The right word

Aside from the obvious benefits like fame and fortune (yeah, right) why do writers write?

My instinctive answer would be ‘to tell stories’, but that’s just me, and only applies to fiction (notwithstanding the accuracy of reporting in certain newspapers). There is another pleasure, an actual high, that I think all writers get. It was described by a fellow panellist at the 2008 Eastercon as ‘finding the right word’. (Ironically I found no words on that panel as I’d lost my voice and was reduced to using pre-written cue cards … but that’s another story.)

The joy of finding the right word can be visited on any writer, no matter their level of experience, but I think that the more practice you’ve had the more satisfying it is when it happens; unfortunately, I also think it happens less often, because as you learn the craft, your internal editor starts to put its oar in. I probably enjoy this lovely frisson less than many writers because I am a notorious hater of first drafts, and my internal editor sometimes lets the wrong word suffice just to get the damn story down. It’s not like I won’t be revising what I’ve written. Repeatedly.

Refreshingly, when working on the current novella, the satisfaction of watching the white space convert to words wasn’t due only to knowing that I had only another 400 words until the next chocolate/twitter break, but was also because the words appearing on the screen felt right. I actually had to make myself slow down on a couple of occasions, as experience has taught me that getting carried away to the extent that I leave my internal editor behind entirely is, like writing whilst intoxicated, only a good idea until I actually look back at what I wrote. 

I know that when I do come to re-read ‘The Ships of Aleph’ (which won’t be for some weeks, ideally – the longer the compost time, the better the end result) I’ll find that changes need to be made. I’ve already had some doubts at the macro level – plot, setting, character etc. But I’m reasonably confident that any sections that escape major revision will also escape it at the detailed level. In other words, I think I’ll still find that a lot of the actual words are the right ones.

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