Shannon Stacey

LB&LI Workshop: When Only the Right Word Will Do—Part 4

Click to read Introduction
Click to read Part 1
Click to read Part 2
Click to read Part 3

So why is this important? Do you really have the time and energy to analyze words when you’ve got plot points to map and character arcs to arc? You’ve got those pesky pronoun errors changing your hero into a heroine in the middle of a love scene and you dropped a subplot halfway through the second act. So what if your chef says pasta instead of rigatoni? Is nitpicking words really necessary?

Here’s the thing—when you boil the entire process down to bare bones, words are all we have. The words you use and the way in which you use them define you. The words you choose in the crafting of your story define your characters, the tone of the book and, most importantly, your voice.

If you settle for the words that flow during the first draft—the easy, common, average words—your book will be average. You might get contracts and that book might hit the shelves, but it’ll be missing that defining oomph that resonates with the reader and has her searching online for the details of your next release.

It doesn’t matter if you have an exquisitely plotted book, with masterfully arcing arcs, subtly woven subplots and a surprising twist on a classic tale. It’s your word choices—the way you turn a phrase—that will resonate with readers and make them remember you. Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Jennifer Crusie and J.R. Ward come to mind. Their readers could identify passages of their books from others in a blind taste test, so to speak, and that’s what you’re after. BAM! It’s a [insert your name here] book.

It’s the unique way those authors use words to craft their stories that have built them a massive and loyal readership. No, they might not resonate with every reader, but no author’s going to. And if your book is generic, it’s not going to resonate with enough to build your career.

And here’s four parts worth of advice condensed into one of the most important tools a writer can possess:

Get that book. Use it. Use it so much the pages dog-ear, the cover bends and the spine cracks.

If you allow yourself to settle for a word that’ll do instead of the right word, you’re asking an editor to settle and—if it even gets past her—your readers to settle.

Okay, that’s about it. If you have any questions or comments, don’t be shy.

3 comments to “LB&LI Workshop: When Only the Right Word Will Do—Part 4”

  1. Alison Kent
      · August 6th, 2008 at 12:44 pm · Link

    A Rodale’s loving wordsmith after my own heart!! :nookie:

  2. Karen Templeton
      · August 6th, 2008 at 6:44 pm · Link

    Honey, my Rodale’s waaaaay past dog-eared. Huge chunks declared independence from the binding years ago, and woe betide the person who picks it up (which would be me) without getting a good grasp on the sucker.

    I keeping telling the husband I want a new one for Christmas/my birthday/our anniversary. But no, stinker has to get me jewelry instead. :(

  3. Karen Templeton
      · August 6th, 2008 at 6:44 pm · Link

    Oh, and great workshop, BTW. :thumb:


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