The Texture of Your Book

blogger: Cynthia Ruchti

What’s your book’s texture?

Although we could talk about slick or matte-finish covers, about smooth or deckled edges of the pages, or the feel of a hardcover book compared to that of a paperback, for today’s purposes, we’re looking at–or rather, feeling–the texture of the writing.

textures silkIf you compared a dozen books pulled randomly from bookshelves, you’d describe some of them as burlap–rough, but steady and dependable. Others are like silk–smooth yet vibrant. Still others are common as cotton but with an intriguing weave that invites exploration. Some books have a sandpaper texture–abrasive, but for a reason. Sanding off our rough edges sometimes takes an abrasive book.

Stories can have a velour-soft texture of comfort, or a billowing organza-artistic feel. I’m reading a book now that is like raw silk–smooth, but with natural nubs. And the nubs are what I’m underlining.

Wool has improved over the years–curious for a natural fabric. Midwinter in the northwoods, I’m wearing wool socks that I would have refused as a child for the way they would have scratched at my ankles. Some writing styles that would have scratched and clawed at us years ago–sarcasm, for example–are finding greater acceptance. Has the sarcasm improved or have we grown tougher?

texture fleeceWhat’s your book’s texture? Custard-soft? Cashmere? Dish scrubbie? Fleece? Leather? Cold steel? Burred? Is it marble or cobblestone? Why? And how do we know the “proper” texture for our project?

We take these elements into consideration:


A tough topic can be handled tenderly. But by nature, some topics demand bold words, straight-forward talk, sparks and thunder. Other subject matter is too brittle to be handled that way.


Consider the genre. How likely is it to find a thriller written in a pastoral, gently-ambling, glassy style? Shards of glass, maybe.


Do we have audiences left alive for whom comfort is not a core value? Other cultures don’t list comfort on their list of expectations. They have no list but survival. Nor do they fight as hard for comfort as we do, those of us who value ease above growth. One-touch purchases. Wheeled luggage (Thank You, God!). Roombas.

Is your audience younger or older? Affluent or middle class? Broken and wounded or healed and moving forward? The answer to all those questions will help in forming a texture for your work. texture moss


Why is there more than one mommy-blogger in the cyber universe? Because they each lend their own voice to the common concerns and delights of moms. Some drill down deep with their writing. Others offer quippy one-liners that stick to a mom’s ribs. Some use humor well. Others take a mentor-mentee approach. Some prefer chunky mashed potatoes and others smooth.

Your writer voice helps express the texture of your work. The lyricism or clipped nature of your narrative influences the texture. It’s influenced by your word choices. How many ways are there to create a word picture describing cold? The way you describe it, the picture you paint will be as different as the textural differences between the work of Picasso, Monet, and Andrew Wyeth.

What does it matter? Why do we care about the texture of our writing? Because the writers who understand the texture they’re best suited to write, the texture their genre and topic requires, and the texture that appeals to their target readers create a rich tapestry that invites touch.

Can you express the texture of your current work in progress in one or two words?