Thursday, October 27, 2011

There and Back Again - Wordiness

I have been wanting to try "There and Back Again" with Charity for several weeks now, and this looks like my chance. I cannot promise I will do this every week - to do it correctly takes some work - but hopefully when I do participate, it will be a fruitful endeavor.

Since this is my first "There and Back Again" effort, I will give you the guidelines so you will understand what I'm trying to accomplish. From Charity's blog:

1.) Choose another High Calling Blogger to visit. Or if you are a High Calling blogger, just visit someone else in the blogosphere and encourage them to join THC. It can be someone you have "met" before, or do what I do, and work your way through the "Member Posts" section of to meet someone new.
2.) Visit his blog, digesting the message until it becomes something that you can write about.
3.) Go back to your blog and write about it, being sure to link to the post that gave you the idea so that your readers can visit, too.
4.) Add the button below to your blog so your readers know you are participating in "There and Back Again."
5.) Go back to the your friend's blog and leave a comment so he can feel the link love!
6.) Complete the journey by returning here, to Wide Open Spaces, and enter your link so that we all can benefit from the new High Calling connection you have made.
 Got it? Good. Let's begin.


Unless you count one post in 2008 and five posts in 2009, I really have only been blogging since June of this year. Sometime this week I passed the 100-post mark without any fanfare. Throughout most of those 100 posts, I have been worried. I write what I feel God is leading me to write in the only "voice" that I have. Yet, I want so badly to please others and be liked. So I worry.

I worry about whether or not I should even be writing. I worry about whether or not I should be allowed to enjoy writing. Lyla tried to straighten my noodled head out about this in the comments of one of her posts. Bless her for trying. I am taking in everything she said to me and praying about it.

I also have more practical writing worries. I worry that I'm using the same phrase too much. I worry that my "voice" is  unpolished - rough, even. I worry that my ideas might be considered simple or childish. I definitely worry about the response I will get to some of my secrets God has asked me to reveal. And I worry about being too wordy.

All over the internet, you can find advice on how to have a "successful" blog - success being measured usually by reader stats, publicity, advertisers, awards, etc. Almost all of these advice articles say to keep each post between 300-500 words. Seriously? That is just an introduction for me. The only time I even try to stay under 500 words is when I have been specifically asked to write for a project where that is the norm. 

Turns out I might be a little bit an interloper here. I am, in fact, an essayist using a blog as a writing platform. The word blog is a shortened combination of "web log". It is a catchy little one-syllable word. I publish essays on the internet. How does one come up with a catchy name for "internet essayist"? And which platform - other than Blogger, WordPress, Typepad, or like website - would one use specifically for publishing these essays? A quick Google search for "internet essay" takes you mostly into the realm of academic essay writing, such as how to buy a ready-written essay, training for essay portions of tests, and how to make sure your student is not trying to pass off a ready-written essay as their own work. Without knowing of a more fitting internet home for my essays, I end up just taking up space among the bloggers and hoping that no one calls me out as a fraud. 


So here I am - worried that I am doing something I should not be doing; worried that I am doing it in the wrong place; and worried that I am doing it wrong, period. Nobody has called me out on it yet, so I decided to participate in Charity's project. I went trolling through the list of members at The High Calling to find somebody who a) has published a post recently and b) is not in the "featured" list - I really wanted to find a blogger that we don't seem to be regularly engaging with. 

I searched alphabetically. Somewhere between pages 20-25, I struck gold! I found an author by the name of Eileen Astels who writes Christian romance novels. Her latest blog post is entitled, "Is Wordiness a Part of Your Writer's Voice?". It was love-at-first-title (if that wasn't a real thing before now, I have just made it so).  Evidently, Eileen's question was prompted by trading manuscript reading/brainstorming with a writer "who is the queen of tightness". I think you need to "hear" Eileen's "voice" on this one:
Okay, I'm going to be completely honest here (not that I'm not always honest, I just usually choose carefully what honesty to disclose on-line, like I'm sure we all do for good reason) but I hummed and hawwed over whether or not to send those chapters because . . . well, I'm wordy, and she's JUST NOT! Now I love this writer's stories, so however she tightens her writing it works wonderfully for me, but when I try to tighten my stories like she does I feel like something gets lost along the way, and that's what made me ask myself "Can wordiness be a part of my writer's voice?"
Now I realize that Eileen writes books and I write essays, but before I even reached the end of her post, my mind was screaming out, "YES! YES! YES! Somebody gets it!". Thank you, God, that somebody understands wordiness and even worries about it a little.

Eileen then goes on to say, 
I know I have to keep pushing myself to get better. And putting our work out there to writer's below, at, and above our writing level is one of the best ways to learn and grow. But discerning how much tightening to do while protecting my own voice and style is something I grapple with on a daily basis.
Of course! How do you get better and protect your own voice? How do you know that you are taking the correction that God is providing for you while staying true to the words God gave you in the first place? There might be some experienced writers out there who have learned where this balance lies for them, but I am at the very beginning of this journey and quite glad that someone else is putting these questions out there.

There was nothing in Eileen's post or her "about me" section on her blog to indicate how she came by a wordy writer's voice. I claim an ancestry of Irish storytellers (whose stories we didn't write down, dangit!) as the origin of my wordiness. Somehow, though, Eileen and I are related by our rich verbosity, even as we are related through the shed blood of Christ. And I am humbled that at the exact moment when I needed some reassurance as a writer (still using that term loosely when applied to me), our King brought into my world a Canadian novelist who can understand some of my concerns. 

Surely this is part of what "There and Back Again" is about. 

Click over here to Charity's place to see what else is going on with There and Back Again!


  1. This is soooo cool. First of all, I learned about Charity's project; didn't know about it before. Thanks for explaining. (I can be a little thick headed sometimes). Also, I haven't read a lot of your writing, but I haven't noticed wordiness. And I have read all of the stuff on the net about the do's and don't's (Can 1 word really have 2 apostrophe's? That doesn't look right), and I believe this: go with your heart. But then again, that's just my humble opinion.

  2. Hi, Carolyn!

    I really enjoyed this essay! So nice to know I'm not alone in this writing journey of using lots and lots of words.

    My first drafts generally have strings of adjectives and adverbs and I'm an internalizationist. I know that's not a word, but it should be! :) I love to divulge what's in my characters' heads--but only of the scene's POV character of course. That's where I really get wordy because really, what person edits as they're thinking? No my characters. But alas, as rounds of revisions go on, I do TRY to tighten, even the internal monologue sections. Though I never find I'm near as tight as some wonderful authors even after years of revising and tightening.

    It's the writer I am. God made me this way and if it's this that keeps me from ever getting published then I figure that's God's will. Someday, though, I do hope that an editor will take me on and help me discover a tighter voice that stays true to me. Because less words would allow me to write faster and a lot more of the stories that God has placed in my heart!

    Thanks so much for plucking me and my post out of the masses, Carolyn. Looking forward to getting to know you more in this wonderful world of blogging!

  3. Carolyn - YES! This is exactly what There and Back Again is all about. Not to mention, this post is exactly the kind of thinking about writing that I've been doing a lot of. What does my voice sound like? What if I find my voice, and no one else like's it? Is that worse than NOT finding my voice? And shouldn't my voice sound more and more like Jesus?

    I love this post on so many levels. Now, off to meet Eileen.

    Thanks SO much for joining me.

  4. @Kathy, thanks for the vote of confidence. It took me a bit to figure out the There and Back Again project, but I'm glad I did it. Maybe we can both do it next week!

    @Eileen, I am so glad that I found you! I really haven't been spending much time "hanging" with the fiction writers, but I would like to. I don't intend to ever write any, but I love a good story - even the "wordy" ones! ;) Thanks for being my first "There and Back Again"!

    @Charity, this essay and y'all's comments (I can say "y'all" in comments, can't I?) have stirred up even more thoughts on the subject. I might have to write some more on this subject of "voice". Thanks for hosting the project. I'm looking forward to seeing it grow!

  5. Yup, I struggle with wordiness, too. And with finding an authentic voice in the midst of all this blogging stuff. I've done some writing in the past - mostly sermons/prayers/devotionals, so I've had to keep to word and/or time limits. And I've found it's actually helpful to do that in order to help me find my truest voice. Sometimes what I really want to say - and how I really want to say it - can get lost in the verbiage. So I've enjoyed sticking to specific word or time limits to help me keep honing/sifting/ choosing the best instead of the most. Some of us are wordier than others - that's what makes writing (and reading) interesting. But I'm learning that editing myself helps me make better choices, hopefully getting closer to what I really want to say. I am a very LONG ways from being there (wherever the heck 'there' is), but I keep plugging away, even if it's only for me and the Lord. Love that you're putting yourself out here in blogland, Carolyn. It's a pretty cool place. And I think you've captured Charity's challenge really well here. Think maybe I'll try it, too.

  6. First of all I have been blogging since 2007 and I have written 197 posts since that moment. Therefore I am amazed that you have written 100 since June. You go girl!

    Second of all I am VERY wordy... I have been learning how to edit. I was told once that I would lose my readers if I gave too many words. It was so hard for me to chop my writing up. God opened up an opportunity for me to write for an online Christian women's magazine blog. They gave me an 800 word boundary.... When I first started writing for them I was chopping it to pieces and was still at 1,000 words.... UGHHH... But God kept working with me until I could get it into the boundary line. It was the best thing that could have happened for me... as it taught me SO much about editing and being concise with my words...

    I stand amazed that God could trim my words down... ha ha....

    I could relate to this post....

    Blessings, friend!

  7. @Diana, thank you for the compliments. I think it would be awesome to have more people come play over at Charity's blog. If we really went searching the THC blogs, think of who we might meet?

    @Julie, I didn't know that you worked for a magazine. I bet that was fun, even if they kept chopping up your words. I will tell you that I am glad that God gave us words. Linguistics is fascinating to me!

  8. Carolyn, you know what this post makes me think of even more than an essay? A conversation. It feels like we're chatting about "voice" and writing in a comfortable, inviting tone. Could it be that some blogs are simply a conversation?

  9. @Ann Kroeker I suppose that is true. So does that mean that those of us who do that are "conversationalists" instead of "writers"?


Thank you for joining me here.

Moral support, prayers, and witty comments always appreciated.