Tag Archives: word choice

Says the Editor: Verb? Adjective?

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Is it a verb? Is it an adjective? No! This is a picture!

Seriously, though…

I had an interesting experience I wanted to pass along, because it’s about worldview, and it’s about word choice, and it’s about how every person brings something different to a piece and to the use of language, itself.

You see, I have a short story. I’ll be telling you more about this short story in the near future, but for now, let me say that I wrote a short story and I’m working with an editor on it. Yes, even editors use editors! (That’s because we understand the value of a second set of eyes, and we understand that it’s money well spent, and we understand how a fresh perspective (dare I say worldview can help us produce the best book — or in this case, short story — possible.)

And I used this phrase: At last, we quiet.

Or something like that. 😉

And my editor wanted me to change it to At last, we quieted.

So I took a look. Because I brought her on board to help me, right? And… I realized that the piece is in present tense, which is kind of rare for me but there it is, and approving her change means… a tense change right in the middle of the piece.

I pointed that out to her. She looked it over, thought about it, agreed, but said something about the phrase still bothered her.

I took another look, both at her request and because, frankly, I was intrigued.

And it hit me. She didn’t like that I was using quiet as a verb. So I changed it to an adjective by adding a verb in there and we were both happy.

It was a few hours later that it hit me what a brilliant change that wound up being. It’s one of those small, subtle changes that no one will ever be aware of (although now that I’m pointing it out to you, you might), but it’s a verb that echoes back to the genesis of the story, the action that sets the character on the path that leads us to the point where she finally quiets.

But hopefully — and this is what really good writing does — that one small word change, that one insertion, will give the reader a more complete reading experience, will heighten the emotion even if they don’t know the hows or whys they got there. That the reader will come away with a bit of extra satisfaction that they wouldn’t have had otherwise.

This is why we use editors, friends. I sent her the best story possible. She helped me make it better.

More to come about it, so stay tuned.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Lazy Dazy: All About Language #atozchallenge

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Well, not ALL about language, or we’d be here through the next couple of A to Z Challenges, and this puppy only happens once a year.

Today, we’re going to focus on lazy language. On what happens when you slap words on a page and don’t think much of it.

Honestly? Not much. I’m one of the few who will call a person out for using lazy language, and certainly, my clients come to me for a line or content edit hoping I’ll do exactly that. So, you know, since you’re paying me, I’m more than glad to…

Seriously. This is actually one of my newest and biggest pet peeves. It’s a certain construction: to where, from where — it makes me scream.

It’s lazy.

Pure and simple. It’s lazy.

And you, as an author, can do so much better.

Like this: She walked to where he waited near the water fountain.

Seriously. I see this stuff all the time, not only from my clients (who often wind up having it challenged out of them) but from books I read for pleasure. Not a lot of pleasure when it’s the same as dragging fingernails down a chalkboard.

Try this instead: He was waiting near the water fountain. She joined him.
Or even: She joined him at the water fountain.

(Whoa! I got rid of another poor language choice: she walked— that’s one that you can usually let your reader infer for themselves. Believe it or not, they will.)

He looked near where the sailboats sat. Beside them was where the mugging had taken place.

How about: He gazed across the marina. Right there. Beside the sailboats. The mugging had taken place right there.

And look at that: snappier language. Better cadence. You know that spot’s important, and that those pesky sailboats were somehow important and we’ll be hearing from them again. Do you get all that from the first example?

That’s why I call this lazy. Sure, we talk that way. Even I do, and I have no issues admitting it.

But speech and writing are different creatures, and it’s worth going that extra mile to get rid of the lazy stuff and replace it with something smarter, more precise, snappier. Not to say that it always has to be snappier, but it should always be more precise. After all, you only have so many words to work with, even when you’re going to self-publish and that means the word count is 100% up to you.

It’s a question of bloat. Of making your language work for you, not against you (which bloated language does).

So before you send me your manuscript, take a few minutes. Do a search for to where, near where, from where. See if you can change them.*

If not, be prepared for an awful lot of comments.

.
.
.
*Sometimes, you need the to where, near where, from where construction. SOMEtimes. Not all the time. Not on every page (Best-selling romance author, I’m looking at you). SOME is fine. Usually.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail