Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Strong Nouns and Verbs Are the Friends of Creative Writing

I wrote a post on this topic a few months ago, but some things are worth repeating...and, in this case, Lisa Silverman does it well.

Writing Tip: Why Nouns and Verbs Are Your Friends
by: Lisa Silverman

"The wearily handsome, nervous, stubble-chinned man slowly and carefully got out of bed when he heard the soft, mysterious sound of footsteps in his apartment."


"The ex-con bolted up, rubbed his eyes and then the stubble on his chin, and crept out of bed. Those footsteps didn’t belong in his apartment."

Look at the above sentences, and see if you can figure out why the second example is better written than the first. If you still don’t know, look above that. At the risk of stating the obvious: nouns and verbs are the backbone of any sentence, and thus of all writing. I could have made my title really long and added “. . . and Adjectives and Adverbs Are Your Enemies,” but I like to keep it short.

It’s not only about eliminating adjectives and adverbs so that your writing contains few words that aren’t nouns and verbs. After all, if we did that to the first example, we’d be left with:

"The man got out of bed when he heard the sound of footsteps in his apartment."

Not very exciting, is it? That’s why it’s important to focus your writing not only on nouns and verbs, but on interesting nouns and verbs. I began my second example with “The ex-con,” but of course, I’m inventing a sentence that has no manuscript surrounding it--no context. If we’ve already met the character, use his name or a more descriptive noun such as mine. If you’re introducing a new character, use the best noun possible. “The businessman” would evoke a completely different image in your readers’ minds, and it would be a stronger image than “The blond, well-groomed, middle-aged man.”

Why is one noun stronger than three adjectives (and one verb stronger than three adverbs)? Sure, we can picture a guy who’s blond, well-groomed, and middle-aged, and we might guess from that description that he’s a businessman. We can picture a “wearily handsome, nervous, stubble-chinned man” and perhaps guess that he’s an ex-con. But using the noun rather than a string of adjectives accomplishes two important things: First, it adds action to the character’s description. “Ex-con” not only calls forth a set of physical attributes, but also, by definition, tells you something about the guy’s life outside of this moment: he’s trying to recover from his time in the slammer and go straight. A “businessman” probably looks a certain way, and presumably spends his days doing business.

Then again, maybe the guy isn’t trying to go straight. Maybe he wants to return to a life of crime. Which brings me to the second advantage: involving the reader’s mind in the storytelling. If you string together a list of adjectives, you’re feeding a character to your readers without allowing them to draw their own pictures. Part of the fun--and the fascination--of fiction is the fact that everyone who turns the final page of a book has read a different one. And the more you allow people to be cocreators of your characters, your settings, etc., the more enveloped in your novel’s fictional world they will become.

Or in your nonfiction book’s world--nonfiction writers must leave less to the reader’s imagination, but editing using this principle will make nonfiction stronger as well. As with any other tips, customize it to your writing. It’s also, as I mentioned, about brevity. I don’t need to explain why “crept out of bed” beats “slowly and carefully got out of bed.”

Of course, adjectives and adverbs have their places. Otherwise languages wouldn’t contain so many. You might even find a few in this article (only a few). Again, customize this editing technique to your writing. Read a few pages and see if you find yourself using dull nouns such as “man” or “thing” a lot--chances are they’re surrounded by adjectives. If not, the potential book sitting in front of you may be dull indeed. Don’t go crazy with your thesaurus looking for obscure nouns to replace “man,” but do use this technique as a way to vary word choice. And, if you don’t have a thesaurus, for god’s sake, get one. The thesaurus in Microsoft Word, or anywhere online, won’t hold a candle to the old-fashioned bound kind.

Replace adjectives with more interesting, descriptive nouns, and watch your writing become streamlined, subtly evocative, laced with intrigue, varied in word choice… Oops, those are all adjective phrases. Just think of this noun: “bestseller.”

About The Author

Lisa Silverman is a freelance book editor and works in the copyediting department at one of New York's most prestigious literary publishing houses. She has also worked as a ghostwriter and a literary agent representing both book authors and screenwriters. She founded http://www.BeYourOwnEditor.com in order to provide writers with free advice on both writing and the publishing business.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Copying Creative Styles

In my last post, I published Scott Lindsay’s article on emulation for learning writing styles. However, I later realized I’d used a very similar technique when studying direct response marketing. Rather, I was forced to use it.

The technique? Simple. Copy passages of the writing style you wish to learn, not thought for thought as in emulations, but word for word.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not talking about plagiarism. You’ll never publish or in any way use the actual passages you copy. The idea is to get the language so ingrained into your mind that the style comes naturally.

For example, take that direct response marketing course I mentioned above. To teach the direct response style of writing, instructors gave students copies of well-performing sales letters. Our task was to read through each one, out loud if possible, ten times or so. Once that was done, we were to copy each letter, word for word, at least five times. If you’ve ever seen a direct response marketing letter, you know how long they are. The first read through was fine. Everything after that felt like cruel and unusual punishment. Talk about boring! In fact, I got so bored, I never finished the course. What, I thought, is the point of copying these letters time after time?

It wasn’t until later that I realized the method I hated so much had actually worked. After copying only a few of those letters, the style and language had so embedded themselves in my psyche, it became natural for me to enter “direct response” mode when the occasion called for it.

If you’re trying to learn a writing style, whether fiction, nonfiction or poetry, try this simple copying technique. Most likely, every single moment will be painful (sorry, I have to be honest). However, if you’re serious about branching out and challenging yourself, this method provides great benefits that will last years into the future.

Friday, October 27, 2006

A Creative Way to Learn Creative Styles

The Exercise Of Emulation
by: Scott Lindsay

A writing exercise that is helpful in learning a very specific style of writing is called Emulation. This is done to match the style of a specific author.

In essence, you create an entirely new passage using an existing passage as your guide.

For example if you wanted to try to write in the same manner as the Psalmist you might copy a passage of Scripture…

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.

This would be an emulation example…

Lift your voice to the Lord, everyone. Sing to the Lord with triumph; come to His throne with humility. There is none like our God. It is He who sustains us, and He knows us; we follow Him as the least in His Kingdom. Gratitude arrives before us as we proclaim His greatness; show honor by singing praise because the Lord is awesome and His love does not diminish, He will be faithful to your grandchildren’s grandchildren. (Modeled after the Psalmist in Psalm 100).

While this may not be a perfect example, the idea remains intact; stay as close to the form and function of the passage you are emulating as possible so anyone familiar with the work will quickly recognize the similarities.

This is an exercise that is easy in concept, but somewhat difficult in execution. In a perfect emulation you would replace every word with another word. In a perfect emulation a noun is replaced with a noun and an adjective with an adjective and so on.

Emulation teaches you to creatively rewrite and reexamine the mechanics of what was written. In my emulation sample, I used a thought for thought emulation style, not word for word. Emulation doesn’t need to be about the same topic either; it simply needs to match up with the literary style of the original author.

If you are a looking for a writing exercise that is a challenge and remains a great learning tool, consider the use of emulation as a means of discovering more about the structure the author used and, secondarily, how you respond to that structure today.

About The Author

Scott Lindsay is a web developer and entrepreneur. He is the founder of FaithWriters (http://www.faithwriters.com) and many other web projects. FaithWriters has grown to become one of the largest online destinations for Christian writers. Please visit the website at: http://www.faithwriters.com

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Active vs. Passive Voice in Creative Writing

Couldn't have put it better myself!

Writing Tip: Active vs. Passive Verbs
by: Lisa Silverman

"Jenny was being served her apple martini by the bartender just as the front window was shattered by a speeding Humvee, and Jenny was thrown from her stool."


"The bartender was serving Jenny her apple martini just as a speeding Humvee shattered the front window and threw Jenny from her stool."

Which sentence jumps off the page? Notice that I didn’t alter a single word, aside from changing each verb from passive to active voice.

If you haven’t heard those terms before, here’s a simple definition: Passive voice makes the subject into the (passive) object of the verb. Active voice means the subject is the (active) person or thing performing the action of the verb. In the second clause, the window isn’t doing the shattering--the Humvee is. The window is the object of the shattering. So shouldn’t the Humvee be the subject? Ancient grammar swamis say yes.

But, you say, the sentences don’t seem that different to me. Wrong. Try this: count the words. Okay, fine, I’ll do it for you. The first example contains 28 words, the second 23. Multiply that difference (five, math whiz) by the number of sentences in a manuscript. My example was extreme, so let’s be conservative and say you save one word every fifth sentence by going through your manuscript and changing as many verbs as you can from passive to active.

Take a manuscript of 300 pages, with an average of 300 words per page, and sentences of about 10 words… that’s 9,000 sentences. Damn. No wonder finishing a manuscript is hard. Result: you’ve just cut 1,800 words, or six pages, from your manuscript.

Why would you want to cut six pages from your magnum opus? Maybe you don’t. Maybe you want to fill those six pages--or twelve, if you’re one of those ambitious people who writes 600-page manuscripts--with useful information about plot, character, or theme, instead of useless words such as was, were, by, and that annoying suffix "-ing." But it’s okay to simply cut. Honest. Quality is more important than quantity.

Even if you don’t see the difference in my one example, use active verbs consistently and your writing will pop as it never did before. The reason is self-explanatory: it’s more active, and useless words aren’t bogging it down. Repeat after me: useless words are bad words.

The Exception That Proves the Rule:

F. Scott Fitzgerald used the passive voice. I’m sure of it. But when he did, I’ll bet he had a good reason. My example might be taken from a novel in which Jenny is the protagonist. Her true love, perhaps, is driving the Humvee. (The Humvee is not “being driven by” her true love.) So Jenny, not the bartender, should be the focus of the sentence. With this rule, as with all others that are meant to be (occasionally) broken, always be aware of why you’re breaking it.

You’ve got to know the rules before you can know how to break them. And no one knows all the rules. Not even me.

About The Author

Lisa Silverman is a freelance book editor and works in the copyediting department at one of New York's most prestigious literary publishing houses. She has also worked as a ghostwriter and a literary agent representing both book authors and screenwriters. She founded http://www.BeYourOwnEditor.com in order to provide writers with free advice on both writing and the publishing business.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Inspiring Your Writing Inspiration

The Cure for TMS - 3 Tips to Get Your Muse Back
By Dawn Arkin

You say you have TMS - Tired Muse Syndrome? Well, cheer up, because help is one the way. You, yes, YOU can free your muse in easy, fun steps in the privacy of your own home.

Sometimes your muse just needs a mini vacation, a break from all that work. Other times, she just needs a little bit of creative prodding. Even inspiration needs the occasional push in the right direction.

But how do you inspire your inspiration? What can you do to get the creative juices flowing again? Here are some suggestions for waking up your muse and your writing.

1. What’s the strangest thing you ever did? Ever wanted to do? Well, wild child, do it. Make yourself a character in a sketch and take your heroine or hero along for the ride. Write the most fantastical, unusual thing you can think of. Don't forget to write about what happens after it's over.

2. Imagine you’re at bar during a happy hour. A man joins you and asks your name. What’s your response? Do you give him your real name, or do you make one up? Now, put your main character in the same situation. Have a man try to pick her up. What does she tell him? How does the man react? How does your heroine react? How about whoever overhears you?

3. The "cute meet" used to be all the rage in romance novels. What’s a funny or embarrassing way you could meet someone? Breaking into his car? Toilet papering his house? How about a suspenseful way? Chase down a man’s car to tell him there’s a leg sticking out of his trunk? Write about her deciding to go ahead with her plans, how she gathers what she needs, and what happens afterwards.

Odd as these ideas may sound, they can sure cure a case of TMS. And, while nothing you come up with may be of use in your work in process, you might generate secondary characters, outtakes, subplots. Heck, you might come up with a whole new premise from the exercise. If nothing else, you’ll probably laugh, and laughter is the best medicine for TMS. Beats crying any day!

Remember, if something in your writing sounds wrong, it might your internal editor talking. However, if it feels wrong, listen to your instincts and look for what feels off -- pacing, plot, logic, characters, etc. Chances are high you’ll find it, fix it, and be writing like the wind again in no time.

Dawn Arkin is an author on http://www.Writing.Com/
which is a site for Poetry. Her portfolio can be found at http://www.Writing.Com/authors/darkin so stop by and read for a while.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Dawn_Arkin

Friday, October 20, 2006

Another Point of View on Writer's Block

Writer's Block? Brainstorm Yourself!
By Elaine Berry

Have you ever been on a “Training Day”?

When I used to work for a local government department, we often used to get sent on Training Days.

They weren’t quite the same as “courses”. The idea was usually for management to get staff discussing their proposed policies (yawn…). Almost invariably, they consisted of an introductory session, followed by everyone being split up into groups, each with an assigned topic for discussion.

The group sat round an easel with a flip-chart attached to it. An eager leader stood by the easel with a marker, waiting for contributions.


Everone was paralysed. Most people’s minds went a complete blank. Even if people did have an idea, they were afraid to express it, for fear it would sound silly.

But just now and again, instead of just standing there, the group leader would say, “Now we are going to brainstorm.”

In a brainstorming session, everyone said THE FIRST THING THAT CAME INTO THEIR HEAD. Everything went on the flip-chart whatever it was. Never mind if it sounded silly, or obvious, or naïve, or ridiculous. It all went down.

What a difference! Instead of a stony silence, everyone was loosened up, and their mental juices started flowing. And the remarkable thing was, that amidst all the debris of useless ideas, more and more nuggets of excellence started appearing. Most of these ideas would never have emerged by the normal method.

You’re a copywriter – or you want to be. If you tell me that you have never sat in front of a blank sheet of paper, or a blank computer screen, and felt completely paralysed, I won’t believe you. It happens to everyone.

It happens because you are scared that what you write down will be silly or that it won’t be appropriate or good enough. You are waiting for inspiration, for the great idea, which you will then express in perfect well-honed prose. Well, in most cases you will wait for ever.

When this happens to me, I find one solution works every time. I brainstorm MYSELF!

Don’t sit and chew your pen. JUST START WRITING.

If it seems silly, or obvious, or a load of cliches, NEVER MIND. Just write and keep on writing. Think of the topic you are supposed to be writing about and write whatever comes into your head, whether it seems immediately relevant or not. Believe me, you will soon find ideas start to flow.
And it doesn’t have to be in perfect sentences. The sentences can come afterwards. Note form will do for now. You will soon find the ideas are coming so fast that you have to scribble to get them down.

Of course, you will end up with a lot of rubbish or even gibberish. But in the midst of it there will be good stuff – I promise you! Naturally you will have to rewrite, but now you actually HAVE something to rewrite, instead of a blank sheet of paper. And you will find rewriting itself brings up even more ideas!

It’s called “brainstorming” because the ideas are there, all the time, in your brain! You just need to loosen up to get them out.

Get into the brainstorming habit and just see how your productivity rockets!

Elaine Berry is the owner of Bizwrite, the only one-stop-shop for writing services. Bizwrite provides copywriting, ghostwriting, article writing and proofreading services, and also provides help and tuition in all aspects of writing. Visit http://www.bizwrite.co.uk for a FREE e-course on copywriting.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

More on Clichés

When to Weed out Clichés

Don’t think that you now have to go and write a flawless first draft of your next piece, completely clear of clichés. If you try that, you’ll probably never get that first draft written. My advice, and the technique I use, is to write your first draft with whatever words come to mind, cliché or not. If possible, let the manuscript sit a while before going back to it. Then, with a fresh mindset, you can go through and weed out all the undesirables, taking the time to find descriptions that really say what you want them to say.

Clichés in Dialogue

Some might disagree with me on this, but I believe it’s all right to use clichés in dialogue. Make that limited clichés in dialogue. Why? Because people use clichés when they speak! Most people are lazy when they speak; very few ordinary people take the time to develop new and interesting descriptions during the course of a conversation.

You could make clichés a character trait for one of your characters, by having them speak almost exclusively in clichés. (Careful, though; that could get old quickly!) On the flip side, if you have a character who is exceptionally bright (or exceptionally full of himself), you probably want to avoid clichés and make that the character who does come up with original sayings.

How you use clichés in dialogue is up to you. The lesson to take away here, though, is, as in all things, moderation.

Now, knock ‘em out, tiger!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Clichés: Creative Writing Killers

Few things kill your writing more quickly than overuse of clichés. Don’t know what I mean? Try this:

The woman’s hair was black as midnight. Her face was smooth as silk, but her fear had turned her white as a sheet, making her ruby-red lips stand out in stark contrast. Her eyes were as blue as a summer’s sky, and they pleaded with him not to dash her hopes. She’d tried to play it dumb, but now he could tell she was smart as a whip.

See how many clichés I used there? It was overdone, of course, but it gives you an idea of how dull clichés can make your writing.

How to Identify a Cliché

Chances are, if you’ve heard or seen the phrase before, it’s a cliché. If you’re not sure, though, you can go to a website like http://www.westegg.com/cliche/ and type in a keyword (you may need to try more than one).

Since I have a cat, I typed in the word “cat” as a keyword. Here are just a few of the clichés that came up:

Raining cats and dogs
There’s more than one way to skin a cat
Let the cat out of the bag
Fat cat
Cat’s meow
Cat’s pajamas
Cat got your tongue?
Busy as a cat on a hot tin roof
All cats are grey in the dark
Nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs
Curiosity killed the cat
Look what the cat dragged in
The cat who swallowed the canary
Not enough room to swing a cat
When the cat's away, the mice will play

How to Rid Yourself of Clichés

Unfortunately, it’s not easy to get rid of clichés. The reason they are clichés to begin with is that they describe things so darn well! The only antidotes to clichés are thoughtfulness and originality—neither one easy to develop if it doesn’t come naturally. The only way to develop those traits is to practice. Look at things from all angles. Use all your senses. Look at the world around you for new comparisons. For a start, you might try reading through a thesaurus to synonyms of some of the words in the cliché. It won’t be easy, but it will become easier as you practice—and your writing will show the results of your hard work.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Top Five Secrets to Freelance Writing

This article by Angela Booth has some excellent advice concerning launching a freelance writing career. If you're considering going freelance, check it out.

Freelance Writing: Five Top Secret Tips to Ensure Your Success
By Angela Booth

At least once a month I get what I call a "freelance, but..." query. The complete query (500 words boiled down to 25) is: "I'd love to develop my freelance writing career but I'm scared that I don't have the talent, and/ or that I won't find enough work."

Here are five top secret tips which will ensure your freelance writing success:

1. Write

This is the biggie. If you're a freelance writer, your job is WRITING. This means that you need to turn out the words. I keep a mental word count, because I've learned to do that over the years - 1500 to 2000 words a day for me is a good day. A thousand words or under means that I'm in the danger zone - I need to up the word count, and swiftly.

Every pro writer I know keeps a mental word count. However, when you're starting out, you need to keep strict logs of how much you're writing. Keep a word count log for at least six months. After that, you'll know when you're slacking.

If I can feel that my word count is drifting, I start to keep a log.


2. Send out Your Work

Send out your writing to the people who can buy it. Be cold-blooded and mechanical about this. Just send it out. Once you get feedback, you can work to improve your success rate, but unless you send out your work, you're not a freelance writer, you're a hobbyist.

If you're completely new to freelancing, by "send out your work" I mean send queries and proposals, AND write a blog/ Web site so that you get known.

3. Research Markets

Enough said. You need to know who's buying and selling. I recommend Writer's Market. However, DO NOT rely on those listings. Get the magazines, read them, send them similar work to what they're publishing.

4. Target a Market a Month

Pick a market. Target it by sending out queries and proposals to that market - say one a week for a month. Let a month or two go by before you target that particular market again if they haven't nibbled the bait you've tossed out.

If you're copywriting, target a particular Web site, or a group of sites.

5. Aim for Ten Percent

Become Mr or Ms Ten Percent. This means, that you need to assume that you will SELL ten percent of what you write.

As you can see, we've come full circle, from WRITE to TEN PERCENT. Now you can see why you need to write a lot.

Ten percent is about average. For example, if you're writing a novel, you'll write a lot of words, and by the time the novel is published, ten percent of what you wrote ends up on the printed page.

If you're writing a Web site, the same applies -- ten percent. By the time you've done drafts, headlines, outlines, etc -- ten percent makes it online.

I love "ten percent". It's relaxing. You can't obsess over particular words, you just have to keep writing enough. That's not to say that you don't aim to beat Ten Percent. You do, and you can and you will beat it. However, the "beating it" depends on timing and luck, and you can't control that. You can only control what you do, so do it.

There you have it. If you follow these five tips, you can forget about worrying about talent and who will/ won't buy your work, because these tips ensure your success.

Angela Booth is a veteran freelance writer and copywriter. She also teaches writing. Visit her blogs - Angela Booth's Writing Blog at http://copywriter.typepad.com/ and Fab Freelance Writing at http://fabfreelancewriting.com/blog/ for daily writing inspiration and motivation. Subscribe to the Fab Freelance Writing Ezine at http://fabfreelancewriting.com/ezine/fab-freelance-writing-ezine.html to receive "Write And Sell Your Writing: The Power-Write Report" free. It's 21 pages packed with information to help you to develop a six-figure writing career.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Angela_Booth

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Creative Writing: Finding the Poetic in Your Prose--Part 2

Yesterday I talked about using poetry to enhance your prose. Here’s another example, on a darker note—Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “Sonnet V”:

If I should learn, in some quite casual way,
That you were gone, not to return again—
Read from the back-page of a paper, say,
Held by a neighbor in a subway train,
How at the corner of this avenue
And such a street (so are the papers filled)
A hurrying man—who happened to be you—
At noon to-day had happened to be killed,
I should not cry aloud—I could not cry
Aloud, or wring my hands in such a place—
I should but watch the station lights rush by
With a more careful interest on my face,
Or raise my eyes and read with greater care
Where to store furs and how to treat the hair.

Her use of the everyday as a setting for the tragic news highlights the grief—backlights it, so to speak. More than that, she seems to effortlessly portray a grief too sacred to be shared with strangers on a subway…a grief so profound it has to be held in for a more private moment. Above all, she does it using only 118 words, and in a way more compelling than if she’d used the hackneyed cliché, “A grief too deep for words.”

From these two examples alone, you can see how the poetic perspective applies not only to poetry, but also to compelling prose. Imagine paragraphs or scenes written with the same mind-set, the same attention to every word, the same sensory-based emotion. Better yet, try it out! Take one of these poems, or another you like, and write a piece of prose—fact or fiction—using the skills of the poet. It may take some practice. Done correctly, though, it will lift your prose to a whole new altitude.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Creative Writing: Finding the Poetic in Your Prose

Most prose writers are not great poets, and most poets are not great prose writers. Oh, there are exceptions, like Shakespeare, but they’re usually the literary exceptions that prove the rule. However, that doesn’t mean there should be no crossover between the styles. If you’re a prose writer, the fact that your poetry will never equal Keats shouldn’t keep you from trying!

The most basic reason for a prose writer to pursue poetry—both reading and writing—is because it is enjoyable. However, there’s more to it than that. Poetry also offers a different view of the world, a certain slant of sunlight and shadow that only poetry can provide. When you look through the eyes of a poet, you see things differently. When you apply that special vision to your prose, you get spectacular results.

To be clear, I’m not referring to what some call “poetic rambling”—just the opposite. I’m talking about the poet’s ability to seize an emotion, event, or image and narrow it to only a few words…or cast it in moonlight instead of sunlight…or squeeze it into iambic pentameter without making it seem squeezed. It’s that kind of ability that can benefit your prose.

For instance, let’s consider how modern poet Lorraine R. Sautner approaches the “boring” profession of accounting in this excerpt from her poem, “The Alchemist.”

If accountancy were a dark art,
he’d be a High Priest,
cloaked in deductible
interest income, conjuring
diabolical formulas of amortization,
and whispering incantations
in praise of the unholy
power of compound

…In a state of near exhaustion
and with trembling digits, he
raises to the heavens
his financial masterpiece,
lit from within by a supernatural
actuarial luminescence.
And in a final gesture of renunciation,
gently surrenders it to his Outbox.

…the expense reports are now complete.

While it’s true you would never write prose exactly like that, think how much stronger your descriptive writing would be if you used that kind of imagery in everything you wrote (well, maybe not in an expense report, but you get the idea!).

Creative Writing: Words to Write By

I apologize for my long absence. I caught a cold that's kept me preoccupied and away from my blog. Though I haven't had time to write anything original, I did find this helpful and humorous article by Sally Bacchetta. I thought it was well worth reading, and hope you will, too.

Powerful One-Liners To Keep Your Writing Strong
By Sally Bacchetta

Rudyard Kipling said, “Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.” Nothing changes people like words, written well. Here are five powerful one-liners to inspire you and keep your writing strong.

You don't have to get it right the first time. Barbara Sher

In fact, it’s better if you don’t. OK, OK, I don’t really know if it’s better; I just like the way that sounds, so I wrote it to get myself started. It’s one of the techniques I use to break free from writer’s paralysis.

If you can’t seem to get started, just write something. Anything. Do you like the word butterscotch? Write butterscotch. Then write it again. And again. Butterscotch. Butterscotch. Butterscotch. Somewhere between the third and the 33rd time you write butterscotch you realize that the word is just a row of characters, just an assembly of lines and spaces. It’s you who brings meaning to the word.

Your writing makes butterscotch an ice cream flavor, a silk blouse or a 2-year old golden retriever. More importantly, it's your re-writing that makes the ice cream creamier, the silk blouse silkier and the golden retriever a bounding scalawag.

The expectation that writing can be right the first time scares even experienced writers away from their words. Don't worry about getting it just right. Just write. Because a blank page is like a cavity - if you ignore it, it gets bigger and more painful.

Writing is an intimate transaction between two people, conducted on paper, and it will go well to the extent that it retains its humanity. William Zinsser

I feel sorry for people whose writing is sterile and lifeless, because I imagine that they’re sterile and lifeless as well. Maybe not. Maybe they radiate vitality for miles in every direction except the reader’s, but I doubt it. More than anything else, writing reveals the writer's relationship with the world. I once worked for someone who wrote motivational memos like “This division and all sub-units will endeavor to facilitate intra-system support initiatives”. That was a fun job.

Whether you're writing promotional copy, sales training material, web site content or an article for publication, you're writing to someone. Someone human. Touch them with your warmth, your sense of humor, and your humanity. Be yourself.

Place the emphatic words of a sentence at the end. William Strunk, Jr.

Here Strunk illustrates the power of word placement. He finishes his sentence with “the end” in order to impress that phrase on our attention. If he had written, “Place the emphatic words at the end of a sentence”, we would naturally emphasize “sentence” rather than “the end”.

In my April 2006 Onwords™ column I wrote, “Your writing will be most effective if you select words that express your ideas exactly”, ending my sentence with “exactly” because I wanted to stress the importance of being exact. If I had written, “Your writing will be most effective if you select words that exactly express your ideas”, the emphasis would have fallen on the word “ideas”.

How can you put this one-liner to work for you? Read your writing aloud and listen for the natural emphasis. (It may be only a whisper, so listen closely.)

I'm confident that with the power of Strunk you can improve your writing.

I'm confident that you can improve your writing with the power of Strunk.

You can improve your writing with the power of Strunk; I'm confident. There it is.

Never use a long word where a short one will do. George Orwell

I sometimes wonder if other writers get paid by the letter. Long words don't make your writing intellectual or professional, and they certainly don't make it appealing or accessible to your readers. Precision does. Your writing will be powerful if you choose words for their meaning, not their length.

Inspiration is wonderful when it happens, but the writer must develop an approach for the rest of the time...The wait is simply too long. Leonard Bernstein

Whether you live to write or write to live, at some point you face the challenge of writing without inspiration. Here are some strategies to keep you moving forward:

Write first thing in the morning. Keep a notebook next to your bed and jot down one idea or a few bullet points before your feet hit the floor. Sales training workshop will motivate... discover… closing skills… explore... new levels…that’s all. The point is to get something on paper that you can work with later.

Catch up on email. It limbers your mind and fingers and removes the temptation to distract yourself with email later.

Commit yourself to someone else. While you’re sending email, send one to your boss, your editor, your mother, even your priest. Announce your deadline and invite them to ask to see your finished work on that date. Make sure you send a blind copy unless you want your mother talking to your boss, your editor and your priest.

Write in five or ten-minute intervals. The only rule here is that you must spend the entire time writing – no staring blankly at the computer screen or the page. When time is up, put it away. Repeat this every hour and by the end of the day you'll have at least a couple of pages of crummy, fragmented writing. Sift through the rubble and pull out the cohesive passages and phrases you find intact. Re-read them the next day. If you still think they're cohesive and intact, use them as the framework for the rest of your writing.

Hold your lunch hostage. Decide what writing you must finish before lunch, and don’t eat until you’ve done it. If you're bothered by flies buzzing on the uneaten meals piling up around you, this probably isn’t the best strategy for you.

Stop writing in mid-sentence. This will provoke one of three responses. Either you will start strong the next time by completing the sentence, you will feel compelled to finish the whole piece rather than leave a sentence undone, or you will carefully arrange on your desk a small round stone, a marshmallow and...

Sally Bacchetta - Freelance Writer/Sales Trainer

Sally Bacchetta is an award-winning sales trainer and freelance writer. She has published articles on a variety of topics, including selling skills, motivation, pharmaceutical sales, parenting and RFID.

You can contact her at info@sallybacchetta.com and read her latest Onwords column on her website.

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