NC Literary Hall of Fame










Word Painting: The Fine Art of Writing Descriptively (Revised Edition) by Rebecca McClanahan

Writer's Digest Books
$18.99, paperback
ISBN: 978-1599638683
November, 2014
Nonfiction: Writing Resource
Available from your local bookstore or

"There is no better book than Word Painting and no better teacher than Rebecca McClanahan to illustrate how memory and observation are shaped into language that is lively and alive. McClanahan offers brilliant and helpful examples of how sensory detail, intimate moments, characterization, atmosphere, mood, and metaphor combine to create poems, stories, and essays that lift from the page and soar into the reader's imagination. If you want to be a better writer, you need to read this book."
—Dinty W. Moore, author of Crafting the Personal Essay: A Guide for Writing and Publishing Creative Nonfiction

"Word Painting is both a joy to read and terrifically useful, whether you are working on your first short story or your fifth novel. Eloquent, practical, and deeply wise, Rebecca McClanahan reveals how to move beyond flat description into writing full of music, color, and surprise, and then how to enliven character, setting, and plot. Brushstroke by brushstroke, note by note, she vividly demonstrates the ways technique leads to art and, most importantly, the way art teaches us to become 'beholders' of the world. By the time I reached the third chapter I was quoting whole passages to my students, having already taken copious notes for myself. This is a writing guide full of sense and sensibility, and a work of art in itself."
—Suzanne Berne, novelist and winner of the Orange Prize for fiction

You'll appreciate this book if:

  • You want to write a description-rich work of fiction or nonfiction
  • You're a writer looking for ways to enhance your stories, poetry, and memoir with more descriptive details
  • You would like concrete examples of descriptive passages

Writing is an art, much like painting. The words you choose to describe your characters, scenes, settings, and so on—in fiction and nonfiction—need to illustrate the vision you have in your mind and capture the attention of readers. Word Painting Revised Edition is an inspiring examination of description in its many forms. Rebecca McClanahan's thoughtful instruction and engaging exercises will teach writers how to develop their senses and powers of observation to uncover the rich, evocative words that accurately portray the mind's images—and apply these descriptions to characters, settings, point of view, and more. McClanahan includes dozens of descriptive passages written by master authors and poets to illuminate the process, and in the updated revised edition she provides more discussion on writing descriptive nonfiction.

In Word Painting Revised Edition you'll find:

  • A revised version of the best-selling Word Painting, one of the most popular and celebrated books on writing description currently in print
  • Fresh examples and more emphasis on writing description in creative nonfiction and memoir
  • Instruction and exercises to help you find rich, evocative words
  • And much, much more

Rebecca McClanahan has published ten books—of poetry, essays, writing instruction, and memoir—most recently The Tribal Knot: A Memoir of Family, Community, and a Century of Change. Her work has appeared in Best American Essays, Best American Poetry, The Georgia Review, The Kenyon Review, The Gettysburg Review, The Sun, and numerous anthologies. McClanahan’s awards include the Wood Prize from Poetry, a Pushcart Prize in fiction, the Carter Prize for the Essay, the Glasgow Award in nonfiction, literary fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts and the North Carolina Arts Council, and a Governor’s Award for Excellence in Education. She currently lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, and teaches in the MFA programs of Rainier Writing Workshop and Queens University.

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