Thursday, August 20, 2009
Reading Like A Writer
Before I start: Our Realtor called and said he wants to hold an Open House both Saturday and Sunday afternoons. In addition, there's another DUI stop that starts Saturday night and runs through about 4 AM Sunday. Looks like it'll be a busy weekend. And a lot of prep work beforehand.
On Monday, we'll be celebrating our anniversary with "Victoria & Albert" at the Grand Floridian.
Back on topic: Reading like a writer. Once you start learning the craft of writing, the entire reading experience changes. All of a sudden (a phrase one of my editors did NOT like), you start noticing things like speaker tags. Point of view. And word usage. Sometimes they'll clunk; sometimes they'll trigger an, "I've got to borrow that one," moment. Sometimes both.
One author seems to love the phrase "blew out a sigh." Or there's the dialogue tag that says, "Mary said to John," and then "John said to Mary." In a crowded scene, I can see where that comes in handy. I've used it myself. But when there are only two people in the scene, it's obvious who each is talking to. After the second time, it starts leaping from the page. And, strangely enough, it seemed to predominate in only one or two chapters, as if the author meant to change it but forgot. Was there another person in the scene in an earlier draft? Curious writer-readers want to know.
I also noticed the use of someone who 'angled a chair' to face another character. That was one I thought I might borrow. (Hey, it's a word in the dictionary, so it's not stealing). Then I noticed a whole bunch of 'angling', which started to be conspicuous. But I did like the word, and went through my manuscript to see if it would be a better word than 'turned.'
I did a Find on "turned" and found far too many of them. Another word to add to my ever-growing checklist. Checking my Synonym Finder yielded a full page of variations on the word, broken down into 44 sub-categories. You'd think a few of them could replace some of my eighty-something 'turneds'.
I didn't find any "angleds" when I searched, but there are a couple of them now. The caution is that when you replace a word with a better one, you're likely to find that you've used it already within a page. Or a paragraph. I don't know why we tend to keep using the same words over and over.
Sometimes, there just aren't any decent synonyms that make sense. Or that don't sound contrived, or like you just looked them up in a Thesaurus. It's important that the word choices match your writing voice as well as the character's. If you have a teen-aged boy locked in a dark basement, he's not going to be looking for a point of egress. So poor vocabulary choices can also slow a read.
Which segues into today's fun. I haven't shared many of my Dictionary.com words of the day in some time. So here's a list of recent words that probably will never make it into anything I'm writing:
And here's one from Susan Wiggs, which doesn't mean what you probably think it does
I've finished (I hope) finding all the "real life" stuff in my manuscript. As far as I can tell, the only one that might require permission is the name of a restaurant chain where I've set a scene. I called their company, and the girl who took my call thought it was 'really cool' that I wanted to use the name in a book. She directed me to their PR firm, and we'll see if I get a response. The passage, taken out of context, might look like there's a problem with the food, although that's definitely not the case. If they don't like it, it'll be a 'coffee shop.'
Tomorrow, I'm finally back to working on my new manuscript. Not only did I finish the Tip Sheet, but I also managed to get a good draft of my contest entry. The challenge: a 7200 word limit for the beginning of a manuscript PLUS a synopsis. The manuscript pages had a perfect ending point at about 7600 words, so that wasn't going to work. The synopsis I'd been using was almost 2000 words. Balancing what to include in each so that the synopsis covered the major plot points, turning points, and GMC, while still leaving enough room for a good chunk of manuscript was an ordeal. I'll look at it again in a day or two, but now, I'm eager to get back to dealing with my newly discovered villain. Once I've got his back story figured out in more detail, and filtered in a few more clues, I can start moving forward.
And don't forget – Homicide – Hussey is back tomorrow. This week: "The Littlest Cop."