Words by Diane

I’ve been hard at work revising Warner book #3, Desire in His Eyes by Diane Perkins, which will be released in 2007. One of my revision tasks is to take a look at the words I use. For me, this means a couple of things:
1. Watch out for word repetition
2. Watch out for anachronisms

You have to love Microsoft Word (unless you are still a Word Perfect devotee, that is) because it make it so easy to search for repeated words. I discovered I was using the word “shrugged” all throughout the manuscript. My characters were shrugging all over the place. So I used Word’s “find” function and changed a bunch of them.

Another way words are repeated is on the same page or even in the same paragraph. I have a fist fight in the book and I used the word “thud” about three times in the same scene. My mind went blank about another word to substitute.

To the rescue came http://thesaurus.reference.com/

I used to have to pull out my thesaurus, look for my word in the back, then look in the various sections for the synonyms. In thesaurus.com I instantly have my synonyms!
For “thud,” I found “crash” “smack” “thump” and a really nice word, “thwack.”

That brings me to item number 2: anachronisms. Would my characters even use the word “thwack”? I try to use words that were in use in the Regency, even in my narrative.

Rescue #2 comes with http://www.etymonline.com/index.php

I love this website! No more risking a hernia lifting my Abridged Oxford Dictionary. No more eyestrain trying to read the small print. This is an online etymology dictionary, telling the earliest usage of a word and also how the word was used. Here is the entry for “thwack”: to hit hard with a stick,” 1530, of echoic origin. The noun is recorded from 1587.

So I could have used “thwack” but in the end I thought it sounded too “Batman” (the old TV show that used to use balloons saying “thwack” “bop” “wham”)

I also checked etymonline.com for was the phrase, “he was upstaged.” “Upstage” came into use in 1921, so I didn’t use it.

Another indispensible tool is http://dictionary.reference.com and the cool thing is you can flip back and forth from dictionary.com to thesaurus.com. I don’t trust my usage of words. In my very first manuscript, I used the word “discrete”, but what I really meant was “discreet.” That manuscript was read by lots of critique partners and contest judges and only one of them discovered my mistake. So for this blog, I double-checked the definitions of “anachronism” and “devotee.” It only took a minute.

What are your favorite online sites to assist with the writing process? Readers of our blog, this means you, too. I’ll bet nearly all of you use Word or Word Perfect for something. Or perhaps you have a favorite reference book. I’d love to know!

About diane

Diane Gaston is the RITA award-winning author of Historical Romance for Harlequin Historical and Mills and Boon, with books that feature the darker side of the Regency. Formerly a mental health social worker, she is happiest now when deep in the psyches of soldiers, rakes and women who don’t always act like ladies.
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