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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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Postby honeyrock » Thu Apr 29, 2010 2:59 pm

Hey, Jan. I hunker around in the corners because I'm not in Intermediate or Beginners but can get more out of one of these lessons then I did an entire semester of Creative Writing in college! Can't remember what I learned there, but every day now I'm like checking for "salsa" words and trying to relax and use "he said." Sometimes I can't help myself and jump in to try the homework! :oops:

"So surprise me" seems to be the sigh from my creative self. I never know where the idea is going to come from. Can't tell you how many times I have slunk away from the Challenge site thinking, "I have no idea what to write on that." And then, suddenly something clicks.

On our "Turkey" challenge last year I was totally ignorant of the country so spent a day perusing maps, travel brohures, etc. I came across articles on "camel wrestling" , something I had no idea existed! I wrote a story about a very wealthy future groom who attempts to sell his bride on the adventure in his desperation to plan a honeymoon to rival those of his friends. The story earned a few "props" in the creative arena.
Other ideas that were well received was a matter of tweaking a true life adventure or conversation as the mood so struck.

Thanks so much for your time HERE! Skittering off....
Be strong and very courageous Joshua 1:7

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Thank You

Postby flyingcross » Fri Apr 30, 2010 9:58 pm

Hi Jan,
I want to s:ay thank you.
Ecclesiastes 1:13 "I devoted myself to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under heaven. What a heavey burden God has laid on men."
I appreciate you sharing what you know. I had no outlet, and no real way to find how to refine what I have to share.
Your knowledge and humor in sharing them brings light to my writing, even though it is still like twilight, I hope that it becomes something brighter.
Gifts are precious, and I'm glad you are sharing yours.
Cindy

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Postby glorybee » Fri Apr 30, 2010 11:41 pm

Honeyrock and flyingcross, thank you so much for your words of encouragement! They are very much appreciated.
Jan Ackerson

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Postby CatLin » Sat May 01, 2010 11:04 am

How coincidental! I was going to send this to Jan, but when I saw these encouragments here, I decided it was a good place to post it. Came in my email today:

For Those Who Touch Our Lives...

You wrote no lofty poems
that critics counted art.
But with a nobler vision
you lived them in your heart.

You carved no shapeless marble
to some high soul design.
But with a finer sculpture
you shaped this soul of mine.

You built no great cathedrals
that centuries applaud:
but with a grace exquisite
your life cathedraled God.

- Thomas Fessenden, excerpt from Quiet Reflections: A Mother's Journal.

Who in your life comes to mind when you read this poem?
Take time this week to encourage them


I thought of you, Jan, so I'm taking a time to encourage you. :D Thanks for all you do.
Love
Cat
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Postby glorybee » Sat May 01, 2010 1:15 pm

Cat, thanks. I'm going through some junk right now, and kind words like yours are very soul-soothing.
Jan Ackerson

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Postby honeyrock » Mon May 03, 2010 12:40 pm

I say, bless you to Pam! :lol: I've been in that boat and the negative comments my piece received were not constructive; one in fact was just down right mean! :oops: Those comments had nothing to do with the "craft" they just "didn't get it." I'm sad when that happens because I appreciate those that aid me to improve, not just issue disparaging opinions. Thankfully those are very few and rare. I like to think we strive to be Barnabases here.
Perhaps you can comment Jan on the difference between someone actually not being on topic and the one that just may craft a unique style piece that "someone" else doesn't get ( but others do!)
Be strong and very courageous Joshua 1:7

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Postby glorybee » Mon May 03, 2010 12:58 pm

honeyrock, it's difficult when our work isn't understood! Here are a few things that occur to me about your question.

1. Consider the source of your criticism. If it's a well-established FaithWriter whose work you respect, he or she may have a valid point. But if the name is unfamiliar to you, check out their own writing. If you find it to be substandard, then they may very likely have been wrong about your piece. Also, note the comments they leave on other entries. Some people only leave negative comments, or rarely say anything constructive.

2. Although a few people write just for personal enjoyment, and a few more people write as a form of prayer--most of us write for readers. That's especially true in a writing contest, where entries are submitted to be read and judged by others. So once we hit that 'submit' button, our entry is subject to the interpretations of its readers. We need to learn to have a thick skin about criticism--and to give up ownership of our entries. Readers will find things in our stories that we didn't intend to put there--and they will miss things that we did.

I know that my yellow boxes as been perceived as too harsh at times, and there have been many times that I've backed away from leaving them, not wanting to hurt anyone's feelings. It's difficult to leave constructive critique on an anonymous entry, not knowing if the writer's mistakes are a chronic problem or a fluke, not knowing the writer's background or experience. Some commenters can get too heavy-handed--on the other hand, I have a real problem with commenters who give out "good jobs" to writing that is clearly not good at all.

honeyrock, I've veered away from your question and leaped up on my own soapbox. Did I address your concern?
Jan Ackerson

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Postby honeyrock » Wed May 05, 2010 12:45 pm

Wow, that's really good advice! :shock: Why didn't I think of that? I never thought to peruse the writing of certain others. I must say I have received some good comments from those I admire and recognize right off the bat, so it would probably be prudent to comfort myself in that fact. Yes, this made me feel muuuuuuccch better!! Thanks!
Be strong and very courageous Joshua 1:7

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Postby CatLin » Wed May 05, 2010 8:47 pm

glorybee wrote:I know that my yellow boxes as been perceived as too harsh at times,


YOUR comments, Jan?? :shock: :shock: :shock: I've NEVER seen you leave a harsh comment--ever. You are always helpful and loving.

there have been many times that I've backed away from leaving them, not wanting to hurt anyone's feelings.


And now I know why I have a few from you that have no critiques in the middle of your sandwich. Of course, that made me think they were perfect when you couldn't find anything for me to improve on. :lol:
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Postby Shann » Thu May 06, 2010 4:06 pm

You started this thread the week I was in the hospital so I didn't really have a chance until today, but in reference to this:


TODAY’S QUICK TAKE: Shoulda, woulda, coulda


What about "kind of" I use that frequently and my gut tells me it's not correct, but like you said we write like we talk and I do say that often perhaps it should be" kinda", but that seems wrong too

Other than telling me to leave it out of my speech and writing altogether...
which way is the correct way?

Sorry if you answer this later on, I just knew if I read all three pages and it wasn't mentioned I'd surely forget it. :oops:
Shann

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Postby Shann » Thu May 06, 2010 4:21 pm

glorybee wrote:Does someone send a "Welcome to FaithWriters" e-mail? I wonder if they could include "directions" to this class. Hmmmmmmm.....


I try to be diligent when it comes to welcoming the newbies. I usually try to add a few paragraphs, telling what the site offers, invite them to hang out at the water cooler, etc

From now on I'll try to invite them to your class as well.

You do do an amazing job. I don't believe I've ever thanked you properly or enough. It's nice when I'm commenting on the challenges to see your critiques pop up as often as they do. Your message is always wrapped in love. There's no doubt you love writing, but it also shows how much you care about the ones doing the writing.
This is for you-
THANK YOU!
Shann

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Postby Shann » Thu May 06, 2010 4:48 pm

glorybee wrote:I know that my yellow boxes as been perceived as too harsh at times, and there have been many times that I've backed away from leaving them, not wanting to hurt anyone's feelings. It's difficult to leave constructive critique on an anonymous entry, not knowing if the writer's mistakes are a chronic problem or a fluke, not knowing the writer's background or experience. Some commenters can get too heavy-handed--on the other hand, I have a real problem with commenters who give out "good jobs" to writing that is clearly not good at all.


I'm sure you've noticed I tend to leave quite a few comments. it used to be my belief if I really didn't think the article was good, I'd skip it and not say anything. But as I've learned how much comfort those gold boxes can be to me, I've changed my way of thinking.

Of course it feels good to receive the fluff comments, (so please don't stop leaving positive comments) but, it doesn't help me improve as a writer. This has been especially true for me in the Critique Circle. I want to do better if I'm posting my article there so let me know how I can improve.

The reverse is true in the cirle for me as well. I figure if you're posting in the circle, I assume you want some read ink. There I tend to be as completely honest as possible.

That's not to say in the challenges, I'm not honest, because I do try to give my honest opinion. It's just there I'm likely to point out only one or maybe two items that I think could be improved.

Finally, I believe the reader can find something positive to say about every article. I tend to try to say it like this:
1) First I always start with something positive.
2) If I see something that I think could be improved upon I'll point it out and often try to give an idea about how to fix it.
3) I then find another positive thing to say about the piece.

Every once in a while I'll receive an email from someone who defends their work. If this happens, I immediately send back an email explaining what I thought was wrong and ways I think it could be improved upon. Then I sincerely apologize for hurting their feelings. It is never my intention to hurt someone's feelings and I'm crushed to think I may have done so.

It seems to have worked for me. I've only received maybe 2- 3 emails when the writer felt I was harsh or I hurt their feelings. In each case I tell them my intention is only to help them become the best writer that they can be. in all cases they've written back and thanked me for my apology. Which is very good as I would dwell on the fact that I hurt someone and I'd never get any sleep.

Sorry Jan I didn't mean to ramble on for so long. I guess I strayed from the original homework, but I hope this is at least somewhat helpful

Blessings to all.
Shann

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Postby glorybee » Thu May 06, 2010 6:49 pm

Shann, the 'of' in 'kind of' is correct. However, it's very informal...I wouldn't expect to see 'kind of' in the sense of 'a little bit' in a formal essay, a devotional, a research paper.

This is fine:

A Maltese is a kind of long-haired cat. (Here, the phrase means 'type of', and is perfectly fine. However, to avoid confusion, you might consider 'varitey of' or some other phrase).

This is too informal for some genres:

The fur of the Maltese cat is kind of long and silky. (Here, I'd use another modifier--'rather', perhaps).

However, in a character's dialog, or in a first person fictional piece, 'kind of' is fine--because that's the way people speak. You might even use 'kinda', for the same reason.
Jan Ackerson

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Postby Bear-Bear » Fri May 07, 2010 6:19 pm

Bear feels that she's likely losing points in the originality category, and that she often overdoes topic focus. So reading this class is helpful for that especially. However, she finds all your classes, Jan, most excellent, and is so thankful you put all the time and heart into them that you do!

However, the main thing Bear feels that she does that's actually good, (concerning writing on topic), is what many people have mentioned already.

As soon as I see the topic, from day 1, I start praying for His leading and ask Him to show me what to write for His purpose, His Will, and His glory. Lots of times I think I have the answer on what to write, but the last couple of days before deadline realize I need to write from another angle completely. So I'm learning to wait more and not stress out when I don't feel I know what to write about yet.

Also, I felt reminded in prayer recently that I shouldn't only pray for leading for my own writing but should also be praying each week for others -- that I should pray He would lead them and use their writing also. So I've been working on remembering to do that more.

Concerning the idea of leaving links or suggestions to attend your classes in Challenge Comments area...

I LOVE red ink on my challenge entries, and personally feel people on this site (including me) tend to err on the side of being too positive, and not mentioning things that would turn out to be helpful.

However, (although I know it is well intended from what people have said on this thread) I would feel very humiliated if someone ever said in a COMMENT on a Challenge entry of mine, that I should attend a writing class of any sort. It comes off to me sounding like it's saying my writing is REALLY BAD and like I should go back to learning-only instead of trying to enter the challenges.

Again, I see here that's not how it would be intended. But I want to give you that feedback because I strongly suspect I'm not the only one who would take it that way, especially among beginning writers who already lack confidence. Emotions connected to specific writing challenge entries can be overblown and particularly fragile and it's the time that's MOST LIKELY to be misunderstood.

I loved it when Pup suggested your classes to me when we were chatting via email once and told me they helped him a lot. It's not that I think I don't need help. I just personally feel individual challenge entries are the worst possible places to try and spread the word about how valuable these classes are, and some people are going to misunderstand majorly, and it'll end up having the OPPOSITE effect of what it should have.

I could be wrong, but wanted to let you know another view on it.
Bear
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Bear reminds self, "Don't forget to pray with every piece of writing."

"40 Writing Challenges Goal" progress: 9 done

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Wonderful Lessons

Postby eearth » Sat May 08, 2010 2:34 pm

Dear Jan Ackerson:

I have bookmarked you lesson page and will be learning to follow directions as you share your knowledge. Thank you for your response to my first Writers Challenge. But you did not tell me about your lessons. But thank God another person who responded that I should not mention the topic or the challenge, told me about your site. I joined on May 5, 2010 and I have added you to my profile as a quote at the end of each of my post to help others
1 John 1:4 And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.

FREE writing lessons by Jan Ackerson can be found at:
http://www.faithwriters.com/Boards/phpB ... hp?t=29535
Now she is covering what the judges are looking for in the weekly Writers Challenge.

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