Friday, June 10, 2011

The Most Interesting Thing I Learned This Week--Le Mot Juste

"Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work."
-- Gustave Flaubert

Yes, Gustave, I hear you. But that little obsession you had with le mot juste? You're killing me. Maybe I'm not just like you, spending an entire week on one page, searching for that perfect word or turn of phrase, but sometimes I come close. 
So what have I learned this week? The idea started with a bit of advice from my lovely agent about writing historical fiction. "Be careful not too spend too much time doing research on small details that might end up thrown out in final edits." This got me thinking.

The same principle applies to choosing words. Sometimes I spend a great deal of precious time searching for that perfect word, or hammering out the perfect rhythm for that one sentence. Because language is beautiful and lyrical and I can't help myself. This obsession is beneficial.

 But not while writing a first draft! 

That's what I learned this week. Not that I hadn't heard it a million times before and repeated it to myself half that many times. But this week, I finally took it to heart. Save le mot juste for the final draft. Now if I can just keep remembering this, I may get this first novel written before the new millennium . . .

Does this happen to you? What was your mot juste this week? Mine was disheveled. What does that tell you?   


  1. Ah, very good advice. My other WIP is also historical fiction, so I needed to hear this now too. I have a stack of beautiful books to use in my research, but I'll be careful not to get into that time-suck too much!

  2. That is one of my major flaws...I can't just write because I'm always editing and trying to find that perfect word. Of course I eventually move on or I would constantly be paralyzed with that absolute failure to nail it or bust.

    So I keep hammering at it and moving along with sore thumbs and bank on some serious revision.

    Kip, research is definitely a danger zone for me, too. I could get sucked in just looking for the name of one flower or something!

    March on, sisters...!

  3. Mine was "disconnected." I kept having a mental picture of the disconnection I was trying to describe, and calling it "uneven edges." But since I was talking about a relationship, "disconnected" is what I really meant.

    This isn't a first draft, but it's not a final draft, either.

  4. Isn't it funny how we can hear something wise a ton of times before we take it to heart? I totally agree about not spending too much time on some of the details in the first draft, though I have to remind myself too.

    Have a great weekend!

  5. I love love love rhythm in my words, so yes, I do spend too much time searching for the perfect word. I hate that. :)

  6. brinkka2011 says: This was a genuinely extremely beneficial post. In theory I'd like to write like this also getting time and actual effort to make a good piece of writing but what can I say I procrastinate alot and by no means appear to obtain anything done.


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