Writing quotes

Word Touches

I haven’t posted a writing quote in a while, but read one a couple of days ago that’s absolutely perfect for many of us who keep plugging away on our articles, books, blog posts, and more.  It’s courtesy of a man named Lewis Greer who’s also a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. He included it as part of his response to a lesson in our online class this month – and I loved it so much I had to ask if I could steal it. He was nice enough to say yes. 🙂

Lewis wrote, “I have only a limited idea as to how God will use what I write, but I know He will not be able to use it if it is not written.”

 This is good for me any day, but especially on those days when I have the ideas in my head but don’t sit down and write because I have “real work” to do … or I need to buy groceries … or the kids have piano lessons … or I’m just too tired … or … or … or. You get the idea.

The thing I need to remember is that these ideas and stories and characters that clutter my mind didn’t come from me. The desire to write fiction didn’t come from me. And the reason I’m doing it – isn’t for me.

For whatever reason only He knows, God has called me to write. Sure, I spend my days writing things for work that help pay the bills. But He’s also called me to write other things that might help someone’s heart.

A little girl who feels overlooked and ignored.

A middle school girl who’s trying to figure out how Sunday school faith works in the real world.

I don’t know who I’m ultimately writing for, but God does – and that’s what counts. I think I’m going to add Lewis’s quote to the collection over my computer to help keep me going on those tired/crazy/overloaded days when it’s easy to shove my writing aside. Maybe it’ll help me remember Who I’m doing this for in the first place.

But how about you? Even if you’re not a writer, I think just changing a word or two in what Lewis said makes it apply to everyone. How about, “I only have a limited idea of how God will use what I [do/say/teach], but I know He will not be able to use it if it is not done.” What do you think?

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Wednesday Writing: Born Writers

 

“For your born writer, nothing is so healing as the realization that he has come upon the right word.”  — Catherine D. Bowen, American author, 1897-1973

Finding the right word. Isn’t that what every writer strives for? It’s why we write and rewrite and rewrite again — because we want to say it perfectly. A paragraph can always be tweaked, a sentence can always be strengthened, a word can always be more vivid.

I’ll admit, finding those right words is sometimes my biggest struggle as a writer. I admire those who whiz through getting what they call “the bones” of a story down just to have all the ideas on paper, and then go back to flesh it all out. I’m in awe of those who can knock out the first draft of a novel in 30 days or less.

It’s hard for me. Maybe that’s because I still have so much to learn. Maybe that’s because I have a semi-perfectionist streak lurking just beneath the surface. Maybe that’s because I’m an editor in my “real world” job and just can make that side of my brain hush for more than a few minutes at a time.

But when I can … it’s a beautiful thing.  🙂 Words can hurt or heal, bind up or free, take readers to heights or depths they’ve never imagined. A perfectly placed word can make all the difference in how someone understands or responds to our work and its message. A perfectly placed word clarifies the picture our reader already has in his mind. A perfectly placed word fits in so seamlessly that the reader can’t imagine another word in its place. Neither can the writer.

Can I say it again? Having the right word — and knowing it’s the right word in exactly the right spot — is a beautiful thing. For the writer, the reader, and even for God when we’re writing to honor Him.

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Wednesday Writing: Ending Well

 

I’ve been suffering from a serious case of sleep deprivation during the past couple weeks, but for once it has’t been because of work. This time I’m blaming it on all those world class Olympic athletes. Once again, I was drawn right into the stories behind the athletes, the nail-biting competitions, and way too many late nights while waiting to see one more event.

But, after investing hours of my life watching the Games, I was sorely disappointed in the ending. Did you see it? The closing ceremony was still in full swing when the network cut to a commercial break and then came back with the premier of a new TV show. Sure, that’s their call. But to make it even crazier, they tuned back in to the rest of the ceremony later. Seemed pretty anticlimactic at that point.

So how does this relate to writing (since, after all, this is Writing Wednesday)? It’s all about our audience’s expectations and how we wrap things up.

When we write a story, we immediately set the stage for where we’ll be taking our reader, whether it’s a romance or a suspense or a thriller. If we start down one path and shift gears at some point along the way, we’ll lose readers. We want to keep those readers happy – deliver what we’ve promised – so they’ll stay with us until the end. Then, once we reach that finish line, we want our readers to be happy with how things end.

Did you write a romance? Then the hero and heroine need to be together for their “happily ever after.” Did someone get killed? Then you need to reveal who did it. Did the hero combat his biggest enemy? Then he’d better win, if it’s the end of the story.

That’s what readers expect – what publishing folks call a “satisfactory ending.” We shouldn’t cut things off or jump from one thing to the next just because we’ve maxed out on our word count. National networks might be able to get away with it, but we can’t – it leaves readers confused, and confused readers are ones who won’t necessarily pick up your next book (and who probably won’t recommend it to their friends). No author can afford running that risk.  

Will I watch the Olympics again the next time they roll around? Of course I will — because they’re the Olympics. 🙂 But it’s not so easy if you’re an author trying to please a reader. I’m still a long way from “the end” with my book, but when I reach that point you can bet I’ll do my best to end it well – no leaving readers in the lurch allowed.

As novelist and teacher Randy Ingermanson has been known to say, “Readers buy the book because of the beginning, but they tell their friends because of the ending.” That’s a lesson I hope to always remember.

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Wednesday Writings: Raising Children Who Read

“Children who read become adults who lead.”

Helen Ruffin, retired school librarian

I first saw this quote on the back of some t-shirts at a quiz bowl competition our son participated in a few weeks ago. The kids at the competition have all read award-winning children’s books and go head-to-head answering questions about the books. Questions can range from “Who is the author?” or “Name four of the charms on Lulu’s bracelet” to “On what date did ______ happen in the story?” In other words, the kids can be asked a question about anything in any of the 18 books they’ve read, no matter how big or small the fact might seem. That’s a lot of information to absorb, and believe me when I say competitions can be fierce (and stressful!).

It’s called the Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl, and started when a school librarian (Helen Ruffin) wanted to encourage the kids at her school to read more, and to read better books. She started a competition where the kids would be asked questions about things from the previous year’s Georgia Book Award recipients. What began in her school has spread throughout Georgia and now has four levels of competition that end with state finals at the University of Georgia during a children’s literature conference. Teams from elementary, middle, and high schools participate.

Hearing how the competition has grown just reminds me — again! — how much difference a single person can make. Helen Ruffin cared about the kids at her school and wanted to find a fun way to encourage them to read good books in a variety of genres. I doubt she ever thought the concept would go beyond her school or county, let alone across the state.

But that’s what can happen when we open ourselves to new ideas and are willing to encourage others — we never know where it might lead. So what does that thought (and our quote for today) have to do with writing? Instilling a love for books usually starts in childhood and follows a person throughout his or her life. But — children can’t read and learn and explore new worlds through words if we don’t have people who will write their stories.

Today I salute all those writers who have a heart for telling stories to children, all those editors who help make the stories even better, and all those publishers who continue printing the books — and all those parents who encourage their children to read. It truly is a gift that lasts for generations.

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