The Power of Words

University Bay by Laurie Buchanan

University Bay by Laurie Buchanan

“Writers are the wind that sail words across the page.”
               – Laurie Buchanan

Have you ever felt you would burst from sheer delight? Last night I returned from the Writers’ Institute at UW Madison and my head is spinning with a joyfully intense awareness. I haven’t slept a wink in days because I’ve got enough high voltage energy to power a gazillion-watt lighthouse. I feel as though I have extra clarity of vision and an unusual capacity to perceive and to distinguish.

I am suffused with wonder
i AM suffused with wonder
i am SUFFUSED with wonder
i am suffused WITH wonder
i am suffused with WONDER

… at the deceptive simplicity of writing—for publication. It’s much more complex than it appears at first blush. Especially when you take into consideration the:

– Show, don’t tell factor (he slammed his fist on the table vs. he said angrily)
– Keep it taut – less is more
Specific is your friend
– “Because” – not because I told you so, but causality; to reveal a solution
– The semicolon – don’t overuse it
– Italics – don’t us it. Use words that do their own heavy lifting
– With few exceptions, punctuation goes inside the quote
– End every chapter with an arrow into the next chapter
– Entertainment and emotion are paramount on every page
– Avoid author intrusion (saying something on the side to the reader, like this)

Language at its best is used to inspire others to find the best in themselves. Well chosen words can motivate, offer hope, create vision, impact thinking, and alter results.

Choose each word as if it matters—it does.

Listen with your heart,

Laurie Buchanan

Whatever you are not changing, you are choosing.”
               – Laurie Buchanan
Copyright © 2010 Laurie Buchanan — All Rights Reserved.

46 thoughts on “The Power of Words

  1. Well done! I am thrilled you have been “suffused with wonder!”

    It is like each word is energized to the max… glad you have and a wonderful inspired time, playing with words, language. Mean what you say, say what you mean, with each expression.

    Ok I’ll stop now! Welcome home, welcome back, a changed and inspired being!!!

    I am Love, Jeff


    “Wondering with sufuse am I”….its backwards.
    Does it make sense? Probably not.

    You hit it right on the nail, language that inspires others. I am truly energized by your sheer engery and enjoyment!

    It is tornado season and I am going to go to the ban on the fact if Crystal Lake and Lake in the hills has a loss of power there will be no problem. I will call you on your see and say look this way and my house will be all lit up with that energy!!!

    Best regards to you, my friend!

    • Kim – I’m back in the saddle, albeit a bit later than usual this morning. Feeling the way I do now, I’m fairly confident I could power both Crystal Lake and Lake in the Hills! Thank your for your visit.

  3. Hi Laurie,

    Welcome back! Your trip sounds wonderful. So enlightening.

    I feel your energy and can relate!.

    Your message is a most important one. Try to be as precise with your words as you can for they are Divine.

    Listening with my heart,

    • Tomas – I like the way you said, “Try to be as precise with your words as you can for they are Divine.” The underlying implication being a tremendous amount of personal responsibility. Great food for thought, thank you.

  4. Yes, yes, I love all these rules – and I also love breaking rules. I do especially like “specific is your friend” – when someone tells me a story, that’s what I want. I want to know the color of the nail polish they painted their toes with that summer when they were fourteen and bored and sitting on the porch damp with sweat and the smell of wisteria was so strong it was a flavor. At the same time though, being all about the breaking of rules, there is a place for expository writing. There’s a place for author “intrusion” and even for semicolons. It just depends on the sort of writing that’s being written. Was this a fiction oriented kind of thing?

    • Jeannie – We’re obviously kindred spirits. My journal entry for April 25th talks about rules and breaking them. You’ll see a bit more regarding that topic in my next post on Apr 28. In answer to your question, “Was this a fiction oriented kind of thing?” I would say that two-thirs of the audience were fiction writers, while the remaining third were like me, creative non-fiction.

  5. energising Laurie may I just add (breaking rules here) A few basic and simple rules when writingPosted by Mike Dineen on April 15, 2010 at 1:24pm
    View My Blog
    .Admin Options.Edit PostEdit Your Tags Cancel
    Delete Post Edit Blog Posts..Some Rules for…
    How To Write Good
    1.Verbs HAS to agree with their subjects.
    2.Avoid clichés like the plague. (They’re old hat.)
    3.Also, always avoid awkward, affected, and annoying alliteration, which is almost always alienating.
    4.Don’t use no double negatives.
    5.Avoid excessive use of ampersands & abbrevs., etc.
    6.One-word sentences? Eliminate.
    7.No sentence fragments.
    8.Be more or less specific.
    9.Being a careful writer, dangling modifiers are always avoided.
    10.Foreign words and phrases are not invariably à propos.
    11.All generalizations are bad.
    12.Comparisons can be as bad as clichés.
    13.“Avoid ‘overuse of “quotation” marks.’”
    14.Use brackets to indicate that you [not Shakespeare, for example] are giving people [but not illiterate people] information so that they [the readers] know about whom you are speaking [writing]. Do not use brackets [excessively] when making these references [to other authors].
    15.(Also avoid (as in the last rule) overuse of parentheses [or brackets {or braces .}]).
    16.Your adverbs usually should follow your verbs.
    17.Spell out numbers of fewer than 3 syllables.
    18.Analogies in writing can be like feathers on a snake.
    19.The passive voice is to be avoided.
    20.Eliminate commas, that are, not necessary.
    21.Eschew obfuscation.
    22.Don’t overuse exclamation points!!!
    23.Avoid run-on sentences, they are as hard to read as this example about my eighty-one-year-old grandmother who still rides her Harley motorcycle her toy poodle balanced in a basket between the handlebars.
    24.A careful writer will not shift your point of view.
    25.Rereed your work to cheque for spilling misteaks.
    26.Forsooth, avoid archaisms.
    27.Steer clear of incorrect verb forms that have snuck into the language.
    28.Place pronouns as closely as possible, especially in long sentences, like this one, to their antecedents.
    29.Use words correctly, irregardless of how others use them.
    30.Understatement is always the absolute best way to put forth earth-shaking ideas.

  6. Oh Boy, have I ever felt like that! Yes’m indeed y.

    Reading books is my true passion. I love the way I feel after a good read. It gets me from a point “a” to a point “z” at such a rapid pace, that leaves/ fills me with such an over whelming sight of treasures I never new existed within me and a height I never wish to come down from.

    Here’s to inspiring reads:)


  7. Laurie, I plead guilty as charged to being: “an irishman living in France” , but where did this information come from? I guess I wrote it somewhere? eh?

  8. That’s a whole lot of energy to be circulating around the blogosphere! Glad you had such an empowering experience, Laurie, and look forward to what you’ll be sharing later about your experience.

  9. Laurie I am getting zapped with your energy a country away. I particularly liked “Choose each word as if it matters—it does.”

    And some of the other practical tips I can apply immediate – like the word in italics for emphasis… I am going to go look for a heavy lifting word to replace where I did that in my post today. And also the arrow to the next chapter. I often do arrows to past chapters in my blogs but rarely an arrow forward mostly because I haven’t decided what to write next. Something to muse about.

    Good to have you back:)


    • Terrill – I’m glad you decided to leave the italics. You’re absolutely right that it would have robbed the sentence of it’s power if you would have changed it.

      I’m going to talk about BREAKING THE RULES in my next post on Apr 28th.

  10. Laurie, would you believe that I’ve written the libretto to a musical and the lyrics include “when the rules are all against you, you must somehow learn to bend them” and there’s a song “Listen to your heart” which is about as close as makes no difference to your catch phrase.
    See, we’ve all got one thing in common , we’re all unique, and “Great minds think alike”
    Mike “An irishman living in Paris”

    • Mike – I can see that you were paying attention to “Specific is our friend” and changed France to Paris — well done! You’re an extremely creative person so it comes as no surprise that you’ve written those lyrics. You said, “Great minds think alike.” I think great hearts beat alike, too.

    • For those readers who don’t know Lisa, she is currently in the Bahamas meeting with the Minister of Education (I’m close to the right title, if that’s not it exactly). She is the Founder of Island Relief. Lisa, I look forward to hearing more when you return.

  11. Hi Laurie! You read my mind. I joined Diving Deeper and didn’t post because I couldn’t “figure” out how I should present myself with all of the scribes in one group. Your post gives some stable rules. I use italics too when I am in a hurry & will continue but will now be more aware to come up with more description in less words; and very very rarely use a semi-colon. For now I just write but it is great to be more aware to be heard and be more interesting. Very well done!!!!!

    • Kathy – Thank you for your visit today. I’m glad you found a leg-up in the list I provided. Please note … I’ll be writing about breaking those very rules on Apr 28 when I blog my final post regarding time well invested at this year’s Writers’ Institute at UW-Madison.

  12. Laurie — this was a fantabulous blog today; your enthusiasm is contagious. I am so glad you had a good time and are even more inspired to write and keep us all enlightened 😀

  13. Hi Laurie!

    I too have had so much running through my mind after all the things I learned. Now putting them into good use is the task at hand.

    The first thing I learned I need to do is finish the manuscript, then start the next draft. I’ve given myself the goal to finish by my birthday in October.

    I was great to see again! Keep in touch and say hi to your husband and son for me!


    • Mary Beth – I’m absolutely confident you’ll have your manuscript complete by October. My next task is to incorporate the edits that Rita Mae Reese gave me in my critique, and then I’ll turn in the whole shootin’ match for a “high brow” look. Once that’s done and I’ve incorporated all of those suggestions, I’ll turn it in for line-by-line scrutiny. It was so good to see you at the Writers’ Institute!

  14. “What a lot we lost when we stopped writing letters. You can’t reread a phone call.” Liz Carpenter

    Laurie I’m so happy you learned a lot and are blazing with inspiration! I can see your light bulb from my house!

    Did I mention that Larry King has been getting published in the local Arlington Heights almanac? He’s made about $100 and gotten to use his well-earned moola going to see David Sederis and Dave Barry. He said he couldn’t wait to tell me that when Larry asked Dave a question, at the end Dave said I’m a writer neener neener neener…hahahahahaha I just love that.

    Enjoy the day! Beth

    • Beth – I’m so happy for Larry, that’s great news! He would have loved this conference. If you send him to the post prior to this one (The Writers’ Institute), I have a link in there that will take him directly to all of the information. He can get on their mailing list and receive emails about the up-and-coming events for writers.

  15. great hearts certainly beat alike & “reading between the lines” is an expression I use with (I hope) tolerable frequency.
    Hi Kathy Smith and AuthorLeanne( who I’ve seen on DD) and Jeff(photographer extrordinaire!) .
    Man alive Laurie, you sure draw an eclectic & interesting crowd here- Thank you for keeping me in the loop!
    love to all & sundry

  16. Laurie, your excitement and love of words zings through this! So glad you were so inspired by your workshop and came back with great honing techniques to utilize. Isn’t it interesting that there can be basic rules which can assist us in our writing, and also times when we can break free and abandon rules? Perhaps the discipline is listening deeply to our inner selves and learning when to utilize one technique or another.

    “Show, don’t tell” is a great adage that Sandra keeps teaching on Diving Deeper and one that makes lots of sense. Our writing can tingle with immediacy when we sniff the deep perfume of pink roses rather than “She sniffed the flowers.

    However, in blogging I LOVE to use Capital Letters in Odd Places and switch pronouns randomly and use lots of … 🙂

    • Kathy – You hit the nail on the head when you said, “… listening deeply to our inner selves and learning when to utilize one technique or another.” I’m so glad you stopped by. Thank you for the visit.

  17. Words sometimes have powers that go beyond the scientifically plausable . Example: Think of the possible meaning the carpenter’s wife got when she heard the healer say “Then, the blind carpenter picked up his hammer and saw”

  18. Pingback: The Writers’ Institute UW-Madison 2011 « Speaking from the Heart

  19. “Language at its best is used to inspire others to find the best in themselves.”

    “Writers are the wind that sail words across the page.”

    I love your powerful words – thanks so much for these uplifting thoughts!

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