It may seem obvious to say this, but the basic building blocks of writing … are words.
It may also seem obvious to say that among the differences between a good writer and a great one, is the choice of words they employ.
And yet, many writers don’t pay as much attention to their word choice as they might.
Wait, don’t get angry
That statement is perfectly valid, but it ignores the fact that the writer has so many other things on their mind at the time. There’s plot and twists, sub plots, characters, symbolic devices, questions of mood and setting, and the always nagging issues of punctuation.
Sometimes words get left in when their meanings suited a previous iteration of the story better. Sometimes the word in question causes a conflict for most readers that didn’t maybe exist for the writer. Sometimes there’s a better word that the writer might have used if they’d known of it.
Enter, the editor, stage right
Your editor might be a walking wealth of words, a veritable living dictionary, or they might be some other writer who has had different life experiences from yours. the only real criteria when it comes to word choice is that they have a different vocabulary from your own.
The uniquenesses are the treasures
So many words we use are common to us all. It is in the hazy distant edges of our personal dictionaries that the treasures reside. And those words get used seldom because they often are too specific.
The truth is that we must remember never to use a two dollar word when a twelve cent word will do. But on those rare occasions where a two dollar word is absolutely perfect, heaven help you if you use the wrong one and have no editor.
And what about those 12 penny words?
Additionally, those more common words are a dime a dozen for the ones that mean such similar things. (The mark upon words is wicked, don’t you think?) But “similar” isn’t “the same.” And sometimes even the twelve cent words need your editors’ attention.
Yes, there are times when you will write a word and gloss over the statement as being nothing more than a supportive phrase, merely a stick that supports the superstructure. And that may be so, but if it contains the wrong word, or there is a better one, then there is room for improvement.
Remember that, while supporting the superstructure of a story is more of a blue collar task, the story itself will benefit from such support.
And as always, remember that the work between your editor and yourself is just that, between the two of you. And while it may seem at times that the editor is picking on your work or even you, the reality of the situation is that your editor wants your work to be the best it can be.
And sometimes that manifests as suggestions to you to not just word good, but to word better.