Power Up Your Paragraphs – It’s Fun

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Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days is now available. See details below.


The Exercise

Pick a paragraph from your first draft or even from a book. Circle the

  • nouns,
  • verbs,
  • adjective, and
  • adverbs.

Circle them. Then use your imagination, thesaurus, or Flip Dictionary by Barbara Ann Kipfer. Ph.D. and see if you can replace each circled word with a word that gives a more powerful image. 

Caution: We’re not trying to make the object, action, or description more intense than what is really happening in the paragraph, i.e. we’re not going for melodrama. 

Let’s look at three examples that show a bland, powerful, and melodramatic paragraph. For your first round, try not to rewrite the paragraph, which might be the best solution. For now, we’re trying to think of more powerful, image-producing words. Of course, you’ll find that one word is more powerful than two or a phrase, so go ahead and replace those with the one word.

image by Harold_Landsrath

Bland

The oncoming train’s horn tooted. A couple of children sitting on the train deck picked up their toys, put them in small bags, and hurried after the moving train. An old man worked hard to stand from his chair and followed them. Many other happy people ran around the old man, brushing against him. When the train stopped, people hollered as military men came off the train.

Powerful

The approaching locomotive’s whistle blasted. Two boys kneeling on the station platform gathered their marbles, stuffed their aggies and shooters into string-tied pokes, and raced toward the chugging train. A time-worn senior struggled to rise from the station bench and trailed the boys. A joyous throng streamed past the octogenarian, jostling against the man. When the engine stopped, the crowd cheered as soldiers spilled from the train. 

Melodramatic

The barreling mechanical snake’s siren screamed. Two imps sprawled on the cement slab grabbed their dice, crammed them into metal-studded pockets, and hurdled toward the train. An ancient geezer cracked his back as he removed his haunches from the metal seat and pursued the scallywags. Other ecstatic people galloped past the senile codger, knocking him flat. When the coach stopped, the mob shrieked as combatants stormed off the train. 

Although the melodramatic version uses power words. It fails to retain the spirit of the original, although bland, paragraph. 

What words would you have used for the power version?


Buy Link

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Zoe McCarthy’s book, Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days, is a fresh and innovative refocusing of your novel or novella. Through a few simple—and fun—steps, Zoe helps writers take their not-ready-for-publication and/or rejected manuscripts to a spit-polish finish. Writing is hard work, yes, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. —Eva Marie Everson, best-selling and multiple award-winning author, conference director, president of Word Weavers International, Inc.

If you want to increase your chance of hearing yes instead of sorry or not a fit for our list at this time, this book is for you. If you want to develop stronger story plots with characters that are hard to put down, this book is for you. Through McCarthy’s checklists and helpful exercises and corresponding examples, you will learn how to raise the tension, hone your voice, and polish your manuscript. I need this book for my clients and the many conferees I meet at writer’s conferences around the country. Thank you, Zoe. A huge, #thumbsup, for Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days.  —Diana L. Flegal, literary agent, and freelance editor

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Tips for a Leading a Writers Workshop: Part 2 – Preparation

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If you have a passion for effective writing concepts, consider turning them into workshops you can share with others.

Here are tips to help you prepare a successful workshop.

6 Tips for Preparing a Writers Workshop

1. Start presenting at small venues and move up to conferences.

I started giving workshops at my local writers group. After each presentation, I honed the workshop and slides from what I learned. I moved on to workshops at libraries and then to one-day writers conferences. For a large writers’ organization, I’m leading a month-long online workshop.

To develop a workshop’s content, try writing blog posts on the topics you want to cover.

2. Restrict the number of topics covered to what easily fits the presentation’s time limit.

Err on the side of finishing early. Build in time for questions, exercises, and unplanned tidbits.

I have a workshop that offers fun techniques to improve scenes. The first time I gave the presentation I ran out of time, partly because I thought I had ten minutes more than I actually had. In preparing for a second workshop on this material, I realized five techniques were too many. One was more complicated and less fun than the others. I cut that technique. The improvement supported the saying, “kill your darlings.”

3. Include examples and stories.

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Many participants need applications to understand principles. They enjoy hearing stories that support ideas. Stories are a welcome break from stretches of listenig to information.

During lunch for one engagement, I told the woman beside me I’d appreciate feedback on the maiden launch of my presentation. She said, “Don’t cut any of your stories.”

4. Prepare slides that don’t overwhelm participants.

Limit word count on a slide to 40 words. Break up a 120-word slide into three. To send participants a cohesive document later, turn the slides into a document that puts dot points on one topic together.

For detailed teachings, include examples.

Provide simple tables, graphs, or screenshots to show a process’s steps.

image by jarmoluk

To break up the monotony of words, choose photos that complement your points. Make sure your photos belong to you or come from sites that give permission to use them. I use free images on Pixabay.

Slides should have plenty of “white” space. Make backgrounds a light neutral color. It’s easier on participants’ eyes than stark white.

5. Offer documents participants can review at home.

Convert slides to a PDF or Word document to email later to those participants who request them. During the class, supply a one- to two-page handout to jot notes on.

I recently attended a writers conference. Packed into seventy-five minutes, each workshop offered rivers of information, principles, tips, and examples. I tensed trying to listen, process, and take decent notes. When the presenters promised to send the slides or handouts to us, I relaxed, listened intently, and jotted a few supporting notes.

6. Besides practicing, time your presentation.

I time talks at least twice to learn how much time they use. After I start my stopwatch, I speak calmly and slowly. If there’s not sufficient time for speaking, questions, exercises, and extra tidbits, I tighten my presentation. Knowing I have plenty of time for my talk is huge in how calm I am during the workshop.

Part 2 – tips for leading a writers workshop – preparation. Click to tweet.

What questions or workshop preparation stories do you have?

Amazon Link

Amanda Larrowe’s lack of trust sabotages her relationships. The English teacher and award-winning author of middle-grade adventure books for boys has shut off communication with friends and family to meet her January 2 book deadline. Now, in the deepest snow accumulation Richmond, Virginia has experienced in years, Camden Lancaster moves in across the street. After ten years, her heart still smarts from the humiliating aftermath of their perfect high school Valentine’s Day date. He may have transformed into a handsome, amiable man, but his likeability doesn’t instill trust in Amanda’s heart. When Cam doesn’t recognize her on their first two encounters, she thinks it’s safe to be his fair-weather neighbor. Boy is she wrong.

Confidence-Building Public Speaking Tips for Introverted Writers

I used to be incredibly afraid of public speaking. I started with five people, then I’d speak to 10 people. I made it up to 75 people, up to 100, and now I can speak to a very large group, and it feels similar to speaking to you one-on-one. — Robin S. Sharma

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image by GooKingSword

As writers are expected to perform more marketing tasks to promote their books, speaking ability becomes more crucial. Being prepared is key in holding the jitters to a healthy level and feeling confident.

  1. Consider your audience before you develop a new talk or rework one you’ve already presented.

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image by ClkerFreeVectorImages

Why it makes sense: Wouldn’t it be nice to know the person you approach at a social gathering is a widow before you start promoting your book on saving marriages? It’s the same with a larger audience.

 

 

  • Ask for the demographics of the audience.
  • Gear your humor, illustrations, and focus to your audience.
  • Give lead-ins where necessary; don’t assume attendees know things.

If your audience feels comfortable with you, you’ll receive more smiles and nods of encouragement. 

  1. Include stories—from your personal life and those you’ve collected.

image by ClkerFreeVectorImages
image by ClkerFreeVectorImages

Why it makes sense: You’re a writer. You know people enjoy listening to and learning from stories.

  • some should be funny (not jokes!)
  • some should touch emotions
  • personal ones should also be universal so the audience identifies
  • they should fit the theme or lesson of the talk
  • they should have a point
  • they should be told, not read
  • they should include details, e.g. my skeptical girlfriends vs. my women friends
  • real-life ones should include twists or exaggeration for greater pay off—emotional or humorous (writer’s license, but don’t veer too far from the truth)

If you know your stories, you have less to freeze up on.

  1. Write out your talk, record it, rewrite it, and practice, practice, practice. 

image by mvscreativos
image by mvscreativos

 

Why it makes sense: These help you get to what will work for you on stage. And, you’re mapping out your audience’s experience and takeaway.

 

 

  • Tell the audience what you’re going to say, say it, and then tell them what you said.
  • Keep your talk focused; refuse to ramble.
  • Search for the right words:
    • For more power, use words starting with hard consonants (gripped vs. held; his lip curled vs. his lip rose)
    • For humor, look for funny words (gussied up vs. dressed nicely)
  • Work on pauses and natural-looking gestures.

If you’ve thought out your talk ahead of time and practiced, practiced, practiced, your talk will be like singing a song you know. And, you won’t be making decisions of what to say on stage.

  1. Tell a Self-deprecating humorous story.

image by ClkerFreeVectorImages
image by ClkerFreeVectorImages

Why it makes sense: People like to laugh. And these stories help people connect with you.

  • It’s all right to be vulnerable, but avoid confessions for shock value.
  • Even tough life-moments can be written in a humorous manner and make a point or inspire.
  • Telling a relevant, humorous self-deprecating story can give the audience a rest from hard, emotional stuff you’ve just covered.

If you tell funny stories on yourself, you may feel more comfortable that you aren’t picking on anyone else. They may be easier to tell because you know what happened and how you felt.

Tips to help introverted writers give confident talks. Click to tweet.

What is the one part of speaking that scares you the most?