Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Ghost Words

via kristinjustice @ Flickr

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.


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!


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? :)

Speaking of Ghost words...I'm changing the blog schedule, so there's no post on Thursdays. I'm fixing a query, starting to outline another WIP, and running out of steam! Plus, I figure I'll actually have some time to visit other blogs more often!
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Creepy Query Girl said...

oh, I have been. there. It's great to send out a few and then quirk your query based on response (or lack thereof). That's what I've been doing these last few months! And I agree that every book has something worth remembering- I love that line. Great post! and good luck!

Jules said...

Not there in queries but I sympathize. I'll have to do some thinking on "Ghost Words." Thought at first you had a ghost and it actually spoke to you :)
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Jules said...

OH no fair! I was waiting for the word verification and WOW, you turned it off.

Carolyn V. said...

Now I'm wondering what the book was! I agree that one can learn from all the books they read. I learned a great deal about description and adding history in without info dumping in my last book. It was great. =)

Matthew MacNish said...

Don't worry, we're going to get that query fixed! I totally hear you though, you spend so long on your novel, you just want to get that query out the door. I know I sure did.

Elena Solodow said...

Hang in there with the queries. There's always going to be more rejection than acceptance - I'm going through the same thing. Query widely and hope for the best, but most of all, BELIEVE IN YOUR WORK.

Hart Johnson said...

LOVE that idea of ghost words! Don't fret on a bad query. I have never seen an agent blog that says 'never try again'--they say if you've changed that you are sending significantly, it can't hurt. Definitely test your query (or at least the pitch portion) with different people (readers here, or as a note on facebook and tag people you'd like to give you feedback--I am always happy to, so long as you understand how very bad at it I am... still, more eyes are always better.

Unknown said...

Good luck tightening up your query. I know it's tough (everyone says it is), but you'll perfect it, cause you're awesome and talented! Love the definition of Ghost Words. Once again, I come away from your blog smarter than when I arrived!

Old Kitty said...

Oh I love that scapegoat snippet!! Love it! It's kinda like discovering penicillin by mistake!!!

Good luck with your querying!! It's a painful business but you are passionate and determined and focused and so you will, you will, you WILL succeed!!!!! Just keep your eye on THE PRIZE!! You can do this!! :-) Take care


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