Playing With My Words

Playing With My Words

A couple weeks back, Lorinda mentioned that our group had a halfway-there reassessment meeting, and several of us tweaked our November 1st goal. Thanks to the no-holds-barred, honest, and dead-on critiques of my fellow WoC ladies, I realized my Book One wasn’t as close to publish-ready as I’d thought. There’s some major rewriting and revising in this story’s future, so my revamped goal is a clean, quality second draft on PEACE OF HEART.

I’ll admit that when those first eye-opening critiques came in, I was bummed, but truth is, there’s a certain freedom that comes with slowing your pace. It’s not as if this new goal doesn’t push me; it just emphasizes quality rather than quantity. I’ve already got the word count. The turning points, conflicts and black moment are already fleshed out. The problem with my story isn’t my story; it’s the fact that my character’s aren’t exposed slowly enough. In fact, you could say their emotional attachment is too fast paced.

Sounds like an oxymoron, right? Popular fiction is supposed to be fast paced. Grab the reader’s attention early and keep them on the edge; keep those pages turning. With the overwhelming popularity of erotica, and the uptick in steaminess across the board in romance, you’d think the faster they get hot for each other, the better. Not so the case with my Becca and Jeff.

So I’ve trudged back into my story, focused on slowing down the physical attachment and upping the romantic tension. Since my hero’s the one moving too quickly, it’s going to be his responsibility to correct these issues. Therefore, I’m spending a lot of time in his head, beating out old ideas and wedging in new ones. While I’m there, I’ve decided to tackle another of my weaknesses: wordiness, particularly in my guys.

Jeff and I are working diligently on his tendency to string together too many words per sentence. (Although, in his defense, he is an attorney!) This exercise in examining every sentence and cutting down verbose dialogue has led me to pay closer attention to my overall word choices, and I’ve discovered an annoying redundancy in my writing.

As writers, words are our raw materials. We use them to craft phrases and sentences, then we take those sentences and build paragraphs, scenes, chapters and, ultimately, finished novels. Lucky for us, there’s like a gazillion words at our disposal. Why then, do I find myself using the same thousand or so over and over again?

I guess this deficiency has been somewhat covered up by the fact that my go-to vocab is quirky and chock-full of Southernisms like hunker, umpteenth, and skedaddle. Unique, interesting word choices, unless they pop up in nearly every chapter. Then they become as mundane as sit, numerous and rush.

So in addition to cooling my hero’s jets, accelerating my heroine’s recovery (she’s just gotten out of an abusive relationship) and culling my dialogue, I’m now also concentrating on digging a little deeper in my vocabulary. This means more than just dragging out the thesaurus. It means thinking about a word’s connotation as well as its definition.

Stomped off, stormed off and stalked off are all three the same actions, yet they all paint a different picture. Stomping implies heavy-footed leaving, but probably not much yammering on the way out. Stormed? I see huffing and sputtering, arms flailing; basically, a walking temper-tantrum. Stalked brings to mind a rigid spine and lips sealed, probably biting your tongue because you know you’ve been shown up.

Word choice and semantics are the things writers geek out over in other people’s work. At least, I do. However, this closer look has shown me I don’t honor my words the way I should, but thanks to our reassessment, thanks to three other wonderful women (and writers), thanks to giving myself permission to erase my line in the sand and move it closer, I’ve been granted the opportunity to slow down and play with my words, to let them say what I really want to say, to show what I really want shown and, hopefully, to convey the emotions I want my characters – and my readers – to experience.


Dawn Temple

Back when her twin sons were young enough for daily naps, Dawn Temple took advantage of those quiet moments to pursue her dream of becoming a published romance writer. Sneaking in an hour here and there paid off in 2005 when she sold her first book, To Have And To Hold, to Silhouette Special Edition. She managed to secret away enough time to write and sell the second book in her Land’s Cross series, Moonlight And Mistletoe, but alas, her boys outgrew naps and Dawn let go of those stolen moments with her laptop to enjoy life with her two little guys and her big guy, hubby of 21 years.
But now, as an officially retired stay-at-home mom, Dawn has once again found the time and the creative drive to return to writing, and this time around, she’s set her sights on independent publishing. Her first self-published book, Peace of Heart, is scheduled for release in 2017.

4 thoughts on “Playing With My Words

  1. Word-smithing is one of my favorite parts about writing. BK Reeves ( used to say in her classes, you need to make every word count. I remember thinking at the time, what kind of sense does that make? The, And, But – what difference do those words make? But, by golly, I sure as hell get it now.

    It goes part and parcel with why women will say, aquamarine, azure, baby blue, cobalt, cornflower blue, cyan, indigo, lavender, marine blue, midnight blue, navy, peacock, powder blue, robin’s egg blue, sapphire, or turquoise. A man will simply say blue. Generally speaking, of course.

    Overall though, it seems to me that we have both benefitted with new lifeblood as a result of reevaluating (and altering accordingly) our goals.

    Here’s to staying on the Dry Team!

  2. Wow, this post covers a lot of ground! From revising goals to revisiting pacing to guy dialogue to evaluating word choice — a lot of great stuff to consider!

    And I think it really shows the amazingly diverse things a writer can choose to tackle in a draft. If it’s too imposing to change the character growth pacing and deal with dialogue in the same draft, it’s worth considering layering drafts so that we tackle only one thing at a time. (This is how I handle it, because I do better when focusing on one area at a time.)

    1. Cheryl B. used to say that she did one whole draft, concentrating solely on the tactile or the five senses. Not sure if she still does that, but it was the first time I had ever heard of anybody doing that. It stayed with me, and while I don’t do that, maybe I should one of these days. :o)

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