Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Those Nagging Little Problems (Part 4 of 16)

Eldest or oldest? What’s the difference? Both words refer to those greater in age. The difference is that eldest can be used only to related individuals, such as, “Jack is my eldest living relative.” Oldest is more general and fits most situations.

Either word, however, must refer to two or more. It grates on me when someone refers to “my oldest sister, Anne,” when he has only two female siblings. In that case, he should have written, “my older sister, Anne.”

As a growing writer, I’m aware of correct word usage.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Those Nagging Little Problems (Part 3 of 16)

Reflexive pronouns trouble some writers. Some, who don’t know grammar but try to act knowledgeable, often use sentences like “He gave the money to Maggie and myself.” The person should have said, “Maggie and me.” The incorrect usage is because the speaker probably doesn’t understand reflexive pronouns.

Here’s the rule: Whenever we use a pronoun ending in -self or -selves, that form must point back (reflect) to a noun or pronoun near the beginning of the sentence. For example, Herb poured himself a drink. (Himself is correct because we know it refers to or reflects the subject, Herb.) I doubt that anyone would write this sentence: I poured a drink for Maggie and himself.

Because I’m a careful, professional writer, 
I remain aware of reflexive pronouns.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Those Nagging Little Problems (Part 2 of 16)

All ready (2 words) is a phrase that means completely prepared. We’ve finished lunch and we’re all ready to leave. Michael hooked up my computer so I’m all ready to start typing my manuscript.

Already is always an adverb and refers to something that happened before a certain time. Doesn’t every American city already have the Internet? They have already eaten. The battle may already be lost but the one-word and two-word argument goes on.

What about all right or alright? Two words was the standard, but for the past four decades, writers have increasingly opted for one word, alright.

These days, I suggest you choose. I still use two words. I suggest you use two words when submitting for publication and if the publisher has decided on one, your editor will change it.

I prepare to be all ready to work; 
and it’s not only all right to improve—it’s mandatory.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Those Nagging Little Problems (Part 1 of 16)

In this series, I want to point out problems many writers face (and their incorrect usage).

We’ll start with adopt and adapt. Most writers have no problem with adopt, which means to take something as your own.

Adapt means to change.

If your book is sold to the movies, the producers used to list the title and byline and then add, “adapted by . . .” (These days, they simply say written by and refer to the screenplay.) That means they changed the form from a novel to a script.

Affect and effect. This one used to trouble me until I learned a simple rule. Affect is nearly always a verb; effect is nearly always a noun. Affect means to “have an influence on.” Marvin’s brusque tone negatively affected Grace. (His attitude influenced her emotions.)

Think of effect as a noun that means result. His raised eyebrow had the effect of silencing Grace. (Raised eyebrow brought about a result.) That’s the basic rule.

There are deviations, but my advice is that when you have doubts use this simple mnemonic sentence: Action is affect; the end result is effect.

Because I’m serious about writing, 
I want to know the language well.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Life Hands You a Platform

This post from Dan Balow first appeared on the Steve Laube Agency blog. It's used here with Dan's permission.

* * * * *

Every writer’s conference or gathering includes at least one presentation about developing or maintaining an author-marketing platform.

Social Media, public speaking, blogging, newsletters…everything working together to establish and support your personalized and unique author “brand.” This agency and other publishing blogs address various elements of the issue on a regular basis.

If you are having difficulty determining the direction of your author brand, you might either be thinking incorrectly about it or avoiding the obvious.

Life hands you a platform.

Often, creative people avoid the obvious and desire instead to go an entirely different direction than their experience would indicate. A simple desire to be creative can do this. Narrowing one’s work to one general theme seems restrictive and even creatively dissatisfying.

Re-stating what has been said here and by many others, successful authors will primarily find their success by doing one type of writing…their one thing. A significant majority of authors will write and publish less than a half-dozen books in their lifetime, so unless you are extremely successful, you have just a few opportunities to speak into your brand.

You can become so worried about being repetitive in your fourth and fifth books, you might not have a second or third.

Life gives you a platform, meaning if you look at your experiences, journey, friends, family, work, education, challenges, successes, failures, strengths, talents, weaknesses, spiritual gifts, and sins (yes, sins), you will find a core message laying there which should drive your entire writing career, no matter how many books you might write.

The mistake most writers make is thinking their brand must be so specific and narrow the joy of writing would be completely eliminated because you need to write the same book over and over.

Not true.

Branding is not limiting, it is liberating.

A brand does not repeat the same story, but the same underlying theme. You might think life gave you just one story, but it really gave you a broader message. This broader message is what any skilled author can write about.

Companies and organizations have mission-statements or guiding principles to direct them. Authors should as well. This is the “message platform” which will form a foundation for your writing. (For more on a message platform, click here)

You don’t write Christian fiction, you write stories about people living life in relationships and how God directs them.

You don’t write devotionals or Bible studies, you focus a reader’s thoughts on the things of God and what he desires a person to know about him.

You don’t write books about effective use of money, you show how God’s principles of stewardship make the things of this world work for one’s benefit and for God’s purposes.

The “big” messages from Scripture are themes, which can be repeated and re-purposed in many books. These messages can make for elements of an excellent author mission statement and branded theme behind their writing.

God’s faithfulness

God’s limitless mercy and grace

God working everything together for good

Forgiveness and Restoration

Redeeming your past

…and many more.

Most authors who resist the idea of branding their work do so because they mistakenly establish a brand, which is too specific, missing the bigger theme, which could find its way into many books.

Finding the big-message brand for your writing should be relatively simple, if you are only open to seeing it. Your life and faith journey hand it to you on a silver platform.

—Dan Balow is an agent with the Steve Laube Agency.