Thursday, September 8, 2011

Finding the Best Words to Tell the Story

" And that is all there is to good writing, putting down on the paper words which dance and weep and make love and fight and kiss and perform miracles."   (Gertrude Stein)

Words - the tools of a writer's trade. Words tell your story. Words make your characters leap off the page and come to life. Words plunge those characters into disasters or lift them up into joy. George Bernard Shaw has a true view of words in a story. " Words are only the postage stamps delivering the object for you to unwrap."  The object I'm trying to deliver for readers to unwrap is a story. 

I've been editing the galleys of my book, Words Spoken True, that is scheduled for release in February 2012. So tonight, since I have been engulfed in words for several days now, I'm very conscious of how much difference a right word can make or the trouble a wrong word can cause in a story. Words Spoken True deals with words in another sense too since the characters in it are newspaper people whose lives revolve around the words they put out on the street for the people to read. The power of the printed word. 

I never wanted to be a journalist. I always wanted to make up my stories, not report true stories. But I seem to enjoy making up stories that have newspaper editors as characters. David in my Hollyhill books is not only a preacher, but the editor of the small town's newspaper. I wrote a couple of mysteries that have yet to be published where one of the main secondary characters is the editor of the town's paper. Newspapers have played a big roll in the history of our nation and they certainly play a major role in the history of this new book of mine. 

So words have been my focus this week. I've read through this story at least a dozen times, probably more, and each time I find things to rewrite. I find words that clutter and must be removed. I find words that might be okay, but aren't the best to tell my story. The first words are not always the right words. 

Plain or fancy, the words need to fit the story. The words inside the quotation marks need to be words that would come from the mouths of my characters. And so I examine every scene, every conversation to make it the best I can. I edit by ear. The words sound out in my head as I read and sometimes while I'm reading along, suddenly I bounce into a chug hole of awkward writing. That's what I'm trying to take out. I'm trying to make the reading road as smooth as possible for my readers so that those readers will not get bounced out of the story. That means paying attention to details. Things like not using the same word over and over. My pet words in this one were "a bit." Everything was a bit this or that. Of course I was also too fond of "still" and "just." Still, it's just so easy to use them a bit too often. :o)  

There are plenty of details to watch. Details like being sure the POV is clear in each scene. Details like paying attention to the time line and the names of minor characters. Details like not having your characters need to be contortionists to make the movements you have them making. Details like chopping out those adverbs and letting your dialogue do the work instead. 

So I've been smoothing out the road my words have made in hopes that the reader will pick up my book and not be jerked out of the story by sloppy writing. Details. That's what editing is about. Making the story right. Making the story sing. I'm hoping I got the details right, but I'll have one more go at it to correct minor problems when I get to review the pages before the book goes to print. And again I'll be reading and editing by ear. 

How do you like the cover? I like how the town of Louisville is behind my beautiful heroine. Adriane is beautiful in the book, but of course she cares more about writing stories for the newspaper than she does about being beautiful.  

What do you think about books you've read? Can you tell when the authors are careful with details? Or do you even care as long as the story pulls you in? 

Thanks for reading. And don't forget about my birthday giveaway. You can check it out on my website and send me an e-mail to enter or leave a comment here. I'll be doing the drawing for four winners the end of September. Remember if you've never won anything from my website to tell me that to get your name in the bonus drawing.


  1. Where would we be without words? Enjoyed your thoughts on the topic.

    I love the cover of this book! Can't wait to read it. We'll have to do a post on my blog about it. I know my followers would enjoy it. :)

    Have a wonderful weekend!

  2. Oh, and I would love to enter the giveaway! I haven't won a giveaway on your blog before.

    Happy Birthday!

    Thanks and Blessings,

  3. Hi, Karen. Thanks for your comment. It is an attractive cover - a nice change from my Shaker books but with the historical feel obvious. I'd love to do another post on your blog. Just let me know when. It releases in Feb. so around then would be great. I had fun on my last visit over at "your place."

    I'll enter you in the giveaway. Thanks for entering.

  4. Hi Ann, I think the cover is beautiful and I am anxious to read the book because it sounds like a very exciting novel. You mentioned the many edits you were making because you thought that you were repeating some words over and over. At least you are not repeating off-color or suggestive words that many authors today are constantly using!

    I have always admired (and marveled at) the power of the written word. These words can describe places that I will never get to visit and remind me of emotions and feelings that I thought were long gone! They can also teach me what I didn’t get the first time around :-)

    I also know that both written and spoken words can help or hinder; they can build up or quickly destroy and I pray that I will be able to speak and write only words that are kind and encouraging.

    I would love to be entered into your birthday drawing. Hope you have a wonderful birthday MONTH and I send you my blessings.


  5. Thanks, Connie, for your comment. Words do have tremendous power to transport us into different words. And I can certainly agree that I want my words to be encouraging and not harmful.

    I'm glad you like my new cover. I'm hoping you and other readers will enjoy the story when it comes out in February. And thanks so much for the birthday wishes. I've got you entered in my birthday giveaway.

  6. Hi Ann,
    I have left a comment in a while, but have been reading your blog.

    I have just started "The Blessed"...I mean just started, on page 23. I already LOVE it!!
    Since I have read all your books, I am glad to be reading this also.

    I would love to enter your giveaway and I have not won before.
    Thanks for sharing your heart with us.

    Blessings to you,

  7. Cathy, I do so appreciate you reading my blog and every comment you do make. And even more I'm glad you read my books - although I've written enough on these blogs to make a book. It would be an odd one with the way I grab whatever topic pops up on Sundays and Wednesdays.

    I hope you continue to like Lacey's story. She was a great character for me to write about. I'll enter you in my birthday giveaway and the never won one too. Thanks again for reading.

  8. I guess writing a book sounds easy until you sit down to do it.

    I'd like to enter for your giveaway, and also to say that I've never won before.

  9. Nancy, that's even true for writers like me who have written dozens of books. You always think the story will come easier and you (or at least I do) always despair at some point in telling the story and think it will never be a good story. But I plug along to the end and somehow the story come together.

    Thanks so much for your comment. I have you entered in the giveaway.


Thanks for joining the conversation. I like hearing what you have to say. Thanks for dropping by.