Category: Excellence

Colorado Christian Writers Conference

Mtns-at-CCWC-2013

The view of the Rocky Mountains from one of the buildings at Colorado Christian Writers Conference

Looking to attend a Writers Conference? Consider the wonderful setting, great staff and faculty, and nurturing atmosphere of the Colorado Christian Writers Conference May 17-20 in Estes Park, Colorado. It’s coming soon—next week, in fact. We’ll be there, meeting with prospective authors and teaching workshops. We’d like to meet you there.

A few other reasons to attend:

  • Marlene Bagnull is the director (You can listen to an interview with Marlene on blog talk radio, http://ow.ly/JI3lY )
  • Large Faculty of agents, editors, and authors
  • Four free 15-minute appointments with faculty of your choice (including Cathy Lawton of Cladach Publishing)
  • Fiction Clinic w/Tracie & Jim Peterson author 100+ books
  • Nonfiction Book Clinic with Craig Bubeck
  • Writing Powerful Narrative Nonfiction with Sherri Langton
  • Speakers’ Clinic with KPOF radio personality Roy Hanschke
  • Author interviews & booksigning Thursday evening
  • and many more …

Check it out: May 17-20, 2017 Colorado Christian Writers Conference. http://colorado.writehisanswer.com

Christian Writers and Editors are Window Washers

Yes, so aware these days that “darkly we peer through the glass.” Praying for “vision to transcend the obstructive…”

Cladach Publishing

WINDOW WASHER

We need to perceive the Truth.

Yet, darkly we peer through the glass.

Clean me for use

Free me to serve

Lift me to reach

That I may wash windows for You.

Wrong doctrine obscures

Gray living besmears

Raw weather, it blurs

The pane on this side.

Provide a soft cloth—not abrasive

The vision to transcend the obstructive

And courage to rub for perfection

Searching

Editing

Polishing

Till, through one clear corner,

Someone sees You.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

—Catherine Lawton

from the book,Remembering Softly: A Life In Poems © 2017


Photo: (c) Can Stock Photo / Ghen

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A Checklist to Make Your Writing Shine

A marshy field in Colorado

This marshy field teems with life. When our car speeds by it, though, we don’t notice or experience the wildlife hidden in the grasses, wading in the mud, singing from the reeds. One day we stopped our car, rolled down windows; looked through binoculars; listened, felt, smelled; tasted the breezes. Myriads of bird life, colors, textures of fauna and flora brought the place alive to us. Good writing does that also: draws in the reader, reveals hidden things, opens possibilities.

I taught from the following list at a recent writers workshop. Afterwards, a couple of wide-eyed writers said to me, “You really want good writing.”

Well, yes, I do! The better-written a manuscript comes to me, the more I like it. Here at Cladach we may resonate with the premise and material of a nonfiction manuscript—we may like a novel’s characters and plot—so much that we are willing to devote the editing time needed to bring the writing quality and style up to these standards. We may ask an author to go back and re-write/revise/re-work a manuscript. Then we also do in-house macro editing, line editing, and copy editing. The following list gives most of the elements of style and “good writing” that we look for in a manuscript and strive for in the books we publish.

Here’s how to give your writing pizzazz so readers will want to invest in it, engage with it—be entertained, convinced, and inspired by what you say. Check your writing against this list to make sure it communicates as clearly and persuasively as possible.

 1.  Have you written from your heart as well as your mind? (If not, read this post. If yes, go on to the rest of the list.)

 2.  Write in the active voice. Choose strong, active verbs.

 3.  Write concretely, rather than abstractly. Show, don’t just tell. Appeal to all the senses.

 4.  In nonfiction as well as fiction, use storytelling as much as possible.

 5.  Stay in a definite, consistent POV. Through whose eyes is the reader seeing?

 6.  Hook the reader on the first page/ first paragraph/ first sentence/ first word.

 7.  Keep the reader’s attention as each word, each sentence, each paragraph, each chapter leads to the next.

 8.  Maintain a logical or chronological flow of thought or action. Use transitions when needed.

 9.  Strive for precision and conciseness. Cut extraneous/ repetitious words and phrases. Less is more.

10.  Give thought to word choices—consider subtleties, connotations, nuances; find the zing and zest of the right word.

11.  Vary sentence structure and length. Use periodic sentences often (as in these examples).

12.  Search for and remove troublesome words that hide like gremlins in your writing, words that are used compulsively but often aren’t needed. (Click here for my list.)

13.  Use your ear. Do the sentences flow well? In fiction, is that how people sound when they talk? Try reading your writing out loud.

Search, Find, Delete These Word Gremlins

“Front Yard Discovery,” a collage by Mark Fraley, from the book “Creation of Calm” © 2014

These troublesome words tend to hide like gremlins in our writing (especially in fiction, but also nonfiction).

We often use these words compulsively, but often they aren’t needed.

Remember, less is more. Conciseness makes better, stronger, clearer writing.

Do a search for—and delete unnecessary uses of—the following:

  • very
  • just
  • that
  • nice
  • interesting
  • look / looked (at)
  • like
  • then
  • begin / began / beginning
  • started / started to
  • take / took
  • seem / seemed

Were you surprised how many of these words showed up in your article, blog post, or book manuscript (especially a novel)?

Do you have other words on your personal list for keeping gremlins out of your polished drafts?

Attempting the Impossible

Cyclist-on-Boulders

We shivered in ski jackets on the beach in January. With my son David and his family, I was walking a stretch of Long Island Sound. A shrub-lined, curving trail took us over a hill and down upon a tumble of boulders, where we met an unexpected sight: a fit young man bouncing his seat-less bike from one precarious, rocky perch to another. He was focused, concentrating, balanced in spite of what seemed insurmountable odds. He worked silently to the music of the wind, lapping waves, laughter of children, and calls of gulls.

David continued up the trail with binoculars, intent on birding. The children explored shells and driftwood. My daughter-in-law, Hannah, and I stood watching the cyclist.

He hopped off his bike and looked our way. Hannah called to him, “Are you training for something?”

“To be a better man!” he answered without hesitation.

Taken aback briefly, Hannah blinked then said, “God bless you!”

“I’m a stuntman,” he explained. “Just came out here to practice.”

Hannah and I enjoyed the show a few moments longer then hurried to catch up with the family. But the image of someone doing with apparent ease and grace something that to me seems impossible, has stayed with me.

Like my grandchildren, since childhood I’ve loved exploring beaches, forests, rivers and meadows. In those places my imagination soared. If I had a book with me, all the better. Good stories opened a world of possibilities. Early I dreamed of writing a book myself. But in my child mind it seemed impossible. How could anyone choose and balance and fit together so perfectly that many words, to make characters and places come alive, to create meaning so believable and absorbing? To me such a process held as much mystery as the thought of God creating the flowers in the meadow and the fish in the creek. But he did. And people do make up stories and write books.

I found out later in life, just as the stuntman on the boulders had no doubt learned, that such talent and achievement requires diligence, work, and passion.

Sixteen years ago, as I prepared my first book for publication, I felt as if I was trying to balance two narrow wheels on steep, slippery boulders, and I felt dizzy and inadequate. One night, as deadlines approached, I cried to my husband, “I can’t do it! This is too hard.” He just hugged me and silently prayed for me.

The next morning I woke with new courage. The book came to be and has found readers—opening windows of possibilities to those readers—around the world.

The stuntman probably started bouncing his bike on the pebbly beach and the uneven, rocky trail before he mounted boulders. If you have the passion and the vision, then the way of carrying out that vision will come clear. Maybe not all at once or as easily and quickly as you would like; but the path will open to you and the grace will come, as you practice, learn, and keep trying.

Along the way you will have the opportunity to pursue an even greater purpose. Like the stuntman on the beach, you can say, “Yes, I’m in training—to be a better person.”

The Business Side

CCWC-2014

Larry’s workshop at Colorado Christian Writers Conference yesterday was titled, “The Business Side.” A motivated group of men and women engaged in hands-on learning about setting up a writing or publishing business, including how-tos for tracking sales, invoicing, managing inventory, taxes, choosing accounting software, and much more.

He was definitely wearing Cladach’s BUSINESS EXECUTIVE
hat!

hat-5

 

Christian Writers and Editors are Window Washers

WINDOW WASHER

We need to perceive the Truth.

Yet, darkly we peer through the glass.

Clean me for use

Free me to serve

Lift me to reach

That I may wash windows for You.

Wrong doctrine obscures

Gray living besmears

Raw weather, it blurs

The pane on this side.

Provide a soft cloth—not abrasive

The vision to transcend the obstructive

And courage to rub for perfection

Searching

Editing

Polishing

Till, through one clear corner,

Someone sees You.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

—Catherine Lawton

from the book, Remembering Softly: A Life In Poems © 2016


Photo: (c) Can Stock Photo / Ghen
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