Archive for March, 2007

The words writers choose

Words are powerful.

Words can persuade, encourage, horrify, incense, inflame, enrage, amuse, entertain, pacify, sadden, inform, offend or hurt. Hey – that’s quite a list – and to think that I didn’t use a thesaurus. Actually, there are probably several hundred more words I could have used, but you get the picture.

As writers we need to choose our words carefully. The wrongly chosen words can nullify – even destroy – the message we are trying to convey to the reader. Never hesitate to change the words you first thought of during the editing stage. Your writing will be more understandable, powerful and enduring for this attention to precision.

Confusing Words

Some words can be confusing. Some words can be misleading, or misunderstood. Some words have no meaning to some people. Three words that cause a great deal of confusion, puzzlement and downright blank stares from the general population are blog, blogger and blogging. Even my computer spell check does not like them!

When you say you write a blog, or are a blogger, or you spend your day blogging, most people think you are either demented or speaking another language – or both. The fact is, most people still have not heard of blogging.

A new approach

After reading an article by Chris Cree on his site Success Creeations I am going to change tack. Instead of trying to explain what a blog is, and getting blank looks, I am going to tell people that I write articles and stories for the internet. I will tell them that I’ve had over a thousand articles and stories published on my three web sites in the last twelve months, and I have had over forty thousand visitors so far this year. And I am getting a pay increase every month!

It is worth reading all of the article written by Chris – it’s called The Words We Choose to Use Make a Difference. Don’t forget to read the comments too as these add value to the article.

The Writer’s Toolbox

It is one thing to have a great idea for a story or a book or an article. Or even a blog post.

It is quite another thing to actually get that idea down paper – or at least on the computer screen (for all those paperless office gurus – where did they go, by the way?).

The Proper Tools

Without the proper tools to do the writing, you might as well be spitting in the wind for all the good it will do you. The tools of writing are the skills you need to get the words from your thoughts on to the screen or page. Skills can be taught. Skills can be practised. Skills can be developed.

Good Writing Resources

Today we have many wonderful and useful resources available to beginning writers to help them on their way, including:

  • Books about writing
  • Magazines dedicated to helping writers (see my links page)
  • Conferences for writers
  • Seminars and workshops for writers
  • Writers Centres (see the links page for Australian Writers Centres)
  • Blogs about writing (like this one – see also the links page)
  • Web sites about writing (just type “writing” into a search engine)

The Writer’s Toolbox

One very useful collection of writing tools called Fifty Writing Tools can be found on the bench of writer Roy Peter Clark.

At times, it helps to think of writing as carpentry. That way, writers and editors can work from a plan and use tools stored on their workbench. You can borrow a writing tool at any time. And here’s a secret: Unlike hammers, chisels, and rakes, writing tools never have to be returned. They can be cleaned, sharpened, and passed on.

Each of these tools is an article in its own right. Could I suggest you work through these articles one per day? In just over seven weeks you will have completed an online writing course and thorough grasp of the skills needed to be a better writer.

Writing Hint #25: Keep a Word Count

Goals, if they are to be meaningful, need to be measurable.

One very useful hint I picked up early in my writing endeavours is to keep a record of my daily word count. I have set a goal for how many words I write each day and try to exceed that if I can. Last year it was 750 words per day and I achieved just over that. This year I have upped the goal significantly; I aim to average 1000 words per day. At this point in time I am just below 900 words per day and closing fast.

Why keep a word count?

Here are my reasons:

  1. Measurable: A daily word count is a measurable goal; I can see instantly if have reached my goal.
  2. Accountable: I keep a record chart listing words written each day which tells me instantly if I’ve been slacking off.
  3. Motivational: Setting goals like this motivates me to keep on writing. If I know that a novel needs another 50,000 words approximately, that should take me about seven weeks if I write at least a thousand words a day. Breaking down huge tasks into smaller day-sized chunks makes the task much less daunting.
  4. Personal: I am a self-confessed statistics-loving junkie.

Setting Your Goals: A Word of Warning

If you are new to the writing or blogging world, don’t set unattainable goals. I know I can achieve a thousand words a day because of many years of writing on demand. To the beginner, setting a small goal like 100 words a day may be sufficient. After a few weeks you might be able to set the bar higher, say 200 or 300 per day.

Set Small Realistic Goals:

  • Set small goals first.
  • Get into the habit of writing something every day to start with.
  • As you begin to achieve that small goal, increase the daily word count.
  • Keep on stretching yourself by raising the bar.
  • Remember to keep the goals realistic though; a goal of 1000 words in not achievable if you can only set aside a half hour per day.

Good writing.

Related articles:

Following your writing dreams

I regularly receive an email newsletter about writing called “Writing World.” It often has excellent articles about writing, the writer’s life, being professional and hints and tips useful for writers.

I have kept one article written by editor Moira Allen in my inbox for several months. Here is an extract:

Writing IS a rewarding, exciting career. As long as I have to work at all, I wouldn’t want to do anything else. And becoming a freelancer offers a number of benefits that go far beyond money.

Freelancing teaches you how the writing world works — that acceptance and rejection aren’t, for example, mere whimsical events that depend on which side of the bed an editor rolled out of that morning. You learn what sells and what doesn’t, and why, and when something doesn’t sell, you learn to spend less time moaning and more time hitting the keyboard.

You learn that one can’t afford to wait for the “muse” to drop by
before you start to write — and that, even if you don’t feel the
least bit inspired, you CAN write whenever you force yourself to
sit down at that keyboard, and write well. You learn not only
how to meet deadlines but how to set your own. Over time, you
begin to build a name for yourself, and a portfolio — both of
which can be helpful when you ARE ready to start that novel.

And best of all, you see your writing skill improve, month by month
and piece by piece. In short, you learn professionalism, discipline and skill — three essential ingredients for the writing life. When you DO decide that it’s time to start following your dreams, those ingredients won’t guarantee success — but the lack of them will almost certainly guarantee failure!

[The whole article can be read here.]

Three Essential Attributes for Writers:

  1. Professionalism: Treat your writing seriously; if you treat it like a hobby it will always remain just that, a hobby. Treat your writing and your time as if you are going to a job in an office, school or factory.
  2. Discipline: This is a tough one. The more time you have available for writing, the more time you have to waste on non-productive activities. Set some firm goals – and stick to them. I set a minimum number of words per day and month as well as a minimum number of blog posts and hours devoted to my writing.
  3. Skill: There are three basic steps to becoming a better writer: Practice, Practice and more Practice. There is no easy way. It is hard work. Lance Armstrong didn’t get up one morning, mount his bicycle and say he was going to win the Tour de France seven consecutive times. For every kilometre he rode in the race, he practised for hundreds of kilometres in preparation.

Writing for Children

Over 35 years of working with children – I was an elementary school teacher until I retired three years ago – I developed a love of children’s books. I’ve also developed a desire to write books for children.

I’ve written several picture book texts as well as several novels for older children; all remained unpublished (but my day will come). I’ve had six books published; two were teachers’ curriculum guides and the others were children’s workbooks linked to the curriculum. I’ve also written many children’s poems, mostly unpublished too.

Many would-be authors think they will start by writing children’s books “because they are easier to write.” WRONG. Writing for children is a very demanding and difficult genre. As with many artistic endeavours, the easier it looks, the harder it is to do well.

Eugie Foster is a published author who has written a short guide called Writing for Young Readers on the Writing World website. She outlines the things to remember and things to avoid when writing for children.