What Is Crystalline Prose?
Over the past few years, as I’ve honed my writing skills more attentively, I’ve developed an admiration for a style I call crystalline prose. It can be found in works of both fiction and nonfiction. Like poetry, crystalline prose is descriptive without being wordy. The sentences seem simple, yet a rich and complex meaning is conveyed. Each word shines, fitting snugly with other words and phrases to paint a lovely picture in your mind. Crystalline prose speaks to you in a timeless, resonant voice.
Here are some examples of crystalline prose that you may have read: The EarthSea Cycle by Ursula K. LeGuin, Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury, Fire in the Head: Shamanism and the Celtic Spirit by Tom Cowan, The Last Light of the Sun by Guy Gavriel Kay, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom by John O’Donohue, and Winter Rose by Patricia A. McKillip.
I don’t know the process these authors use to craft their works. Crystalline prose may come naturally to them, or they may assemble it word by painstaking word. BlackLion and I developed our own writing process, which we’ve been using in the book for our Core Belief Kit, and also The Book of Ing. Our goal is to create crystalline prose in our shared voice.
We begin by brainstorming and then refine our ideas into outline form. We separately write “SOCs” (stream-of-consciousness pieces) on each topic. Sitting together at the computer, we combine our thoughts into a coherent piece.
With a thesaurus close at hand, we refine what we’ve written, often shortening it considerably, using fewer words to convey our thoughts. We liken it to coal being compressed into diamonds. We set the writing aside for a few days (or longer) and then return and repeat the editing process, often several times. We take turns reading each section aloud, savoring how it sounds and feels, finding ways to rephrase or adapt as needed. When we are both satisfied that the section is ready, we’ve reached the crystalline prose stage.
Crafting crystalline prose may sound like a lot of work. I find it to be tremendously fun. It may take us longer to complete a book or e-book, but I think the attention to detail is well worth it. I’ve seen our writing improve since we began and I’m sure it will continue to do so. We are finding our own voice and allowing our creativity to ripple outward into the world, enjoying the wonderful process all the while.