by Eileen Key
I’ve often heard “write what you know” and have done just that in many devotionals and articles which laid out events in my life-including the time my daughter was in FFA and I sheared sheep! That story made it into a rancher’s magazine. Then I tried my hand at fiction. Hmm. What did I know? Oh my. I quickly learned what I did NOT know.
POV-Point of View-who knew one character’s thoughts couldn’t follow another’s? That each scene should capture just one person’s view point, much like the camera lens. I heard the term head-hopping in a workshop led by Deb Raney and learned I was a veritable bunny rabbit! My critique partner used a color-coded technique. She wrote the heroine’s scene in one color, the hero’s in another. And never mixed colors. Tried and true, something I practiced for a long time.
RUE-It’s so easy to mire a story down in an effort to explain to the reader, that DUH Aunt Millie is Cousin Vinny’s mom on your father’s side and hates interruptions in her daily life as a hairdresser, especially on Tuesdays because that’s when her grandfather’s dog was run over and it brings back too many unpleasant memories. Resist the Urge to Explain. Let’s give our readers credit and sprinkle in the details as we write. The mauve drapes and floral couch might play an important part in the story, or maybe just needs to remain on your storyboard.
PUGS-Punctuation, Usage, Grammar, Spelling. Get a dictionary, a thesaurus, and an experienced editor to help you hone your craft. If you know you are weak in any of these areas, help is available. Nothing kicks a proposal or manuscript out the door faster than errors which could’ve been corrected before an editor spots them. Be professional! (Check out Kathy Ide’s PUGS manual!)
What do I now know? The most important part of being a writer, in my opinion, is having a teachable spirit. Our ACFW website archives is a good place to glean information. The amazing workshops presented by a bevy of ACFW members at conference will help us to learn a great deal about writing. A host of writing books show us how to polish our work- unless we erect an “I know it all” wall.
Search your heart, test your spirit and pray for the Lord to open you up to learn! You won’t regret that decision. It will be well worth your while.
Eileen Key retired after teaching school for thirty years. She is a freelance writer and editor, and has published two mysteries and three novellas with Barbour. Mother of three, grandmother of three, Eileen resides in San Antonio, Texas, where she is an active member of Grace Community Church.
So true, Eileen. The more I learn, the more I realize there’s more to learn. As a writer, I like to see it as a challenge – an adventure to always push higher – become better.