Wonderous Words

Way back when I first started writing, I used to belong to an online critique and writing group* that would hold these crazy contests a few times a year.

BIAW – “Book in a Week” was my favorite. It involved picking a target number of manuscript formatted pages to complete each day for a week – be it 1 or 50. I wrote my second completed novel draft using their BIAW model, once with the group (I wrote ~50k words in 7 days), and two weeks later, once on my own with my group mates cheering me on anyway. The novel capped out at 105k words, written in two non-consecutive weeks of doing nothing but writing. And people think NaNoWriMo** is crazy.

One of the other contests they used to run was SSIAW – short story in a week. Believe it or not, writing a short story in a week (500-10,000 words, completed story with a beginning, middle, and end) can actually be harder than writing a full length novel. Short story forms are much more precise and require a whole different skill set and narrative talent, imo. During SSIAW, you get a list of 5 words, chosen at random, and must include each of the 5 words in your story. SSIAW ran for 4 consecutive weeks.

While I’ve never been a short-storyist (my attempts always read like first chapters), I have in the past found a lot of inspiration from these lists of words. So when I need a little inspiration, I often take myself off to Word of the Day sites and look for unusual words that strike a note with my imagination. I toss those words together in a list of 5-12 words, and make note of the definitions, too. And then I don’t write them in the story. Rather, I use the idea of them as a jump starter for my creative process. They’re story sparks, rather than part of the prose.

So here are a few of the words I am playing with right now, just in case any of you need a bit of inspiration:

  • Apotheosis – elevation to divinity; diefication
  • Sanguine – blood-red or of blood
  • Sinew – tendon, strength, or natural tendon used as cord (as for a bow)
  • Orrery – a mechanical model of the solar system, often with a light source at the center in place of the sun
  • Ponderous – weighty
  • Chicanery – deception by trickery
  • Chatelaine – castellan’s wife
  • Nimbus – halo or aura around a person (as depicted in art)
  • Prevaricate – mislead, hide the truth without direct lying
  • Abrogate – to officially declare something nonexistant (generally from a religious or political authority)

* The group I belonged to is still up and running, to my knowledge. I’ve actually considered rejoining several times, but the amount of work involved and my other commitments at the time have held me back. If you want to check it out, it’s one of the best online critique groups I’ve come across for newer writers: Other Worlds Writer’s Workshop at http://otherworlds.net

** NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month, an annual event in November hosted by a non-profit organization dedicated to literacy, where tens of thousands of writers get together online and write their asses off to produce a 50k+ word novel. You can read more about it at http://nanowrimo.org

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