,
    As always, I enjoyed your post and I love your books. Like you, I’m always open to constructive criticism of my books and suggestions for improving my writing BUT, bottom line, we need to be who we are – in life and in writing. You can please some of the people. . . .

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    1. Yes, Patricia, you hit it right on the head. So glad some of my thoughts came through. I very much appreciate your being such a thoughtful (and often like minded) sounding board! I’m hoping to have all the “stuff” I need to do in real life cleared up to day so I can start reading Marnie Malone tonight. Your latest is a special treat I have waiting for me…

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  2. Madeline, I couldn’t agree with you more. One of the joys of reading, for me, is being transported into another world, often into another person’s soul. That doesn’t happen without a lot of effort on the writer’s part. I disagree, therefore, with the reader who said you take too long to get to the action. I have to know a character and his/her world before I care about what they’re doing and what happens to them. Right now I’m re-reading “To Kill a Mockingbird” for my book club. I’m on Page 23, and nothing has happened except backstory and description of the neighborhood and its inhabitants. As we know, plenty of action will occur, and by then we can see Scout and Jem and Dill and Atticus, and we have feelings about them so the story has more relevance, and resonance.

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    1. Thank you so much, Bonnie, for your comment. So reassuring to hear your words about backstory and description and how that’s one of your “joys” when reading! To Kill a Mocking Bird is a perfect example–I remember still being taken away to another time, place, world… And you’re so right about the effort needed to do it right. But that’s also the joy of writing, thank goodness!

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  3. What a perfect post for early spring, Mad. Reading, like travel, isn’t always about the destination, but the journey as well. I’ve heard that some readers like to flip to the end of the book first, while others prefer to savor every word on the page. You’re absolutely right to follow your instincts, to “embrace…a certain richness in style”. Readers who share your love of richness in writing will find and embrace your work.
    p.s. loved the pictures.

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    1. Your comment, Miko, about “the journey,” is so apropos. There needs to be more than just the journey for sure, but if you don’t enjoy getting there, so what. And you’re right, there are different “reading-strokes” for different folks, and figuring out what works for you, reading or writing, adds extra enjoyment. And on pictures, seems like I always get plenty of blossoms out here in Spring, but whether I have resultant fruit or not is always iffy. I remember in Washington in North Bend area, it was always a question of “enough sun.” Different challenges here in the desert. (smile)

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  4. Some stories are supposed to have deeply drawn characters and settings. It is their nature. The reader wants to know where they are, who they should care about, not just be dragged along from one car chase to another. TV shows cut to the chase and never stop. But that’s one format. You do marvelous things with your settings and the people who live there. Not once have I finished one of your books without feeling I could walk those streets, look out at those vistas, and meet those people. It is what you do best. And the stories you tell about those people and places fit like a glove.

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    1. Oh Gayle, thank you so much for your kind words, glad I’m achieving my goals of taking you there! Couldn’t ask for more. And your mentioning of TV reminds that I have watched American TV dramas where I’ve thought I really don’t care what happens, and think it’s because I don’t care about the characters or their circumstances, or their motivations… But sometimes good direction and actors can get me past the not so great story line. Thanks for stopping by, and especially for reading and thinking about my writing!

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    1. Thank you so much for stopping by, Maggie! And especially for taking the time to leave a comment. Yes, lyrical writing is something I recognize when I read, but am still having a hard time talking about with specifics. I struggled with the concept in a previous post here, but still working on. And yes, “back in time is where my writing-heart seems to be these days.

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      1. For my own writing, I envision striking a balance between lyrical and word economy. Perhaps readers and editors would adjust (happily!) if we introduced these ideas gradually.

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  5. I’ve enjoyed your books so much that I’ve never noticed you taking too long to get to the action. I become so involved with your characters and settings that the thought never enters my mind. You have to write what feels right to you.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Marja, and thanks for your kind words. We’re of like minds, I think, that you have to write what feels good to you! I love going to your locations, places, settings with you in your books–pure wonderful escapism for me.

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  6. I’ve had no criticism about your books, if anything I think you already are lyrical. I think there has to be all sorts of books and styles of writing for all the different readers.

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    1. Most definitely, Marilyn! What a world it would be if we were all the same. And for me, depends on my mood, what “style” of book I want to read. Which reminds me, looking forward to Unresolved–love your characters and their families and visiting them, and so glad Oak Tree Press is still thriving! Also looking forward to your blog visit in April.

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  7. I agree that you need to write what’s best for you and not always follow what others do or say. And choosing the word(s) that work best for you is vital! I also agree with Bonnie–and you–regarding introducing characters and setting before getting into the action.

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    1. Sometimes choosing the right word is hard. I’ve spent many a time agonizing, changing, changing again–and often ending up with the word I started with. Sigh. And yes, I need to feel where I am when reading, and want to know and like the characters. Otherwise, why bother.

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  8. Oh, DO keep writing just the way you do. It may take a bit longer to “get to the action” but the richness, the lyricism, the emotions, the saturated visuals make up for the delay and increase the intensity of the story when the action does come. I still can “see” in my mind’s eye; rooms and bridges, highways, desert landscapes, desperate or dead and dying people, and others who stand aloof and unknowable…. long after I’ve finished your books. Even after reading other books. Yours remain and evoke a sense of place like not many other authors. Do, what you do, Madeline! You will never fit the “current” mold.

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    1. Jackie, I can’t say in words how wonderful your generous and kind words have made me feel tonight–especially as I’m trying to figure out how to describe something in a scene in my current WIP. Thank you, thank you. And not being able to fit the “current mold,” took me a long time to realize that and just say, “what the heck,” and write on! I’m smiling broadly…

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