Monday, October 26, 2020

Is Your Writing W-O-N-D-E-R-F-U-L?

 

By Katy Kauffman

 

“Wonderful” sticks to the heart as much as it does to the mind. Memories of fun-filled travels, time with family and friends, and special moments make a home within us forever. Books can do that too.

Wonderful happens when a book speaks to us about a heartfelt need, when it answers a plaguing question or solves a challenging problem, when it refreshes ours spirits and reminds us that hope is alive and God is with us.

Use this acronym as a checklist to make your writing even more wonderful.


W – Write from the heart.

 

Let the words flow from within. Bring out the life experiences that have shaped you, and share in your nonfiction book or novel the lessons that have influenced who you are and how you live. Write from a passion for your subject and a compassion for your readers.

 

O – Organize your thoughts into a straight line.

 

A meandering walk in the woods is inviting on a bright, sunny day. But a book that meanders through unrelated or semi-related thoughts will bring gloomy clouds and send a reader packing. Don’t make it hard on your reader to follow your flow of thought.  

 

N – Never save the best for last.

 

Give your reader a reason to read every chapter. Even the preface. I put brownies in the lead-in of my preface, and my friends haven’t forgotten it. While most books may put their best principles or scenes at the end, spread your best material throughout the book, so that every page is turned and every line is read.  

 

D – Develop an encouraging voice.

 

Some of the most captivating books I’ve read had the conversational voice of a friend. As the authors shared insights and stories from their lives, I felt like I was getting to know them, and that developed trust. Talk to the reader as to an encouraging friend, not a nagging one.

 

E – Edit distractions and detours.

 

The oomph factor dramatically increases in any book when the author whittles away distracting paragraphs and unnecessary detours. Editors and agents will love a book that stays on track, and so will readers.

 

R – Read your writing aloud before submitting it.

 

I wish I had done this for two of my books, but fortunately I could edit the book after I read the proof. If you’re shy about reading your work in front of others, cozy up in a chair in an isolated room, and read your book aloud. You’re more likely to catch missing words or typos than if you only read the book silently.

 

F – Fill your reader’s heart with takeaway.

 

This puts the wonder in wonderful. What can the reader take away from your book that will stay with them long after they’ve read it? If you’re writing Christian living books or Bible studies, make sure each of your chapters is filled with a takeaway that helps readers walk closer to God. If you’re writing devotions, use the main point of your story or illustration in your ending paragraphs. If you’re crafting a work of fiction, create characters and struggles that readers can relate to and learn from. Perhaps the story will reveal a missing piece of life’s puzzle and bring them wisdom, hope, or freedom.

 

U – Use words that deliver punch, zip, and wow.

 

Don’t just look at a word, but “listen” to it. When you say it to yourself, do you hear blah or hurrah? Choose words that grab the reader’s attention—vivid nouns and verbs that describe an idea, a scene, or an action you want the reader to take.  

 

How do your words sound to your inner reader’s ear? Do they stir you to action or put you to sleep? Polish your wonderful factor by infusing your writing with picturesque words and the best phrasing. Choose wording that evokes an emotional response from your reader.     

 

L – Launch the reader’s interest with an intriguing title.

 

Create an attention-grabbing title that makes potential readers stop and investigate. Launch their interest by using a slant from your book in your title. Can you build on a word picture from your book, like gardening, running, or painting? Is there some call to action that is a common thread in every chapter? Using your book’s slant in your title will help it to stand out from others like it and more readily grab readers’ attention.  

 

What makes a book absolutely wonderful to you? Tell us about those wonder-working qualities in the comments below, and keep your writing wonderful!


(Photo courtesy of photos-public-domain.com.) 


TWEETABLE

Katy Kauffman via @KatyKauffman28 explains how to make our writing W-O-N-D-E-R-F-U-L. (Click to tweet.)

 

 

Katy Kauffman is an award-winning author, an editor of Refresh Bible Study Magazine, and a co-founder of Lighthouse Bible Studies. She loves connecting with writers and working alongside them in compilations, such as Feed Your Soul with the Word of God, Collection 1 which is a 2020 Selah Awards finalist. She recently started The Lighthouse Connection, a monthly writers’ newsletter including writing tips, inspiration to write, and news of submission opportunities.

 

In addition to online magazines, Katy’s writing can be found at CBN.com, thoughts-about-God.com, and three blogs on writing. She loves to spend time with family and friends, take acrylic painting classes online, and do yard work in the morning sun. Connect with her at her blog, Winning the Victory, and on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Monday, October 12, 2020

Kill All the Adjectives

By Denise Loock

 

One Mark Twain quote that pops up at almost every writers’ conference I attend is “when you catch an adjective, kill it.” Seasoned writers pass on this wisdom because less-experienced writers often consider a plethora of adjectives a sign of masterful description. For example: John was mesmerized by the daffodil-yellow polka-dot dress Allison wore, which flattered her willowy figure and her wavy chestnut-brown shoulder-length hair.


Let’s be clear. No one thinks like that, and no one talks like that either. But the other extreme—no adjectives—isn’t a wise choice either. In fact, Mark Twain himself clarified his position on adjectives: “No, I don’t mean utterly, but kill most of them—then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart.”[1]


And that’s what writers need to master—the appropriate use of adjectives. Here are four guidelines for using adjectives that add value, not clutter, to a sentence.


  • Adjectives modify words, which means they limit or qualify meaning. Use an adjective to add specificity (exhaust pipe) or to tell us something significant about a character (bloodshot eyes). Don’t use them to add degree or emphasis (long pipe; serious illness).


  • One memorable adjective is usually more effective than two or three forgettable ones, which is why Twain advised writers to keep adjectives “wide apart.” Consider this sentence from Leif Enger’s novel Virgil Wander: “At the foot of the city pier stood a threadbare stranger.”[2] Enger uses two adjectives. City tells us both the location of the pier and its type. You could argue that city is an unnecessary adjective, especially if the author has established setting elsewhere. But threadbare—that piques our interest, doesn’t it?


  • You don’t have to use uncommon adjectives to impress readers. Familiar is often better. Here’s another Enger sentence: “He had a hundred merry crinkles at his eyes and a long-haul sadness in his shoulders.” The author tells us a lot of this character’s story in one sentence, doesn’t he? And the three adjectives he uses—hundred, merry, and long-haul—are simple yet powerful. No scholarly vocabulary necessary.

 

  • Effective nouns and verbs will reduce the need to use adjectives. Another sentence from Enger: “His face seemed to collapse, then refill.” Similarly, comparisons and contrasts reduce the need for adjectives. You don’t need to insert poor to convey poverty: Other boys talked about their newest Xbox game. Jonas had never seen an Xbox.

Twain himself didn’t always follow his adjective advice. No writer does, so don’t beat yourself up. Here’s a sentence from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer: “When Tom reached the little isolated frame school-house, he strode in briskly, with the manner of one who had come with all honest speed.” Judge the adjectives he used with school-house. Which ones would you eliminate?


Bottom line: use a deft hand with adjectives. As Twain said elsewhere, “As to the adjective, when in doubt, strike it out.”[3] Chances are, the more striking you do, the more effective the remaining adjectives will be.

 


[1] “Letter to D. W. Bowser,” 20 March 1880, twainquotes.com.

[2]  Leif Enger, Virgil Wander (New York: Grove Press, 2018), 8–9, 100.

[3]  from Pudd’nhead Wilson, epigraph for Chapter XI.


(Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and 89 Studio.)


TWEETABLE

Denise Loock via @DLoock gives advice on using a deft hand with adjectives. (Click to tweet.)


Denise Loock is a writer, editor, and speaker. She is the editor for The Journey Christian Newspaper, which reaches over 60,000 online and print readers. As an assistant editor, she helps Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas produce high quality, engaging inspirational books. She accepts freelance editing projects too. Contact her at denise@journeychristiannews.com or info@digdeeperdevotions.com