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Saturday, May 2, 2015

7 Eye Opening Quotes About Writing by Famous Writers

Today, I thought I'd share some knowledge passed down by the greats that I found to be thought provoking and eye opening.  I hope you will enjoy them and allow them to give your muse a swift kick in the pants whenever needed.

Prose is architecture, not interior decoration.
– Ernest Hemingway

I find this to be very true. We often get caught up in the creativity of writing, but without a solid structure, even pretty words lose their meaning and intent.   

 Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good.
– William Faulkner

 How many of us aspiring writers face writer's block? You know what that is? Fear of writing poorly.  We all write stuff that sucks - get over it and do it anyway; it's the only way you'll grow personally and professionally.

A wounded deer leaps the highest.
– Emily Dickinson


You can let rejection cause you to cave, or use it to compel yourself to spring into action and prove the bastards wrong... I find harsh criticism and rejection to be something I rebel against now and it has helped me immensely.  

“If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”  ~ Stephen King


So true! The best writers are also voracious readers.  You learn by studying the greats.  Yes, it's possible to write without being a reader, but not if you ever want to reach your fullest potential.  Writers MUST read - it really is as simple as that.

“Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
Anton Chekhov

Show don't tell is always the best policy when it comes to writing.  Descriptive writing is enticing and draws readers in.  Don't "talk at" people, draw them a picture with your words.

“A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labours of a spasmodic Hercules.”
Anthony Trollope

True! Better to write daily and develop small, regular habits than to simply wait until the mood strikes. The more you make it a regular part of your daily life; the easier it is to keep doing it and the faster you will improve your skills.

“If you want to change the world, pick up your pen and write.”
Martin Luther


I have always believed that words have within them the capacity to change the world - for better or worse.  I try to remind myself that as a writer; I have influence.  What a wonderful, empowered skill to use in an effort to leave this world a little better than I found it.  

Hopefully these 7 quotes have inspired you to take a fresh look at your motivations for writing.  Have a great weekend!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Words You Need to Eliminate From Your Writing

Tighten up writing to make it more understandable. This is harder than it looks, but necessary to convey clear messages and improve reader satisfaction.

Most readers don't want an epic saga of the writer's life when they are looking up a recipe on a blog.  Share some personal experiences if they pertain to the preparation, but get to the point.

I can't tell you how many recipe blogs that lost my attention and had me just skipping to the end.

Why? Excessive wordiness.  It's a difficult task to let our personality shine through our writing, while still being informative and concise.  Writing well is hard! Here's some simple techniques to hone your skills.

Battling wordiness? Here are some words and phrases that can be eliminated from most work.

Really (a lot of ly's can be)
Actually
Basically
A Lot
Kind of
Particular 
Very
Is, am, are - too generic, replace with descriptive words when possible.

Also Eliminate Redundance in Common Phrases

Round in shape (just round)
During that time period (just time)

Example

This particular vacuum is great. It is really very good at not getting clogged and it has such awesome suction and it gets everything in my house really clean. 

Tighten it up:  This quality vacuum has tremendous suction and never clogs, allowing me to clean everything effortlessly.

See how much better it "sounds" by combining thoughts and eliminating wordiness? I also chose more active words for punch.

Changes

  • The word particular is redundant.  The word "This" specifies the subject. 
  • really and very - these words are cheap and show lack of thought.  You can convey these meanings using a strong initial word. "quality"  and "tremendous".  What has more impact when you read it?
  • Notice I didn't use "is" in the cleaned up version.
  • "in my house" is unnecessary so eliminate it. Most readers know you are vacuuming your home; you don't have to tell them so. 

Writing Challenge

Every writer can tighten up their writing and give it more punch with fewer words. The more you practice; the more effortless and natural it becomes.  Look over an old blog post or article and challenge yourself to eliminate and tighten the wording. 

Question yourself as you read each passage.

Is there a way to say this clearly with fewer words? Is there repetition? Are my words punchy or ordinary?



Saturday, April 4, 2015

Sensory Words

Do you ever wonder if your writing really grabs readers? Sensory words are a great tool to draw readers into the experience of your story. Anyone can write words, but the most powerful writing grabs you and commands your senses.

I've created an image to show the power of words from one end of the spectrum to the other. As you go down each list, note how each word makes you feel. 

How does the list of words cause your emotions or senses to shift? How often do you really stop to pay attention how specific word choices dull or enhance your message? This is a writing skill that is fun and interesting to develop.  Read different authors and really pay attention to how they describe scenes and characters. 

Do the descriptions make you say "meh", or do they draw you in and give you a real idea of what was in the writer's mind?

Words have energy! They can make you feel invigorated or apathetic, joyful or melancholy.  Every word is an opportunity to create an emotion or response.  Revisit your word choices often! 

sensory words list
Sensory Words Spectrum

Monday, March 30, 2015

Query Letter Mistakes and How to Fix Them

There is an art to crafting a winning query and as anyone who has faced the growing pains of multiple rejections knows, it can be a difficult learning curve. Highlighted here are some fatal query letter mistakes and how to remedy them. Following these steps will increase the likelihood that yours  will be accepted.

A query letter should never be a simple email or passionate plea; it should be researched, well thought-out, and should answer several important questions in order to be successful. It is better to spend an hour or two writing a top-quality, highly targeted query than it is to send out several “OK” queries in the same amount of time that will all likely be rejected.

Editors are very busy people and a strong query is more likely to be read all the way through and considered. Do your homework – sometimes less is more. Keep it engaging, direct and to the point.

Unfortunately, many editors will trash a query immediately if it has one or more of the following fatal flaws, so be sure you know how to avoid them. The “query death list” is below as well as ideas on how to prevent and correct these errors.
  • Your query is addressed to the wrong person or department
    A strong query needs to be researched. Even if you have the latest copy of the Writer's Market Guide, still do more research. Go to the publications website and do some digging. Review the latest guidelines published on their site and also ensure that you have the right name and department before sending your query. Publishing information tends to change rapidly, so be sure you have the latest information.
  • You have clearly never read their publication before
    If you want to write for a specific magazine or publication; you need to read a couple of copies first and get a feel for the voice and target audience. Your query letter should also reflect this voice and should tell the editor why your piece is going to speak directly to their audience. Know the demographics and how to appeal to them.
  • You are pitching at the wrong time
    Many publications want seasonal pieces up to a year in advance. It is very important to double check their current needs and writer's guidelines to see exactly when they want certain types of submissions. If an editor is looking for Easter pieces and you're pitching Halloween; you just hit the trash can regardless of how good the rest of your query is.
  • You don't follow the submission guidelines to a T
    This is fairly self-explanatory. If you didn't bother to follow the rules; the editor is not going to be bothered to read your submission. All publications have their own distinct guidelines and you need to follow the most recent ones. Guidelines are subject to change, so even if you found your guidelines listed in Writer's Market or a database, you need to visit the website of the publication itself and check for possible updates. Send exactly what they ask for – no more or no less.
  • You try gimmicky things to get noticed
    Gimmicks are sometimes OK in advertising, but not so much when pitching your writing. There's no need to send gifts or to attach pictures of Fido or kitty sitting at the desk typing etc. Cutesy tactics are typically ignored by editors and they don't reflect well on your professionalism as a writer. Do use nice stationary or letterhead for traditional mail, but only send photos or other items if they are requested and they pertain directly to your piece.
  • Your query is boring and doesn't have a good hook
    The droning voice of the principal on “Ferris Bueller's Day Off “ comes to mind, or perhaps the Charlie Brown teacher “wah wah wah”. A query letter needs to jump right in with a question or thought provoking statement. It's called a “hook” for a reason, it catches the attention of the editor and makes them want to know more. A hook should always be about your piece; not about you personally! You can highlight your own experience after you pitch the writing.
  • It doesn't answer vital questions
    As an editor reads your piece, he/she is not only asking questions about what will happen next; they are also considering how their readers will respond and if the article provides value, answers questions, or solves problems for their particular demographic. As you pitch your writing,  consider the answer to these questions as well. Blend your story pitch with the answers  and pitch it in a way that solves problems or piques the interest of the core demographic.
  • It is too passionate and personally aggrandizing
    You may think you're the next great American novelist or that your idea is super awesome and that's great, but humble yourself when pitching a query. Editors are extremely turned off by perceived arrogance and highly emotional pitches. It makes you appear desperate and extremely unprofessional. It is a guarantee that this type of a query or pitch will be rejected. Don't do it. Pitch your piece and highlight graciously your experience and expertise in your subject area and how you can use that to help your readers – not yourself.
  • Your query has spelling or grammatical errors
    This one is also pretty obvious. Proof read and then put it down and check  it again later. If your query has grammatical errors, misspellings, or awkward wording; it is a poor reflection on you as a writer. If your query is full of errors, chances are the editor sees the potential for a lot of extra work and they will reject your piece.




*This information originally appeared in my hubs on HubPages and has been revised and brought over here to my blog.