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When I first started, I thought all you had to do is write a book. Can you say *naive*, boys and girls? Join me on my journey as a pre- published writer looking to see my name on the cover of a book. I'll talk about all the bumps, bruises, joys and frustrations I encounter along the way.

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Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Words Words Words

I'm in the midst of two workshops: Dialogue The Works: Less is More with Elizabeth Lowell through RWAOL, and Supercharging Your Scenes With the Five Senses with L.A. Banks through Romance Divas. Both have been excellent, and I'm learning quite a bit about my own writing.

But here's the problem. They almost seem to contradict each other.

In the dialogue workshop, we posted excerpts of our work for Ms. Lowell, and she cut and slashed them, showing how we can have the same impact, or even more impact, with fewer words.

In the five senses workshop, we're posting excerpts and Ms. Banks is layering in additional words, bringing out more emotion, more sensuality, more everything.

One seems to say use fewer words to pick up the pace with more impact, the other seems to say use more words to draw the reader in, to hook her.

Which one is right?

Now we all know that as a rule, I'm a wordy person. That's no secret. I love words. Love to play with them, twist them, turn them, bend them to my will. So which of these two authors should I listen to? Which one is teaching me the right way to write?

That was the question I asked myself this morning while going through the authors' suggestions from both workshops, and I've finally reached a conclusion.

They're both right.

The secret, however, is to find that delicate balance between slashing/burning and layering in. To find the right amount of words needed to express the actions, thoughts and feelings of my characters. And to do it in my own voice.

Once upon a time, romance novels were packed with beautiful prose, flowery words that drew the reader into the fantasy world inhabited by characters, carefully and painstakingly built by the author. Unfortunately, once upon a time has passed.

The 21st century is a fast-paced world, filled with the need for instant gratification and drive-by reading. A reader in today's world is more likely to skim past the flowery prose in order to get to the meat of the story. Doesn't necessarily care about the beauty of the sunset.

Hence the need to slash and burn.

Yet, at the same time, bare bones descriptions and narration won't pull your reader in. Won't immerse her in the world you've built. Won't help her, for that brief time she's devouring the pages of your story, forget her real world problems and responsibilities to share in the fantasy.

Hence the need for layering in sensory details and emotions.

Writing a book is work. Hard work. There's no doubt about it. And as a writer, I learn every day. Learn things I'm researching for my stories. Learn techniques of the craft. And now, I'm learning to bend words to my will, layer in sensory details, harness the word monster, and do it all in my unique writing voice.

4 Comments:

  • Lynn, it all comes down to your "voice." Some people, like you, are wordy. Your writing is filled with internalization, lots of description, etc. Then there are those like me, who basically can write a whole novel based on dialogues only (*lol*), with almost no internalization and very little description (just the necessary).

    By Blogger Silma, at 3:15 PM  

  • What's really funny, Silma, is sometimes I can be really wordy (as you know), and other times my dialogue is just a barebones, rapid-fire back-and-forth between my characters. That's the kind of scene I posted today, so we'll see what Leslie has to say about it.

    By Blogger Lynn, at 4:29 PM  

  • I think it's finding the happy balance. And what's going to work best for the scene an convey what you mean to the reader. Of course I don't know what works best for me yet so don't pay me any attention.

    By Blogger Teresa, at 8:21 PM  

  • LOL I'm with Silma and I think you summed it up great. I'm a dialogue and internalization person--I could give a crap less about scene setting, so I struggle with it. At the same time, your voice and your character's voice can also impact your 'wordiness' LOL

    By Blogger Amie Stuart, at 9:29 PM  

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I'm a wife, a mom, an operating room nurse, a writer, a hobby photographer, and a music lover who knits and crochets. And I'm fairly certain I've lost my mind.

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