Monday, October 30, 2017

Applicable Writing Advice?

Great writing tips abound. If you've been writing more than ten minutes, you've probably heard these two:  

"Write what you know."

"Show, don't tell."

While these contain great advice, there are certain words of wisdom I've found more applicable and helpful than others.

For example, years ago I came across this quote in The Elements of Style by Strunk and White:  

“Omit needless words. Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.”

This was something I practiced immediately. It dovetailed perfectly with the courses I'd just completed at the Institute of Children's Literature, where they taught us the value of word economy. 

Here's another favorite from the same book:

“Do not overstate. When you overstate, the reader will be instantly on guard, and everything that has preceded your overstatement as well as everything that follows it will be suspect in his mind because he has lost confidence in your judgment or your poise.

Overstatement is one of the common faults. A single overstatement, wherever or however it occurs, diminishes the whole, and a single carefree superlative has the power to destroy, for the reader, the object of the writer’s enthusiasm.” 
This quote brings to mind the exclamation mark and its generous use everywhere. And it makes me wonder if we are a society of people who shout all the time. Or are we guilty of overstating? Or maybe both. :)
One veteran writer's opinion on this advised counting the number of exclamation marks in a piece. He recommended eliminating all but one, and to carefully consider even the lone remainder. Ask, he said, "Is such emphasis necessary?"  
Ever since reading those wisdom filled words, my use of such in formal writing is deliberate and sparse.

While some advice seems more applicable or timely than others, I'm grateful for the wealth of info at our fingertips. Always something to learn, always something to improve upon, right? 

What advice did you find most applicable when you began writing? What have you found most useful lately? 
Happy writing,

Photo credit: Pexels

Monday, October 23, 2017

Taking it Apart to Put it All Together


The following is an exercise I share with my teen writing students. I use it primarily with the research paper and essay writing classes as a means to help them consider their content from a new angle. 

  • Step One: Take the first paragraph from your research paper, and write (or type) each sentence on a separate line from top to bottom. Examine each sentence separately, then consider them as a whole. Do they fit together and make sense as a unit? 
  • Step Two: Try this with your second and third paragraphs too. It's a good way to get a better and more objective look at your content and how/if it relates together, and to make adjustments as necessary. Were there any surprises? Do you need to make any revisions? Did it reveal anything interesting to you?

I've used this exercise with students for years - just came up with it one day because I thought it would make them think. (I like to encourage them to develop critical thinking and related writing skills.) 

After I posted it on the class forum last week, I was reminded that it can be a useful tool for us adult writers too. When writing a blog post for a client, for example, I often mentally do this as means of stepping outside my head and gaining perspective. You know how it goes - things can sound super fabulous or extremely lousy in your own head sometimes. And breaking it down into smaller pieces helps view its cohesiveness, or not, and adjust accordingly. The reassembling can bring new clarity that works toward a polished, finished product. 

What do you think? What helps your writing come together? Do you employ any similar exercises when writing, editing, or are just plain stuck on a certain piece?

Happy writing,

Photo credit:Pexels

Monday, October 16, 2017

Interview & Book Spotlight With Cecelia Lester

It's been my privilege to get acquainted with Cecelia Lester through her blog, Following My King. She is now a published author, and I'm helping her spread the news about her new book. Cecelia was kind enough to stop by and answer a few questions about her journey.

Cecelia, welcome and congratulations! What was the catalyst for writing this book? 

I chose to share what God laid on my heart about the conditions of our world, the situations each of us personally face, and how we could work on them and bring glory to God. 

How long did the process take you - from its early beginnings to publication? 

In January 2015, I started journaling on various topics that I felt I fell short on. That fall I spent time in a rehab center receiving therapy for a broken ankle. I was released from there three days before Christmas. I really didn’t know what I should do about pursuing the craft. I spent time re-reading my journal thoughts. I decided to choose several of them to see if I could use them on my blog or even in something else, maybe a book. So, a total of 2 1/2 years with the interruptions.

What publishing method did you choose? 

I considered searching for an agent, hoping one could eventually pitch my book to a publisher. However, I found the process of writing a book proposal daunting. I did some research on Indie Publishing and a couple of the firms that do Print on Demand printing.

What's one thing you hope readers will take away from your book? 

Originally, I wrote these devotions as a way for me to grow closer to the Lord. I hope that those who read my book will also grow closer to Him. 

Thanks for stopping by, Cecelia! May the Lord continue to bless and keep you.

Thank you, Karen. 

More About Times of Trouble Bring Rays of Joy

Have you ever wondered if you fully understood what God tells you? Wanted assurance that God listens to your prayers? Felt like you've repeatedly failed God? Thought something was holding you back from serving Him? If you are like most Christians, you answered yes to at least one of these questions. Times of Trouble Bring Rays of Joy contains 60 devotions meant to address these thoughts and encourage readers through the ups and downs of life. 

My Review 

This devotional offers an uncomplicated look at Biblical principles and scripture in relation to life’s challenges. Cecelia shares a candid glimpse into her thoughts and experiences as she discusses related Bible verses that have offered her strength and comfort. With sixty devotions total, the book is broken down into six categories – Time Management, Strength, Humility, Compassion and Mercy, Faith, and Peace. Each entry includes questions to encourage interaction and additional study, as well as room to make notes and journal one's thoughts. This is a nice feature, as it aids in further reflection on timeless truths. Cecelia wisely directs readers to a faithful and loving God, one who hears and loves us.

About Cecelia

When she's not writing or serving at church, Cecelia enjoys spending time reading and watching old movies, particularly those of the Film Noir genre. Having lived most of her life in beautiful central Indiana, she and her husband love to travel, and enjoy spending time with their adult son.

Where to Find Cecelia & Her Book:

What are you reading this week? Do you have any questions for Cecelia? 

Happy writing,