Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Wrestling with Words

In writing, words matter. Finding the perfect words matters. Finding the exact words matter.

Right now, I'm wrestling with finding those perfect words.

My manuscript is near completion. (Hurray!)

But I am down to considering two phrases and I can't make up my mind which option makes me happier.

The second option is more clever. And it's definitely more fun and visual. Fantastic, right?

But I worry that using the second option could lead the reader astray. It could lead the reader to think that my character is angrier than he really is. (He is actually quite sweet and innocent.)

This is a picture book, I'm talking about, so I get very few words to make my point.

Yes, words matter. When I first set out to write for children, I just never realized how much they matter.

Back to wrestling I go.

So I'm curious, what writing quandaries make you wrestle?


  1. Since I write novels, what usually causes me problems is the plot and story. But there are times when words challenge me, especially at the beginning, when I'm trying to get readers interested, convey some of the character, set a mood...etc. It seems like sometimes a few words have to accomplish so much!

  2. Perhaps you can make the option that is clearer a little more clever. Brainstorm ways to improve it. It sounds like it is true to the story. Good luck!

    As for me...I decided I needed more structure to get my MG written. So, I bought a book that guides me through the process. I've read the introduction. Now to get going.

  3. Brianna - suggestion: go for the more clever comment but give an illustrator note so that the illustration can make it clear that the character is not angry.

    Even in novels, finding the right word is important. Even though it's a longer work, less is more. You don't want your readers slogging through more than they have to. My constant struggle, as my fellow Paper Waiters know, is to only say it once, so I end up cutting my repetitions, some of which are more clever but less precise.

  4. Oh, the nights I've spent lying awake considering one word or phrase as opposed to another. What makes it even harder in a pb, is that you don't know how your words will be read aloud - change the inflection in how a phrase is read and it can have a different meaning!

    Idle thought - could you get the meaning you want if a word (or words) were in bold (or caps), somehow setting them off and giving the reader guidance in how to read them?

  5. I wrestle with plot. Weaving the threads together. And letting my characters hurt. Letting them make bad choices.

  6. Wow! You guys are so helpful!

    Somehow the process of writing about my problem and then reading your possible solutions helped to unstick my mind. I came up with two new ways to say what I wanted to say. (Each one says what I want it to, and they have some fun imagery too. Yay!)

    I am so impressed. You guys didn't even now the exact words I wanted to change and you still managed to help me make them better.

    Thank you!!!!

    Andrea-- I totally agree with you. It is incredible how much a few words have to accomplish.

    Linda-- Good luck with your goal of adding structure! It sounds like you're really ready to move!

    Meg-- I totally agree. The perfect word in a novel is equally important. When the word choice is just right, it is such a pleasure to read!

    Gale-- That was exactly how I spent last night after writing this blog post. My mind could not stop thinking about possible options for the two sentences I wanted to replace!

    J.A.-- Wow! Letting characters hurt is such a good challenge. And such an important one!

  7. My wrestling usually comes when I see a scene so perfectly in my head - poignant, funny, emotional -and translating that into the perfect words - most of the time, especially on first draft this feels so darn s-l-o-w and awkward and miles away from how I envision it in my head. I hate when that happens! But getting them down means I get to wrestle with them more.

    And also kissing scenes. I know a kiss is just a kiss but well, it can't just be that way - it's a fine line, not too clinical, not too mushy and yet there's only so many ways you can describe two people putting their mouths together in mutual affection...lol.

    Great post, Brianna!

  8. Robin-- Wow! Kissing scenes! Now that's a challenge I've not yet been brave enough to wrestle with!