Archive for ‘The Writer’

July 14, 2013

And how does that make you feel?

by Lorna's Voice
Pish, posh! I can escape from this get up quicker than you can forget that word you were just going to type.

Pish, posh! I can escape from this get up quicker than you can forget that word you were just going to type.

Do words ever escape you? Sometimes I feel as if the perfect word I need pulled a Harry Houdini on me. I had  it; then it vamoosed.

Maybe it’s just me. After all, I do have a few challenges in the neuron-firing department.

1. I’m dizzy all this time, which is to say, I feel as if I had one too many Margaritas during Happy Hour. It’s hard to say words sometimes, assuming I can conjure some up. But this is all because of some nebulous neurological hanky-panky the docs blame on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

I only had one drink. Why do I feel so woozy?

I only had one drink. Why do I feel so woozy?

2. I’m old. Well, I’m older than I was, say, yesterday or the day before. Heck. I’m 55 and my brain, like my metabolism, is slowing down a bit.

3. I’m a natural blonde. We can be very articulate and smart, but we often don’t get to practice those skills much. And as we all know, if we don’t use it, we lose it. At least we forget how to use it.

I'm actually working my way through law school. What? You don't care about justice, only my bust-ist? Aren't you the clever one!

I’m actually working my way through law school. What? You don’t care about justice, only my bust-ist? Aren’t you the clever one!

But maybe it’s not just me. Maybe you, too, struggle with finding the perfect word for what you are trying to write or say. Our language is abundant and bursting with descriptive words–words that make our writing more concise and colorful.

I happened to stumble upon a chart of synonyms for a few basic emotions/feelings (which vary depending on the intensity of the emotion/feeling) that the characters you write about probably experience. Mine do. And I thought that, maybe you would find this chart handy. I did.

We've all been here before, right? So how would you describe the emotions between these two characters? Do you see how useful this chart can be?

We’ve all been here before, right? So how would you describe the emotions between these two characters? Do you see how useful this chart can be?

I changed a few things on the original chart, which I discovered on Stumbleupon.com. I’m sure you could add to it for your own purposes. It’s just a tool to use when that perfect word pulls a “runner” on you.

So, here it is. I hope you find it helpful. Other than this, I have my link to my favorite online thesaurus on my tool bar. I use it all the time.

Intensity

Happy

Sad

Angry

Scared

Confused

Strong Ecstatic

Elated

Energized

Enthusiastic

Excited

Exuberant

Jubilant

Jovial

Marvelous

Terrific

Thrilled

Uplifted

Burdened

Crushed

Defeated

Dejected

Demoralized

Depressed

Devastated

Discarded

Distraught

Empty

Grievous

Helpless

Hopeless

Hurt

Miserable

Mournful

Pitiful

Sorrowful

Worthless

Wounded

 

Betrayed

Enraged

Fuming

Furious

Hateful

Hostile

Incensed

Outraged

Pissed-off

Rebellious

Repulsed

Seething

Spiteful

Strangled

Vengeful

Vindictive

 

Afraid

Appalled

Desperate

Dread

Fearful

Frantic

Horrified

Intimidated

Panicky

Petrified

Shocked

Terrified

Tormented

Vulnerable

 

Baffled

Bewildered

Directionless

Flustered

Lost

Overwhelmed

Trapped

 

Mild AliveAmused

Appreciated

Assured

Cheerful

Confident

Delighted

Encouraged

Fulfilled

Grateful

Joyful

Optimistic

Proud

Relieved

valued

AlienatedDegraded

Deprived

Disappointed

Discouraged

Disheartened

Disillusioned

Dismal

Distant

Lonely

Resigned

Slighted

Unappreciated

Upset

AgitatedAggravated

Anguished

Annoyed

Cheated

Disgusted

Exasperated

Frustrated

Irritated

Offended

Peeved

Resentful

 

AlarmedApprehensive

Defensive

Distressed

Guarded

Insecure

Shaken

Startled

Stunned

Suspicious

Threatened

Uneasy

 

AmbivalentDisorganized

Doubtful

Foggy

Hesitant

Perplexed

Puzzled

Torn

Troubled

 

Weak ContentFlattered

Fortunate

Glad

Good

Hopeful

Pleased

Relaxed

satisfied

DeflatedDisenchanted

Lost

Sorry

 

DismayedDispleased

Uptight

 

ArousedConcerned

Doubtful

Nervous

Timid

 

BotheredDistracted

Surprised

Uncertain

Uncomfortable

Undecided

Unsettled

Unsure

 

May 19, 2013

Are You Sure You Want to Know?

by Lorna's Voice
Nobody said dis was gonna be easy.

Nobody said dis was gonna be easy.

Critiquing is a tough business.

How do you know if what you write is any good?

If you’re like me, and why wouldn’t you want to be, you have a few options:

My gut's telling me this is going to be one belly flop that won't soon be forgotten.

My gut’s telling me this is going to be one belly flop that won’t soon be forgotten.

Trust your gut.  Guts are great for processing all kinds of things: food, whether that person at work is really just interested in you or is a psychopath (I suppose the two aren’t mutually exclusive), and if you should trust your GPS or unplug the thing before you end up driving 90 miles out of your way. But when it comes to your own writing, guts are funny things. It’s hard to discern the Pulitzer Prize winning stuff from the What-Was-This Writer-Thinking stuff. Why? Because we worked hard getting those words out of us and we are generally attached to them in the way that super glue gets attached to skin.

Go ahead and eat up! We wouldn't steer you wrong. Ice cream is good for you. It's only fattening when you eat it alone.

Go ahead and eat up! We wouldn’t steer you wrong. Ice cream is good for you. It’s only fattening when you eat it alone.

Trust your family and friends. Totally bad idea. Unless you want only positive feedback (assuming your family and friends like you and encourage your writing). Remember, these are the people who tell you, after you’ve been a complete jerk for [fill in the reason], that the other person was the real problem. The same people who told me I should publish my short stories also told me (after my head was shaved for my brain surgery) that I look awesome in a buzz cut. I didn’t.

Good example of something that would get lots of "likes" and comments, but probably not too many people will actually read.

Good example of something that would get lots of “likes” and comments, but probably not too many people would read to the end.

Trust your blog readers. “Readers” is the critical word here. I wonder how many people who press the “like” button, or even comment, actually read every word we write and process it enough to have an opinion about how we wrote it (not just what we wrote about). Plus, in this bloggity-blog world, most people want to be nice to each other for any number of reasons. For some reason, telling people how to improve their writing, even when they specifically ask for a critique, is seen as a bad thing. So many bloggers play it safe and act like family and friends–they love everything you write.

Of course, if you have extra cash lying around, you can always pay a professional to look over your work and give you pointers. These editors don’t give their skills and talents away, nor should they.

And it’s hard work to thoroughly critique any piece of writing.

Okay, maybe not THAT hard...

Okay, maybe not THAT hard…

I’ve done a fair amount of critiquing (all for free), both as a college professor and as an aspiring author with an online group called the Critique Circle. It’s free to join, but (of course) the upgraded paid membership offers more benefits. I learned a lot during my two-year association with this group. Let me share some critiquing guidelines that work for me:

1. Always include what the author did well along with what needs improvement.

2. Remind the author that you are only offering your suggestions and that, in the end, s/he needs to evaluate what works best for the piece.

3. If a section needs improvement, offer an example of what you think would improve it. (Don’t just say, “this section is confusing.”)

4. When you see technical problems (typos, grammar issues, etc,) highlight them or fix them, don’t just tell the author that you found a lot of mistakes. Critiquing should be a helpful process, not an exercise in frustration.

5. Ask questions if you are confused. You are a reader. If you have a question about an element of the story, other readers will, too.

6. I always found it easiest to copy and paste the manuscript and comment where the issues are–an in-line critique (rather than make a list, then the author has to search the document to find the problem area). Make sure the author is okay with this.

7. Either begin or end with a summary of what you believe are the author’s and the manuscript’s general strengths and weaknesses. Give the author a platform on which to build, not just a list of “dos and don’ts.”

*****

Notice the difference in these two questions: "Honey, what do you like best about me in this dress?" versus "Honey, what do you think about this dress?" Oh, never mind, "Honey" is stuck either way.

Notice the difference in these two questions: “Honey, what do you like best about this dress?” versus “Honey, what do you think about this dress?” Oh, never mind, “Honey” is stuck either way.

And for those seeking critiques of your work, a few words of advice:

1. Please consider carefully whether or not you want a real critique. Some writers don’t. That’s okay. Just don’t ask someone to spend a long time pouring over your work just to ignore their efforts because all you wanted was praise.

2. Please parse your work out in small segments–no more than 1000-1,200 words. You can learn a great deal from having even a part of a larger piece critiqued.

3. Be willing to return the favor.

Because this is a post on critiquing, I will share with you a resource I find useful. It helps you evaluate your writing, not for the ever-present typo or grammar gaffe, but for style, pacing, cliches, use of repetitive words, and the like. If you want to tighten up and clean up your manuscript, this little gem is wonderful. It is also free, but has enticing upgrades that allow you access to more reports and more flexibility. AutoCrit is an online service and I am using it now to help me evaluate chapters in my new book. I swear I get nothing for promoting this tool except the good feeling of helping other writers.

Happy writing!

Happy writing!

May 5, 2013

Up for Some Etymology?

by Lorna's Voice
Hey, I'm okay with eating green slimy stuff, but keep those fancy words away from me. They creep me out.

Hey, I’m okay with eating green slimy stuff, but keep those fancy words away from me. They creep me out.

Oh, you’re one of those people who have to know exactly what you’re getting yourself into before you agree to it, eh?

Fine. Don’t be a risk-taker.

Etymology is the study of word or phrase origins…as if you didn’t already know.

Of course I knew that...after I googled it.

Of course I knew that…after I googled it.

We’re all writers. Words are our tools. I happen to be fascinated by where words and everyday phrases come from. My mom knows that and give me a ginormous book of word and phrase origins: The Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins (4th edition), edited by Robert Hendrickson.

So I thought I would share a few with you. If you like this post, I’ll do more. But I had to start somewhere, so I started with the “A’s” and I’m just doing fairly common phrases.

Alive and kicking: So common, this one is a cliché today; but this phrase originated among London fishmongers in the 1700’s. They used it in reference to fish that were so fresh that they were still flapping about in their carts.

I guess he just needed to do a bit more kicking...

I guess he just needed to do a bit more kicking…

All washed up: Today we use this to refer to anything or anyone that is kaput, done, “the end.” The phrase came from the Industrial Revolution when factory workers would wash their hands at the end of their day’s work. It became synonymous with finishing anything.

Armed to the teeth: Used most often to indicate that a person is well-prepared in a competition of wits, this phrase gets its meaning from pirates who, when boarding a ship, often carried their weapons in the grip of their teeth as they swung themselves over and onto their victim’s vessel.

Unless that finger of yours is lethal, Captain Jack, and maybe it it, I suggest you put something else in your mouth before you attack.

Unless that finger of yours is lethal, Captain Jack, and maybe it is, I suggest you put something else in your mouth before you attack whatever it is you’re thinking of attacking.

At loose ends: We’ve had this feeling of not quite knowing what to do with ourselves, right? The expression dates back to the 1800’s and refers to “freedom from the tether,” like a horse out at pasture, thus untied.

As the crow flies: This is often said in giving estimates of distance from Point A to Point B if a straight path were available. But this expression dates back to at least 1800 when a New England naturalist, Alan Devoe, wrote of the remarkably intelligent and ruthless crow after observing these birds holding “conventions” of 40-60 birds: “The most extraordinary rites of the flock are the ‘trials’ they conduct. When a crow has broken the laws of crowdom, the flock gathers in judgment, parlaying sometimes for hours while the offender waits some distance away. Suddenly the discussion ceases; there is a moment of silence. Then the flock either rises up in unison and leaves, or dives in a mass upon the offender, pecks his eyes out, and pummels him to death.”

Yup, Ernie. It's time for another "convention." Albert got caught doing "the dirty" with Hank's chick, even though she's been known to fly around...if you know what I mean. Well Hank's got his feathers all ruffled and called for a meeting. It could go either way.

Yup, Ernie. It’s time for another “convention.” Albert got caught doing “the dirty” with Hank’s chick, even though she’s been known to “fly around”…if you know what I mean. Well Hank’s got his feathers all ruffled and called for a meeting. It could go either way.

At the end of one’s rope: Again, a familiar feeling, eh? It’s that feeling that you’ve just had enough–can’t take it any more or done all you can and you give up. This expression was first recorded in a 1686 French translation concerning someone finally being stopped in an act of wrong-doing. This suggests the phrase may have been inspired by the sight of a man dangling at the end of a hangman’s rope.

 

Shall I continue or is this a case of too much of not the right kind of information?

Shall I continue or is this a case of too much of not the right kind of information?

You tell me…