Jilly: Choosing A Word For 2014

Choosing A Word For 2014Do you choose a watchword for the upcoming year?

I know all about setting personal goals and targets and making resolutions, but I’d never heard of this particular variant until recently. It seems particularly appropriate for a writer, so I decided to give it a go.

I already have a goal for 2014 – it’s concrete, specific and measurable (Finish The Damn Book) – so my first thought was to choose a word to support that goal. Finish. Write. Rewrite. Revise. Persevere. There’s merit in that approach, but I decided my Word of the Year should be intangible, bigger than my goal, not subsidiary to it. Closer to a theme, defined as ‘an idea that recurs and pervades.’

I tried some pretty grandiose efforts before settling on something super-simple. In the end, it chose itself. My word for 2014 is …


I have a long list of things I want to fix with my re-write, but most of it comes back to the same problem. I persistently under-cook things. My story needs more conflict. More tension. More emotion. More action/bodies in motion. The story idea is there, and the characters, and the shape, but it’s as though I’m painting a lovely restrained pastel watercolor when I want to be Van Gogh – all strong colors and slashing brush-strokes. I suspect part of my problem is overcoming the self-restraint that comes from a lifetime of business writing. I’m working on it. As Jenny kept reminding us at McDaniel, and now I keep reminding myself, it’s a process.

As I’m re-writing, I’m consciously trying for more. I can’t truthfully say I’m succeeding – I’m spinning my wheels this weekend because the three key scenes I wrote last week are a pale imitation of what they should be. There’s a lot at stake for these characters, so why are they standing around making polite conversation? Talking heads. Meh. These scenes are crucial – they set protagonist irrevocably against antagonist to the bitter end and show exactly why the hero and heroine belong together, improbable as it may seem – and if I do nothing else next week, I’m going to give them some oomph. My plan for Monday is to try to surprise myself – to come up with a list of the biggest, zowiest, most OTT way these scenes could possibly play out, and then take it from there.

Aiming for more has already given me better ideas for most of the scenes I’ve just rewritten. I’ve got notes in square brackets all over the new version of my manuscript, which could be depressing, but feels like a breakthrough. If I just wanted to finish the damn book, I could have done it last year. I want to love the damn book when it’s finished, and I’m finally starting to feel I have a shot at it.

Do you have a word for 2014? Care to share 🙂?

28 thoughts on “Jilly: Choosing A Word For 2014

  1. Great word! As for your scenes, have you considered asking a former classmate to read them and throw out suggestions? Stephen King says to write your first draft with the door closed, but to do your revisions with the door open. BTW–I’m adopting your four word goal–Finish the Damn Book–for myself.

  2. I didn’t think about asking for help yet, Jeanne, because I feel as though I’m in the early stages all over again (Michaeline really nailed it with Groundhog Day). I’m not keeping much from my first draft – just the characters, the settings and the idea. I’d say what I’m doing is re-writing/re-discovery rather than revision. When I get to the end it will still be pretty rough, first draft mk II, and I think I’ll need a lot of help at that stage. That said, maybe it might help now. I’ll see how I do with the rock n roll version tomorrow.

  3. My watchword is:


    Taking chances. Taking risks without worrying about failing, or about what other people may think, do, or say. Shedding the old labels that have defined me in the past–shedding the old perimeters and values and ideas that no longer fit who I am. That’s what I want and need to do in my writing and in my life.

  4. These are such great choices of words that I feel like a bit of an underachiever with my 2014 word ‘prioritize’. This will also be my year of writing fearlessly ;-), but in order to do that, I need to rework my schedule and possibly my whole approach to life so I have time for all that fabulous stuff. Maybe I will set a time limit on the first one, e.g., get priorities worked out in the first quarter, then I can be fearless (with a little bit of fabulous thrown in!) for the remainder of the year!

    • Prioritize isn’t a soft choice for you, Nancy – you’ll have to be fearless to make significant lasting changes to your schedule. Good luck with moving from fearless to fabulous!

  5. Jilly, having “More” as a watchword sounds like something the writer of a vibrant, thrilling novel would contemplate. If even a fraction of the inherent possibility in the word is realized in your writing, yours will be a fabulous book!

    I do have a watchword for the year myself. My word is “Enough.” Suddenly that seems insufficient. 🙂 My idea was three-pronged: I am Enough (hardworking enough, competent enough, strong enough, healthy enough, a good enough parent), I have Enough (enough craft supplies, enough yoga clothes, enough shoes), and I’ve had Enough (enough criticisms, enough complaints, enough demands). So actually, I guess my watchword is good Enough.

  6. I love everybody’s words and pretty much all of them would work for me to. But I’m going to go for Believe.

    It’s a bit (well, a lot) cheesy, but for me it’s the key. I need to believe I can do this or it won’t happen. I’m enmeshed in a first draft revision that’s turning into a rewrite, so you can see why that’s my watchword!

      • I do not Believe that you look like an illiterate writer! That pesky “o” is hit on the upper row with the fourth finger, the weakest finger of the hand. So a person just doesn’t hit that key hard enough. Poof! Typo.

        I want a word for 2014, too, and I’ve never given it a moment’s thought until this post. I’m thinking I should go for “discipline” or some relative synonym: will, willpower, determination, or something like that. Finishing the book will happen if I sit down every day and work on it. And therein lies the rub.

        • What about Drive or Driven? You have to be Driven by some kind of madness to keep going and it takes real Drive to finish. Or perhaps Want. Most people don’t want it enough to stick with it till the end. Or, I’m on a roll, Need. You’ll keep going because you have no choice, you Need to do it because the stories (the people) won’t go away, it will all still be there, just stuck in your head.

    • I don’t think Believe is cheesy, I think it’s a great choice. You’ll need a ton of self-belief while you’re re-writing and even more afterwards when you start pitching.

      • I watched Eddie Izzard’s Believe late last year . . . it was inspirational. He kept talking about how he was crap in the beginning, and he was brave enough to show some of his workshops where he works out his comedy . . .definitely not the smoothly edited shows on DVD! He goes through process, too, and “Believe” is what helps him through the sticky parts. Great word!

  7. I like Drive! I could go with Drive. I think it’s better than Discipline, which has a bondage feel to it. Which could be good, but in my case, it has the ring of being chained to the desk, and I’d like to have the notion that there’s some free will involved. Okay! Drive, she said!

  8. I’m going to fall back on the old Nike ad, at least for this month. Just Do It. Over the top, underperforming, through the looking glass and right through to the other side. Over and over again.

    I’ve had a word-of-the-year before, and drew it on the cover of a cheap, 100-yen-store datebook. Every time I looked at my datebook, it reminded me of what I was here for: ACTION. I tend to sit and think too much. (Although, balance in everything: sitting and thinking are also very important.)

  9. Pingback: Jilly: 2017 In A Word – Eight Ladies Writing

Let Us Know What You Think

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s