The Best Writing

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” ~Ernest Hemingway

For your writing to be “the best,” you have to give a lot of yourself. Sure, you can withhold and write a quick, fluffy piece that has barely any effect on anyone.

But, the best writing comes from deep inside you.

I’ve heard of a coach in the music business that works with singer/songwriters. He’s like a therapist. He digs and digs and digs until he finds their pain, and when he finds out what they truly feel about things, he says, “Is that what you want to say? Then say it!”

The rumor is, when this coach works with a singer/songwriter, his or her next album is a hit!

This is not a surprise because whatever painful circumstances you’ve been through, others have been through it too. They will at least identify with the core feelings of your experience. You are not the only one who’s been hurt and feels the way you feel!

When you dig deep, you find a resonance with your audience. Have you been abandoned? Well, yeah, you and half the planet! Rejected? Lost many loved ones to disease?

I must tell you, your audience is waiting to hear not only the pain, but the lessons you’ve learned. Can you write a story about a girl who overcomes repeated abandonments? What are her lessons along the way? How does she heal?

We need to learn to dig deep inside and be honest about our hurts, our opinions, and our passions. It’s what makes the BEST writing.

Now writer, go sit at your laptop and bleeeeeed.

“Writing means sharing. It’s part of the human condition to want to share things–thoughts, ideas, opinions.” ~Paulo Coelho

Posted in Inspirational | Tagged , , ,

Beginning Your Story–Secrets We Uncovered in Our March 10th, 2015, W.I.S.E Coffee

In our March 10th W.I.S.E. Coffee, we learned about using intellectual property lawyers to negotiate book contracts, and we learned some things that are typically negotiable in that contract. (You can find them in your state and city here.)

Two books came to the fore to learn about writing and law. (See Legal Books for Writers.)

THEN, we moved ahead to fiction and ways to open a story, based on a Writer’s Digest blog post

Beginning your fiction story can be troublesome if you don’t know the guidelines. According to writing pundit Jeff Gerke, there are four main ways to begin a story. 

The four main ways to begin your story are…

1. A prologue
Many Christian publishers shun the prologue, so be careful with this one. The key is to do it right, and even then, if you find out the publisher you’re aiming for hates prologues, relable it “Chapter One.”

Gerke explains in chapter nine of The First 50 Pages, that a prologue is separate from your main story.  It tells an offstage story that either sets up the main action, is causal to a problem in the the main story, or foreshadows challenges which develop later.  

You can use  the novel’s minor characters or unknown characters effectively in a prologue, but you can also use the main hero or villain.

My own observation tells me that prologues are often separated from the main story by either time or location.

Very often, this way of beginning shows the hero as a child. I’ve read prologues that show both the villain and the hero in their youth and how the conflict between them got started.

The book Jurassic Park has, in my opinion, too many prologues, but the one I liked told the story of a baby in danger from a dino that had escaped the island to the mainland. It foreshadowed the problems that were going to occur later in the book, and included none of the main action characters. 

Gerke exemplifies the movie Mulan as a story with a prologue. In this case, the villain (an army) is shown on its way to attack Mulan’s village. They are separated by location, but are concurrent in time.

His post explains further and gives even more examples of stories with prologues.

2. Hero in action
This is a common way to start. The hero is doing something. Perhaps he is arguing, or running away from an enemy, or fighting. Often he is busy at his occupation–a great way to show who the character is.

Gerke offers the opening scene in the movie Groundhog Day as an example of “hero in action.” The main character, Phil Connors, reports the weather during his segment of local news. Phil is sarcastic and rude.

Raiders of the Lost Ark (my example) opens with Indiana Jones recovering an artifact, running for his life, and losing the statue to his arch nemesis. 

There are more examples of “hero in action” in the WD post.

3. In medias res, which means “in the middle of things”
When a story opens at a point that happens much later in the story, you have in medias res.

For instance, in the movie Megamind, the main character (who is both hero and villain, all wrapped into one) is falling from the sky at rapid speed and is about to die. He narrates over the scene so the audience knows that this happens later, but the scene cuts off with him still in the sky, falling, and the audience wonders, What is going to cause him to fall from the sky? How does he survive?

In medias res causes the audience/readers to feel anticipation about the story, so when you back up and start from the beginning, even if the story has a slow build, there is tension anticipating the moment they caught a glimpse of at the opening.

I thought Megamind was my example, but I found it mentioned in The First 50 Pages after I wrote this post. So let’s just say I read his mind–his mega mind, no doubt. :D  

Gerke gives other examples and has more to say about in medias res in his post and his book.

4. A frame
Some stories have two stories going on at once, the main story, and a frame story that introduces the main and cuts in every now and then to frame it.

The Princess Bride (both book and movie) is the most obvious example. A grandfather reads a story to his grandson during his grandson’s illness. The story the grandfather reads is The Princess Bride.

The grandfather/grandson story starts the book and movie, but the main story is really the story about Princess Buttercup and her love, Wesley.

A frame story will not just start the book or movie, it will cut in throughout the story, and then come in at the end to finish.

A member also mentioned that The Notebook, by Nicholas Sparks, has a frame.

Conclusion
Gerke explains much more than I have here, including why you would choose to use each of these, the drawbacks to using them, as well as more and different examples. Click here to read his post.

His book, The First Fifty Pages, has a great explanation of prologue and how to do it right, as well as explaining the other openings.  It’s an amazing book for the  fiction writer in so many ways!

Posted in Writing Instruction | Tagged , , ,

Active vs. Passive Voice–What We Discovered at Our W.I.S.E. Coffee, February 24th., 2015

Don’t use passive voice…
Passive vs. active voice is always good to review. At our last Day Meeting, I shared a blog post by Grammar Girl (Mignon Fogarty) about that very subject.

Active voice is when you have a subject, a verb, then an object in a sentence. “Jerry kicked the can.”

Passive voice puts the object in the subject’s position in the sentence. It fools the brain into thinking that the object is really the subject.

Passive voice is considered weaker than active voice and is often confusing. “The can was kicked by Jerry.” 

“The can was kicked by Jerry,” puts the object, the can, in the subject’s position in the sentence. It takes the brain a nanosecond or two to process that it was Jerry who kicked that can. 

This means that passive voice is harder for the brain to process, and if you have too much of it, you will frustrate the reader.  Give the reader a break! Cut out passive voice unless you have a good reason to use it.

…unless you have a good reason
What are good reasons to use passive voice, you ask?

Well, Grammar Girl discusses it’s use in literary novels. It still isn’t a good idea to overuse passive voice, but a nice sprinkling of it throughout can take a manuscript from plain to fancy. “Theresa was loved by Jonathan, everyone knew. And the entire town was moved by it: moved enough to save the tree they died under on that terrible night.”

Okay, that was sappy–and really, really sad–but you get the idea. People read literary novels for the moving characters and the pretty words. They actually like a slow build in plot and love to chew on prose. Literary novelists are often called “wordsmiths” because their goal is not only to tell a story, but to do so with the most well-crafted words possible.

Passive voice, when used judiciously, inspires.

But remember to only season your writing. Dumping bucketsful of passive voice into your prose can make people sick. Just saying.

And speaking of inspiring…
Grammar Girl doesn’t mention this, but I’ve noticed that BIG speeches–speeches given to Congress, on the steps of the Capitol Building, and on battlefields–are also sprinkled with passive voice.

Why? It’s the same reason writers use it in literary novels–it sounds lofty. Lofty, in turn, inspires. It also effectively makes an impact in people’s minds. It says, “momentous.”

“Battles were fought, lives were lost, but freedoms were won.” See, no real subject, but a nice, lofty, parallel sentence that inspires–passively. (In active voice, this sentence would read “Men fought the battles, people lost their lives, but we won our freedoms.”)

Passive voice slows your writing
This can be good or bad. Do you want to write a slow passage that, perhaps, causes tension? Well, try adding some passive voice. I’ve seen this technique work well.

Again I caution you. Don’t be lazy. Don’t use passive voice like a drunken sailor on leave.

Unless you have a really good reason to go passive, use active voice.

Here is the link to the original Grammar Girl post.

We also talked about style manuals, but I’ll cover that subject on another post.

Posted in Writing Instruction | Tagged , ,

Member Accomplishments, February 2015

This month, February, Krystal Marusin shared that part of her wedding poem was published in 101 Secrets to a Happy Marriage: Real Couples Share the Keys to Their Success. Thomas Nelson publishes this sweet book on advice for a happy marriage.

As we discussed at the last two meetings, anthologies are a strongly viable way to get published, and you can have book signings and boldly call it “my book.” If you have been frustrated in  your publishing path so far, you might try looking in a Writers Market and aiming at a few anthologies. They’re gold!

AND…Zachary Totah announced on Facebook that he started his blog in February! Congratulations Zac! Here is the link.

If you are a member and want me to add you to this post, email WFTJ (Ernie) and give me the particulars of your big accomplishment.

For a refresher on how we define “member,” see this post How Do You Define “Member” of Words for the Journey.

Posted in Announcement | Tagged , , ,

Writers on the Rock Conference, February 28th, 2015

I was reminded by a WFTJ member that this conference is coming up this weekend!
For all the details and to register, click here.

Join more than 100 other Front Range Writers for the Writers on the Rock: Conference 2015.

Our theme is “Words Matter.” Whether you write for publication,or simply write letters to your children, your gift is something that needs to be fostered, improved, and encouraged.
If you are a writer motivated by faith, this conference is for you. More than a dozen seminars taught by writers just like you will help with the nuts and bolts of your gift:

* Nurturing the Writer’s Heart
* The Finances of Writing
* Self Publishing
* Self Editing
* How to Integrate Speaking and Writing
* Why an Agent is Right for You
* Interviews That Matter
* The Poet’s Heart
* Market Yourself
* Find the Right Publisher
…. and much more.

The price starts at just $39 and includes lunch. ($55 procrastination rate.)
Whether you have dozens of published works or have never shown your writing to another soul, you’ll find something for you.
Feb 28, 2015. Lakewood, CO.

Posted in Conference

Power Words (Hot Words)–What We Discovered at Our W.I.S.E. Coffee, February 10th

At our last W.I.S.E Coffee, we talked about two blog posts, one being How to Craft Post Titles that Draw Readers Into Your Blog.

The article has eight great tips, but we focused a little bit longer on #6 “Use Power Words.”

“Power Words,” a.k.a. “Hot Words,” are words that motivate readers to act. They bring pizzazz to your titles and cause the reader to want to read your post.

Hot words are rarely used in the body of the post. They are sensational and will make your post sound rather cheesy. BUT, as title words, they are powerful!

Here is MY LIST of  Power Words (a.k.a. Hot Words). The words in all caps are not original to the list, which I got from a blog post. They are words I’ve added from other sources over time:

Absolutely, amazing, approved, attractive, authentic, bargain, BECAUSE, better, big, breakthrough, cash, colossal, complete, confidential, crammed, delivered, direct, discount, discover, discovery, easy, excellent, exciting, exclusive, expert, famous, fascinating, fortune, free, genuine, gift, gigantic, greatest, GROW, guaranteed, helpful, huge, immediately, improved, incredible, informative, instructional, INSTANTLY, interesting, largest, latest, limited, love, lowest, magic, miracle, money, new, noted, odd, OPPORTUNITY, outstanding, personalized, popular, power, powerful, practical, private, professional, profit, profitable, proven, quality, QUICK, rare, reduced, refundable, remarkable, reliable, results, revealed, revolutionary, scarce, scientific, secrets, security, select, sensational, simplified, sizable, SIZZLE, SOAR, special, startling, STOP, strange, strong, STUNNING, sturdy, successful, superior, surprise, TANTALIZING, terrific, tested, tremendous, TRICK, ultimate, unconditional, unique, UNCOVERED, unlimited, useful, valuable, WARNING, wealth, WEIRD, WHY, you.

If you want to get better at writing titles for your blog posts, keep this list and add to it as you come across other Power Words. They will make a big difference in the ability of your posts to pull in readers.

To see the original post, which has seven more pointers, click here.

You may also be interested in this YouTube, Writing Advertising Headlines Using Thesaurus and Hot Words, which teaches  how to figure out Power Words by using a Thesaurus. Good stuff!

This is the link to the post where I got the original Hot Words List, which also has power phrases.

Posted in Writing Instruction | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Broadmoor Restaurants–Ooh La La!

Okay everybody, here we go!

On July 29th, 2014, we will meet in the hotel lobby and patio of the Broadmoor Hotel at approximately 9:30 a.m. Bring your laptops or a notebook because this is a Write Out!

Around noon/12:30 pm., we will break for lunch. Traditionally, we have all gone to the Golden Bee together. This year, we are trying something new. I am giving you the link below so you can scout out where you want to go. You guys can coordinate with each other and make your plans now or on Tuesday.

Some of these restaurants are a bit pricey, but the website gives the price range so you can make your decision from there. The Golden Bee has always been moderately priced and I noticed that a couple others have a low bottom price if you choose.

The List is here on the Broadmoor site.

Here’s a map of where the restaurants and eateries are located (note, there are more than are on the above list).

I plan to eat at La Taverne which specializes in steak. That’s not why I’m going there though–I’m lazy and it’s right there in the lobby. :D Anyone is welcome to come with me. The food looks delicious!

If this is your first time with us and you show up not knowing what we look like, just roam around the lobby or patio yelling “WORDS FOR THE JOURNEY” at the top of your lungs. We’ll think you are crazy and know immediately you are part of our WFTJ family.

In addition to these restaurants, I’ve been told the bar in the lobby/patio area serves lunch and some say they bring it to your patio table. Hmmm… AND, some remember eating at a little sandwich deli that is right over the bridge.

So peruse the list and map, plan with your peeps now or when we all get there. Remember, you all are welcome to go with me at La Taverne. This is going to be a blast!

 

Posted in Uncategorized