Secret Writing Techniques #1

ASYNDETON

Writers have developed innumerable techniques to nail their reader’s eyes to the page, and one of those secret weapons is called asyndeton. However, there is nothing new under the sun. We have simply learned how to describe what we do and have tagged it with a name. These techniques have been around since Adam and Eve told stories to Cain and Abel.

Asyndeton means disjointed and unconnected. In literature, it is the art of stringing a list of clauses together without the use of conjunctions. Doesn’t sound that exciting, does it? But wait until you see the examples!

From Double Indemnity: Why, they’ve got ten volumes on suicide alone. Suicide by race, by color, by occupation, by sex, by seasons of the year, by time of day. Suicide, how committed: by poisons, by firearms, by drowning, by leaps. Suicide by poison, subdivided by types of poison, such as corrosive, irritant, systemic, gaseous, narcotic, alkaloid, protein, and so forth.

Writers aren’t the only ones who use this effectively. Orators and statesmen use it, too.

Julius Caesar said, “I came, I saw, I conquered.”

Sir Winston Churchill used it in 1940 in the address known as “We shall fight on the beaches:”

We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.

And John F. Kennedy used it: “…that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

Now it’s your turn. For hard core impact with a dramatic effect, try asyndeton!

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Resolutions for the New Year

Re-ignite your writing passion

by Fahreen Gani

New Year means resolutions for most of us. Finishing a novel might be yours, but how many will achieve that goal? Take this survey to find out.

Do you leave stories unfinished?

Does every story have to be perfect before you submit it?

Do you shred your work (and confidence) every time you edit?

Do you fail to write two or more days per week?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are suffering from Bad Writer’s Habits Syndrome (BWHS). Studies show it can develop into a serious case of writer’s block, which  if left untreated, can culminate in psychological writer’s death, evidenced by lack of ideas.

If that triggered a little panic, great. It means the writer within is still alive and your story can be salvaged.

To see how advanced your BWHS is, you need to do a passion scan. Ask yourself this: has your passion for writing cooled due to frustration, rejections, and plot paralysis? After assessing the why and what is causing the lack of excitement, take a deep breath. Here’s how you can reignite your passion.

Delve into your mind, heart and soul. Ask yourself why you want to be a writer. Focus on those answers to stir your passion.

To keep your Bad Writer’s Habits Syndrome in check, take the following steps when necessary.

Keep a bottle of ideas handy. Although they are everywhere, keep your notes updated.

  1. Don’t wait too long to use them and don’t churn them out too quickly. Be patient,      and allow them to take on a life and grow.
  1. Do regular writing checkups. Do you use repetitive words? Do your grammar skills need work? Find your weaknesses and strengthen them.
  1.  Borrow a cup of encouragement from a friend.
  1. Supplement with doses of Self-Motivation.
  1. Take a shot of Constructive Criticism from a peer.
  1. For a speedy recovery and booster, take a writing course.
  1. Participate in a contest.
  1. Research your setting.
  1. Conduct interviews with your characters.
  1. Figure out what’s wrong with an old story.
  1. Use active voice instead of passive.
  1. Do writing exercises. Flex those writing muscles every day.
  1. Working on novels and stories gets exhausting. Take frequent breaks to preserve your sanity and keep your piece fresh.
  1. Distractions can be injurious. Avoid them. When the perfect word eludes you, don’t give in. Highlight the area and go back to it later.
  1. Read! It produces antibodies (new ideas) to fight writer’s block.
  1. Discipline will bring success. Enjoy your writing.

Make these your new year’s resolutions. Flaunt your writing masterpieces. Enter contests this year and we will applaud you for overcoming bad habits.

Go to www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com to find out about our creative writing courses

How to Target a Market

by Ariel Pakizer

Pick your audience before you start writing.   or even plan, an article. Waving in western culture is a friendly gesture, but an open palm is the equivalent to “flipping the bird” in some Hispanic cultures. Writing without knowing your market is like waving in Spain, you’re saying hello, they’re seeing a curse word, and everyone is confused.

Selecting a market is tricky. “High Fantasy fans” is too large, but “twenty-year-old white men” is too small, so target a market in between the two. Choose an age range and a topic. Focusing on one interest is wise, since art students and sports scholarships typically aren’t interested in same type of article.

You have the idea, now where does it fit best? Decide what focus (if it’s a story, or angle if it’s an article) your piece should take and target your particular market from there. If you don’t know what your audience wants, you need to do more than targeting a market.

If you’re a thirty-year-old woman targeting men going through a midlife crisis, you’ve got some research to do. If you’re willing to plan, research, and edit your article, you can spare a few hours for researching your market.

Once you understand your market, tailor your story to it. Write what your chosen audience wants to read. Every market has a tone and length they enjoy, so try keeping your article to the appropriate word count. If you’re writing a short story, write the characters with strengths they’ll admire and not quirks they will find annoying.

Writing for an audience isn’t easy and only practice will make you better. Learn to blend your writing with what others want to read. Write a few pieces for a specific audience, and then try selling them.

You can aim for a local magazine, newspaper, or reach out to an online journal. Why not find an internet magazine, learn about its target audience, and write a short story specifically for it?

Work on a piece for a few weeks, but set a deadline. It will turn a project into a goal, and the finished work into an accomplishment. So, go for it, write and sell a piece to a target audience by March 31st. Don’t sit and think, “I couldn’t do that!” because you can’t know that’s true until you try.

Sponsored by http://www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com, YOUR place to find writing fulfillment with a private tutor. No need to wait. Sign up today and start tonight!

Love’s Thy Genre

by Farheen Gani

An imaginary tale that amused classmates. A prize-winning essay. A funny poem. Isn’t this how we fall in love with writing? The love deepens over time. You start dreaming of publishing your own novel. Until you realize, it’s now or never. That’s how Lisa Carter published her first book.

Mrs. Carter is a Southern romance writer, which by her definition includes hospitality, extended family circles and barbeques. When not chasing her muse, she indulges in quilting, teaching and music. In this interview, she talks about the joys and challenges of writing romance…

  1. Why did you choose romance as the main theme of your writing?

I love the process of two people finding each other against the odds and daring to love each other. I fall in love a little bit with each of my characters as their romance unfolds in my story.

  1. While romance is perceived as an easy genre to write, which is the most difficult part about writing it?

The endings are often hard to craft so that the story will not be clichéd, but fresh and satisfying. There is no surprise in romance—readers understand that in the end these characters will be together. That is essential. But the joy and the surprising twists in the journey it takes the characters to reach, this place is the fun part.

  1. Is there anything you do to get in the mood of writing an intense scene?

Music can transport you to the theme or emotional tone of a scene. I always read the scene I wrote the previous day to get myself back in the moment. Taking a walk or doing something that doesn’t require a great deal of focus like housecleaning also helps the stream of my subconscious to flow.

  1. How do you differentiate your central character’s voice from your own?

There are pieces of me in every character I write—the good, the bad, the ugly. But the lead character has a voice of her own, her own back-story, and experiences that are different from me and how I would react to her current situation.

Sponsored by http://www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com, YOUR place to find writing fulfillment with a private tutor. No need to wait. Sign up today and start tonight!

The Power of “3”

by Pam Zollman

When you write a short story or picture book, think in terms of “3.”  This makes planning and writing your story so much easier. Your story will be divided into three parts: beginning, middle and end. Your hero will need three obstacles to overcome. Your story will be approximately three pages long double-spaced, which equals about 750 words, just right for most children’s magazines and picture books.

Page one is the beginning. This is where you introduce the main character, set the scene, state the goal, and set up the conflict.

Page two (or more, depending on story length) is the middle. Your main character is presented with three obstacles he must overcome to reach his goal.

Page three (or so depending on story length) is the end. The climax of the story makes the hero choose a resolution, which may be hard and self-sacrificing, but will ultimately be the best one. The hero reaches his goal and all loose ends are tied up.

Be creative with how your character solves his problem. Make it something that will cause the reader to think, something that the reader might be able to apply to his own life. No obvious morals or lessons are allowed. Fiction is read for pleasure; all lessons should be implied. The reader can figure it out. The happy ending can also be implied, that if things stay on course all will work out okay.

This is a very simplified way of writing a fiction story for a magazine. Use it as a guide, a suggestion only, not as a rule. It’s not the only way to write a story, but it’s one that has worked for me.

Pam Zollman has published over 40 books for children, as well as numerous magazine stories. She has also been an editor and contest judge for Highlights for Children magazine.

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Writing Tips

Author Unknown

1. If you don’t take your writing time seriously, don’t expect anyone else to.
2. Analyze other writings and learn to endorse them into your own style. Reading is an absolute must if you want your writing to grow.
3. Professional writers have the skin of a rhinoceros. There is no place for thin-skinned and timorous writers. Accept all constructive feedback and don’t it personally. Treat all critiques like gold. Put a big note near your computer – CRITICISM = OPPORTUNITY.
4. Educate yourself with writing courses, seminars, writer’s workshops, networking, and conferences. The actual writing is only a small part of the big picture.
5. Know today’s market, timing and submissions – that’s what it’s all about.
6. Submit something every week. When one item reaps a rejection slip, have the next market all picked out and submit it again the very next day. Remember one thing – persistence, persistence, persistence.

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Journalism Changes

by Josephine Kihiu

Journalism is a practice dating back hundreds of years. Frankly, it stems from humans needing to be know-it-alls. When reading became a luxury no longer reserved for the rich, disseminating news to a broad public proved profitable and generally beneficial. You’ve all heard the horror stories of late: journalism, especially in the print media subset, is a dying industry, clinging hopelessly to its marginal profits. Sure, the industry saw some major cuts recently. However, the reality is this – journalism is not dying. It’s just changing.

People are embracing a digital lifestyle, and so is the media. Journalists still roam unexplored niches and probe prominent minds for columns to sell, but those columns may end up online or in the journalist’s personal blog, as well as in print.

Digital journalism is an immediate response to the ever-increasing presence of the Internet via smart devices. Want a run-down of the State of the Union’s main points? Need to check your movie listings? Want to know the weather? Answer all questions using the omnipotent Internet.

Cognizant of the new shift in how the modern person acquires information, journalistic publications respond by posting pieces online. They also create apps allowing those with smart phones to roam their websites more conveniently.

Online journalism also serves expansion of journalistic expression. Unlike Harry Potter, your newspaper probably doesn’t support moving pictures on the cover, but journalists who embrace the digital shift can post videos, tweet, and blog about their findings in addition to the traditional static article. This increases potential audiences and diversifies the demographic reach (more college students pick up their iPhones than a newspaper).

But fear not, traditional readers. If you’re anything like me, you enjoy flipping broad pages and the feel of paper in your fingers. It’s familiar, like catching up with an old friend by letter or receiving news from a loved one by snail mail. Large newspapers still understand the importance of retaining the traditional, usually older, market, so don’t panic. News giants such as The Washington Post, The New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times, remain consistent sources of accurate, interesting news, faithfully delivering to your door as a reminder that all things change… yet stay the same.

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Writing Duo – Father and Son

by Karen Johnson-Waugh

Father’s Day is a good time to reflect on the life of C.S. Lewis, one of the greatest writers in the past 50 years. More than two decades after his death, his writing continues to inspire millions with science fiction, allegorical children’s books, and philosophical books about the Christian faith.

Clive Staples Lewis was born in Ireland in 1898 to parents Albert J. Lewis and Florence “Flora” Augusta. When C.S. was four years old, his dog, Jackie, died in an accident. From that day forth, little C.S. demanded to be called Jack.

Lewis knew Latin and Greek by the age of ten. When his father wrote poems and read them to his sons, “Jack’s” hazel eyes lit up. The family moved to the outskirts of Belfast in 1905 and he was fascinated with the town. He and his brother David created a fantasy world they named Boxen. Fictional animals ruled their land, which helped them cope with their mother’s death in 1908.

C.S. attended boarding schools and colleges, studied mythology, and became a professor at Oxford University from 1925-1954 where he became lifelong friends with a fellow professor, the famous J.R.R. Tolkien.

In 1949, the New York Times published an article by Chad Walsh called C.S. Lewis: Apostle to the Skeptics. Mr. Walsh encouraged his poet friend, Helen Gresham, to become better acquainted with Lewis. They wrote to one another until Helen eventually divorced her husband, took her two sons to England, and married C. S. in 1956. Four years later, she died of cancer.

Lewis’ work was rejected over 800 times before he sold more than 100 million copies of The Screwtape Letters (1942), The Chronicles of Narnia (1956), and The Space Trilogy (1938-1945). Lewis died of a heart attack a week before his 66th birthday on November 23, 1963.

His stepson, Douglas Gresham, wrote an autobiography entitled Lenten Lands. Douglas and his wife, Merri, adopted five Korean children. They live in Ireland where Douglas handles the C.S. Lewis literacy estate. His brother, David, lives in India with his son.

Do you want to pass writing skills down to your heirs? Today is the day to begin. Believe in yourself. Invest in yourself. Take a writing course at Creative Writing Institute. Sign up today and start tonight with your own personal tutor.

Don’t forget to ‘like’ us before you leave. For more great tips, sign up for The Writer’s Choice Newsletter (for free) at http://cwinst.com/newslettersignup.php.

Volunteer your Writing Skills

by Brent Middleton

          Have you ever found yourself with free time that you could donate? Or feel an urge to give back in some small way? Volunteer writing is a fun and flexible way to pass the time and help a charity spread a message.

Volunteer writing can be for and about any number of causes or events. It could simply be social media writing (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), article writing, or even personal blogs. From a technical standpoint, the rules are few, other than the ones specified by your employer. To determine their writing style, read previously published pieces and analyze them. For instance, Creative Writing Institute likes a more relaxed, personable writing style.

Volunteer writing can present a satisfying challenge and, at the same time, expand your style. Besides gradually making you more versatile, it will offer personal satisfaction in diversifying your skillset. The more different and challenging the topic, the greater satisfaction you’ll feel in the end.

If you’re looking for a place to volunteer your writing skills, Creative Writing Institute has room for two article writers, experienced or amateur. If you’re interested, write to DeborahOwen@cwinst.com.

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Microsoft Word Tips

By Brent Middleton

Microsoft Word is massive. These are some of the lesser-known Word functions. Since computers vary to a large degree, these instructions are basic.

Page Breaks

Microsoft Word automatically inserts a page break at the end of the page, but you can also insert manual page breaks. A page break is the point in the document where the text goes onto the next page. To insert a break manually, click where you want the page to be broken, then go to the Insert tab (at the top), and look under Pages. There you’ll see the Page Break button. If you’d prefer a shortcut to perform a hard page break (one that immediately starts the next page of the document), it’s CTRL+ENTER.

Section Breaks

You can configure automatic page breaks where you want. To do this, highlight the paragraph(s) that you want to work with. Go to the Page Layout tab, click the little icon in the bottom right-hand corner of the Paragraph subcategory, and a dialogue box should pop up. Click on the Line and Page Breaks tab, and from there you can manage your automatic page break settings.

For more in-depth instructions on page breaks, check out the official Microsoft site: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/word-help/insert-a-page-break-HA010368779.aspx

There are other kinds of breaks, too, such as Next Page, Continuous, Even Page, and Odd Page. If you want to learn more about them, there’s a handy description of each right next to each one in Word.

The Ruler

One of the most underutilized features of Word is undoubtedly the ruler. Word includes both horizontal and vertical rulers, and they can be useful for aligning different elements of your document, such as text, tables, graphics, etc.

To view both rulers, click the little button in the top right-hand corner above the “move-the-page-up” arrow. If for some reason your vertical ruler doesn’t appear (in which case it’s turned off), you can turn it back on by going to File, then Options, which is just before Exit. Once in the Options menu, click Advanced, and then scroll down to the Display section. There you’ll find a series of check boxes, and one will say “Show vertical ruler in Print Layout view.” Select that one and you’re good to go.

Were these Microsoft Word tips helpful? Please let us know and feel free to suggest other topics that you might want us to cover.

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What a Writing Tutor Will Do for You

by Deborah Owen

Writing tutors will take your skills to a new level in an unbelievably short time. It isn’t necessary to invest multiplied thousands of dollars on courses you can’t afford. The same thing is available at bargain basement prices.

The pioneers of yesteryear provided a mentoring system for their children. Indeed, many of America’s great leaders were tutored at home.

  • Abraham Lincoln attended school only a few months
  • George Washington had the equivalent of an elementary school education
  • Davy Crockett, who was elected to the State Legislature, had almost no formal education
  • The eloquent diplomat, statesman and scientist, Benjamin Franklin, quit school at the age of ten and…
  • Thomas Edison, the father of 1,093 patented inventions, only briefly attended school.

Today’s populace is so disconcerted with traditional education that over one million disgruntled families tutor their children at home. A writing tutor will make you grow by leaps and bounds.

Here’s what the tutoring system can offer you:

  • Instead of being assigned a number like a prisoner in cell bock D, your tutor will know you on a first name basis
  • Your mentor will be available daily to answer questions and guide you through the mire of journalistic rules.
  • You will compete only with yourself as your tutor escorts you from your present level to your individual highest potential
  • The tutoring system is affordable
  • You will gain certification when you successfully complete your course.

Indeed, the mentoring system is more than equal to traditional teaching. It surpasses it.

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Demand Your Writing Time!

by Deborah Owen

We live in a busy world. In spite of push-button washers and dryers, dishwashers, microwaves, convection ovens, and the latest in transportation and telecommunications, we are busier now than ever before.

Hobby writing gets pushed to the bottom of a very long list of priorities, but perhaps your desire is still there and that’s why you’re reading this article.

Tell your family and friends you won’t be answering the phone because this is your time to write. Tell your husband, wife, or children not to interrupt you unless there is a critical emergency. Tell them how important your writing is to you.

Go to a separate room with a pen and paper or a computer, and begin writing. You may not think of anything to say at first. You may even wonder where all the ideas went. Fear not, they will return.

To get started trywriting a biography, or write about your mate or friends, family, parents, childhood, pets, children or how pillows are madewrite about anything at all. It doesn’t matter what you write, just take the time and write. Try to do it at the same time every day and within a week or two your Muse will begin to visit you.

The Muse is what every writer lives for. It makes words fly to your head so fast that you can’t type fast enough to get it all on paper. The Muse will often visit at night, so keep a pen, paper, and small flashlight by your bed.

Inform your body that writing is a priority. Some people go to a special room to write. Some write in the basement or attic. Some find their Muse in a cabin or by the sea. It doesn’t matter where you go as long as you are comfortable.

Just as a child needs nurturing, so does your Muse. If you don’t feed it, it will die and you will be sure to regret it. Jump in with both feet. Be bold! Be brave!

Take charge of your life, and enjoy writing. It’s like any other gift– use it or lose it!

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Writing Rules

by Terri Forehand

Creative writing rules govern story writing. The message, content, characters, and storyline can differ,  but some key elements must be present in every story.

Theme

Trust writing rules to link every story properly into a common idea. You can weave a moral or underlying lesson into the mix, but the theme can be as simple as boy meets girl. Many times, there may be both a theme and an underlying moral or lesson. Gone with the Wind is an example of a complex theme with a moral thread woven throughout the story. On the surface, the theme is war and romance, but the underlying lesson theme illustrates control, manipulation, and the weak characteristics of humans.

Plot

Every good story maintains an interesting plot throughout. The plot must fit the characters, just as the character’s actions must fit the plot. The plot encompasses the beginning and middle with a series of events that leads the climax to a satisfying ending. Plotlines must be concrete and believable. They must move the story forward and keep the reader interested in development. It behooves the creative writer to learn the craft of weaving meat into the story and delete every word that doesn’t directly pertain.

Hook

Construct a hook that grabs the reader and keeps him/her turning the pages. The hook may be a sentence, a few sentences, or even a page. In a technical world where people want instant gratification, they won’t stay engaged if the words don’t grab them at the onset.

Dialogue

Dialogue is another essential skill in creative writing. It must be natural and match the characters in the story, which can sometimes be tricky. Become a good eavesdropper and you’ll learn to write excellent dialogue. Mimic conversations you overhear. Notice how people finish one another’s sentences or and cut one another off mid-stream. Concentrate on contractions, sentence fragments, poor English, and bad sentence structure. All of it plays into reality.

To Conclude:

Practice the writing rules regarding plot, developing a proper hook, and creating dialogue that matches the speaker. Don’t just read other writers. Study them. Find the theme and plot of every story. Notice how characters and dialogue build the climax. Writing rules define the heart of every successful writer. Yes, you can break the rules, but not until you understand the structure that they give.

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‘Must Have’ Tools for Every Writer

by Lily E. Wong

Every writer needs tools. These include pen, paper, a computer and, surprise – books. Reading is as essential as writing. Being well read will help you to write well.

For writers certain books catapult our work into the forefront. The following five books will help hone your craft. How can anyone claim to be a writer if his/her work is not easy to understand? The goal is for all writers to own, read and refer to these books multiple times throughout their career.

1. The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White

First published in 1979, this book covers use of the English language. There are many books on grammar but few have stood the test of time. In essence, the book is a great example of good writing. Clear and concise, it’s a quick reference on grammar.

2. On Writing Well by William Zinsser

The subtitle of this book is “The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction.” The book, divided into four parts, covers principles, methods, forms, and attitudes. Each section contains chapters that will enhance any writing. Zinsser provides examples from authors to teach and remind writers to keep their readers in mind.

3. On Writing by Stephen King

King calls it, “A Memoir of the Craft,” and delivers that and more. He tells a great story of a writer’s life, with himself as the focal point. Creativity and inspiration is his message.

4. A dictionary and thesaurus combination

This is invaluable to everyone because we all read and write. A dictionary enhances our vocabulary when we come across an unfamiliar word. On the other hand, a word repeatedly used can numb the reader. This is where the thesaurus comes in handy. The combination of both a dictionary and thesaurus is the ultimate necessity in a writer’s arsenal.

5. Your favorite book

This can be any book, fiction or nonfiction. Choose an anthology, a novel or any piece of literature. If you enjoyed reading this book, the writer did his job. Let this book be your inspiration, the goal you want to achieve.

As a writer, you want to do your best. You have talent but get some tools. Tools are a means to bring this talent forth for all to enjoy.

If these books aren’t yet in your library, borrow them, try them, buy them. But like all professional craftsmen, make sure any tool is worth its weight in gold before adding it to your collection.

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Redundant Writing

The Same Ol’ Thing

by Ariel Pakizer, Creative Writing Institute Volunteer

Writing is tricky, but one rule is clear…readers, editors, and publishers like clean writing that is free of redundancies. No one likes to plod through oceans of verbiage. Redundancies slow the narrative and clutter the plotline. Remove them and make your work shine.

Replace, “He looked down at his shoes,” with “He looked at his shoes” or “He looked down.” Unless you‘re writing about aliens that wear shoes on their hands, readers will understand the character must look down to see footwear. Respect your reader’s intelligence.

Every word should hold a purpose, reveal new information, and/or push the narrative forward. Redundancies such as “whole earth” or “entire world” are unnecessary since “world” summarizes everything on earth. Other examples of lame writing are:

  • closed fist
  • future plans
  • brief summary
  • final outcome
  • armed gunman
  • advance warning
  • end result
  • exact same

Look for redundancies in your phrases, too.

  • She is the girl who lives on my street is loaded with verbiage. “She lives on my

street,” says the same thing without clutter.

  • “Each” and “every” are both fine words, but use one or the other.
  • Instead of saying “in spite of the fact,” use “although.”

Don’t worry about redundancies in a first draft. Slice and dice them on your last edit. Test your skills on this 82-word paragraph. How many words can you save?

She looked up at the stars, and wondered if all the others were watching them as she did. The stars would be falling soon, and every living person would be cast into never ending darkness. It didn’t matter what people did now, the end result would be one and the same. Past history had tried to warn them in advance, urging people to make future plans to stop this horrible event. No one cared to listen, and now it couldn’t be stopped.

Every word is precious when you have to stay within a word count. Read this clean copy:

She wondered if others were watching the stars, too. Soon, they would fall and cast life into darkness. What happened now didn’t matter. History’s warnings were ignored and the future forgotten. It was too late.

Only 35 words, yet it reads easier and doesn’t change the meaning. Delete and rewrite entire paragraphs for practice. Remember, less is more, and conciseness is king.

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15 Quick Editing Steps to Rewriting Success

The Editing Commandments

by Deborah Owen

Editing can get pretty confusing. What should stay and what should go? Let this article be your guide.

Editing is another name for rewriting, and rewriting can only come once you’ve finished writing; therefore, your first step should be to complete your first draft. Once you’ve finished, instead of trying to edit all of the story or article at once, make each edit accomplish a specific purpose.

Follow these 15 quick editing steps to find out how.

1. Do some warm-up writing for ten minutes before you begin editing. During this time, write about something that makes you mad… perhaps an old flame, something an old boyfriend or girlfriend did, a spanking you unjustly received—anything that will stir your emotions and creativity. When your creative juices are flowing, you can critique you own work better.

2. Keep your eye on the goal. Refer back to the rough outline you used as the basis for your first draft. (What? You didn’t use an outline? No wonder you’re reading this article.) Be sure you’ve included all the initial points you wanted to make.

3. Check for linear flow (order of events). Don’t try flashbacks unless you know what you’re doing.

4. Don’t tell what your character is thinking. SHOW it with action, demonstration, or dialogue. Keep in mind that showing always takes three to five times more words than telling. That’s okay, as long as it’s meaty.

Example of Telling: “I’m so nervous,” Jennifer thought as she saw the doctor approach.
(boo… hiss… bad writing)

Showing:  Jennifer picked on her thumb nail as the doctor approached with furrowed brow. Noises in the room amplified. Did his strides grow longer? Slower? Was everyone looking at her? Tick. Tick. She could hear the seconds clicking on the clock overhead. A tiny drop of blood appeared as she pulled the nail into the quick, but the drop of bright blood and stabbing pain were welcome. They were the only signs of reality.

5. Edit for excessive wordiness, also known as verbiage. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines verbiage as “profusion of words, usually of little or obscure content.” In other words, excess words say nothing. Cut your sentences until they bleed. Use only one adjective at a time. Chop your descriptions down to that which relates directly to the scene and leave only the most necessary. When you delete a favorite phrase, copy it and save it in a file for another day.

6. Delete all adverbs ending in -ly, such as sadly, hatefully, etc. The use of adverbs is a sure indicator that you aren’t engaging the technique called Show, Don’t Tell.  (See #4)

7. Sentence tags: Don’t use “said she” or “said he.” Turn those words around to read “he said” and “she said.” Delete most tag endings, such as “she said with a snicker.” If you have sufficiently built your characters and the scene, the reader will know the attitudes on display.

8. Check the verbs and replace them with jazzier ones. Examples:

•          He choked until he couldn’t breathe – He hawked until he couldn’t breathe.
•          The little girl ran down the sidewalk – The little girl skipped down the sidewalk.
•          The boy hit the ball out of the park – The boy whanged the ball out of the park.

Jazzing your verbs (choosing more active verbs) will make your work glow!

9. Douse as many forms of the verb “to be” as possible. That includes is, am, are, was, were, be, being and been. These are dead verbs that say nothing. According to Wikipedia, allowed forms are: become, has, have, had (use sparingly), I’ve, you’ve, do, does, doing, did, can, could, will, would, shall, should, ought, may, might and must. The fact that they are allowed, however, does not make them desirable. Get rid of as many as possible because they weaken sentence structure. Likewise, using “could” and “would” will drop you into a trap that you’ll find hard to escape.

10. Watch for tense changes. If you begin in past tense, the entire story must be written in past tense, with two exceptions – one of which you should never use.

  • The first exception is dialogue, and that’s because people speak in mixed tenses – present, past, and future.
  • The second exception is internal dialogue (thoughts). That throws it into the omniscient voice and editors consider it a lazy writer’s way of telling what they should be showing. Don’t use it.

11. Follow the rules for prepositional phrases – no more than three to a sentence, and avoid using more than two in consecutive order. Prepositions are easy to identify. Some of the most common are: in, on, at, to, for, under, before, but there are hundreds. Find a partial list of them here: http://www.englishclub.com/grammar/prepositions-list.htm. Pick out the ones you use most and avoid them like the plague. Prepositional phrases usually tell when or where, such as: “I will meet you IN the afterlife,” or “He told his daughter to go INTO the house.” Consecutive prepositional phrases make weak sentence construction. Note: If you begin a sentence with a prepositional phrase, place a comma at the end of it (just as I did in this sentence.)

12. Punctuation:

  • Space ONCE after a period.
  • For writing in the USA, most punctuation (except the colon) lies within the quote marks. Check to see that all of your quotes are closed.
  • Don’t use a semi-colon unless it is before the words “however” or “therefore,” (in which case, use a comma immediately after those words).
  • Don’t use colons except to list things: recipes, items of clothing, kinds of perfume, etc.
  • Use commas to separate two clauses into a compound sentence. Also use commas between city and state and to offset introductory prepositional phrases.
  • Don’t use more than one exclamation mark per every 2,000 words!!!
  • Learn to use the ellipsis (three dots) properly. Remember, the ellipsis represents a pause or interruption in the sentence. It’s easy to overuse these little devils. If you find yourself falling into that trap, use a dash instead and insert a space on each side of it.

Rules for using the ellipsis:
a. When used at the beginning of a sentence: “(space)…And that’s all he said.”
b. In the middle of a sentence: “I hated to tell you that…(space)I didn’t want to hurt your feelings.”
c. At the end of a sentence: “I didn’t want to tell you….(space)”
(Did you notice that the last example ended with four dots? That’s because the last dot acts as a period to end the sentence.)

13. Use the spellchecker, but don’t totally rely on it. If you use homophones such as “right” when you meant to say “write,” or “blew” instead of “blue,” it won’t catch the error. To be safe, scan for mistakes after you use the spellchecker.

14. Check your formatting. Double-space the body and indent the first line of every paragraph. Every new line of dialogue should begin on a new line; however, if guidelines state otherwise, follow the guidelines.

15. Last of all, ask a friend to read your article aloud while you take notes on places you want to change. This is the best way to get clear perspective on what you’ve written. If you don’t have someone who can read it aloud, YOU read it aloud—but be careful to read exactly what’s written and not what your mind wants to insert. Hint: Stumbling over a sentence is usually indicative of awkward wording. Rewrite it.

Follow these 15 steps and the end result will be crisp, easy-to-understand writing that is stuffed with meat. What reader can resist that?

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8 Editing Steps to Perfection

Mastering Editing

by Deborah Owen

Creative writers – don’t wait to edit your work until you know every word by heart – learn to edit the easy way. Do you know what to look for in editing? Have you wondered what should stay and what should go? By the time you read this article, you will know the answers to these questions.

  • One of the first things to look for is prepositional phrases. You can identify       prepositions easily. The most common ones are: in, on, at, to, for, under, before.  Prepositional phrases usually tell when or where, such as: “I will meet you in the after life,” or “He told his daughter to go into the house.” You should never have more than three prepositional phrases to a sentence, and preferably only two.
  •  Watch for wordiness, also known as verbiage. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines verbiage as “profusion of words, usually of little or obscure content.” In other words, excess words that say nothing. Cut your sentences until they bleed. Chop your descriptions down to that which relates directly to the scene, and leave nothing but the most necessary meat.
  • It should be unnecessary to mention using the spellchecker, but you would be surprised how many writers fail to use this most valuable tool. However, don’t totally rely on it. If you use the word “right” instead of “write”, or “blew” instead of “blue”, it will not catch the error. To be safe, scan for errors after you use the spellchecker.
  • Look for inappropriate punctuation. Be sure your quotations are closed. Use hyphens and colons properly. Don’t use a semi-colon when a comma will do. Be sure to use commas properly, i.e., to separate two clauses in a compound sentence, between city and state, etc.
  • Check that your order of events is stated properly. Unless you are doing a flashback, you will only confuse the reader if you switch back and forth within a given time frame.
  • Watch for tense changes. If you begin in the past tense, the entire story must be written in the past tense, with one possible exception. The only time you can properly change tenses is in dialogue, and that is because people normally speak in present, past and future tenses.
  • One of the most important parts of editing is dousing all forms of the verb “to be”: is, am, are, was, were, be, being and been. These are “dead” verbs that say nothing. According to Wikipedia, allowed forms are: become, has, have, had, I’ve, you’ve, do, does, doing, did, can, could, will, would, shall, should, ought, may, might and must. The fact that they are allowed, however, does not make them desirable. Get rid of as many of these as possible. They weaken your work.
  • Check every verb in every sentence and see if you can replace it with a jazzy verb. This is the finishing touch that will make your work glow.

So when you edit, watch for these eight things. The end result will be crisp, easy-to-understand writing that is stuffed with meat. What reader can resist that?

If you liked this article, be sure to follow our blog here on WordPress! You can also find links for our Facebook and Twitter pages at our website: www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com.