Archive for September, 2012

I love words

Friday, September 28th, 2012

I love words. The fascinating possibilities that lie within the order of words on a page are endless.  Take a group of words, assemble them into a sentence, then stand back and ask What would it look like if started it with this word or ended it with that phrase? Before you know it, you’ve rewritten a piece five or six times and still see wonderful arrangements yet to be tried.

Friends are perplexed because I re-read books; especially when learning there are favorites I’ve read literally hundreds of times. For myself, I didn’t understand why a book would only be worth reading once, until I realized that some read books for the story line, whereas the story line is fine, but what captures my attention is the specific words chosen and how they are arranged.

In the eighth grade a friend gave me a copy of This Rough Magic, by Mary Stewart.  She wrote: “…the cat turned and lazily swarmed up the vine …” and I was riveted. She had used a word that belonged with bee and attributed it to the action of the cat – and it worked! It made me realize the power a writer had to enable the reader capture a scene in their mind’s eye.

In English 101 the first thing the professors warn you against is the use of big words.  “Write like you talk,” they encourage.  But my work-day vocabulary is so dull compared to the plethora of fascinating words just waiting to be utilized. I don’t use big words to impress, rather because they’re different, fascinating, unusual, and interesting.

I am currently reading Bad Religion, by New York Times op-ed  columnist, Ross Douthat.  I am especially fascinated by his command of the English language. I’m harvesting a wealth of new words to add to my vocabulary stockpile.  Words like numinous and fissiparous. How well they’ll transfer over to romance writing remains to be seen.

I have a poster hanging above my desk sent by a fellow writer. It shows a cat stretched across an open book, looking up at the viewer and the caption says, “You realize it’s just the same 26 letters being rearranged don’t you?”

Yes, I do, thank you. I believe I’ll go rearrange a few right now.

I should write a book

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

If you’re a writer, one response you know you’ll receive when meeting someone who discovers you’re an author is, “I should write a book.”

I’m often tempted to give Hemingway’s response of, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed,” but I usually restrain myself with, “If you enjoy rewriting, you can definitely write a book.”

Thomas Edison’s “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration,” holds true for writing a book. Writing wannabes don’t realize that if you are serious about writing a book, then that will be exactly what you do. You write. Every day. A determined writer doesn’t wait for inspiration to strike or their schedule to clear, and writer’s block is never a reason to skip a day. But if you persevere and keep slogging along, eventually you will discover “Eureka! I have 100,000 words. It’s a book!”

Too bad that’s just the first step.

Step two sifts the wheat from the chaff, or in this case, the real writers from the writing hopefuls. No matter how inspired your narrative, it is far from being ready for public consumption. This step destroys whatever ego you began with by making you ruthlessly pick apart your rhetoric by nitty-gritty editing. Your days will now consist of rewriting chapters, reworking paragraphs, adding, deleting, and restructuring. You will find yourself spending one whole day polishing a particular scene, go to bed satisfied by what you accomplished, only to wake up realizing that the scene really doesn’t even work for the book and has to be cut. Whack! All that genius on the cutting room floor. And it’s back to hours of rewriting again.

After all this, if your story survives without you chucking it into the trash, you can assume you’re definitely a writer. And if you’re very lucky, an agent will accept it, a publisher will contract for it, and one day, you too, will stand in Barnes & Noble proudly holding your book while your family snaps photos to prove your once glib statement of “I should write a book” came true.

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