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Wordsmith’s Collective Thursday – Word Usage to Tighten Your Writing

July 14, 2022
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We all want to immerse our readers into our story as much as possible. To this end we need to ‘carry’ them through the experience with as little actual word usage as possible. An overly complicated or wordy sentence or paragraph, can take them out of the situation you have drawn them into. This can be accomplished by using descriptive words.

The definition of descriptive is: evocative, expressive, vivid, graphic, eloquent, colorful, explanatory, illustrative.

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This is quiet the list, I’m sure you agree, but we can expand on. A single word can encapsulate a mood, a feeling or a condition, which enables us to create without too much exposition or explanation.

In the revision process of any piece of work, tightening up the exposition ensures the story keeps pace, and large sections can be refined into their essential elements. In using words, such as clammy, for instance, our readers are instantly aware of our character’s physical state without losing the impact of the narrative. In other words -using these descriptive words keep our narrative sharp.

Careful word usage is a learned skill for many and delving into our dictionary and thesaurus on a regular basis enables us to use words to their best affect. For example, if we did not use clammy, we would need to describe cold but sweaty skin, light-headedness, damp beads of perspiration – a lot more words for the same condition and an overly descriptive sentence or paragraph can lose our reader’s attention. We certainly don’t want that.

Use of the thesaurus on our word document screen can assist us, but does have it’s limits. A good dictionary & thesaurus are a good investment for any writer. There are specific thesaurus as well. For example, I have an emotional thesaurus, which is a great tool.

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Take your time while revising any written piece to identify descriptive words that would sharpen it. They are a writer’s best friend, so use them often. The more you investigate words the more you will find that can sharpened your work.

What method do you use to tighten your writing?

Wordsmith’s Collective Thursday – Investing in Your Writing Chat

June 23, 2022
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I was pleased in chat with Cindy DeJager of Opal Publishing about one of my articles in the Opal Writers Magazine.

https://anchor.fm/opal-magazine/episodes/COFFEE-and-CONVERSATION-with-Mandy-Eve-Barnett-on-INVEST-IN-YOUR-WRITING-e1k3fdl

As I relay in the article, as writers we should invest in our craft, to become better equipped not only to write, but to understand the complexities of this art form. There are as many methods, genres and avenues to choose from as there are individual writers. We can learn a new genre, research a new topic or gain insights into another writing style. It is a lifelong learning journey.

To gain new knowledge we can access workshops, writing coaches, buy (or borrow – a library is a great resource) relevant books and discuss methods and outlets for our writing within a writing group.

What new aspect of writing have you learnt recently?

Wordsmith Collective Thursday – Feast or Famine of Story Ideas

May 26, 2022
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As writers we are used to juggling many writing projects at the same time or the complete opposite – nothing! (Although, I have to say my mind is crowded with ideas most of the time in MUSE central!)

These opposing states come with their own problems, each unique and as frustrating as each other. Firstly, ‘feast’ has us worrying which project to do first. Which one is the most strident in it’s demand to be written? Is it the right one to pursue? Will another story ‘vanish’ if we ignore it?

Secondly, ‘famine’ when ideas may be circling in our minds, but none of them ‘stick’ or have the ‘legs’ to form a longer narrative. Or there is a void. This is a frustrating feeling, leaving us grasping for elusive or fragments of ideas, or something to write!

So what can we do to organize the jumble or utilize a fragment?

Let’s look at the multiple ideas first. Write down as much as you can for each idea – lay them out on separate pieces of paper or word documents. Organize each idea into genre or categories and then plot, character or scene and any other components of each particular story you do have. Separating the stories in this way allows us to focus on them, if not objectively, as least with a clearer vision. Once you have them in an orderly list you will see which idea has the most content. Now, comes the difficult decision – which one do you pursue? It might not be the one with the most detail, but another that attracts you to it for whatever reason. Take some time to really dissect the new idea. Can you envisage the plot arc, the ending, the characters? If one starts to ‘grow’ within your minds eye, or the majority of the narrative reveals itself to you, then that is typically your direction.

Now comes the void. How do we spark our Muse? There are many reasons for this dearth of ideas, illness, relationship problems, work commitments etc. As a writer we know that the act of writing is not only satisfying, but a real need. Our creativity requires it. This is the time to look at those filed away short stories, or fragments of ideas. We always have inspirational quotes, sentences, even whole paragraphs, that have languished somewhere in journals, notebooks or electronic folders. Take time to read through these, after all we kept them for a reason. Utilize writing prompts – writing anything helps us get back on track. Fifteen minute bursts of writing from a word or picture prompt can refresh our minds, spark our creativity and set us on a new course. Your prompt response might only be short – a poem, a paragraph, even a word association list, or it can develop into something. I recently used an image of a dragon’s egg to spark my Muse. It was going to be a short story but grew and grew into a three thousand word story! You never know where an idea can lead, and that is the beauty of story writing.

How do you handle the sparse and dense periods of your writing life?

What obscure stimulus has sparked an idea for you? 

How do you approach new ideas? Frantic notes? Plot arc? Character descriptions?

Have you experienced a story unwilling to stay quiet?

new idea

“The problem is never how to get new, innovative thoughts into your mind, but how to get old ones out.  Every mind is a building filled with archaic furniture. Clean out a corner of your mind and creativity will instantly fill it.”     Dee Hock     

Wordsmith’s Collective Thursday – Finding Your Writing Mojo

March 10, 2022
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We have all felt disheartened as writers. It can manifest itself in a variety of forms. Lack of impetus, illness, stress, unrealistic comparisons, self expectations or stumbling over a particular section in a writing project. Some call it writers block. In truth it is just life.

Here are some tips to bring you back your writing mojo.

1. Focus on enjoying telling your stories. Do it to the best of your ability.

2. Remember you are building an inventory of your writing but also learning your craft.

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3. Lessen your expectations, don’t be so hard on yourself. Yes, we all want a certain quality to our work, but with patience it will come. There is no quick fix.

4. Don’t compare another writer’s finished work against your in process drafts. You have no idea how many changes they made.

5. Remember you get to rule over your own creative process. You choose, shape, mold, and create whatever you want.

6, Your words will, in time, sway minds, move hearts, and touch the lives of dozens of people you will never meet in person.

7. Your words, your stories are your legacy.

8. Do not take rejection personally. Think of it as a learning tool.

9. Take a long-term view of your writing career – no-one is ever an overnight success.

10. Participate in supportive writer groups. Share your work with encouraging friends.

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What have you found works for you when you are feeling disheartened?

Wordsmith’s Collective Thursday – Character Creation: Ten Questions To Ask

February 24, 2022
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When creating a story the main element is the characters within the narrative. To ensure we, and our readers, can visualize and become empathic with these protagonists and antagonists, we need to take into account their personalities and backstory. We can begin by asking questions to enable us to create a fully formed character.

  1. What is this character’s name?

Names are a vital first impression for your reader. It can denote an age, location or era. Research names for your story that will fit time and place. You may also chose a name that has a significant meaning.

2. How old are they?

You can state a character’s age, or allude to it with their reactions, preferences or actions.

3. What do they look like?

You can give subtle clues to your character’s looks through careful descriptions rather than listing their physical features. For example, the steamed up mirror gradually revealed her wet long black hair. He easily picked the box off the top shelf.

4. Who are they?

Utilize a character’s occupation, a prominent personality trait, or interaction to give your reader a glimpse at them.

5. Where are they?

Ensure the location of your scenes is ‘visible’ to your reader. A dark room, a summer day in the park or a sandy beach. Place your character within these locations and have them interact with their surroundings.

6. What era/season/day do they inhabit?

With historical fiction, or date/era sensitive stories this is important so your readers are orientated to where your characters live.

7. Who are your characters interacting with?

Name other characters within a scene, this is usually accomplished through dialogue, or interaction.

8. How do they relate to the other character(s)?

Create scenes that help your reader understand the relationships between your character’s. For example, Tom laid his hand on Cheryl’s shoulder as she typed up the letter. She shrugged her distaste at her boss’s physical touch. Tom positioned himself on one side of her desk and grinned.

9. What is your character accomplishing in each scene?

Each scene should relay what your character is trying to accomplish, with whom and how. Give your readers enough information, but also ask questions on what happens next.

10. Keep your character’s plight foremost.

Keep your reader engaged with curiosity, emotional investment, or sympathy for your character, this will keep them present in the story.

Remember to be true to your story but also your readers expectations within the specific genre.

Do you have certain questions you ask your characters? Care to share?

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