Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Writing Descriptively (Part 3 of 7)

Descriptive writing isn't a long list of adjectives. Some writers strain over using what they call strong verbs. Don't do that.

Descriptive writing flows from your understanding of what you want to say, and you use your own vocabulary and styles (we call that your voice). It's not what someone called "that flowery stuff that embellishes stories."

For example, why would you write "her visage" or "his countenance" when you'd normally use the word face?

Descriptive writing tries to create an image—a picture—by selecting exactly the right words that clarify. You provide visual details that include sounds and smells, and texture.

Here's my favorite explanation, written by Richard Price: You don’t write about the horrors of war. No. You write about a kid’s burnt socks lying in the road.

You need to present the most significant details—those that reveal the essence of the person, object, action, or situation.

To write descriptively, I don't need to search for strong verbs;
I need to embrace my own natural voice.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Writing Descriptively (Part 2 of 7)

When you write descriptively, readers nod because they get it. You pay attention to the details by using as many of your five senses as you can.

Another way to say it is that you write in such a way that readers feel they're involved in the story or the illustration.

I caught this April 30, 2001, from a lead article in USA Today. This is nonfiction called, "A puff of smoke, and then chaos at 4,000 feet" by Jack Kelley.
Missionary worker Jim Bowers peered uneasily out the front passenger window of a Cessna 185 floatplane. To his right: a Peruvian air force fighter jet.

It had been tailing the Cessna for about 15 minutes.

Suddenly, there was a puff of smoke from the fighter. Bullets pierced the missionary plane in machine-gun fashion. The jet flew under the Cessna, reappeared on its left and fired again.
Notice "peered uneasily," "puff of smoke," "bullets pierced." That's descriptive writing and puts us inside that Cessna.

Because I want readers to feel they are part of the story, 
I write descriptively.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Writing Descriptively (Part 1 of 7)

I worked with a new writer and tried to explain what I meant by descriptive writing. I began by telling her it was like the third leg of a stool. "No matter whether you write fiction or nonfiction," I said, "it's a skill you need to learn."

The first leg is the background information. Someone called it exposition. The second is the narration—the storyline, or the telling of events.

Then we get to the description, which paints the story in word pictures. Here's the idea behind descriptive writing: Your words enable readers to capture a picture in their minds.

I write descriptively to enable readers to feel and visualize my writing.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Reminders of the Obvious: What We Take for Granted

Don Otis is a well-known media publicist. This is an excerpt from his July 17 MediaWise newsletter and is posted here with his permission. See www.veritasincorporated.com for more info.

* * * * *

Here are a few obvious things every interviewee ought to know, even if you have done hundreds of interviews. 
  • Be on time. A live interview at 3:00 pm means 3:00 pm, not 3:15.
  • Be prepared. Have your book or materials in front of you and be ready to roll when the interviewer calls, or when you are scheduled to call the studio. 
  • Be upbeat. Bring energy to the process. 
  • Be engaging. Interact. Don’t answer “yes” or “no” and leave it there. Elaborate. 
  • Be aware of the clock. If you hear bumper music, begin to wrap up your answers. Know when the interview is supposed to end. 
  • Be flexible. Change happens. No one likes it but it is part of the experience. If a late-breaking news story preempts you, accept a reschedule with grace. 
  • Be grateful. Thank the host or producer for having you on. 
  • Be willing to call the station or program if you do not hear from them at your scheduled interview time. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

What I Wish I'd Known

Sometimes I'm asked what I wish I'd known before I reached where I am now. Here are three things I think of immediately.

1. I wish I had been able to accept rejections objectively. Like any serious author, I throw myself into everything I write. It hurt deeply when I received my early rejections.

2. There is no place to stop improving. I assumed that once I became a good, well-published writer I could relax. I work harder at the craft now than I did in my early days. And part of my joy is in learning how to write better, even in small ways.

3. I wish I hadn't compared myself with other writers. When I did, they always seemed better or more successful than I was.

Nowadays I say to myself, I'm the best Cec Murphey in the publishing business.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

What Would I Have Done Differently?

Occasionally an interviewer will ask, "If you had known what you know now, what would you have done differently when writing your first book?"

I don't know that I would have done it much differently. That is, I gave myself to each project and tried my best. I wrote with all the passion and knowledge I had at that point.

Here's what many don't grasp: Writers improve by writing. Each time I receive the edited version of my book, I learn things. Furthermore, if I had known it all in the early days, being a fulltime, paid author wouldn't have been exciting. I would have known all the answers and faced few of the challenges.

Sure, I hate rejections, and I love acceptances. That means every time I write, I'm anticipating wonderful results. Sometimes I get them. When I receive a rejection, these days I remind myself, "The next one might be a big one!"

I wouldn't want that taken away from me.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

A Trap for Writers

My best friend says he'll never be a writer "because I always think that some won't understand or they'll disagree."

It's a trap to try to figure out the personality of your readers. Most of us know the age group or the type of people for whom we write. To attempt to be "all things to all people" is paralyzing.

I know writers who think that way. They're so careful to be orthodox, culturally correct, and not offend anyone, and their writing doesn't come from deep within. This is especially true of Christian authors. They don't have to prove their faith; they have to show their faith by opening themselves. When they're honest, even people who don't agree can accept them.

As I keep saying in this blog, I write from my heart and throw it out into the world. Not everyone likes my writing or agrees with my worldview. And I get criticized sometimes.

Here's one of my maxims:

I'd rather be disliked for who I am than to be admired for who I'm not.