Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Looking For The Right Word

Have you ever spent what seemed like an hour agonizing to find the right word? You know what you want to say, but you'd like a synonym that says it better or fits your need. For example, I'm working furiously to make a few last-minute revisions in my proposal for my latest novel so my agent can pitch it to some editors at the ICRS. One of the things she asked me to do was to come up with a new title and several alternates. Any of you who've done that know that it's not exactly easy. You want something that catches the tone of the work, something that will grab the eye of an editor (or, if things go well, a reader). That's when I reached for my Flip Dictionary.

I first encountered this volume when David Talbott held it up one lunchtime at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, told a bit about it, and gave away a copy to somebody who qualified in whatever category he happened to choose that day--the person who'd come the furthest to the conference or some such. It sounded like such a great tool I immediately hotfooted it to the bookstore and bought one. Since then, it's the only writing book that sits on my desk instead of residing in my bookshelves. I use it often, and it helps.

Let me give you an example. Suppose you're looking for a way to say someone has eaten and/or drunk to excess. You turn to "full of food or drink" and you find "replete, sated, satiated." Or maybe you're looking for a military term and don't know exactly how to phrase the search. There's a long list of "military terms" and you find that the word you want to describe an aircraft mission is "sortie."

In my case, I was looking for some synonyms that would work in a short, punchy title. I won't reveal what I came up with, but sufficient to say my Flip Dictionary came through again.

Now it's back to work. If it's this stressful just revising a proposal under deadline, I can't imagine how tough it is to try to finish and polish a novel in that situation. But I hope to find out someday.

1 comment:

Camille Cannon (Eide) said...

Sounds like a great resource, Richard, thanks for the tip. Best of God's blessings on your proposal.

And by the way...Happy Birthday!

Camille Eide