Writing on Vacation: More Progress Than in a Month at Home

 

One son’s family.

Prepare, Escape, Progress

 

I didn’t believe it would work, but it did.

Prepare

It was hellish. I’d be gone twelve days on vacation. Blog posts still needed to be written and published. I had endorsements to garner for my nonfiction book on writing. Another publisher required I fill out four work-intensive forms on their system. I had interview questions to answer.

I didn’t write one word on my story the week before we left for the Dominican Republic. That week, as I worked hard to get tasks done in advance, I made myself a promise, one I wasn’t sure I could keep. I told myself I’d have fun writing my story while sipping a virgin lime concoction and lounging on the beach under palms swaying in the Punta Cana breezes.

Escape

Once the airplane lifted off a Charlotte, NC runway, my muscles relaxed. I opened my MacBook Air, and I was no longer on the stuffy airplane but in my fictional town, falling in love with my hero and enjoying the cleverness of my heroine.

We arrived in Punta Cana at a resort we enjoy. Just as I remembered, the breezes chased away heat and humidity, the bright sunshine danced on aqua water, and fronds on tall palms provided shade. We spent the rest of the travel day orienting our children and grandchildren to the resort. We’d invited them along for the first six days. Then we lavished our tummies on the endless offerings the main restaurant laid out in numerous buffets. No meals to plan, shop for, or prepare.

Progress

I spent time with my family, snorkeling, sailing on a small catamaran with my husband, and building sand castles with the kids. But while they enjoyed the sun at the pool and my husband windsurfed, I crept away to my favorite beach spot, where my fingers translated the images in my mind into words on my MacBook Air.

 

It was almost heaven. When I needed to mull over a scene, I closed the laptop and looked at water, sand, and palms, instead of the piles of papers from ten different marketing projects on my desk, table, and floor, those annoying stacks that always made me feel anxious. In our room for an hour before breakfast and another before turning out the lights, I inserted all the cool edits that rose in my uncluttered mind during the night or day.

This most enjoyable time away taught me how important vacations or retreats are. Time away from all the tasks that are not writing and from our homes and their problems can unleash creativity. (Our freezer died and the hot water heater started leaking right before we left.)

The place doesn’t have to be ten days on a tropical island. It could be a

         week in a cabin by the river,

                  weekend in a motel with a view,

                           day in a national forest,

                                    housesitting someone’s house, or

                                             camping at a lake.

Writing on vacation can be fun and highly productive. Click to tweet.

When have you been away from home and enjoyed a productive writing session?

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Candace Parks lives a passionless life in Richmond, Virginia. The computer programmer returns to the empty family home in the Blue Ridge Mountains to evaluate her job, faith, and boyfriend. Her high school crush, star football player and prom king Trigg Alderman, is in Twisty Creek visiting his grandmother who lives next door to Candace’s family home. He doesn’t recognize her at first and remembers little about her. He’s not alone. Candace’s rekindled attraction to Trigg adds unexpected complications to finding her passions. Sorting her life out? How about nothing of the sort!

 

Ten Things You Never Say to an Editor

 

image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images

 

My guest today is editor and author Denise Loock. Denise shares with us what a writer should never say to an editor. At the end of her post, you’ll find more information about her editing services and devotional books.

Denise: Hiring an editor is wise. But you’ll waste the money you’ve invested if you’re unwilling to accept an editor’s advice. Here are ten things you may want to say to an editor but shouldn’t.

1. No one will notice. No one cares. If you’ve ever noticed a misspelled word or a misplaced comma in a newspaper or on a billboard, you care about accuracy. More than that, though, God cares. He loves excellence. In fact, He demands excellence. Colossians 3:23-25 says, “Don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God. … The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work” (MSG). Ouch. God never excuses “shoddy work.”

2. My friend, an English teacher, told me this was correct. I taught English for 29 years before I became an editor. The differences between English-teacher style and publication style are many. Get the right resources. Here are three: The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style, fourth edition (CWMS); Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors; The Associated Press Stylebook.

image by geralt

3. How will readers get my point if I don’t use italics, all-caps, and exclamation points? Make your words work. Don’t glitz them up with fancy fonts and superfluous punctuation. “The craft of writing involves arranging words and phrases in such a way as to emphasize the important points without depending on typographic peculiarities” (CWMS 77). “Typographic peculiarities” attempt to mask mediocrity with gaudiness. Don’t insult your reader with such shenanigans.

4. Max Lucado does it that way. According to his website, Lucado has sold 92 million books. Yes, he’s successful. But if God wanted another Max Lucado, He would clone him. Be your best self. Find your voice.

5. This is God’s message. I can’t change it. Yes, the Holy Spirit impresses on us a message. He reveals fresh meanings and applications in Scripture. But He also uses traditional means of education. Paul’s letters are filled with post-resurrection connections to Old Testament Scriptures. Revealed by the Holy Spirit, yes. But Paul had studied the Hebrew Scriptures thoroughly. He learned under Gamaliel, the most respected rabbi of that era (Acts 5:34; 22:3). Messages need refinement. So do messengers. Just ask Paul.

image by mohamed_hassan

6. That’s the way I talk (or blog.) The CWMS devotes three pages to the difference between blog style and book style. It covers topics such as tone, structure, transitions, repetition, and references. Learn the rules of good writing and practice them in everything you write.

 

 

7. I like it the way it is. Stubbornness is the twin of arrogance. Everyone makes mistakes—writers and editors. But wait at least 24 hours before insisting, “I won’t change it.” Pray about it. In The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer says of the student: “And gladly would he learn and gladly teach.” That’s my goal as both a writer and an editor.

8. But I love that song (book, speaker). We all have favorite books, speakers, and songs. But that doesn’t mean we insert lyrics, paragraphs, and illustrations from those sources in our books or blogs. Find a fresher way to say it that reflects your experiences, your environment, and your interests.

9. I saw it somewhere on the Internet (heard it at church, at a conference, on TV). Documentation is essential. If you don’t know the source, don’t use it. Misquotes and wrong attributions permeate the Internet. Avoid using brainyquote.com and goodreads.com/quotes. And never depend on Wikipedia. Respect the sources you admire enough to read the original version of their words.

10. It could mean that, couldn’t it? Use Scripture accurately and appropriately. Context is everything. Don’t mix fiction with fact. Even if you’re using only one verse, study the context, read a few commentaries, and pray about it. Research Scriptures as thoroughly as other citations. Plant 2 Timothy 2:15 in your heart and “correctly handle the word of truth” (NIV).

Remember, an editor is your friend. Editors want your manuscript to be the best it can be. Editing is a humbling career. Writing is a humbling career. Neither writers nor editors are infallible. But we both can strive for excellence and make our heavenly Father proud.

Thank you for these reminders, Denise.

Ten things a writer should never say to an editor. Click to Tweet.

Which of the ten no-nos do you have trouble with? 

Denise Loock is an editor, writer, and speaker. As a book editor, she uses her twenty-nine years of experience as an English teacher to help Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas produce high quality, engaging inspirational fiction and nonfiction books. As a freelance editor, she helps published and unpublished writers create clean, concise, and compelling manuscripts that will attract publishers and intrigue readers.

 

 

Denise also shares with others the joy of studying God’s Word through the website she founded, DigDeeperDevotions.com. She is the author of two devotional books that highlight the scriptural truths of classic hymns and gospel songs, Open Your Hymnal and Open Your Hymnal Again. Contact her at denise@lightningeditingservices.com.

Is Just Justified in Writing?

The little word just often gets a bad rap. Writers are warned to get rid of it. Like any overused word, writers need to manage the frequency of just in manuscripts. It tends to get used frequently. Let’s take a closer look at the uses of just.

Definitions of Just (The Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

1. exactly; very recently; barely; directly; only; quite; possibly

Very recently: Danny’s still warm coffee mug proved he’d just left the house.

Without just the meaning would drastically change. If I’d written, Danny’s still warm coffee mug proved he’d very recently left the house, I’d be dinged for using very. But recently is too vague; it could represent minutes to hours ago. Why not replace the two words with one – just.

Barely: When the car careened toward him, it just missed hitting his right bumper.

Taking just out changes the meaning. Then, we wouldn’t know how close he came to being part of a car accident. His car could have been missed by an inch or twelve feet. Just is vague, but it puts the space closer to the inch.

image by tajenli

Directly: “Honey, look just right of the tree trunk on that tiny branch and you’ll see the owl.”

Again just is vague, but it’s less wordy than: very close to the left of the tree trunk …

2. reasonable; correct or proper; morally or legally right; deserved or merited

His partner could argue all he wanted, but helping the victim was a just cause.

I think uses of just under these second definitions are … justified. Using synonyms, such as upright, honorable, conscientious, and honest will help if just becomes overused.

When Just Becomes a Weasel Word

When you enter the hunt to kill occurrences of just, start with cases similar to the examples below. They supply no benefit, unless the character would use the word in dialogue. Like weasels suck the egg from egg shells, just in the examples steals the power of the words adjacent to them.

I just hated going to crowded theaters.

He always just had to have his way.

Couldn’t he just see that I was sorry?

“There’s just no reason you should go.”

Careful. Don’t blindly remove the “just” occurrences from your manuscripts.  Click to tweet.

What do you consider before removing words like just?

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