The Care and Feeding of … WORDS!


“Handle them carefully, for words have more power than atom bombs.”
Pearl Strachan

“By words the mind is winged.”

“The turn of a sentence has decided the fate of many a friendship, and, for aught that we know, the fate of many a kingdom.”
Jeremy Bentham

Amazing, isn’t it? Something so small as words can have such huge impact.

The right word in any circumstance can bring peace, comfort, laughter, tears. It can elicit emotion, stir action, deliver forgiveness, change lives. For generations, words have moved and motivated. Writers, steeped in the wonder of words, have poured their hearts out on stark paper, only to have those pages come to life in ways they never imagined, and to have their words live on in the hearts and minds of readers long after they’ve been read.

At least, that’s what we hope for. Pray for. LONG for.

A writer’s group I’m part of was just talking about this. The yearning, deep within our hearts and souls, to write something that matters. That will change lives. That will stand the test of time. For us, the writing is novels. Stories that transcend genre or time. That transport.

That matter.

Odd thing is, when you’re writing to a deadline, it’s hard to do that. Because too often you get focused on just that: the deadline. So what becomes foremost in our minds? Daily word count. Getting the story down. Getting Done. Finish it off. Hand it in. Don’t be late! AAAHHHHHH!

Talk about creativity killers.

But how do you take time to craft a story when you have to pay bills? How do you let the story germinate when you have to keep books on the shelves to hold your readers? Hey, I’m an editor and agent as well as a writer. That’s the publishing Trifecta!  I know how important it is to keep your books in readers’ hands, to not make them wait too long between novels. To not let them forget why they love your books over others’.

But I also want the best my writers and clients have to offer. Just as I want to give my best to my own readers. And my best doesn’t happen when I’m stressed or guilt-ridden or rushed.

All of this has been rolling around in my head and heart of late. As it often does. It’s something that comes back and nudges at me on a far-too-regular basis. Until it finally coalesced (isn’t that a great word?) into one simple bit of guidance: Rest.

Rest in Him–in the One who breathed the story deep into your soul. Who equipped you to fulfill the task He’s given of creating a story that will move, inspire, and challenge. Don’t push, don’t fret, don’t–and I can see Steve and Tamela and editors all cringing here, but I’m gonna say it anyway—DO NOT let the tyranny of the deadline destroy creativity and passion. Do what’s reasonable, to the best of your passion and ability, and leave the rest to Him.

Rest in what you know–the story, the characters, the truths you need to portray. The fact that your readers have told you, over and over, that they love what you write. So that deep-seeded insecurity that you can’t do it again, can’t come up with a story that will engage, can just take a hike. You’re doing this because you love it, and because your readers love what you do. Forget the critics and reviewers. Focus on what you know really matters: the story and those for whom you tell it.

Rest in the story–Yes, get it down as best you can. But then? Set it aside. Give yourself the gift of time away from it. At least a few weeks. Even better, a month or more. Get completely away from it, maybe even from writing. Take a break. Go for a walk. Focus on something entirely different. You can be sure, if you do this, that when you come back to it, you’ll read with new eyes. Eyes that see the weak spots, to be sure. Eyes that can better discern how to fix what isn’t working. And eyes that will widen as you discover those periodic gems, where you sit back, wonder washing over you, as you realize Almighty fingers rested over your own as you wrote. Because none of us on our own can write a line, a scene, a TRUTH as powerful as you’ve just found on the page.

Rest. Be at peace.

—And let creativity flourish.






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Letting Go of Your Babies

One of the worst mistakes writers can make is being too possessive of their words. They fight for each adjective, adverb, and conversation tag.

My early writing suffered from too many words. I once wrote an artist didn’t “really” understand the difficulties of making a living in his profession. The editor kindly cut all instances of “really,” “just,” “so,” “very,” and other weak words experienced editors call “weasel” words.

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