Bad Words & Kool-Aid

There are the usual suspects: just, very, so, well, really, like, that, then. And the reflectives: felt, saw, heard, etc. that insert space between the reader and character. Also and of course (thank you, Mr. King) adverbs- any and all. Especially after dialogue tags like said (which should also be used sparingly).

She said sorrowfully.

Never write that.

Today I learned a new baaaaad word, one I hadn’t heard before. I thank Writer Unboxed, to which I am indebted for many lessons in craft. If you’re a writer, subscribe to this email. Even if you think you know everything, we all need reminders. I like to think they come at just the right time in my process. Like this one. This bad word I never heard before:

If you want the rationale for why SORRY has to go (most of the time), read this article. I went into my current manuscript and found 33 SORRY’s. Yikes. That’s a lot of apologizing. Bad words are bad because when we strike them, the writing is clearer and more punchy. After a little search-n-slash, I am down to 11 SORRY’s. Best I could do.

I’m beginning to believe that a good formula for writing is:

  1. Vomit straight onto the page. No holding back. No thinking. Just go.
  2. Revise.
  3. Work it with a writer’s group or a friend who doesn’t mind the SFD.
  4. Revise.
  5. Revise.
  6. Revise.
  7. Revise (some writers do a hundred or more revisions).
  8. Do a find and search. Remove bad words. Like SORRY.
  9. Get you some honest, smart, critical beta readers.
  10. Revise with their suggestions.
  11. Revise some more, till you want to vomit for real.
  12. Find and search a second time (you’ll add those suckers right back in without realizing).
  13. Wait a few months.
  14. Revise.
  15. If you’re still there, and the work is still there, send it off.

Here is a quote that can apply to any craft, but of course I think of writing: In the process of submitting to discipline and focusing our attention on a craft, we find ourselves neither omnipotent nor helpless, but somewhere in between.

That sounds like a nice space, doesn’t it? I find I’m usually one or the other.

And another: Learning a craft can teach us a lot about what exactly it is to actualise a self. The word ‘authenticity’ comes from the Greek authentes for ‘master’ or ‘one acting on his own authority’ (aut = self and hentes = making or working on/crafting). Importantly, it doesn’t mean ‘self-maker’ in the reflexive sense of one who makes himself, but one who makes or acts according to his own will – making from out of the self. And in crafting of our accord, we do actually actualise ourselves. We transform inner feelings into something real.

These were taken from this article on authenticity. I could write several posts spinning off this article, including a comment on Jim Jones and mass insanity. We look at Jim Jones and shake our heads and wonder how they could drink the Kool-Aid. Some were forced. How were they so ignorant to get into that situation in the first place? We’d never be that niave, we tell ourselves. First, there was fear. Fear of hell or fear of death. Okay, that’s fine. It’s reasonable to be afraid of those things. It’s human. Fear does funny things to us when we give it the keys. Fear is a terrible driver. Jim Jones’ followers believed their leader had all the answers, unquestioningly. Questions are always good. Then the people did what he told them to do for their own good. Small directives at first. Then bigger and bigger. I’m probably leaving out a bunch of details, but you get the gist of how a group of people found themselves communally tossing back dixie cups of cyanide.

Credit: Dark Ness

If someone tells me I can’t talk about something, that’s exactly the thing I want to talk about.

11 thoughts on “Bad Words & Kool-Aid

  1. peglovesjesus

    Incredible timing! Just today, I was thinking, “Kelly hasn’t posted in awhile.” Not sure why you came to mind. (Maybe because I’m prepping a pitch for a writer’s conference. And you always inspire me.) Glad you’re back. And thanks for the inspiration!

      1. peglovesjesus

        The She Speaks Conference is virtual. I just snagged an appointment to pitch to a Moody Acquisitions Editor via Zoom (June 25). Begging prayer!

  2. I was thinking on my way to work this morning that I wanted to write a blog rant called “offensive language and drinking the Kool-Aid”… then I read this post. 😀 Not quite the same topic, as top of my offensive language list was “operationalise”.

    1. I’m totally a fan of making up my own words. I’ve come to think of Kool-Aid as anything we swallow unthinkingly (darn…thought I made that word up, but no) – even grammar rules haha.

  3. Ah yes, obstinacy and stubbornness are great creative drivers. I use both! And I do love me some revision, but I’m finding I really do have to set down a solid first draft, overwriting even. Scaffolding and filling in later has just never worked for me. Can’t wait to beta read your latest when you’re ready. Swamped under work right now–hoping to have a few moments this weekend to get back to my WIP!

    1. I am ALMOST there, girlfriend! I LOVE revising. Oh my gosh. I love it so much more than the blank page. Wishing you speedy writing. How great if we finish around the same time.

      1. Yay for revision! I still have a few thousands words left to go on this first draft–it keeps growing! I got swamped with work, so I haven’t had time to just get it out. In June, I have a couple days away to write, and I’m hoping I can use that time to look at the thing as a whole. Cannot wait to get this manuscript to the revision stage. And can’t wait to see yours!

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