White room syndrome is writing without giving any sensory detail. One thing that makes great writing stand out from good writing is the ability to bring your reader into the story, and one way to do that is detail. Last week I talked about this in terms of getting into a character’s head.
This is different. This is still from the character’s point of view, but rather than talking about what the character thinks and feels, it’s about what the character senses. Is the room warm or cold? Does the air have a smell to it? Does that smell remind the character of a taste? So much more than what color the walls happen to be.
Some writers are naturally good at expressing sensory detail. As an extremely gross simplification, you can probably say that writers are either naturally very good at sensory detail, or not very good. I fall into the latter camp. I write a lot of white room first draft.
I am a white room first drafter. That is one reason why, when many writers cut on revision, I add, and I add probably a good 10% or more. But, the detail is necessary. My work in progress is a good 78K to date, but I know it is white room. Very much so, because I notice myself saying I should add detail. It will grow beyond its anticipated target length on revision.
But on first draft, getting the ideas down is paramount. Details can be added on revision.