Concrete Detail

Write like a reader, read like a writer and edit like a beast!

redundancy

I’ll say it again, redundancy is bad for your stories.

One of the fastest ways to cut the useless words is to search for redundancy. I find when editing my own and others work that writers a great at saying the same thing in two (or more) ways. One manner of redundant writing can be seen in the example.

Example:  Maricela’s normal even temperament was being tested today by the child.  Looking at the clock Maricela took a deep breath, she was growing weary of the child’s disobedience.

Stating that Maricela is growing weary again after stating her normal even temperament was tested is redundant, as is stating the child is disobedient when stating the child had tested her.  These two sentences essentially say the same thing.

Edit:  Maricela took a deep cleansing breath, the child was testing her normal even temperament. 

By combining the sentences the writing is more concise.  We also want to show and not tell.  By stating Maricela taking a cleansing breath we are showing she is stressed by the child.  We also give our reader credit.  This one sentence shows we believe our reader will make the connection of her stress to the child’s behavior.

Keep an eye out for redundant phrases common in the English language

There are many phrases that are redundant and should be avoided. This is a short list but one you can use to remind yourself to be on the lookout!

  • Absolutely certain and it’s buddy complete convinced  – So if you are certain of something it is absolute and when you are convinced of something it is complete?
  • A brief summary– this just makes me laugh.
  • Earlier in time – If it was earlier, that refers to time?
  • End result –  When you get the result you have reached the end of your search?
  • Free gift – no kidding a gift is free?
  • Lag behind – so if something is lagging it is behind?
  • A new beginning – A beginning is new?
  • A pair of twins – Twins come in pairs?
  • Plunge down – Thing move down when they plunge?  of course, that leads me to ponder plungings sisters, rise or raise up.
  • Regular routine – Wait a minute, routines are regular?

While using some of these are acceptable in your writing just be sure to use them with caution!

 

edit


Here I am, knee deep in editing chapter one of my novel.  With my “teacher pen” in hand, inner critic released to run amok on the pages I have ripped apart my own work.  Editing is hard.  It takes time and can make you doubt your skills as a writer.  I am pretty ruthless when it comes to editing because I know it is important.   I understand that the first draft is usually garbage that needs tightening to better the experience for my readers.  Let’s face it, everything we do if for our readers.

Over the next few days, I will share some things I have gleaned in hours of reading and classes taken on the subject of Self-Editing. Let’s begin with weak adjectives.

Weak adjectives are really bad for your story.

The weakness comes from what proceeds the adjective.  If you spot a “really” or a “very” before an adjective, reconsider your word choice. Removing these words from your writing and find that your word choice is stronger and your story better.   Let’s get right to it:

Example: Weak adjectives are really bad for your story.

Instead: Weak adjectives are killing your story. (This was my original heading but I thought it would make a stellar (really good) example.)

Example: The woman was really tired.

Instead Try:  The woman was exhausted.

Example:  His dog was very dirty and smelled of fish.

Instead:  His filthy dog smelled of rotting fish.

Think of the words “really” and “very” as a flag, big, bright and swaying on the page to get your attention.  When you spot them, you may need to search for a new stronger adjective.  Word choice is vital for writers because readers are easily bored. Using weak adjectives will put them to sleep much quicker than counting sheep or zzzzquil.

When a reader spots these lazy adjectives they will grow weary quickly.  That is the last thing we as writers want! Do your best to spot those little devils and eliminate them from your piece.

No one ever said that writing is easy,  it’s not.  Luckily, I believe in you.  I know you can do it if you try really hard, (or should I say,  I know you can do it if you labor unmercifully).

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Reading is vital to writers. There is a lot that goes into the craft of writing. From term papers to novels, there is always something to learn. I have this stack of books on how to write in a special “to read” pile. This pile continues to grow. There are so many talented people in the world of writing and I feel like I can learn from all of them. I am currently knee deep in the DIY MFA one of the best books on writing I have ever read! more on that later. When I first decided to give in to my heart’s desire and write a book, I had no idea where to start. The greatest thing about books, they tell you how to start and finish!

Recently, I was taking a class on self-editing with Jerry Jenkins (he rocks by the way), and he had the Gabriela Pereira (the author of DIY MFA) as a guest. Jerry asked her a question about people saying writing is a gift or talent and you either have it or you don’t.

I love her reply, she said, “I say that’s utter nonsense. I think that talent is maybe like a teeny-tiny little piece, like obviously if you have an innate affinity for writing, I wouldn’t even call it a gift per se, but you have sort of a love or a passion for it, you kind of like to muck around with words, then clearly you’re going to be practicing it more often, so it’ll probably come more naturally to you…”

Do you know why I love this? It is because in those times when I doubt my ability to put the words on the page I know that it is nonsense! (The doubt.)

Are you a writer? I am. ANYONE can write. Does it come easier to some than others? Sure. But I am here to tell you, there is so much information out there on writing that literally anyone that has the desire can do it! If you want to write, I suggest you start a reading list of your own. I am going to suggest a few books to get you started.

  1. The Story Within – Laura Oliver – This was the first book on writing I ever read. It was an assigned book for my CRW class and it changed my life. It opened my heart to see that I could do it.
  2. DIY MFA – Gabriela Pereira – Seriously, the most useful thoughts on the craft of writing that has ever been written. I can’t praise this book enough. Make it your second book to read. I am currently working through this book and it has taught me so much even though I have not finished it! (yeah, it is that good)
  3. On Writing: A memoir on the Craft – Stephen King – Great book, I don’t care for the language in this one but he has some solid advice (even if I don’t agree with it all, it is solid advice.)
  4. Outlining your Novel – K.M Weiland – (Also has a workbook) ANY of her books are great for outliners and pantsers that want to be! This is a great way to discover how to structure a novel.
  5. Plot Whisperer – Martha Alderson (Also has a workbook). This was a book that pushed me to move forward in my book. It helped me to lay out what I needed to do to get my novel finished.

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She’s cute, she’s ornery, she’s lovable and most of all she is mine! I would like to introduce my mini Doxie, Dash.

I have heard people like pictures of cute dogs and as a writer, I am lucky to have the best (and by best I mean she is pretty good at it most the time) writing buddy in the world. I thought today after a long day of writing and editing I would share with you a day in the life.   Dash is a certified Service Dog as well as a great editor and best pal.


We start the morning out with breakfast, this means that we will be in the kitchen for a bit (one of her favorite places).  See we went to the vet and the vet told me, (in front of Dash–mistake)  that we should give her soft food.  I disagreed but did find a reasonableIMG_20171222_144914

compromise. The vet said we could put her food in the bowl then add warm water to soften it a bit.  (It’s so she gets enough water. We live in a desert after all.) She likes this part of the day best of all.  This is Dash on her mat waiting for her food to be presented.

I would like to point out my eldest daughter understands Dash on a deep level.  She sympathized with Dash’s plight of all the tile in the house and bought a mat for the kitchen just for Dash. (She loves this mat and it cracks me up! It says Dauschund is German for “little pain in the @ss”)


IMG_20180118_155319Once breakfast is taken care of we can get down to business…mom’s writing time.  It consists of Dash sleeping curled up behind my back.  This is actually working for her too.  She helps to elevate the pain from my fibromyalgia by applying her body heat to my back, shoulders or whatever I need.  She is very good at it.  She often will know where to go without me even telling her.  It may look like she is just snoozing away, well she is but it is okay because she is working too. It’s a tough job but she has trained hard for the rigorous work she puts in every day.


IMG_20180216_195904Next, we have the job of making sure mom doesn’t just sit in the chair.  This is an even more important job and Dash uses every tool in her box (toybox that is) to get me moving.  She is very good at it and if you could see our house you would know she is well equipt.  She has more toys than my kids did growing up!

Dash takes this job very seriously and it helps that it is also about time for her afternoon treat.


One of her favorite jobs is “editing”. We all love editing (NOT) when I am winding down from the stress of editing,  is when we see a series of her best “we need to be done for the day mom” moves.  I like to think she feels the stress level go up and then pulls out all the stops to get me to be finished for the day.

This is the first move, she calls it “hey whatcha working on?”  IMG_20180120_144904

Next up the classic,” This is good but maybe it needs to marinate” move.

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Finally, her “Are you listening to me?” move which also happens to be the signal for “its time for dinner”.  She is pretty persistent. She is a great writing buddy and she takes great care of me.  I will be sure to keep sharing photos and maybe a video of her playing with the dog in the mirror at some point.  It’s pretty cute! Dash has rung the dinner bell!  See you tomorrow!

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Recently, I discovered an interesting fact.  The average human lifespan has one billion heartbeats.  In the time I sit here writing this blog post (I average 56 beats a minute sitting down)  I will use up 3,360 beats of my billion. I thought WOW that doesn’t seem like a lot of beats, I better make the ones I have left really count.   I found three ways to better my life and better use my remaining beats:

  1. Put other’s first. -People matter.  It is a universal truth.  People need people and they need kindness.  I can for 3,360 beats a week (that is an hour) do something to make someone else’s life better than it was before.  I can cook dinner for a family, they don’t even need to be sick or in need.  I can do it just to be nice.   I can donate time, teach a class, help someone in need, I can better this world we live in.  Jesus Christ taught me this.  I know some people do hurtful things in the name of Christ, but I am here to tell you, HIS reason for being on this earth.  Put other’s first.  That is what love looks like my friends.  I can tell you 3,360 (give or take) is a small price to pay for a better world.
  2. Make healthy choices– I am a people, and according to my first thought, I matter.  To do that, I can use 3,360 beats (okay if I work out right it may be a bit more than 3,360- but you get the idea) each day to better prepare for my week by taking time to take care of my health.
  3. Follow your dreams – If we only get one billion heartbeats, we need to not waste time on things that are not part of our purpose.  My dream to write, your dream of (insert that thing you really want deep down in the secret place of your core) is our purpose.  I believe we all have a purpose and it resides in the dreams we have.  God put it in your heart for a reason.

I encourage you, take a few of your billion beats and consider what you will do with the ones you have left.  Facebook, Twitter, and Gmail can all wait, trust me they get enough of your beats.  Find a place where you can think and write down the ways you want to spend your billion beats.

 

Leap

She took the leap and found her wings on the way down. — Unknown


Growing your community is vital to any profession. This can be hard for writers because we usually build our community in our stories and we like our solitude. However, a community is not only a social media presence but also meeting with peers to review your work, readers to critique your work, support of family and friends and learning from the masters.  I am a member of a writers guild for a pretty awesome author, Jerry Jenkins (more on that later) and I also follow many writers blogs and seek out advice and take classes whenever I can from the people that have success in the industry. I read books, lots of books on how to compete in this very difficult industry.  I mentioned a writing group (Scribophile) that is filled with other writers that read and try to help one another.  All these people and things are a part of my writing community.

I heard a story on Sunday that gave me the courage to do something I have wanted to do for years.  The story was about a man that was told to pray for six months about something and see what God would do.  God moved, the man moved, he did things he didn’t know he could do.  He acted when God gave him the opportunities and the outcome was nothing short of amazing. The man’s life changed.  I believe that story resonated with me because I sometimes struggle with my writing, always allowing that doubt sneak in and make me question myself.  I decided to start praying about it.  Six months I said and I will do whatever God lays on my heart.  Here we are less than a week later and God is at work!

I don’t know anyone that is a writer that wouldn’t jump at the chance to hear from someone wildly successful in the industry.  I have a confession,  I know an author that is very successful I know she writes but she doesn’t know I do.  She has many books published in several genera and under a few pen names.  I know her because we happen to live in the same community and she and I frequent the same establishment.

One day many years ago, her husband and I struck up a conversation when he saw me reading a book.  Her book! I was so overwhelmed.  I didn’t say anything at the time about being a writer because she is so successful. (I was intimidated by her success – no lie – I am not easily intimidated by anything.)  Over the years, we have chatted several times about everything but writing.

Today, I saw her and her husband at this same establishment and as she was leaving I felt the push.  Though my stomach was knotted so tight I felt I would pass out I did something I have wanted to do but never had the courage to do.  I simply said, “Would you be willing to talk to me about the writing industry?”  My heart was pounding so hard I thought she could see it through my shirt.  She replied, “Of course.”  with a big smile.  A genuine welcoming smile.   I felt a rush of gratitude as my shoulders relaxed a little. She asked me a few questions and then we agreed we would chat later.  We said goodbye and a few moments later she came in and handed me her business card told me to contact her so we can set up a meeting.  I can’t tell you how much that meant to me.  She came back in from her car to give me her card!

Here is the purpose of this post.  It is about encouraging you!  We have more resources then we know.  Being brave enough to step out of our usual solitary little world, to step up and admit that you want something enough to make it a priority in your prayers, to take action when you are given opportunity is what I want to leave you with.  While I am not easily intimidated, and it is even harder for me to admit, I will tell you for years knowing this woman I have been afraid approach her because she is successful. I wasted valuable time because I didn’t take a leap!  Well, today I did and I found wings on the way down.

Today I grew.  Today I am so grateful for God’s push and His answer in the response of kindness from this amazing woman that agreed so readily to help me along in my journey.

 

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I stumbled upon something yesterday that gave me a reason to stand and do a little happy dance. It is great for both writer and educators!

I am so excited because I am a person that loves to use writing prompts. I find that they often allow me an opportunity to find a launching pad to start a story. I love the randomness. The thousands of places that one prompt can take me. Add a visual aspect to this randomness and my mind can go crazy with possibility.

The site I found is called Visual Writing Prompts (guess how I found it – Google is so good to me!) From the home page, you can scroll through many images that also have an actual question attached to the image that can spur many fantastic stories.

Here is an example from the site (link to this prompt can be found here). It can be downloaded for the educators and writers alike. Hop on over and take a look at all the others. Don’t be limited to the prompts, use the images alone or combined whatever starts the stories in your mind.

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