Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Grammar & Creative Writing? Use the Elements of Style

I own this book myself, and highly recommend it. Since Bob Lory went to the trouble to write this article, though, I'll let him tell you about it.

The "Elements" Of Good Writing 
by: Bob Lory

If you want to write "good," you're supposed to know certain rules of grammar-where to place commas, the agreement of nouns and verbs, the proper cases of pronouns. This is the "gut" stuff of English Composition 101 that, if you do enough of it wrong, labels you as illiterate.

Check out the writing section of any good new or used book store, and you'll see guides ranging from 300 pages upward that promise to make you a master technician of everything from the parenthesis to the gerund. All you have to do is memorize these 300-plus pages.

Which of course you won't. You won't even read most of them. Fortunately, if you've made it this far in life without having someone drag you to such a tome, you most likely don't need it. But there is one guide I strongly suggest you read, and the edition I'm looking at right now is only 85 pages.

That's The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White. If you don't own a copy, get your hands on one within the next seven days and focus your mind for your first reading.

Whoa...did I just say "first?"

Digression time:

Strunk was White's English professor at Cornell University. The year was 1919 and part of the material Strunk's students had to master was the contents of what was known as his "little book," as he called it. White, who more than forty years later, was asked to update the original (he also added a chapter), recalls that in his classroom Strunk--

omitted so many needless words...that he often seemed in the position of having shortchanged himself--a man left with nothing more to say yet with time to fill, a radio prophet who had outdistanced the clock. Will Strunk got out of this predicament by a simple trick: he uttered every sentence three times. When he delivered his oration on brevity to the class, he leaned forward over his desk, grasped his coat lapels in his hand and, in a husky, conspiratorial voice, said, "Rule Seventeen: Omit needless words! Omit needless words! Omit needless words!"

If three times was good enough for Professor Strunk, it's good enough for us. My recommendation: Read the entire book as soon as you can (that's this week, remember?). Do your second read after three or four weeks elapse. Save the third for a year from now. You'll probably never have to consult it again.

The best edition is the third, first published in 1979 but still widely available.

About The Author
Copyright 2006 by Bob Lory. Bob Lory has more than 30 years of global PR, employee communication and ad writing experience and training professionals in these fields. His blog-- the stuff that works.

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Friday, September 22, 2006

Infuse Your Writing with Passion to Enhance Creativity

As an employeed writer with little or no control over what I write, I often find writing becoming a drudgery...I lose my passion. One of the ways I regain that passion is to write personal projects "off the clock" (as if a writer is ever off the clock!). That's what I found so interesting about this article by Scott Lindsay:

Personal Writing: A Passion Infusion
By Scott Lindsay

Have you put together a writer’s checklist? You know, the things you will need in order to put your story together.

A few suggestions…

1. A pen or pencil.
2. A note pad.
3. Alternatively a personal computer with a word processor.
4. A dictionary.
5. A thesaurus.
6. Applicable research materials.
7. An outline providing direction for your work.

OK, if you’ve checked everything off your list then you’re ready to go, right?

Well, maybe not.

In the world of writing one of the components often forgotten is ‘passion’. I’m not talking about romance here. I’m talking about a personal vested interest in the story or subject matter you are seeking to write. Is it something you are passionate about?

“What is it that you like doing? If you don’t like it, get out of it, because you’ll be lousy at it. You don’t have to stay with a job for the rest of your life, because if you don’t like it you’ll never be successful in it.” – Lee Iococa

I recently read the story of a screenwriter who had listened as a friend explained the premise of a movie they would like to see made. The screenwriter decided he could write a screenplay based on that vision. Two years later, the screenwriter was still having difficulties pulling it all together. He was miserable and couldn’t figure out why. The truth for this individual was he had no passion for this type of story. When the writer took the time to think about it, the story was one he would avoid reading or watching in his personal life. He lacked passion for the project. He learned a lesson late, but once he moved on to other personal projects the joy of writing returned.

"If you want to be successful in a particular field of endeavor, I think perseverance is one of the key qualities. It’s very important that you find something that you care about, that you have a deep passion for, because you're going to have to devote a lot of your life to it." – George Lucas

If you are writing for hire there may be times when you lack a passion for the subject matter, but you write it anyway. For some writers the act of writing IS, in fact, work and they are often left with little choice in style, direction or overall content. However, it is possible and even imperative that you discover what you are passionate about and find a way to write about it. Carve out time for your own personal writing and make sure it is something that infuses your passion for writing with new energy.

Scott Lindsay is a web developer and entrepreneur. He is the founder of FaithWriters ( and many other web projects. FaithWriters has grown to become one of the largest online destinations for Christian writers. Members include writers from all around the world. Please visit the website at:

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Friday, September 15, 2006

What About Genres in Creative Writing?

Genres are often a mystery to beginning writers. Check out what Sophronia Scott has to say about the issue:

When Does Genre Matter?
By Sophfronia Scott

Thinking about genre is one of those places where writers can get stuck. They don't submit their manuscripts, or worse, they don't finish them because they feel the story "just doesn't fit" with any particular genre. If you think this way, then you're missing out. Genres can be limiting but they can also make your job easier if you understand them and how you can use them to help sell your book. Here are a few points to keep in mind.

What is Genre?

A book genre is a way of grouping books that have similar characteristics. The best known genres are considered their own markets as well: science fiction, romance, mystery, Westerns, thrillers. And many writers have made their names by specializing in a particular genre: Octavia Butler (science fiction), Danielle Steele (romance), John Sandford (mystery), Larry McMurtry (Westerns) or John Grisham (thrillers). A genre can even have it's own formula--for instance many romances start off with the potential lovers hating each other. If you aspire to write in a particular genre, it's best to know as much about it as possible--what's selling, what isn't, who's breaking new ground, where the best opportunities are, etc.

Genre is a Choice, Not an Accident

Instead of wondering what your book might be, make a choice about whether or not you want to write in a genre. There are good points for either choice. When you decide to write in a certain genre, your job is made easier because some decisions are made for you: target market, plotting elements (if the genre is formulaic) and who you try to sell the book to, since many agents and publishers do specialize. But it's best to make this decision before you start writing. Do you want your book to be firmly placed in one genre? Do you want to blend genres? You could run into trouble if you start writing without thinking about where you want your book to fit in. It's like building a house then deciding you want an elephant to live there and trying to push it through a too-small door! It rarely works because you end up with a tag that doesn't quite fit. You also have other people trying to push your book into a group and why should they get to do that? You're the one writing the book! Which brings me to...

Better None Than the Wrong One

When you haven't been clear on what your book is, you run the risk of sending it to the wrong agents and publishers who will reject it simply because they don't handle that type of material. That's a waste of your time and money. Now, this doesn't mean you slap a tag on your book just so you can send it to a particular editor. Don't be afraid to say your book is simply fiction and leave it at that. At most, you might want to specify literary or commercial fiction. (FYI, think of "commercial" as mass market and a possible money maker. Think of "literary" as a possible book award winner. Sometimes a book can be both, but it may be easier for you to think of your book as one or the other.) Some agents only represent novels. Some will say if they have specific genres. If your book doesn't fit the genres, ignore those agents and only pitch to the ones who handle novels in general. If someone asks you to categorize it, just give a brief, note BRIEF, story synopsis and say it's fiction. Again, be clear so you don't waste your time or theirs.

Does Genre Matter?

The answer is "yes", but the good news is you get to choose how much and in what ways it will matter to your book. So think about it up front and don't let someone else make the choices for you.

© 2006 Sophfronia Scott

Author and Writing Coach Sophfronia Scott is "The Book Sistah" TM. Get her FREE REPORT, "The 5 Big Mistakes Most Writers Make When Trying to Get Published" and her FREE online writing and book publishing tips at

Sophfonia is also author of the bestselling novel, All I Need to Get By. If you liked today's issue, stay tuned for more because The Book Sistah also offers FREE audio classes, FREE articles, workshops, and other resources to help aspiring authors get published and market their books successfully.

The Book Sistah
230 South Main St.
Ste. 319

Newtown, CT 06470

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Friday, September 08, 2006

Creative Writing: Finding Creative Ways to Manage Those Writing Deadlines

Last time I posted Scott Lindsay’s article on meeting deadlines, in which he specifically addressed over-commitment. However, what if you don’t over-commit but still have trouble managing your deadlines. Or, worse yet, what if you never learned to manage deadline to ensure you never over-commit? With that in mind, here are a few ways to keep yourself aware of your deadlines:

A checklist. One of the simplest methods is keeping a to-do list, usually in outline form, with tasks arranged by deadline. For example:

One of the advantages to a checklist is that you can break larger assignments into smaller chunks and assign each small section its own due date, helping you stay on top of large assignments.

A timeline. More visual writers may prefer a timeline. A timeline give you a linear view of time and allows you to see overlaps in your schedule, helping you avoid deadline bottlenecks.

A calendar. A calendar, my preferred method, is another way for visually-oriented people to keep track of deadlines. You can use a day planner, a standard wall calendar, a dry erase calendar—whatever you like, as long as it’s a calendar at which you look often. (If you never look at it, what’s the point?)

For me, a calendar is a visual representation of days, and I find it keeps me on track much better if I see those days filled with deadlines. It reminds me there’s no room for anything else in my schedule! You don’t have to keep separate calendars for work and personal life, either. In fact, I find it works better if I don’t. If I know I have a deadline and an important birthday party on the same day, I’ll plan in advance so I can manage both.

The fact is, none of these methods are exclusive. During exceptionally busy times, I sometimes find myself using all three—or more—simply to make sure I don’t let an important assignment slip through the cracks. You may find that none of these quite works for you. That’s all right too. The important part is that you do find something that works, and stick with it.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Creative Writing: Meeting those Deadlines

Are deadlines your nemesis?

Meeting the Deadline
By Scott Lindsay

A nemesis to all writers is an imposed deadline. Whether that deadline is from a publisher or as part of a writing contest or challenge the deadline screams at us to hurry up while our muse is certain the story just isn’t quite right yet.

As you develop your writing career or writing business you will likely find deadlines come more often and from a variety of sources.

Let me paint a scenario…

A client has requested 10 content articles for their website and you have agreed to provide that material to them on a certain date. You have moved through research and have compiled five of the articles and you have two days to complete the remaining articles.

As you check your emails you hear back from a magazine publisher that has decided, at the very last moment, to use an article you sent weeks ago. They need you to provide a rewrite of the article focusing on a more narrowly defined idea – and they need it tomorrow.

Do you ask for an extension on the content articles? Do you decline the rewrite because of your content deadline? Do you stay up all night to get it done? How exactly do you respond?

You could ask for an extension of the deadline on the content writing and it might be granted. You could decline the rewrite because you want to assure your content client you can deliver on time. You could stay up all night and try to get the re-write done and hope you can function the next day to manage the content writing.

The biggest lesson in this is to work hard at reducing over commitment. Each piece of writing you send to an editor needs to contain the same attention to detail as any other piece of writing. You should honestly assess how much work you can comfortably do in a given period of time. Then, you should only accept work that fits in a framework that allows you to maintain the highest level of Integrity.

Do not fall prey to the impulse to simply throw something together at the last minute in order to meet a deadline. This reflects poorly on your work ethic and may cause a client to reconsider who they use for future work.

Know your limits and be willing to say ‘NO’ to work that may conflict with your ability to complete work on time. It may mean passing up something you’d rather be doing, but by explaining your situation you may be surprised by an editor willing to work with you despite a deadline.

Remember, as a writer of faith we work for the Lord, not for men. Make sure Jesus can be pleased with your efforts.

Scott Lindsay is a web developer and entrepreneur. He is the founder of FaithWriters ( and many other web projects. FaithWriters has grown to become one of the largest online destinations for Christian writers. Members include writers from all around the world. Please visit the website at:

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Friday, September 01, 2006

Creative Writing: Get Creative with Marketing by Giving More

Here's a little something on the marketing side:

On Writing: Give More
By Pamela White

My husband and I took a weekend trip to do some holiday gift shopping. After dinner we stopped at a supermarket to pick up munchies and sodas. As we were checking out, Jason, the cashier, asked us if we had the store's value card which offered deeper discounts on some items. We said no and that we were just tourists in town for the weekend.

Checking over our items, Jason saw that two were eligible for the discount. He immediately pulled out the manager's value card and used it to let us in on the deals. Furthermore, he told us how he does this for all the tourists because he wants everyone to feel at home!

We loved his attitude. Who wouldn't love getting more than they expect?

When you write for editors, do you meet their expectations? Why not go beyond that and give more than they expect? How can you go beyond an editor's expectations? Well…

- Submit your work before deadlines. Editors don't always build in extra time with their deadlines so imagine the happiness felt ‘round the magazine office when your article arrives one week early. Okay, maybe that's an exaggeration, but beating deadlines will build you an honorable reputation.

- Offer more. That column on cooking you pitched to your local newspaper feature editor: Did you remember to offer photos of the fabulous dishes you will cook? Or did you mention that you would be happy to do extra articles covering food-related competitions, fundraisers and new businesses as they arise? (Offering more, however, doesn't mean more for less money. Get paid for all your work.)

- Share your enthusiasm to be part of the team. When you are networking with book publishers, be sure to show your marketing savvy and talk about your enthusiasm for book signings, public speaking and cooking demonstrations. Let them know what a well-rounded writer you are and how hard you will work to sell those books!

- Don't forget the niceties. Remember editors you've worked with throughout the year by sending a holiday card, fruit basket, gourmet chocolates or an invitation for coffee and pastries on you. Invite your writing buddies and networking pals to a holiday tea or cookie exchange to show your appreciation for their support all year long.

You get the idea – see if you can't add a little something to all your writing efforts and see how great your success will be.

About the Author: Pamela White is the author of over 600 articles in print and online, and publishes The Writing Parent ( and Food Writing (, two free ezines that focus on different writing niches. Subscribe at the websites.

© 2006 Pamela White

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