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Jan's New Writing Lessons--TIGHT WRITING

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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Re: Jan's New Writing Lessons--TIGHT WRITING

Postby swfdoc1 » Tue Sep 17, 2013 12:15 pm

Jan,

I think the reason my version is so different is because I pretended the draft you gave was mine, not yours. When I edit someone else, I try not to let my voice overcome that writer’s voice. When I edit myself, obviously I can do whatever I want.

Whenever I do tightening edits, I am always looking for areas that need to be EXPANDED. If I do expand, obviously, that means I end up making the tightening job tougher, but to me that is all for the good; all good writing comes from the editing. I also look for issues of rearranging.

Here, I pretended that as I was editing, I decided I hadn’t painted the fear strong enough in “my” first draft. So I added station names to give the feel that her panic grew for a long time. At one point, I think I had 4 or 5, but I needed a couple of words back for other purposes. Similarly, I added her internal thoughts/changed narrative to internal thoughts. I added the “invading her space” idea. All of this was driven by wanting to get rid of the word “panicked.” In other words, I did even more “showing” than “I” had in the first draft.

Also, as you pointed out, I did some things with pacing/flow, primarily the sentence fragments, to create atmosphere. “She knew:” was also part of that. It was expendable, but I used it for pacing.

I picked a few specific verbs (refused, squeezed, escape, crept, invading), not just for strength, but also for atmospheric fit.

I had to decide whether there was any original detail to get rid of. The addition of the station names made it easy to get rid of the “second of five” line. I tweaked the passage about the reading device but kept it because I thought it was a nice tie between the book and the poor lighting. I changed the “flickering” light to a “dying” light, which I thought was a nice psychological touch—but that’s probably over thinking.

I broke the paragraph just for a little extra suspense before the punch line.

Finally, I added the stammer to “M-m-ma’am” and broke “Please?” off as a separate question to emphasize his fear.

Jan, as far as comments on your edits, now that I’ve read your explanation and despite my thoughts above, I agree that the passage about the reading device can be cut. As you said, you liked it but it distracted from what you were really trying to do. I used to give my students an assignment in which I asked them to write a several paragraphs and then mark the sentence they thought was the “best.” Then after they turned in the assignment, I told them they had to re-write it without the “best” sentence. Of course, sometimes the best sentence can stay, but we have to be willing to cut even the stuff we are in love with if it is problematic from some point of view.
Steve
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________
"When the Round Table is broken every man must follow Galahad or Mordred; middle
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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Re: Jan's New Writing Lessons--TIGHT WRITING

Postby choosingjoy » Tue Sep 17, 2013 12:28 pm

Thanks, Jan, for showing your sentence by sentence edit. I don't think I'll do that, but I did try to eliminate anything which wasn't necessary to tell your main story, which I did perceive to be the conflict of the crowded, uncomfortable situation between the MC and the big man. I also am sensitive to darkness and thought it was an important factor.

About the variation of sentence types, the clauses, etc., I see what you mean. A magazine editor told me a couple of years back that I tended to use "and" and "but" too much, resulting in run-on sentences. I guess the clauses are a "key-jerk" reaction (pun intended) to that. Would shorter sentences in the mix be a good variation? I noted in reading some Christian fiction books recently that there were a lot of short sentences, even quite a few very effective incomplete ones.

Anyway, this is a great exercise. It sounds like most of us tend to use too many words. I loved your quote at the beginning about getting rid of anything that doesn't reveal the character or advance the action. Hope I can remember that.

Thanks again!
A child of the King!
Genia

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Re: Jan's New Writing Lessons--TIGHT WRITING

Postby glorybee » Tue Sep 17, 2013 12:31 pm

swfdoc1 wrote:I used to give my students an assignment in which I asked them to write a several paragraphs and then mark the sentence they thought was the “best.” Then after they turned in the assignment, I told them they had to re-write it without the “best” sentence. Of course, sometimes the best sentence can stay, but we have to be willing to cut even the stuff we are in love with if it is problematic from some point of view.


I love this!

Last year, I was scheduled to speak at a small writer's conference, and my topic was to be 'Tight Writing.' Some of what I put in my original post here was going to go into that speech. I ended up having to cancel in order to be with my daughter and her husband when their baby was born and spent several weeks in the NICU, and the presentation was never fully written. BUT--if I'm ever called on to do this presentation again, I'm definitely going to steal this idea.
Jan Ackerson

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Re: Jan's New Writing Lessons--TIGHT WRITING

Postby glorybee » Tue Sep 17, 2013 12:43 pm

choosingjoy wrote:About the variation of sentence types, the clauses, etc., I see what you mean. A magazine editor told me a couple of years back that I tended to use "and" and "but" too much, resulting in run-on sentences. I guess the clauses are a "key-jerk" reaction (pun intended) to that.


Yes, Genia. I like to see sentences of varying lengths and structures, and also sentences specifically chosen for their lengths. Short sentences will pick up the pace; longer sentences will stretch it out. It's helpful, too, to be aware of sentences structures that you tend to favor. I know that I tend to use a lot of sentences like the one I've bolded (two independent clauses punctuated by a semicolon). I have to remind myself to limit those and to rewrite many of them. Now that you know about your 'favorite' sentence structure, you'll want to do the same thing.
Jan Ackerson

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Re: Jan's New Writing Lessons--TIGHT WRITING

Postby swfdoc1 » Tue Sep 17, 2013 1:08 pm

glorybee wrote:if I'm ever called on to do this presentation again, I'm definitely going to steal this idea.


Steal away. I've given so many assignments over the years that their origins tend to blur, but I think I stole this from a high school creative writing teacher!
Steve
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________
"When the Round Table is broken every man must follow Galahad or Mordred; middle
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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Re: Jan's New Writing Lessons--TIGHT WRITING

Postby Come forth » Tue Sep 17, 2013 7:34 pm

Oh, my kingdom for a semi colon! :lol:

I think one of my main issues is that I don't 'think' through what I am doing from an educated point of view, if that even makes sense, but I write more from an intuitive, just get it down there, type of place. What I am learning from you, Jan (with Steve's valuable input), is that it is good to write that way, but then one must edit from an educated place.

I didn't analyze what I changed; I simply tried to 'feel' your story and rewrite it in a similar voice trying not to put too much of my style into it (with the exception of semi-colons :lol: ). So to try and analyze why I did what I did is in retro.

I think the poor lighting and the wish for extra light simply go together and are a precursor to wanting to move further away. In the same way I think that cuddling closer to the window and moving her leg further over also simply go together and kinda follow on from the increased fear level. The gasp of fear, to me of course, seems to just be the result of built up tension and comes after the tunnel, decreased light and feeling the need to get further away from the man; so she cuddles into her safe corner and the fear leaks from her lips.

I agree with the need for something to introduce the man's speech -- I wish I had thought that through.

Once again, thanks, Graham
May we all get eyes to see and ears to hear,
A Revelation of His Word, crystal clear.
Admitting our need to be drawn in,
Less of self, more of Him.

My prayer for us all.
God bless us with the Revelation of His Word, Graham
http://www.shekinahcloud.com/page/page/8464330.htm

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Re: Jan's New Writing Lessons--TIGHT WRITING

Postby glorybee » Tue Sep 17, 2013 7:39 pm

Thanks to you, Graham, for accepting critique graciously, and for working on your writing. I very much enjoy reading what you write, and I appreciate your contributions to this class.
Jan Ackerson

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Re: Jan's New Writing Lessons--TIGHT WRITING

Postby swfdoc1 » Tue Sep 17, 2013 9:22 pm

Come forth wrote:What I am learning from you, Jan (with Steve's valuable input) . . . .


Jan gets all the credit. If she didn't labor to put the lessons together and to respond to each post, there would be nothing for me to participate in. I certainly enjoy participating when I can, but her lessons would be incredible without my participation. She really knows how to put together lessons and responses that help so many levels of writers.

Sometimes I participate just because I assume other people are like me--I assume they use the "view new posts" feature of the forum. When I post and when Jan responds, there are more new posts to be spotted, which hopefully will capture people's attention and bring them to Jan's wonderful lessons.
Steve
nlf.net
________
"When the Round Table is broken every man must follow Galahad or Mordred; middle
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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Re: Jan's New Writing Lessons--TIGHT WRITING

Postby glorybee » Tue Sep 17, 2013 9:41 pm

Thanks, Steve--but I'm getting discouraged by the lack of participants. I appreciate you and Graham and Mike and a few others who've dived in to this new bunch of lessons--but it's a lot of work for less than a dozen readers. I know that there may be people who are reading but who are shy about posting. Still--my own crippling self-doubt (something I've fought all my life) tries to tell me that the lessons are either too easy or too hard or worthless for some other reason.

Just being totally honest here, and hoping for some ideas for picking up readers. When I did a series of lessons a few years ago, dozens of people responded every time; some of the threads reached 5 or more pages, with many, many responses. I'm not sure what's different now.

Those of you who ARE participating--if you have others here at FaithWriters who you're friends with, could you encourage them to stop by this forum?

Any other insights as to why there is a lack of participants? Any ideas about getting more people to join in?
Jan Ackerson

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Re: Jan's New Writing Lessons--TIGHT WRITING

Postby Mike Newman » Tue Sep 17, 2013 11:15 pm

Jan,

I appreciate how it is frustrating for you to put out the effort and have diminishing returns. Two things to that:

1. I can only speak for myself, but I find value in it. It is really the only active area on the forum that is geared toward making us better at our craft. You do a fantastic job of making each topic interesting and engaging. Seeing as how there are writers here in various stages of development, at times you are going to miss the mark in regard to meeting everyone where they are. It is unavoidable when trying to target a general audience. But you walk that line quite well.

2. I think some of it might be that the smaller audience is a reflection of a smaller forum population in general (although I am new, so this is speculation). It also appears to me that the large majority of forum use is geared toward general chit-chat.

You do a great job, and I am grateful for your time and talent.

Having said that, what about asking people to take topics for you if and when you need a break? That might be a help for maintaining a regular and consistent output, which I think is crucial for building a dedicated following.

As far as our help in generating more excitement about it, I am certainly willing to try any ideas. I'm not very creative when it comes to stuff like that. So let me know what people come up with and I'm all in.

I did post a direct link in a reply to a Newbie area post, which would be a good habit for me to get into whenever I see a post from someone just coming onboard.

Anyway, thanks again Jan, let me know if I can be of any help.

Mike

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Re: Jan's New Writing Lessons--TIGHT WRITING

Postby swfdoc1 » Tue Sep 17, 2013 11:38 pm

I think you have lots of FW friends (active and inactive) on FB. You might want to plug your lessons there.

Also, I know that at one time you changed the name of the class to "Jan's Writing Basics." You might want to change it to something else to attract back some of the folks who participated under the old name and/or others. As I mentioned before, you've always been able to write lessons that work for writers of various skills simultaneously.
Steve
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"When the Round Table is broken every man must follow Galahad or Mordred; middle
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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Re: Jan's New Writing Lessons--TIGHT WRITING

Postby glorybee » Tue Sep 17, 2013 11:51 pm

Steve, I've plugged it on FB, on my writing page there (Superior Editing Services), where almost all of my followers are current or former FaithWriters. I get "likes," but if it sends people here, I've not seen evidence of it.

Do you have any suggestions for a new name for the class?

Mike, thanks for leaving the link in the newbie thread. I think perhaps leaving links in comments on Writing Challenge entries might be helpful, too, but I dislike doing that. I've never been one for self-promotion (it's that self-doubt thing again).
Jan Ackerson

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Re: Jan's New Writing Lessons--TIGHT WRITING

Postby swfdoc1 » Wed Sep 18, 2013 12:09 am

Sorry to hear the plugging hasn't produced more results. You probably remember some/most of the old faithful participants. What about sending them personal invitations, telling them that the new classes will be geared towards all levels of writers and offering them the chance to be the guest teacher on occasion per Mike's suggestion. Some people might be very interested in doing that and might plug your classes on their blogs. You would have to think out how frequently you wanted to have guests so folks wouldn't get disappointed if they expected more opportunities than you intend.

I don't have any suggestions for the name off the top of my head, but I can think about it. Wasn't the old name "Jan's Master Class"?
Steve
nlf.net
________
"When the Round Table is broken every man must follow Galahad or Mordred; middle
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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Re: Jan's New Writing Lessons--TIGHT WRITING

Postby Come forth » Wed Sep 18, 2013 1:22 am

Steve wrote:
Jan gets all the credit. If she didn't labor to put the lessons together and to respond to each post,


While this is true it still remains that I have learnt soooo much from your posts, in this and other threads, and my thanks remain.

Blessings, Graham.
May we all get eyes to see and ears to hear,
A Revelation of His Word, crystal clear.
Admitting our need to be drawn in,
Less of self, more of Him.

My prayer for us all.
God bless us with the Revelation of His Word, Graham
http://www.shekinahcloud.com/page/page/8464330.htm

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Re: Jan's New Writing Lessons--TIGHT WRITING

Postby swfdoc1 » Wed Sep 18, 2013 1:35 am

I didn't mean to turn away your appreciation, for which I thank you. I just wanted to give credit where credit is due.
Steve
nlf.net
________
"When the Round Table is broken every man must follow Galahad or Mordred; middle
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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