Monday, October 26, 2015

How Teachable Are You?

By Andrea Merrell

No matter what you do in life, it’s important to be teachable. Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines teachable as: capable of being taught; apt and willing to learn. Looking further into the word apt, it means: ready, likely, inclined, well-suited, unusually qualified, keenly intelligent and responsive.

Whether you’re learning a new job, perfecting your craft, or trying to improve at your favorite hobby, you must be open and willing to embrace new thoughts, ideas, and methods to help you move forward.

This is especially true for writers. As the writing and publishing industry evolves and changes rapidly, we must keep up or be left in the dust. The Bible talks about those who are always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth (2 Timothy 3:7-8 NKJV). We can actually apply that Scripture to every area of life.

As I prepared for my first writers’ conference, I went to a local critique group ready to publish the next best seller. My manuscript was 14-point Comic Sans, single-spaced, and full of bold words in all caps. It contained lots of exclamation points and was thoroughly sprinkled with clichés. I had even designed the front and back cover. That extra gesture was meant to put me over the top. Where it put me was back to square one (clichés intended).

The group lovingly and patiently explained proper formatting, along with many other important tips. Embarrassing? Absolutely, but I would have been more embarrassed if I had attended the conference without the benefit of someone’s guidance. My mistakes didn’t mean my words or effort had no merit. They simply meant I had a lot to learn. I could have walked away from that experience hurt, frustrated, and ready to quit before I even got started. Even though it was hard to accept and process all the things I had done wrong, I will be forever grateful to those who pointed me in the right direction.

We all have to begin somewhere. Then comes the decision to put forth the time, effort, and money to gain the necessary knowledge and skills. There will always be those who know more and have accomplished more. The important thing to remember is not to envy those people, but learn from them—their successes and their failures.

We all need teachers, instructors, and mentors. For writers, learning is a lifelong journey. It’s a process, not an event. It takes time to learn the basics and master the skills we need to make our words sing. We will go through peaks and valleys—times when the words come so fast we can hardly keep up, and times when we search for even one coherent thought. That’s when we keep pressing forward, putting pen to paper or fingers to the keyboard. Here are a few ideas to keep you on the learning track.

Critique Groups

Be an active part of a local critique group. If one is not available in your area, maybe it’s time to start one. There are also groups available online. Sometimes  we have blind spots when it comes to our own writing, so getting honest feedback from others—even those less experienced than us—will help tremendously. Don’t be afraid of correction and constructive criticism. It will ultimately make you a better writer.

Writers’ Conferences
Plan to attend at least one writer’s conference—or even a local workshop—each year. This will not only help you learn new techniques to improve your writing, it will help you build a network with others in the industry. Conferences can be expensive, so start a “conference fund” and save throughout the year. Scholarships are also available for many conferences.

Helpful Blogs
Subscribe to blogs specifically geared toward writers. These helpful sites are full of information to keep you inspired and motivated. There are many, many good ones and you can do a Google search to find them. Here are a few of my favorites:

Do you have other blogs or websites you would recommend? We would love to hear your suggestions about what has been most helpful for you.

(Photos courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.)


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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Technically Speaking - A Few Words on Dialogue

by Alycia W. Morales
@AlyciaMorales

There is an art to writing dialogue. I'm not sure many people who are beginning writers know that, as I see a lot of "technical" dialogue when I'm editing. So, here are a few things beginning writers should focus on when crafting banter between their characters.

1. People don't really talk in perfect sentences. Sometimes when we speak, we leave out parts of sentences to emphasize a point or because we're in a stressful or dangerous situation and we need to just get our words out. So when you write, keep this in mind.

How to learn to write it: Listen really closely to some conversations. While you're standing in the grocery line. While you're enjoying your java at the coffee shop. Waiting for a movie. (See what I did there?) Eating Thanksgiving dinner with your family. (See? I did it again.) Then practice writing dialogue between your characters and try to make it sound like people do when they speak.

2. People talk with contractions. We don't say "Do Not." We say "Don't." Unless we're making a point to our children. Then we may say something like, "Do not touch that gun." But if our kids know not to touch the firearms, we can casually say, "Don't touch the guns until we tell you it's okay." Like if we're at the shooting range.

How to learn to write it: Go back through your novel and look through your dialogue (or your non-fiction book, because this applies there too, as you need to keep the tone conversational so you don't offend someone with a directive tone). Any time you find two words that should be a contraction, make them into a contraction. I bet you'll be surprised at how many you find.

3. Most people don't speak with a monotone. Notice I said most. My high school biology teacher was an exception to the rule. Be sure your characters don't, either.

How to learn to write it: Make sure your dialogue isn't "flat." Be sure you're changing your sentence structure just like you would when you're writing action scenarios or setting. And...

4. Add dialogue beats. Dialogue tags are necessary in order for the reader to know who's speaking, but these can become redundant if that's all you're using. Adding dialogue beats (the character's action) adds a new dynamic to your dialogue. "You won't believe what happened to me..." Jane sneezed and wiped her nose with the back of her hand. "Yesterday, I was in a commercial shoot with the white horse that was in The Lord of the Rings trilogy."

How to learn to write it: Find natural breaks in your characters' dialogue. Which of the five senses would they be using in this place? Would they look up or down or away due to an emotion they're experiencing (don't tell me the emotion, though)? Would they savor the flavor of the cheesecake they've craved for the last month as they've fasted eating desserts? Would they pull the hand-knit blanket closer and breathe in their spouse's scent? Put that action in the midst of your dialogue. Or before it. Or after it. Wherever it would naturally occur.

These are just a few of the dynamics of dialogue. But they're a good start to overcoming technical speaking.

Tweetable:

Technically Speaking - Dialogue Advice via @AlyciaMorales {Click to Tweet}

Does your dialogue fall flat? How to fix it: {Click to Tweet}

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A Brief Announcement Thanks to Spam

To our faithful followers and subscribers, especially those who comment (we do love you!):

Lately, The Write Editing has been hit with a larger-than-usual amount of SPAM.

This has happened despite our best attempts at applying filters and crossing our fingers.

As a result, we wanted to let you know that we are going to turn on that little comment thingy that requires comment leavers to enter digits or letters or a combination of both in order to inform us that you are not a robot or a person who likes to tell us how great our posts are and how much you love the way we write words because you find this post useful so you can leave your spammy link to your website/landing page.

We apologize in advance for the extra few seconds it will take for those of you who do truly love us and our posts to leave a comment. But we do hope you'll continue to bless us with your presence and comments. And, we hope to spare you from having to read someone else's spammy comment.

You truly would not believe the whacked out poem we received as a comment on Andrea's post this week. Seriously, it was almost Halloween scary! I almost left it up just so everyone could see how much this comment leaver must have been tripping when she wrote it. Whew!

With that in mind, if you are a robot/spammer/troller, please feel free to skip right over our blog. We love our readers and would prefer you not pester them with your crazy comments written in some form of grammar not taught in American schools. Thank you very much!

Sincerely,
Alycia & Andrea

PS ~ Watch the blog as we get closer to the end of 2015. We are discussing some exciting additions for 2016! We can't wait to share them with you!

Monday, October 5, 2015

What Are You Waiting For?

By Andrea Merrell

In life, it seems we’re always waiting for something. It might be a paycheck, a doctor’s report, or the birth of a long-awaited child. We wait in the dentist’s office. We wait in line at the grocery store. Sometimes we rush, rush, rush and then … nothing. That’s what I call hurry up and wait.

As a writer, what are you waiting for? Have you sent out dozens of queries? Have you submitted your work to a contest, agent, or publisher? Maybe you’ve sent your manuscript to an online critique group, and you are anxiously awaiting a response.

We all know writing is a process, not an event. When you feel called to put words on paper and share them with the world, you do whatever it takes to follow your passion and fulfill your destiny. But sometimes we drag our feet instead of doing what we know we should. Whether you are a newbie or a seasoned author, there are steps we need to take in order to see our goals and dreams come to fruition. Let’s look at a few.

Starting is the Hard Part
You love words. You have great ideas. You have stories rolling around in your head. You talk about writing. But have you actually written anything? I’ve talked to people who admit they have a desire to write, but they’re afraid—afraid they don’t have what it takes. Afraid their words will have no merit. My advice to them is: just do it. Pour your heart out on paper, and then go back and see what you have to work with. You’ll never get anywhere with a blank page.

Then Comes the Rewriting
Once you get your words on paper, then comes the rewriting. This might seem like a never-ending process, but it comes with the territory. One thing is certain: the more you write, the better writer you will become.

Now What?
Now you have something to work with and it’s time to get feedback. There are a number of ways to do this. Writing buddies, critique groups, and professional editors. The Bible says there is “safety in a multitude of counselors” and “two are better than one.” It’s amazing how much you can learn, grow, and polish your words when you get positive, constructive suggestions from others.

Next Steps
It’s time to try and find the right home for your work. It might be a blog, magazine, or a traditional publisher. Maybe you feel the need to find an agent. Whatever you decide to do will take time, effort, and commitment.

Keep It Going
Maybe there are other things you’ve been planning to do but haven’t found the time or the willpower to follow through. Perhaps you need to do one or more of the following:
  • Start a blog.
  • Give your blog/website a makeover.
  • Make a commitment to do regular blog posts.
  • Be more active on social media.
  • Join a local or online critique group.
  • Attend a certain writers’ conference.
  • Read books that will help you polish your skills.
  • Mentor someone who is just getting started.

Ecclesiastes 11:4, 6 (TLB) says, If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done … Keep on sowing your seed, for you never know which will grow—perhaps it all will. 

Whatever you have in your heart … whatever the Lord is nudging you to do … what are you waiting for? Don’t procrastinate. Begin today to follow your dream.

Is there something special you have been waiting to do? We would love to hear from you.


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