First off, comment on today’s blog post for a chance to win a copy of Becoming Your Own Critique Partner, by Janet Lane Walters! I’ll draw on Friday, Nov. 12.
My crit partner and I were IMing last night while we were supposed to be writing (coughs) and talking about word choices: specifically, when to wax poetic, and when to say “hell” instead of “nether realms of the satanic provinces.”
Admittedly, both Critter and I are journalists by training so we’re hardwired to use $2 words. But I did get that pesky degree in Victorian literature, so I always fear there might be some nether realms of satanic provinces lurking in my manuscript.
To check it out, I plugged my WIP (all 97,000 words of it) into the Word Frequency Calculator and did an analysis of the words I used, subtracting things like “and” and “the.”
WFC found that I used 7,195 words in my 97K document. Of those, 5,061 were unique words, or used only twice. Yay! That’s pretty good, I think, because lesions, peephole, roadkill, and sociopath probably only deserve one use in a novel. It also means I have some serious word repetitions so I need to go back and see what they are and where to fix them.
Because words matter. Here’s my take on it. If a word is unique enough to evoke an emotion or clarify a mood, it’s a perfect word. If a word is so unique that it draws attention to itself, I don’t want to use it. I want people to read my story, not marvel at my impressive vocabulary.
Then there are the purple words. You know which ones I mean. They’re the particular thorn-patch of romance writers because there are only so many ways to say “breasts” without being repetitious or sliding down the slippery slope of creamy mounds and heaving bosoms. And, really, can ANYBODY read phrases like creamy mounds and heaving bosoms without much eye-rolling? (Or would that be lust-driven swiveling of one’s dark and passionate windows to the soul?)
So, talk to me about word choice. When you’re writing, what process do you use in deciding on the words that make it to the final manuscript? When you’re reading, does flowery or dense wording help set the mood for the story or distract you from it? When it comes to purple, how much is too much?