Monday, November 12, 2018

Writing for Children—A Noble Calling


By Michelle Medlock Adams @INwritergirl

When I was in first grade, Mrs. True made an announcement that would forever change my life.“We’re having a poetry contest this week,” she said, “so use today and tomorrow to come up with your best poem.”

We had just studied the various types of poems, and I decided I really liked the ones that rhymed. In fact, I had checked out every book of rhyming poetry I could find from our school library, and I’d read them all—twice.

As my classmates wrote about their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, I carefully crafted the words to my poem: “I Love Penny.” Penny was my 7-year-old wiener dog and my best friend in the whole world.

My poem went a little something like this: “Penny is my very best friend. I’ll love her to the very end. She’s a very special wiener dog. I love her though she smells like a hog…”

Okay, so I wasn’t exactly a first-grade Dr. Seuss, but my poem was good enough to earn first prize. (I guess the other first-grade poets must’ve been really bad.) At any rate, I won a few sparkly pencils and the honor of going first in the lunch line that afternoon. Mrs. True also displayed my poem in the front of the room for all to see. I stared at my winning poem all afternoon, and in my mind, I was already crafting a follow-up rhyme.

That’s the day I became a writer. I wanted to write all the time, and so I did. I wrote during recess while other kids played tag and climbed on the monkey bars. I completely fell in love with words.

I wrote a play in fifth grade that we performed for all of the fifth grade classes. I wrote short stories in junior high for a literary magazine. And I wrote many articles for my high school newspaper before majoring in journalism at Indiana University.

Though I began my career writing news stories for a daily paper, my career path took an unexpected turn when we moved to Texas so I could write features and personality profiles for an international ministry magazine. After a little while, the editor came to me and said, “You have kids, right?”

“Yes,” I answered.

“Great, you can write some kids' stories for our children’s outreach.”

I remember thinking, Just because I have kids doesn’t mean I know how to write for themBut I was a journalist, so I began researching the world of writing for children, and I once again fell in love. Head over heels. That was more than twenty years ago, and I’ve been lovesick ever since. 

Creating stories for children—stories that teach, entertain, encourage and inspire—is a noble calling. It’s a calling I don’t take for granted, and neither should you.

No matter how you fell in love with writing for children, I’m just happy you did. Let me encourage you to stay the course. Never think your work or your words are less important or less powerful simply because they are for kids. Actually, they are more important and more powerful because they are for kids.
You’re a part of a very special club—a society of writers who woo children to fall in love with words and continue that love affair their whole lives through. 

You’re the writer who transports children to far-off lands and make-believe worlds. You’re the writer who causes children to dream a little bigger, laugh a little harder, feel a little deeper, and care a little more. You’re a children’s writer, crafting copy on the very hearts of your readers, so do it well, and do it with enthusiasm.

What do you love most about writing for children? We would love to hear from you.


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Creating stories for children—stories that teach, entertain, encourage and inspire—is a noble calling. via@INwritergirl (Click to tweet.)

Michelle Medlock Adams is an inspirational speaker, award-winning journalist and best-selling author of more than 90 books, earning top honors from the Associated Press, the Society of Professional Journalists and the Hoosier State Press Association. Since graduating with a journalism degree from Indiana University, Michelle has written more than 1,500 articles for newspapers, magazines and websites; acted as a stringer for the Associated Press; written for a worldwide ministry; helped pen a New York Times Bestseller; served as a TV host for TBN’s “Joy in Our Town” show; and blogged for Guideposts.


Today, she is President of Platinum Literary Services—a premier full-service literary firm—and she serves as chairman of the board for Serious Writer Inc. and teaches courses for Serious Writer Academy.  She is also a weekly columnist for a Midwestern newspaper and serves as assistant acquisitions editor for Little Lamb Books.

Michelle is married to her high school sweetheart, Jeff, and they have two grown daughters, Abby and Allyson, two sons-in-law, and one grandson, as well as a miniature dachshund, a rescue Shepherd/Collie mix, and two cats. When not writing or teaching, Michelle enjoys bass fishing and cheering on the Indiana University Basketball team and the Chicago Cubbies.





Monday, November 5, 2018

Tricky and Confusing Words Part Two

By Andrea Merrell

In my last post, we looked at many tricky and confusing words that most writers wrestle with. This week, let’s look at a few more:

Advice vs. Advise
  • Advice is a noun that means a recommendation. (Jim gave Charlie some great advice.)
  • Advise is a verb that denotes the act of giving a recommendation. (Charlie was glad that Jim was able to advise him.)

Peak, Peek, Pique
  • Peak means the top of a mountain. (Shelly can see the peak of Grandfather Mountain from her front porch.)
  • Peek means to take a quick glimpse. (Robin took a peek out the window to see who was at the door.)
  • Pique means to irritate or stimulate. (Mandy was piqued by the clerk’s rude behavior. The fashionable window display was meant to pique the interest of customers.)

Compliment vs. Complement
  • Compliment means to praise. (Rusty was known for giving sincere compliments.)
  • Complement means the amount, quantity, or something that completes or brings to perfection. (The violin music was the perfect complement to the exquisite meal. The hotel has a perfect complement of staff at the moment.)

Desert vs. Dessert
  • Desert is a desolate place (noun) or to abandon (verb). (Take plenty of water on your trip to the desert. If I go to the party with you, please don’t desert me.)
  • Dessert means our favorite sugary treat. (We have chocolate cake for dessert.)

Elicit vs. Illicit
  • Elicit means to evoke or cause. (A bad review will elicit a negative response.)
  • Illicit means illegal or something that is taboo. (The police arrested the man for the sale of illicit drugs.)

Brake vs. Break
  • Brake means a device for slowing or stopping a vehicle (noun). (Carrie slammed her foot on the brake.) As a verb it means to decelerate or stop. (You need to brake when approaching a traffic light.)
  • Break means to interrupt or separate into pieces (verb). (The meeting will now break for ten minutes. Casey decided to break the candy in half and share with her sister.) As a noun it means a pause or interruption. (The break lasted longer than we expected. After working all day, it was time to take a break.)

So, Sow, Sew
  • So means to a great extent (adverb). (It happened so fast I could hardly take it in.) As a conjunction, it means therefore or in order that. (They whispered so they wouldn’t disturb anyone in the workshop.)
  • Sow means to scatter or plant. (The farmer has a lot of seeds to sow.)
  • Sew means to create or repair with a needle and thread. (We will have to sew the seams together.)

Altar vs. Alter
  • Altar means a kneeling rail in a Christian church where people go to pray or the table used for communion. (The pastor invited people to come to the altar for prayer.)
  • Alter means to change or modify. (We may have to alter our plans if it’s going to rain.)

Lose vs. Loose
  • Lose means to suffer a loss. (Be sure not too lose your car keys.)
  • Loose means something is not tight. (Amanda wore loose-fitting clothes for her workout.)

Course vs. Coarse
  • Course means a direction or route (noun.) (Let’s change our course and head north.) As a verb it means to move without obstruction. (Tears coursed down Cynthia’s cheeks.)
  • Coarse means rough in texture or crude. (The fabric is very coarse. Coarse language has become acceptable in most television programs.)
Bare vs. Bear
  • Bare mean naked, uncovered, or simple. (The two-year-old was bare from the waist up. Those are the bare facts.)
  • Bear means an animal. (Watch out for bears when you hike in the mountains.
Here vs. Hear

  • Here means in this particular spot. (Put the package right here.)
  • Hear means to listen. (Did you hear what I said earlier?)
Then vs. Than
  • Then indicates time or means next. (The meeting is at 4:00 p.m. I will be there then. Carol entered the contest, then won first place.)
  • Than is used for comparison. (I'd rather go to Pennsylvania than New York.)
Passed vs. Past
  • Passed is the past tense of pass. (Mandy passed me on her way to the library.)
  • Past means the time before the present. (It's time to stop living in the past. Cheryl has been working part-time for the past few months. 
  • Note: Past can be used as an adjective, preposition, noun, or adverb. Be sure to use it correctly. Example: Rick can't go past the bakery without going in.)

Some of these may seem simple, but as an editor, I see these common mistakes quite often. The best rule of thumb is: when in doubt ... look it up.

Can you add to the list? What words do you struggle with? We would love to hear from you.

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

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Monday, October 22, 2018

Tricky and Confusing Words Part One


By Andrea Merrell

It has been said that the English language is more confusing than any other. One reason is because we have so many different words to describe the same feeling or emotion. Example: It was awesome, stupendous, wonderful, incredible, magnificent …

Get the idea?

Then we have terms like driving on the parkway and parking on the driveway. No wonder those from other cultures have a hard time understanding us.

There are many, many words that sound alike but are spelled differently and have vastly different meanings. As writers, we should get a handle on as many of these words as possible as we share our stories with the world. These words have incited numerous debates over the decades and caused many editors to go crazy with the proverbial red pen. 

Let’s look at a few of these pesky words.

Their, There, They’re

  • Their is a possessive pronoun (Bob and Susie wanted their ice cream in a waffle cone.)
  • There is a place or location (The ice cream shop was right there on the corner.)
  • They’re is a contraction for they are. (They’re going for ice cream right after lunch.)

Its vs. It’s

  • Its is a possessive pronoun. (The train was on its way to the station.)
  • It’s is a contraction for it is or it has. (It’s a good thing Meg didn’t miss the train. It's been a long wait.)

To, Too, Two

  • To means to go toward or in the direction of. (Let’s go to the circus.)
  • Too means also or to an extensive degree. (Billy wants to go to the circus too.) *
  • Two is the number after one. (Emily purchased two tickets to the circus.)

*Notice there is no comma before too at the end of the sentence. This is another common mistake.


Your vs. You’re

  • Your is a possessive pronoun. (Cindy was thrilled to be your keynote speaker.)
  • You’re is a contraction for you are. (You’re welcome to be our next keynote.)

Whose vs. Who’s
  • Whose is the possessive of who. (Whose laptop was left in the conference room?)
  • Who’s is the contraction of who is. (Who’s going to try and find the owner of the laptop?)

Lie vs. Lay
  • Lie means to tell a falsehood or to recline. (Nate told his sister a lie. I think I might lie down for a while ... not lay down.)
  • Lay mean to put something down. (Just lay the groceries on the counter.)

Cite, Site, Sight
  • Cite means to quote from or to subpoena. (Henry was asked to cite the words from Shakespeare.)
  • Site is a position or location. (They chose a great site for the conference,)
  • Sight means vision or the ability to see. (With her new glasses, Sue has excellent sight.)
Wave vs. Waive
  • Wave means to gesture (verb) or water curling and breaking on the shore (noun). (Don't forget to wave when you go by. The surfboard rode high on the crest of the wave.)
  • Waive means to refrain from or disregard. (The criminal waived his right to a trial.)

Scared vs. Scarred
  • Scared means fearful or frightened. (Elizabeth is scared of snakes.)
  • Scarred means marked with scars. (The accident left Russell scarred for life.)
Steak vs. Stake
  • Steak is a cut of meat. (Maggie likes her steak medium rare.)
  • Stake is a pole. (Carson drove the stake in the ground.)

Pair, Pare, Pear
  • Pair means two of something. (That's a lovely pair of gloves.)
  • Pare means to peel or remove. (Judy needs to pare the cucumbers for the salad.)
  • Pear is a type of fruit. (My husband loves pears.)

Lose vs. Loose
  • Lose means to misplace. It it also the opposite of win. (Did Sara lose her car keys? No one likes to lose.)
  • Loose is the opposite of tight. (The hinges on the door are loose.)

Accept vs. Except
  • Accept means to agree. (Will you accept the final decision?)
  • Except means but or other than. (Everything in the room looks great except the green chair.)

Was this helpful? Next time we'll look at more tricky and confusing words.  

Are there words you struggle with in your own writing? We would love to hear from you.

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

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Monday, October 8, 2018

Simplifying Writer Research


Be sure to check out DiAnn's new release, Burden of Proof.

By DiAnn Mills

Writing and research go hand in hand. Every topic in a novel needs an element of research. If the manuscript isn’t accurate, the reader will recognize the flaw and toss our work aside. If a writer is spot-on, she will be rewarded with good reviews and more readers. 

Sort of a no-brainer for us writers.

How do we conduct the process effectively and efficiently?

Focus: List what is needed for the writing project in chronological order. This includes plot, culture, setting, dialogue, and characterization.

Develop: What specialty people need to be contacted to ensure reliable information? Determine if an email or phone contact is sufficient or if they can accommodate a face-to-face meeting.

Map: Where does the writer need to visit for experience and sensory perception? Can the setting be visited at the same time of year as the story?

The following questions and suggestions will help the writer focus, develop, and map out a strategic plan and enhance your story for readers.



  • Visit the area’s chamber of commerce.
  • Conduct a web search of the area. Some apps will help with this: Google Maps, Google Earth, Weather Bug, or travel sites that can be found via apps or websites.
  • Take or download more pictures than will ever be needed.
  • Interview people living in the area. For a historical setting, this also means reading diaries and journals. How has history affected the community?
  • Listen to how local people talk. Do they use a distinct vocabulary?
  • What are the community’s values and expectations for life and each other?
  • What is their diet? How much of their food supply is local?
  • How is the area governed?
  • What are the local hotels? Restaurants? What’s featured on the menus? Any daily specials
  • What are the sources of entertainment?
  • How do the residents celebrate holidays?
  • Does the community have special festivals?
  • How does the area experience the seasons, and what are average temperatures?
  • What are the medical concerns? What kind of medical care is available?
  • In what kinds of homes do they live?
  • Where do they shop?
  • How do the people dress?
  • Do the arts play a vital role in the community?
  • How do the people view education, sports teams, and favorite colleges?How do they earn a living?

Other Considerations
  • If the area is near a national or state park, look for research material in the visitor's section.
  • Discover the wildlife and birds of the region.
  • Locate a map of the area.
  • Visit the local library. View newspaper archives.
  • Look for documentaries on the area.
  • Visit themed or local museums.
When a writer is cognizant of what is needed to make a manuscript zip with authenticity, readers clamor for more.

How do you conduct writing research?

(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net, Stuart Miles, and Master Isolated Images.)

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DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She is a storyteller and creates action-packed, suspense-filled novels to thrill readers. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests.

DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She is co-director of The Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference and The Mountainside Marketing Conference with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion of helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. 
Connect with DiAnn here: www.diannmills.com



Monday, October 1, 2018

Time to Slay the Giants


By Andrea Merrell

Giants come in all shapes and sizes. They’re always lurking in the shadows, tangible or intangible. Some are more obvious than others.

Who and what are these giants? Do they have a name? Pastor and author Bob Gass says:

Giants can be internal or external, real or imagined, physical or emotional. A giant could be an attitude, a habit, a belief, a philosophy, or a memory. It could be a person who stands between you and God, between who you are and who God wants you to be, between where you are and where God wants you to go, between what you believe and what God wants you to believe. Giants have one goal: to stop your progress and prevent you from reaching your destiny.

The giants in our lives are out to stop us in our tracks. To intimidate us and cause us to retreat in fear. But just like David, God sees us as giant-killers. Our “stone” is His Word, which can turn any negative into a positive.

When conflict arises—and it most certainly will—we can see it as a growth opportunity, pull out our stone, and slay the giant standing in our way. Gass also says, “giant-killers see opportunity in opposition, potential in problems, and victory in the shadow of defeat.”

What is it that’s keeping you from reaching your God-given destiny? What giants are standing in the way of your writing goals and dreams? Once you define them, face them boldly with God’s Word and cast that stone.

Writer, it’s time to slay the giants.

(Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net, Sira Anamwong, and Pazham.)


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Monday, September 17, 2018

Use Speaker Tags and Beats Correctly


By Andrea Merrell

Dialogue can make or break a story—too much, too little, too stilted, or too corny.
 
When we read, we want to see the characters interacting with each other. We want to know what’s going on in the scene and/or what the POV character is thinking or feeling. The communication should be real and flow in such a way that we get pulled into the story.

Using speaker tags and beats correctly will enhance your dialogue. Let’s look at the difference.

Speaker Tags
A speaker tag shows the speaker’s name and a speech-related verb (said, asked, shouted). This is generally the best way to show which of your characters is speaking, but sometimes we tend to overuse tags. They’re not necessary each time someone speaks, especially in a long section of dialogue. Notice that tags require a comma, not a period.

Example: 
“That’s a lovely dress you’re wearing,” Wendy said.

“Thank you so much,” Beverly replied.

“Where did you get it?” Wendy asked.

“It came from Dillard’s,” Beverly answered.

“Oh, that’s my favorite department store,” Wendy said.

Do you see how annoying—and boring—that is? Let’s try it again adding beats.

Speaker Beats
A speaker beat is the action that accompanies what the speaker is saying. It also indicates to the reader who is doing the speaking.

Example: 
“That’s a lovely dress you’re wearing,” Wendy said, wishing she had worn something besides jeans to the party.

Beverly’s face lit up. “Thank you so much.”

“Where did you get it?” Wendy hoped she wasn’t being too forward.

“It came from Dillard’s.”
                    
“Oh, that’s my favorite department store.”

“Mine too.” Beverly lowered her voice to a whisper. “Especially when they’re having a big sale. I got this for only twenty dollars."

Both girls laughed and went to the party arm in arm.

Just like speaker tags, don’t overuse beats. Too many will interrupt the flow of dialogue. They’re not necessary every time, but they work well to help set the scene when used correctly. You can use them at the beginning of the sentence or the end. Mix it up.

Side Note: This is a common error when using speaker tags: “That’s a pretty scrawny dog,” Jim laughed. Since Jim can’t laugh that comment, the proper way would be: “That’s a pretty scrawny dog.” Jim laughed. This now becomes a speaker beat instead of a tag.

What can you add about using speaker tags and beats? We would love to hear from you.

(Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and Master Isolated Images.)

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Monday, September 10, 2018

Four Tips to Distract Your Internal Editor


by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

I’ve spoken with a lot of writers who have trouble disconnecting their INTERNAL EDITOR when they're working on an early draft of a manuscript. 

This overly helpful person lives inside most of us and comes in handy when we’re putting the finishing touches on our manuscript. But when we’re in the midst of a creative surge, that same
person can short circuit our progress.

Today's post will give you the tips you need to turn off your internal editor.

First you should know there’s a scientific reason for that roadblock. The creative act of writing your first draft stems from the right side—or creative side—of the brain. Later in the process, when polishing begins, the left side takes over. Here are some of the characteristics of each side.

Right Brain
  • Visual in process, focusing more on patterns and images.
  • Generally intuitive, led by feelings.
  • Is the epitome of multi-tasking, able to process ideas simultaneously.
  • Progresses from the big picture to the details.
  • Lacks organization, utilizes free association.
Left Brain
  • More verbal, needs to find specific words to express ideas.
  • Analytical, led by logic.
  • Takes things step by step, one idea at a time.
  • Organizes details first before moving to the big picture.
  • Very organized, utilizing lists and detailed plans.
Mixing up the process—trying to use both sides of the brain at the same time—can lead to a tangled mess and a major roadblock. All of this information is good to know, but what if our left-brained, Internal Editor won’t go away? How do we make her be quiet?

Unfortunately, there isn’t one way that works for everyone, but here are some tips that should help.

Tips

1. Don’t give in to temptation. Our Internal Editor gets stronger the more frequently we give in to her demands. If she thinks you need a certain word before you can finish that sentence, stay strong. Type XXX and go on. Later, during the rewriting process, you’ll have plenty of time to find the right word. This goes for anything that demands you slow the creative process. At this point in your manuscript speed is your best friend.

2. Set a daily and weekly word count goal. This can often sidetrack the Internal Editor because of her need to meet a goal. Sometimes, in her drive to succeed, she can even become an ally.

3. Make lists in a separate notebook. Use your computer for the story, but if the need for details overshadows the creative urge, make a quick note in a notebook. Don’t let yourself get bogged down, but let the free association part of your right brain give you ideas to explore later with your more logical left side.

4. Don’t give in to fear. Many times our Internal Editor is driven by fear. Fear that this draft isn’t good, won’t work, or just doesn’t make sense. Remind yourself that this version isn’t written in stone. Sometimes just giving ourselves permission to write what Anne Lamott calls the sh*%&# first draft is all we need to derail our Internal Editor.

All of these can help, but I’d like to know what tricks you use to keep that INNER EDITOR quiet.

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


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Find your voice, live your story…is the foundation of Edie Melson’s message, no matter if she’s writing for fiction readers, parents, or writers. As an author, blogger, and speaker she’s encouraged and challenged audiences across the country and around the world. Her numerous books reflect her passion to help others develop the strength of their God-given gifts and apply them to their lives.

She’s a leading professional within the publishing industry and travels to numerous conferences as a popular keynote, writing instructor and mentor. Her blog for writers, The Write Conversation, reaches thousands each month and is a Writer’s Digest Top 101 Websites for Writers. She’s the Director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, the Mountainside Marketing Conference and Soul Care, as well as Vice President of the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association and the Social Media Director for Southern Writers Magazine. In addition, she's a regular columnist for Just18Summers.comPuttingOnTheNew.com and http://www.soulfulink.com. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Writer, Don't Forget the Basics (Part 2)

By Andrea Merrell

In my last post, we talked about a few basics that all writers need to know. This week, let’s look at a subject all writers struggle with: punctuation (especially commas).

Comma Usage

  • When a conjunction joins the last two elements in a series of three or more, a comma—known as the serial (series) comma or the Oxford comma—should appear before the conjunction. Example: Be sure to bring your laptop, manuscript, and proposal to the conference.

  • Use a comma before a coordinating conjunction when it joins independent clauses. Example: Mary wanted to be a writer, but she lacked the discipline to write daily.                

  • Use a comma before then when and or but is omitted but implied. Example: Susie grabbed her purse, then ran out of the room without a word.

  • No comma after But or And at the beginning of a sentence. Example: But I don’t want to go back and rewrite my novel.

  • Use a comma with the word too at the end of a sentence only when you want to emphasize an abrupt change of thought. The comma is generally not needed. Example: Attending a critique group is a way to get feedback on your writing too.

  • Limit comma splices (except in rare instances, as in the case of this famous example: "I came, I saw, I conquered"). Change to two sentences, add a conjunction, or use a semicolon. Incorrect: Adam submitted his manuscript, the publisher    did not accept poetry. Correct: Adam submitted his manuscript. The publisher did not accept poetry. Correct: Adam submitted his manuscript; the publisher did not accept poetry. Correct: Adam submitted his manuscript, but the publisher did not accept poetry.

  • Periods and commas always precede closing quotation marks, whether double or single. Example: Nate has always said, “If it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t.” Incorrect: Nate has always said, “If it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t”.

Em and En Dash
Most publishers prefer the em dash (—) as opposed to the en dash (–). No spaces should be added on either side of the em dash.

Example: Joe submitted a devotion without proofreading it—a mistake he regretted.

Ellipsis
An ellipsis is always a series of three dots. Do not end a sentence with …… or …? The end of the ellipsis will be the end of the sentence. Most publishers are going with the AP style:  space … space. This works best with e-books and online venues.

Example: “How did you do that so … so quickly?”

In future posts, we’ll look at the difference between speaker tags and speaker beats, point of view (POV), crafting dialogue, creating memorable characters, writing tight, and showing, not telling.

If you have something specific you would like us to address in one of our posts, please share in the comment section. We would love to hear from you.

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