Monday, October 11, 2010

Word for Words — Literally

Last week my writing workshop examined one paragraph in the manuscript of a novel. After we took the paragraph apart, one person asked, "So that means every word counts?" I considered the question for maybe a second. The answer is, yes, every word counts, or should.

Many factors mitigate against this maxim—the plethora of writing venues, lack of time, lack of scrutiny before content is released for consumption, lack of knowledge of what makes for good writing, to name a few. But that last factor can make the biggest difference, not so much in the sense of good grammar and punctuation, though these are essential. But more in the sense of writing as art.

How can you tell when writing is art, and how can you elevate it to that level? One way is to slow down, take one sectiona paragraph is a good place to startand play with the words.

To literally see what I mean, select a paragraphdescription is a great place to beginand consider it word for word. Consider the answers to these questions:
  • Does each word say what you mean; is it precise?
  • What happens when you replace one word or phrase with another, or when you replace a phrase with one appropriately descriptive word?
  • Is the order of words within sentences, and the order of sentences within a paragraph appropriate? Not just in the sense that a door should open (the paranormal aside) before someone can walk through it, but also in the sense of impact?
  • What happens when you switch the order of the phrases in a sentence, or the order of sentences in a paragraph?
Taking the time to hear and see each word, phrase, sentence and paragraph is a great way to learn to write better, because you've slowed down long enough to listen to the words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, theme, motifs, characters, dialogueand how they work together, or don't. And you're teaching yourself. That's a great way to always be learning (the price is right, too).

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thank you for expanding on these subjects!!!