“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
Marrying the Major by Victoria Bylin, Love Inspired Historical