Purple prose, according to Wikipedia, is
prose text that is so extravagant, ornate, or flowery as to break the flow and draw excessive attention to itself. Purple prose is characterized by the extensive use of adjectives, adverbs, zombie nouns, and metaphors.
Last week, my memoir, Elopement: a Memoir was sent out into the world. Like an empty- nest mother whose youngest has left home, I felt both bereft and relieved. I will miss that creation of mine. My baby. What will I do with myself? That was the question I asked. For about a nano-second.
I need a change of pace. The answer came in a flash. Purple prose time!
So, last Friday, I revisited the manuscript of a novel I wrote years ago. I can’t remember how many years exactly.The date doesn’t matter. I wrote it in thirty days, locked away in what was then my study. It’s a healthy looking piece of work. That’s if you count the words – 60 000 of them. Two thousand words a day. Every day for a month. A solid start to a new novel.
I printed the manuscript. Put it in a folder so it stays together. In the current heatwave things tend to blow around under the air conditioning outlets. I resurrected a new purple-patterned foolscap note-book. It’s perfect for my editing-and-writing notes for a purple prose novel. I made coffee and began to read.
The new manuscript might be OK! My task: edit and rewrite. Repeat as often as needed.
So far the pluses of my new novel are
- I love the story concept.
- Love the setting.
- Love the main character. Some of the supporting cast are flat as characters go. They need rounding to become believable.
- Bits of the dialogue are fun (and some funny).
- The primary setting works. But I may have to go off on jaunts to make absolutely certain I’ve got the details right. We might even have to suffer a trip to Europe. Call that research, please! I can hardly send my protagonist to exotic places unless I check them out first. She has only been to Paris in France, and has never been to Spain. Perhaps she’s like Vence? or Montpelier? or San Sebastian?
This novel has potential. It’s like a half-built house you want to love and finish. It needs lots of work, especially on the language. At the moment it is truly full of purple prose.
My experience has been that such writing is notoriously hard to correct. I once wrote the most amazing description of landing in Newman in the north of Western Australia. Purple prose had nothing on my paragraph or two. I put it into Other People’s Country. Almost everyone who read the manuscript told me it didn’t work.
I hung on stubbornly, through thick and thin. Through my PhD examination. To a publisher. It was not until the very last minute, when my editor told me it had to go, that I relented. You know what? The book was much better without it. But I still sometimes mourn that purple prose. Maybe it will turn up somewhere one day.
I’ve learned a lot since then. I almost look forward to dramatic culling of the new manuscript.
What don’t I like about my purple prose manuscript?
Here are a few things, without being too critical.
- The purple prose, to begin with. Outrageously flowery language,littered with adverbs and adjectives.
- This tells me that I haven’t got the voice right. It doesn’t sound like me.
- There is no discernible plot. I know what the protagonist desires, and what happens in the end. But that is a too slender thread for a plot. Much work to be done there.
- It’s a novel and there’s romance. So there has to be sex, right? A writing supervisor told me that novels always have sex. I need to test out this theory, make sure it is right. I find the idea of writing sex scenes seriously scary.
I’m firmly resolved. This book will not take seven years to write! I have too much else to do. I’m too old to pander to a wayward book. I’m hoping that my blog-readers will come with me on the journey to keep me working.
Please let me know what you think about my new project in a comment. Should I blog about my novel-writing as I go?