Monday, July 12, 2021

Homonyms – Did You Sea/See Them Their/There?

 By Cindy K. Sproles


I love editors. They are a breed all their own. A bit OCD and leaning toward a perfectionist’s mentality, they are the eyes that make our writing spotless. Clean. Grammatically … spit-shined. Without them, many of us would be—well, let’s just say we wouldn’t look as good as we do. But if you want to have some fun with an editor, mess with a homonym and watch their eyes begin to roll.

Homonyms are, in some ways, tricky, but for the most part, it’s our lack of attention to them that causes us to look bad. Really bad. A writer’s fingers key letters faster than their brains work and it happens. The wrong word is chosen. Even Microsoft Word in all its glory can only search for misspelled words. In the case of a homonym, the words aren’t misspelled, making spell check useless. This is when due diligence is important.

I recently reviewed a critique at a conference. This is what I saw:

She called there home. Sent them notes. But it wasn’t until Meg knocked on there door to bare her indiscretions, that Jon realized her fear.

Those pesky homonyms reared their ugly heads and in this case, made an advanced writer look sloppy.

Some homonyms are easily confused, such as bear and bare, especially when portions of their meaning are similar.

Bear – an animal; give testimony (bear false witness); give birth

Bare – to support or uphold; naked; basic and simple

Then there are those homonyms that prove to be writer laziness or unwillingness to proof and correct.

For example: Their – possessive case of they; belonging to, and there – a place.

Whatever the case, homonyms are basic mechanics in writing and a vital part of the self-editing process. Practice due diligence and professionalism in your writing by watching carefully for homonyms.


Below is a short list of commonly misused homonyms. Check out

www.cooper.com/alan/homonym_list.html for a more complete listing.

there – a place OR their – relating or belonging to

capital – most important OR capitol – a center of government

discreet – confidential OR  discrete – individual

threw – to propel by hand  OR  through – from end to end

too – also OR to – toward

pare – cut down OR pair – set of two

reign – sovereign rule OR rein – horse’s steering wheel

wreak – to inflict OR reek – to smell

elude – to escape OR illude – to deceive

then – past OR than – comparison


How many of you caught the error in the first graphic. To cease the day would be to stop it or bring it to an end. The correct usage is to seize the day, or to make the most of it.

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and Stuart Miles.


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Homonyms are basic mechanics in writing and a vital part of the self-editing process. via @Cindydevoted (Click to tweet.) 



Cindy K. Sproles is proud of her Appalachian Mountain heritage and loves to share it with others. She is an author, speaker, and conference teacher, teaching across the country. Cindy is the co-founder of Christian Devotions Ministries, and she has served as a managing editor for two publishing houses. Cindy is the director of the Asheville Christian Writers Conference, held each February at the Cove, Asheville, NC. She is married and has four adult sons and two grands. 





Monday, July 5, 2021

Five Fiction Faux Pas

 By Andrea Merrell

 

This week’s post is how to guarantee your manuscript will be rejected in five easy steps.
  

Five Fiction Faux Pas

  1. It’s not necessary to hook your reader. They’ll get into the story—eventually.
  2. Using strong verbs, descriptive phrases, and lively dialogue is a waste of time. Just tell your story. It’s much easier that way.
  3. As long as your story is good, don’t worry about developing strong characters. Your readers don’t need to connect with your protagonist.
  4. Don’t worry about point of view (POV). Head-hopping is permissible and even encouraged. It’s okay to keep your readers guessing whose head they’re in.
  5. Plot is not important. Your readers are smart—they’ll “get it.” 

Now, let’s call in Faux Pas Busters to dispel those five terrible myths.

 

The Hook

Writing is a lot like fishing, and you need to choose your bait carefully. Hooking the reader is important whether you’re writing a novel or a simple devotion. Make your reader want to read on. You have a very short window of opportunity to capture someone’s attention, especially when they’re reading online. A hook is a bit of a teaser. If you’re not sure what makes a great hook, go back and reread the first paragraph of your favorite books.

 

Show—Don’t Tell

Allow the reader to experience your story. Use all five senses. Help them see your scene as it plays out in their mind. Are there sounds causing them anxiety or fear? What does it smell like?  Is the meal described in such a way they can almost taste it?  Do objects seem so real they could touch them? Don’t just relate the facts. Help your readers connect with your characters and get lost in your plot. Pull on your readers’ emotions. They may not remember exactly what they read, but they will remember how you made them feel.

 

Characterization

Introduce your characters in such a way that the reader will immediately connect with them. Let the reader know something important right away (i.e. name, appearance, age, occupation, goals, desires). Show their strengths and weaknesses. Make them down to earth and relatable. If your readers don’t like your characters, chances are they won’t like your story.

 

POV (Point of View)

In each scene, make sure you stay in the main character’s POV. If you are in Michelle’s POV, she can’t possibly know what Steven is thinking or what his intentions are. Picture Michelle with a camera on her head. Her only reality is what she can see through the lens of that camera. Be careful not to head-hop, making your readers constantly go back and reread to find out whose head they’re in.

 

Plot

Do you have a plot? What does your protagonist want? How does your protagonist get from point A to point B? Create tension throughout your manuscript, keeping the goal just out of reach. You don’t want the reader to finish your story and say, “Okay, so what was the point?”

 


Writing is a continuous learning process. There are many other elements to crafting a good story, but these are five of the key elements. If you’re struggling in any of these areas, here are a few suggestions:

  • Find a good critique partner who can steer you in the right direction.
  • Attend writers’ conferences and take classes that will help you hone your craft.
  • Search for online classes.
  • Subscribe to blogs that will help you with both writing and self-editing.
  • Read, read, read. Writers are readers. Learn all you can from other writers.
  • Write, write, write. The best way to learn is by doing.

 

What other suggestions do you have? We would love to hear from you.


 Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

(Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash)


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How to guarantee your manuscript will be rejected in five easy steps. via @AndreaMerrell (Click to tweet.)

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, June 28, 2021

Five Reasons to Write Articles and Devotions

 By Lori Hatcher

Many writers dream of writing a book. They attend writers' conferences where book publication is exalted as the pinnacle of writing accomplishment. They watch others accept awards, attend book signings, and garner 5-star reviews, and they long to share in the joy.

If you’re a writer who hopes to see your name on a book cover one day, I’d like to share five reasons you should consider writing articles or devotions first.

1. Writing articles or devotions can serve as your writing apprenticeship.

Writing isn't something we perfect overnight. It takes hard work and dedication. Geoff Colvin's research for Talent Is Overrated refers to the ten-year rule which states that talented performers don't become great “without at least ten years of very hard preparation.” He adds, “. . . authors produce their greatest work only after twenty or more years of devoted effort.” Article and devotion writing can help you learn the craft and understand the business.

2. Writing articles or devotions proves you can start and complete a writing project.

New (and seasoned) writers often grow discouraged in the long haul of writing a book. Articles and devotions, however, take much less time to write and publish. You get feedback fairly quickly, both from editors and readers, and experience the joy of publication.

3. Writing articles or devotions helps you gain publishing credits.

These are a crucial part of your CV and writing resume, and a huge part of a book proposal. Publishers and editors want to see that you have a long publishing history and that others in the business value your work.

4. Articles and devotions help you find your audience and gain credibility in the marketplace.

A series of articles or devotions can help connect you with the readers who might one day buy your book. If you become known as “the woman who writes on grief,” or "the guy who tackles hard spiritual subjects,” this audience recognition can pave the way for an audience following. Additionally, the more articles you publish, the more seriously other publishing professionals (think agents, editors, and publishers) will take you and your writing.

5. Writing articles and devotions develops skills that carry over into book publishing.

As you write articles and devotions for online and print projects, you learn to write to a specific length, focus, tone, and audience. You gain insight into how to handle professional editing and demonstrate that you can do a rewrite if necessary. These are invaluable skills to bring into the book publishing process.

If you have a dream to one day write and publish a book, you don't have to write articles or devotions first, but it's an excellent way to break into publishing.


(Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and Chaiwat.)


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If you have a dream to one day write and publish a book, writing articles and devotions is a great way to start. via @LoriHatcher2 (Click to tweet.)



Lori Hatcher loves God even more than she loves chocolate—and that’s a lot. Since He saved her at age 18, she’s been on a relentless journey to know and love Him more. Her deepest desire is for others to join her on the journey. As an author, writing instructor, blogger, and women’s ministry speaker, she writes for Our Daily Bread, Guideposts, Revive Our Hearts, and Crosswalk.com. She’s written three devotional books (soon to be five), including Refresh Your Faith, Uncommon Devotions from Every Book of the Bible, and Hungry for God…Starving for Time, Five-Minute Devotions for Busy Women. Connect with her at www.LoriHatcher.com or on FacebookTwitter (@lorihatcher2) or Pinterest (Hungry for God).

 

Monday, June 21, 2021

Writer, Let’s Learn to Polish the Pronouns

 By Crystal Bowman

Creating words pictures can be hard work. As writers, we want to create visuals and stimulate the senses of our readers. We want our writing to shine. But it’s those little in between words that can really challenge our writing. I’m talking about pronouns. They do not add creativity or emotion to our writing. They do not enhance the suspense of a plot. They simply give us an alternative to using a person’s name too many times. At first, they seem pretty innocent. But when you begin using them in your stories, they can mess with you. To cover the entire spectrum of pronouns would take numerous blog posts, so let’s just look at a few that tend to trip up writers.

Singular Subject/Singular Pronoun

The previous rule was fairly simple—always use a singular pronoun with a singular subject.

Example: When my mom shops at the market, she can buy                            fresh produce.  

Easy-peasy. But when we don’t know the gender of the subject, it gets more complicated.

Example:  When a person shops at the market, he or she can                        buy fresh produce.
              
Or:  When a person shops the market, it can buy fresh                               produce.   

Since these gender-neutral options are awkward, the sixteenth edition of The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS, 2010) introduced using they, them, and their as singular pronouns. I almost went into a period of mourning—but I am getting used to it. I agree it’s better than referring to a person as it, and the whole he or she thing is a bit weird.

              Examples: When your child is talking to you, they want you to listen.
             
                    Go for a walk with a friend and tell them you enjoy their company.                   

Since this decision was met with opposition, the position of CMOS is that using they, them, and their as  singular, gender-neutral pronouns is acceptable, but professional writers may want to explore other options such as changing the subject to plural when possible.  

              Example: When children are talking to you, they want you                          to listen.

               

Personal Pronouns

He, She, I—These are singular personal pronouns when used as the subject. When used as the direct object, they become him, her, and me.  Example: She threw the ball to me. I called her on the phone. These are pretty much no-brainers, but when the subjects or direct objects are compound, the grammar police show up! Brad and I are going on a date (correct). The night was fun for Brad and I. (wrong). You would not say: The night was fun for I. So when it’s a compound direct object use me. The night was fun for Brad and me (correct).

 

Possessive Pronouns

My, mine, your, yours, his, her, hers, their, theirs, its, our, whose are used to show that something belongs to an antecedent. These are pretty straightforward, but a common mistake is made with the word its. Its is a singular possessive pronoun and needs no apostrophe (like his or hers).  It’s is the contraction of it is and always uses an apostrophe.

              Example: It’s best to put trash in its place.  

Relative Pronouns

Relative pronouns are used to connect relative clauses to independent clauses, sometime offering more information. Relative pronouns include thatwhatwhichwho, and whom. Typically, who refers to people, and which and that refer to animals or things.

              Example: The people who live in the United States are Americans.
                              The dog that was lost was found by a neighbor.
   

A common confusion with writers is when to use who vs whomWho is a subject pronoun and whom is a direct object pronoun.

              Example: Who is going to the conference next week?
                                 To whom are you sending those letters?

Deity Pronouns

And the big question is: Do we capitalize pronouns referring to God? Some believe it shows reverence for God, while other believe our rules of English deem it unnecessary. Most publishers leave it up to the author to decide. The key is to be consistent. If you prefer to capitalize deity pronouns, then any Scripture references you use should be from a version that also capitalizes the pronouns for God such as the New King James Version. If you do not capitalize deity pronouns, then use versions such as the New International Version or New Living Translation (there are many more).

The Bottom Line

Pronouns may be small words, but they can make a big difference in your writing, so professional writers need to learn how to use them correctly. Pronouns will never go away, so keep polishing those little in-between words to make your writing shine.  

   

(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and Stuart Miles.)

 

 

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Pronouns may be small words, but they can make a big difference in your writing. Learn how to use them correctly. (Click to tweet.)

 

Crystal Bowman is a former preschool teacher and a bestselling, award-winning author. She has written more than 100 books for children and four nonfiction books for women. She is the creator and co-author of Our Daily Bread for Kids, M is for Manger, and I love You to the Stars—When Grandma Forgets, Love Remembers. She is also a speaker, freelance editor, and Mentor for MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers). More than 2 million copies of her books have sold internationally, and her books have been translated into more than a dozen languages. She is a regular contributor to Clubhouse Jr. Magazine, and writes lyrics for children’s piano music. She and her husband enjoy spending time with their grown children and seven huggable grandkids.

www.crystalbowman.com

 

Monday, June 7, 2021

Writer, Don't Listen to the Lies

By Andrea Merrell

I will always remember the day I heard a multi-published, award-winning, best-selling author say, “Even with all the books I’ve written and all my success (she said using finger quotes), sometimes I still feel like a fraud.

Have you ever had that thought? I have, many times.

At my very first writers’ conference, waves of insecurity washed over me until I feared I would drown. Then I heard, Look at all these people. They’re all somebodies. You’re the biggest nobody here. You should just pack up and go home. You don’t belong here. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t silence that negative voice in my head.

Fast forward thirteen years. My resume now consists of three published books, hundreds of devotions and blog posts, contributions to over a dozen anthologies, and numerous published articles. I’ve taught classes at conferences from Kentucky, to North Carolina, to New Mexico. I’ve served as a general editor for Lighthouse Publishing and Iron Stream Media, as well as a professional freelance editor.

Why am I telling you all this? Certainly not to “toot my own horn.” It’s because at times, even with all my success (note the finger quotes), I still feel like a fraud.

I can vividly remember sitting in a room filled with other writers—some seasoned and some hopeful—at the end of a conference. The keynote’s objective was to encourage and strengthen us for the journey ahead. “God has a plan for you,” he said. “A purpose for your writing that is uniquely yours. If you’re faithful to your calling, He will use your words in ways you could never imagine.”

I sat there, looking around, hearing the lie that those words applied to everyone in the room—except me. I listened to the lie and went home discouraged and defeated.

I share this to remind you that when the Lord places a calling on your life—no matter what it might be—the Enemy will always try to derail you. He will whisper lies that tell you, you’re not good enough and never will be. You’ll never make it. You don’t have what it takes. You might as well go ahead and quit. There’s no room in this industry for you anyway.

They say anything good is worth fighting for. As writers, we need to learn to persevere. Obstacles and setbacks will happen. Rejection and criticism come with the package. To succeed and keep moving forward, we must develop that tough rhino skin and let things bounce off. We must keep learning. Keep growing. Keep moving forward. Most of all, we must keep trusting the Lord and allow Him to guide us on our journey and open the doors only He can open.

One writer says sometimes we want something because it looks good in someone else’s life. We should never look around with envy or compare our gifts with others. Our eyes and heart should always remain focused on the Lord.

If God has called you to write, be faithful to that calling. You are not a fraud, my friend, you are a writer.

 

Photos by sydney Rae and Jackson Simmer on Unsplash


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If God has called you to write, be faithful to that calling. You are not a fraud, my friend, you are a writer. via @AndreaMerrell (Click to tweet.)