Writing Tip – Finding the Right Words

When do you think the word cool became so “cool”? Ever wonder how long popular expressions have been used?

In a 1930s-era movie I heard an actress use the word swell to express her agreement with another’s plan. I think it was Follow the Fleet with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

As I remember, the line was “that would be swell,”  and it shocked me to hear it’s use in such an old film.

Before the 60s swell was how ocean waves behaved, but using it to show agreement or joy had been invented by my peers, according to my superior knowledge of such things. It’s typical, isn’t it, how each generation tends to think we’ve come up with something never before known?

My more accurate education came by way of Google’s Ngram Viewer.

In the viewer you can type in any word to see where in history it shows up, and when it rose or fell in popularity.

It’s especially valuable for writers who want an accurate tool for historical research. Here, try it out.

There are advanced features that hurt my head, but may prove valuable in the future when I might wish to increase my smartness. With a little study it’s possible to search with different languages, alternate spellings, compare verbs and nouns, and so much more.

How I would have loved playing with the Ngram Viewer when I was in seventh grade and had only my grandmother’s hefty dictionary and the  phone book to satisfy my hunger for words.

by Kathy Sheldon Davis

The Most Important Thing for a Writer to Know

Here’s a trade secret for writers. People are the most important thing. This may be counter-intuitive, but how well we relate to others is crucial.

It’s not nice to confuse our readers

You’ve probably seen photos of prehistoric cave drawings. How would it be if we couldn’t recognize the image of an animal or a man? If it looked like random lines going every which way, would we know what the artist was trying to depict? Likely not.


And have you sat on a church platform in Zambia as the pastor preached in a language you didn’t understand, and after sweeping his arm in your direction the eyes of the entire congregation turn to look at you? I had no clue how to respond.

Just the same, if our writing doesn’t make sense or appeal to our readers, how can they receive our message? Feel like they’re a part of the story?

Why should they take the time to read it?

Putting our writing “out there” is hard

After reading Writing Fiction for Dummies, by Randy Ingermanson, and taking an evening writing course at a nearby community college, I searched for a critique group. It was a horrific step to take, letting a stranger read what I’d written, but over time it did get easier.

We need the feedback. We desperately need the feedback. There’s no other way for us to know our writing is effective if we don’t learn how it’s heard or received by readers.

And readers are important people.

Other people to consider are editors, agents, authors and writers from all genres. I’ve attended writing conferences and joined writing groups – all have helped me on my way.

And here are a couple outstanding blogs I subscribe to.

The Books and Such Literary Agency  website has to be one of the most helpful writer’s resources on the planet.

The Steve Laube Agency blog is also an amazing place to go for encouragement and information.

When my friend from New York came to stay in our country home in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, she marveled at the farm animals and wide open spaces. Not at all like the buildings and streets of Manhattan where she lived, she had to keep asking “where’s the people?”

Our writing, folks, is all about the people.

by Kathy Sheldon Davis

Note: For more on this discussion, check out the post, How to Know if You are a Writer – Matthew 7:24-29


How to Help a Writer – Proverbs 18:24

You’ll find them everywhere, those weird people who get a thrill out of spending hours alone to put words together until they are “just right”. You may not understand why all this time and effort are important to the writer in your life, but here’s how you can help.

writer waldryano free. pixabay

  1. Listen. Offer your listening ear, even when you have little interest in the subject. Sometimes writers need a sounding board to help them sort out what’s brewing in their minds. You can provide that for your writer friend.
  2. Don’t listen. We all have our limits, so allow yourself the freedom to detach from talk about plot, felt needs, or a character’s issues. Take care of yourself so you can be a good friend, by gently letting them know when you’ve had enough.
  3. Read. Again, it can be difficult to wrap your mind around something a writer hands you that you have no desire to read. Give it a shot, anyway.
  4. Don’t read more into the writing than what it says. Just because your friend’s primary character has a black, curly-haired dog like your Fifi, and everyone in his story hates the dog, doesn’t mean he holds those feelings toward yours.
  5. Offer feedback, but put on a thick skin first. She may not agree or choose to implement your suggestions. Hearing your response is valuable, anyway. You don’t have to convince her your viewpoint is right, offer it and leave it for her to process as she wishes. That’s your gift to her.
  6. Don’t give feedback. Friendship is a dance, isn’t it? Sometimes watching a writer percolate his thoughts is entertaining in itself. He may not want or need your feedback, but paying attention can reap benefits in a relationship. Maybe he’ll take you out for ice cream or go skydiving with you once he’s done with his work for the day. (Note: I’m not available on skydiving day.)

A final point

I want to thank my husband Jerry for supporting and encouraging me, and my critique partners who give me their best. These friends are faithful to give me honest input, even adding a little sugar coating to make it easier for me to swallow.

Thank you for not being afraid to watch me squirm. And thanks for the ice cream, too.

“A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24 ESV).

by Kathy Sheldon Davis