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Writers & Community

“You must be a writer.”

My best friend and I say that to each other all the time. Whenever one of us comes up with a unique phrase or a play on words, the other one pops up with the longstanding joke. It’s a blessing to share that kind of fun. Not everyone understands what it’s like to live with words constantly demanding attention.

But another writer does. What we do is unique. People get it or they don’t. How many of us have had the experience of being at a social gathering and having someone say, “So what do you do?” When I say I’m an author, this is what usually happens:

The person tips her head.
Her mouth opens.
Her mouth closes.
Her eyes widen.
Then she says, “Oh.”

If she’s a reader, she says, “OH!” But if she’s not, it takes her awhile to process the information. This didn’t happen when I told people I worked in a doctor’s office. In that context, they knew me instantly: I was the women behind the counter asking for their insurance card. But a writer? What does a writer do? This writer plays with words for the sheer joy of it. Just for fun, here are some of the ways I tweak a ms. If you’re a writer, you’ll get it!

1. Using MS Word 2007, I use “Find” in “Main Document” to count how many times I use the word “was.” If I see a lot of them in one place, the paragraph is probably “telling” instead of “showing.”

2. My first drafts tend to be full of my favorite phrases. To avoid repetition, I use “Find” to get an actual count of a particular word. In Kansas Courtship, the heroine seemed to lift her chin on every other page. I searched for “chin” and realized I’d written a book that could have been called “The Bobble Head Bride.” I made changes fast!

3. I’m easily distracted by the Internet, so I hide the Windows toolbar. If I can’t see the big blue E for Internet Explorer, I’m less likely to click on it. Some words–like Facebook and email–need to be avoided during the writing day.

4. I need to hear words as well as to see them, so I talk to myself as I write. There really is a difference between “thud” and “thump.” Writers get that!

5. I submit my work in Times New Roman, but I compose in whatever font strikes my fancy. Papyrus? Why not? I’m currently using Palatino Linotype.

So those are some of the ways I play with words. What about you? Any particular writing tips? Any unusual habits? One of the joys of ACFW is belonging to a community of writers. Quirky or not, we aren’t alone!


Victoria Bylin writes about cowboys, outlaws and preachers. Her books have finaled in the ACFW Carol Awards, the Rita Awards, NRCA and RT Magazine’s Reviewers’ Choice Awards. She and her husband have been married forever and have two grown sons. You can learn more about Vicki and her spiritual journey at her website: www.victoriabylin.com

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Marrying the Major by Victoria Bylin, Love Inspired Historical

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4 Responses to Writers & Community

  1. What about me… hmmm… perhaps I use the elipses too much… I don’t know…

    Actually, a real bad habit for me is to show the scene in great detail and then tell about the scene after I’ve just shown it. My editor was great at making sure that I eliminated all my “telling” and just let the scene stand on its own.

    God bless!

  2. Victoria, thanks for the tip on using a different font for the rough draft! What fun. We all need a little change now and then. Think I’ll give it a try.
    I also use the find feature. It’s funny how we let our favorite phrases creep in and overuse them. Sometimes I even catch myself in the act!

  3. Theresa Wilsdorf says:

    What I do is write my scene quickly first, in a rough draft, making sure I get in all my main points and dialogue. Then I go back over it later, with music on in the background and take it slow, and put it all the fillers, the sounds, scents, details and such. I find it helps with proper pacing in the story, the scene is written quickly, and then the extra detail and the slow-down to explore the scene come in the most natural places. As if I was listening to someone else reading me the story, I think of where I would like to hear more about that particular diaglogue or scene.

  4. Lucy Morgan-Jones says:

    Times New Romans it yuck! I also like to write in different fonts. Otherwise I get distracted by how annoyed I am at a particular font…

    When I finish a chapter I read it out loud. That way I pick up on spelling/grammar and plain what isn’t working (or is just weird!).

    Also, if I need to describe something (like a horse or a house etc) I find a pic on the internet that fits what I’m imagining it looks like, then cut and paste it into my doc, make it float above the text, type away to my hearts content then delete said pic when I’m done. It helps me!

    Show vs. Tell. Voice over vs. Actual movie.

    Am I telling the scene or allowing the reader to just watch for themselves.

    Hope this helps, Blessings!

    Lucy