I came across an article by Stephen King on the art of using description to create imagery in fiction. It’s here, at Wordplayer.com.
Here’s a quote that really resonates with me, especially in the light of editing:
If I can say anything important to writers who are still learning the craft of fiction, it's this: imagery does not occur on the writer's page; it occurs in the reader's mind. To describe everything is to supply a photograph in words; to indicate the points which seem the most vivid and important to you, the writer, is to allow the reader to flesh out your sketch into a portrait.
Good description produces imagery, then. The next question that always comes is, "How do I know what details to include and which to leave out?" The answer to the question is simply stated but more difficult to apply: Leave in the details that impress you the most strongly; leave in the details you see the most clearly; leave everything else out.
Hallelujah. And this:
Too many beginning writers feel that they have to assume the entire burden of imagery; to become the reader's seeing-eye dog. That is simply not the case. Use vivid verbs. Avoid the passive voice. Avoid the cliché. Be specific. Be precise. Be elegant. Omit needless words. Most of these rules -- and the four hundred I haven't quoted -- will take care of themselves almost automatically if you will, from this point on, take two pledges: First, not to insult your reader's interior vision; and second, to see everything before you write it.
Read the whole thing. It’s a lesson from a master.
© 2012 Ray Rhamey