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

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Stranger than Fiction!

There’s an old cliché that “life is stranger than fiction”.  A surprising event reminded me recently that it’s true!

About 31 years ago when my husband and I worked as missionaries in Bolivia, we received word from a hospital in Buena Vista that tiny twins needed adoptive parents. Needless to say, we rushed to the hospital! A representative ushered us into a room where we gazed on the tiniest babies we had ever seen. They weighed only 2 pounds and a few ounces.

We lost our hearts. Goners. Over the top. Helplessly in love with those babies! We adopted them and named them Daniel and Sarah. I began the most exhausting period of my life caring for our premature twins. We moved back to the States when they were about 2 years old and went through all the “terrible twos”, teen, and collage years that all parents go through.

Then about 6 months ago, out of the blue, our twins reconnected with their birth family through…get this…Facebook! We had left a photo of our twins with our contact at the hospital, and the birth family found our kids through that picture.

Daniel took a trip to Bolivia over the Christmas holidays and met with his birth family face to face. He came here recently and showed me the photo album of his visit. Sarah hopes to go too someday.

One of the special things about all this for me has been the way their birth sister, Juani, has accepted me as part of the family. She sends me messages with many kind words. I feel like I have a new daughter!

The beautiful tablecloth in the picture is the gift that Juani sent to me when Daniel returned.

We never expected to be reunited with this wonderful family in Bolivia, but are so thankful that God’s blessings to us and not only stranger than fiction, but way better!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

How to Cut 30,000 Words from your Story

by Patricia Bradley

Are your words written in stone? Each one precious and agonized over? Your little darlings? What would it take for you to cut five thousand of them out of your manuscript? Ten thousand? Thirty thousand?
Photo from Printmaster

No way, you say. Well, what if there was a good chance of getting it published in the smaller version? Would that entice you?

That's exactly what happened with my first book. After I cut those 30,000 words, I received a contract offer for it...and as God would have it, I also received an offer for the bigger version. 

I learned so much cutting those words, though, and a lot of the shorter version ended up in the longer version because the writing was so much tighter...and better!

I've been asked how I cut those 30,000 words, and I've always replied it was a lot like going on a diet. Very. Painful. 

First, I cut a Point of View. I didn't cut the character, I just took out everything that was in his POV. That gave me 15,000 words right off the bat. 

Of course, I added a few of those words back getting the information into the story that this character had revealed. But I netted at least 13,000 words.

Once I had that cleaned up, I went sentence by sentence, seeing if the sentence could be rewritten tighter, or taken out all together. I discovered I sometimes explained things more than once, often more than twice. You guessed--SNIP.

I also looked at passive wording and weak verbs. Both use more words. When I made the sentence stronger, often by using a stronger verb, I gained words. Here's an example:

 She looked at him from the top of his head to his feet, barely noticing that he had on  jeans and a plaid shirt over those broad shoulders...became: Her gaze flicked over him, barely registering the broad shoulders, plaid shirt, and jeans = 28 vs 14. I did that over and over and the words mounted up.   

Here's an example from this blog: The first thing I did was to... Ended up: First, I cut... (See how it works.) 

I also did a search for weasel words and -ly adverbs to see if they were needed. Ninety-nine percent of them were not. Here are a few weasel words I seem to love: seem, just, that, suddenly, ever, some, almost, but, simply...there are more, I'm sure.

And that's how I cut 30,000 words. And remember, if you cut ten words per page and your page count is 400 pages, that's 4,000 words right there. 

Leave a comment and tell me your favorite weasel words. Oh, and I'd like to know how many of you would be willing to kill your little darlings...

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Listen to yourself talk

Talk Show host Larry King once said, “I never learning anything while I was talking.”

However, experience often proves that wrong. When we joke or tease, some barbed words are based in truth. In life and fiction, these can grow into honest conversations that strengthen relationships. To my grateful shock, I frequently learn while talking.

Time’s Dec. 15th issue discusses Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg’s creative but sometimes awkward conversation pattern. His COO says, “He’s (also) one of the best listeners I’ve ever met…. When you talk to Mark, he doesn’t just listen to what you say. He listens to what you didn’t say, what you emphasized. He digests the information, he comes back to you and asks five follow-up questions.”
My most notable example of learning while listening to what I said came when my mother neared death from cancer. My sister phoned asking me to answer Mom’s final unsettling questions about the reality of eternity and heaven. What if this was all there is?

It was the end of my workday. Hospital co-workers had left and our department was quiet as I gripped the phone, asking God for right words as I began talking. Mom could no longer speak, just listen. Because God is faithful, as I talked I learned things I had not known. I said she would soon see it’s this world that isn’t real, that it will disappear as fast as a child’s bursting soap bubble as the heaven’s reality surrounded and uplifted her.

She also wanted to live to see her youngest grandson’s baby born. Except that child wasn’t even conceived. I suddenly knew and said, “You’ll know all about that before we do. You’ll have a grandstand seat to where those decisions are made and babies are put together.” With all my heart I believed those words. I knew they were true. I spoke, and listened.

In fiction and life even conversations that don’t initially go well can be can-opener conversations taking us or characters beyond where we were before.

Awkward moments? Malapropisms?

No. Trophies gained.

Listen with your heart. Reach deep asking God for words you or characters speak. And receive His words—wonderful gifts from Him who is The Word.

Whether we’re speaking or listening, He loves filling situations with Himself.

It’s your turn. What have you learned while speaking?