Shelley Widhalm

Archive for June, 2017|Monthly archive page

Freewriting First, Revision Second

In Freewriting, Revising, Writing on June 25, 2017 at 5:00 pm

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Don’t get out the red pens until after the writing occurs to keep away the pesky internal editor.

Fast writing lets the words flow without worry and the internal editor.

With fast or freewriting, the idea is to not think about or plan your writing and instead to sink into your imagination. Express whatever is there in you, and then figure it out later. Realize, though, once there is written content, the words and language are containers for thoughts but aren’t always exact.

In other words, you can go back and revise. And revise again.

Simplicity or Complexity

Before revision can happen, you either start with simplicity or complexity.

With simplicity, one approach is speedwriting, writing as fast as you can, knowing the goal is to write as many words as possible within a certain timeframe. You write what comes to mind, getting rid of the internal editor, saving the planning and organizing of the content and the plotting of the story for a later step.

Or, you might start with complexity. You turn difficult, hard-to-grasp thoughts into lucid form, and then fit them into language that makes sense. Yo can make the writing clear and concise and expressive of what you intended through the revision process.

When I’m revising, I like to do a first read-through for errors in spelling and grammar, words that are missing or misused, and sentence structure that is awkward or clumsy. I also think of the overall structure of the content or story, usually in the second edit. I probably should reverse the process, but I can’t get past the little errors before getting to the big picture.

Here’s a sample revision checklist of things to look for, such as:

  • Check for sentences that don’t make sense.
  • Omit needless words to get to the essential meaning or intention.
  • Notice consistency in verb tense.
  • Replace adjectives and adverbs with nouns and verbs.
  • Vary the sentence structure.
  • Identify areas where transitions are needed.
  • Avoid repetition of words, facts and details.

For my fiction writing, I try to spot any scene issues, like partial scenes, or scenes that are drawn out or are lacking detail. I ask if the overall story makes sense. Is there enough at stake in the plot? Are there any boring parts or parts that are over-explained? Are the characters well-developed and seem like real people, or are they flat with predictable traits?

Here are a few things to look for during additional edits:    

  • Use the active voice whenever you can.
  • Get rid of clichés, unless used for a specific purpose or as a character trait.
  • Write visually and make sure some or all of the senses are used, including sight, sound, touch, hearing and taste.
  • Tighten the dialogue, cutting unnecessary conversation fillers like, “How are you doing?” and areas where conversation seems to repeat.

And most importantly, make sure you’re showing and only telling when necessary.

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Writing Out Your Soul

In Reflections on Writing, The Writing Life, Writing, Writing Inspiration on June 18, 2017 at 5:00 pm

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Writing is a way to craft internal processing into interesting stories and content.

Writing is like confronting your soul.

It digs to let the subconscious come forward, while the conscious part of the mind thought it simply was taking notes and plotting out the story. The subconscious has things to say you didn’t necessarily know about or were too busy to give any attention to … until you have no choice but to listen.

The inside stuff comes out in unexpected ways exposing what you won’t admit in your head. Even if your writing is all about the characters, plot and setting that doesn’t seem like you, there is a piece of you in the words that unravel into the form of story.

The unraveling happened to me when I wrote my young adult novel, “In the Grace of Beautiful Stars.” Fifteen-year-old Grace Elliott, my main character, faces impeding homelessness and tries to save her family through money finding. She wonders if her ability to find fives, tens and twenties is a gift, a coincidence or something she’s manifesting.

While writing the book, I consciously looked for money and found coins and dollar bills, but afterward realized I was searching for more. I’d let life dictate how things happen to me, taking jobs and making decisions because I thought that was all I could get. I wasn’t confident even if I had a mostly comfortable childhood.

At a young age, Grace worked hard to save herself and her younger sister, who she’d protect to the death like the sister pair in The Hunger Games. I feel guilty I had teased my younger brother—I dressed him up in girl clothes and made him play my girly games. I left him out when my girlfriends came over. I sent him away with candy.

The brother who as an adult I adore married last weekend, and the time leading up to it, I felt jealous and sad and questioned what our family will be like now.

I thought about my mother, too, and how I’d been angry with her when I was a teen and then in my thirties and for a spot in my forties. She didn’t deserve my dragging up the past, but like Grace, I had mother issues over things that, really, had more to do with me. And then once I realized what I was doing, I had to forgive myself for being angry with her.

I realized as I wrote Grace and revised her story, my subconscious wanted to come out and tell me to collect, not money, but self-love, self-worth and self-value despite what life does on the outside. It let me know I don’t have to be an adult with mommy, money and fear issues.

What I’d done is “Write straight into the emotional center of things. Write toward vulnerability. … Tell the truth as you understand it. … Truth is always subversive,” as Anne Lamott said in Bird by Bird.

Writing is an emotional experience that causes joy and pain and love, and as you write, or after, you wonder what exactly happened. You ask yourself, “Why do these words cause me to feel things I didn’t know where inside and now are outside?”

Writing gives you the ability to see new things. And to feel, and to describe and hear and absorb.

Writing is emotional, intellectual and an interior process. We, as writers, need to tell our truths and our stories. We need to be at a place of perspective, so we can write about it, even if it’s fiction, because writing comes out of that center and our knowledge and experience.

Note: My blog appeared as a guest blog on June 14, 2017, at the Writing Bug, a blog by writers for writers published by Northern Colorado Writers, at http://www.writingbugncw.com/2017/06/writing-out-your-soul.html.

 

Why Blogging is Important for Writers

In Uncategorized on June 13, 2017 at 9:42 pm

Thank you, Ryan, for this honor. I love the layout!

A Writer's Path

by Shelley Widhalm

Are blogs like legwarmers that are trendy and fashionable, popular in the ’80s and back in style again?

Or are they like the necessary boots and thick socks that are the staple of any wardrobe in a climate with seasons?

With more than 150 million blogs in existence, it seems like everyone should be blogging from writers to business owners to anyone who wants to get their writing to readers, customers and clients.

But are blogs here to stay, necessary for your marketing wardrobe?

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Finding Time & Space to Write/Blog

In Writing Advice, Writing Spaces on June 11, 2017 at 11:00 am

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Zoey the Cute Dachshund, a lapdog, offers a great companion for writing on the laptop!

What if you don’t have enough time for writing or blogging?

Part of writing process deals with the “what” and the “where.”

The “what” is doing the actual writing and the “where” is the physical place you, the blogger, feel most comfortable sitting down and creating the content. But this comfort shouldn’t limit you to writing only when you can show up to do the work.

Make writing more entertaining by sneaking it in and knowing where to find a few good spots. Don’t let the excuse of not having the space or a short amount of time prevent you from starting. Realize where you write doesn’t have to be perfect and that you can make do just so you can write, even if it’s not at a desk or table.

Start by carrying a notebook wherever you go, except maybe the gym or the swimming pool. Inspiration can hit at unplanned or even awkward moments, such as when you’re out with friends or in a public, non-coffee shop place where pulling out a napkin or scrap of paper isn’t the norm. But do it anyway.

Finding a Writing Spot

To find a good writing spot, ask yourself a few questions, making sure you’re ready to write. For instance:

  • Do you need quiet or activity around you?
  • Do you need background noise—such as conversations, music, doors opening and closing and the sounds of food or drinks being made?
  • Do you want an area that’s open or cozy? Do you like working outside or in a small room, such as a closet converted into an office?
  • Do you need bright lights or sunshine, or do you need cloudy weather and low lighting?
  • Do you want to write alone or be around other people?
  • Do you want your things around you set up in a special way?
  • Do you want to go somewhere away from home and the excuses of chores and whatever else can distract you?
  • Do you have a time of day when you do your best writing? Do you need a routine, or a schedule?

Other Ideas for Writing Spots

Here are a few places you can try: a desk in the bedroom or living room, the library, coffee shops, restaurants, the mall or a porch, deck or patio as long as the weather is warm and the wind isn’t blowing.

Once you find a spot you consider inspiring, yet comfortable, make that your go-to, your office, your special place to engage in and do your blogging writing. It will then become that room of your own.

Creating an Attention-Grabbing Blogging Voice

In Blogging, Blogging Advice, Voice, Writing, Writing Advice on June 4, 2017 at 11:00 am

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My dog Zoey employs multiple ways to get my attention and the attention of everyone else!

To get noticed in the crowded blogosphere, how can bloggers get attention and keep that attention?

One way is through their voice, or how they use language and display their written personality. Readers become fans of a particular blog when they know what to expect—the voice is consistent and recognizable and the content has a clear purpose, such as providing information, entertainment or motivation.

Bloggers set themselves apart by having something original to say and a unique way of saying it. They’re not just blogging to grow their audiences, get clicks and drive traffic to their websites. Instead, their content is authentic and real and doesn’t read like a mishmash of sentences saturated in SEO-heavy language.

The Sound and Appearance of Writing

Voice, at the simplest level, is how bloggers or writers sound and appear on the page. It’s their style, or the way they use words to describe things. It’s how they handle language, the words they choose and their techniques for putting together sentences and paragraphs. It’s a matter of their word choice, syntax and phrasing and options for structuring sentences and paragraphs.

Alternatively, the way the writing sounds can be thought of in physical speaking styles. Is the writing conversational or formal, or is it humorous or academic? Is it fun and trendy? Or cute and quirky? Is it snarky, condescending or longwinded? Or is it accessible and helpful?

Another way to look at it is does the writer sound like a computer manual, a thesaurus or a grammar book? Or does the writer offer up jargon or slang? Does the writer sound like an instrument, harsh or melodious?

Voice goes beyond sound to the appearance on the page. Is there a lot of white space or dense paragraphs with few breaks? Are caps or ellipses used to show casualness, or is there a heavy use of long words and scientific terms? Is there variation of sentence length and structure, such as subject, verb and noun interspersed with questions and partial thoughts?

Other Components of Voice

Voice also can be about story. Do the writers start in the middle and get sidetracked, or are they clear and concise, getting to the main point with just the right amount of detail not to bore the listener or induce interruption?

Voice can be about worldviews. It’s the way writers see the world and interpret events. It involves the feeling and tone or mood of what they write.

Overall, voice is:

  • The writer’s attitude toward the subject.
  • The writer’s way of telling a story.
  • The writer’s use of language.
  • The words and phrases the writer uses frequently.
  • The writer’s ways of engaging with the audience.

From the reader’s side, it’s:

  • The adjectives used to describe the voice.
  • The incentive to read in the first place.
  • The reason to continue to read down the page.
  • The connection with the writer.

Voice is the writer on the page. It is the reason they write. It’s what they choose to write about, revealing what they notice, what they care about, what matters in the world they’ve created.

And it’s what makes readers care and want to read more.