Friday, February 25, 2011

Tricks to the Trade

Writing takes practice. Lots of practice. Recently, I was speaking with an editor friend and she told me her English professor once said, "To become a master at writing, you must write one million words first. Then you will be a master."

No truer words were ever spoken. Deb Coonts said to me that the first book is good, the second is better, and the third best of all for the same reason. Practice, practice, practice. Practice doesn't make perfect; it makes better and you're always improving.

I've learned a great deal in the last six months about writing because I've attended a workshop put on by the Las Vegas Writer's Group and a one-day conference put on by the Las Vegas Romance Writers. If you want to be a writer, I recommend going to a few conferences (as many as you can afford because they're not cheap). Both the workshop and the one-day conference were excellent because they taught me things I'd never known about writing.

For example: Do you know what GMC is? No, it's not a dying car manufacturer or a gas-guzzling SUV. It's an acronym for Goal, Motivation, and Conflict. This is something each of your characters has and you must know as the writer to make the story excellent. I knew this instinctively, but I didn't know the proper terms for these qualities. Knowing them has improved my writing by leaps and bounds.

Another example: Get rid of the word "that". Everywhere. Just use the "Find" feature in your writing program and hit "remove", either one by one or en masse. Trust me, your writing will improve significantly.

And editors prefer conjunctions. We don't say "do not", "could not", "will not", "had not", "have not", "I am". We say (and think) "don't", "couldn't", "won't", "hadn't", "haven't" and "I'm". Use this even in description.

The last thing everyone likes (not just editors) is something other than "he said", "she said", "they said". Said? What does that mean? There's no emotion in "said". For example: "Holy shit! Where the hell did that come from?!" she said.

Uh, said? Wouldn't it be better to use the word "shouted", or "screamed" or "shrieked" or "hollered"? Heck, even "exclaimed" gets the emotion across better. But it's not always easy to think of the right word. Thesauruses are great for that, but they don't always have them all together.

Years ago, I didn't like "he said", "she said" either, so I made my own list. It has grown and I've edited it over time (back then we didn't have a need for "Tweeted" or "texted"), but it's really useful when trying to convey more emotion than just the statements suggest. They are listed below for your use when writing.

Accused Cursed Ordered Slurred
Acknowledged Declared Panted Snapped
Acquiesced Demanded Persisted Snarled
Added Demurred Pleaded Sneered
Admitted Disagreed Pointed out Snickered
Admonished Disavowed Pondered Sobbed
Advised Drawled Preached Soothed
Agreed Emphasized Prevaricated Spat
Announced Encouraged Proclaimed Spoke (up)
Annunciated Exclaimed Prodded Sputtered
Answered Exposulated Promised Squawked
Apologized Fawned Pronounced Squeaked
Argued Flattered Protested Stammered
Articulated Gasped Purred Started
Asked Gibbered Queried Stated
Assented Grated Questioned Stuttered
Babbled Greeted Quoted Suggested
Badgered Groaned Railed Swore
Barked Growled Raged Taunted
Began Grumped Rasped Teased
Begged Hissed Raved Texted
Belched Hinted Reasoned Thanked
Bellowed Hollered Rebuked Thought
Bleated Howled Recalled Threatened
Blurted Implied Recited Thundered
Boasted Inferred Recommended Told
Boomed Informed Refuted Transmitted
Breathed Inquired Remarked Tweeted
Called Insisted Reminded Typed
Cautioned Instructed Repeated Urged
Challenged Interjected Replied Uttered
Chanted Interrupted Reported Vocalized
Cheered Intoned Requested Voiced
Chided Introduced Responded Voted
Choked Jeered Retorted Wailed
Chortled Joked Returned Warned
Commented Lied Roared Went (on)
Complained Mentioned Rumbled Wheedled
Complimented Mimicked Said Wheezed
Conceded Moaned Sang Whimpered
Confessed Mouthed Scoffed Whined
Continued Mumbled Screamed Whispered
Cooed Murmured Screeched Wondered
Countered Nagged Shot (back) Wrote
Corrected Nattered Shouted Yelled
Cried (out) Needled Shrieked Yelped
Crowed Offered Signaled Yirred

So there you have it. Each word conveys a great deal more emotion than "said", although that word is also in the list (just in case you needed it). If you can think of any others, please let me know and I'll add it to the list for future reference. Good luck and happy writing! :)

1 comment:

  1. "Excellent compilation!" she enthusiastically agreed, adding an adjective as she could not find a word that was not already included in the comprehensive collection.


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