I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

4 Tips to Keep Your Writing In Tune



My 10-year-old daughter Christa stopped me as I rushed by her on the way to move laundry from the washer to the dryer. She played one note on the piano and asked, "Does this sound off to you?"

Since she had a "Doesn't this sound awful?" look on her face, I knew what to say. "I'll call the piano tuner."

When you're revising your writing, think of yourself as a piano tuner. You're tuning your manuscript so it doesn't hit any wrong notes.

Did you learn to play an instrument as a child? The long hours of practice before you hit the right notes were painful, weren't they? Ever listen to one person--just one person--hit wrong notes in a choir? Ruined the entire performance, didn't it?

You want your writing to hit all the right notes. Revising--editing, rewriting--ensures your writing sings. Here are some things that cause off-key writing:
  • Repeated words. If you use the word magnificent in the beginning of chapter one, then it's not welcome in the chapter again. Use VisualThesaurus.com and find brilliant and glorious.
  • Misspelled words. So you earned the "World's Worst Speller" award. That's no excuse for lazy writing. Microsoft Word identifies misspelled words. Or go to Misspelled.com and type in a word. I typed in fraighter and pulled up freighter. Typing in inocent pulled up innocent.
  • Unneeded words. Certain words add nothing to your writing. Delete really and just. Writing: She was really sad is telling and passive. Try: She pressed the palm of her hand against the dull ache in her chest, waiting for tears that never came.
  • Passive words. You've heard it before. I'm saying it again. Replace was, have been, to be with one strong verb. Example: Just three weeks after I found out I was pregnant, Rob and I were taking the trip of a lifetime. Change: Three weeks after the pregnancy stick turned blue, Rob and I took the trip of a lifetime.

18 comments:

  1. Great tips, TEE. My current character has a fondness for just in her internal dialogue.

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  2. Perfect and strong analogy, not only visual, but audible. I'm so thankful that we Ponderers are often piano tuners for each other, and certainly in the audience saying, "that sounds great," or "tune it a pitch higher."

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  3. Just so long as she's not fond of misspellings in her internal dialogue! LOL

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  4. It's funny, Dee. I don't play the piano and so I don't hear the off-key notes. But as an editor, I "hear" when a manuscript is off-key. However, it always helps to have someone else read my writing because another writer's ears are tuned to things my ears don't catch.

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  5. Angela Bell2/2/11, 3:08 PM

    Thanks for the great tips, Beth! :-)

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  6. Wonderful post! Concise and practical. I hope other writers will internalize this post. I know I will. Thanks!

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  7. Great post, esppecially the examples at the end. Isn't it amazing how going from passive to active invigorates the sentence! hope I spelled everything right. ;)

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  8. Great ideas Beth! I'll have to check out some of those links.

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  9. I have serious issues with "just." :) Great post, Beth - helpful and practical!

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  10. MTagg: "Just" is one of my favorite words too. I have to go back and delete it many times from my WIP.
    Pat: You get 100% on spelling!
    Glad the post helped the rest of you. I know you've probably heard some of this before--but repetition helps.

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  11. Thank you, Beth. I can never hear these reminders enough! And yes, *just* is one of my weasel words, too!

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  12. "Weasel words." Yep. They are so bothersome, Ava!

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  13. Beth, Thanks for the practical advice. As a new writer I will def. use them!

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  14. Awesome post, TEE...I'm totally guilty with "just" too.

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  15. So right on and practical. As always. Thanks TEE for some great advice... again :)

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  16. Sorry, my friend used my computer to read her email and forgot to sign out. That last comment was me :)

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  17. Beth, thanks for the practical tips. I am relieved that I'm not the only one with a fondness for "just." I'm discovering it and deleting it. :) The piano tuner analogy is great! You do have an "ear" for helping others' writing to resonate. :)

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  18. Hey, Ginger, I like the new name! :O)
    Seems like "just" is a favorite word of many of us!

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