Wednesday, September 29, 2021

How to Write Vivid Scenes: Cause and Effect, by Chris Eboch

Check out Chris's Haunted Series:
The Ghost on the Stairs, The Knight in the Shadows,
The Riverboat Phantom,
 and The Ghost Miner's Treasure

We welcome prolific author for children and adults, and editor, Chris Eboch, who is known has Kris Bock for her adult novels, has graciously agreed to share her three-part series of How to Write Vivid   Scenes, from her book Advanced Plotting. Part 1: How to Write Vivid Scenes, Part 1, and Part 2: How to Write Vivid Scenes: Connecting Scenes, appeared in the last two months. This month we present the last of the series: Part 3, "How to Write Vivid Scenes: Cause and Effect." 

One of the ironies of writing fiction is that fiction has to be more realistic than real life. In real life, things often seem to happen for no reason. In fiction, that comes across as unbelievable. We expect stories to follow a logical pattern, where a clear action causes a reasonable reaction. In other words, cause and effect.

The late Jack M. Bickham explored this pattern in Scene & Structure, from Writer’s Digest Books. He noted that every cause should have an effect, and vice versa. This goes beyond the major plot action and includes a character’s internal reaction. When action is followed by action with no internal reaction, we don’t understand the character’s motives. At best, the action starts to feel flat and unimportant, because we are simply watching a character go through the motions without emotion. At worst, the character’s actions are unbelievable or confusing. 

In Manuscript Makeover (Perigee Books), Elizabeth Lyon suggests using this pattern: stimulus — reaction/emotion — thoughts — action. 

  • Something happens to your main character (the stimulus)
  • You show his emotional reaction, perhaps through dialog, an exclamation, gesture, expression, or physical sensation
  • He thinks about the situation and makes a decision on what to do next
  • Finally, he acts on that decision. 

This lets us see clearly how and why a character is reacting. The sequence may take one sentence or several pages, so long as we see the character’s emotional and intellectual reaction, leading to a decision.

Bickham offered these suggestions for building strong scenes showing proper cause and effect:

The stimulus must be external — something that affects one of the five senses, such as action or dialog that could be seen or heard.

The response should also be partly external. In other words, after the character’s emotional response, she should say or do something. (Even deciding to say nothing leads to a reaction we can see, as the character turns away or stares at the stimulus or whatever.)

The response should immediately follow the stimulus. Wait too long and the reader will lose track of the original stimulus, or else wonder why the character waited five minutes before reacting.

Be sure you word things in the proper order. If you show the reaction before the action, it’s confusing: “Lisa hurried toward the door, hearing pounding.” For a second or two, we don’t know why she’s hurrying toward the door. In fact, we get the impression that Lisa started for the door before she heard the pounding. Instead, place the stimulus first: “Pounding rattled the door. Lisa hurried toward it.”

If the response is not obviously logical, you must explain it, usually with the responding character’s feelings/thoughts placed between the stimulus and the response. Here’s an example where the response is not immediately logical:

  • Knocking rattled the door. (Stimulus)
  • Lisa waited, staring at the door. (Action)

Why is she waiting? Does she expect someone to just walk in, even though they are knocking? Is she afraid? Is this not her house? To clarify, include the reaction:

  • Knocking rattled the door. (Stimulus)
  • Lisa jumped. (Physical Reaction) It was after midnight and she wasn’t expecting anyone. Maybe it was a mistake. Maybe they’d go away. (Thoughts)
  • She waited, staring at the door. (Responsive Action)

In some cases the response may be logical and obvious without including thoughts and emotions in between. For example, if character A throws a ball and character B raises a hand to catch it, we don’t need to hear character B thinking, “There’s a ball coming at me. I had better catch it.” But don’t assume your audience can always read between the lines. Often as authors we know why our characters behave the way they do, so we assume others will understand and we don’t put the reaction and thoughts on the page. This can lead to confusion. 

In one manuscript I critiqued, the character heard mysterious voices. I assumed they were ghosts, but the narrator never identified them that way. Did he think they were something else? Did he think he was going crazy? Had he not yet decided? I couldn’t tell. The author may have assumed the cause of the voices was obvious, so she didn’t need to explain the character’s reaction. But it just left me wondering if I was missing something — or if the character was. Err on the side of showing your character’s thoughts.

Link your scenes together with scene questions and make sure you’re including all four parts of the scene — stimulus, reaction/emotion, thoughts, and action — and you’ll have vivid, believable scenes building a dramatic story.

Chris Eboch is the author of over 60 books for children, including nonfiction and fiction, early reader through teen. This essay is adapted from Advanced Plotting, available for the Kindle, in paperback, or in Large Print paperback. Chris is the also the author of You Can Write for Children: How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers. Learn more at https://chriseboch.com/ or her Amazon page, or check out her writing tips at her Write Like a Pro! blog, https://chriseboch.blogspot.com/.


Tuesday, September 28, 2021

An Interview with Author Linda Wilson, by Kathy Wagoner


 

Recently, I joined Southwest Writers, an organization in Albuquerque, New Mexico, that serves writers of fiction and nonfiction in every genre worldwide. It is an honor to get to know the esteemed members and to be the fortunate recipient of the myriad of online webinars offered by the organization. As a welcome, Kathy Wagoner, a Board member and website facilitator, published this interview in the latest issue of the SWW's newsletter. If you would like to learn more about the organization, please visit https://www.southwestwriters.com/.

AN INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR LINDA WILSON

Former elementary school teacher Linda Wilson has written over 150 articles for children and adults, along with short stories and books for children. Her dream to be a children’s book author came true in 2020 with the publication of Secret in the Stars: An Abi Wunder Mystery, the first book of a ghost/mystery trilogy. You’ll find Linda on her website LindaWilsonAuthor.com and her Amazon author page. Visit the Writers on the Move blog where she’s a contributing author.


What would you like readers to know about the story you tell in Secret in the Stars.
My fondest desire is to create entertaining stories for young children about nature and the great outdoors. I would like readers to get swept away with the story and come away with a desire for adventure and exploring sports and outdoor activities.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
My biggest challenge in attempting to write a novel was living in a small town with no critique partners. I was a member of the Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), but because of distance, couldn’t be involved. It took about eight years to finish Stars. The biggest help was moving to Albuquerque and finding critique partners. Thanks to my connection with the New Mexico chapter of SCBWI here in Albuquerque, I finally learned enough to publish the book. I have since finished Secret in the Mist and two picture books.

Who are your main characters, and why will readers connect with them?
In the beginning of Stars, eleven-year-old Abi is anxious to get home from a camping trip with her grandfather. The first day of Summer Art Camp starts that afternoon. But her plans are dashed when her grandpa’s car breaks down and she becomes stranded at an old country inn. Abi, who lives in an apartment two hours away and is not athletic, meets eleven-year-old Jess, who lives in the country and is good at sports. A friendship blossoms based on the girls’ interest in solving the mystery in the story, and also on how much they admire each other. As a budding artist, Abi is aware of the world around her and uses her memory to create sketches of all that interests her. By Secret in the Mist, book two, she has awakened an interest in art in Jess. Jess is a fast runner, a good swimmer, and in Mist she takes Abi horseback riding. By the end of Stars, Abi finds that she can run faster than ever before. In Mist, she finds that she’s good at horseback riding, too. My hope is that Abi and Jess become role models for my readers.

Why did you decide to use the particular setting you chose?
I love this question because Stars and Mist both take place in fictional Pine Hill, a town based on Purcellville, Virginia, a beautiful town where we lived in the heart of horse country near where Jackie Onassis rode horses. In book three, Secrets of the Heart, we go to Abi’s apartment, which I think many readers will be able to connect with.

The country setting is deliberate, written for children who know and love the country, and also for children who do not have the opportunity to spend time in the country. There are personal reasons, too, which include the inn in Stars (based on an 18th century B & B a mile down the road from our house), and in Mist, horseback riders trotting their horses on our road and a marsh across the road where a bullfrog lived.

Where did the story idea come from?
We had so many guests for a wedding once that some needed to stay at the B & B down the road. Before our guests arrived, I paid the B & B a visit. The 18th century white-washed stone building loomed high on a hill, down a long, winding dirt road. Along the way, cows grazed on lush green grass and flowers bloomed in gardens, completing the Virginia country charm.

The proprietress sat me down in the old-fashioned parlor and regaled me with tales of the many renovations her husband had recently completed. On our way upstairs to see the bedrooms, I thought she said, “Oh, here’s my husband now.” I turned, expecting to see her husband climbing the stairs behind us. But I saw no one. Her eyes fell on a silhouette stenciled on the wall. I followed her gaze of a man in overalls and straw hat, lantern in hand, appearing to hurry up the stairs. Without another word, she continued to the second-floor landing. I followed, perplexed.

Where was her husband, I wondered? I asked her, still expecting to see him. She looked surprised and said, “Oh, he died a year ago.” Died? But he’s here. I can feel his presence. He hadn’t yet left her side. I knew that, though how I’ll never know. But I felt the truth of his presence in my bones. She tilted her head in the oddest way and added, “Why, I lost my Herbert a year ago, to the day!” She added, “I painted Herbert’s silhouette on the wall, as he so often looked on his way to bed.” Color rose to her cheeks. “I suppose it’s silly, but it’s my way of keeping him close.” I went home with the idea of her husband’s ghost dancing in my head and then finding his way into my heart. I still get goose bumps every time I think of that eerie encounter.

What was it like working with a cover designer and Tiffany Tutti, the illustrator for the book?
I gave Tiffany my vision of what my characters looked like and the scenes I wanted to see portrayed. I used two to three traditionally published model books because I wanted Star to look professional. I think we succeeded. As a self-published author, I was able to find two terrific companies to format Stars and create the cover using the manuscript and illustrations by Tiffany Tutti, Formatted Books, and 100 Covers. In addition to the book cover,100 Covers also created a beautiful media image, which I’m very proud of.

Tell us how the book came together.
By the time I retired, I had written many articles for adults and children, had been editor of a newsletter, and helped a fellow author interview and write biographies of people who grew up in Westford, Massachusetts where my family lived at the time. I had always wanted to write fictional stories for children. I began by writing and publishing short stories. Stars is my first book. Though like many writers, I have partially-written manuscripts stashed away in my drawer.

The illustrations for Secret in the Stars, and the completed book, were accomplished with what is known as a “vanity publisher.” I worked with a terrific editor, staff, and illustrator while the book was in production. Just days before the book was to be published, I read 10 Publishing Myths by W. Terry Whalin, a fellow contributor to www.writersonthemove.com. From the get-go Whalin advises googling any company you’re about to do business with to check for complaints: “company name + complaints.” Was I in for a shock. I was directed to a private Facebook page of authors numbering forty-nine at the time, who had not received any royalties for their books for over two, sometimes, three years. I was lucky. When I cancelled my account, I was able to retrieve my files right away, both the illustrations and the interior, and was able to publish the book on Amazon. Other authors weren’t so lucky. Today there are many more authors involved and some were never able to retrieve their files. We have retained an attorney who has been helping the authors as well as finding ways to put this company (one man) out of business.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you began your writing/publishing journey?

  • How much revision is needed to create a polished manuscript.
  • How important knowledgeable critique partners are in editing things I can’t see, and also how much I’ve learned and enjoyed by critiquing their works.
  • How long it would take to feel competent in writing fiction. I knew it would be difficult and I had read that an overnight success takes fifteen years. I suppose I’m about at that mark, fifteen years! However, I wouldn’t change my experience as a writer for anything in the world.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
A Packrat’s Holiday: Thistletoe’s Gift is available in eBook, and the September 2021 paperback copy is available in full color on Amazon. Discounted and signed copies of Packrat’s Holiday and Secret in the Stars are available by ordering from LindaWilsonAuthor.com. Chris Eboch, prolific author and editor from Socorro, New Mexico, says of Packrat’s Holiday, “Children will love this story, where the littlest creatures have adventures and become heroes. Fun language and cowboy slang make for a great read aloud.” My next picture book, Tall Boots, features a 4-H Horse Show complete with the official 4-H name and emblem. Tall Boots will be available soon. You can read about the books on my SWW author page.


Source: https://www.southwestwriters.com/an-interview-with-author-linda-wilson/


KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kathy posts to a speculative fiction blog at klwagoner.com and writes about memoir at ThisNewMountain.com.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Location, Location, Location: Researching Place - Part 2

by Suzanne Lieurance


In my post last month, I presented several ways to find information about any location.

It’s important to research location because even if you’re writing a novel that takes place in Maine (and not a true story) you still have to get the facts correct about Maine.



One of the ways to research location is to obtain materials about a specific location online (read last month’s post here to see what I mean).

But don’t forget about the resources at libraries.

Besides local public libraries, college and university libraries offer a wealth of materials.

Many have extensive archives of national magazines that include articles about locations all over the world.

These magazines, old and new, often contain detailed photographs that can be immeasurably helpful for writers who need to see what a city or town looked like years ago or how it appears today.

“I can’t emphasize enough the value of a good reference librarian,” says author Jane Buchanan, who writes historical fiction for kids. “It’s amazing, the things librarians can find that the average person simply wouldn’t know existed. Never be afraid to ask for help. The librarian who is good won’t give up until a source to answer your questions is found. It’s amazing what you find in a library if you know, or have help finding out, where to look!”

Other sources at your fingertips are the videos you can find at your library and even online at youtube, netflix or Prime Video, etc.

The libraries and many online sites have countless documentary videos that can provide writers with facts and tidbits about areas all over the world.

Most larger cities have their own magazines that can give writers a glimpse of what goes on there.

San Diego, Santa Fe, Kansas City, Boston, New York, Atlanta, and many, many other cities publish magazines that contain a variety of articles about local spots writers can include in their fiction, or use as background information for their nonfiction.

Many of these magazines have websites where writers can find articles from current and back issues.

Other publications, like Southern Living, Midwest Living, and Sunset Magazine offer articles and advertisements about broader sections of the United States.

Large bookstore chains like Barnes and Noble carry European magazines that cover topics like fashion, home furnishing and architecture.

These are sometimes helpful for getting a feel for a country the writer hasn’t visited.

In next month’s post (Location, Location, Location: Researching Place - Part 3), you’ll learn how to travel to locations in the past and how to capture the essence of a specific location even if you have never been there.


For more writing tips, be sure to visit writebythesea.com and get your free subscription to The Morning Nudge. Once you're a subscriber, you'll also have access to a Private Resource Library for Writers.

Suzanne Lieurance is the author of over 35 published books, a freelance writer, and a writing coach.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Why Every Book Needs a Proposal


By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

I've read thousands of book proposals as an acquisitions editor and a former literary agent. I've taught on this topic of book proposals for many years because I believe many writers don't understand the critical nature of this specialized document called a book proposal.

On the traditional side of publishing, editors and agents read proposals. It doesn't matter whether you've written nonfiction or fiction because this document includes information which never appears in your manuscript yet is critical detail in the decision making process. I wrote my first edition in 2004 as a frustrated editor who wanted to help writers send better submissions. Book Proposals That Sell has received over 100 Five Star Amazon reviews and helped many writers. Publishing has changed a great deal since I wrote this book and now the revised edition is going to be released on October 5th.

From my perspective of working in book publishing for over 30 years, every author should create a book proposal for their book—whether eventually they publish the book with a company where they pay to get it published (subsidy or self-publishing) or whether they find a traditional book publisher. In the proposal creation process, the author learns some critical elements about their book concept plus they are better positioned in the marketplace.

Here are four benefits of proposal creation (and I'm certain there are many more):

1. You Define Your Target Market. Many authors believe their book will hit a broad target—everyone. No successful book is for everyone. Each book has a primary target audience and the proposal creation process helps you define, pinpoint and write about this audience. It is important in nonfiction but it is also important in fiction. For example, romance is the largest fiction genre yet there are many divisions within the romance genre. Every proposal needs a target which is defined—yet large enough to generate volume sales. You learn and achieve this balance when you create a page-turning book proposal.

2. You Understand Your Competition. While creating a proposal, the writer has to take a hard look at which books are competing with your idea. This process helps you understand the marketplace. Many new authors believe they are writing something unique with no competition. It's not true. Every book competes in the marketplace and you will be a better equipped author if you understand your competition.

3. You Create A Personal Plan For Marketing. Whether you like marketing or dislike it, the reality is every author has to market their own book. It doesn't matter who publishes your book—whether you self-publish or go with a large traditional house. As you create a book proposal, you will be including practical, specific and measurable ideas that you can execute when your book enters the market. The proposal will be a valuable reference tool for you because you've done this important creation process.

4. You Possess A Valuable Tool To Pitch Agents and Editors at Traditional Houses. I've written it a number of times but it bears repeating here. Literary agents and editors do not read manuscripts. They read book proposals. Even novelists need a book proposal for their initial pitch to an editor or agent. And if you self-publish and are successful with selling your book, because you own everything, if you receive an attractive offer from a traditional house, then you can move the book. Without a proposal you can't properly pitch the concept and you've eliminated this possibility.

I believe writers should explore every option and keep their possibilities open. You've narrowed the possibilities rather than expanded them if you don't have a proposal.

If you make the effort to create an excellent book proposal, then you will be ready to pitch your book at any time and any place.

W. Terry Whalin is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. His work contact information is on the bottom of the second page.  He has written for over 50 magazines and more than 60 books with traditional publishers.  His latest book for writers is 10 Publishing Myths, Insights Every Author Needs to Succeed. Get this book for only $10 + free shipping and over $200 in bonuses. 
On October 5th, his classic Book Proposals That $ell (the revised edition) will be released. At the book website, you can get a free Book Proposal Checklist. Watch his 60-second book trailer hereHe lives in Colorado and has over 190,000 twitter followers

Why does every book need a proposal (even if you self-publish)? Get the details here from this prolific author and editor. (ClickToTweet)

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Free Coffee Chat with Pinterest Specialist Deb Gonzales

Writers on the Move's Linda Wilson has been working with Pinterest guru, Deb Gonzales and is sharing her information with all of us, along with an invite to a free Zoom meeting where Deb will discuss marketing strategies.


 

                                                   Hello, there!

I’m jumping in real quick to see if you’d like to join me for a quick Coffee Chat via Zoom on Thursday, September 23 at 1:00 EST. Our clients are  doing so many cool things with their websites and platforms. I’d love to share their marketing strategies with you. Perhaps they’ll give you some ideas you might like to try. 

You see, we’re preparing our platforms to capture the holiday content trends on Pinterest. We’re busy culling our content and crafting our pins with an eye to capturing our audience’s fancy at the precise time they’ll be searching for our wares. I’m eager to show you what we’re doing.


I’d also like to lead a discussion about why someone would choose to establish a marketing platform on Pinterest in the first place. Is it really worth the effort? We’re discovering so much about clarifying goals and establishing strategies to meet them. We’re also learning that, unlike other social media platforms, we have to step away from the impulse to shine the light on ourselves to discover ways to edify our audience. As one client mentioned, “I love that this [Pinterest] is all about the other and not about me. It feels right.”

I agree.

I hope you can join us  for the Coffee Chat on Thursday, Sept. 23 at 1:00 EST.  Sign up here if you think you might be able to come

Have a great week!

Deb

 

 


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Friday, September 17, 2021

Read Well, Creative Writing Resources


by Deborah Lyn Stanley


When we read well, we write well. I list a few good Creating Writing books below.
Standout subjects include; plot and story structure, developing creative ideas, the flow of narrative, dialogue, and character development.

1.    Ready, Set, Write: a Guide to Creative Writing by Melissa Donovan

2.    Writing the Wave by Elizabeth Ayres

3.    Telling True Stories: Nonfiction Writer’s Guide–Multiple Contributors, edited by Mark Kramer, Wendy Call

4.    Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell

      “Plot & Structure, Techniques and exercises for crafting a plot that grips readers from start to finish,” is 234 power packed pages in 14 chapters and 2 appendices.  

The introduction lays out a fine tuned strategy for learning to write fiction.
What it takes to Learn Plot: Become your own plotting coach. Get Motivated:
1.    Write a statement of purpose, one that gets you excited, and print it. Put it where you can see it every day. Come up with your own visual motivation. Inspirational words taped to your computer, or maybe a photo.
2.    Try Stuff—try out what you learn, see if you get it, try some more. Take time to digest and apply what you learn about plot & structure to your own writing.
3.    Stay loose—A tense brain freezes creativity. The guidelines in this book give you material to work with techniques that can help you.
4.    “First get it written, then get it right.”
5.    Set a quota—Writing is how we learn to write. Write daily – by a certain number of words or for a period of time.
6.    Don’t give up—the difference between a successful writer and an unsuccessful one is persistence. Keep writing.

The author: James Scott Bell developed the LOCK system, a simple set of foundational principles for the writers and his success:
L = Lead Character
O = Objective (A want, A desire, driving force - Will the lead realize her objective?)
C = Confrontation (obstacles in the way)
K = Knockout
The author’s intent is to share his writing gems to strengthen all writers for a lasting career of productivity and publication.

 

Deborah Lyn Stanley is an author of Creative Non-Fiction. She writes articles, essays and stories. She is passionate about caring for the mentally impaired through creative arts.
Visit her My Writer’s Life website at: https://deborahlynwriter.com/   
 

Visit her caregiver’s website: https://deborahlyncaregiver.com/
Mom & Me: A Story of Dementia and the Power of God’s Love
 https://books2read.com/b/valuestories

 

 

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Monday, September 13, 2021

Guesting 101: How to Be a Good Guest on a Blog, Podcast, or Video Show



Writers must be promoters. After all, how else are new readers going to find us? 

One of the best ways to get introduced to new audiences is to be a guest for other writers. This could be a blog interview, guest post, podcast, or video show (pre-recorded or live). Traditional media is good too, but that's another article altogether. They introduce you to their community and vice versa.

Many people use guest appearances to get referrals for other guesting opportunities. Finish a show and ask the host if they have any recommendations or intros for you. The key to leverage that strategy is to be a good guest.

Here are Tips for Being a Good Guest ... and Tips for Hosts too


For Hosts: 
- Set Expectations. Send instructions - specs on your needs/what your guest can expect - ahead of time. Send connection requests on Facebook and LinkedIn. Ask for their short bio, headshot, and social media profile links (and follow their accounts). This will make compiling posts and sharing easier. 

For Guests:
- Follow the Instructions. This includes requests for your profile and social media info, as well as word count and deadlines. Also, if you are being recorded, be early, especially if it's a live broadcast. Follow your host's social media accounts, comment on posts; be an active member of their community.

For Hosts:
- Send a Calendar Invite. This is essential for audio or video recording appointments, especially live shows. However, you can send an invite as a reminder for the due date of a guest post or interview. 

For Guests: 
- Test Your Tech. Super-important for recording is to have good lighting, a nice background, and earbuds or a microphone (there's too much external noise when you use the computer speakers). 

For Hosts: 
- Make the Content Easy to Share. Send links for live events to your guests beforehand, so they can pass them along to their communities. That way, their people can watch in real-time. Also, send links - with custom images - to your guests after their blog post, podcast, or video interview goes up. 

For Guests:
- Share the Content. Also, keep an eye out for comments and respond to them.

For Hosts:
- Thank your Guests. Let them know you appreciate their time.  

For Guests: 
- Thank your Hosts. Let them know you appreciate their time. Also, if it's a podcast, leave a positive, thoughtful review.  

For Hosts and Guests: 
- Continue the Relationship. Stay in touch. Continue to comment on each others' posts. Ask how you can support each other. Suggest a blog or show swap. And see if they know of any good fits for your blog or show, as well as recommendations or introductions for you. 

* * *

I host the Sunday night #GoalChat Twitter chat, Monday #GoalChatLive show (broadcast on Facebook and LinkedIn), and Thursday Podcast, called The D*E*B Show (which is the podcast version of my Live). I do blog posts recaps of each ep - along with links to my guests' websites and information they mention. It's a lot of work, but the idea is to create content that benefits everyone.

You want any guest relationship to be win-win.  

One thing is certain: All guests leave an impression. It's up to you what that impression is, so make it a good one.  

* * *

What's your best tip for being a good guest? Please share in the comments.

* * *

If you need some help setting and achieving your goals, please reach out!

* * *

Debra Eckerling is the award-winning author of Your Goal Guide: A Roadmap for Setting, Planning and Achieving Your Goals and founder of the D*E*B METHOD, which is her system for goal-setting simplified. A writer, editor, and project catalyst, Deb works with entrepreneurs, executives, and creatives to set goals and manage their projects through one-on-one coaching, workshops, and online support. She is also the author of Write On Blogging and Purple Pencil Adventures; founder of Write On Online; Vice President of the Los Angeles Chapter of the Women's National Book Association; host of the #GoalChat Twitter Chat, #GoalChatLive on Facebook and LinkedIn, and The DEB Show podcast. She speaks on the subjects of writing, networking, goal-setting, and social media.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Writing Controversial Topics


Mindy Lawrence

Controversial topics abound these days covering religion, race, politics, social issues, and gender/sexual issues. As writers, we deal with these spiny topics, trying to be as neutral as possible but still getting the point across. There are ways to succeed in writing about hot-button issues and the controversial successfully. Here are some pointers.

·         Write with utmost care:

·         Research your topic well from ALL angles.

·         Don’t belittle the “other side.”

·         Stay away from vehement words so often seen on Facebook or Twitter.

·         Write FACTS, not half-truths or propaganda. Do your research.

·         Write to pass on information helpful to ALL of your readers.

·         Check your writing for clich├ęs, prejudicial comments, and other no-nos.

·         If you are making a specific point, check out all of the info and research you’ve done on the topic to make SURE you are accurate.

·         Check YOURSELF to see if you can write honestly about the topic.

Although this is mainly for nonfiction writers, it doesn’t hurt ALL writers to consider these suggestions.

Ruth Seaber, Department Chair & Associate Professor of English at Mineral Area College in Park Hills, Missouri, gives these suggestions for writers dealing with controversial topics:

·         I would differentiate “Truth” from facts. Because of the very nature of a controversial subject, “Truth” is a matter of interpretation.

·         (Writers should) Stay away from subjects they can’t write objectively about. They’ll know these subjects when they encounter intense emotional reactions when researching the opposing view.

·         First and foremost ask a question and research the answer. Don’t look for or cherry pick arguments or “evidence” to support one’s pre-existing opinion. That is, don’t have an opinion going in—find out the facts first. At the very least, check to be sure the facts you’ve recited since 1975 are still verifiable. New evidence does come about.

·         I advise writers to know the lenses through which they view the world, which helps them spot their own biases.

·         Distinguish between controversial and hot button issues. A controversial topic is any topic about which people disagree, upon which two cases can be made. A hot button issue is an extremely controversial or divisive issue. Controversial —we need a new shopping center in XYZ township. Hot button —we need a homeless shelter in a residential neighborhood in Clayton, Missouri.

Caroline Giammanco, author of Bank Notes: The True Story of the Boonie Hat Bandit, Inside the Death Fences, and Into the Night, is no stranger to controversial writing. She’s written about the Missouri prison system with great skill. She says:

“Just be honest and don’t fabricate details just to make it sound more exciting. If it’s controversial, it will be exciting enough.”


LINKS

Writing about Controversial Topics, Michael Gallant

https://blog.bookbaby.com/2019/02/tips-for-writing-about-controversial-topics/

 

Writing Controversial Topics, Scott Kuttner

https://www.hongkiat.com/blog/writing-controversial-topics/

 

How to Write about Controversial Subjects, Iain Broome

https://www.iainbroome.com/controversial-writing/

 

Grasping Both Sides: The Challenge, T. Statman

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/grasping-both-sides-the-a_b_7923488

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Mindy Lawrence is a writer, ghost blogger, and artist based in Farmington, Missouri. She worked for the State of Missouri for over 24 years and moved to Farmington in 2020. She proofed the Sharing with Writers newsletter by Carolyn Howard-Johnson and wrote “An Itty-Bitty Column on Writing” there for ten years. She has been published in Writers Digest magazine and interviewed by NPR’s All Things Considered.

 


 

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