Monday, April 9, 2012

Ghost Words

via kristinjustice @ Flickr
It's good to take stock once in a while. Take for example, this repost. It reminds me that, while I have grown as a writer, some things are always true. I always wish I'd waited on sending something out, and ghost words haunt me until they are restored - sometimes three drafts later.

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

I read a terrible, can't-believe-people-read-this-stuff genre novel (which shall remain nameless) last week. It was full of sterotypes and poor descriptions. But as with every book, I found a great passage. The scene tied into the above verse, and it hit me two ways.


Been wishing I could recall some of my words lately, but no luck. Those three queries I sent last week? Wasted. Two Rs and the other says 4-6 weeks before I'll hear some more silence. Got a twisted feeling in my gut. You know, the one that makes you want to hurl. Maybe the MS wasn't right for them, but then again, my query stinks.

I suppose it's because I spent the last year working on my MS, and not enough time working on the query. Guess I'm trigger happy now. But thanks to my writer friends (Matt and Leigh), I realized my mistake before I was too deep in words of no return. We all learn, but I've also got plenty of doubts about the MS lingering upstairs with the rest of my demons. No amount of tears will bring the queries move I on. My new task is simple: SIMPLIFY. (Update: my new query method works.)


In this day of digital cuts and deletions, words can be cancelled from the record, wiped from the hard drive, etc. (Especially when you want to preserve them, it seems!) But Omar Khayyam speaks the truth too. I see it with my own scenes. I write them, edit them, and somehow when a beta reads them...some of those original words manage to reveal themselves. My "ghost words" come back as little blue edits or red comment bubbles, safely restored to me in the margins. Aaaaand we're back to the Multiverse idea.... Two roads...ahh...that's another poet! (Good post on shortcuts there, btw.)


A Ghost Word is a word suggestive of a non-existent opposite. Wikipedia example: Aftermath = Beforemath

Wikipedia also says: A ghost word is a word that has been published in a dictionary, or has been adopted as genuine, as the result of misinterpretation or a typographical error.

The most famous example in English (and many other languages) is "scapegoat" which is a mistranslation of the word Azazel (In Hebrew: עזאזל) originated by William Tyndale in his 1530 Bible, and appropriated in the King James Version of the Bible (Leviticus chapter 16) in 1611. Confounded by the word, Tyndale had interpreted Azazel as ez ozel - literally, "the goat that departs"; hence "(e)scape goat." According to the Talmud, Yoma 67b, Azazel is a contraction of az (harsh) and eil (strong) and refers to the most rugged of mountains. This identification is supported by Rashi, the great Medieval grammarian, who interpreted Azazel to be the name of a specific mountain or cliff over which the goat was driven[1]. According to R.H. Charles, it was called so for its reputation as the holding place of the fallen angel of the same name[2]. Modern scholars generally reject Tyndale's interpretation and favor one related to a fallen angel/evil demon interpretation. Today in modern Hebrew Azazel is used derogatorily, as in lekh la-Azazel ("go to Azazel"), as in "go to hell".

Every book has something worth remembering! What new ideas did you pick up from your last read? :)

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Old Kitty said...

Well my last read being Girl With the Dragon Tattoo - I learned not to use too much telling and backstories and switches in pov - my goodness the book was riddled with it - and I was screaming thinking how the central story is so compelling, so riveting but utterly spoiled by these excess words and really clumsy passages! But then again it's such a badass bestseller so none of my objections matter! LOL!


Good luck with your querying!!! Take care
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