Describe, Qualify, Modify, Alter, Delete

May 14, 2019

Some common advice for writing fiction is to use very few adjectives and adverbs. This is additional advice I don’t like, and I didn’t understand it at first. How could I describe settings and scenes and facial expressions? Plus, I was moving from writing press releases, speeches and business reports, to writing fiction, so I was excited to use adjectives.

writing report

Photo by Bram Naus on Unsplash

As I pondered this disappointment and continued writing, I began to understand the directive, although I phrase it differently. Instead, I use adjectives and adverbs judiciously. A friend put it better: “You use them sparingly, and they are very visual”.

Examples abound online, so I’ll just include a short example of an unnecessary adverb.

#1.  “I don’t care,” he said angrily.

#2.  “I don’t care,” he said, pounding his fist on the table.

Which one is more visual?

I also use the words “very” and “really”, and I have to go back and delete them. “Very hot.” “Really big.” How about scalding and gigantic. More descriptive.

I’ve heard the overuse of modifiers called lazy writing. I get that now. There are so many more ways to add description – through dialogue, action, and backstory, to name a few.

As I learned to limit my adjectives and adverbs to make them more effective, I discovered other writing devices. Metaphors and similes and onomatopoeia and analogy. These are fun! So, now, I probably use these too much.

eagle

Avoid clichés. “Soar like an eagle.”

A metaphor is a comparison to add description. A simile is another descriptive comparison but it uses “like” or “as”.

Analogies compare things more directly. — “My house is as important to me as play-doh is to my 5-year-old daughter.”

Personification gives human traits to an inanimate object. — “That pie is calling my name.”

 

Onomatopoeia

{On-uh-ma-tuh-pee-uh}

And my favorite: onomatopoeia. These are words that sound like actions. — “The horse clip-clopped down the path.” “Waves sloshed on the shoreline.” I like the way onomatopoeia is spelled, the way it looks when written out, and the way it sounds. It’s a cool word.

horses

Photo by Jorge Dominguez on Unsplash

Waves sloshed on the shoreline as the horse clip-clopped through the pebbles. The rider felt free, out of the desert at last, like she could spread her wings and do anything. The award meant as much to her as spaghetti and meatballs meant to her Italian mother-in-law. The sun celebrated with her, warming her face, and causing the water to sparkle like diamonds.

A good day.

What literary device is your favorite? And what word do you use way, way, way too often?

Note: My apologies to the English and grammar police if I have misrepresented any terms in this post. I’ve described things as I understand them.

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Sketch Me a Story

April 30, 2019

I write longhand. Yes, with a sketch pad and a rollerball pen. When I get into my zone and write thousands of words at a sitting, I get callouses from the pen rubbing on my fingers.

Typewriters were once the writing instrument of choice. Think Ernest Hemingway, Mark Twain, Agatha Christie, Tennessee Williams. Even today, some writers choose a typewriter rather than a computer. Think Larry McMurtry, poet Maya Angelou, Danielle Steel. (That’s not me in the picture. I think it’s Agatha Christie.)

typewriter writer

Although I’ve never used a typewriter for writing fiction, the idea prompts feeling of nostalgia — writers long ago, solitarily pounding out stories.

When I began delving into writing fiction a few years ago, I wrote on my laptop. The advice I googled online and found in books about the craft of writing went something like this: “Write as fast as you can, get it all out, and then go back and fix it.” Sounded right.

I rose every morning at 5 am, another suggestion I found. I’m a night owl, yet I groggily sat at my laptop and spewed out the words to my story, all the while devouring online writing advice, most of which made no sense to me.

I wrote ferociously, and it took me 3 months to finish my novel. Then, per more advice, I set it aside for a month. What a sense of accomplishment. I had written a novel! It was 120,000 words.

nightowl

Photo by Quentin Dr on Unsplash

When I brought it back out to “fix it”, I couldn’t. It was crap. The writing was awful, and it needed to be completely rewritten. Spewing didn’t work; I needed to figure out what did work.

The early mornings, unfortunately, remain the best time for me to write. I wake up thinking about my characters and before the day’s activities and distractions start, I sit down and write.

I also recognized that I needed to write more slowly, more thoughtfully. As I looked over my writing, I kept going back to a scene I had written one evening while laying in bed watching TV. I had been compelled to write, so I grabbed a notebook – an actual paper notebook – and pen, and I wrote. It was good, and it made me realize that I feel more creative with a pen and pad of paper. I write thoughtfully, creatively, slowly. I contemplate each sentence and each word.blank sketchpad

In what I can only label divine inspiration, I bought a sketchpad. No margins, no lines, just blank paper. This, too, makes me feel creative. After all, writing is a craft, something it took a while for me to understand.

When I took my first cross-country, overnight train trip last year, I went armed with my writing sketchbook. As we traveled through the Rocky Mountains, I sat in the observation car and attempted to capture the view and the feelings the scenery invoked. I took pictures, but mostly I wrote:

I wake as the day brightens. The train’s motion, coupled with the choo-choo sound of the wheels, had rocked me to sleep like a newborn in a cradle. Out the window of our sleeper I see snow-covered foothills of the Southern Rocky Mountains. Thick clouds hang low and I hope for snow.

Foothills give way to boulder-strewn mountainsides while antelope graze in the plain, the white tufts on their heads the giveaway to this city girl. Boulders and smaller rocks sit on top of and next to each other, reminding me of totem poles and Indians and the Wild West. Higher mountains in the distance show gradations of browns and oranges, and rivers and tributaries traverse the countryside.

train

We cross into Colorado, another mountain range filling the windows, this one with rock walls going straight up and topped with copious pine trees. I can only imagine the size of the pine cones.

Snow begins to fall, coating the mountainsides and rail side scrubs. The wind picks up, creating eddies of snow, simulating tornadoes, swirling, swirling and breaking apart. The Colorado River is frozen here, having transformed from running rapids.

We cross into Iowa and see endless fields of corn and grain, the stalks swaying in the wind. Field after field, neat row after neat row, acres and acres of crops. The phrase “amber waves of grain” repeats in my mind, and I’m grateful we haven’t paved the entire countryside and built cities.

I’m going on another train trip in a couple months. The first things on my packing list: A 200-page sketch pad and 4 rollerball pens, black.

Tell me what writing method you use – Laptop? Typewriter? Pencil and paper? I’m curious if other writers have experimented with different tools. What facilitates your creativity?

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The Magic of Writing

April 23, 2019

Beginning today, this blog has a new theme – all things writing. As I pursue a second career writing fiction, I’ll post about my writing journey, the craft of writing, lessons learned, mistakes made, and the people who are helping and encouraging me. I’ll also post about books and authors and publishing.

I started this blog to dole out advice about marketing and promotion, strategic planning, and nonprofits, and I still work as a consultant. Check my website – www.techsavvympa.com – for more information or look at my blog archives.

Here we go.

WRITE

 

Write. A magical word. It’s the ability to conjure scenes and stories from my imagination. I can create characters of any size, color, and personality. I can have people run races or play the piano or murder someone or solve a crime. They can live at the beach or in a city or on a different planet. There can be love interests, annoying neighbors, best friends. I can create a world with monsters or aliens. I can make up my own rules.

How cool is that? It’s the best.

When I say I’m writing, what I’m actually doing is conjuring, creating, imagining.

magic

Photo by Mervyn Chan on Unsplash

Writing and reading are like breathing and eating for me. I have to do all those things to survive and thrive. Although reading was my first love, once I learned to write, reading took second place.

I’ve heard some writers don’t like to sit down and write. Most days, I can’t wait to get to my writing desk. I go to sleep thinking about my characters and what they’ll experience in my next day’s writing.

Many times, my characters do things that surprise me. I’m the type of writer the industry calls a “pantser”, which basically means I don’t make an outline and I don’t know everything that will happen. I rough out my main characters and a main plotline, and go from there. Sometimes I know the ending; sometimes I don’t. (More on “pantsers” and “plotters” in another post.)

oxana-v-524244-unsplash (1)

Photo by oxana v on Unsplash

To me, that’s part of the beauty of it. The characters I create take over and go their own way. They come alive in my imagination, so much so, that I can picture the setting and the people, and their gestures and expressions.

I can see the waves crashing on the shoreline as the angry, young woman throws rocks into the water and clouds roll overhead. I can see the hiker with his walking stick in the woods, seeking a bird or butterfly that’s known to nest there. I can smell the detritus of a burned-out forest. I can touch the coat of the black lap cat who comes around frequently for some love from his elderly owner. I can hear them both purring.

And, yes, I can taste that pineapple upside down cake that the mom makes for each of her six children on their birthdays. Do you see her with flour smudges on her face as she puts the cake into the oven? Can you smell it baking, the aroma filling the kitchen? Her kids can. They all run into the kitchen, one after another. “Is it done yet?” Do you see the scoop of vanilla ice cream melting next to the slice of cake? I do, and I can’t wait to pick up my fork.

Mmmm. What could be better than this?

Time to conjure.

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Marketing Encompasses More Than Digital Outreach; Don’t Neglect Other Outreach Vehicles

April 26, 2016

ID-100391020

With all the current emphasis on digital marketing, it can be easy to overlook other outreach avenues. And that can be a big mistake. Yes, it’s important to have a strong, cohesive online presence. (See my previous post An Online Presence is No Longer Enough for important elements of online marketing.) But – is this where the majority of your customers will find you?

Consider the following marketing vehicles:

  • Consumer press (online and print)
  • Trade press (online and print)
  • Press releases
  • Advertising in trade publications or local or national newspapers
  • BillboardsID-10093559
  • TV and radio advertising
  • Company magazines or newsletters
  • Company brochures
  • Events
  • Invitations
  • Postcards
  • Posters
  • Speeches
  • Mailings
  • Joining business or industry or local organizations
  • Networking events
  • Fundraising events – yours or other companies
  • Conferences
  • Product demonstrations
  • Classes
  • Word of mouth
  • Company shirts or hats or mugs

These are just the first ones that come to mind; you can probably think of more. Depending upon the size of your company, perform some analytics or do a simple survey to determine the best way to reach your customers. You also need to look at your demographics. Generally speaking, older customers are not online as much as younger customers. You might be surprised with what you find, and you might need to adjust your marketing strategy.

1st Image courtesy of everydayplus at FreeDigitalPhotos.net — 2nd Image courtesy of pat138241 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.


An Online Presence is No Longer Enough for Marketing

March 11, 2016

I happened upon a blog post the other day about targeting and integrating all your social media marketing efforts. As I read through it, I realized that this is one of the next big hurdles for online marketing. An online preID-100263554sence is now standard, but it’s necessary to do more. Over the years, I’ve worked with countless organizations of all sizes, for which I’ve developed and expanded social media as well as performed some SEO and SEM. Many more recent clients appear to have all the “right” online elements in place but it isn’t helping their bottom line. I have found, through my standard analyses, which look at all outreach efforts, including social media, press, events and public relations, that a few common elements are almost always missing.

“An online presence is now standard, but it’s necessary to do more.”

First, and most important, companies need to keep their customers in mind when creating any marketing materials. This harks back to the most basic of marketing concepts – your core competencies. You need to determine what makes your company or product better than the competition. Why should customers/clients choose you? What makes you stand out? And, what exactly interests your potential customers? What keeps them coming back? Do you have the very best product? Are you the cheapest or quickest? Maybe you have the best customer service.

Core Competencies

A high percentage of social media outreach does not address these questions. It’s not enough anymore to simply have a presence. You have to determine what will attract and keep your clients coming back. What’s in it for them? Why should they read your posts and ultimately become a client?

Target Market

And who are your customers? This is equally important, and a lot of people miss the mark. For example, if your market is executives, you need to talk big picture and return on investment. If your market is the people on the front lines, you can include tips and specific information. Each of these two audiences will not be all that interested in the other information. If your information is not targeted to your main audience, you’ll be overlooked.

Second, you need to cross-promote. Ensure your web site, blog and social media are all connected and all addressing the same message. You can tailor your messages a bit more specifically for the different apps but it should all reinforce your brand and core competences to the correct audience.social-media-marketing-concept-hand-pressing-icons-blue-world-map-background-48170178

Third, online analytics are essential. I worked with a company that had a large social media presence but used mostly Facebook because that’s the app with which they were most comfortable. However, they had no idea where most of their clients found them. I performed an online analysis and determined that 75 percent of their clients found them on LinkedIn. After much grumbling, the company president agreed to increase their LinkedIn activity, and he was surprised to see the business grow. My favorite online app is Twitter, but that doesn’t mean I can ignore all the other channels.

CALL TO ACTION

Lastly, you should include a call to action: email us for a quote, call us for an estimate, sign up for our tips. You get the idea. My call to action: if you’d like some specific suggestions about how to increase your bottom line via your online and other marketing efforts, call or email me. My web site is www.techsavvympa.com. I’ll give you a few tips for free.

Next post: Marketing encompasses more than digital outreach; don’t neglect other outreach vehicles.

 

*First image courtesy of jscreationzs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


The Pretenders

February 15, 2016

Isn’t it interesting how many terms once only used and understood by marketing professionals have made their way into mainstream language? One of those decidedly ubiquitous terms is “branding”. Everyone is talking branding. What is your brand? How to market your brand. Branding your company.  On one hand, I think it’s great that companies pay more attention to branding and recognize its importance. This is a concept for which I fought many years in different companies. However, once new terms hit the daily lexicon, pretenders and charlatans follow. Everyone thinks they understand branding, but do they?

“BRANDING”

Think about SEO and SEM. Again, many people know those acronyms, but how many know what they stand for and how to actually perform and/or utilize the services. SEO is search engine optimization. SEM is search engine marketing. The two processes are similar in some aspects but do refer to different processes and results.

“SEO or SEM”

I can tell almost immediately when someone with whom I’m talking is throwing out these terms (and others) with no clue as to what they really mean. It’s easy to talk a good game, so companies hiring marketers often need to pass by numerous charlatans and pretenders before finding a true professional. My advice? Look at past results. Ask specific questions:

What is my brand?

How will you determine and develop my brand?

What’s the difference between SEO and SEM?

What results have you had?

Unfortunately, the pretenders can give marketers a bad name. A company will hire someone with high hopes for greater visibility and increased business but then get no results because they’ve hired a pretender. Good marketers will get you results. Those results cannot be attained on demand and they may take a different form than you had originally envisioned, but professional marketing executives will help you meet your company goals and improve your bottom line.  They know how.

 

 


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