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.


Pro’s of writing short stories

As I’ve been working on my full length novel and frankly feeling quite defeated, I’ve also written a short story that I entered into a contest.  Once I finished that short story I began thinking of writing two more and put out a series based on my first one.  I outlined each one in detail and was surprised at how easily it flowed for me vs. the full length novel and  came to realize there are some very good reasons for that.

First is that a short story is just that, it’s short.  That doesn’t mean it’s any easier to write and have it make sense but for me it’s a challenge to consolidate all my thoughts into a few sentences that actually flow and get right to the point.  It forces me to be practical when I have a word count limit looming before me and more importantly it doesn’t bore the readers with unnecessary details that detract from the story.

Second is that its great practice to build my writing skills.  A first draft may show I’ve gone over the word count limit by 90 words which means I have to review each paragraph and really read it.  I’ll start asking myself questions like  Do I really need that description?  How can I convey this point with fewer words? etc. and it also forces me to show action instead of telling about it making the story itself much smoother.

Lastly is I found the story I was writing was exciting to me and I really liked my characters. I liked the plot, the way the scenes played out and loved the ending.  If you like your characters, your readers will too even the villains.  At least that’s what I’ve read from people who’ve given their advice with writing stories.

How do you feel about short stories vs. full length novels?