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Word Painting: A Guide to Writing More Descriptively
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Word Painting: A Guide to Writing More Descriptively

4.03  ·  Rating Details  ·  461 Ratings  ·  42 Reviews
Let Rebecca McClanahan guide you through an inspiring examination of description in its many forms. With her thoughtful instruction and engaging exercises, you'll learn to develop your senses and powers of observation to uncover the rich, evocative words that accurately portray your mind's images. McClanahan includes dozens of descriptive passages written by master poets a ...more
Unknown Binding, 250 pages
Published January 1st 2012 by Writer's Digest Books (first published January 1st 1999)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,126)
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Taka
Mostly a waste of time--

There are some useful advice and exercises, I admit, but after about page 100, it loses focus and starts to ramble on about topics that are MUCH better dealt by other books, such as characters, point of view, setting, and plot. It actually made me angry and frustrated to be reading about something that, to me, had little to do with "description."

Her useful advice can be listed as follows:

-Use descriptive, not explanatory or labeling words
-Use sensory, concrete details
-Des
...more
David Williams
Apr 13, 2011 David Williams rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rebecca McLanahan has produced a book that is both useful to writers and a great pleasure to read for its own sake. She manages this partly by her judicious selection of examples, but perhaps even more so by her graceful descriptions of her own writing techniques, subtly toned and coloured with touches of autobiography.

She gets the details right too. Consider, for example, this modest little paragraph:

'Much of our writing energy is expended not in illuminating the deep mysteries of theme and s
...more
David
A decent book with a lot of good advice, but man can it be long-winded at times. It starts to drag about halfway through and entirely loses focus by the end, delving into territory that's covered much better, and in greater detail, by other books.

Honestly, if this book were half as long it would've been twice as good, because the beginning is actually pretty great. I loved the section on metaphor, simile, and other figures of speech, for instance, but the absolute best thing I took away from th
...more
Tasha Christensen
Apr 01, 2015 Tasha Christensen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an excellent guide for someone like me, who has always been much better at writing action and dialogue and plot than at description. If you're one of those people who always has to pare down your writing, then this may not be for you.

You can tell right off the bat that McClanahan is a poet. I'm not overly fond of much poetry, but to read a writing book from the perspective of a poet was immensely helpful in taking me outside of my usual habits and prejudices so that I could actually lea
...more
Alex Duncan
Jul 08, 2013 Alex Duncan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Tough to get through but there are some gems in there if you want to improve your writing.
Caitlin
Aug 28, 2013 Caitlin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a fantastic read. McClanahan has created a readable, informative and practical guide to improving a writer's descriptive power. I was attracted to the title and cover, "Word Painting" and a reproduction of Manet's impressionist look at Monet and his wife on a boat. I had never connected writing to painting. While admitting that they are both a form of art, I was always too intimidated to consider painting, I can't even draw a nice stick figure person. Anyway, as I started to read I reali ...more
Kenya Wright
This just took too long to say things, and when she did it was things that I already knew, which was probably why I was bored.

I do wish I'd read this a year ago, but the things in this book are the things that my editors have beat into my head.

I do think new writers would learn a lot from this book, but they would need to be patient with long-winded discussions.
Charles Garard
Feb 09, 2015 Charles Garard rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In a constellation of gemstones gleaming in the writer's universe, Rebecca McClanahan's valuable text WORD PAINTING: A GUIDE TO WRITING shines among the brightest, and this includes books on writing that I have read and even taught (like Janet Burroway and X.J. Kennedy) in college writing courses. Like me, Rebecca is also an experienced teacher (we are also both Virgos -- but unless you are a Virgo, you probably won't appreciate the significance or humor in this) who extends her wisdom beyond th ...more
Kaleiyah-P
I've hated writing description for as long as I can remember. Hated it. I always wanted to get to the good stuff like dialogue and rip-roaring action and not be slowed down by having to begrudgingly describe, for a winded paragraph or page, my characters' eyes, hair, skin, etc. Thus, my skills in writing description have suffered immensely, all because I never sat down and took the time to study how to properly use what I outright refused to understand something essential to all writing, not jus ...more
Pauline Youd
Feb 14, 2015 Pauline Youd rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Overwhelming at first, but extremely practical by the time I finished. Slow reading if you do the exercises. Now to apply all I learned...
Kayla
Feb 27, 2015 Kayla rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
this book was in equal parts 5 stars and 2 stars. it was equally really helpful, and so obvious and simplistic, the only reason i thought i didnt know the info was because it was broken down into such minuscule parts, i didnt recognize it, and then when i recognized it, i was just like, oh, this, and skipped it.
i skipped a lot.
BUT there were also some real pearls of wisdom in this. so it was helpful, but it was also just too long winded and annoying to read because it was too long. a lot of the
...more
Selena
I got the title of this book from another "How to Write" book and I tried to like it, I really did, but I couldn't. I ended up skimming it to see which books it used as examples.
Lisa J
Jan 08, 2016 Lisa J rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent book on description. The author uses classics and other writers to illustrate different types of description, in addition to her own works (only a very few number of times, though, thank heaven). This book has great exercises that will help you see your writing in a more descriptive way. If you have problems with describing your people, places and things, this book will help with that, as well as give you quick pointers on tone, plot, and theme. Here's a tip that I've learned: Scatt ...more
Selina Kyle
Apr 22, 2015 Selina Kyle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book for getting you out of a rut, for helping you revisit old passages, and for helping you look at things from multiple angles. Whether you're a professional, a student, or just in it for fun, I recommend this book to anyone who writes.
Literary Mama
I read this book about five years ago and can still recall passages. There aren't many books I can say that about, and I think this demonstrates her point: original, sensuous writing is memorable writing. McClanahan draws many of her examples from her students' work. One of my favorites, from her chapter on figurative speech, was written by a second grader: "When my mama sit down, it's like the whole world be resting."

Read Literary Mama's full review here: http://www.literarymama.com/reviews/a.
...more
John Hanson
Vital. A definitive guide on writing description.
Rachel
Feb 18, 2013 Rachel marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
Let Rebecca McClanahan guide you through an inspiring examination of description in its many forms. With her thoughtful instruction and engaging exercises, you'll learn to develop your senses and powers of observation to uncover the rich, evocative words that accurately portray your mind's images. McClanahan includes dozens of descriptive passages written by master poets and authors to illuminate the process. She also teaches you how to weave writing together using description as a unifying thre ...more
Lauren Estes
Feb 11, 2014 Lauren Estes rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Practical advice and wonderful references/examples. Overall, beneficial and interesting book.
Destine Williams
A little dense, and slow, but there are nuggets of good info everywhere in this book.
Nina Fitzgerald
Not exactly a "page turner," this book is a fairly good guide to improving your writing techniques. If you have forgotten the difference between a metaphor and a simile, then this book is for you! It helped remind me to look at the everyday world in terms of its descriptive qualities. Exercises are included but I didn't do them.
Cecilia
Fantastic title! The book itself? It wasn't bad, as craft books go. It had a lot of good reminders, and it was well written. But, the title made my expectations very high and the content left them a bit unfulfilled. If you're a new writer and haven't had many/any classes on writing creatively, this book is for you!
Justin Tonna
Jul 23, 2013 Justin Tonna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a writer I found this book really amazing.

Not only is it packed with solid advice and examples, it also is chock full of exercise to get your descriptive muscles working. You can't be a writer if you don't write and this book will have you writing and reading in equal measure.

Read it, write it, enjoy it!
Clarissa Draper
Apr 01, 2013 Clarissa Draper rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: textbooks
This is one of the best books I've ever read on descriptions. It's not just for poets but for all writers. She includes examples from the best writers out there to prove her points.

I haven't done all the exercises yet but I want to because I know they will help my writing immensely.
Femmy
Jul 29, 2007 Femmy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, writing
I feel that description is one of my weaknesses as a writer, so I bought this book. I learn some things from it and I think it contains some useful exercises, but I'm too lazy to do them. Besides, I rarely write anymore these days so have had no opportunity to really practice.
Antoinette
It's good, but it does repeat itself. I was a writer who didn't understand the dynamics of writing descriptively or its value. I now understand both how it works and its value. So it wasn't a waste of money, but i didnt finish reading it because it was overload.
Rosalind M
Jul 13, 2008 Rosalind M rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: EVERY WRITER IN EXISTENCE.
Shelves: nonfiction, writing
Reading this was like reading a song. Not everyone embraces this reference, I know, but the lyrical quality of the writing here and the tangibility her words give to her descriptions....she inspires me.
Sieran
Love this!

Quite a lot of novel and useful points that I never thought of before. One of the most exciting ideas here was about your "Personal Constellation of Images." Ooohhhh
Glenda
Mar 11, 2010 Glenda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is very informative and well put together. Personally, I had a hard time getting through it. But, I think it was just personal preference, not, the fault of the book.
Pioden
May 10, 2007 Pioden rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in writing
This is an excellent book for those interested in interesting writing. I've gotten much from it, and plan to continue getting much from it, as I read more.
B.K. Birch
Sep 26, 2013 B.K. Birch rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Best book for taking your writing craft to another level entirely. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to improve their work.
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