Get to Know the Authors

Monday, August 31, 2015

WeeK 35 Use Paragraphs To Frame Your Thought and Set Your Pace

Point & Shoot
by Valerie Ipson

You may have noticed that the 52 weeks of lessons found in Mastering the Craft began with the basics...first, choosing your words wisely, and then on to constructing powerful sentences. Now we're experts (right?) so we're ready to tackle the almighty PARAGRAPH.

Wilbers compares it to taking a picture. We "decide what to place inside the frame and what to leave out" MTC, 194. In putting together a paragraph, it's the choose the words and sentences and where to place them.

Our manuscripts are not emails where we might wander from thought to thought randomly. Instead, we use paragraphs crafted with a purpose. In fiction, they introduce and develop a thought, but also "mark shifts in scene and dialogue" MTC, 194. They compel a reader from thought to thought at a pace we as the author decides. Longer paragraphs slow the pace, while the short, choppy paragraph steps it up.

Often we take a photo that has too much sky or too much going on in the background and we have to crop it. Cropping is a great tool for writers, too. Give readers some white space around your paragraphs!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Week 34 Start with Something Old; End with Something New

Week 34
Start with Something Old; End with Something New

by Peggy Urry

I had to chuckle to myself when I read the title for this week. Oh, how appropriate as I have a daughter getting married in a couple of months. This post, however, deals with the order of things to improve the flow and clarity of our writing.

Ending our sentences with new information gives the reader a sense of what is coming next, enticing them to read on (as was discussed last week).

"Consider this sentence: 'You need to eliminate common errors in your writing.'"1

Eliminating common errors is an idea that you've introduced and it now is 'old information'. Anything referencing that idea should come at the beginning of subsequent sentences with new info presented at the end.

What do you think of this set-up: "You need to eliminate common errors in your writing. Your credibility will be undermined by errors in grammar, word choice, and punctuation."?

How would you improve it?

Consider this: "You need to eliminate common errors in your writing. Errors (old idea) in grammar, word choice, and punctuation will undermine your credibility."2 The flow and clarity improve with just a simple change in order.

1 Wilbers, Stephen, Mastering the Craft of Writing, pg 189.
2 Wilbers, Stephen, Mastering the Craft of Writing, pg 190.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Week 33 End With the Thought You Intend to Develop Next

End With the Thought You Intend to Develop Next

by Tamara Passey

Week 33: Wherein I call Stephen Wilbers the sentence whisperer. 

In this chapter he details yet another technique of using closing emphasis for effect. A way to connect your sentences to increase the coherence and flow of your information. And why would we want to do that? The more coherent our writing, the easier it is for our reader to follow our thought and (here is the biggee) "the more our reader will want to keep reading." [Readers who will want to keep reading = goal of every writer, right?]

To improve the coherence of your information, check for topics that are mentioned in a sentence and then elaborated upon in following sentences. The placement and order of information seems like such common sense, but as we know, common sense can be bypassed when the pen hits the page (or keys strike the keyboard...doesn't have the same ring.) The topic that will be continued needs to be near the end of the sentence. 

Here is the example Wilbers uses and I'm sure I cannot do the transformation justice in my recap, but hopefully you will get the idea of how to end with the thought you intend develop next:

"There are two natural stress points in every sentence you write. There is one stress point at the beginning and one stress point at the end."

Not bad. But look at how changing the word order improves the flow:

"In every sentence you write, there are two natural stress points. There is one stress point at the beginning and one stress point a the end."

See how the sentences are better connected by ending the first sentence with the topic that is explained in the second sentence?

He doesn't stop there. Remember eliminating needless words and compressing the rhythm?

"In every sentence you write, there are two natural stress points: one at the beginning and one at the end."

Now there is a better sounding and more efficient sentence!

Have fun and rewrite this sentence to get the hang of it:

"We can see that the problem with a long sentence may involve more than just garrulousness, given what we've learned about problems of topic and stress."

Monday, August 10, 2015

Week 32 Use Sentence Fragments To Punctuate Your Writing

This is not your English teacher's novel
by Valerie Ipson

Think for a minute what your manuscript would look and sound like if you followed all the rules you were taught in 8th grade English. 

(I hope you're shuddering just a little bit.)

If you're strict with the rules, you'll be writing without the benefit of the fast-paced, efficient fragment. I know. I know. Your teacher marked all over your papers in red ink because of sentences that were missing subjects and verbs. Well, it's revenge time. 

In our fast-paced world, people are moving more and more to short, quick forms of communication. And that's what fragments do for a novel. Set the pace. Move thought quickly. And efficiently.

"In the hands of a skilled writer (like you), fragments can underscore a point or advance a plot with remarkable precision and brevity...Their clipped, staccato cadence varies the rhythm from the flow of complete sentences. They add contrast and energy. They create pauses, and as you know, pauses create emphasis." 1

And truth be told, don't we often live life in fragments?
Yes. Yes we do.

1 MTC, P 175

Monday, August 3, 2015

Week 31 Hit 'Em with the Long-Short Combo

Week 31 Hit 'Em with the Long-Short Combo
Peggy Urry

Stephen Wilbers compares the concept of the long-short combo to that of a sling shot. Stretch out your first sentence and then ... Pow! Follow it with a concise, snappy one--the shorter the better. This adds punch, or emphasis, to what you're talking about.1 

Here are a few examples: 

Yesterday I read my copy four times, one word at a time, from front to back and from back to front, and today you found an error. So much for proofreading.2

"He'd mentioned his nonna, but for the first time she considered that he might have little ones. And a wife."3

Underneath, while you write you are a little nervous, not knowing how to get to what you really need to say and also a little afraid to get there. Relax. 4

Here's one for you to try:

Driving down Superior Street on a Saturday night, the sidewalks deserted, wind off the lake blowing snow through the pink light from the street lamps, the temperature stuck at twenty below, you know this isn't Paris, and it isn't even Minneapolis. This is a city called Duluth and it's at the top of the map.

1 Wilbers, Stephen, Mastering the Craft of Writing, pg 170.

2 Wilbers, Stephen, Mastering the Craft of Writing, pg 170.

3 Urry, Peggy, The Archer's Hollow.

4 Wilbers, Stephen, Mastering the Craft of Writing, pg 172/Goldberg, Natalie, Writing Down the Bones.