Monday, 30 April 2012

The Power of Words

Words are powerful things, as anyone who has been called names as a schoolchild knows - years later they still sting. Writers should know this too as we live by words, but you'd be surprised at how simple rephrasing can make a world of difference.

I wrote a picture book which I titled "I don't need a Mummy".  It featured a little bear who runs away from his cave to have an adventure on his own.  His refrain is that he doesn't need a mummy as he's grown up.  He manages his adventure quite well but then gets lost and needs his mummy - and sure enough, there she is.  It ends with him saying 'I love my mummy.'

No one was interested in it.

I showed it to an editor friend who said the title was negative.  Would any Mummy (who after all are the most likely purchasers of the book) buy that title for their child?  So I re-titled it "I love my Mummy" and sent it out again.  This time the publishers were interested.  Result!

Watch out for giving out negative messages.  Do you have to tell an agent you've been turned down by others or have been trying for years with no success?  Do you have to say that your big success was ten years ago and you've been in the doldrums since?  Do you have to concentrate on all the saddest elements of your story at the exclusion of the funny bits?  I've heard people defend this by saying they're being honest, but given you have limited space, why give them the negative rather than the positive?

Ask someone if you're not sure, and think about re-framing your writing so the positive is to the fore.  And if you're still in doubt about the power of words and how re-framing works, watch this inspirational video. 

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