Posted on Leave a comment

Grow Your Writing Skills — Part II

In an effort to grow my copywriting skills, I took Ian Lurie’s LinkedIn Learning course “Learning to Write Marketing Copy.” He broke copywriting down into four easy steps: create a plan, free write, write your first draft, and polish your writing. While the course focused specifically on writing marketing copy, I’ve been able to apply his method to fiction writing, blog writing, and even journalism.

This week, I’d like to focus on his second and third steps.

Freewriting

Freewriting is a great idea to develop ideas for your writing project. Whether you’re working on a short story, a novel, or a blog post, jotting down ideas through freewriting will help “free” up your mind and flesh out your ideas. 

Lurie suggests setting a timer for 5-10 minutes and allowing yourself to write without thinking about spelling or grammar. Just write down everything that comes to mind about your topic, even if you end up going down some rabbit trails. Don’t stop writing until the timer is up!

When the buzzer finally rings, stop and step away from your computer or paper for a few minutes before you review your writing. Then, highlight any new ideas that may have sprouted during your freewriting time.

I apply this to my own work, especially larger projects. A lot of my work is quick (i.e., emails, banner ads, social media ads, etc.), but I have several large pieces per month that require quite a bit of cognitive effort on my part. 

Freewriting is a great way for me to get some ideas out on paper, especially if I’m not sure which direction I want to take the piece. 

Writing Your First Draft

Writing your first draft is always the hardest part of starting a new project. Depending on the length of the piece, you may want to break it down into manageable steps for yourself. For example, if you’re working on a novel, take it chapter by chapter or scene by scene. Once you have a goal in mind for what you want to write, set a timer for 45-90 minutes and begin writing!

Writing your first draft is a little different than freewriting because you need to allow your goal to guide your writing. Keep your goal, writing style, and the type of piece in mind. Keeping the type of piece in mind just means that you need to remember the context. If you’re writing a novel, ask yourself: Where does this chapter or scene fit into the rest of my story? 

When writing your first draft, Lurie suggests leaving the introduction and heading for last. This just gives you the opportunity to develop your ideas before you introduce or conclude them. I often leave headers and subject lines on emails for last, and I often wait until I’m done writing body text before writing salutations in letters or direct mail pieces. Having all of the other copy written first gives me a good idea of how to introduce it.

When the timer is up, Lurie suggests stretching for a few minutes, smiling at your accomplishment, and then polishing your writing, which we will discuss on Jan. 2!

About Emily

Emily Babbitt is a promotional writer for Liberty University Marketing. She lives in Central Virginia with her husband. Learn more about Emily here.

Posted on Leave a comment

Are You Thankful for Troubles? Building Character Through Trials by Jarm Del Boccio

William Shakespeare
Image from biography.com

Although my husband and I live in an almost-empty-nest, sometimes I catch myself reminiscing. Our homeschool history course many years ago includes a mini-unit on Shakespeare and his works.  We’d listened to an excellent 3 part DVD series by Schlessinger Media called, “Shakespeare for Students.”  The concepts are simply explained, but meaty.

In The Characters of Shakespeare (Part 1), we learn there are two types of characters in Shakespeare’s works. static and dynamic. Here is a summary:

Static (or Stock) Character: A person who does not change during the course of the story. A shallow two-dimensional figure used to carry along the story, add comic relief or provide a menacing presence. The Fool in King Lear is one example (which, by the way, is the most “tragic of his tragedies . . . nothing good comes from it unless it is a lesson for the readers!) A villainous character would be Iago in Othello or Edmund in King Lear.

Dynamic Character:  A person who changes, for better or worse, in the course of the play.  A deeper, three-dimensional character, such as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet. She matures into a complex young lady by the last act, but, unfortunately, it’s too late.  Another example is Macbeth, who moves from a valiant war hero to a paranoid murderer within the course of the play. So, this got me thinking . . .  Not only is this good to know as we develop our own characters in a story (too many static characters spoil the broth, and vice versa), but ponder this:

What sort of character are you?  What kind do you wish to be? 

Hopefully, it’s obvious that you can’t be a dynamic character if you have no trials and tribulations. How many people do you know who have everything they want and need – are they shallow, or complex?

What character is God forming in you this Thanksgiving? Be thankful if God allows troubles in your life. It will make you a more well-rounded 3D character who will be wiser, more compassionate and helpful to others.

Now that’s character!


*This post first appeared on Jarm’s travel and inspiration blog.

Jarm Del Boccio’s debut middle-grade historical fiction, The Heart Changer, released with Ambassador International April 26th. You can connect with her at https://www.jarmdelboccio.com/

Posted on Leave a comment

Finding Inspiration

 Spring Break – Finally! Exhausted from the cold wet winter weather and teacher paperwork this week I’m doing what I love most – digging in the dirt.

Fence posts need to be set. Wire must be stretched and the garden has to be tilled. Why would I love all this physical, backbreaking, bone-tiring work? It gives me time to take a deep breath from the craziness of life and observe God’s Creation. I notice praying mantis nests, squishy eggs buried under straw mulch, bees buzzing in the blueberry blossoms and so much more to write about. Whether gardening, camping, hiking, or strolling along the beach, the Lord’s Creation is my inspiration to illustrate His Truth.

How about you? What does the Lord use to inspire you to write His Truth?

Want to find out more? Visit my weekly devotional blog at gailcartee.blogspot.com. By the way, I love history, music, and watercolors too.

Posted on 3 Comments

Plan to Persevere

LETC-orig002-785x1024 coverOne of my favorite stories to listen to as a child was, The Little Engine That Could. The voice of the little blue engine who took on the insurmountable challenge of bringing toys, dolls, and “good things to eat to the good boys and girls on the other side of the mountain,” still echoes in my head: “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”

Fast forward 60 years. I’m a grandmother with dozens of articles and two non-fiction books under my belt. For the last ten years I’ve been working on my first young adult novel, Half-Truths. I have revised the story fourteen times; not including the hundreds of times I’ve rewritten scenes and chapters.

Did I know what I was getting into when I first started this project? Definitely not.

So, besides hearing the little blue engine in my head, what has kept me going for all these years? What keeps me chugging along from one revision to another?

Perseverance.

Plus, a healthy dose of belief in my story.

Take a minute to list your definition of perseverance as it relates to your writing career. Here’s mine:

  1. Not giving up on a reasonable goal.
  2. Making sure that my goal is God-honoring and worth completing.
  3. Not allowing myself to be distracted from that goal by other activities.
  4. Being willing to sacrifice (time, ego, money, etc.) to complete my goal.

Now, consider what is the opposite of perseverance? In other words, what will keep you from being the little blue engine who climbs that “I’m published!” mountain?

Here are some obstacles I thought of:

  1. Abandoning the idea because it takes too much time and effort.
  2. Listening to self-doubts and fears.
  3. Listening to the nay-sayers who mock the goal.
  4. Not being willing to make changes suggested by serious, constructive feedback.
  5. Not being willing to put in the time and effort it will take to revise, revise, revise.
  6. Not having the tools and abilities to reach your goal AND not trying to obtain them. (i.e., diligently practicing all types of writing, take classes, attend conferences, join a critique group)
  7. Rejections from agents and/or publishers.

When I began my novel, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. But I had an idea that I loved: a story set in the early 50’s in Charlotte, North Carolina about the unlikely friendship between Kate Dinsmore, the granddaughter of a rich, society woman, and Lillian Harris, her grandmother’s teenage black help. Their friendship uncovers a century worth of secrets, including their shared ancestry.

Although I’d written two non-fiction books, when I began Half-Truths, I didn’t know how to write a novel. So, I did what you’re supposed to do: I read craft books, attended writing conferences, and received dozens of critiques. I also didn’t know much about African American or southern history. So, I read books (many of which are listed here) and interviewed African Americans who lived in Charlotte during the time period. Each book and interview took time, but they all enriched my work.

One of the influential books I listened to was Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years 1954-1965 by Juan Williams. Besides giving me a fuller understanding of the scope of the civil rights struggle, it also provided a meaningful example of perseverance.

Civil rights activists, including Martin Luther King, had their eyes on the prize of obtaining equal rights for blacks. Did they always know what they were getting into? Maybe not. Certainly some, like Dr. King, Medgar Evers, and the protestors who were beaten and imprisoned, ended up losing more than they’d anticipated. But did they believe in the equality they were working towards?

Without a doubt, they did.

I for one, am glad they persevered.

My need to persevere as a writer is minuscule compared to those who unfailingly fought for equality and persevered in the face of discrimination, danger, and death.

But, as I begin the next step of my publishing journey—finding an agent–I have a plan: I must persevere. And I must believe in my story.

As Christians, we are aware that, “neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth” (1 Cor 3:7). But our calling is to diligently persevere. “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might.” (Eccl 9:10)

What about you? How will you persevere in 2019?

IMG_3597When Carol is not working on Half-Truths or blogging, you’ll find her traveling, trying to improve her golf game, or playing and reading books to one of her six grandchildren. A new member of the Write2Ignite Team, Carol seeks to serve the Lord with the writing gifts He has given her. She has published two non-fiction books and dozens of newspaper and magazine articles and enjoys teaching writing to teens and adults. For more information, please visit her blog where she reviews and gives away gobs of books!