Monday, August 31, 2020

How Isaac Newton’s Law of Physics Applies to Writing


By Linda Yezak


He eyed her from head to toe.

She hit him.

He smirked.

She thought he called her a name.

Sounds like a scene from a novel, doesn't it? In truth, these lines are derived from different novels in which the author presented an unanswered action, violating a major law of physics:

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

This, the third of Sir Isaac Newton's laws, should be the first law of writing. Whenever a character does something, unless he's alone in the scene (and sometimes even then), there should be some sort of reaction.

The examples I've given were derived from novels I've read where the author left me hanging after an action was portrayed. The first one, especially, yanked me out of the story: "He eyed her from head to toe." Since we were in her POV, we should've seen her reaction (even if we weren't in her POV). Believe me, a woman reacts to being scoped, and how this one reacted could've solidified her characterization. The author missed an opportunity.

The next one, "She hit him," surprised me because she hit him hard in the legs with a metal object. At the very least, he should've said "ouch." He should've jumped up and down, holding one injured shin, then the other. He should've exclaimed something—anything—that would indicate pain. 

Should have … but didn't.

Pay attention to what you're writing. Picture your scene and the natural reactions your characters should have to the stimulus presented—in a natural sequence. I emphasize the sequence because I've also seen something similar to this:

She whacked him on the back with the board she toted. She didn't mean to, she just wasn't paying attention. When would she ever learn? She was so careless, such a klutz. Even her mother said so. What would her mother say if she saw her today? Nothing good, no doubt.

"Ouch," he said.

Oversimplified of course, but it happens when writers aren't paying attention to what they put on the page. It may seem odd that an author wouldn't realize what she's writing, but if she's overanxious about getting to her next point or presenting a vital character quirk or whatever goal is on her mind, she's blinded to what she has written.

Among the rules of writing, don't overlook a couple of obvious ones:

  • Every action has a reaction.
  • Pay attention to what you're doing.

Have you ever read something that pulled you out of the story? Have suggestions? We would love to hear from you.

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

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Linda W. Yezak lives with her husband and their funky feline, PB, in Texas, where tall tales abound and exaggeration is an art form. She has a deep and abiding love for her Lord, her family, and salted caramel. And coffee—with a caramel creamer. Author of award-winning books and short stories, she didn't begin writing professionally until she turned fifty. Taking on a new career every half century is a good thing.







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Twitter: @LindaYezak
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Monday, August 24, 2020

6 Reasons Your Voice Is Important as a Writer

Voice Writer
by Alycia W. Morales    @storyinspirations.3

As writers, it's so easy to get caught up in comparing ourselves to others. And in doing so, we diminish the importance of putting our voices out there in the midst of the rest.

What do we get caught up in? Have you ever thought or said any of these to yourself?

  • They've written longer than I have.
  • They have a better message than I do. They've honed it.
  • They've already written what I would.
  • There's nothing new under the sun, so why should I waste my time adding to it?
  • She's speaking too. I'm not speaking yet. I need to be speaking before I write.
  • His social media platform is stronger than mine, and they say I need to have numbers before they can publish my book.
  • I could never write like that.
  • There are already too many people writing about that. How could I ever get heard?

I am getting started as a mom blogger. It's an already saturated market, I'm sure. There are plenty of moms out there writing about their experiences as mothers and sharing their favorite products. So what sets me apart from them?

Simple: My Voice. 

6 Reasons Your Voice Is Important as a Writer

1. You have different experiences from others.

Granted, there are similarities between what I've been through and what you've been through at times, but that does not make them the same experiences. One of the reasons I started Life in the MotherShip is because I know that what has worked for me in my home with my family may not work for you in your home with your family. But someone else out there has something for you that will work. So by bringing together the experiences of multiple families (moms, in particular), there's a greater chance of finding something that will work for you on my site.

2. Your voice is as unique as you are.

God created us all in His image and His likeness. If you handed me four books, each written by one of my favorite authors, I could probably tell you who wrote which one. Jesus said that His sheep know His voice. There is voice recognition technology in the world today. Why? Because our voices are uniquely our own. By God's design. (John 10:3-5)

3. You have a testimony to share.

There is something that God has redeemed you from. Something that you've done or have had happen to you through no fault of your own that God has covered with the blood of Jesus, His Son. Your salvation story is something that can be shared with others so that they, too, may come to know the love of God. No one else can tell your testimony. (Revelation 12:10-11)

4. You've been healed of something.

Every one of us who has a testimony has been healed in some area or another. Whether a physical healing or a spiritual healing or an emotional healing, we've all been through something that has caused a change inside of us, evident to others or not. When we are healed, we enter into a place where God can use us and our words to bring healing to others. What have you been healed of that you can share from? What could you tell others that would help them face things in their lives and in their hearts that could lead them to healing? (Mark 5:18-20)

5. We shouldn't be the silent majority.

When the majority remains silent, the enemy wins. We're living in a time and age when Christian voices need to stand and be heard. God didn't put a light in you so you could put a basket over it and hide away in a corner somewhere. He gave you the Light of the World so that you could step out and dispel darkness. So you could SHINE. (Matthew 5:14-16)

6. God gave you a talent.

What are you going to do with it? Are you going to bury it and pray that when He returns, you can hand it back to Him and show Him how well you protected what was His? Or are you going to put it out there so that He can multiply it? (Matthew 25)

6 Reasons Your Voice Is Important as a Writer via @AlyciaMorales https://tinyurl.com/yxgylhn2 #amwriting #writer (Click to Tweet)

Don't let the voices in your head deter you from writing. You have something to say in a way no one else has said it. In a season when we have the opportunity to share our faith in the Lord with those who are searching for hope, don't be afraid to write. To speak. To use your voice.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Don’t Overlook These 2 Quick Research Tools for Writers


By Vie Stallings Herlocker


Research. Whether you love it or loathe it, writers must be researchers.

Perhaps you’ve diligently researched details for your nonfiction subject or your novel’s physical setting, characters, and timeline. That’s a great start, but what about research at the word and phrase level—do your words convey the meaning you intended? If you’re writing a novel, are your words and phrases accurate to the time period?

As an editor, I find that even meticulous writers sometimes slip up at the word or phrase level. While there are many scholarly resources for linguistic research, I’d like to focus on two easily accessed online references that I use regularly:
  1. Merriam Webster 11th Collegiate Dictionary (free online version, and free phone app)
  2. Google Books Ngram Viewer (free online site)

Merriam Webster 11th is the book industry’s standard dictionary. You’ll find definitions and correct spelling of words, including trickier items like hyphenated, open, or closed compounds—and as the TV ads say, “But wait! There’s More!” Merriam Webster also notes part(s) of speech, word origin, and the year a word or phrase was first seen in written language. Another bonus of the online Merriam Webster is a feature called “Time Traveler.”  This exhaustive list of words first noted within a particular year is a fabulous research find for writers.

Google Books Ngram Viewer draws upon Google’s corpus of digitized books and magazines between the years 1500 and 2019. This online tool allows you to research individual or multiple words and phrases within a range of years and in a certain language. Advanced searches can search a word by part of speech, and more. The resulting graph shows the percentage of print usage through the years for each search item.

How these tools helped me in a recent edit. 
I came across the word cookware in a manuscript set in 1899, and my editor antennae went up. Were pots and pans called cookware then?

I checked Merriam Webster first. The first known printed use of the word was 1922. What would people have called cookware previously? I looked at the definition for a clue: “utensils used for cooking.”

Next, I opened Google’s Ngram tool. I selected American English and set my date range from 1850 to 1950. In the search bar, I entered my search words and terms, separated by commas: cookware, cooking utensils, pots and pans. As you see from the screen shot of my search (with my added highlights) the Ngram confirmed that cookware was not a period appropriate term for this manuscript. The Ngram page also links to specific books or magazines that contain each of the search terms by years. From there, I learned that the earliest usage was in magazine advertisements for sets of pots and pans in the 1920s.

Google Books Ngram Search Result

Do you have a favorite research tool? Would you share a favorite in the comments—whether it’s research for word usage, characterization, settings, occupations, hobbies, technical terms, or whatever! Let’s talk research, writer friends!

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

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Vie Herlocker is the associate editor for Surry Living Magazine. She offers freelance editing services through Cornerstone-Ink. While her heart is in editing, her writing has been published in many of the Guideposts family of magazines, The Christian Communicator, and several compilation books. She’s also cowritten a motivational book for the educational field and ghostwritten a memoir. She and her husband recently moved to Nashville, TN.



Monday, August 10, 2020

Seven Tips to Practice Focusing Your Writer’s Eye


By Edie Melson
 
By and large, writers are an observant lot. Things others might brush over or miss entirely stay with us, sparking ideas that blossom and grow. An overheard conversation can lead us to the plot of an entire book. 

But like any skill that comes naturally, there's still room for improvement. 

I call it focusing the writer’s eye. Today, I want to give you seven tips to help you focus your writer's eye.

1. Stop hearing, and take time to listen. The world around us is filled with words. So much so that it becomes a kind of white noise. As writers we need to be able to pick out the bits and pieces that resonate with the souls of our audience.
 
2. Search out the music. The spoken word can have a lyrical quality. As writers it’s our job to capture that music on a page. Develop an ear for the cadence in words and sentences.
 
3. Take what’s being said—not what’s meant—and follow it to an unexpected end. For example, I overheard someone talk about another person’s downfail. No, that’s not a typo; I meant to write DOWNFAIL. From the context, I know he meant to use the word DOWNFALL. But that lead me to a cool devotion on the difference between the two concepts. 
 
4. Paint a picture … with words. Look at something that intrigues you or inspires you, and recreate it in words. Try to boil it down to the essence in a way that others can experience what you did.

5. Expand your horizons. I’ve heard it said that the English language is limiting because it’s not a large language. There just aren’t as many words as in other languages. That may be true, but while the average adult is said to have a vocabulary of between 20,000 – 30,000 words, they probably only use about 5000. As writers, we need to strive to be above average. As a matter of fact, it’s my opinion we should set the standard. 


6. Stretch your creative muscles. Along with number 5 above, don’t just stick with what you know and do well. Stretch yourself by venturing beyond your comfort zone. If your chosen field is fiction, try writing poetry. If you are most comfortable with non-fiction, give writing short stories a try. You may not choose to add that skill to your repertoire, but what you do write will be richer because you branched out.

7. Practice, practice, practice. It doesn’t matter. what discipline; every artist will tell you it takes time to become proficient with your medium. This is just as true with words. Get familiar with your medium. Take time to learn the nuances and master the graceful ins and outs of language
 
What are some things you do to help you see the world around you in such a way that you can capture it on the page? Share your own tips here. Also, I’d like to issue a challenge. Take one of the above points and practice it every day this week. Then, on Friday, report back and let’s share what we’ve learned. I’ll do it too.

And don’t forget to join the conversation!
Blessings,
Edie

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



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Edie Melson is a woman of faith with ink-stained fingers observing life through the lens of her camera. No matter whether she’s talking to writers, entrepreneurs, or readers, her first advice is always “Find your voice, live your story.” 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. Connect with her on her website, through FacebookTwitterand Instagram.


Monday, August 3, 2020

The Five Stages of a Writer’s Journey


By Andrea Merrell

Has God called you to write for Him? Has He given you a vision? A goal? A dream?

Too many times when God places a vision before us, we expect it to happen immediately. Generally, there is a process. Steps we need to take before we see the fulfillment or completion.

Pastor and author Bob Gass says, “there is a time for sowing, a time for growing, and a time for reaping.” He calls it a five-stage process. Let’s look at how he breaks each one down while keeping our writing journey in mind.

The Birth of a Vision
When the vision comes, we are excited because we realize God has a plan just for us.

The Preparation
This is where things get sticky. Gass says, "this is the stage where dreams are often aborted because we don’t want to do the necessary preparation. When God gives you a vision, there must be some action on your part, or it will never amount to anything more than a passing daydream.”

The Wilderness and the Struggle
We’re quick to think that if something is truly from God, there will be no struggle. Not the case. Look at all the examples in the Bible. Gass calls this the “proving ground of our faithfulness.”

The Realization of the Vision
This is where we see and enjoy the fruits of our preparation and hard work. But the story doesn’t stop here.

New Beginning Vision
When we’re faithful to follow the path God puts us on, the destination we reach is not the end of the journey. He will continue to pour out fresh vision and purpose for the gifts He has entrusted to us.

So there you have it, the five stages of our writing journey. Don’t have a vision? Ask God for one. Receive it with joy, and prepare yourself for what lies ahead. Don’t get stuck in the wilderness or let the struggles you face derail you. Enjoy the fruits of your labor, then be ready for God to give you fresh vision and keep moving you forward.

Don’t be impatient for the Lord to act! Keep traveling steadily along His pathway and in due season He will honor you with every blessing. Psalm 37:34 TLB




What insights can you share about your own journey? We would love to hear from you.



(Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net, zdiviv, and Keerati.)




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