Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Tuesday Tidbit: First lines

Here’s your 15 seconds of inspiration
for this week’s Tuesday Tidbit.
If you’re polishing an opening paragraph
keep this in mind: Openings require a lot of work.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Tips for writing a top-notch opening

Your opening is the most important part to write well—whether you’re penning a book, a vignette, an article, a blog post, or an opening paragraph for the Women’s Memoirs contest. (Did you miss Tuesday’s post? If so, click here. And remember, the contest is open to men, too.)

At the same time, the opening is probably the most difficult part to write well.

Your beginning can make or break your story: An effective opening can entice a person to keep reading—but a weak opening can make a person close the book and walk away.

Before you start working hard to perfect your opening,
chew on this question:
Is your opening the correct opening?

Most of us write our way into stories. We start writing anywhere we can, and that’s fine.  We get down as much as we can, knowing that later we’ll go back and reorganize, edit, rewrite, and polish.

Warming up. Yes, that’s what we’re doing with our first drafts, maybe even with our second and third drafts, too.

Most of us warm up by circling around the heart of our stories. Warming up helps shape our ideas, discover where our story is taking us, and pin down what’s important.

I’m talking about the scaffolding we set up to build our stories.

I first learned about scaffolding years ago from Donald Murray, and later from Roy Peter Clark and Don Fry.  They say:

Chip Scanlan tells how scaffolding in writing resembles scaffolding in construction:

“Scaffolding is the ‘temporary framework of platforms and poles constructed to provide accommodation for workmen and their materials during the erection, repairing, or decoration of a building,’ as the Oxford English Dictionary defines the term.

“In the writing trade,” Scanlan says, “the poles and planks of scaffolding are words, phrases, and sentences that help the writer build.” (Click here to read the rest of his post, Dismantling Your Story’s Scaffolding.)

Look over your WIPs (works in progress) and identify the scaffolding. Those are the sentences that “can’t appear in the final version” (Clark and Fry).

Is it possible that your original opening paragraph is scaffolding?

If so, remove it.

Then, examine your story to determine the best opening. Often the opening—or the idea for your opening—is buried deep within the story.

In most of my writing, I seldom craft the best opening until I’m well into the revision phase.

How about you?

Your assignment this week is to recognize and dismantle your scaffolding. Then begin planning to create the best opening for your piece.

We have lots more to consider
about crafting an outstanding opening.
Be sure to come back next week!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Tuesday Tidbit: A writing contest over at Women’s Memoirs

This week’s 15 seconds of inspiration might take you 30 seconds,
but it’ll be worth your time: Here’s a fun opportunity!

At Women’s Memoirs, Pamela Jane Bell, Kendra Bonnett, and Matilda Butler have announced a contest for both women and men(If you’re a man and you doubt whether you can enter, read the comments at that link.)

They invite you to submit one paragraph—your opening paragraph—for their current contest. Entries, due September 3, should be around 150 words. Click here to learn more, and be sure to check out those prizes

If the thought of entering a contest makes you want to run the opposite direction, click here for a pep talk.

A book’s opening is the most important part to write well: From sentence one, your job is catch your readers’ attention, draw them in, and entice them to keep reading. 

Thursday I’ll share tips on editing, rewriting, and making that paragraph sparkle. For now, look over your manuscripts (you have a number of them in rough draft, right?) and select one to polish for the contest.

Be sure to come back Thursday!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Writing for the Soul Conference

Christian Writing Guild is advertising Writing for the Soul Conference, September 19-20, in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. If you’ve never attended a writers’ conference, or if it’s been a while since you have, this would be a helpful, inspiring event to attend.

Saturday morning’s keynote speaker is one of my favorite people, Cecil Murphey, a prolific writer (over 135 books) and New York Times bestselling author known for his as-told-to nonfiction books like 90 Minutes in Heaven and Gifted Hands.

I met Cec about ten years ago at a Christian writers’ conference in Spokane, WA. I had just returned to the States after eight years in Africa and was out of touch with a lot of things—I was clueless as to who Cec was and his exceptional accomplishments.

During the conference, I was spellbound as this gentle soul spoke inspiring, wise words to us. He was approachable and encouraging in my one-on-one session, and he sat around lunch tables with all of us—just a humble, ordinary guy, generous with his advice. Since then I’ve followed Cec’s blog and Facebook and signed up for his monthly newsletters. 

Cec’s keynote address at the Writing for the Soul Conference is titled “Hugging Readers with Our Words.” Sounds good, doesn’t it?

The conference will offer separate classes for fiction and for nonfiction (memoir is nonfiction). Cec will present two nonfiction sessions in addition to Saturday’s keynote address.

Conference participants will focus on three strategic areas: how to write a book, how to publish a book, and how to market a book.

Give serious consideration to attending.
You’ll come home all fired up to keep working on your memoir.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Who are the key people in your life?

Who are you? How did you become the person you are today?

Beth Moore suggested an exercise that caught my attention in her Bible study, Anointed, Transformed, Redeemed. You know me… I’m always thinking about memoir, so immediately I thought how useful her idea would also be for writing memoirs. Here’s her idea:

She suggests listing several people God has used to make you who you are today. Beside each person’s name, briefly describe what that person has given you, done for you, and shaped you.

So here we go!

1. _______________________________________________________

2. _______________________________________________________

3. _______________________________________________________

4. _______________________________________________________

Beth continues, “Now go back and draw a ‘+’ under each line to add it to the next. Then in the space under the last line, jot down several ways you are distinct from all of them. The sum total is a tiny glimpse of who you are.” [emphasis mine]

Isn’t that a clever idea?

It’s fun—and exciting, and humbling—to look back and connect the dots: to discover the ways God was leading, one dot-person at a time, even when you might not have realized it, to make you the special person you are.

Use memories and discoveries generated by this exercise to write your stories. What would your life be like if you had not met those specific people? Thank God for bringing them into your life—and write your stories!

Write life into those people. Avoid leaving your reader with just a shadowy idea of each character.

Write so your readers feel they’re beside you and your characters, reliving your experiences with you.

You don’t need to include every detail: Leave out irrelevant stuff. Include info pertinent to your story.

If possible, include photos. They add details, create interest, and make a lot of difference to your readers.

Pray, too, for God to help you 
write a memoir that will bless those who read it. 

Related posts:

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Tuesday Tidbit

Here's your 15 seconds of inspiration
for this week's Tuesday Tidbit:

Writing your memoir for your kids and grandkids
and great-grandkids
might remain in "less noticeable spheres"
but know this:
Writing your memoir for them is a holy calling.
Devote your best gifts there.