Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Always Learning and Another (Writing) Book

May wildflowers 2018
"I am still learning." --Michelangelo

Yes, I'm still learning, too (although far, far away from the category of a Michelangelo!)--and hope that I never lose the desire to do so. So it is, in the spirit of learning, that I've added yet another book on writing to my shelf: The Story Cure, A Book Doctor's Pain-Free Guide to Finishing Your Novel or Memoir by Dinty W. Moore (Ten Speed Press 2017). I've only just begun digging into it, but already I like Mr. Moore's premise: "A Book Doctor is different from a copyeditor or a proofreader. The task at hand is not to clean up sentences, adjust punctuation, or fix typographical errors. A Book Doctor looks at the patient as a whole--the plot, the main characters, the voice, the structure--or, to continue the physician metaphor, the arms, the legs, the belly, and the heart. The Doctor's job is to diagnose exactly why the patient isn't thriving" (p.2).

And if I were honest, it's the heart of the book I'm now drafting that's suffering. May the doctor help diagnose my problem. In fact, in Chapter One, The Story Cure, one section is subtitled "Discovering (or Rediscovering) the Heart of Your Story." I'll have that part of the book dog-eared, I think.

Maybe your problem is where your story begins. That's addressed in Chapter 2: Your First Breath. Maybe it's voice and point of view. See Chapter 5, A Visit with the Throat and Eye Doctors. Or maybe plot and structure? How about Chapter 6, The Strong Skeleton?

Have I whetted your appetite yet? I think most of the material will be familiar to those who have been writing for a while, but why not review the subject matter from such a fun angle?

And speaking of books on the shelf: today's the day to announce the winners of my give-away for the inspirational book, The Short and Sweet of It, When the Right Word is a Short Word, compiled by Susan Cheeves King--an anthology of inspirational pieces written in one-syllable words. Peggy and Cathy, be on the lookout for your copies! You both commented in the give-away post (here) and I couldn't bring myself to pull just one name out of a list of two, so you are both winners! I'll be in touch by email to verify your addresses.

Yes, may we live motivated to always be open to learning and, for us writers, to be open to improving our craft. The journey of life is far more interesting that way.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

On the Value of Short Words, and a Give-Away

courtesy google images
"There is a story that an American general once asked Churchill to look over the draft of an address he had written. It was returned with the comment: 'Too many passives and too many zeds.' The general asked him what he meant, and was told: 'Too many Latinate polysyllabics like systematize, prioritize and finalize. And then the passives. What if I had said, instead of 'We shall fight on the beaches,' 'Hostilities will be engaged with our adversary on the coastal perimeter'?'"   --Winston Churchill (source)

Short words vs. long words (monosyllabic vs. polysyllabic): they both have their place, of course, but often--as Winston Churchill, Britain's great leader and prime minister during WWII, so artfully displayed--the scale of good communication tips more toward the punchiness and action of short words as opposed to the more flowery, lofty nature of long ones. Do you agree?

George Orwell weighed in on the subject, too: "Never use a long word where a short one will do. Never use the passive where you can use the active."

As mentioned in an earlier post (here), I answered a call to write for an anthology in which the main criteria was that we were to write in only one syllable words (with a few exceptions like prepositions, proper names, and words for family). Writing for this volume was not only rewarding in that my piece was accepted for the collection, but because the challenge itself provided opportunity to stretch the writing muscles in a different way. 

Thus, I'm happy to share in the good news that the book is out! The Short and Sweet of It, When the Right Word is a Short Word, compiled and edited by Susan Cheeves King (Grace Publishing, Broken Arrow OK 2018). As an anthology of inspirational pieces, the book is designed to encourage and uplift the reader. From the back cover: "How do we say more with less? Can short, simple words make what we write so clear that the reader gets it? Or will it remind them of reading a child's board book? The truth is, short words bring power because they are easy to read, easy to grasp, and easy to recall...In this book, the third in the Short and Sweet series, you'll find a collection of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry on a variety of topics. They have two things in common: Each is about something that matters deeply to the writer, and with few exceptions, each is written using only one-syllable words or words of fewer than six letters. If you've always thought writers have to use long words to keep readers engaged, discover why it's often a great idea to keep it Short and Sweet."

Short and Sweet! Maybe you'd like to take a peek between the covers and see what a few writers have done with a few short words. And so a give-away! I will send a copy out to a commenter-chosen-by-random. All you have to do is comment here by May 28, at which time I will do a random drawing and send a copy out to that person. Just leave a contact email so that I can be in touch to get your address :-)

Who knows, maybe then, too, you will be inspired to see just how far a few short words can go!

And here, a bonus of extra words of wisdom from Winston Churchill. See if any of these quotes stir you on to more words of your own, too--or maybe simply be an encouragement for the moment:  

  • "Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb."
  • "Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts."
  • "Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with it is a toy then an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, and then it becomes a master, and then it becomes a tyrant and, in the last stage, just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public."
  • "All the greatest things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom; justice; honour; duty; mercy; hope."
  • "It is a mistake to try to look too far ahead. The chain of destiny can only be grasped one link at a time."
  • "Out of intense complexities, intense simplicities emerge."
  • "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak, it's also what it takes to sit down and listen."
  • "Continuous effort--not strength or intelligence--is the key to unlocking our potential."