Wednesday, October 14, 2009


“Rhett... if you go, where shall I go, what shall I do?

"Frankly, my dear, I don't give a poop."


It’s downright painful how the wrong word can transform a strong, hulking man into a total ninny, isn’t it? And as a romance writer who LOVES strong male heroes (who doesn’t??), I cannot emphasize enough how important the “write” word is, not only in describing our characters, but in every sentence of our novels.

Margaret Mitchell knew the truth of this when she penned Rhett Butler’s famous final line from her masterpiece novel Gone With the Wind—“My dear, I don’t give a damn.” And producer David O.Selznik knew it, too, when he fought the censors with a placebo line in the early previews of the movie—"Frankly, my dear, I just don't care." But the “write” word that gave Rhett’s curtain call all the punch and pop that still resonates today is the one censors finally allowed Selznick to use in the 1939 premiere—“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Of course, Selznick added the “frankly” to Margaret Mitchell’s original line to soften the blow for censors and the public alike, illustrating once again just how important the right word is to everyone involved.

Now, as an Inspirational romance writer, I am not advocating profanity in novels, especially Christian novels, but I do believe “strong” language is a must in effective storytelling. And since we are on the heels of Seekerville’s BIAW challenge (Book in a Week) and you have all those wonderful words down, now is the perfect time to make sure they’re the right ones.

I don’t know about the rest of you folks, but I write by “feeling.” What I mean by that is when I read what I’ve written, I listen for rhythm and flow. It’s part of my voice, who I am to have this cadence that soothes me and carries me along, almost like poetry. In fact this sense of rhythm is so strong, that when my first copy editor on A Passion Most Pure changed some of my lines without tracked changes, I jerked in my chair, near traumatized while reading the galleys. Now, don’t get me wrong—my copy editor was following good writing sense by condensing and simplifying some of my sentences, but many times it also wreaked havoc with the flow and rhythm of the words in my head. Why? Because the wrong word can stop me dead in my tracks like fingernails on a chalkboard. And trust me, it will do the same with your readers.

I once read a pretty good book where the heroine—a shy, quiet thing—had just suffered a tragedy. Now mind you, I was engaged in this very low-key scene, completely feeling the angst of her misfortune, tears and all, when BOOM! The author ends the scene by having her 18-year-old heroine “skipping” out of the house and down the street to see her good friend. No, no, NO! Words must fit in with the mood and the sense of the scene or they will rip the reader right out with a scrunch of their brows, a gaping jaw or in my case with this particular scene, a comment such as “Are you kidding me?”

Believe me, I’m no stranger to using the wrong word as my husband will loudly attest in my overuse of the word “prostrate” in A Passion Redeemed, where as I mentioned in my recent “The Kiss of Death” blog, he joked that I used the word “prostrate” so many times, he felt inclined to visit a urologist. But I find that the more I focus on the right word, the more I am aware of the wrong ones. And so, although I know I don’t always succeed, I do attempt to customize the words to a particular scene, character or mood I am going for.

For instance, when setting a scene, I try to utilize words that are in keeping with the mood or feel of that scene. In the following paragraph from A Passion Denied, I wanted to convey the dark and deadly pain that Marcy O’Connor was experiencing when her normally loving husband cruelly rejects her, so I loaded up on words like bleak, rain, weeping, gray, dismal, mourning, cold, dead, corpse, hoping to inject some of their gloom to reflect Marcy’s own:

Marcy stood at Mrs. Gerson’s kitchen window, in bleak harmony with the rivulets of water that slithered down the pane. It was a slow and steady rain, endless weeping from a gray and dismal sky, and Marcy felt a kinship with it. It showed no signs of letting up, much like the grief in her heart over the loss of her husband. A silent mourning over a spouse who was still very much alive, but whose love was as cold and dead as any corpse.

When fleshing out your characters, the right word is essential. If you are a romance writer and your hero is a tall, testosterone type (and whose isn’t??), it doesn’t make a lot of sense to use feminine words like “flirty” or “sashayed” to describe them or their actions. I repeat: under no circumstances does a real man EVER sashay. And since most men are not real chatty either, when I’m writing dialogue, I tend to go in and pare away tons of words, especially with a no-nonsense type of guy like Mitch Dennehy in A Passion Redeemed, who talks in short, to-the point phrases and grunts most of the time.

In the revision stage, I always read the copy out loud, and if a word causes me any hesitation, I close my eyes and visualize it. For example, if it’s Collin giving Faith a “flirtatious smile,” I pause and change it to “dangerous smile” because in my mind, “flirtatious” seems too feminine, while “dangerous” immediately puts the gleam of desire in Collin’s eye and makes his intent abundantly clear. Or, if I’m trying to soften Charity up a bit, I will quickly change her “caustic” tone to a “wounded” one or maybe even “guarded” to give the reader insight into why she is responding the way that she is. The right word can make or break a character in your reader’s mind, so zero in on those words that seem off-key, and pull out your trusty thesaurus or in my case, The Synonym Finder by J. A. Rodale. Then plop in different words until you get the perfect pitch that will make your sentence sing.

In my first draft of A Passion Redeemed, the story of Charity O’Connor, the vixen that people love to hate, my editor was understandably concerned that readers would not cotton to her, so she asked me to soften her up. Not only did I add scenes that emphasized her kindness to stray kids and old men, but I combed through the entire book, searching to temper her with just the right words. Here’s a sample where the right words made a difference in taking Charity from a hard vixen (in the original manuscript) to the final version where I hope she comes off more as a desperate young woman with a frail conscience:

Original version:

Charity reached for her wine, allowing her lips to rest on the edge before sipping it. Swallowing, she held her glass aloft, sloshing the deep-red liquid until it glazed the sides. She smiled, her eyes riveted to his. “My lips. And nothing more?”

Published version:

Charity quickly reached for her wine, desperate to diffuse her shock. Her lips rested on the edge before sipping it while thoughts of Mitch Dennehy clouded her mind. She stared at the scarlet liquid glazing the glass and fought back the hint of impropriety that nettled her nerves. No! She couldn’t do this . . . could she? She swallowed hard and slowly looked up, careful to place the glass back on the table with steady fingers. Her chin lifted with resolve. “My lips? And nothing more?”

The bottom line is, contrary to the philosophy that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” words DO matter. They can, indeed, hurt … or heal or encourage and inspire. For us as writers, words are lifeblood, coaxing the lift of a smile or the swoon of a heart. And to those of us who are Inspirational writers, our words are even more vital, infused with the wisdom of God’s “Word” in the stories we are privileged to write.

Just as we labor for the right words in our novels, it’s been my experience that God often has a right word at the right time for each of us. A long time ago, when I was going through a particularly difficult time in my life, I woke up early in the morning with the phrase “Abide in me” drifting through my foggy brain. Abide? What exactly did that mean, I wondered with a yawn, not fully awake as I stumbled to my dictionary. I knew it meant to dwell and reside, but I had no idea that that one word would deliver a far more powerful message than I ever anticipated.

According to Webster, it means to “remain, stay, to last, to endure, to withstand without yielding, to accept without opposition or question, to comply, to submit, to remain faithful” And when you couple it with God’s Word, which He did for me that morning with John 15:7—"If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you”—well, it was a word that helped to change my life.

I’m a firm believer that God has the right word for each of us at the right time, so I’d love to hear yours. Or if you don’t have one, I encourage you to do what my prayer partners and I have done—ask God for a special “word” and then look it up to see all the wonderful things He wants to speak into your life at the moment. It’s really fun and inspiring. But a “word” of warning to all you ladies out there—I wouldn’t try this with your husbands. I did with mine, and he prayed on the spot, then shot me a crooked smile. “Escalade,” he said with a quirk of his lips. Sigh. You gotta love a dreamer.


Cathy Shouse said...


I've always been particular about word choice and hadn't thought about some of these issues. Thanks.

I think sometimes comparing Bible translations are a great example of the impact of word choices. The verses I memorized as a kid were in King James. While I understand it's awkward and there's some debate about it, some of the newer versions seem to have lost some of the beauty or at least the formality of the words and/or rhythm.

Here's an example from Zig Ziglar that always stuck in my mind with regard to word meaning. I think of it in communicating with my kids.

"What's wrong with you?" versus "What's troubling you?"

I'm having cinnamon rolls with icing for breakfast and there's plenty to go around. I'm not much on morning drinks so maybe another early riser can help out.


A. A. Stone said...

Hi, Julie! Thanks for the great post. The word for me today is 'Bold'. 'Be bold, be strong, for the Lord your God is with you.' Why? Because sometimes I want to hesitate and hold back when I'm supposed to be plunging ahead.

Just like with my stories, I'm learning to pray over and find the 'write' words for everything--including synopsis, queries, and proposals. Who'd think I needed divine wisdom to recap? But I do!

Thanks for sharing your wonderful examples.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Oh, Julie this is such a good reminder for me today. I'm tweaking multiple characters and their little quirks, their pov's, their take on the given situation and using the 'write' word for each paragraph, sentence, scene, etc. makes a huge difference to me. And I love how you flesh out your scenes (pun firmly intended, laughing as I write the word 'flesh' in connection with 'Julie'...) with thought-provoking words, feelings, characters.

One thing that has helped me is condensing the contracted books for Steeple Hill's Love Inspired line. Because these were originally intended for the longer fiction line, I've had to school myself on getting the bang for the buck word-wise. Very interesting.

Something that helps me HUGELY.

Songwriters. A good songwriter packs a powerful story into 20-24 lines of poetry. Oh mylanta, if they can write Whiskey Lullaby or Yesterday or Ebb Tide and tell a complete story in two paragraphs, who the heck am I to complain over word limits of 60k??? Are ya' kiddin' me? I've learned to cut, snip, not be repetitive (a Ruthy fault) chop, dice, a real Julia Child in the kitchen of fiction.

Great post, Jules, as always.

And I did coffee. Lots of coffee. OJ. Apple juice. Loving the cinnamon rolls, Cathy. Oh, perfect for a crisp fall morning. Thank you, thank you!

And I love the Zig Ziglar reference. Cool dude and great example for word impact.


Tina M. Russo said...

DUDE!!! This was awesome.

Frankly my dear I don't give a rats tail!@!!!

Julie Lessman said...

Good morning, all! I just hate when the early birds beat me here, but you East Coast (and Far East) folks definitely have the edge over we CSTers, and the chances of me getting up any earlier are slim to nil ...

Thanks, Cath, for the cinnamon rolls and, Ruthy, for the coffee -- dare I hope it's hazelnut?? I brought along Southern Pecan sticky rolls in honor of Miz Scarlett, so don't be shy.

Cath -- I totally agree about the beauty and formality of King James versus the newer translations. I actually have a two-translation Bible with KJ in one column and the Message Bible in the other, which is nice, but I have to admit I tend to prefer the KJ side just because of the beauty and flow of the words.

And, GREAT example with Zig Ziglar!!

Thanks for getting us started this morning, Cath.


Julie Lessman said...

Ayrian!!! Good morning girl, or should I say good evening? I never know, and I worked for a travel company for over 20 years!! Pretty pathetic.

Yes, BOLD is a great word because there can be nothing shy about writers if they want to take their pages (and their career) by storm. But to be honest, as soft and gentle and shy as you seemed when we met in Denver, your writing is bold and brave and compelling, so I rather enjoy the dichotomy. Because as writers in Him, we can be anything we want to be ... on the page, and in our calling.

Have a blessed day ... or night ... my friend!


Julie Lessman said...

Um, Ruthy ... yep, I do like to "flesh" out my characters and scenes, it's true, but as God is my witness, I always try to "clothe" both with the right words ...

GREAT point about songwriters!! Especially Country Western songwriters ... :)

And gosh, Ruthy, I never really thought about the monumental task you had in paring down your original longer books to 60k ... I am in awe ... again! I cannot WAIT to read the finished product because I just know it's gonna be great. And WHAT an exercise in wordsmithing and editing!! Geez Louise, with the length of my books, I could do with some of that.


Julie Lessman said...

Thanks, Teenster!

"Rat's tail" ... you know, I actually toyed with the idea of using several other words instead of "poop," including "rat's behind," but there is just something about a grown man saying "poop" that gives me the willies. All I can say is I'm sure glad "Margaret" isn't here to read this blog today ... or her lawyers! :)


Sandra Leesmith said...

Morning Julie, What a great blog and great advice following the BIAW. My left brain simply shudders at the lack of right words. smile. And really all it takes is getting those right words in there.

My word God kept giving me all last year was Be still. I was running around so avoiding my feelings for the loss of my two moms that I wasn't listening at all. Well you can imagine how much trouble that got me into. I am glad to report I am finally still and knowing He is my God and am listening. Why is that so hard????

Anyway, we're stuck in Las Vegas. We were on our way from Tahoe to Flagstaff and had an electrical problem pop up. The wonderful thing is that it didn't happen in the middle of the vast Nevada desert. Las Vegas is a big city so lots of help available. We're waiting for a part. Which brings me to one of the features of this crazy city. To lure you in to the casinos, they have marvelous smorgasbords. And they cost next to nothing since they figure you are going to gamble. Well we don't so we get a great bargain. So I'm sharing. A huge station of fruit of every kind imaginable. A huge station of pastries, every kind imaginable and then there's the hot food station with biscuits and gravy, several kinds of potatoes, sausages, bacon, eggs. And the highlight is the omelet station where you can have one made to order with a choice of goodies. Speaking of Julia Childs, she would go crazy in here. smile.

Thanks again Jules.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Oh by the way, I am being still and listening. I am not eating everything in sight. LOL

Jenny said...

I do that often with words. Generally I will use a thesaurus and often the other choices inspire an even different word. Great post! Thank you.

Patty said...

Hey Julie! Great post! I was just talking to another writer friend yesterday on this very subject. Since taking up listening to books on disc, I've been surprised at some of the the word choices from NYT bestselling authors.

I swear I'll never use the word 'incredulous' after listening to one particular book. But these books on CD have taught me a valuable lesson in the importance of reading my manuscript out loud. Scary, but valuable.

My stomach is feeling a bit better this morning so I brought out the sugary powder white doughnuts.

Julie Lessman said...

Sandra ... I am SO jealous!! Not of Vegas, of course, but the breakfast buffet!! Thanks for sharing.

And I LOVE the words God gave you -- "be still." I have trouble with that one too. Wonder why.

Hope you're back on the road again after breakfast, my friend. Safe travels!


Julie Lessman said...

Thanks, Jenny ... and, yeah, as writers, I don't know where we'd be without the thesaurus because like you said, it will often trigger another word and maybe even a whole different slant to the scene that is better than what we originally had in mind.


Ann said...

The right word. Wow. So true.

I have been reading Psalm 37 every day for awhile. "Fret not" is repeated several times.

By this time of year we should have been at least half way through harvest. Some years we are done by now but we are getting rain every day. It's raining again.

We sure could use good weather but I am trying to fret not.

Julie Lessman said...

Oh, Patty, GROAN ... You just incited hunger pangs in me with your reference to powdered sugar donuts -- a real weakness of mine. Somehow the peach oatmeal is not measuring up this morning ...

And, man, books on CD ... I never thought of that, but I guess you get a real education on use of wrong words when listening to those!


Julie Lessman said...

Oh, Ann ... "fret not" is SUCH a pertinent word for today's times, isn't it though?

Praying RIGHT NOW for those clouds to dissipate and the sun to come out ... and for a quick and productive harvest.


Audra Harders said...

Julie, what a great post! And how timely. I'm deep into re-writing a book and finding just the right word choices is becoming an adventure.

Like Ruthy, I'm condensing to stuff a 90,000 word book into 60,000. Finding one right word to take the place of 7 or 8 wrong ones is a challenge, but oh so fulfilling when genius strikes.

As writers, aren't we all in love with words? The right ones, the wrong ones and everything inbetween. LOL, even the ones we make up : )

I'm up to my ears in apple crisp. Umm, oatmeal topping and cinnamon sugar infused throughout.

Mmm. Yumbola!!

Susan Anne Mason said...

Hi Julie,

Thanks for your wonderful post. And especially for including examples from your own books. They really help!

Will keep in mind as I'm editing today and as I try to finish off the very last scene!



Mary Connealy said...

I so, so, so often do what I call wordsmithing, trying to catch the strongest word but also the word that catches the spirit of the story.

On revisions I so often find words that aren't 'western'.

The way he scuffs the toe of his boot in the dusty ground. I reckon. So many times I'll read a perfectly good sentence that says what I want it to say, but not with the spirit I want it to convey. I've spent the last three days reworking my BIAW words and I'm just loving the story I wrote and loving how with revisions it's coming alive.

Giving your character a 'voice' is almost ALL about choosing just the right words, the words only YOUR CHARACTER would say.
Great post, Julie.

Mary Connealy said...

But Rhett, where shall I go? What shall I do?

Do whatever you want, my dear. You'll be doing it without me.


Melanie Dickerson said...

You're the queen of powerful words, Julie. :-)

Cheryl Wyatt said...

LOLOL! "I don't give a poop" just doesn't have the same ring. Too funny. Love your post, Julie.


Julie Lessman said...

Oh, Audra, ain't it the truth!! As writers, we have a love affair with words ... so much so that I swear on a stack of Bibles that when I open my Synonym Finder to "research" a word, I get a tingle inside. Weird, I know, and something ONLY another writer could understand.

And I cannot imagine doing what you and Ruthy are doing in trimming that many words from a book, but I know it takes talent. But if you think toeing the line of 60K words for LI is tough, you should try writing a paper in law school. My daughter is a pretty good writer -- straight A's in anything that involved writing, so she was somewhat confident that writing would not be problem for her in law school.

Uh, WRONG!! She wrote a 2,000-word paper the other day in which she had to explain the intricacies of a case study, and the professor told them that they would lose a point for every word over a 1,000. YIKES ... she spent into the wee hours of the morning hacking (there is no other word!) 1,000 words out of a 2,000-word paper. A lawyer friend of hers said that law school takes good writers and turns them into bad. At least we don't have to worry about cutting half out, right?


Julie Lessman said...

Thanks, Sue! I just LOVE it when a writer gives before and after samples of their writing -- it really helps me to grasp it that much better.

There were SO many places in Redeemed where I had softened Charity's personality with just one word, and I really wanted to list a bunch of those as examples, but I ran out of time.


Julie Lessman said...

Thanks, Mare, and I know what you mean, especially about westerns. It's so easy to put a modern thought in a person's head in a prairie romance, but we really have to resist the urge.

Innocent expressions like "he couldn't wrap his brain" around the notion that she would never be his -- I seriously doubt that a cowboy would even know what it means to "wrap his brain around" something because it is definitely a modern expression, so we really have to watch things like that.


Julie Lessman said...

GRIN ... love the new take on Rhett's curtain call, Mare, although you miss him disappearing into the fog that way, but it's probably more realistic.


Julie Lessman said...

Aw, thanks, Mel -- what a sweet comment! But Queen of Verbosity or Drama is more like it, I think ... :)


Julie Lessman said...

Thanks, Cheryl, and no, it really doesn't, does it? The power of the written word ... sometimes we take it for granted.


Myra Johnson said...

Words of wisdom indeed, Julie!

And I totally get what you were saying about reading someone else's editing of YOUR writing and cringing! I sold a magazine article several years ago, and when I saw my piece in print, I kept thinking, "Who wrote this????"

The spirit of my message was there, but sure wasn't MY voice! The editor never even gave me a chance to okay his edits. I never sent him another thing (except a letter to let him know how I felt about such tactics).

Vince said...

Hi Julie:

The right word? Therein lies the rub.

What's in a name? that which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet;

Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.

Sometimes the right word is no word.

Sometimes it’s not the words we use but what we have to say.

A poem should not mean but be.

The silence between the words can often speak louder than the words themselves.

In the beginning was the word.

Words are not the things they describe.

Philosophical problems occur when language goes on holiday.

The first six revisions anyone could have written, but the seventh, now that’s Anatole France.

Sometimes writing too many words too quickly can make you silly.

Credits: Bible, Wittgenstein, Archibald MacLeish, Shakespeare, Stein. France.


Janet Dean said...

Julie, thanks for a fabulous post! You're a master of the right word, especially with using active verbs that show your characters to the reader so beautifully.

God's word for me is trust. To trust Him with every aspect of my life and the lives of those I care about.


Lisa Jordan said...

Great post, Julie!! Another one to print out for my writer's notebook. I really loved the examples you posted, too. I'm such a visual learner, and I had a light bulb moment.

Funny thing about the paragraph you posted about Marcy--I have a similar one in my novel, but it's a contemporary romance and my character is looking out the window. I used rivulets and dismal, too.

Loved Mary's term--wordsmithing.

Debra E Marvin said...

First off, thanks for a great lead-off photo, Julie. I made a joyful noise when I saw it.

I was thinking that with all the Writing Rules fogging up my brain, I'd be circling that word FRANKLY because it ends in 'ly' and fretting over whether or not to keep it.

Julie Lessman said...

Oh, Myra, don't ya just HATE that??? I swear I cried buckets (oh, what a surprise!) when my first copy editor went through APMP the first time -- totally not my voice in so many places!! But I was blessed that Natasha handled the situation, allowing me to keep most of my original copy. I now have a different copy editor and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE her! She gets me ... and as we all know as writers, not everyone does.


Julie Lessman said...


Okay, I've had several cups of coffee by now, so I should be fully awake, but I still need to ask you this question:

I'm assuming most of your comment was comprised of quotes that deal with the word "word"???? If so, very clever and fun. If not ... uh, I need more coffee ... :)


Julie Lessman said...

Hey, Janet -- boy, I'm right there with you, girl. Trust is a BIG word for me, too ... one that needs to be emblazoned on my forehead!

Thanks for your sweet comment, my friend!


Julie Lessman said...

Lisa!!! Oh, I just LOVE when a lightbulb goes on because at my age, I tend to be in the dark most of the time ... :)

Thanks for your sweet comment, and great minds think alike, I guess, 'cause "rivulets and dismal" are such powerful words! But, uh, if you tell me you have ALL the words I mentioned, then I think I'm in trouble ...


Julie Lessman said...

Oh, YEAH, Debra ... we GWTW fans have to stick together!! I actually wanted to use the scene where Rhett walks out, but my artist husband said he liked this one better because you can't see Scarlett's face in Rhett's final scene.

And, GRIN ... yep, totally relate to that "ly" thing, my friend. I've been beating myself up over "ly" so long that I automatically freeze up when I see one in my copy ... :)


Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

julie...may i just say congratulations to you on your BOTY! (and to all the seeker finalists!)

i loved this post. after another post of yours, i got the synonym finder at your suggestion and have really liked using it (although it takes extra time when i have a thesaurus widget on my mac....but the synonym finder has so many more words). so thanks for that tip.

on another personal note, mom has finished all three of your books and keeps asking when the next one is coming out. :) i told her she'd have to step in line....

The Character Therapist

Tina Pinson said...


I fear I must take you task.

I just can't believe you put the word damn in your post and then had the audacity to post a cover with a woman lost in a man's arms falling out of her bodice.

OH my


Kidding of course...

It's so true that words make or break the scene.
Your words are paint on the canvas so to speak, drawing your reader into the world of your characters. Allowing them to taste, touch and feel the colors, the times and the emotions.

Been thinking of my word, and don't know if I can put it down to one at this point. Or maybe the I can
The word be... True.

Be true to who I am as a woman, a mother, a wife, a writer. But know that that truth can only come when I am true to the One who holds me in his hands.

Thanks so much for the post.

Julie Lessman said...

Thanks, Jeannie, SOOO much! And, yeah, having a thesaurus on your computer is nice, but nothing beats the feeling I get opening my Synonym Finder ... honestly, I get a thrill, and it has WAY more words than my computer thesaurus.

Please thank your mom for reading my books -- I really appreciate you giving them to her. And you can tell her Katie's story, A Hope Undaunted, comes out September 2010, which is pretty far away, I know, and I'm not happy about it either. But due to problems beyond our control, the release date was postponed. I just hope she (and my other readers) don't forget about me in the meantime!! :/


Julie Lessman said...

Okay, Tina, my stomach dropped when I started reading your comment. Seriously. NEVER do that to an overly wired drama queen on caffeine -- it's VERY dangerous!!

I already was hesitant about the low-bodice picture and the words "damn" and "poop," so you launched a real zinger that got me good, you little brat!! :)

The word "TRUE" ... absolutely love it and your explanation of it. YES, to be true to ourselves and to the calling God has placed on our lives is essential.


Pepper Basham said...

Oh Julie,
Your words are gold...and sometimes fire (whew, is it hot in here ;-) Actually, yes it is because I'm making burgers and they're smoking up the kitchen. I thought it was just reading your writing ;-)

Thanks so much for your 'words'. This statement you made "I always read the copy out loud, and if a word causes me any hesitation, I close my eyes and visualize it." Has completely hit home with me... Some of the comments I received from the critique yesterday could have been avoided if I used that simple tecnique.

Thanks SO much.


Tina Pinson said...

Oh Julie,

Forgive me, please. I beg of you. I didn't mean to freakafy your socks off.

Take a deep breath and have another cup of joe. Cause you know me. I may have something to say about something else.


Just be glad I wasn't really reprimanding you, I'm tough as nails. I have been known to scare old people, little kids and yes, even small animals just by giving them the LAZY eye.

Yeah Right.

Sheila Deeth said...

Lovely post. Thank you. I'm heading fast towards my fall edits.

Jill Nutter said...

Hi there Julie,
I love looking for the right words. My question for you is when do you feel you've done the best you can and that your done? I guess for published writers the deadline is what tells you when your done. But for those of us who are not published when would you recommend we stop polishing and looking for those right words and get on to the next project?

Julie Lessman said...

Pepper!!! Thank God I'm not the cause of smoke in the kitchen!! Bedroom, maybe, but not the kitchen ... :)

Oh-oh, shouldn't have said that because now Tina P. will be after me ...

So glad I could remind you of that simple technique. I am grateful, too, that my hubby (with whom I share an itsy-bitsy office) wears an I-Pod most of the time as we work back-to-back, because I tend to read out loud A LOT ... and pretty dramatically too! :)

But he's used to me, thank God. And he hasn't dumped me yet ...


Julie Lessman said...

Tina ... thanks for the warning. I'll try to stay out of your way as much as possible, although I have been known to get into brawls with other women in Wal-marts once or twice in my younger and more hormonal days. Uh, so maybe we need to watch out for each other ...

And whatever you do, do NOT read my reply comment to Pepper, okay? I'm in enough trouble as it is. :)


Julie Lessman said...

Sheila ... you go, girl, and may the Force (i.e. the Holy Spirit in our language) be with you ...


Tina Pinson said...

Pepper who, Julie, .and why is she smoking in the kitchen. Just wondering. Not like I'm getting testy or anything

See, I had some chocolate and pert killed myself at the gym, (got beat up by the machines)so I'm feeling pretty amicable to others. the only person I want to get now is my hubby cause he made me go.


I'm not big into brawling, every time I tried, I got whooped. Lost all the shoes and clothes I was trying to fight for.

But don't tell anyone about my whimpiness, and will call a truce till the next time anyway.

And you know I'll be around.

Pepper Basham said...

Okay, I couldn't help but get tickled at your reply.

Two things I got into trouble for in my writing - elipses and exclamation marks. He, he - can I use you as an example of exemplary exclamation mark and elipse use?

I talk out loud to my characters so I might as well read to them while they're visiting :-) Great use of time and since my family already question my mental status, it shouldn't cause too much trouble.

Julie Lessman said...

Hey, Jill -- Sooo good to see you here! And I LOVED seeing you in Denver, my friend.

Oh-oh, I don't think I'm the gal to ask that question. You see, being REALLY, REALLY anal, I tend to revise/fine-tune to death, which is real time that I could be using to write lots of books like Mary Connealy who has five fabulous books on the bookstore shelves for every one of mine. For the unpublished writer, I don't think it hurts to polish those ms. till they shine ... or until you start finaling in some contests, at least, which is usually a real good indication that you are getting close.

I actually proofed A Passion Most Pure I'm pretty sure almost sixty times. As a result, I can read the published version today and almost not want to change anything in it. Almost. :)

But I suspect most really good (and productive) writers will tell you to write it, edit it, maybe have crit partners edit it before you edit it one more time, then move on to the next book. Starting another book and then coming back to edit the first is probably a pretty good idea too, because it gives you time and space to really see the edits that are needed.

Unfortunately, I don't do that. I'm a psycho-perfectionist who can't let a book go till I feel really great about it, and for me ... that takes time and lots AND LOTS of edits. Don't follow my example ... I'm crazy.


Renee said...

Hmmmmm Julie, I like the way you're hubby thinks...I would have said "Mustang" though!:-P

Great post!!!

xoxo~ Renee

Julie Lessman said...

Pepper ... YES, by all means ... use me as an example!!!! :)

I absolutely LOVE both ellipses and exclamation points because it SOOO fits my wired, drama-queen personality, so I allow myself the pleasure in comments, e-mails and personal communications. BUT ... rest assured that the copy editors at Revell keep me in line, and actually I will usually do an edit in my ms. focused on those nit-picky things like too many ellipses, exclamation points AND emdashes -- another personal favorite -- BEFORE I submit the final ms. to my editor!


Julie Lessman said...

Renee!!!!!!! Thanks for dropping by, sweetie, and I'll tell my hubby that he has support in the Seeker blog audience -- he'll appreciate that.

And I'm with you -- crazy as it may sound, I would take a Mustang or a Sebring over an Escalade anytime ... an Escalade is just a bit too stuffy for me, and besides ... I like to go fast. :)


Tina Pinson said...

Julie wrote,
I absolutely LOVE both ellipses and exclamation points because it SOOO fits my wired, drama-queen personality, so I allow myself the pleasure in comments, e-mails and personal communications. BUT ... rest assured that the copy editors at Revell keep me in line, and actually I will usually do an edit in my ms. focused on those nit-picky things like too many ellipses, exclamation points AND emdashes -- another personal favorite -- BEFORE I submit the final ms. to my editor!

Tina says,
OMG Julie,

had I known you were as anal as me and love all the things I keep having to take out, we would have never had a problem at all.

Heaven's I so love em dashes, ellipses are my buddies.

And now, it would seem you just might be too.

And Pepper you keep smoking in the kitchen and having those conversations with your characters, writers not only write, they get lost in the worlds they create, and like Julie says they edit, edit and edit some more.

Unfortunately, I edit and edit and find more I could have editted. I don't think we ever stop. I've read some of my things and cringe to think I missed something.

Lee Smith said...

Since I am in the middle of those never ending revisions myself, this is very timely advice. As some have pointed out, choosing the right words also makes a HUGE difference in how we relate to other people ~ especially our husbands. :o)


Project Journal said...

Sorry it's such a late comment, but last night(ironically enough) I was editing my AP English paper on THe Scarlet Letter. I had to cut it down from 1169 words to a maximum of 800 words(our teacher didn't tell us a word max before we wrote it!). So, this post was really ironic and perfect for me yesterday even though I didn't get to take the time to post a comment. I had to work really hard getting the wording just right...

Thanks a bunch!

Missy Tippens said...

Oh, I'm so picky about words, too! I can sit and ponder a word choice for ten minutes or longer. then I'll finally just highlight it and move on. But eventually I'll go back to it and angst over it once again. I also do the same for how the words flow, for sentence length, etc. I can be reading along and it hits me that a sentence is just a little too long or too short. Or a reply is a beat too late after the question.

I can drive myself crazy sometimes! LOL Great post, Julie!!

Anonymous said...

Dear Mary DeMuth, (PITCH)
Aqua Moon intertwines redemptive memoir, wisdom from ancient women of God, and life-stories of contemporary women of faith to invite deeper thought about life's journey. Middle age mixes meaning and disillusionment. For a woman, wife, Mom, Grandma, writer, teacher and seeker weary in well-doing, Scripture crystallizes hope from heaven, one word at a time, Spirit-breathed.

In Aqua Moon, Protestant women discover the empowering ancient Benedictine practice of lectio divina, or sacred reading of Scripture. They wake one morning, step outside, and see an aqua moon, the beauty of the present moment.

Thank you for this opportunity and your consideration.
Gail Kittleson