Thursday, March 14, 2013

Using Powerful Words! by DL Larson

Last weekend I attended a writers retreat on deep editing.  I was in great company with many of Windy City RWA members.  The presenter was Margie Lawson, psychotherapist, editor, and international presenter, who whipped us through a grueling and head-exploding work session.  Toward the end of the day, the song "Amazing Grace" pounded through my brain ... 'I was blind, but now I see!' 

Words have power, we writers know that. Yet many times we become satisfied with mediocrity.  Then we wonder why our work doesn't have that spark we want.  The answers are varied, but I can give you a simple reason why we don't see our own less than stellar writing. 

Let's say I wrote:  "Bigger than a mountain." 

There is nothing wrong with this description.  It conveys something pretty darn huge.  That's what I want my readers to understand.  So I move on to the next sentence and the next.  Then my work for the day is done and the next day I re-read what I wrote.  Yes, this something is definitly bigger than a mountain and I pick up my writing where I left off.  By the third day, I skim over 'bigger than a mountain,' because now I'm focused on something else.  By the fourth day, 'bigger than a mountain,' is set in and part of the story.  By the fifth day I'm married to this phrase.  It's not going anywhere, it says what I want it to say.  I don't give it the time it needs to be a stronger part of the story.  I'm content with it because I've read it so many times it sounds perfect in my mind. 

Now the truth is 'bigger than a mountain,' is lazy writing; not intentional or careless.  It is the phrase that filled the void I needed and I moved on, not bothering to think if I could find better words.  Of course I could find stronger, more powerful words rather than 'bigger than a mountain.'  But it has become part of the story and I don't recognize it for the lack-luster phrase that it is.

This is where deep editing takes affect.  Again this is just one simple element of deep editing, but perhaps it will open your eyes to recognize these chunks of poor writing.  A simple test to find these unsightly phrases is to skim over your paper, highlighting words that could easily be replaced with stronger images.  Don't read, let your eyes search out weak wording, hightlight it, and then move on.  Once these phrases and words are spotted, take the time to restructure with power words that will thrill your reader to read them.

'Bigger than a mountain.'  What would you replace this phrase with?  I would probably replace the whole phrase and not refer to a mountain. 

"Astroid-sized bubble."  "The Grand Canyon hovering above me."  Get the idea?

Now the image has impact.  Your reader wants more.  And so you deliver!

Til next time ~

DL Larson


Morgan Mandel said...

That's right. We need to take one or two steps further, and discard the original description to make our novel unique.

Morgan Mandel

Margot Justes said...

Informative post.