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Those Wascally Weasel Words


Those Wascally Weasel Words

 by Jan Drexler


Weasel words are the worst, aren’t they? The hardest part about them is that they sneak into our writing, and we don’t even see them when we read!

One culprit I struggle with in my writing are “thought” verbs. You know, “knew,” “wondered,” “realized,” “remembered,” “felt,” etc.

In preparing to write this post, I did a search for some of those verbs on my most recent book, The Sign of the Calico Quartz. I found a LOT of them!

Those Wascally Weasel Words

 
The word “knew” was in that manuscript thirty-four times. Some of those occurrences were in dialogue and I accept no responsibility for those – blame the characters! But the others? They could be changed to something stronger.


Let’s look at these sentences: 
By morning I was beginning to feel normal again and ready for a cup of Wil’s coffee. But as soon as I started down the stairs, I knew I was out of luck. No delicious rich coffee smell wafted from the kitchen.

How can I change that to get rid of those weasel words, “feel” and “knew?”

First, I need to change my mindset. I recently read in an essay that “Thinking is abstract. Knowing and believing are intangible. Your story will always be stronger if you just show the physical actions and details of your characters and allow your reader to do the thinking and knowing.” (Nuts and Bolts: “Thought” Verbs by Chuck Palahniuk)

Did you catch that? “…allow your reader…” When I use a verb like “knew,” I’m spoon-feeding my reader. And when I do that, what happens to that person’s experience? Where is the give and take between the reader and the author when the writing fails to demand that the reader take part in the conversation?

Those Wascally Weasel Words


Let’s take those sentences apart and rework them.

“By morning I was beginning to feel normal again and ready for a cup of Wil’s coffee.”

Emma is heading down the stairs on her way to the kitchen. She craves a cup of coffee. Not just any coffee, but the dark, rich, slightly bitter brew the chef makes every morning. Can I capture those thoughts of Emma’s and paint a picture for my readers?

I caught a glance of myself in the mirror as I left the room. My hair: combed. My clothes: not wrinkled or backwards. My smile: bright and chipper. As normal as could be. Except for one thing. Coffee.

Okay, I’m happy with that. I exchanged the word “feel” for narrative that invites the reader to use their imagination. What about the rest of the paragraph?

“But as soon as I started down the stairs, I knew I was out of luck. No delicious rich coffee smell wafted from the kitchen.”

On the top step I took a deep breath, anticipating the sweet aroma of Wil’s coffee. By the third step I could taste the rich notes of the slightly bitter brew. I pushed open the kitchen door, licking my lips as the dark liquid spilled into my cup, releasing its fragrance. I took a deep breath. And stopped. The kitchen was in shadows. No Wil. No breakfast cooking. I flicked my gaze to coffee maker in the corner. Unplugged. Cold. Empty.

Changing my writing in this way isn’t easy. In fact, it probably took me ten times as long to rewrite these sentences as it did to write them in the first place.

Because of that, this exercise isn’t for the first draft. This is the kind of rewriting to tackle during revisions. The first draft is to get the story down. The revision process is where you make your story sing.


Are you up for a challenge? Find a sentence in your own writing that needs to be revised. Then examine it word by word. Rewrite it as if you’re seeing it for the first time. Rewrite it as if you’re in your character’s head. Rewrite the action step by step. Then put it together in a way that induces your readers to see the actions or thoughts of your characters as if they’re experiencing it themselves.

That is the ultimate “show, don’t tell.”


Share your challenge with us! Did you rewrite a sentence from your own story? Post the before and after in the comments to be entered in the drawing for an e-book copy of The Sign of the Calico Quartz!

Those Wascally Weasel Words

Emma Blackwood’s favorite pastime is solving literary murder mysteries…until the body in her living room makes everything a little too real.
When Emma comes to the Black Hills to work at her Aunt Rose’s B&B, the Sweetbrier Inn, she is hoping for a quiet break from the corporate treadmill. But she hadn’t expected murder and intrigue to mar this peaceful setting.
As she wades through too many clues to identify the murderer, she soon finds that the culprit isn’t stopping at only one homicide and may even have placed Emma herself on the list of targets. With the help of her friend Becky, and a deputy sheriff who grudgingly lets them join in on the investigation, Emma tracks down the killer. But will it be in time to save the next victim?

Avoiding the Summer Slump

 

Avoiding the Summer Slump

Last month I was invited to speak at the Minnesota Christian Writers Guild, a great organization that holds monthly meetings in the Twin Cities to help writers along their writing journey.

I addressed the topic of Avoiding the Summer Slump, mostly because I needed to preach a little truth to myself. If you, too, need a bit of a pep talk, you've come to the right place.

So, how can a writer avoid that summer slump?

1. Set Goals:

  • Be realistic. You cannot possibly write 5 million words in one week. (Well, Ruthy can, but she's not human.)
  • Make goals quantifiable. Set goals specific enough that you can tell whether you've attained them or not.
  • Separate 'writing adjacent' things from actual writing. Writing adjacent things like research, marketing, emails, etc. take lots of time, but they won't add words to your work in progress.
2. Identify what Motivates You:

  • Remember why it is you write. Remind yourself...often if necessary
  • Set small victory rewards. Chocolate? A new coffee mug? Dinner out?
  • Identify what you want to have accomplished at the end of the summer when you look back. Keep it in the forefront of your mind during writing sessions.
  • Set a big victory reward. When you reach your big-picture goal, reward yourself with something cool. A vacation? A conference? A writing retreat? A laptop? Whatever. Save for it and work toward it.
3. Set your Strategies:

  • Are you going to get up earlier? Stay up later?
  • One weekend a month devoted to your writing?
  • Turn off social media or the tv?
  • Get your family involved.
                    a. Let them know how important this is to you.
                    b. Give them tangible ways to help. Dishes? Cooking? Quiet time?
                    c. Give them updates so they know how helpful they're being.

4. Get the Tools You Need to Stay on Track:


  • Planners. Write it down and make it happen.
  • Word count trackers can provide a visual of your progress
  • Accountability partners can help you stay on track.
  • A private FB group of likeminded people. (I belong to a group on FB called 1k1hr, which stands for One Thousand Words in One Hour. You don't have to write that fast, or you can go faster if you want, but the upshot is people check in, ask if anyone is around who is also writing, and a few folks join in. Encouragement that you're not alone, seeing the productivity of others, and a place to be held accountable. Bonus, you can make friends, too!) https://www.facebook.com/groups/338770276151416

There are only two more months before school starts and leaves start changing. What do you want to have accomplished by then? How are you going to get it done?

Avoiding the Summer Slump

Best-selling, award-winning author Erica Vetsch loves Jesus, history, romance, and sports. She’s a transplanted Kansan now living in Minnesota, and she is married to her total opposite and soul mate! When she’s not writing fiction, she’s planning her next trip to a history museum and cheering on her Kansas Jayhawks and New Zealand All Blacks. You can connect with her at her website, 
www.ericavetsch.com where you can read about her books and sign up for her newsletter, and you can find her online at https://www.facebook.com/EricaVetschAuthor/ where she spends way too much time!



Super excited that The Debutante's Code is now available for pre-order! (Link Below)

Avoiding the Summer Slump


Jane Austen meets Sherlock Holmes in this new Regency mystery series

Newly returned from finishing school, Lady Juliette Thorndike is ready to debut in London society. Due to her years away, she hasn't spent much time with her parents, and sees them only as the flighty, dilettante couple the other nobles love. But when they're lost at sea, she discovers she never really knew them at all. They've been living double lives as government spies--and they're only the latest in a long history of espionage that is the family's legacy.

Now Lady Juliette is determined to continue their work. Mentored by her uncle, she plunges into the dangerous world of spy craft. From the glittering ballrooms of London to the fox hunts, regattas, and soirees of country high society, she must chase down hidden clues, solve the mysterious code her parents left behind, and stay out of danger. All the while, she has to keep her endeavors a secret from her best friend and her suitors--not to mention nosy, irritatingly handsome Bow Street runner Daniel Swann, who suspects her of a daring theft.

Can Lady Juliette outwit her enemies and complete her parents' last mission? Or will it lead her to a terrible end?

Best-selling author Erica Vetsch is back with a rollicking, exciting new series destined to be a hit with Regency readers who enjoy a touch of mystery in their love stories. Fans of Julie Klassen, Sarah Ladd, and Anne Perry will love the wit, action, and romance.

Pre-order your copy here: https://smile.amazon.com/Debutantes-Thorndike-Swann-Regency-Mysteries/dp/0825447135


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