Tag s | Writing Craft

Embedded Writing

During World War II, one of the highest profile journalists who wrote about the war for Americans back at the home front was Ernie Pyle.

Ernie was one of the first “embedded” journalists in wartime and he lived and wrote while among the soldiers. He focused his stories on individual soldiers and their daily struggles. The troops loved him because he “got it.” The generals and politicians weren’t always happy, but Ernie was so popular with the troops, if they ever thought about preventing him from writing, they knew there would be substantial backlash.

Pyle even lobbied for pay raises for combat troops and Congress passed it. They named the spending bill after him.

Ernie was in his early 40’s when World War II broke out and he spent several years going back and forth from the US to Africa and Europe with the troops before leaving for the Pacific theater of war.

He was eventually killed while accompanying an amphibious assault on an island off the coast of Okinawa in April 1945.  His wife died later in 1945 as her health declined after his death. Their marriage was tumultuous to say the least and she struggled with alcohol their entire marriage.

Ernie won a Pulitzer Prize and the school of journalism at Indiana University bears his name. He wrote several books along the way as well.

Ernie led a rather tragic life, but he provided an example to writers for the last seven-plus decades.

Whenever any agent or publisher reviews a proposal from an author, it is pretty easy to discern whether an author is writing from “within” the content of the book or whether they are writing “about” something.

Lots of people can write about something. Fewer write from within a topic.

The best journalists “embed” themselves in a story before they write about it. Television and radio field reporters are different than news readers. One reports from within. The other simply reads it.

This “inside” requirement is not only for writers.

Most people are probably not aware that rehab clinics rarely employ people who have not themselves gone through rehab.  Many of the most successful social service organizations were started and run by people who needed the help themselves at some point in their lives, which they now deliver to others.

It’s the same with books. Those which are simply about a topic are not nearly as interesting as those which come from the author who wrote from within a subject.

Many can write about God and live a fairly righteous life by all appearances. Fewer can write from within an experience, portraying lessons learned from the battlefields of life as they worked out their faith in relationships and service to the Creator.

For example, any intelligent person can scan scripture and write a book containing positions and principles on how to be a better parent. You don’t even need to be a parent yourself to do it.

Fewer can give a true biblical perspective on parenting, showing how principles found in scripture actually play out in life.

Fewer still have the courage to write about failures, times when biblical principles didn’t seem to work at the moment and be humble enough to portray life the way it actually happens as we battle our way through a sin-corrupted, imperfect world.

So, next time you open up a Word document and start to write about something, ask yourself how deep you are embedded in the topic, whether you are writing from deep within it…or whether this is just a surface connection.

I guarantee others will see a difference in the depth of writing as they sense you have intimate knowledge of the subject, which makes your work worth reading.


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Brainstorming: How and With Whom?

Brainstorming is one of the fun parts in the development of a book. The key for the author is a willingness to hear other ideas. The second, and most critical key, is discovering those with whom you should brainstorm. Those people need to be willing to have their ideas rejected in the discussions and be willing to let an idea they created to be used by someone else. It takes a special person…many times a professional…to achieve that.

I’ve heard complaints from some authors who try this in a critique group only to be frustrated. Egos get in the way or the ideas generated are singularly unhelpful. Or the discussion doesn’t move the project forward, instead it gets sidetracked by numerous differing opinions on the direction of the piece.

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How to Annoy Your (Fiction) Readers

Some people are more annoying than others—and you know who you are. And some writers are more annoying than others—and you may not know who you are. So I’m here to help. Here are six ways writers of fiction can annoy the heck out of the readers: Give your characters …

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Promotion: Faithful or Self-full?

“What’s the difference between promotion and self-promotion? How do we promote ourselves/our books so that we honor God, respect others, and use common sense?”

The constant tension between marketing and ministry has plagued the Christian author, speaker, bookseller and publisher forever. Why? Because Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple. Because we are commanded to die to self and to humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord….

And yet, our society…our culture insists, even demands, that we market and promote our message.

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Create Magic with Words

Years ago, I took my five-year-old daughter to Toys R Us to meet “Barbie.” “Barbie” turned out to be a cute and charming teenager who, yes, looked like the classic blonde image of the doll. She wore a pretty pink gown. I expected a lot more fanfare around this event. …

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The Art of the Sentence

A month or so ago I asked some social media friends what sentence from a book rocked their world. The replies were delightful, and I shared some of them in my June 27 post on this site, titled “In Praise of Memorable Sentences.” There were too many, however, to include …

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Writers Beware! Protect Yourself

The writing profession starts off as a private venture. Creating ideas and stories in the privacy of your own home. But those of you who become serious about the work and slowly become more visible the issue of personal protection needs to be addressed.

I cannot emphasize this enough.

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In Praise of Memorable Sentences

In her book, The Writing Life, Annie Dillard tells the story of a well-known writer who was collared by a university student, who asked, “Do you think I could be a writer?” “Well,” the writer said, “I don’t know…. Do you like sentences?” Dillard continues: The writer could see the …

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Test Your Writing Out Loud

Once you write something, try reading it out loud. It might change the way you write. I worked with audiobooks for a number of years and few things were more interesting than how something sounded when read aloud by the audiobook performer, whether it was the author or a professional …

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