White Room Syndrome




If you’ve ever taken one of my classes you’ll know that I’m not shy about telling you about my writing Achilles’ heel.

I’m about to share it with the TWL community because I think letting others know about our weaknesses helps us all become better writers.

My least favorite thing about writing (apart from rejections), is penning descriptive prose. I’ve hated it from day one and I’d rather get lost in the plot, the dialogue, you name it. I’ve been known to look into space and daydream when it comes to the part of the story that needs to convey to the reader where the scene is taking place and what it looks like.

I thought I’d successfully bluffed my way through it but I got caught out (or should I say, called out), by the editor for my third book.

When she returned my edits she’d written you’ve created white room syndrome and you need to correct it.

This being early on in my published writer career I had no idea what that meant so I had to ask.

She told me that the scene was so bland with just dialogue and nothing else that it would give the reader the impression they were in a white room.

Imagine sitting in a room with white walls, white floors, white ceiling, white furniture. Yes, some people do choose to decorate their homes like this but for readers it doesn’t have such appeal and I could see what she meant. I could also see that I couldn’t bluff my way through descriptive scenes any more I had to do something.

It took me some time, some perspiration and a few tears, but I finally delivered something to her that she liked.

That was my wake up call and I vowed I’d never be guilty of white room syndrome again. Not that I like writing descriptive scenes any better today, but one thing I discovered was if you own up to what you hate (or aren’t any good at), but make an effort to improve (I sometimes do ten minutes of writing description and nothing else), it gets easier and suddenly your Achilles’ heel isn’t such a pain.


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