10 Awesome Quotes from Writing Experts to Stick on Your Computer

The skill of a skilled writer tricks you into thinking that there is no skill.
—Dwight V. Swain (Techniques of the Selling Writer)

Image by Kaz
Image by Kaz

I recommend the following books on the craft of writing. Here are quotes from each to inspire you to get a copy or reread the one on your shelf.

image by skeeze
image by skeeze

On Writing by Stephen King. “Words create sentences; sentences create paragraphs; sometimes paragraphs quicken and begin to breathe. Imagine, if you like, Frankenstein’s monster on its slab. Here comes lightning, not from the sky but from a humble paragraph of English words. … You feel as Victor Frankenstein must have when the dead conglomeration of sewn-together spare parts suddenly opened its watery yellow eyes.”

 

 

Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass “What about your premise? Is it truly a fresh look at your subject, a perspective that no one else but you can bring to it? Is it the opposite of what we expect or a mix of elements such as we’ve never seen before? If not, you have some work to do.”

image by freefaithgraphics
image by freefaithgraphics

Hooked by Les Edgerton. “A tremendous number of possibly good and even brilliant novels and short stories never get read beyond the first few paragraphs or pages by agents and editors. Why? Simple: The stories don’t begin in the right place.”

 

 

Stein on Writing by Sol Stein “We are driven through life by our needs and wants. … If your character doesn’t want anything badly enough, readers will have a hard time rooting for him to attain his goal, which is what compels readers to continue reading. The more urgent the want, the greater the reader’s interest.”

image by geralt
image by geralt

Goal, Motivation & Conflict by Debra Dixon. “Motivation is possibly the most important of the three elements of GMC because you can do anything in fiction. … Everything truly is possible as long as you help your reader understand why your characters do what they do. Why they land themselves in impossible situations. Why they make the choices they make.”

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. “So when you come across an explanation of the character’s emotion, simply cut the explanation. If the emotion is still shown, then the explanation wasn’t needed. If the emotion isn’t shown, then rewrite the passage so that it is.”

Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell. “Dialogue helps to create original characters and move the plot along. If it isn’t doing either of those things, it probably should be cut.”

image by geralt
image by geralt

Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View by Jill Elizabeth Nelson. “In Deep [Point of View], we don’t want thoughts or actions told or explained by a third-party; we want to live the events inside the [Point of View Character’s] head.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. “And the truth of your experience can only come through in your own voice. If it is wrapped in someone else’s voice, we readers will feel suspicious, as if you are dressed up in someone else’s clothes. You cannot write out of someone else’s big dark place; you can only write out of your own.”

What writing experts say to push us to write better. Click to tweet.

As a writer, what craft book has spoken to you?

Greatly Improve Your Manuscript by Reducing One Word

Of is a preposition, and although not an inherently evil word, overusing it can make your writing sound passive and fussy.— Mignon Fogarty (Grammar Girl)

image by seadog
image by seadog

In a recent post, I promoted the word processor Find feature to eliminate weak words and phrases. On my own manuscript, I discovered reducing one particular word greatly improved my novel in three ways:

  1. Eliminated wordiness
  2. Created smoother reading
  3. Alerted me to other problems
image by meineresterampe
image by meineresterampe

The word is the preposition of. This preposition usually totes unnecessary words wherever it surfaces.

Before I reduced of-use, my manuscript hosted 1.3 occurrences in every 100 words.

After reducing the preposition, every 100 words contained only .4 incidences.

And the exercise tightened and reduced my word count by 2.4%.

Examples

 

These 21 examples show the of-usage types I encountered and how I rewrote the phrases.

Amount and Number

 

id-10055268.jpg1.  Wordy: cleaned every trace of dirt from the ball.

Rewrite: She scrubbed the ball.

2.  Wordy: stared at the ball for a couple of beats

Rewrite: stared at the ball for a moment…

3.  Wordy: I have a couple of clients in…

Rewrite: I have clients in…

4.  Wordy: From all of Margie’s comments

Rewrite: From Margie’s comments…

5.  Wordy: done in plenty of time to…

Rewrite: done in time to…

 

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

6.  Wordy: A lot of gossip about the female caddy was…  

Rewrite: Gossip about the female caddy was…

7.  Wordy: Shoo’s percent of the winnings would buy…    

Rewrite: Shoo could afford…        

 

8.  Wordy: Wouldn’t Shoo choose one of the less expensive restaurants…?  

Rewrite: Wouldn’t Shoo choose a less expensive restaurant…?

Directional

 

9.  Wordy: The ball spun out two feet past the other side of the cup.

Rewrite: The ball spun out two feet past the cup.

image by johnhain
image by johnhain

10. Wordy: Shame started at the top of her pea brain and flowed to…

Rewrite: Shame flowed from her pea brain to…  

11. Wordy: Margie nodded in the direction of the driving range.

Rewrite: Margie nodded toward the driving range.

 12. Wordy: itched to trace the smile lines on either side of his mouth.

Rewrite: itched to trace the smile lines framing his mouth.

13. Wordy: stared at him from the other side of the table.  

Rewrite: stared at him from across the table.

Of The

 

14. Wordy: They read sections of the newspaper

Rewrite: They read newspaper sections…

15. Wordy: curb their male talk in the presence of the little lady?

Rewrite: curb their male talk in the little lady’s presence?

16. Wordy: Light emitted from the window of the weight room.

Rewrite: Light emitted from the weight-room window.

image by HebiFot
image by HebiFot

17. Wordy: The burn of the carbonation refreshed the dryness of his throat.

Rewrite: The carbonation burn refreshed his dry throat.

 

 

Other Problems

 

18.  Wordy: for the teens of the world’s sake.

Rewrite: for teens worldwide.

19.  Wordy: After Allie’s show of little faith in his integrity…

Rewrite: After Allie had dissed his integrity…

20.  Wordy: suggested a few adjustments to the angle of his torso on his follow through.  

     Rewrite: suggested an adjustment to his upper-body position on his follow through.

21.  Wordy: His smile’s charm fell short of Shoo’s.  

     Rewrite: His smile lacked Shoo’s charm.

Reduce this little preposition and greatly improve your manuscript. Click to tweet.

What’s the first unnecessary of occurrence in your manuscript?

8 Smart Questions to Ask as You Start, Alter, or Join a Critique Group

The process of critiquing other writers’ work thoughtfully and intelligently will help you strengthen your own writing.— Melissa Donovan

by ClkerFreeVectorImages
by ClkerFreeVectorImages

Critiquing is valuable to success…unless you find yourself in the wrong critique group.

Use the following questionnaire to:

  • Revamp your floundering group
  • Start a new compatible group
  • Join the right existing group
by ClkerFreeVectorImages
by ClkerFreeVectorImages

 

Questionnaire

 

  1. What help do you need? Be honest. Don’t leave off tasks because you want to avoid criticism of your weak areas. Possible tasks are:
  • Punctuation, spelling, & grammar
  • Word choices
  • Paragraph & sentence construction
  • Plot & characters
  • Scene goals & hooks
  • Conflict & believability
  • Prayer
  1. What’s the feedback style you’re willing to give and receive? Some are:
  • Frank honesty (“This paragraph is too melodramatic.”)
  • Soft honesty (“You may want to tone down this paragraph.”)
  • High on encouragement; low on criticism (“I like this word choice.”)
  • Combination (“This paragraph is too melodramatic. You may want to tone down what Mark says to Melanie. I like your use of ‘grandiose’ in the last sentence.”)
by nile
by nile
  1. How much time are you willing to spend critiquing a chapter? If group members commit to more than the first two tasks under Question 1, you may spend two or more hours on a chapter. Also, the levels of writing ability will determine how much needs to be addressed.

 

 

 

  1. How many critique partners can you realistically handle? And:

°  progress your own manuscript

°  perform an effective job on others’ chapters

In a 6-member group, depending on tasks chosen in Question 1, you could spend 6 to 18 hours a week critiquing.

In a past large group, some marked punctuation, spelling, and grammar only, while others performed in-depth critiques. Another member and I split off to form a 2-member group of frank, in-depth partners. That worked better for us.

Maybe it’s time to break your large critique group into smaller groups.

  1. by PublicDomainPictures
    by PublicDomainPictures
    What rules do you expect so the group functions fairly? No one wants to feel imposed upon by members not pulling their load. Rules might address:
  • Number of critiques performed to earn a critique
  • Expected tasks to be performed (Question 1)
  • Style of feedback (Question 4)
  1. What mix of writing-skill levels do you desire? Writers who:
  • are writing their first book
  • have completed a novel
  • have submitted for publication at least two books
  • have one or more published novels

Writers are readers, so all levels can add value.

  1. What craft development do you expect from members? A group may fail if some are learning the writing craft and others aren’t.

Activities members could choose from:

  • Attend writing workshops
  • Join local and online writing groups
  • Read craft books from a recommended list
  • Take online courses
  • Subscribe to writing blogs

 

by appraisal2day
by appraisal2day

8.  How important is it to critique in your genre?

In one group, a woman wrote Regency. Not having read Regency, I was ill-equipped to critique her work in some aspects. In another group, we had to, at least, read Amish novels. I read them and could give all-around feedback.

 

Join the right critique group, revamp a failing one, or start an effective one. Click to tweet.

What’s most important to you in a critique group?