Writing Craft

True Words

 

Several months ago someone challenged me to read an article by Marilyn McEntyre entitled “Letting Words Do Their Work.” Because I respected the editor who made the recommendation, I hopped right on over the the link.

Oh. My. Golly.

It’s not easy reading. Nor is it a “quick read.” But I’ll tell you what it is:

Powerful truth. If you’re a writer, speaker, agent, reader, or simply one who loves–truly loves–words, you’ve got to read this article. A few salient points that resonated:

“It is hard to tell the truth these days, because the varieties of untruth are so many, so pervasive, and so well disguised.”

“Imprecision had become acceptable in the interests of generalized good feeling—and perhaps in the interests of forestalling some critical scrutiny.”

“The practice of precision requires not only attentiveness and effort: it may also require the courage to afflict the comfortable and, consequently, tolerate their resentment.”

“The discourse of the church, the subtleties of biblical language and the nuances of translation, the ear for poetry and care for theological distinctions may be eroded when the language of popular media is allowed to overtake the dialect of worship and conversation among believers.”

“We can practice noticing how words are used and considering how they may be heard; we can pick them up from the dusty corners where most of the good ones have been consigned to disuse and reintroduce them, hoping to ambush the careless listener contented with cliché.”

We are a world of immediate information. Tell it to me quick. Break it down into bite-sized chunks and let me gorge. Who has time to linger? To savor? To taste each and every nuance of flavor?

Well…we all do. It’s not that we don’t have the time, it’s that we don’t take it. Too many of us don’t reserve time for reading that takes time and effort, for savoring beautiful word choices and absorbing deeper meanings. And my friends, we are the poorer for that.

So this is my gift to you today. This article. Take the time to read, ponder, and be touched by the beauty of the writing that resonates with thoughtfulness and truth.

If you want more from Marilyn McEntyre consider her book Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies.

 

 

 

 

 

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Book of the Month – July 2011

by Steve Laube

Small Message, Big Impact by Terri L. Sjodin is this month’s “Book of the Month.” I recommend that every veteran and aspiring writer read this book and glean from it.

The key to this book is in the subtitle: How to Put the Power of the Elevator Speech Effect to Work for You. Sjodin defines the elevator speech as:  “A brief presentation that introduces a product, service, philosophy, or an idea.  The name suggests the notion that the message should be delivered in the time span of an elevator ride, up to about three minutes.  Its general purpose is to intrigue and inspire a listener to want to hear more of the presenter’s complete proposition in the near future.”

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The Care and Feeding of … WORDS!

“Handle them carefully, for words have more power than atom bombs.”
Pearl Strachan

“By words the mind is winged.”
Aristophanes

“The turn of a sentence has decided the fate of many a friendship, and, for aught that we know, the fate of many a kingdom.”
Jeremy Bentham

Amazing, isn’t it? Something so small as words can have such huge impact.

The right word in any circumstance can bring peace, comfort, laughter, tears. It can elicit emotion, stir action, deliver forgiveness, change lives. For generations, words have moved and motivated. Writers, steeped in the wonder of words, have poured their hearts out on stark paper, only to have those pages come to life in ways they never imagined, and to have their words live on in the hearts and minds of readers long after they’ve been read.

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Letting Go of Your Babies

One of the worst mistakes writers can make is being too possessive of their words. They fight for each adjective, adverb, and conversation tag.

My early writing suffered from too many words. I once wrote an artist didn’t “really” understand the difficulties of making a living in his profession. The editor kindly cut all instances of “really,” “just,” “so,” “very,” and other weak words experienced editors call “weasel” words.

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Print: A Thing of the Past?

by Karen Ball

Remember the musical Oklahoma? Gordon MacRae singing to, of all people, Rod Steiger: “Poor Jud is daid, poor Jud Fry is daid…”

Well, the way folks have been talking lately, I’m waiting for the new musical, “Digital World,” where a Gordon MacRae-esque editor will stand next to a book and sing out, “Poor print is daid, poor print books is daid, they’re lookin’ oh, so tattered and passé…”

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The Fear of Rejection

Randy Ingermanson recently interviewed author Mary DeMuth in his “Advanced Fiction Writing E-Zine” and the topic of rejection surfaced. I thought it was very insightful and, with permission, am posting their conversation.

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My friend Mary DeMuth recently published an e-book with the title The 11 Secrets of Getting Published.

Given that the price is only $2.99, I assumed the book would be about 50 pages with a few simple tips on breaking into publishing.

When Mary sent me a copy, I was astounded to find that it ran to 229 pages of solid information on breaking in. Developing your craft. Learning discipline.

Learning to accept critiques. Writing a query and a proposal. And tons more. Mary packed this book.

The chapter that hit home for me was titled, “Overcome Fear and Rejection.” You’d think I’d be good at that after 23 years of this writing game, but I still hate rejection and I still battle fear.am posting their conversation.

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To Romance or Not to Romance

According to St. Teresa of Avila’s biography, the battle over romance novels has been going on at least since the 1500s:

Teresa’s father was rigidly honest and pious, but he may have carried his strictness to extremes. Teresa’s mother loved romance novels but because her husband objected to these fanciful books, she hid the books from him. This put Teresa in the middle — especially since she liked the romances too. Her father told her never to lie but her mother told her not to tell her father. Later she said she was always afraid that no matter what she did she was going to do everything wrong.

Those of us who write, represent, and publish Christian romance novels can be made to feel the same way when our brothers and sisters in Christ object to our efforts to provide readers with God-honoring entertainment.  I have spoken with authors whose pastors have derided their writing, read negative blogs, and heard conference speakers criticize Christian romance novels.

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The Myth of the Unearned Advance

by Steve Laube

A common myth permeating the industry is that a book is not profitable if the author’s advance does not earn out. I would like to attempt to dispel this myth.

First let’s define the term “Advance.” When a book contract is created between a publisher and an author, the author is usually paid an advance. This is like getting an advance against your allowance when you were a kid. It isn’t an amount that is in addition to any future earnings from the sale of the book. Instead, like that allowance, it is money paid in advance against all future royalties, and it must therefore be covered by royalty revenue (i.e. earned out) before any new royalty earnings are paid.

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A New Agent Joins Us!

We are thrilled to announce that Tamela Hancock Murray is joining The Steve Laube Agency as a new literary agent for the firm. For the last ten years she has been with the Hartline Literary Agency representing a number of successful authors.

She interned on Capitol Hill and at the U.S. Department of State before graduating with honors in Journalism from Lynchburg College in Virginia. Tamela brings significant writing expertise to the agency as an  author of twenty novels, novellas, and nonfiction works. When she’s not working as an agent Tamela spends time with her husband and their two daughters.

She will be working out of her office in Virginia, giving the agency a specific East Coast connection.

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