NaNoWriMo: The Evil Witches Cauldron of Adjectives

Category: Writing

My piece of advice is to tell you to get out the scissors and cut out all the unnecessary descriptive words that are cluttering up your story. Be warned, this will go against every fibre in your body. Most of us were taught at primary school to be as descriptive and flowery as possible. And most of us embraced it - why use just one word to describe the sea when you could use 30?

I was a true child of this time, enjoying nothing more than creating sentences that I thought were nothing short of exotic masterpieces. Here’s one from when I was about 12:

She gazed out at the blood-dark, tempestuous sea, which surged and seethed like an evil witches cauldron.'

I got an A for that piece.  But does someone actually want to read that? Will it engage and excite them, or will it give them the impression that the whole book is more focused on showing off the number of words that the author knows, rather than weaving a story.

I think that the best advice to avoid this happening (and reverse years of self-indulgent descriptiveness) is to consider your reader when writing, instead of revelling in your own clever, marvellous, wonderful, scintillating self. 


Tomorrow: Caitrin Armstrong on feeling smug.

Helen Croney

Helen Croney is the Marketing and PR Co-ordinator at the Scottish Book Trust.