Thursday, February 10, 2011

Afraid of the Words

Do you ever feel afraid of the words on the page?  I do.

I write something and then think, "I can't leave that.  It's too [mushy][crude][lame][stupid]."

We are trained to be lean, mean writing machines.  It's all about story arc, tension, and micro-tension.  You've gotta have voice and style and tone.  You've gotta be polished.  Perfect. Publishable.

Yet sometimes I feel like I'm editing the guts out of my work.  There is such a thing as too much revision. I recall reading something by an editor who lamented that new authors are like over-eager English students, who when you ask them to change something, change it so completely that they lose the spirit of the original work.

"When we speak we are afraid
Our words will not be heard nor welcomed.
But when we are silent, we are still afraid.
So it is better to speak.” - Audre Lorde

"Today we are afraid of simple words like goodness and mercy and kindness. We don't believe in the good old words because we don't believe in good old values anymore. And that's why the world is sick." - Lin Yu-tang

"Studying craft... can create timid writers. Ones who are afraid to make giant awkward splashes and instead write safe, neat sentences that may conform to guidelines but are often uninspired. There is a time for rules in writing, but one should only cage the beast after it has been let free to run and wrestle and tumble in the mud until it is exhausted and ready to collapse, willingly, inside the cage." - Rebecca Hargreaves

Have you ever been afraid of words? How did you overcome it? Or are you still working to find the right balance?


  1. I've never thought about it like this. I guess I'm still trying to find the right balance.

  2. I so feel that line about 'editing the guts' out of your work. There are times I have to simply believe some words are meant to be, and let them carry the story. In the end, you know how the story is suppose to sound, it's your voice, all you need to do is believe. (Hugs)Indigo

  3. I'm wary of editing too Christine. It's infinitely valuable but only when done with a light touch.

    i tend to trust my first drafts, but refine them slowly and gently. I'm wary of editors who try to impose their own voice, over the writer's. Balanced editing assists. It does not take over.

  4. Your words in this post have challenged me and inspired me. Thank you!

  5. Balance is forever my nemisis. It stumps me consistently. I just have to keep writing . .


  6. that first scene in my first chapter that you read... i tried writing that one perfectly and it didn't sound like me. when i read first chapters that are tight and perfect, i don't go on reading. it's like the author is trying too hard. i sure don't want my stories to sound that way.

  7. The best advice I ever got was "Write from your heart". When I forgot about all the rules, I got a publishing contract. Speak from your heart. It will shine through and make your story glow! Seriously. Just try it. Don't censor ANYTHING. Be real, be honest, be true to yourself.

  8. Jessica, your comment was wonderful. Thank you so much for the encouragement. I am neck-deep in revision and hating my book right now.


I apologize for the word verification. I hate it, but the spammers made me do it.