Category Archives: Writing Tip

Fifty Writing Tools: Quick List

images (3)
avatar
Published June 30, 2006 2:32 pm 
Updated Nov. 25, 2014 9:21 am

Use this quick list of Writing Tools as a handy reference. Copy it and keep it in your wallet or journal, or near your desk or keyboard. Share it and add to it.

I. Nuts and Bolts

1. Begin sentences with subjects and verbs.
Make meaning early, then let weaker elements branch to the right.

2. Order words for emphasis.
Place strong words at the beginning and at the end.

3. Activate your verbs.

Strong verbs create action, save words, and reveal the players.

4. Be passive-aggressive.
Use passive verbs to showcase the “victim” of action.

5. Watch those adverbs. Use them to change the meaning of the verb.

6. Take it easy on the -ings.
Prefer the simple present or past.

7. Fear not the long sentence.
Take the reader on a journey of language and meaning.

8. Establish a pattern, then give it a twist.
Build parallel constructions, but cut across the grain.

9. Let punctuation control pace and space.
Learn the rules, but realize you have more options than you think.

10. Cut big, then small.
Prune the big limbs, then shake out the dead leaves.

II. Special Effects

11. Prefer the simple over the technical.
Use shorter words, sentences and paragraphs at points of complexity.

12. Give key words their space.
Do not repeat a distinctive word unless you intend a specific effect.

13. Play with words, even in serious stories.
Choose words the average writer avoids but the average reader understands.14. Get the name of the dog.

Dig for the concrete and specific, details that appeal to the senses.

15. Pay attention to names.
Interesting names attract the writer � and the reader.

16. Seek original images.
Reject clich�s and first-level creativity.

17. Riff on the creative language of others.
Make word lists, free-associate, be surprised by language.

18. Set the pace with sentence length.
Vary sentences to influence the reader’s speed.

19. Vary the lengths of paragraphs.
Go short or long — or make a “turn”– to match your intent.

20. Choose the number of elements with a purpose in mind.
One, two, three, or four: Each sends a secret message to the reader.

21. Know when to back off and when to show off.
When the topic is most serious, understate; when least serious, exaggerate.

22. Climb up and down the ladder of abstraction.
Learn when to show, when to tell, and when to do both.

23. Tune your voice.
Read drafts aloud.

III. Blueprints

24. Work from a plan.
Index the big parts of your work.

25. Learn the difference between reports and stories.
Use one to render information, the other to render experience.

26. Use dialogue as a form of action.
Dialogue advances narrative; quotes delay it.

27. Reveal traits of character.
Show characteristics through scenes, details, and dialogue.

28. Put odd and interesting things next to each other.
Help the reader learn from contrast.

29. Foreshadow dramatic events or powerful conclusions.
Plant important clues early.

30. To generate suspense, use internal cliffhangers.
To propel readers, make them wait.

31. Build your work around a key question.
Good stories need an engine, a question the action answers for the reader.

32. Place gold coins along the path.
Reward the reader with high points, especially in the middle.

33. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
Purposeful repetition links the parts.

34. Write from different cinematic angles.
Turn your notebook into a “camera.”

35. Report and write for scenes.
Then align them in a meaningful sequence.

36. Mix narrative modes.
Combine story forms using the “broken line.”

37. In short pieces of writing, don’t waste a syllable.
Shape shorter works with wit and polish.

38. Prefer archetypes to stereotypes.
Use subtle symbols, not crashing cymbals.

39. Write toward an ending.
Help readers close the circle of meaning.

IV. Useful Habits

40. Draft a mission statement for your work.
To sharpen your learning, write about your writing.

41. Turn procrastination into rehearsal.
Plan and write it first in your head.

42. Do your homework well in advance.
Prepare for the expected — and unexpected.

43. Read for both form and content.
Examine the machinery beneath the text.

44. Save string.
For big projects, save scraps others would toss.

45. Break long projects into parts.
Then assemble the pieces into something whole.

46. Take interest in all crafts that support your work.
To do your best, help others do their best.

47. Recruit your own support group.
Create a corps of helpers for feedback.

48. Limit self-criticism in early drafts.
Turn it loose during revision.

49. Learn from your critics.
Tolerate even unreasonable criticism.

50. Own the tools of your craft.
Build a writing workbench to store your tools.


All of these tips are available via podcast through iTunes.

To purchase a copy of “Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer,” visit your local or online bookstore or click here (as an Amazon affiliate, Poynter will receive a small cut of the profit). You can contact the author at: rclark@poynter.org.


Source:http://www.poynter.org/how-tos/writing/76067/fifty-writing-tools-quick-list/

Writers – Get What It Takes For Success

Show Up


IMG_21473679414860Pay homage to your souls passion by showing up to make use of it. Face it, your desire for success and fame will never be realized if all you can manage to do 90% of the time, is daydream about what you are going to do. Hard work is favored with reward. Believe that you must show your dream some respect by putting in some time and attention to create your masterpiece and hone your talent. Strive to do your best and you will become your best.

Structure your schedule to include a time frame where you will work at your craft. Simply put, WRITE EVERY DAY!

If you are serious about giving the hours of creativity, then hang on tight, your soul is about to get a big dish of what it hungers for. At first you will feel a sense of satisfaction for your effort, but then the payoffs begin to roll in. Your writing is going to improve, and here is a map to guide you closer to your goal.

  • There is no such thing as writers block.
  • Get up thirty minutes earlier and start a dream journal.
  • Keep a doodle pad handy, or colored index cards for brainstorming.
  • Research at least once a week on your plot theme and structure.
  • Read an article about writing every other day.
  • Don’t read what you have written.
  • If your mind is wandering, do a brainstorming session and mind-map your ideas.
  • Read everyday in your chosen genre.
  • Be open to new ideas and try one on once a week.
  • Stretch and breath and drink lots of fluids. Don’t waste your time surfing the net.
  • Instant gratification is a lie and will get you nowhere and you are wasting precious time seeking it.

Writers Block: Seven Ways to Get Unstuck

You may be unable to write the thing you want or need to write, but that doesn’t mean you can’t write something. And that’s the key to breaking out of a funk. It’s like loosening up your muscles – once you get warmed up, your workout will be easier.

Here are a few tips for turning your brain cramp into a writer’s cramp:

  1. Write something else. An email, a blog post, a grocery list. Anything to get a little momentum going. 
  2. Free associate. Put pen to paper or fingers to keypad and write continuously for 15 minutes without stopping. Seriously. Whatever comes to mind. What you had for breakfast, what you see in front of you. Just do it.
  3. Try some creative writing. Write about your childhood home, your first memory, a favorite teacher or best friend. Turn on the TV. Take a line of dialogue you hear and use it as the starting point for a story. 
  4. Go online. Find something that really fires you up – sports, politics, the weather – whatever floats your boat or gets your goat. Read the comments and you’ll see how regrettably few people online are impeded by writer’s block. Join what passes for debate there and post a comment of your own. You might find that all you really need is to stir the passions a little.
  5. Change the scenery. Go somewhere else to write.
  6. Get moving. Get up out of your chair and take a walk or go for a run. Get energized.
  7. Read. Great writing inspires me. See what it does for you. Pull out a favorite book, or go online and track down the screenplay to a favorite movie.

Start a Dream Journal

What happens when you dream and what happens when you write is not so different, really. They both connect to the subconscious. All the weird stuff that floats around in your subconscious can be a good place to go when your work-in-progress gets blocked up. Make a game of it: choose some random element from a recent dream and work it into a scene you’re writing. It will keep you going—and in writing, if you just keep going (somewhere… anywhere!), you often end up headed in the direction you genuinely needed to go. The very act of keeping a dream journal stimulates the recollection of dreams. So the more you plan to remember, the more you remember.

  • Tell yourself you will remember your dream. If you sleep for the recommended 6.5 hours or more, you have five dreams every night. If you tell yourself and convince yourself that you will remember your dream, you will remember at least one in the morning.
  • Keep your mind focused before you fall asleep. Try to keep one idea in your head. Think about a news story you heard this morning. Think about your significant other. Dream about future kids if you don’t have any. Think about what color you want to paint your bedroom if you’re really desperate. Just try to keep it focused and don’t stress. You might remember a dream about this subject when you wake up.

Keep your journal near your bed with a working pen marking the next blank page. In the moments you waste looking for the journal, you will lose memories.

Your dreams can sometimes inspire you to write. Even the characters your mind creates can be used. Many best-selling authors say that their characters were created in their subconsciousness; their prime method of communication is through dreams.

Your Plot Theme and Structure

Theme:

Theme is what our story means. How it relates to reality and life in general. What is says about life and the infinite roster of issues, facets, challenges and experiences it presents. Theme can be a broad topical arena, or it can be a specific stance on anything human beings experience in life.

It can be a principle or an inevitable stage of growing up. It can be subtle or it can be on the nose. It can be contextual, or it can be the centerpiece of the story. And because it can be all of these things, or seemingly none of them yet strangely moving, it is often confusing to writers who can’t quite grasp what it means to the craft of storytelling.

Theme is the relevance of your story to life. To reality, as reflected in your fiction. Theme is love and hate, the folly of youth, the treachery of commerce, the minefield of marriage, the veracity of religion, heaven and hell, past and future, science versus nature, betrayal, friendship, loyalty, Machiavellian agenda, wealth and poverty, mercy and courage and wisdom and greed and lust and laughter.

Theme is life itself, as manifested in our stories, as seen through our characters, and as experienced through our plots. Take the time to do research on your theme and it will help you develop your story.

Plot:

If you are feeling a bit stuck, try to find the real life equivalent to your plot. Then, do research to find out what actually happened, and use the real life events to invigorate and expand your current plot.

  • In a few sentences, write the basic action of the plot. For example, If your story were The Heart Stays, you might write: “A Native American College student gets a scholarship to an Ivy league School and had to deal with the unexpected arrival of her troubled sister on campus.”
  • Go onto your Internet and Google. Use a simple sentence, for example, “Native Americans who got scholarships.”
  • Open several of the websites that come up, and see what kind of information you discover. Make notes of anything that is interesting or surprising.
  • Now repeat the experiment, but this time research another aspect that interests you. Once again using our example, you might research “scholarships” and see if the details match the ones in your own story.
  • Repeat the exercise one last time asking one more question about a different area. For example, I might want to know how many scholarships were offered to Native Americans.

To recap, research can be a way to enhance a fictional plot. The trick is to find a few rich details and stop.

Why Read

It goes hand-in-hand with the expansion of your vocabulary: exposure to published, well-written work has a noted effect on one’s own writing, as observing the cadence, fluidity, and writing styles of other authors will invariably influence your own work. In the same way that musicians influence one another, and painters use techniques established by previous masters, so do writers learn how to craft prose by reading the works of others.

With articles about writing, you can learn everything you need to know about virtually any writing topic and genre. Whether it’s fiction writing,how to write an article, getting published, promoting your work and much more. You learn from published authors and industry experts alike how to take your initial ideas and turn them into a completed story that is creative and print-worthy.


For Professional Book Cover Design, Illustration, & More

see Michelle Rene

Facebook Banner copy small


How to Write a Character Sketch

How to write a character sketch copy small

A sketch is a starting point.

In the visual arts, artists carry around sketch pads to practice and develop the fundamental skills of their craft with the aim of producing paintings that seem to jump off the canvas, or sculptures that seem to move in just the right light.

The same is true for authors who use character sketches.

Writers use this tool to develop and rehearse one of the fundamental skills of their craft -characterization.

However, the final goal is not to have a notepad full of character sketches, but an author should get to know his or her character through this practice.

While not everything that an author writes in a character sketch must be included in the novel, the author should develop an in-depth and all-encompassing knowledge of every facet of the character’s personality in order to create a consistent and engaging persona.

The ultimate goal of a writer is to take these character sketches and use them to craft a wonderfully engrossing, character-driven work of fiction.

iStock_000018149672XSmall

Try Some Book Study

A Character Sketch is a great way to assess the characters in the literature you are reading or people that you are researching about. It can give you tools of observation as you look at the many details about another individual.

When studying a specific character in a literary piece the sketch gives you the freedom to be a detective and try to find out what the author is expressing through their characters. You can sketch the protagonist ( the favorable hero or heroine in the story,) or the antagonist ( the character which causes the conflict for the main character), or the supporting characters.

This sharpens the skill of observation and note-taking as you focus on one specific character and the traits that make them ‘who they are’ in the book.

Can you write a sketch without a book to study? Absolutely!  A great way to practice is to sketch someone you know in real-life.

Untitled-1 copy

Writing a Character Sketch

When you are writing a Character Sketch, want to look for qualities of character and/or personality traits that you see in the person you want to write about.  The main goal of this is to be able to tell something  about the person you are researching. Think of it like an introduction.  In essence, you are introducing the reader to the person you are writing about.

Be sure to use strong visual words in your writing. You want to provide a lasting mental image of the person or character you are writing about. The use of quality adjectives and feeling in your writing, using words that relate to the five senses,  elicit an emotional response from your reader.  This will allow your reader to not only connect with you and the character but will show how you felt when reading a piece or spending time with the person you are writing about.

This type of writing only requires you to give a brief glimpse of the individual. When you are preparing to write make a list of the traits or details you want to include. It is possible to assign the number of traits equal to the # of paragraphs or supporting topics needed. Or you can categorize the subjects into a broader spectrum which allows you to have multiple supporting points for each topic.  It is always best to outline your writing material first so you have a good idea what you are writing.

Your outline should include descriptions on the following details:

  • Tell about their physical features. ( hair color, height, etc.)
  • Tell about the character’s personality. ( are they funny, serious, quiet, etc.?)
  • Their  likes or dislikes( What you know about their preferences and why?)
  • Talk about their family ( siblings, family history, etc)
  • What are their  beliefs or  hobbies?
  • Include anything that makes us see “who” they are.
  • What do you like or dislike about them?
  • Why are you drawn to them?

Sample Outline

Here is a sample outline for you to follow. It is a basic 5 paragraph ( approximately 500 word essay outline)  Feel free to take this and make it your own or make your own outline using this as a guide.

Introduction:

This section will introduce the character and is typically the first paragraph in  your paper.  It should include the following:

  • Your thesis statement ( the overall theme of the paper or the main idea of what you are writing) . The Thesis statement should  include the most  important character traits.
  • The subtopics ( these become the topic sentence in your body paragraphs) should be included in this paragraph as well. For example: use 1-2 sentences to list the traits that you are going to talk about. End with a transition sentence that ties into the 2nd paragraph.

Body:

This is paragraphs 2-4 or the in between paragraphs. The body comes between the Introduction and the Conclusion. These paragraphs detail the traits listed as the subtopics from the Introduction. Those subtopics should be the topic sentences in each body paragraph.

  • Always try to include the most important trait 1st, the second most important detail next, and so on.  Each paragraph has 1 trait which is discussed in detail. Include information  about experiences that support the trait which is being discussed.

Remember!  You want to pull your reader in so include details that will connect them to your main character.

Conclusion:

This is the last paragraph in your paper. Try to conclude with a final comment, pointed and well-expressed, that highlights the traits discussed in the paper.

  • Restate your thesis statement.
  • Remind the reader of your most important points.
  • Close with a solid statement which finalizes all you are trying to communicate to the reader.

 

Another Approach Recommended by Editors

 Who is your character physically?

Physical characteristics are the first things we notice when we meet someone. Therefore, this is a good starting point when writing a character sketch. Is your character a woman or a man? Is he or she tall or short? Is your character bald? How old is your character? Does he or she have a disability?

Authors, eager to explore the in-depth psychology of their written subjects, might discount these details as unimportant and base. But it is often these very details that lead to conflict or are the means through which we explore a character’s psychology. As an example of this, we recommend reading Flannery O’Connor’s Good Country People; in this short story, the physical details of the main character are representations of her internal state. Without a vivid description of this character’s physicality, a critical dimension of the plot would be lost and the central conflict would be nonexistent. Answering questions about your character’s physicality is the first step in creating a fully realized character.

What is your character doing?

This is the next question to ask because it brings into account other aspects of story writing such as setting and time. The answer to this question will also affect other aspects of your sketch, such as what your character is wearing or how he or she is feeling. Is your character walking down the street? Is he or she sitting in a park? Is your character working on a boat? Asking what your character is doing will not only help you understand your character, but also his or her relationship to the setting in your story.

Authors may be tempted to gloss over this part of characterization. When asked what his or her character is doing, an author might give a cursory answer; he or she may answer that the subject is at the movies, for example. But consider all that there is to do at a movie theatre: Is the character waiting in line for tickets or at the concession stand? Is he or she waiting to talk to the manager? Perhaps the character is sitting impatiently waiting for the movie to begin. Getting as specific as you can when answering this question will not only help you define your character, but will also help to define the other elements of fiction.

What is your character feeling?

This is probably one of the more complex questions you can ask about your character. Is your character angry? Is he or she happy, sad, tired, or depressed? Does your character love something or someone? Asking questions about your character’s emotional life might evolve into the production of a character history. While this may be tempting, you have to focus on what your subject is feeling within the context of the story you are writing. Although the answers to these questions are important, they are rarely explicitly stated in the story.

Authors may be tempted to start with the emotional or psychological state of their characters and they may even explicitly state them. This can lead to one of the cardinal sins of fiction writing: telling instead of showing. Implicitly showing how your character is feeling by his or her interactions with other characters or the setting is infinitely more interesting to read than explicitly stating whether your character is happy, sad, elated, joyful, or miserable.

Do you have any creative ideas that help you put together character sketches?

 

CDb copy

Sources:                                                                                                 http://www.journeysingrace.com/home-education/lesson-plans/literature/how-to-write-a-character-sketch/ http://www.scribendi.com/advice/how_to_write_a_character_sketch.en.html