Tuesday, July 16, 2013

All right, I admit it. I'm one of those weird writers who actually prefers to write with her internal editor turned on. Most authors believe the editing side of their brain impedes their creativity, but not me. Editing is actually my strength. Without it, I flounder. I don't write multiple drafts of my novels. I edit as I go, polishing each chapter before moving on to the next, and when I get to "The End," it's actually the end.

Knowing this about me, you'll understand why my writing pace is slow. My perfectionistic tendencies will not be ignored. I might work for an hour just to craft the perfect analogy to describe how my hero crosses the street. I might re-write a sentence a dozen times to smooth out the flow or search four different thesauruses/dictionaries to uncover the perfect verb to use in portraying my heroine's emotions. The right word can make all the difference.

Words not only reflect the action, but the personalities of the characters. For example, in Stealing the Preacher, Crockett Archer is a minister. The heroine calls him Brother Archer. Respectful, polite, proper. Her ex-outlaw father, however, calls him a sermonizer. Can't you hear the disdain dripping from that word? It paints a completely different picture.

While I believe selecting strong words helps an author create vivid images in her fiction, I also think we have to be careful not to take our words too seriously. This was brought home to me a few weeks ago when I was sitting in church with my kids. I usually sit between my two boys (ages 11 and 13), and we all sing together. My older children sing with enthusiasm, while my youngest is much more timid. This particular day, however, Peter was eagerly getting involved in the singing. Not so much with his voice, but with his hands. You see, he was acting out the words as he sang them. His hands were close to his lap, so I did nothing to stop him. In fact, I was thrilled that he was paying close enough attention to the words to be able to pantomime them.

We sing classic hymns at our church, and on this day we were singing Victory in Jesus.

I heard an old, old story, (Peter held his hands together like an open book.)
How a Savior came from glory (Peter pointed a finger up toward heaven.)
How he gave his life on Calvary (He shaped his fingers into a cross.)
To save a wretch like me (Peter pointed to himself.) 

The pattern continued through the rest of the verse and on to the chorus. Like the proud mother I was, I smiled at him and sang out strong. "Oh, victory in Jesus, my Savior, forever, He sought me and bo't me with His redeeming blood; He loved me ere I knew him, and all my love is due him, He plunged me to victory, beneath the cleansing flood."

I glanced over to Peter as we neared the end of the chorus, and I saw this thoughtful look come over his face followed by a click of satisfaction as an idea formed. Have you guessed it? Oh, yes, he did. When we sang about how Jesus plunged us to victory, my son pantomimed a toilet plunger. With gusto.

Oh, my word. I was horrified and yet found it so hilarious I burst into quiet laughter while grabbing his hands at the same time to get him to quit. I tried to explain to him later that there were different meaning for the word plunge and this one had nothing to do with plumbing, but he was so proud of getting me to laugh, that I don't think he cared about the semantics.

This episode served to remind me that in my search for the perfect word, I should never take myself so seriously that I forget to have a good time. Authors get paid to play with words, after all, and the results should be fun for everyone. 

Come back Friday for a chance to win a copy of Karen's newest book, "Stealing the Preacher."

Two-time RITA® Finalist and winner of the coveted HOLT Medallion and ACFW Carol Award, CBA bestselling author, Karen Witemeyer, writes historical romance fiction for Bethany House, believing that the world needs more happily-ever-afters. She is an avid cross-stitcher, shower singer, and bakes a mean apple cobbler. Karen makes her home in Abilene, TX with her husband and three children. Learn more about Karen and her books at: www.karenwitemeyer.com


  1. Hey this way obviously works for you! Your writing is wonderful.

    Just nearing the end of Crockett's story and am loving every minute!!


  2. Thanks, Sue! So glad you are enjoying Crockett's story!


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