Writing Craft

25 10, 2021

I missed Punctuation and Grammar Days

By |2021-10-18T12:36:06-05:00October 25th, 2021|writing, Writing Craft|0 Comments

Neither are official-official holidays so there are no consequences. I’ll do better next year getting my blogs up on the actual dates, but in the meantime, here is my white-rabbit-late blog.

If you’re not familiar with the designation, both days are set aside to celebrate the underappreciated art of using correct grammar.

Jeff Rubin selected Sept. 24 in 2004 to be National Punctuation Day as “a celebration of the lowly comma, correctly used quotation marks, and other proper uses of periods, semicolons, and the ever-mysterious ellipses.”

Martha Brockenbrough, founder of the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar, added March 4 as National Grammar Day to encourages everyone to use grammar correctly in both verbal and written language.

I love the reasoning behind the date. The National Grammar Day website states. “Language is something to be celebrated, and March 4 is the perfect day to do it. It’s not only a date, it’s an imperative: March forth on March 4 to speak well, write well, and help others do the same!”

These days our communication relies increasingly on our written word skills. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t email or text or post comments on social media. Correct grammar and punctuation are important.

I always need help with grammar and punctuation. If you have as much trouble as I do, here are my recommendations:

For help understanding how each punctuation mark is used, try this fabulous clickable chart here. Once on the page, you click on the punctuation mark and a page with the explanation opens.

Nitty-Gritty Grammar is a humorous guide to correct grammar.

Or for serious writing, try The Elements of Style

 

For grammar help as I write in Word 365, I use Editor, an editing tool embedded in the word processor.

For Grammar help when composing emails and social media posts, I have installed the Grammarly software program.

You can get the free version or pay for a premium  version at https://www.grammarly.com/

Lastly, just for fun, enjoy this YouTube version of Victor Borge’s Phonetic Punctuation skit. It’s old but still hilarious any day of the year.

14 06, 2021

Moodling, Imagination, and Creative Thinking

By |2021-06-13T13:50:29-05:00June 14th, 2021|Make Me Think Monday, Writing Craft|0 Comments

I recently came across a blog that gave me both a new vocabulary word and a new technique to boost creativity. When I read Musings from a Writer’s Brain–Moodling, I thought the blogger might have made the word up and checked for myself.

Googling the word proved tricky. MOODLE came up, but not moodling. Moodle happens to be an open-source learning management system for distance and online learning. Something that has become a necessary part of our COVID-19 pandemic world.

But that was not what the blogger Joanne Guidoccio was talking about. Her blog referred to the idea of moodling from Brenda Ueland’s book If You Want to Write

Ueland stresses that “the imagination needs moodling—long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering.”

Urban Dictionary defines the word as daydreaming or letting your mind wander and doing nothing.

Interesting that doing nothing and letting your mind wander will improve creative thinking, isn’t it?

But the fact is some well-known names are among those who practiced moodling.

Isaac Newton was moodling under an apple tree in 1666 and an apple fell on his head which in turn led to his theory on gravity.

Albert Einstein spent days and nights in the quiet solitude after the breakup of his marriage. That moodling period led to his general theory of relativity.

Massachusetts of Technology’s The Writing Process includes moodling as a way to generate ideas and recommends a structured technique for writers

CEOBuddy.com suggests trying noodling and moodling if you’re looking for creative ideas to expand your business.

There’s also a YouTube channel that demonstrates how to use doodling to jumpstart creativity.

Moodling, noodling, doodling, idling, dawdling, and puttering to improve my imagination…

with summer here, sounds like a plan to me.

What do you think?

1 03, 2021

Should a Writer Blog?

By |2021-02-05T15:50:42-06:00March 1st, 2021|Writer's Corner, Writing Craft|3 Comments

First, let me say, writing a regular blog isn’t for everyone, whether you’re a career writer or not. It is a lot of work.

I’ve blogged for over nine years. I know firsthand how much.

Here are my takeaways for all the effort.

  • Improved Writing Skills

Writing, in my opinion, can be learned. Same as a knitter learns to knit. Yes, creativity and talent help. But practice makes perfect.

Weekly blogging means practice not only with writing, but also editing, another very important writer skill.

  • Opportunities to experiment

I get to change how I write and what I write. Some of my blog topics are informational, some are personal accounts, some are thought-provoking.

Blogging not only improves my skills. It keeps me learning.

  • Discipline, Motivation & Deadlines

Blogging provides lessons in all three. Readers look for that email in their inbox every week. Not living up to their expectation is super strong motivation.

In turn, motivation provokes discipline. I must get my butt in the chair and my fingers on the keys to meet the deadlines blogs demand, weekly and for the guest blogs I frequently do. That builds discipline.

  • Discoverability

The magic reward for all the effort is discoverability.

While my follower numbers aren’t huge by most scales, when I send a View from the Front Porch post out every Monday, Wednesday, Friday morning at 0600 Central Time precisely, I get 175 faithful readers clicking through.

If I did a book signing or book talk and that many people showed up, I’d be ecstatic. Blogging is my virtual book signing table that is open 24/7/365—internationally.

So, for this writer, the answer to the question is a resounding YES.

Blogging on a regular basis being the key. If you do that, blogging can be a powerful way to network with readers and have new readers find you.

19 10, 2020

Digging Ditches and Writing Novels

By |2020-10-19T08:29:12-05:00October 19th, 2020|A Writer's Life, Writer's Life, Writing Craft|1 Comment

I’m working away — in fits and starts — on the next novella in my Fitzpatrick Family series. But something’s bothering me about the story. The words aren’t flowing.

I attributed my lack of word flow to pandemic brain fog and put the manuscript aside to watch the drainage ditch being dug in our front yard.

Distraction comes easy when you’re stuck.

The ditch work on the main road in our subdivision had finally been completed. We live on a side street and, after three years, it was our turn.

I stood watching like an awe-struck kindergartner listening to his teacher read Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel named Mary Ann. Written by Virginia Burton, it was my son’s favorite story book.

steam shovel, Judythe MorganThe shovel bucket started at the top of our rise then went down the slope adjusting the depth with each shovel load.

One scoop after the other. Not one scoop on our side of the street and another scoop across the street.

But one after the other down our side of the road. dump truck, judythe morganScoop – dump, scoop dump. Inching slowly  down the slope.

Scoop – dump, scoop dump. One after the other.

Kinda like a timeline when plotting a story.

As that thought flowed through my head, I realized what was wrong in my Fitzpatrick Family story. My timeline was out of kilter. I’d gone from one side of the street to the other.

Scenes were happening sequentially, but the reader would quickly figure out the passage of time I’d written didn’t allow enough time for what needed to happen.

Like the steam shovel ditch digging, I had to proceed one shovel width at a time to get a properly sloped ditch.ditch Or, in my case, a story timeline that didn’t confuse the reader.

3 08, 2020

Words and Understanding What’s Meant

By |2020-08-02T16:10:13-05:00August 3rd, 2020|Make Me Think Monday, Writing Craft|0 Comments

judythemorgan.com, judythewriter.com

Alan Greenspan once said, “I know you think you understand what you thought I said but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”

To me, the quote describes the biggest issue in communication—written or oral.

An obstacle that’s brought home to me every week with my critique partners. The way critique groups work is pages are shared weekly then participants meet – pre-COVID-19 in person, now via video chat – and discuss what was sent.

Greenspan’s quote becomes reality when we discuss what we’ve sent.

Way too often what my critique partners read is not what I wanted to convey. Sometimes it’s the way I wrote something or the words I chose. Other times it’s a total fail because my critique partners didn’t get what I meant.

It’s no mystery why this happens. Each of us brings a distinct perspective to our critiques. We’re all from unique backgrounds and geographic areas and grew up during different time periods (age span of our members is over thirty years).

Misunderstanding what’s on the page can be the kiss of death for a writer because a reader will stop reading. It’s the reason fiction writers spend hours scrambling for the perfect word and rewriting a sentence a gazillion times to capture the perfect nuance.

Reading an incorrect meaning into words–whether written or spoken–happens too often.

Finding, and using, words—spoken or written—that are mutually understood is critical for effective communication, especially in this tense, trying time with COVID-19 hovering, hurricanes lining up, and important elections on the horizon.

So, let’s disprove Mr. Greenspan’s quote and make what we say, or write, match what we mean to eliminate misunderstanding.

27 07, 2020

Flying Body Parts

By |2020-07-27T12:27:24-05:00July 27th, 2020|Make Me Think Monday, writing, Writing Craft|0 Comments

judythemorgan.comI recently read a blog for writers discussing disembodied body parts. It got me to thinking. Do readers even notice such minutiae?

For example, do you stumble over sentences like these?

  1. Their eyes locked across the room.
  2. His eyes zeroed in on the man lurking in the shadows.
  3. The man eyed the chocolate cake with the longing of a starving man.

In the first two sentences, I don’t picture actual eyes flying across a room to collide or zoom across space. I guess some people might and do according to the blog I read.

In the third, eye is being used as a verb, which it can be, and should cause no issues.

Some writers would substitute gaze for eyes in the first two sentences. And that’s the writing communities’ preferred word.

Sometimes, I will use gaze too. Other times I go with eyes. It depends on how the sentence reads. Consider this sentence:

The softest green eyes he’d ever seen rambled from his head down to his toes and back again.

I picture eye movement (something you’d see) traveling downward then back up. To substitute eyeballs which is  actually what’s moving would sound ridiculous. Using gaze instead of eye would work but, in my opinion, decrease  the subtle tension.

Eyes aren’t the only body part that roam.

Fingers fly: Her fingers flew to his cheeks.

Jaws drop:  His jaw dropped to the floor.

Arms get shot: She shot her arm out to catch him.

Hands get thrown: He threw up his hands.

Faces fall: Her face fell.

Flying or roaming body parts don’t trouble me. If I read the character “swims through the crowd,” I don’t see splashing water. Or if someone writes “a lump of ice settled in her belly,” I don’t picture actual ice. Describing a character’s eyes with “pools of molten chocolate,” I don’t think he’s got Godiva eyeballs, just deep brown eyes?

A writer’s job is to provide a satisfying experience for the reader by creating a vivid movie in their head. One that combines the richness of language with remarkable stories. I believe being too literal can destroy the richness of  language.

So, what’s your take on flying body parts? Do you cringe when you read those sentences? Are you pulled from the story?

16 09, 2019

Emotional Stages of a Writing Project

By |2019-09-16T06:38:21-05:00September 16th, 2019|Writer's Life, writing, Writing Craft|0 Comments

My blogs generally focus on my writer’s life with stories about things that strike my fancy. Today I’m sharing a fun video aimed primarily for writers.

I first saw the video many years ago on the blog of The Steve Laube Agency. Fridays on his blog are FUN day and he shared this great video by James Andrew Wilson titled The Five Emotional Stages of Writing a Novel.

If you’re not a writer, I’m hope you can relate to some of the same stages in projects you undertake. And, it’ll help you understand your writer friends better.

15 10, 2018

The Tale of a Book Title

By |2018-10-14T20:32:47-05:00October 15th, 2018|A Writer's Life, Writer's Life, Writing Craft|2 Comments

Book titles and covers are important because the old adage — Readers do judge a book by its cover — is true. So, how can an author know beforehand what’s going to resonate?

Wiser people than me have come up with three criteria.

  1. A great title needs to create an image that synthesizes the story and suggest the story’s meaning or theme.
  2. The cover must also grab the attention of a casual book searcher.
  3. A title must describe the contents while being so piercing and articulate that readers will take notice.

Recently, I rebranded three previously published individual titles into a series. I considered coming up with new titles for each book, but each book already had an ISBN and the content was not changing. It wasn’t necessary.

Instead, I used a branding tagline or blurb (below) and a graphic — the ribbon — to link the books.

PROMISES series 

Two men and one woman met at Eighth Army Headquarters, South Korea in the turbulent Vietnam War years and found their lives linked together forever. The PROMISES series tells their stories through the decades that follow.

In making my decision, I examined my titles based on the expert’s criteria.

  • Book 1 is Love in the Morning Calm, Prequel to the Pendant’s Promise.

With love in the title, a reader gets the story will be a love story. The picture of Headquarters, Eighth Army identifies the setting as a military. A knowledgeable reader may also recognize that another name for South Korea is Land of the Morning Calm.

Conclusion: I may have I tried too hard.

  • Book 2 The Pendant’s Promise

The cover design with the Pendant, the Vietnam Wall, and the word promise signal another love story. I love this cover because my very talented daughter designed it. With the rebranding, my current graphic designer, Jim Peto at Petoweb.com, enhanced the graphics.

Conclusion: The title and the cover artwork make a reader notice.

 

  • Book 3 Until He Returns

The old Army green color clues a reader of the setting and time frame. The title suggests whoever needs to return is in the military. (Those who have read the first two books will know the character has been MIA since book 1.) Close examination reveals the character’s name on the dog tags.

Conclusion: Unsure whether this title hits the mark the mark or not. While the dog tags are clearly visible on the paperback cover, the tags are not readable on the eBook thumbprint.

 

  • Book 4 Promises to Keep

This is the final book of the series, which will be out next month. The title ties back to the second book’s title and the series title. The couple clues the reader it’s another love story. The sunset background suggests the end of the day and the last of series.

Conclusion: It synthesizes the story and suggests the story’s theme.

 

Overall, I give myself a generally good grade for my titles. What say you?

Should you want to read any of the books, simply click on the buy links on the sidebar. The buy link for book 4 will be added next month.

9 10, 2017

Writing as Architect or Gardener

By |2017-10-05T07:35:00-05:00October 9th, 2017|writer, writing, Writing Craft|1 Comment

George R. R. Martin writes fantasy, horror, and science fiction. I write women’s fiction and romance.

Our genres are different, but our process to a finished book is much the same. I also start with a seed. There’s no telling where a story idea will come from, but I rarely have a plan for the story. Except I do know there will be a satisfying ending.

I greatly admire those who can plot with colorful sticky notes and checkerboard graphics designating scenes. I envy the ones who know the percentage of each portion of three act structure or hero’s journey. I can’t do that hard as I try.

I begin with my happily-ever-after seed and watch it sprout and grow into a full-fledged story like a gardener. Sometimes I have to do a lot of pruning along the way to keep the story working. That is precisely what gardeners do for their plants.

If you’re a writer, what’s your writing process like? Do you garden or follow a blueprint?

14 08, 2017

Are you writing tight?

By |2017-08-13T16:00:06-05:00August 14th, 2017|Writer's Corner, writing, Writing Craft|1 Comment

These days we live in a fast-paced world. People can be impatient, especially about reading long-winded posts, emails, and texts. I’ve noticed that even fiction books seem to be shorter.

Our written communication should be clear and concise. Still, extra verbiage can slip in and most often, eliminating those words will not change the meaning.

How do we eliminate words that are simply filler that don’t add to the susbtance?

Personally, I use a weasel word list – an editing help I learned in a Margie Lawson editing workshop. It’s simply a list of words I know creep into my writing. Words like just, that, very, really, etc. Then, when I’m editing, I eliminate or replace those words.

Below is a great infographic that can help you catch extraneous words in your writing.

30 Filler Words You Can Cut Out of Your Writing (Infographic)
Source: www.grammarcheck.net

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