By Laura Drake
Think back. Waaaay back, to when you first decided you wanted to write. You sat down, maybe at a computer, maybe with a pen and napkin, or even (in my case) on the back of a motorcycle, and wove a story in your head. Remember how excited you were? Everything seemed possible. You had the time to play. Play with plots, characters, words.
It was summer vacation for that little kid who still lived in your brain. Remember? You wrote that story, and I'll bet you had a ball.
Then, reality hit. You decided you wanted the world to read your story. Whether you chose NY publishing, small press, or self-publishing, the world now intruded on that playground.
NY or Small Press? You had to get a query together, get savvy on the market, agents, etiquette. You got requests! Or not. You wait. You got an agent! Then you're on submission, and wait some more. You sold! You wait some more. You have deadlines. Revisions. Deadlines. Self-publish? Even more homework. You need to learn copyrights, publishing options, book cover design, social media, book bloggers, Amazon, Smashwords, etc., etc. And then you wait. Somewhere in all that, you lost the fun.
What happened? Summer vacation was over. Writing became
And that little kid inside that loved the stories? The one who played with that book? He/she doesn't want a job. They want to have fun. So they do what kids do - they sulk.
I think this is why many writers give it up. They either quit writing, or only write to please that little kid in their head.
But I wanted both. I've always been a 'cake and eat it too' kinda person, and I'll bet you are too. If you want to write AND sell, you have to let that little guy play. Orly Konig Lopez reminded us to relax in a recent post. You can read it here.
I've found a way to relax and allow that little kid to have fun - tap back into my love of writing. I play with the words.
I'm endlessly fascinated with the English language. I love playing with the subtle shading of words - it's like letting that little kid loose with tempura finger paints. Every single day I write, I have the thesaurus open on my browser bar (Thesaurus.com ROCKS!)
I use it to find the perfectly shaded word. Like yesterday, I was trying to describe how a grief-stricken heart feels. Of course, the first word I come up with is an everyday word; a black-and-white word. SAD. That gave me somewhere to start. I went to the thesaurus and it gave me 46 synonyms (shades), but that's only a beginning. Those gave me other ideas, and I was off, chasing threads of different words, different colors. The line I ended up with was:
Her heart swelled, ponderous with sadness.
I also use the thesaurus to freshen cliches. I had a young woman with a party-girl BFF. I wanted to freshen the cliche, 'Walk on the wild side." Following threads led me to, "Dance on the wild side".
Sometimes, I let that kid inside to go crazy. This is what she ended up with from one thesaurus session:
His confession stretched on the table between them like a pregnant porcupine – bloated, awkward, and prickly.
Letting that child play is how I find my way back to the joy of writing. And hopefully, I'm entertaining my readers at the same time!
I'd love to see your word play! In the comments, post your original line, then the results after you've let that little kid loose!
Laura is thrilled that her first book, The Sweet Spot, was recently named a Romance Writers of America® RITA® Finalist, in both the Contemporary and Best First Book categories.
She'll have two releases in August: Sweet On You, the final book in her Sweet on a Cowboy series, and The Reasons to Stay, the next in her Widow's Grove small town series.
This year Laura realized a lifelong dream of becoming a Texan and is currently working on her accent. She gave up the corporate CFO gig to write full time. She's a wife, grandmother, and motorcycle chick in the remaining waking hours.
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Such a great post! Even when writing the novel, without deadlines or social media, I tend to get lost in the practicality of it and forget to play. Words are the perfect way to let loose.
There's nothing quite like finding that one shiny word or phrase to remind you how fun writing can actually be. 🙂
Love the post. I'm only now just entering the "professional" phase with editing deadlines, so it still feels like fun to me. I've actually loved working closely with another set of eyes and a new perspective. But, like everything else, I'm sure the shine will dull, and the expectations and pressure will make writing feel like work sooner than later. But I'll worry about it then! 😉
I haven't had time (or enough caffeine) to give this a lot of thought, but I took up your little word play challenge. Here's my before and after (from a current WIP in rough draft form).
Before: Grey was wrong for her on every level. So why did his withdrawal feel like a loss?
After: Grey was wrong for her on every level. So why did his retreat make her stomach drop as if she’d misplaced her wallet?
Better? Thanks for the inspiring post. Have a great day.
Better, Jamie! Thanks for sharing!
Laura, fighting a bad stomach and pouting. I'll be back later for your challenge );
Oh yuk, Florence! Feel better, then write!
So that's how you do it! Appreciate the sharing. I'm on the road but will check in later with an example from my WIP. You set a high bar though, Laura!
Okay, an example. I was introducing the hero and wrote a cliche.
Before: His bearing was regal.
After: He had a patrician vibe, as if he were Mr. Darcy strolling across English moors, not a local good ole boy grocery shopping at Winn Dixie.
Oh Debbie, that's awesomeness, right there! Play on!
Love it!!! 🙂
Thanks, Orly! Now if only there was a plot thesaurus. 🙂
I'm a great believer in Word Play. Sometimes you just can't find the right emotion in the simple version of word. And it's so exciting --- better than sex, when you get it right. 🙂
Um. I'm not touching that one, Sharla! (but it is damned good, isn't it?) 😉
Is this how you came up with my all-time favorite: I don't give a flying spider's hemorrhoid?
Can I steal that one? No? Rats!
From my WIP: (I played with this before putting it on the page, so the before was never written.)
BEFORE: Still bent at the waist, he clutched his crotch and turned until she had an unrestricted view of his a$$.
AFTER: ...waddle-turned, cupped what she wouldn't touch on a triple dog dare, and treated her to a panoramic view of his dimpled a$$ and monumental divide.
I leave it to you to decide what the heroine did immediately before this bit in the scene.
Hahahaha! I should have known you'd go for the humor hit, Gloria! And I'd forgotten all about the spider hemorrhoid...
Most of us have NOT forgotten the spider hemorrhoid. It's a classic!
I admit I used a variation on it the other day - mine was a flying monkey though. 😉
From personal life experience.
BEFORE: I looked in the mirror, pleased the burned skin had flaked off leaving my face bright red.
AFTER: Overnight, my face morphed from looking like an elephant's rear to qualifying as a red light district. Must avoid Vice Squad today.
NOTE: I did not pay to have this done to my face. Beware FREE(!) COMPLIMENTARY(!) $2500 VALUE(!) treatments. Multiply severity of impact and stated downtime by three. Plan to send small children scurrying behind Mama's skirts should you venture out.
What was it?
Laser chemical peel with laser subsurface pro fracturing. Kind of like layering down to the core water level. As if I ever WANTED to be a deep water well.
Yikes, Gloria! I'll stick with sun spots and wrinkles as opposed to no skin...
I am the weather chick . . . which is why I enjoy this blog and remember Jim Morrison fondly. 🙂 No, I don’t stand against a blue screen pointing out current meteorological conditions for TV viewers. My passion involves pointing out the climate of the soul and surrounding landscapes of my characters. Word play is definitely what makes writing fun, but I can relate to the JOB aspect when it comes to promotion. Right now, I am struggling with increasing my brand and ramping up exposure of my work. Lately, I have been on the verge of defeat. That evil little alter ego in my head urges me to retreat, because the hardest part is selling yourself. But then I read this blog and I am refreshed to try again. 🙂
I am working on an historical fiction piece about a 19th century family whose life has been torn apart by religious conflict. I wanted to give my protagonist the weighty mantel of being the family leader in a time when women were not particularly revered as being up to the task. This is what I came up with. . .
“Standing at this crossroad, I’ve become the directional vane for my family; pointing to the future while remembering the past. As a people, the political winds have battered our fortune, assaulted our stamina and reduced our purpose.”
I would be honored if any of my fellow writers would like to visit my web site at: http://paintedskies.homestead.com
Oh Sue, lyrical and packed with detail and cadence! Very nice!
Good luck on the promo - you crack that nut, come tell me first, will you?
Thanks Laura! I'll share whatever I learn about promo here. It is such a huge undertaking. I just need to find a way to make it fun.
Thank you so much, Laura, for the Thesaurus link. I use the Thesaurus on my Mac and it is totally useless so Thesaurus.com will be my new go-to link! I enjoyed reading the before and afters. What a difference!
You're welcome, Patti - you are going to LOVE Thesaurus.com. Be sure to scroll down, too, because they have 'concept words' that give you more ideas! Play on!
I think I'm going to love it too, Laura. I am half back. No word play today. I'm going to make more herbal tea 🙂
Feel better, Florence - catch you next time...
I keep a tab open for thesaurus.com as well. Especially for those times when I'm writing and suddenly hear Laura's voice booming at me: "You're not getting away with that, Missy." 😉
Pregnant porcupine - awesome, Laura! That's what I love about your writing. It's fresh and punchy and SO visual. Ready for some more "p" alliteration? This is from a little children's book I wrote years ago: Pussywilows plush as persian kittens.
I use my huge Thesaurus to death! Now I have thesaurus.com. Thanks!!
Oh Barb, I love that! You ARE entering your witch book in contests, right? o-O
Don't make me come hunt you down...
Yes, Yes, Yes - this is what I teach during my creative writing classes. We need to keep the FUN in the writing. You're so right - that's how we got started with this passion of ours called 'writing.' I admit, teaching other writers to use their creativity in my classes keeps the FUN going in my own writing every day.
And I'll bet you keep the fun in your students alive, too! Thanks for all you do to help writers...we need more teachers!
Great post. In addition to thesaurus.com, I also use the Visual Thesaurus, which gives a diagram of words and their connections; sometimes, seeing the picture helps me even more.
Oh, cool, Vina - I'll go check it out. That would be wonderful for visual learners! Thanks for the tip.
Great post. I also love thesaurus.com. Sometimes I just need that extra bit of inspired wording. Glad you made it to Texas. I'll be joining you soon. I'm a native Texan, but I've been away for too long. The hubby and I are retiring in the Bandara/Blanco area in January, and I'll be looking for an RWA chapter.
Oh Ellen, one of my characters in my August release has a ranch in Bandera! Such a cute town. I envy you a chapter...the closest to me is 315 miles!!!
Laura, I couldn't write without my thesaurus. I even use it occasionally when writing emails (gads.)
It's become like an extension of my brain. Some of (what I think, lol) are my best phrases or sentences began by 'playing' with words.
BTW, I'm a native Texas. Grew up mostly in West Texas. Haven't been back in quite a while, and have lost my accent, but there is a sense in which Texas will always mean 'home'. Hope you enjoy living there.