Eight Ways to Improve Your Craft

mm_words_smAre you a newbie or an experienced writer? Do you write fiction or nonfiction? Full-length manuscripts or short stories? Poetry or prose? Articles or blog posts?

No matter what you write or how experienced you are, there is always more to learn. Here are eight ways to improve your craft.

Follow Writers and Authors on Facebook and Twitter

I offer this advice with a grain of salt. It is easy to spend so much time on the social networks that you neglect your own writing. However, it is a great way to learn what other writers are up to, what books and blog posts they have published recently, and how you might want to engage your own readers when the time comes.

Read Blogs

Of course it makes sense to read blogs on the craft of writing, but it is also a great idea to read blogs posted by writers whose style you enjoy and/or who write about things that interest you. Reading posts that are well written can help as you seek to develop your own skills.

Reference Books and Market Guides

There are countless skills development books available.

I also advise buying one or more style guides, such as The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style, The Chicago Manual of Style, and/or The Associated Press Stylebook.

Market guides are invaluable. Writer’s Digest publishes a wide variety every year.

“It is easy to go overboard when stocking your bookshelves,” says she who has done so both with physical books and ebooks.

My number one suggestion would be ask fellow writers for suggestions, read reviews, and purchase one book on each topic that interests you. After reading a book, you may want to repeat the process to buy another on the same topic.

Attend Conferences

Attending a writers’ conference can be intimidating, but it can be an amazing experience for many reasons. Here are just a few of those reasons:

  • Learn from keynote, seminar, and continuing class speakers
  • Rub shoulders with published authors
  • Meet editors, publishers, and agents (and possibly interest them in your project)
  • Make new friends
  • Go home supercharged to write

Submit According to Guidelines

Take the time to read the submission guidelines carefully—and follow them. A sure sign that you’re an amateur is to disregard these guidelines. Remember to behave professionally. It will go a long way.

Enter Writing Contests

If you don’t know where to start, simply type “Writing Contests” into your search engine. Some are free to enter. Others have an entry fee. The prizes offered are usually comparable to the fee. While it costs $30.00 to enter the Writer’s Digest contests, the prizes are well worth it.

On the other hand, contests with substantial prizes also attract many gifted writers. Your work really has to shine.

That said, there are many benefits to entering writing contests: working to specifications, meeting a deadline, following submission guidelines, to name a few. And who knows, you might win a prize and that will fuel your enthusiasm to continue writing and entering contests and/or submitting your work to paying markets.

Write, Just Write

Never, ever, ever think you have to know it all (or even know more than you do now) before you write regularly. Writing is a classic case of learning by doing. Schedule time to write and keep your appointment. Ideally, do so every day.

team.stephanie_120x140_2015Stephanie Nickel, CES Editor/Writer/Coach

Please visit our websites: Christian Editing ServicesCreating Christian Books for KidsPray for Ministries around the World, and Find Christian Links 

Questions? Email karen@ChristianEditingServices.com

Write On!

I will never forget a little poem I learned many years ago.

Two natures lie within my breast.
One is foul and one is blessed.
One I love and one I hate.
The one I feed will dominate.

At the first reading of this thought-provoking poem, we could think of many fleshly desires we might feed on that would take us for a walk down the darker side of life, but I want to visit with those of you who feel called to write in small and big ways, but insecurity and fear of failure have kept you from wielding your pen for Jesus.

Satan will make a punching bag out of anyone who will entertain his lies. Here are a few of his tormenting thoughts that can hinder you from writing for the Lord.

  • Who do you think you are? You can’t write. You have no education.
  • Nobody wants to hear what you have to say.
  • Stop dreaming. God will never allow your dreams to come true.

fear-3If we “feed” these negative thoughts, they will dominate and we will never write for the Lord.

I would like to take the time to dispel some of Satan’s myths.

Who do you think you are? You can’t write. You have no education.

“I am a child of the living God.”  The Bible doesn’t say we have to be proficient in writing to share what the Lord has done for us. Most of the disciples were uneducated and unlearned men, but Jesus chose them and used them to turn the world upside down.

Nobody wants to hear what you have to say.

Satan is the one who doesn’t want to hear what you have to share. He doesn’t want to hear  how the Lord has touched your life. He is the one who wants to give you a fatal case of “lockjaw.” Jesus wants you to “go and tell” what He has done for you so others can come to know Him too.

Stop dreaming. God will never allow your dreams to come true.

It’s true that sometimes our dreams can be full of selfish ambition. God has His ways of giving us a reality check when that happens, but there are other times when, like Joseph, God births a dream inside us. He has a divine plan and purpose for those dreams to come true. Don’t be afraid to dream big for Jesus.

There are numerous ways we can write for the Lord. We don’t have to write a novel or text book. Let’s look at some of the ways God could use us.

  • Are you a Deborah with a gift of wisdom for counseling? Share your wisdom in a blog, short story, or letter to a friend.
  • Maybe God has raised you up like Daniel and He wants to have you take a firm stand and write letters to the editor of your local newspaper or politicians. Let God use your words so right can win over might!
  • Are you like Mary and Martha with a gift of organization or hospitality? Share your recipes and creative ideas with others. Simple tips can help make life better for others.
  • Are you a David with songs welling up in your heart? Keep a journal of those songs. Share them at a nursing home or with your church. Your song can minister to a hurting soul.

May we never forget that God gave a “little” Jesus to a hurting world. Let’s give a “little” Jesus to someone today. Your story can make life sweeter for someone in a bitter trial.  In Jesus’s name we write on!


Team.Dixie-120-140

 

by Dixie Phillips, CES Editor, Writing Coach, Award-Winning Children’s Author and Songwriter 

 

Please visit our websites: Christian Editing ServicesCreating Christian Books for KidsPray for Ministries around the World, and Find Christian Links

Questions? Email karen@ChristianEditingServices.com

Give Poetry a Chance

poetry-in-garden-web11Each year I participate in OctPoWriMo (October Poetry Writing Month). Participants write 31 poems in 31 days.

The wonderful thing about poetry is that in a few words, one can paint a picture and share his or her heart.

This post is by no means a scholarly look at poetry, but below I have listed four different types of poems and given an example of each.

Even if just for yourself, why not jump off the precipice and give poetry writing a shot. Who knows? You may just find yourself soaring.

Story Poem

Choose a subject or an event that is especially important to you. Capture the highlights and write them as a poem. Create line breaks for emphasis. Don’t worry about punctuation; sometimes it’s best to leave it out altogether. See which you think works best.

Help Them Soar

When they’re wandering in the valley,

Walk with them.

When they’re struggling up the mountain path,

Let your presence strengthen them.

When they stumble,

Offer them your hand.

When their eyes fill with tears,

Let yours be the shoulder they cry on.

When they need a listening ear,

Remember you have two.

When they need a word of encouragement,

Make it sincere and succinct.

When they’re victorious,

Cheer the loudest.

If they’re standing on the precipice ready to soar,

Offer to tandem jump with them.

If they’re looking for God – and even if they’re not,

Point them heavenward.

Haiku

A haiku has three brief lines, the first and third have five syllables, the second has seven.

New Day

New day lies ahead

Opportunities abound

Time to jump right in

Cinquain

Poetry is about self-expression. (My favorite season is autumn, as you’ll realize from the poem below.) Many times, a few carefully chosen words can hold a great deal of meaning. There are five lines in a cinquain. The first and fifth lines have two syllables, the second four, the third six, and the fourth eight.

Autumn Leaves

Leaves fall

Are blown around

Begging to be played in

Fill the air with wond’rous fragrance

Autumn

Rhyming Poem

When writing this kind of poem, there is more to be considered than what pairs of rhyming words you will use. It’s also important to include a steady metre, something that is easy to read and flows well. The best way to determine if you’ve done so is to read the poem aloud. If you falter over a line or a certain section, you may want to spend more time on it.

A rhyming poem with a sing-song lilt has a more playful feel. It is a fun choice if you’re writing about lighthearted subject matter. You can write a serious rhyming poem, but take care that it does not come off as frivolous.

Flitting Thoughts

My mind does flit

From thing to thing

Tugged about

As on a string.

I must do this

I must do that

And then I stop

To chit and chat.

Oh, read this blog

No, over here

Laugh for joy

Shed a tear.

I should read

And I should write

Or clean the house

It’s such a sight!

Make a call

Or maybe two

It’s some of what

I have to do.

But what works best

I’ve always found

Is take a breath

And calm the sound.

The voices calling

In my head

Must keep silent

As I’ve said.

I will focus

On one task

And get it done

How? you ask.

I’ll make my list

From a to z (zed)

In this way

I’ll clear my head.

by Stephanie Nickel , CES Editor, Writer, Coach, and Critique Specialist

Please visit our websites: Christian Editing ServicesCreating Christian Books for KidsPray for Ministries around the World, and Find Christian Links

Questions? Email karen@ChristianEditingServices.com

Devotional Writing

Devotional LetterpressI’ve had many beginning writers ask me to give examples of some of the devotions I’ve written. So today’s blog will be dedicated to the subject of devotional writing.

When submitting a devotional piece, be sure to always follow submission guidelines! Most times the guidelines require a Scripture at the beginning of the devotional and a prayer at the end.

The Holy Spirit is always busy teaching us, so a lesson you learned in an everyday situation can soon become your next devotional. Here is one of my pieces. I hope it ministers to someone today.

 Sins of the Spirit

The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in.
Luke 15:28 NLT

 Lord, today I was hurt and angry. When the one who hurt me extended friendship, I responded coolly. I felt justified. After what she blurted out, I had a right to treat her that way. After all Your Word does teach the principle of “sowing and reaping.” She will reap what she’s sown with her unkind words! Right?

And You know, Lord, Your Word warns us about pride. She just oozes with her uppity ways. I haven’t done anything to deserve her cruel comments. In the long run, distancing myself will teach her a valuable lesson! Her behavior is unacceptable. I refuse to reward such dysfunction. After all, her attitude doesn’t bring honor to You. I certainly don’t want to enable her. I’ve settled it once and for all. I am right. No doubt about it. There is no need in discussing it further. I am positively . . . positively . . . positively miserable! Why am I in such unrest, Lord? How is it possible that I can I be right and yet be so wrong?

In the depths of my soul, I discern “I” am part of the problem. I open my Bible and read:

The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in.
Luke 15:28 NLT

 The Holy Spirit gives me a much needed diagnosis: “You are suffering from sins of the spirit.”

This is a spiritual malady that can render me powerless to love my friend. Many times manifestations can be masked and difficult to detect, but only for a short time. Eventually, everyone will notice my loveless heart. If I’m not given a biblical antidote of love and humility, the disease can spread to vital organs of my soul.

Have you ever been plagued with sins of the spirit?

Symptoms include

• Polite coolness when friendship is available

• Consumed with proving your point

• Touchiness, sensitivity

• Needing to persuade others to embrace your point of view

• Loving your opinions more than you love people

Forgive me, Lord. I’ll right my wrong. Life is too short for me to nurse this grudge. Help me not to be like the older brother and refuse a relationship. Help me respond in a way that brings glory and honor to You.


by Dixie Phillips, CES Editor, Writing Coach, Award-Winning Children’s Author and Songwriter 

Please visit our websites: Christian Editing ServicesCreating Christian Books for KidsPray for Ministries around the World, and Find Christian Links 

Questions? Email karen@ChristianEditingServices.com

 

No More Mr. Nice Guy

Serene. Peaceful. Relaxed.

Who wouldn’t want a life marked by these adjectives?

And yet . . .

When we’re writing fiction, these same adjectives just may put our readers to sleep.

This week let’s apply a few tips for keeping readers engaged and flipping those pages.

  1. First, write a short short (a complete story) or a fictional scene of 500-1000 words. Fill it with kind and loving characters relating to one another with empathy and compassion. And, of course, drop them in the middle of an idyllic setting.
  2. Rewrite the same story and introduce a crotchety—or even dangerous—antagonist. Caucasian Man Scowling Portrtait(Feel free to convert one of the characters you already included.) Watch how the interactions, even between the other characters, take on a new dimension.
  3. Rewrite Version #2. This time either transport your characters to a far less idyllic setting or introduce a natural or manmade disaster that will threaten the setting and the characters (i.e. the protagonist’s dream home burns down or a severe thunderstorm leaves the characters—or some of the characters—stranded).
  4. Focus on one of the characters—perhaps the protagonist—and “roughen up the edges.” Give the character an annoying habit or a trigger that sets him or her off . . . or some other facet that makes him or her more believable, more human.
  5. Now revisit your antagonist’s personality. Is there something you can introduce to make him or her a more sympathetic character? Don’t tone down the threat; just allow readers to understand the character a little more.
  6. Even in a very short story, there should be some form of character arc, a hero’s journey as it were. Does the protagonist change in any way? Does he or she have to make a significant decision that will change the path he or she is following? If you are writing a scene rather than a complete story, are you setting up an arc for your character? Rewrite your piece again with this in mind.

If you’ve gone through these steps, your story will be much different than it was at first. You will begin to understand what it’s like for fiction writers to write, rewrite, and rewrite again. The first draft of any novel is usually far different from the book that hits the shelves. It requires patience, willingness to learn, and more hours than many of us realize. But in the end it makes our stories more engaging, more exciting, more gripping. Now, what writer wouldn’t want that?


by Stephanie Nickel , CES Editor, Writer, Coach, and Critique Specialist

Please visit our websites: Christian Editing Services and Find Christian Links 
Questions? Email karen@ChristianEditingServices.com

Get in Your “Write” Mind

And then God answered: “Write this.
Write what you see.
Write it out in big block letters
so that it can be read on the run.”
Habakkuk 2:2 MSG

Holy SpiritOn my past blogs, I have shared samples of some of the stories I have written for my family. After my grandmothers’ passing, I realized much of their legacy would be lost if someone didn’t document their stories. The great-great-grandbabies being born now might never know how our family came to Christ. I wanted to document as much of it as I could.

I’d like to point out that you don’t have to be a Karen Kingsbury to write your family’s story. Just start writing. Don’t dwell too much on proper language mechanics. Just get your story on paper. There are people with large gifts of writing who can help you bring your story to life. The main thing is for you to dust off your keyboard or pick up your pen and get busy writing. Your family will thank you.

After a loved one has died, I’ve never heard adult children say, “They wrote down too many things. I don’t have time to read all the stories they jotted down.” But I have heard many of them say, “Oh, I wish I would have had my grandmother write down that funny story or favorite recipe. Man, I’d give anything to ask Grandma about that!”

You have a story and even possibly a book inside you. Don’t listen to anyone or anything that tries to insinuate you are not smart enough! Time is marching on. Soon it will be too late. Begin today. Your family will be very thankful for the gift you’ve left for them. Get in your “write” mind today.

I would like to share my great-grandmother’s testimony with you. Six generations have been influenced for Jesus because of her choice to follow Christ. One woman, one choice, and six generations! Amazing, isn’t it? I hope you enjoy the story of my great-grandmother Ada Stillion.

One Woman, One Choice, Six Generations

Ada poured the last few drops of the bottle of rubbing alcohol into her cup of coffee. Taking a big gulp, she growled at her husband, “Ed, we’re out of moonshine, and I’ve used the last of my rubbing alcohol to stop these tremors!”

Edward hissed back, “Addie, you best get on down to your brother Mel’s house and get us some more brew. We’re low on cash, and if we could do some bootlegging, it might help get us caught up.”

Ada’s brother lived in Metropolis, Illinois, eight hours away from the small town in Iowa where Ada’s family lived. Every few months Ada and her daughter, Nettie, would take a trip to load up on some of Kentucky’s white lightning. They would bring some home and sell most of it to their kinfolks, who were slaves to whiskey too, but this trip God had something else planned for forty-five-year-old Ada Stillion, something that would change her life forever.

“Mel, it’s so good to see you!” Ada cooed as she hugged her older brother.

“Ada!” Mel exclaimed. “So much has happened to my family since we last saw you.”

“You got any good whiskey?” Ada asked. “I’m spitting cotton. Let’s sit down and have a stiff drink and then you can tell me all about it.”

“Addie, I don’t drink anymore.” Mel shook his head. “You’ll find no whiskey in our house! I’ve met Jesus!”

Ada shot back, “Are you trying to tell me that you done got religion?”

“No, Addie! I met Jesus.” Mel reached for his sister’s hand. “Tonight we’re having revival meetings at our church. Oh, Addie, you’ve just got to come. I have found what we’ve been searching for.”

“Church? You want me to go to church?” Ada’s eyebrows stood at attention. “I ain’t never been to church in my life!”

Nettie stiffened and poked her elbow in Ada’s side. “Ma and me are going to Kentucky tonight. We’ve got some important business to tend to. Don’t we, Ma?”

Mel’s moist eyes met Ada’s. “Please come. You’ll find what we’ve been looking for our whole lives.”

“Well, I guess going to one church service ain’t gonna kill us,” Ada chuckled. “What time should we be ready?”

“Seven o’clock sharp!” Mel let out a whoop. . . .

“Listen to that beautiful singing!” Ada motioned for Nettie to sit on the back pew. “Have you ever heard such singing?”

Nettie snarled, “Don’t know why they are singing about blood. That’s kind of gory, don’t you think, Ma?”

Ada pressed her finger to her lips. “Shhhhh. Listen!”

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the Blood of Jesus!
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the Blood of Jesus!

Ada sat mesmerized by what she heard and felt.

After the singing a minister stood behind the pulpit. “We all are sinners and need a Savior.”

Ada had flashbacks of her daughters and how alcohol had robbed them of a decent childhood.

The pastor invited all who wanted their sins forgiven to come forward and kneel at the altar. Ada stood to her feet, walked down the aisle, and knelt at the altar. The minister prayed with her and then asked her if she would like to pray.

Tears poured down Ada’s cheeks. She called out to God for the first time in her life. “Lord, forgive me of my sins and make me worthy to be called mother.”

When Ada stood to her feet, she knew she was a new creature in Christ. Old things had passed away and all things were new!

“Nettie, we aren’t going to Kentucky to buy any whiskey!” The trip to Kentucky was canceled. Ada never touched another drop of liquor the rest of her days. She lived to be ninety-two years old and shared her salvation experience with anyone who would listen.

Ada Stillion was my great-grandmother. Her decision to follow Christ has impacted six generations. She followed Christ. Her daughter accepted Jesus. Her granddaughter invited the Lord into her heart. Her great-granddaughter committed her life to Jesus. Her great-great-granddaughter dedicated her heart and life to the Lord, and even Ada’s great-great-great granddaughter has given her life to Christ.

Great-Grandmother could have left our family a legacy of alcoholism and abuse; instead she left us a legacy of God’s amazing love. God answered her prayer and made her worthy to be called Mother. In fact, He made her a spiritual mother of many.


by Dixie Phillips, CES Editor, Writing Coach, Award-Winning Children’s Author and Songwriter 

Please visit our websites: Christian Editing Services and Find Christian Links 

10 Easy Steps to Avoid Writing

How can you avoid writing? Try these 10 easy steps!

  1. woman in doubtDream about all the books, blog posts, and articles you want to write.
  2. Constantly build your library and read, read, read some more.
  3. Pursue everything interesting that comes your way.
  4. Justify that extra half hour of sleep in the morning and kicking back in the evening. After all, you need your rest.
  5. Ask yourself repeatedly, “Does the world really need another book? Do I have anything worthwhile to say that hasn’t been said a million times before?”
  6. Convince yourself that you wouldn’t want to see your byline on a newspaper or magazine article or your name on the cover of a book if you were truly humble.
  7. Fill your day with all those urgent things that call your name.
  8. Let each day unfold come what may.
  9. Bee-bop around your social networks. You wouldn’t want to miss anything.
  10. Remember tomorrow is a new day.

Actually, there is nothing wrong with any of these things . . . if we let them serve as springboards for our writing.

Dreaming about what to write is our pre-planning stage. We just can’t get stuck there.

Stephen King has been quoted as saying, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” Reading is good, both nonfiction and fiction. We just can’t read so much that we don’t take the time to write.

Being eclectically interested and knowing that amazing things have come my way from a variety of sources makes me inclined to flit around like a butterfly. However, we all have to buckle down and write knowing we just might miss something along the way, but that’s okay.

Getting sufficient sleep is extremely important. However, we won’t just find the time to write if it isn’t our day job. We will have to make the time.

Years ago, I read that no one will say something exactly like I will. We each have a unique perspective and a unique “voice.” Plus, it’s important to remember how many times we’ve read or heard the same thing, but there comes that time when it really hits home. You may be the one to write something in just the way your reader needs to hear it.

It’s important to do whatever we do to the best of our ability—even writing. Sometimes we will be acknowledged for our achievement. This often opens doors to even more opportunities, and that’s not a bad thing. More open doors for our writing means more readers reached.

Stephen Covey referred to the urgent and the important. The ringing landline. The chiming cell phone. The Facebook message. These are among the urgent things that call us away from what is truly important. If our writing is important, we must let our calls go to voicemail, silence our cell phone, and set aside specific times to check emails and social media—and stick to those times.

Not every day will unfold the way we plan, but we do need a plan. Somewhere between scheduling every waking minute and scheduling none is the right balance. And in that balance, we must include our writing projects—not just writerly pursuits, actual writing.

There are countless great writing blogs out there in cyber space and countless writers with whom we can connect. It’s always incredible when a favorite author actually answers our email, but if they didn’t sign out for significant portions of the day, they wouldn’t get anything written—and neither will we.

Procrastination can rob us of so much that is truly important. However, at the end of the day when we haven’t accomplished all we’d like, it is a very good thing to remember that, indeed, tomorrow is another day.

All the best for all your tomorrows.


by Stephanie Nickel , CES Editor, Writer, Coach, and Critique Specialist

Please visit our websites: Christian Editing Services and Find Christian Links 

Keep Your Eyes Open

I want to encourage all you writers to keep your eyes open and your notebook handy. Young man with lensYou never know where and when inspiration will strike. A sunset. A snippet of conversation. Something you read.

Here are some suggestions on how to capture those moments:

  1. Keep a small notebook handy to record those things that strike you. If you carry a cell phone that has a camera, snap a picture of a visual that inspires you. (Be careful not to take pictures of identifiable property or strangers without permission.)
  2. Not sure if you should record something? Do it! Better to have several ideas you never use than forget that one you wish you could remember.
  3. Don’t worry if you have no idea how you will include what grabs your attention in your writing. When my son was in his mid-teens, he wanted a pair of army boots. Being the silly mom that I am, I bought him a pair that were several sizes too large, thinking maybe, just maybe, he might grow into them. He wore them to church shortly after that only to be asked by a dear, elderly friend of ours, “Hey, boots, where are you taking that boy?” I love it! Have I ever used it except in this kind of context? No, but I’m sure I will. It was just too priceless to forget.
  4. Pay particular attention to situations, places, and people you would normally walk right past without noticing. Writers—and all creatives—must learn to see beyond their normal range of vision.
  5. Remember to take your notebook and your camera on business trips, vacations, walks around the neighborhood. The funny thing about inspiration is that it can strike when you least expect it. Cliché as that sounds, it’s true. The more you train yourself to see it, the more inspiration will be ev-ery-where.
  6. Periodically, leaf through your notebook and your photos. You never know when something will strike you afresh and inspire your fingers to fly over the keyboard.

What inspires your writing? How do you keep track of those flashes of inspiration?

by Stephanie Nickel , CES Editor, Writer, Coach, and Critique Specialist

Please visit our websites: Christian Editing Services and Find Christian Links

Always Learning

by Stephanie Nickel , CES Editor, Writer, Coach, and Critique Specialist

Learn“But I graduated years ago.”

We may think our education has come to an end when we graduate from high school or college. However, that’s not the case.

Ongoing—if not formal—learning is an important part of life.

When asked to edit the prospectus for a friend’s proposed Ph.D. thesis, I had to purchase the newest edition of Kate Turabian’s classic reference book. (I owned a copy 30 or so years ago and that was probably the last time I’d looked at it.)

Even today, I have almost a dozen reference books close at hand. When editing, I often come across something I think I know. If I’m not certain, it’s best to grab one of my resources and double check. It solidifies the information in my mind and makes me a better editor—and writer.

So, how can you continue to learn on your writing journey?

1. The most obvious way is to take an online course or see what your local night school has to offer. (This is, of course, if you aren’t already in school.)

2. Your local bookstore likely has shelves and shelves of reference works. Why not treat yourself to a new one and work your way through it? You may prefer to do so a little at a time. I wouldn’t suggest curling up with a cup of tea and settling in to read The Chicago Manual of Style for the evening—unless, of course, that’s something you would enjoy. (You may be surprised at what I find good reading.)

3. When you come across something in a published article or book that you think is incorrect, do some research. The rules do change from time to time, but don’t assume you’re wrong (or right) without doing the legwork. (I remember reading The Berenstain Bears to my three when they were young. It took me a long time to accept that one could begin a sentence with and and but. It’s still something I’m aware of—and avoid unless there’s a very good reason not to.)

4. Visit skills development websites and peruse the information you find there. Be aware that the rules are slightly different from one country to the next. American grammar rules differ from British rules. Canadian rules seem to be a combination of the two. You may be tempted to ask, “Why can’t we all just get along?”

5. As I mentioned earlier, the English language is in a constant state of flux. According to Ammon Shea, author of Bad English: A History of Linguistic Aggravation (a book I very much want to read), “A language that does not change is a dead language.”

And lastly . . .

6. Write. Write. And write some more. All the while, seek to incorporate the new things you’re learning. Practice may not make perfect, but it does make better—much better.


Please visit our websites: Christian Editing Services and Find Christian Links

Editing Is Psychological

 

by Tisha Martin, CES fiction editor, writer, writing coach, academic proofreader, and online marketing specialist (read more about Tisha)
[This blog post first appeared on Almost an Author, 4-22-18.]

Doubt and uncertainty

Editing is psychological.

Yes. That’s right. Psychological. I promise not to go too deep. Please keep reading. In editing our own manuscripts, we usually know what’s going on, who each character is, and how the story’s going to unfold. What we don’t expect is the sneaky errors that crop up. When we least expect it. When we’re about to hit send or publish, or worse yet, after we’ve sent our manuscript off to the publisher!

And what we don’t expect is that our eyes skip over what’s actually missing because our brains automatically interpret what’s there. Hence the psychological aspect of editing.

How do we fix this, or at least make it more manageable? Ah, well, let’s take a closer look at three common mistakes we all make in editing our writing.

Five Common Psychological Editing Mistakes

  1. Extra spaces between sentences.

Extra spaces are a pain, but professional editors loathe them. When editing your manuscript, double check that you don’t have two extra spaces between words or sentences. According to Chicago Manual of Style and nearly every publishing house, one space should appear between sentences. Not the long-standing two spaces. That’s old school. One space and done.

  1. Multiple characters on the first page.

Have you ever entered a room where everyone is talking at once? The noise just engulfs you, making it impossible to focus on any one conversation, much less hear yourself think. If you’re in that family of introverted writers, an experience like this is crippling sometimes.

Just like entering a room full of talking heads, if the first page of your manuscript has too many characters, your readers will want to throw the book at something, anything. Readers want to know who, what, and why when they read the first page.

Rule of thumb: To keep a reader, introduce at least two characters—the protagonist and an important secondary character—on the first page to get the story off on the right foot with your readers. You can add more characters as needed on the second and preceding pages, but please stick to simple on the first page. Your readers will thank you.

  1. Redundant phrases or repetitive words.

In the writing stage, you write whatever comes to your mind just to put words down on paper. And in the reading stage, you skip over these most common phrases you use in everyday speech. But in the editing stage, you don’t even notice these redundant phrases because you’re focused on characterization, plot, dialogue, or whatever you know you need to work on the most. With redundant phrases, you can usually delete one of the words and your sentence will breathe easier.

Hey, I’m preaching at myself here! The other day I was editing my own WIP and noticed with great horror that (take notice of the strikethrough, it isn’t necessary here!) I used “even” four times within four preceding paragraphs! I was so mortified that the words choked me, and I scrambled to revise my sentences.

Here are a few redundant phrases to watch out for:

  • Final outcome (outcome)
  • False pretense (pretense)
  • Absolutely certain (certain)
  • Completely finished (finished)
  • Sat down (sat)

Now, that wasn’t too hard, psychologically speaking, was it? It’s so easy to gloss over the obvious mistakes in our manuscripts. Therefore, taking that extra special effort (see what I did there?) to shore up the little issues that really make a difference in the long run—for you, your characters, your agent, your editor, your publisher, and for your readers. Not to mention your manuscript because it’s now a squeaky-clean product!

Join in the discussion!

Take a few minutes and ruminate. What are some editorial issues you fail to notice in your manuscript on first or second or final read-through?