I was reading a novel last night (as per non-writing night usual). Great story, terrible writing. TERRIBLE. Like the kind of writing that kept interrupting the flow of my immersion in the story because I kept stopping to think “ACK END SENTENCE AND STOP USING CONJUNCTIONS SERIOUSLY.” It’s one of those things where I kind of wonder what happened in the editing process, because a lot of it was just editing choices that made me bonkers.

But then a word happened. Twitterpated. The character announced she was twitterpated.

Twitterpated is a fucking fantastic word. I love it and feel it is sadly underused. I also feel like it described the character well in that moment. It’s just that there was no way in this world or any other (even the one the character was in) that this particular character would EVER have used the word twitterpated. So in reading the word I was yanked out of the story, wondering how on earth an otherwise not-overly-bright-seeming character would have seized upon that particular word.

The thing is that the character never would have. The author, on the other hand, was likely either saving up the word to use at some point, or perhaps had hit the thesaurus in search of something new and shiny (the latter of which I suspect to be probable, given the number of other times the same sort of sense crept up on me while I was reading).

The moral? As an author, if you’re writing along and feeling like you’re overusing a word, then yes, hit a thesaurus. HOWEVER, make sure that you keep in mind the voice of the manuscript/character/etc in mind so that you don’t seize upon a word that doesn’t ultimately work with the rest of the script. And please, please make sure that you know precisely what the word means – choosing the wrong word really does hose a reader’s ability to stay involved.

Three other thoughts on writing:
– All the advice about using adverbs sparingly? DEAD ON.
– Ditto exclamation points. One per page is too damn many. One per chapter, maybe. MAYBE. They tend not to go well.
– Ditto dialogue tags. “He said” or “she said” are all you need 90% of the time. Seriously.

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