Fancy Word Day: Longueur


One of the things that I just adore about reading on my Kindle (which I do about 50% of the time, owing to my need for instant reading gratification) is the ability to click on a word I don't know and find out its definition immediately. One of the downsides of my constant reading is that very often, I can't remember where I read something. Anyway, recently, in this way, I came across the word "longueur." Turns out, it's one of those words that means sort of what you think it might:

If you have worked with me or taken one of my classes, you know that I am ALL about the entertainment factor of your writing. I love sensory writing and armchair travel and exploring new worlds. But sometimes, writers can get a bit waylaid by their own descriptions and wind up with long passages that are pretty to read, but nothing actually happens. There is a fine line between "world-building" or a reflective, descriptive passage and the attention span of your reader starting to wander.


If you read books, you have experienced this yourself. You find yourself having read a couple of pages, but you were a bit checked out. Or you stop and flip backward or forward in the book to see when the action picks up again. It's human nature.


Be sure to ask yourself what the "beat" or action is in your chapter. Yes, there are descriptions and contemplative moments - but what happens in the chapter? What pushes the story forward? Losing the attention of your reader is a very, very bad thing. Will they care enough to jump back into your story? Will they recommend your book to a friend?


Often, overwritten, overly-long passages are a symptom of a writer who is having too much fun, reveling in their own words, getting caught up in the lovely dance with the muse. And those are all beautiful things - it's such a feeling, isn't it? But in the draft, your reader will hopefully read - you need to cut back on those darlings, avoid story sprawl, and keep the momentum of your story going. Don't let the fancy Frenchness of longueur, smother the exciting action of your story!