Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Perfect Word

I started the read aloud of my WIP the other day and already I can see how important word usage is. I found myself frowning over some choices, displeased they didn’t evoke the feeling I desired.There were other places where as much as a paragraph felt clunky and in the way, maybe not badly written but interrupting the flow of the story (I take those out and try to figure out a new place further down where they can slide in). 

That’s the thing about writing a novel, perhaps especially so for the unpublished and unagented: words can’t be wrong, can’t be close, can’t be almost-but-not-quite-what-you-had-in-mind. It has to be the word, the feeling, the beautiful, seamless sentence. It has to fit with the story and the style and the character. 

It has to be perfect.

What percentage of books written actually get published? I think it’s low, something like one percent. So if you have all those books to compete with, how do you expect to stand out?

Answer: by each and every single word being the word. All those perfect words…well, to be honest, even all together they might not get you published. But I can’t imagine you succeeding without them.

So that’s…what? Seventy to ninety thousand words that need to be not third, not second, but first place perfect for your book?

No, no trouble at all.

I’m starting to see why all those books don’t get published. Not everyone is willing to put in all that effort for something that only might be. Maybe they give up on writing, or maybe they give up on the book. Either way, that particular project won’t bear fruit. 

Writing is not simply typing words on a screen. And if anyone tries to tell you otherwise, deck them in the face. 

Back to writing...


  1. I shall keep my decking options open.

  2. The want to hit many people ion the face for not understanding the sheer effort and courage writing takes... oooh, I so want to punch so many people, perhaps I have - I am not the delicate poet type after all...

  3. After I got a couple of partial requests, I knew I had a good idea. After I got a couple of partial rejections, I knew I had to do better! Yes, anything to get (good) attention is worth taking the time to do!!

  4. This is so true! We rewrite and revise but often don't really work hard over every word or paragraph. And sometimes that's the effort it takes to get there!

  5. It does require a lot to write. But those who truly put forth all their effort shine while those that haven't get blasted deservingly. Great and deep thoughts for a Friday. :)

    I don't support violence, I'm all for breaking spirits and crushing dreams though. :)

  6. Su: : )

    Jhon: People who say "I can do that" to writers deserve it. No jury would convict you.

    Erica: Revise, revise, revise. Those who think it's easy haven't tried it.

    Laura: That's my theory. I'm hoping this MS will prove it! Every single word will shine!

    Kindros: I well placed word can do far more damage than a punch ;).

  7. I've always liked Twain's remark about the difference between the right word and the almost right word being like the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.


Please validate me.