Thursday, August 28, 2014

“Someone needs to tell those tales”

Do you recognize the opportunity you have—as well as the responsibility—to write your stories? Right now, you probably can’t imagine how God can use them to bless your readers—your kids, grandkids, and great-grands.

Your stories are important. Writing them is more than a hobbyit is a ministry.

Do you recall our verse?

Always remember what you’ve seen God do for you,
and be sure to tell your children and grandchildren!
(Deuteronomy 4:9)

You and I are just ordinary people living ordinary lives, yet God is acting on our behalf every moment of every day.

Take time to observe what He is doing.

Notice the ways Bible passages come alive—how they come true, how they are relevant—in your family.

If you’ll put those stories into writing, you’ll be doing what Deuteronomy 4:9 urges all of us to do.

You have stories only you can tell.
You are part of a story much bigger than yourself.
Your story is part of God’s story
and God’s story is part of your story.
Invest time and effort into connecting your stories with God’s stories.
Don’t keep them to yourself—give them to others to read!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tuesday Tidbit: Sharon Lippincott’s tips on writing your opening paragraph

Have you entered your opening paragraph in
Yesterday I submitted mine.
You have until September 3 to enter.

Sharon Lippincott’s blog post is packed with helpful, practical info for you as you write, rewrite, and polish your opening paragraph. It’s a must-read!
Check out Sharon’s Five P’s of Openings (People, Place, Plot Problem, Persuasion, Prose).

Related posts:

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Openings: the hardest part

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. (The contest is open to men, too.)

If you don’t hook your readers from the beginning—if you don’t create curiosity, if you don’t present your story as a must-read, they probably won’t keep reading.

Besides your opening being the most important part, it will probably be the hardest part to write well.

Hardest, you ask? Yes, read on….

Brian Clark drives home that point: “Master copywriter Gene Schwartz often spent an entire week on the first 50 words… Those 50 words are the most important part of any persuasive writing, and writing them well takes time. Even for the masters.”

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been working on an opening paragraph for the Women’s Memoir contest, and I’ve revised it at least 20 times. I’m not sure yet if the current draft will be the final one.

How are you doing on crafting your openings? Even if you’re not entering the contest, your openings need to sparkle.

Here are a few tips:

First, be sure your first paragraph is the correct one! Remove your scaffolding.

Next, be sure your opening doesn’t give away your story’s ending.

That might seem like a no-brainer, but too many of us goof on that.

Prolific writer (over 135 books) and New York Times bestselling author, Cecil Murphey, says, “I once read more than one hundred of the entries for Christmas Miracles, a compilation book. The major flaw in at least a third of them was that they told us the ending before they told us the story.” He gave this example: "The worst Christmas of my life became the best Christmas ever."

Instead of giving away the ending, intrigue your readers, make them curious, and entice them to keep reading so they’ll discover how your story pulls together at the end.

Learn the difference between effective and weak openings. How?

On Facebook recently, Cec shared a good tip: “One way to learn to write good beginnings is to see how the professionals do it. Although some do it better than others, I learned a great deal about beginnings by reading only first paragraphs of half a dozen books every day for a week.”

So, scrutinize first paragraphs of six books every day for a week—or whatever works for you—and be sure to read books written by professional writers. (There’s a lot of junk out there.)

Note openings in everything you read: articles, blog posts, sermons, fiction, and creative nonfiction. Some will work well, others won’t. Ask yourself, “Why do some entice me to read on—or not?”

Be sure to check out links below about leads. You’ll find a lot of good stuff there!

Next, examine your opening, your beginning (sometimes called lead, lede, or hook) and revise, revise, revise.

The opening is probably the most difficult part to write well.

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

Put in the hard work needed to make your opening zing.

Related posts:

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