Welcome to the official blog of Maumee Valley Romance Writers of America! We're a local writers' group in the Toledo, Ohio area. Most of us write romance, but we also have members who write other genres too. New members are always welcome to visit or join the group. See the meetings page for details. We post every Monday and Friday about all things book-related. Whether you're a writer, reader, or both, we hope you'll stop by often and get to know our dozen contributors.

Friday, February 10, 2012

When Words Fail

There have been many times in my life when the words to say what was in my heart wouldn’t come easily. I can think of three offhand: the first time I met my sweetie, when my grandparents died and I had no words for my parents in their grief, and when I came out to my family.

Somehow, in each of those moments, I muddled through and found the words to use. Whether they were the “perfect” words didn’t matter in the end. They were the best words I had at the time.

You’d think as I writer I’d have more days where I find the right words than where I don’t. Some days I do. Some days it’s like pulling teeth to get one sentence down, especially when writing a first draft.

It’s not that I don’t have ideas. I’m a plotter so I usually know where I’m heading in a story. In fact, the ideas come so quickly, it can often be difficult to get down exactly how I want the scene to sound. I know what I want to have happen, I know how I want the characters to react, I know what they are feeling, but when I start to write it, the words just won’t fit what I’m picturing.

So what do I do?

What works best for me is to plow through. Get all the ideas down, no matter how simple or redundant the language and descriptions I’m using, so that I don’t lose the picture. Once I have the basic scene laid out, I can play with words and phrases and descriptions and characterizations to find new ways of describing actions, settings, character details, and reactions. I can give more life to the story.

All that layering doesn’t always come second nature. I’ve found revising takes longer than plotting or writing the first draft. But I’ve also found that revising is where magical things happen, where character details and twists in the story pop up out of nowhere.

It’s after that level of layering and revising that I hope the story and characters shine through, and the writing and words disappear for the reader.

So even though words fail me sometimes, I do believe the better a story is written, the more the words stop mattering to the reader. They are so engaged in what is happening, to whom, and with what emotional impact. It’s only when the writing fails that they are pulled out of the story and are reminded they are reading a book.

So the hard work of pushing through moments where words fail can really pay off.

Anyone else have some aspect of writing (or any other activity in life) they feel they sometimes fail at but are so glad they stuck with it and kept on going?

Sloan Parker has been writing and playing with fictional characters for years but finally found true passion sharing stories about two men (or more) falling in love. Sloan loves to explore the lives of people who are growing as individuals while falling in love. You can learn more about Sloan and her work at www.sloanparker.com


Taylor V. Donovan said...

Excellent post, Sloan :-).

Like you I'm a plotter. I also need to write in chronological order and obsess over that first chapter and the opening lines in all subsequent chapters like you wouldn't believe. If it isn't just right I can't move on, even if other chapters are practically written in my head already.

Because of this I can spend weeks trying to get that one line down. It shoots my writing schedule to hell. I get frustrated. I want to give up because there's no way I'm going to be able to meet my deadline, you know? But I don't. I haven't. I keep trying until I get it right, and I'm happy for that because it does pay off at the end. There's no describing that sense of accomplishment when I type "The End". :-)

Patrice Kavanaugh said...

Words do matter. In life and in stories about life. The best are not always easy to come by, which makes them soooooo precious. And worth the effort, frustration, discouragement, happy dancing to find them deep within yourself. Lovely post, Sloan!

Constance Phillips said...

Great post, Sloan. As writers we strive to craft the perfect words for a perfect moment. As you've said, it's a process...

Em-Musing said...

Yes, I struggle with words too. Especially when adjectives and adverbs are a no, no. It's easier writing words to show action than what my characters are feeling on the inside. Great post.

Anonymous said...

So many times in my life I felt unable to express myself through words. I find it hard to say exactly what i mean or feel. So I attempted writing, it was a fascinating experience and without the help of a good friend I would have never finished the story. The sense of achievement was extraordinary. All the best, Sloan.

Sloan Parker said...

Taylor: Thanks! Glad you liked the post, and thanks for sharing. That’s so neat that you write in chronological order. Typing the end is such a great feeling, isn’t it? It sounds like you’ve found a process that works for you, even if it does frustrate and scare you (that happens to me even if I don’t have a deadline LOL). That perseverance and dedication you have to keep at it until you have it right is something to proud of. Lots of people say they want to write a book but so few actually have what it takes to plug away at it. Congrats!

Sloan Parker said...

Patrice: I really liked what you said about words that are hard to come by being precious. What a great way to look at it. Thanks!

Connie: It’s definitely a process, isn’t it? Even when I want to pull my hair out, I do enjoy the discovery of how best to go about that process for me and the particular story I’m trying to tell.

Em: Thanks! Well, your final product doesn't sound like you struggle with words so you are definitely doing something right. I think I’m the opposite as you. I have an easier time with the characters’ feelings than the actions. Not sure why that is. Hmmmm...

Claudia: Congratulations on finishing the story!! There’s nothing like that moment when you realize you accomplished something that didn’t always come easily. So happy for you!