Writing Tool – The Thesaurus

All writers search for that one word that can pack a punch and make a difference between a good statement and a great statement.  No one wants to write a story using the same words over and over again and just like our readers, we want some variety.  A thesaurus is a great way to mix it up a bit and although Word has a built in thesaurus the results are limited.  I’ve looked around on the internet to see if I could find a thesaurus that would really help in my writing and I found one.

Visual Thesaurus is unique and even a little fun to use.  It’s not free but the cost is minimal and there’s a free 14 day trial period.  Type in a word and click “look it up”.  A variety of words will come up that circle the word you’ve searched with each associated word connected with lines and a colored dot to symbolize the part of speech.  When you run your mouse over the colored dot a definition pops up for each group or one particular word and in some instances the word will be used in a sentence.  There’s a great feature where you can look up the words and synonyms in different languages as well.  If you see a group of words that you like better than your chosen word, right click on that word and choose “make center”. Once this is done you will see the focus is now on that word and synonyms etc.  Right clicking on a word will also give you options to search the internet for a more in depth description and also search images for your word.

I’ve just subscribed to this so I’m still getting used to it but I’m hoping it proves helpful.  Check it out and see what you think.  If you don’t want to subscribe you can try it for free without entering your credit card information but I think some of the features are disabled.  To use the free 14 day trial you have to enter your card information and cancel before the trial period runs out.


Descriptive Writing

One of my biggest pet peeves when reading a story is when the author stops to describe scenery or what a character is wearing.  As an author I don’t like having to stop to describe anything really, although I know it’s necessary so I keep it brief and to the point because I want to get back to writing the story.

However, there are some things the readers don’t need to know.  For instance is it really important to know what a character is wearing when going on a boat?  I think most readers will have a clear picture in mind of what people wear on a boat and unless that particular outfit has something major to do with the story it’s unnecessary.  Simply stating what kind of boat would be enough.

My idea of a long, drawn out description is someone walking in the woods.  For example:  He walked through the woods where the trees were so thick and crowded their branches were intertwined.  Birch, Maple and Pine rose high above blocking light from the path. The wind was strong causing the trees to sway while the leaves rustled loudly with their undersides upturned indicating a storm was coming. 

Instead just sayHe walked into the dense woods submerging himself in shadows.  The wind rustled the leaves indicating a storm was coming.

The second version gives a clear picture of where the character is going, what the surroundings are like and what is coming.  Something simple won’t detract from the story but will give the reader a clear sense of what’s going on.

This of course is just my opinion but as one who reads many books, I like simple and to the point.

Sometimes it’s hard for me to describe something in little detail so when I write I try to describe something the way I would if I were speaking with another person.  When we talk to others we don’t go into a ton of detail and yet we are able to clearly describe what we’re trying to convey.  Another method you can try is to relate what you want to describe to a place or festivity.  For example, I’m from New England and anyone who has ever been here knows the smell of pine and fir trees but it’s impossible to describe that scent so I would relate that to the smell of Christmas for example.  Who hasn’t smelled a pine scented candle or has seen a fir tree featured in a Christmas movie?  Not many but it’s important to be able to convey what you want so anyone reading your story can relate.  So how would you describe the scent of pine to someone living in the desert who’s never traveled?  Again let’s use the scene in the woods as an example.

Walking down the path surrounded by pine trees she instantly thought of Christmas. 

You get the point.  It’s simple and maybe you’d even be able to get a little more specific but keeping it short and to the point is key.  I’ve read many books where an author will describe a flower that only grows in a particular region.  For me if I’ve never been there I have no idea what they’re talking about, therefore, that description hold absolutely no meaning for me.  Not to say that it’s wrong but as an author wouldn’t you want all readers to be able to know and understand what you’ve taken so much time to write about?  If you’ve taken time to put this in a story then it’s in your best interest to make it’s meaningful for your readers.

Clearly I’m not a published author – yet!  I don’t proclaim to be an expert by any means but I know as a reader what I like personally and how I’ve used my particular tastes in my own writing.


Working Backwards – It isn’t always a bad thing.

When I  sat down to write my first novel “Always a Victim” I started from the beginning with a rough draft until I wrote every chapter with anywhere from 800 to 3,500 words each.  In between writing chapters I’d read about outlining vs. a rough draft.  I’d already written my rough draft which was a mess and scolded myself for not reading about outlines before I started.  So I thought I have to edit this story regardless of where and how I started it so what the heck; I’d do an outline after the fact.  This was my saving grace and by not outlining first was the best mistake I ever made.  For me outlining turned into so much more than just listing what I want in each chapter and scene.  It’s where I was able to put the details into each part moving me closer to my first draft; therefore outlining my story is my second step instead of my first.

Here’s how it worked for me.  Once I finished my rough draft I had a friend edit it and provide their comments, which I saved if I thought a good point had been made.  I found a wonderful writing tool called yWriter that is designed to aid in every phase of writing.  Since my rough draft had been done and I set it aside for a month, it was time to get back to business and work toward my first draft.  I took each chapter from my rough draft, copied and pasted it into the yWriter software and then created my outline where I broke each chapter down into scenes.  For me, this provided a much more organized approach and I was able to see exactly how each chapter moved forward to the next, the relevancy of each scene to the entire story and that many scenes should actually be a whole new chapter.  Once the scenes are set for each chapter, I’m able to detail how I want each scene to play out or what I want included so when I go back to it everything is summarized.  Here’s what it looks like:

Scene: 1
Nate sulks at home and at work about Michelle.  He knows he was out of line and a real ass and has serious doubts he’ll be able to fix it.  Clarence has had enough of the act and tells Nate as much laying out before him exactly what he had and how he screwed it up and that he’d better fix it otherwise he’s a fool.

Scene: 2
Michelle returns home and tries to blow Nate off when he tries to make things right.  In a rant of sorts she tells him she doesn’t have time to deal with his theatrics, spills her guts about everything she’d learned. She tells him that he has some nerve judging her when he needs to take a good look in the mirror.  She reminds him how he uses his father’s disease as a crutch and an excuse to think he’s better than everyone else because he had to fend for himself when in fact he’s one of the weakest people she knows. 

They both reveal their true feelings for one another but neither know how or if it’s possible to move past all that’s happened and build a life together.

Clearly this chapter is a pivotal point for the main characters and I wanted to make sure I detailed exactly what should be include.  I’ve written each scene based on the summaries above.  It’s organized and gives me a clear picture.

I know this approach may not work for everyone and it may seem redundant but I’ve found it’s a fantastic way to map out a story.

This software also allows the writer to set goals for each chapter, add notes and will produce a synopsis for review.  It’s easy to use no matter what your writing methods are.  Everything is easily edited or moved around from one chapter to another without losing your work.