Monday, June 29, 2015

How Tight is Your Writing? - Guest Post by Karen Lange

I'm happy to welcome Karen Lange, author, teacher, and former homeschool mom, to my blog. Karen agreed to do a guest post on writing tight. Enjoy!

“The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.”

Thomas Jefferson

This is one of my favorite writing quotes. I think of it as the bumper sticker for word economy.

If, as Jefferson suggests, we examine our writing, looking for places where one word will replace two, can we sharpen our prose?

I think so, and I've long believed that crisp writing makes a great statement. It is also necessary to meet word counts. Weeding out unnecessary words and phrases helps communicate without clutter and fluff.

Here are a few ways I eliminate that dreaded "clutter and fluff":

1) Ditch excess modifiers and hedging words. Words like very, really, quite, fairly, kind of, and truly don't add as much emphasis as we think. When removed, the result is cleaner and nothing is compromised.

2) Remove empty phrases. Trim out phrases like there seems to be, in order to, needless to say, on account of, and what I mean is for clear, crisp statements. 

3) Don't be redundant. When phrases like free gift, past history, honest truth, and end result are pared down to gift, history, truth, and result we've heeded Mr. Jefferson's advice, haven't we?

Does Jefferson's quote strike any chords with you? What methods do you employ to tighten your writing? 

Karen Lange is a freelance writer and editor, an online writing instructor, and the author of Write for Life and Homeschool Co-ops 101. She is a fan of dark chocolate, ice hockey, and hanging out with her 7-year-old grandson. Connect with Karen on her blog, Twitter – KLELange, and on her Facebook author page.

Friday, June 26, 2015

We Interrupt our Regularly Scheduled Program...

I'm thrilled to announce The Christmas Wish is once again available for sale on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback formats. How do you like the new cover?

A few months ago, I told everyone I was changing publishers. My agent, Joyce Hart, of Hartline Literary Agency, told me about the Amazon White Glove program for authors with agents. My three books: The Moses Conspiracy, The Scent of Fear, and The Christmas Wish will all be re-issued through them. Out of the Mist will be published soon using this platform.

The covers are almost done for The Moses Conspiracy and The Scent of Fear. They should be released by the end of next week.

Will you help me spread the word? Here are a few suggestions:

1.  If you've read this book, I hope you'll review it on Amazon. It will help other readers make a decision.

2.  Sharing this post using the Social Media buttons will help inform people that The Christmas Wish is now available.

3.  Commenting on this post and sharing on Social Media groups will also raise awareness.

Thanks so much for your support and encouragement over the last couple of years.

Question for writers:  What are some of the ways you get the word out about your books/articles?

Question for readers:  How do you find out about authors and their books? Is Social Media an important part of the process for you?

Hyperlinks/Facebook/Euthanasia/Weasel Words/Stuffed Peppers

1.  The Blogging Bistro gives us a tutorial on 6 Easy Steps to Creating the Perfect Hyperlink. Whether you're a writer or blogger or both, you'll find this guide helpful.

2.  Lisa Hall-Wilson guest posts at Writers in the Storm, asking "Are you sharing too much of the wrong thing on Facebook?"

3.  WND reports on European Court's ruling that approved the killing of an injured patient. Years ago, many warned about the slippery slope we were heading down when abortion was approved. When one life is treated as unimportant, no one is safe.

4.  Zoe M. McCarthy talks about "weasel words" that can suck the life out of your writing.

5.  Sweetie Mom is a fan of Stuffed Italian Peppers. I found a version for the crockpot that I'd like to try one of these days. Check it out on the Kraft Recipes website.

Writers:  What weasel words appear in your writing? "Just" is the one that keeps me on my toes.

Readers:  Have you tried any recipes from the Internet? Please share.

Photo Credit:  salazar78

Monday, June 22, 2015

Pineapple Stuffing and Other Odd Combos

Recently, I posted a picture and a recipe for Pineapple Stuffing on my Facebook Timeline. While some people thought it sounded yummy, others couldn't quite put those two words together.

Anyone who knows me will tell you cooking isn't my favorite thing. When I tasted this recipe at a friend's house, I loved it. What a perfect side dish this would be for our church covered dish dinners. Someone told me it was easy to make, which sealed the deal for me.

It worked.

When I wrote The Moses Conspiracy, I set it in Washington, D.C. and Bird-in-Hand, Pennsylvania. A lot of people scratched their heads at a futuristic novel in those two settings. What? No outer space? No aliens?

Why Washington, D.C., you ask? Two major characters meet in that location, impacting  the rest of the story. Bird-in-Hand, Pennsylvania? Since the book takes place in the year 2025 and freedoms are restricted, the popular Amish community experiences less overall control because it's a Tourist Zone.

It worked.

I would be remiss if I left you wondering about the deliciousness of Pineapple Stuffing and neglected to give you the recipe. Here it is for your eating pleasure:

8 eggs
2 sticks of butter
2 cups sugar
2 20-oz. cans of crushed pineapple, well drained
10 slices of white bread, cubed

Cream the softened butter and sugar together with a mixer. Add one egg at a time. Gradually incorporate the pineapple into the mixture. Fold in the bread cubes with a spoon.

Pour the mixture into an oblong pan. (I use a Pyrex dish.) Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes until golden brown on top. With some ovens, you might have to leave it a little longer. Enjoy!

Writers:  Have you ever tried combining settings, characters, or other aspects of a story that could be described as unusual? Please share.

Readers:  Do you have a favorite recipe that involved ingredients you wouldn't normally combine? Please share.

Photo Credit:  Susan J. Reinhardt

Friday, June 19, 2015

Protecting Computer/Write/Sweden/You Know You're.../Collections

1.  The Blogging Bistro gives important tips and links on how to protect your computer during a disaster. This is a post you'll want to mark as a Favorite.

2.  Henry McLaughlin guest posts at The Write Conversation. Have you ever heard the term, "Write what you know?" He turns the saying around to, "Know what you write." This article has some good storytelling basics.

3.  WND reports on a mandate in Sweden that could spread to other countries. Doctors and midwives would be required to perform abortions with no allowance for their conscience.

I've been around awhile and noticed something. When we compromise in one area, it emboldens those determined to promote evil to push for more.

4.  Jean Fischer, at Something To Write Home About, did a fun post, "You Know You're a Writer When..." Check it out and add your two cents in the comments.

5.  One of the delights of blogging is I can enjoy other people's collections. Martha, at Martha's Favorites, shares some her teacups. Would you believe she's on #273???

Writers:  Complete this sentence: "You know you're a writer..."

Readers:  What kind of collectibles do you enjoying looking at on the Internet? Do they ever inspire you to become a collector?

Photo Credit:  Susan J. Reinhardt

Monday, June 15, 2015

Warning - Danger Ahead!

A few blocks from my house, a warning light appeared on my car dashboard. Since the car is fairly new, I had no clue what it meant.

I had to make a quick decision. Should I continue and check it out when I arrived at my destination or turn into a shopping center parking lot? I didn't have a peace about ignoring the warning. What if I got stuck on the highway?

A quick look at my auto manual didn't help matters, so I backtracked and took my mother's car. When I got to my destination, I stayed calm and discovered the light meant my tire pressure was low.

The Service Department at the dealership gave me an appointment for noon. I picked up the car and drove there. When they checked the pressure on the back passenger tire, it didn't even register. The mechanic informed me I'd pick up a nail. They were able to repair the tire and send me on my way.

Around the same time, I was working on a chapter in my manuscript. I'd written a scene that I enjoyed a lot, but a warning light came on inside my spirit. This passage could be misunderstood by readers.

I re-worked the scene and softened it, but it's still not right. I've made a note to do some serious editing when I'm finished with the first draft. While we want readers to have a strong emotional reaction to our writing, crossing certain lines will cause big problems.

Writers:  Please share about a time when you wrote a scene, but sensed it wouldn't sit well with readers.

Readers:  Have you ever read a book that contained something (other than violence, profanity, or sexual content) that made you want to throw it against a wall?

Photo Credit:  fcl1971

Friday, June 12, 2015

Growth/Thrift/Freedom/Slow Cooker

1.  Zoe McCarthy shows how characters must have growth moments as a story progresses. It's good to see examples that help identify whether or not you're hitting the target in this area.

2.  Lori Hatcher guest posts at The Write Conversation. Writing and blogging can become pricey. She gives 3 ways to save on expenses, as well as time.

3.  WND reports that a group is pressing for the court martial of a two-star Air Force general for thanking God at a National Day of Prayer Task Force event.

4.  Do you doubt that America was founded on Christian principles? Here's an article on the first Supreme Court Chief Justice, John Jay. His quotes are eye-openers.

5.  Recipe time! I came across this recipe for a French Toast Casserole that can be made in a slow cooker.

Writers:  Do you plan for character growth in your novels? Since I'm a SOTP writer, I have to think about the main character's personality at the start and gradually bring them to a place of greater maturity.

Readers:  Do you enjoy using a slow cooker? Please share.  I've used mine to make pot roasts, beef stew, and even sauce with meatballs. Handy tip:  Reynold's puts out a slow cooker liner that saves time and lots of scrubbing.

Photo Credit: nkzs

Monday, June 8, 2015

5 Ways A Writer is Like a Marathon Runner

Every year, someone I know runs in the Boston Marathon. Their goals: Finish the race and do it in the best possible time. It takes an enormous amount of conditioning throughout the year. They know their body will not be ready for this grueling race if they don't practice.

The race to publication requires the same type of determination and endurance:

1.  Just like a runner, the writer must learn good techniques.

2.  They must research the publishing industry the way a runner examines the kind of terrain he/she will face on the day of the race.

3.  Time must be set aside to practice for the marathon. The writer must prioritize their life, so they can meet their deadlines.

4.  While a runner's marathon may last a day, the writer's marathon can go on for years. The writer needs a steady diet of encouragement, continuing education, and in my case, prayer.

5.  Writing a novel in a set period of time will often mean putting hobbies and other activities on hold.

I'm coming down the home stretch of a novel-writing project right now. My goal: Finish by the time of my annual trip to a writers conference in July. I've build in some grace for those times when life happens, but I'm tracking well ahead of schedule.

Writers:  What kind of writing marathon are you on? What are some of the ways you stay on track?

Readers:  What projects are you working on - home renovation, craft projects, schooling, etc.? How do you stay motivated to reach the finish line?

Photo Credit:  Ambrozio

Friday, June 5, 2015


1.  David Bruns guest posts at Writer Unboxed. He gives 6 Writing Techniques he learned at Storymasters, which was taught by Chris Vogler, James Scott Bell, and Donald Maas.

2.  I like to keep updated on religious freedom issues. One of my go-to organizations is The Family Research Council. In a recent email, they reported on infringements to religious liberty ranging from the military to a little girl being told she couldn't mention God or scripture in her homework because of government policy.

3.  Edie Melson, at The Write Conversation, talks about the top blogging mistakes made by authors. I think this has value whether you're an author or not.

4.  The title of this post intrigued me, and although it was long, I finished the whole thing. We all know book covers can make or break our masterpieces. Check out this story at Working Writers and Bloggers, by Nicolette Pierce.

5.  Jean Fischer, at Something to Write Home About, shares how a potato launched her writing career.

Writers:  How did you discover you were a writer?

Readers:  Do book covers influence your buying decisions? Please share.

Photo Credit:  Krappweis

Monday, June 1, 2015

The More I Write...Part 2

When I get stuck...

Yes, it happens to me. My optimum time for writing is early morning, which is impossible with my current schedule. So, I write whenever I can, usually from 8 PM - 10 PM at night. As a result, my energy levels and clarity are not in tip-top shape.

I've learned the causes:

1.  Not enough sleep will turn my brain to mush. A couple of nights without at least 7 hours of shut-eye guarantees problems at the computer.

2.  Either life hits or my schedule gets crazy due to family or church commitments.

3.  When I encounter 1 and 2 above, I'm a prime target for writer's block, brain freeze, or whatever label you want to give it. The word count elephant seems too enormous even when taking small bites.

Setting myself up for success:

1.  Shut the computer, pray, and go to bed. Forcing the issue is a waste of time and sets up negative thought patterns.

2.  I build some grace into my schedule for when I miss a day here and there due to other obligations. I technically could meet my goal of July 20th by writing 650 words a day. By writing 1,000+ words a day, I'm increasing my chances of meeting that goal even if I miss some time. Right now, I'm tracking for late June.

3.  I take a short break half way into my daily word count goal, which is 1,000 words per night. A cookie, a quick email check, a look at Facebook, or getting my clothes ready for the next day gives my mind a chance to re-group.

4.  Tracking the word count on a pad is enough to keep me motivated. There's something about seeing the book grow that develops momentum. Having my agent and one of my critique partners read the first three chapters and saying they want more also provided a boost.

5.  Celebrate the mini-goals met: 10,000 words, reaching the 1/3 point, the halfway mark, etc. By doing this, I'm encouraging myself and focusing on the progress rather on how much more I have to write.

Writers:  What are your triggers for writer's block? How do you combat it?

Readers:  What motivates you to stick with a big project?

Photo Credit:  hisks