Sign up for my Newsletter and Receive Exclusive Content!

Word Choices

Word choices matter. Connotations are as subjective as our tastes in clothes. It seems fairly often, I see a short thread of tweets about overused words. Note: apparently many of us writers (myself included) have a sick love affair with the word smirk, to the point it annoys certain readers. (When my editor first perused Unforeseen Riot, she sent me a note that I used smirk 33 times, and needless to say, only two or three of those usages were contextually appropriate. This speaks to the intrinsic need for a great editor…but that’s a different post.)

Today’s theme was prompted while I was out-of-town for Labor Day. I wore my “Fight like a Romance Author” tank top. (Mental note: Must get back to the gym for Body Combat classes!) It’s an attention-getting shirt, and frankly, how could it not be? A rooster and the word ‘fight’ in that lovely font from Set Sail studios. I briefly explained the reason for the shirt – if you’re not familiar with Cockygate, well, get on twitter and search that hashtag. We don’t have time for all of that in this post, and I’m not keen to rehash it anyway. The response following the explanation of my shirt threw me though.

“Sounds like you’ve joined a clique.” This is a fine example of where word choices matter. Bearing this in mind, I knew the person who said this to me did not intend to offend me because it was said off the cuff. I wasn’t offended really, but I was bothered by the statement because I don’t consider myself to be a clique kind of chick. I wondered if I had been wearing a shirt endorsing or raising funds for any other professional organization – the 4As {American Advertising Agency Association}, CPAs, a Steamfitters Union, you name a professional organization – would the same statement have been made? Would I have joined a clique or simply joined a professional organization? Mind you, the proceeds from my shirt (and others sold) were used toward the “Cocky Collective,” which does sound like a clique, but members of the collective were other romance writers, who are professionals. The collective applied the proceeds to the legal fees for writers impacted by Cockygate and the legal fund of the Romance Writers of America.

I suppose what bugs me is the notion that rather than being told I was part of a group of professionals, I was part of a clique…a term I associate with high school and college. It conjured up a sense of “shame” or feelings of being less than which it seems romance authors face all of the time. I believe romance writers face this more than writers in other genres. There are multiple drivers for this and they run the spectrum from the promise of a happily ever after, sex scenes, cover art, and even the fact that the driving force of all romance novels is love. I would explore that more in depth, but that’s not my intended focus today. All writers, regardless of genre, get their work belittled or demeaned by people who consider it a “hobby.”

The key word in that last sentence is work, it is a grueling task to corral one’s ideas and paint a picture using words. I was recently culling through my notes because ideas for multiple works hit me at the most random moments. In the midst of what I thought was strictly a page about my second book, I found a note about my first book. I lamented the fact that I didn’t get that handwritten note into my computer because that short scene would have brought more life to my characters. At the end of the day, that note being overlooked is all on me. It indicates I need to better organize my notes system, but it also highlights that my work is a solo endeavor in the extreme.

Writing is such a solitary profession, we need to be part of a group of colleagues more than almost any other profession. It’s not like I can look across the hall and ask someone else how a sentence sounds. These days I might be able to post a sentence to a Facebook group for writers, but gee, is that more of a clique…or am I consulting with other professionals? Either way, the choices one makes with their words absolutely matters. I’m not trying to insist on some sort of PC agenda where writers are concerned, but finding my “people” should not be synonymous with joining a clique. I’ve found my tribe, and I think they are, no, we are professionals. If that means I’m in a clique, so be it. They are some pretty damn cool, smart and clever people and they’re good company to keep.