Friday, August 28, 2015

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 25, 2015

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.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Writing Descriptively (Part 1 of 7)

Recently, 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, August 18, 2015

Frequently Asked Questions from Interviewers (Part 22 of 22)

How do you deal with the issue of pride that might come up when people brag about your writing or your books?

I don't think much about pride. Perhaps this will explain. When I began to ghostwrite in 1981, publishers and "authors" never acknowledged ghostwriters' existence. Could I write and not care who received the credit? That was the issue I had to resolve.

Once I was able to grasp that my writing ability is a gift from God, I went through a ten-year period when I only ghosted for others and I enjoyed the anonymity.

Even though my name now appears on the ghostwritten books and on my own books, it's no big deal for me. I'm doing what I can do well and God has honored my commitment. I love what I do and when I stop loving it, I'll stop writing.

Where's the place for pride in that?

Friday, August 14, 2015

Frequently Asked Questions from Interviewers (Part 21 of 22)

You're a successful writer and have obviously reached your goals. How does it feel to reach your publishing goals?

I don't know because I've never established any ultimate goals. I write because I love to write. I work hard at the craft because it's the most fun I've ever had—and I make money doing it.

I'm delighted that I make a good living as a writer and it is satisfying to know that I've worked hard and God has honored my faithfulness.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Frequently Asked Questions from Interviewers (Part 20 of 22)

What is the best and the worst advice you've ever gotten about the publishing industry?

The best advice came from a professional after I had published a few articles. I struggled with being transparent, and she said, "If you're going to be a professional writer, you must be willing to walk down the street naked." She said that in 1973.

I'm still learning.

The worst advice came from an editor: "Don't write biographies or memoirs. They don't sell." (I've made my living for 32 years by writing books for others, especially autobiographies.) Instead, I urge writers to follow their hearts.

It took me six years to get a publisher to accept When a Man You Love Was Abused. I persisted and God honored that persistence. So write what you're passionate about. Even if you don't publish it, you will be true to yourself.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Frequently Asked Questions from Interviewers (Part 19 of 22)

What are two things about writing you wish non-writers would understand?

We're like everyone else, except that we have different talents. Strive to be the best you can. I don't think like anyone else and I don't write like anyone else.

For example, I might use the word tiny and someone else might prefer small or minute. The important thing is to choose the one that sounds like me.

Second, there are no shortcuts to becoming a real writer. You might hire or barter for lessons, but you still have to embrace those ideas and learn to write them yourself. (Or hire someone to ghostwrite for you, which isn't uncommon.)

Too many seem to think that because they have an idea and can write 50,000 words on the topic, it's a book worthy of publication. I see this entitlement mentality frequently these days and I feel sorry for those individuals. They have many, many painful lessons to learn.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Frequently Asked Questions from Interviewers (Part 18 of 22)

What is your author fantasy? [This isn't a FAQ because only twice has anyone asked me.]

I'd like to see one of my nonfiction books at the top of the best-seller lists (and I've had that) along with a novel at the top of the fiction list. Maybe even two at the top of both lists. Why not? This is fantasy.

Also I'd like to write a manuscript so perfect the editors will cry because of their inability to find a single thing to change.