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Jan's Writing Basics #9--Writing on Topic

These lessons, by one of our most consistent FaithWriters' Challenge Champions, should not be missed. So we're making a permanent home for them here.

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glorybee
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Postby glorybee » Mon Apr 19, 2010 9:03 pm

John, thanks for the feedback.

The more challenges you enter, the more you'll get a handle on "on topic-ness" and what works with the judges. I recommend that you read some of the Masters entries each week, and also the winners in Advanced. That should give you more of an idea of what works in the Challenge.
Jan Ackerson

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Postby glorybee » Mon Apr 19, 2010 9:04 pm

Green Leaves--

Thanks!

Any comments or questions for "writing on topic"?
Jan Ackerson

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Postby Green Leaves » Mon Apr 19, 2010 9:41 pm

I really don't have anything more to add about writing on topic. When the "topic" is announced, I do a LOT of praying, and I ask God to give me inspiration, then I wait to see what happens and keep my eyes and ears open for ideas. I haven't tried "googling" for ideas.

For some reason, it seems most of my ideas come as I wake in the morning...almost as if God has been whispering to me in the night.

But since I haven't won an EC, who am I to suggest on this topic.
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Postby GShuler » Mon Apr 19, 2010 10:40 pm

glorybee wrote:Thanks for stopping by, Gerald. Got anything to say about writing on topic?


I'm a writer. I've always got something to say. :D

It seems to me that the most important thing for a new writer to learn is how to use an assigned topic to focus the story. Even if the topic isn't mentioned (like when we did the topic "Don't cry over spilled milk" without mentioning the phrase) I must have the meaning of the topic clearly in mind before ever starting the story. That way I won't miss the topic so often.

Example: The topic is "Garbage Slime". Before the story can begin, I need to settle what I see as the most important thing to know about garbage slime. Let's say I settle on the fact that it is full of germs that I don't really want to touch or even be around. That conclusion can become the "target" for my story without even mentioning garbage slime. I could tell a story about a computer date that sounds like the perfect man at first but the MC soon sees traits that are totally undesirable. By the end of the story the MC has clearly identified him as someone she doesn't want in her future. The story and the MC never need to mention garbage slime but the reader comes away from the story knowing that the man was just one big pile of garbage slime.

At least, that's how I do it.
I had something really memorable to write here but I forgot what it was.
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Topics

Postby PamDavis » Tue Apr 20, 2010 3:25 pm

I am always excited to see what the new challenge topic is. I do as said by others think of it as a theme, a starting point. One of my friends in the Advanced group once did a piece that received a lot of negative comments. They did not see a connection to the topic. I did, and defended her work. I guess sometimes the obvious to some is not seen by others. Wow, that sounds like a great worship message!

I have a question. How do you decide on when enough is said or when an article needs to be expanded. I have had comments asking for more and others saying I should have wrapped up the piece sooner.

Jan, please do not doubt how much you are needed in this work bringing such valuable teaching. I appreciate all you do as our mentor.

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Postby Iam4Him » Tue Apr 20, 2010 3:31 pm

Hoo, boy, I see how I goofed on many of my entries. One jumped up after reading your lesson, Jan. I wrote a goofy poem about the topic itself called Write Down The Block.

I like the suggestions here, the googling, dictionary, etc. I posted in the Pen topic general discussion that I need to read clarification forums before posting too.

One thing I remember someone saying a long time ago was that he/she wrote the topic down and just kept looking at it until inspiration came. It worked for me; don't know why I stopped it.

This lesson has been very valuable to me. Thank you so much.

Blessings,
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Re: Topics

Postby glorybee » Tue Apr 20, 2010 3:50 pm

PamDavis wrote:I have a question. How do you decide on when enough is said or when an article needs to be expanded. I have had comments asking for more and others saying I should have wrapped up the piece sooner.

Pam


Pam, I'll cover this when I get to the judging criteria "Did the entry come to a satisfying conclusion?"

Thanks for your sweet words!
Jan Ackerson

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Postby glorybee » Tue Apr 20, 2010 3:53 pm

Iam4Him wrote:I like the suggestions here, the googling, dictionary, etc. I posted in the Pen topic general discussion that I need to read clarification forums before posting too.

One thing I remember someone saying a long time ago was that he/she wrote the topic down and just kept looking at it until inspiration came. It worked for me; don't know why I stopped it.



I don't think just looking at the topic would have done a thing for me! It's funny how different things work for different people.

Stay tuned next week for more of this discussion...
Jan Ackerson

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Postby swfdoc1 » Tue Apr 20, 2010 4:55 pm

Deconut wrote:Thanks Jan, as a writing teacher you get an A+.


Haven't been in your class lately (except as a lurker), but couldn't resist dropping in to say "Amen!"
Steve
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Postby glorybee » Tue Apr 20, 2010 5:04 pm

Thanks, Steve!

Do you have anything to add about writing "to the topic"?
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Postby CatLin » Tue Apr 20, 2010 5:22 pm

More random thoughts to add...

Back during the "genre" quarter, one of the topics was "Comedy". I struggled for an eternity trying to think of something, but was at a loss. As I was laying in bed, praying, I finally said, "God, I'll write about the first thing you put in my mind." Immediately, I heard, "Noah." I said, "Seriously, God? Noah? How is that funny?" Of course God didn't answer - he's not in the kidding around business when it comes to prayer answers. ;)

The next day after work, I opened a new Word doc and started writing. Who knew the story of Noah's Ark could be funny? It didn't win, but I was pleased with it, seeing as how I don't really do comedy. :)

More than once, I've given up trying to come up with an idea and just say a prayer and start typing, not having a clue what I'm going to write about. That seems to work pretty well. I've won 3 of my EC's with this method.
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Postby glorybee » Tue Apr 20, 2010 6:40 pm

Hey, I wrote a funny one about Noah once, too!
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Postby swfdoc1 » Wed Apr 21, 2010 2:10 am

glorybee wrote:Thanks, Steve!

Do you have anything to add about writing "to the topic"?


No, I think you nailed it, and comments by other posters have also been helpful.
Steve
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things are gone." C.S. Lewis
“The chief purpose of life … is to increase according to our capacity our knowledge of God by all the means we have, and to be moved by it to praise and thanks. To do as we say in the Gloria in Excelsis ... We praise you, we call you holy, we worship you, we proclaim your glory, we thank you for the greatness of your splendor.” J.R.R. Tolkien

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Thanks for this course.

Postby Harvestgal » Thu Apr 29, 2010 1:44 pm

Well, I'm one of those ones who often overuse the topic. I definitely did that with ooops, I think, I don't remember, but I think it was oops and with grrrr too. Thanks for that insight. Also the concept of staying on topic with out really mentioning the topic is new to me too. I'll have to try that one day.

I do love the course, I've learned so much. I was here on and off for a long time. Forgot my old password and username so I resighned up in 09. I never really contributed or did the writing challenges until recently. I thought, I wasn't ready for the writing challenges and also thought I couldn't find inspiration if the topic was already given. I loved just writing from my heart. Now, I've learned so much. I'm addicted to the writing challenge. And just recently I've started using the message boards. I never bothered before cause I just didn't think I had the time. Now, I make the time.

I feel I've really grown as a writer from this.

Hmmm, I too rely a lot on prayer to stay on topic. Also, sometimes I just brain storm and it turns into a story.

As for my question, how do you think out of the box, without really missing the topic. Like for reader, if you write about a psychic reader or some other reader, would it be off topic? How do you know when you've gone over the limit of being on topic?

Well, thats' all, I hope that question hasn't already been asked, I didn't have time to read before I posted.

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Postby glorybee » Thu Apr 29, 2010 2:49 pm

Harvestgal, stay tuned. I hope to answer that question in the class that I'll post Monday.
Jan Ackerson

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