Tag Archives: words

It Takes A Tribe

What’s more fun than a barrel of monkeys?

Speaking before a tribe of writers!

See you in Colorado Springs May 2-5…

https://pikespeakwriters.com/ppwc/

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Note to self (publishers)

I’m not opposed to self-publishing. I am, however, averse to self-publishing without professional editing (not to mention formatting, layout, and cover design). Improper grammar, punctuation, spelling, capitalization … well, the list goes on and on.

Now while some of the rules (of grammar, punctuation, spelling, and capitalization, etc.) can be difficult to remember, or confusing to follow (hence, the need for a pro), a few things can make a big difference in the very first pages and can be taken care of as easy as 1-2-3.

(1) Should you wish to spew thanks and accolades to those who supported your writing endeavor, do so in the Acknowledgments … not Acknowledgements. No third “e.”

(2) Words or thoughts at the beginning of the book (by someone else) are on a page labeled Foreword, not Forward. The words before the story. Get it?

(3) And what about a Prologue? Most, if not all, spell the word correctly, so that isn’t the issue. The real problem is the prologue itself. Generally agents, publishers, and readers don’t like ‘em. The prologue tends to become an easy way to dump information without finesse. Readers are impatient to get to the story … and figure they can go back if they need to, which I’m betting they don’t do often. If the information is that good and that important to the story, make it Chapter 1.

Epilogue? Later.

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Feast on This

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Thanks for the Memories

As I prepare to participate in a panel discussion on writing non-fiction and memoirs for the Central Oregon Writers Guild (and shamelessly promote the event!) I thought I’d share these points:

Your best chance of writing a salable memoir is to read as many successful memoirs as you can. Here are a few examples (in alpha order by author, not necessarily by rank):

  • Augusten Burroughs ~ Running with Scissorsscissors
  • Elizabeth Gilbert ~ Eat, Pray, Love
  • Howard Shulman ~ Running from the Mirror
  • JD Vance ~ Hillbilly Elegy
  • Jeannette Walls ~ The Glass Castle

Each memoir is unique, but if your story can illustrate a theme that resonates so that others can identify with your experiences, you will have a more memorable (haha) book.

  • Surviving horrific challenges (Running from the Mirror)mirror
  • Coping with a parent’s mental illness (Running with Scissors)

Tell the truth (be real, for better or worse, because that’s what gives you credibility).

  • If you fudge on details to make yourself or others look better or change names, why are you writing a memoir? Write a nice fictional romance and be done with it.

But… don’t get hung up on accuracy.

  • Unless writing that you were home at 2:00 instead of 2:30 proves you didn’t rob the bank, don’t be specific with every detail, or readers will miss the big picture.
  • Eliminate junk words. “I remember being three-years-old when blah blah blah.” Of course you remember; it’s your memoir! Just say what you need to say: “I was three-years-old when …”

Come up with a great opening line to get the reader into your story.

  • Yes, this is true for any book — fiction or non-fiction. For some reason, though, memoirists feel it is more important to be factual than dramatic and entertaining.

Rewrite/revise mercilessly.

  • Cut scenes or situations that are irrelevant to your theme(s). You do not have to include every single life event. Remember, a memoir is not an autobiography!
  • Combine or rearrange sentences that begin with the word “I.”
  • Find and delete repeated words (-ly words, such as “quickly,” however, really, just). We all have favorites that we don’t even realize we overuse. Readers, will find them and get annoyed!
  • If you find yourself skimming a paragraph, consider deleting it. If it doesn’t interest you, it’s a good bet your readers won’t be interested, either.

Print out your manuscript. It’s amazing what you’ll catch on a physical copy.

Read your manuscript aloud. If you stumble over phrases or sentences, it’s quite possible your readers will, too.

And finally, competition for readers’ attention is fierce. For greatest chance of success, your story must be in the best possible shape. Hint: get a professional editor!

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Spring Cleaning

For many of us, warmer weather inspires us to want to clean out closets, wash windows, declutter. And with the latest onslaught of “organizing” books and blogs telling us to let go of items we don’t use, don’t wear, or don’t really like, the message is clear: use it or lose it.

I realized that this also applies to writing and to my efforts in editing. The goal is the same: help writers organize their thoughts, declutter their stories, and clarify their meaning. To put in more tangible, spring-cleaning terms:clothes

  1. Like washing windows, choose words and use words that sparkle and allow the light to come in. Instead of “She ran around the room making sure everyone was comfortable” … “She fluttered …”
  1. Donate (or delete) words that take up space. “… with a smile on his face” is just as effective using “… with a smile.”
  1. Throw away worn-out phrases like, “Her eyes twinkled like diamonds,” “Little did he know,” “Needless to say,” blah blah blah.
  1. Say goodbye to that old sweatshirt (your go-to favorite words) that you unwittingly sprinkle throughout your manuscript. This is tough, because you probably don’t even realize how often you are using your favorite words, but they usually pop out to me when I’m editing. They can be anything from “just,” “so,” “that,” to “quickly,” “suddenly,” “longingly,” or any “ly” words.
  1. If it doesn’t fit, don’t force it (or save it until you lose those ten pounds). That is, pulling out the thesaurus to find a word for “happy” sounds like a good idea, but replacing it with “jubilant” or “whimsical” might be overdoing it. Use alternatives with care.
  1. Maybe go-go boots and polyester pantsuits work at a 70s costume party, but they don’t fit well in today’s world. Same with words; be sure to use words and phrases that reflect the time period. Writing “on the world wide web” is awkward now, just as “swipe right” doesn’t mean a thing to that go-go dancer.

Good luck – and good riddance!

 

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Shelf-Life

As I prepare to donate many many many of my books, I wanted to pay tribute to some of them before they disappear from my bookshelves.

tidyActually, it was our most recent book club selection that inspired me to reduce my collection of books, which, I admit, is plentiful. A short and irritatingly cutesy book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo managed to motivate me to let go of hats, shoes, bags, and all sorts of clothing. The book has ignited conversation about our need for “stuff,” though author Kondo is clearly young, single, and comfortable financially, as evidenced by her naive and sometimes simplified attitude (“…if you find you’ve discarded something you really need later, you can always buy it again…”) And while I took into consideration the fact that the book was written with the help of a translator, I still found the writing awkward and at times, downright silly. But, then again, I have filled several bags and boxes with items for the local homeless shelter, family kitchen, and library (70 books to date; barely a dent).

Another book club choice, Hyeonseo Lee’s The Girl with Seven Names: A North Koreangirl 7 Defector’s Story, was also translated, though the book’s tone was definitely more serious and “important.” Lee’s struggles as a teenager living under a brutal Communist regime … and her strength at such a young age to be able to escape and travel and manage to not only survive but thrive… reminded me again of how little one really needs to lead a happy, fulfilling life.

We also read Wine and War: The French, the Nazis, and the Battle for France’s Greatest Treasure by Don and Petie Kladstrup, a continent and several generations earlier than the previous two selections. The dedication and perseverance of the French to protect their wines — wine and wartheir heritage — was not only heroic, but frightening. Whether you drink wine or not, the history and stories were remarkable testaments to the cruelty and stupidity of war. Unfortunately, while I gained a greater appreciation for the grape, I was disappointed in the storytelling. Repetitious and a bit flat. A book that I was glad to have read but wouldn’t recommend.

Cathy Marie Buchanan’s The Painted Girls propelled us even farther into the past … late 1800s Paris. The story was aspainted girls beautiful as Degas’ work upon which the novel was based, and with as much painful description of a ballerina’s life at the time. Author Buchanan’s diligent research added exquisite detail to create a moving and touching book. After reading this, I wanted to paint and dance!

 

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Teed off

If you don’t know what’s wrong with this picture (or rather, T-shirt) and you intend to write

—a literary masterpiece or a letter to Grandma—you need an editor.

Call me.dumb

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