Since I’ve been immersed in editing instead of the free-flow of creativity, much has come to my attention. I’ve written before regarding my relationship with my thesaurus and dictionary. At this juncture in the game (I’m on p. 358 out of 516, so far) I’m almost loathe to thumb through one of these tomes and alter what I’ve already deemed was appropriate. First, when the words came to me as I sat, somewhere perhaps more exciting than my kitchen table, and allowed (or felt coerced on some days) for the images from my mind to transform themselves into Arabic letters to, in some instances, poorly represent my movie screen on a blank sheet of paper. Next, my typist does a bit of editing as she reads my scribbles and discerns that “he” should really be “his” or “by” was written as “but”. There are times I wish she would change more than she does! Then, I perform a quick read, attempting to correct typos or awkward sentences. The manuscript is given to two readers for their suggestions. I then sit at my computer (for hours and days!!) with both a hardcopy of the manuscript and an electronic version, both with corrections, and attempt to apply them to my original. After that, I read the manuscript aloud, and find myself constantly amazed that I didn’t catch the errors the first two times through! Completing all those steps, I’m still not finished. Wanting to present the best product I’m capable of placing into the hands of my readers, the manuscript is read another two or three times before it is sent to be formatted. In all of these revisions, the bulk of the plot remains the same. There are details added, or deleted, and words are considered.
And here I come to the explanation for the title of this installment of my blog. Words. At one time I enjoyed learning the etymology and derivatives of our ever-changing English language. Then I was offered the chance to teach math, and words were temporarily placed on a shelf. However, in my quest to not only present an entertaining story, and one that challenges a reader’s thoughts and beliefs (hence my reasoning for including “Questions to Ponder” at the end of each novel), but also to assist them in creating in their minds a picture as close to the one I had in mine when the words first spilled onto the page. And the way I’ve found that supports that ideal is word choice. I find my eyes sticking on every verb as I ask myself, “Is there a better word that really depicts what is going on in the story?” For example, instead of run, what about scurry, scramble, dash, dart, sprint, hustle? Which word have I already used in the sentence or paragraph? Redundancy in writing is, in my opinion, deplorable, and just downright boring. Bordering on changing “run” for something more dramatic, I walk the line (very thin or invisible at times) of enhancing the passage and really carrying the reader along, or being contrived, and coming across as being fake. Will the reader even notice (or care) that I deliberate over a word for sometimes 3 or 4 minutes before making a decision, weighing one word over another, which oftentimes changes another word or two in the sentence, and therefore lead to an entire rewrite of the whole sentence? Of course not. But it matters to me, so I spend the hours and the days to present a piece that not only allows the reader a bit of a chance to escape and question, but to submerge, marinate, immerse themselves in the story which is composed of carefully constructed words.
There are several really cool words that I used with my Freshmen a few days ago. They were flabbergasted, but at least inquired as to their meanings. Coagulate. Eviscerate. Congeal. Robust. I find that using, and reading, these “really big words”, as my students referred to them as, I stretch my own comfort level (and in some instances, my brain!), but the payoff is worth it. Ideas become clearer, more exact. Images are sharpened, nuances are revealed. One of the best places I’ve found to play around with words and how they fit together to compile a whole, is music.
In writing words to express the image of the homeless woman (the poem is written, but needs editing) I find myself wondering which words to choose. Musicians and poets by trade have a grasp on the images and the words to fit them. I find there are several that have wedged themselves into my memory. See what you think of these:
“Times before I walk the valley below the sun”, by Saving Abel
“In a tree by the brook, there’s a songbird who sings, sometimes all of our words are misleading”, by Led Zeppelin
“I don’t want to have to change if I don’t know what will”, by Saving Abel
“What a shame to judge a life you can’t change”, by Shinedown
“Your possessions, they own you”, by Papa Roach
“Every silver lining has a touch of gray,” by The Grateful Dead
“Life ain’t always beautiful, but it’s a beautiful ride”, by Gary Alan
“All that you want is to criticize, all that I want is forgiveness one more time, all that we want is to feel inside”, by Disturbed
And so many more. Is there a poem or a passage from a novel or lyrics of a song that stick with you, reach out to you, urge you to understand on some level what the artist feels, thinks, believes? If you’d like to check out what this writer believes, visit my web site for poems and short stories, and should you have an inclination, my two published novels. www.myjoyenterprises.com