Wednesday, May 6, 2009

You Might Be a Writer If...

What's your verb?

I love that Nike commercial. Verbs are the cornerstone of good writing. I'm always searching for a better one. Why use walk quickly, when you can say sprint. Or swagger. Or, a personal favorite, sache.

But what about the verbs we writers us to describe our profession?

You might be a writer if...the verbology you use to describe writing makes you at least sometimes sound like a cross between a butcher and, well, an axe murderer.

Too extreme, you say? Let me give a few examples.

When I first started writing stories for children, I had to carve out time from my regular job to write. Steal a few moments here and there. Then hours. Eventually hammering my day into a whole new schedule in which writing took up its own little niche.

Verbology still too kind?

What about revisions? Some authors love them. Some authors, not so much. I waiver between hating and loving them. It's where the real work begins. Where the diamond in the rough story becomes a glittering work of art. So much labor is involved - cutting, slicing, chopping, tearing out in whole, sculpting, and reshaping.

Still not convinced?

An author friend of mine and I were talking on the phone the other day. Yes, real live, person to person talking. I was giddy with the excitement of spontaneous conversation (I was also avoiding revisions). So was she. And we were tired of regrouting the kitchen floor. She was asking me about the first line of her book. She said she loved it. The whole book came out of it. But it was all wrong. It needed to be changed, better, ripped out and replaced entirely, but she couldn't bring herself to do it. I tried my best to help her to step over the edge and cut it out.

Her response: "I know I need to, but I just can't kill my darling."

What comes around goes around. We're all faced with making the ultimate "sacrifice" now and again:

For example, my critique group read my present WIP. One of them was not happy with one of a the male characters. Her suggestion? "Kill him off. It will make the story better."

Now I know what my friend feels like about chopping out that first line of hers. I don't quite have the taste for blood just yet. I want the character to redeem himself. But if I'm unsuccessful, well, I may just have to get out my scalpel.

Now this butcher-esque verbology amongst writers may just be a trend out here in the wild wild west, but I've got a sinking suspicion it transcends state lines, national lines even. I'd love to talk to a non-American writer, like a German one - since I speak German - and find out if they hammer, chisel, cut out, chop off, hack, and sometimes snuff out their favorite characters or lines with such abandon when they're writing.

Do you?


beth said...

I LOVE hacking. Sometimes I need direction in it--I don't always see what needs to go--but when I do, I'm all for killing off characters!

PJ Hoover said...

Curious who she wanted you to kill off :)

I Google and Blog all the time :)

ElanaJ said...

I am not afraid of the delete key. Like at all. I recently cut 95 pages (25K words) from a novel because they just weren't working. I call this "deletage" and it works for me. Great post!

Rena said...

Great post. Interesting about killing off one of your characters. I write PBs, so I haven't done a whole lot of killing just yet. ;)

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

I delete all the time--scenes, characters, entire plotlines. I sometimes cringe, but usually feel so relieved.

Lilly said...

Great post Stacy.I guess its hard when you become attached to your work and it has taken you many hours to develop. Thats why you need trustworthy people around you to tell you the truth I guess. I cannot imagine deleting 95 pages, ohhhh.

Have a great Mothers Day!

Stacy Nyikos said...


Man, you win the award for daring, cut-throatedness! 95 pages. You go girl!