As I reached the end of the first draft of my novel, a quote from Frances Hodgson Burnett, author of The Secret Garden, popped out of my memory:
It’s not good enough to mention they have tea, you must specify the muffins.
So, that’s what I’ll be doing this month: specifying muffins. In other words I’ll check for sensory detail and add it where it’s lacking. I’ll also look for consistency. It’s always annoying to find the main character has a blue coat at the beginning of a scene and have it miraculously changed to red at the end. And, I’ll do what I can to enhance characterization. I noticed, while I finished the last pages, that Cora’s language isn’t as tart as it was at the start of the story. Did she mellow as she became more comfortable, or did I get lazy? I’ll have to think about her basic personality and make sure it’s clearly represented.
The French poet and essayist, Paul Valery (1871-1945) had a more graceful way of saying writers should ‘specify muffins.’
The essence of prose is to perish — to be dissolved and replaced by the image it denotes.
That’s a tall order! Wish me luck, better yet, wish me skillful writing.