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Be a Better Writer--WHAT'S YOUR QUESTION?

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: Be a Better Writer--WHAT'S YOUR QUESTION?

Postby glorybee » Sat Dec 07, 2013 6:23 pm

I'm on the road and answering from my phone, so pardon any typos, please.

When you're addressing a person in writing, set off their name with a comma.

Non-fiction is fine for the challenge. It tends not to win as often as fiction or poetry, possibly because much inspirational nonfiction has an element of "been there, done that." To catch the judges' eyes, it really has to be quite creative and special.
Jan Ackerson

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Re: Be a Better Writer--WHAT'S YOUR QUESTION?

Postby RachelM » Sun Dec 08, 2013 12:57 am

Thanks, Jan, for the quick reply!
My FaithWriters profile: RachelM FW member profile

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Re: Be a Better Writer--WHAT'S YOUR QUESTION?

Postby lish1936 » Sun Dec 08, 2013 4:52 pm

Jan wrote:When you're addressing a person in writing, set off their name with a comma.


So glad for the question, Rachel, because I've never figured out what comes after the name rather than before it.

Hi, Jan! - Hi, Jan. - Hi, Jan, Hi, Jan

I've seen it written so many different ways, so that now, which ever way I write, it depends on what mood I'm in and with little regard for grammatical correctness. :helpwobble

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I write even when I think I can't, because I must. :-)

I love to write. Nothing escapes the crush I have on the written word. I'm hooked on words!!

"Let words bewitch you. Scrutinze them, mull them, savor them, and in combination, until you see their subtle differences and the ways they tint each other." Francis Flaherty

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Re: Be a Better Writer--WHAT'S YOUR QUESTION?

Postby glorybee » Sun Dec 08, 2013 6:30 pm

lish1936 wrote:
Jan wrote:When you're addressing a person in writing, set off their name with a comma.


So glad for the question, Rachel, because I've never figured out what comes after the name rather than before it.

Hi, Jan! - Hi, Jan. - Hi, Jan, Hi, Jan

I've seen it written so many different ways, so that now, which ever way I write, it depends on what mood I'm in and with little regard for grammatical correctness. :helpwobble

Lillian


In informal writing such as that in message boards, emails, social media and the like, your own mood is really the best indicator of what punctuation to use. I might be more inclined to use a dash:

Hi, Lillian --

...to avoid that awkward-looking double comma.

But an exclamation point would also be fine, or a comma, or an ellipsis. It really doesn't matter.

By the way, in formal letter writing, you'd want to use the comma format we were all taught in school:

Dear Lillian,

And if you're writing to a businessperson about something business-y, you'll want to change that comma to a colon.

Dear Ms. Rhodes:

That's much more than you asked, I know. Sometimes I just can't help myself.
Jan Ackerson

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Re: Be a Better Writer--WHAT'S YOUR QUESTION?

Postby lish1936 » Sun Dec 08, 2013 11:33 pm

Jan wrote:
That's much more than you asked, I know. Sometimes I just can't help myself.



Glad you threw in the bonus. The : for business letters was one of those "you're never too old to learn" facts for me. :D

Lillian
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I write even when I think I can't, because I must. :-)

I love to write. Nothing escapes the crush I have on the written word. I'm hooked on words!!

"Let words bewitch you. Scrutinze them, mull them, savor them, and in combination, until you see their subtle differences and the ways they tint each other." Francis Flaherty

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Re: Be a Better Writer--WHAT'S YOUR QUESTION?

Postby violin4jesus » Thu Dec 12, 2013 10:01 am

Are some people's muses more active than others'? (pardon my bad grammar if I wrote it wrong)

I just always seem to have trouble coming up with ideas. I'm far better at non-fiction than I am at fiction; I can write pages and pages about real experiences but the best I can do for fictional ideas is a bunch of dialogue, if I even get an idea at all.

Do I just have too much on my plate? I don't have a lot of spare time and I have a zillion responsibilities; maybe my muse is too tired to think. :?

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Re: Be a Better Writer--WHAT'S YOUR QUESTION?

Postby glorybee » Thu Dec 12, 2013 11:30 am

Leah, this is just Jan being Jan, and not wearing my editor hat or any of the other hats I wear here. Yes, I think that some people's brains are more wired for coming up with creative ideas. I'll give you a musical analogy, since I know that you're a musician.

For a while, my little church had two pianists--a fellow named Bob, and me. Bob could read music a little bit, but when it was his week to play, we got lots of improvisation; the melody line in the treble, chords in the bass, fun little variations and riffs and arpeggios. When it was my turn to play, we got what was written in the song book, with maybe a brave little arpeggio at the very end.

I frequently told Bob, "I wish I could improvise like you--I'm so tied to the score." And Bob would reply, "I wish I could read music like you--I couldn't play that offertory if my life depended on it."

Bob and I have different musical gifts, but in the end, we're both capable of making music for the Lord.

So while you may not be gifted with an overabundance of ideas, you can still write. If you just have one idea, write about that one. If that just doesn't seem creative enough, use some "cheats" to get more ideas:

1. Get the Barnstormer app--hundreds of thousands of ideas
2. Ask for this for Christmas: http://store.mentalfloss.com/Storymatic#axzz2nH5b62mu
3. Or this: http://boardgames.about.com/gi/o.htm?zi ... Index.html
4. Find your own random prompts by placing your finger on a word in a nearby book, and then a second word in another book.
5. Text a friend or two, and ask them for a noun or an adjective. Write.

You get the idea. If your brain won't give you prompts, get them externally!
Jan Ackerson

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Re: Be a Better Writer--WHAT'S YOUR QUESTION?

Postby violin4jesus » Thu Dec 12, 2013 11:44 am

Thanks, Jan. I do recognize I have strengths and weaknesses, in all areas of my life.
I know I'm a grammatically tight writer, and good with dialogue, though significantly less creative than say, Sara (her muse never stops). I suppose it's good that I need help in this area, so I don't get too prideful about my writing. :roll:
I'm terrible at keeping the house clean, but I can cook and bake well, and modify recipes to fit my needs.
I'm frequently forgetful of details, but my patients know I care for them.
I can learn to humble myself and borrow a muse. :wink:

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Re: Be a Better Writer--WHAT'S YOUR QUESTION?

Postby Colswann1 » Sat Dec 21, 2013 6:48 am

Jan, I know we have been warned off from using clichés; I presume that is because they are not our own word creations, but is it permissible to use them in dialogue as a way of our everyday speaking?

Why does it seem OK to use phrases from well known writers like Shakespeare, and others, when they are not our own word creations either? Also, foreign word phrases (in general use) seem to be accepted too, is that because of writers' snobbery? :)
Colin Swann

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Re: Be a Better Writer--WHAT'S YOUR QUESTION?

Postby glorybee » Sat Dec 21, 2013 9:30 am

Colswann1 wrote:Jan, I know we have been warned off from using clichés; I presume that is because they are not our own word creations, but is it permissible to use them in dialogue as a way of our everyday speaking?

Why does it seem OK to use phrases from well known writers like Shakespeare, and others, when they are not our own word creations either? Also, foreign word phrases (in general use) seem to be accepted too, is that because of writers' snobbery? :)


Colin, you've got it exactly right--since people use cliches in everyday speech, it's fine to have your characters use them in your writing. In fact, some cliches can aid in characterization--for example, if a person in your story tends to use folksy cliches and idioms, it can tell your reader something about her.

Just be careful about it, though. If your characters use too many cliches, they may start to seem more like caricatures than real people. Also, if a reader's eyes see the beginning of a familiar phrase, they may skip over it, even subconsciously, and may even skip to the next paragraph. If you don't want your reader to miss a single word, you might want to keep the cliches to a minimum.

Finally, if you want your characters to seem really quirky and interesting, you'll give them quirky and interesting things to say. So in a situation when your character is referring to someone who is quiet, instead of saying "Susie Johnson sure is as quiet as a churchmouse, isn't she?" your character might say "Susie Johnson sure is as quiet as a chunk of cheese, isn't she?"
Jan Ackerson

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How can I get my first e-book published?

Postby tranz4md » Wed Jan 22, 2014 11:36 pm

Hi Jan,

Thanks for sharing a bit about yourself and thank you for sharing this writing basics class.

I am working on my first book, probably e-book and I'm almost finished with it. It's going to be a dialogue between a believer and an unbeliever.

I guess I need to have it edited. Also I need guidance as to how to actually get it out there. I don't even know how to give it a cover with a picture and the title and all that.

Are there some links you can share with me that will help me get started with the actual publishing part of the book.

I really could use some help. I don't know where to start and so coming to you is where I'll begin.

Thanks Jan and I'll be looking forward to your reply!

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Re: Be a Better Writer--WHAT'S YOUR QUESTION?

Postby glorybee » Wed Jan 22, 2014 11:53 pm

Tranz4med--

You've asked me almost the one question that I can't help you much with, beyond referring you to others who know more than I do.

I can tell you that you definitely should have your book edited by a professional editor. That's the main mistake that most first-time writers make, whether they're self-publishing or seeking to go the traditional publishing route. I can't tell you how many thousands and thousands of unedited or poorly edited books have flooded the market now that self-publishing and e-publishing have gotten so easy. The last thing you want "out there" is your name attached to a poorly edited or unedited book--so don't skip that step, please. There are many, many editors on this site. When you log in to the FaithWriters site, there's a green tab at the upper left that you can click for information on several editors and their services.

As far as the publishing end of the business--this is what I know the least about. I'd recommend that you put your inquiry on The Open Forum here on the message boards: viewforum.php?f=1

We have many, many members who have self-published and have published e-books, and they will be able to give you better advice than I could.
Jan Ackerson

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Re: Be a Better Writer--WHAT'S YOUR QUESTION?

Postby tranz4md » Thu Jan 23, 2014 11:18 am

Wow, I wasn't expecting such a quick reply. Great, I'll start by checking the list of editor's.

I'm sure there is much valuable information for me to learn here between Jan's Writing Basics and Ann's Grammar Basics and I will, as time allows.

Thank you for such a quick response to my question and God bless,

Wendy

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