Friday, October 28, 2016

A NOVEL IDEA - Book Review

Tyndale House Publishers

Cover information: Best-selling Christian fiction writers have teamed together to contribute articles on the craft of writing. A Novel Idea contains tips on brainstorming ideas and crafting and marketing a novel. It explains what makes a Christian novel "Christian" and offers tips on how to approach tough topics. Contributors include Jerry B. Jenkins, Karen Kingsbury, Francine rivers, and many other beloved authors.

My review: I learned about this book several years ago from Angela Hunt at a writer's retreat where we both spoke. It is a great reference book for those writing Christian fiction even though it has been out since 2009. This compilation is like having several books in one making it easy to refer to for quick information. And of course, no one can dispute the quality of information, just look at the authors! 

It is divided into four sections. The first covers the Fundamentals of Fiction with chapters on plot, characters, dialogue, point of view, pacing, setting, and descriptions. The second, Developing Your Craft, covers preparation, the discipline of writing, finding your voice, writing with expression, and handling rejection. The third, Writing Christian Fiction, covers discerning your calling and the distinctives of Christian fiction, and the fourth, Networking and Marketing, covers feedback, breaking into publishing, and marketing.

As you can see it is pretty comprehensive. If you write or are interested in writing Christian fiction this book is one to have on your reference shelf! 

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Wednesday, October 26, 2016


Image result for tax time 

“What are the things that independent writers most commonly overlook when tax time comes?” This is a question posed in the February, 2016 issue of Writer’s Digest. Bonnie Lee, author of Taxpertise for the Creative Mind: Murder, Mayhem, Romance, Comedy and Tax Tips for Artists of All Kinds, (how’s that for a title?) offers these tips.

Lee claims that “Writers who are in the profession of writing (and not just as a hobby) can deduct all expenses incurred during the year, whether they sell their work or not.” Unfortunately, many writers and some tax professionals do not know this.

Deductions include: travel expenses to conduct interviews, expenses for meals away from home during these trips, research expenses, phone expenses, office supplies, a new computer, home office expenses. The Uniform Capitalization Rules (not claiming expenses until the book is sold, or capitalizing the expenses as “start-up expenses’ over a period of five years) does not apply to writers. Expenses can be deducted as they are incurred. Also, a home office deduction is allowed a taxpayer to the tune of $5 per square foot up to $1500 (or 300 square feet of office space.

Good documentation is the key to audit-proof taxes. Cancelled checks, credit card statements, even emails and photographs are good records to keep regarding writing expenses.

The February 2016 issue of Writer’s Digest is devoted to the business side of writing.

I don’t keep great records, I hope you do. Hey, there’s a New Year’s Resolution right there.
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Monday, October 24, 2016

In Search of Clear and Accurate Words

            One of the pleasures and frustrations of writing is that we have only the written word to convey our thoughts. Personal conversations do not possess that limitation. In those, a nod, a shrug, a straight look, or even a raised eyebrow can be eloquent. But in writing, the words themselves have to be right if we are to get our message across to our readers.
            George Orwell, in his 1946 essay "Politics and the English Language," laments common problems in word usage, holding that "the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts." He argues further that "A bad usage can spread by tradition and imitation even among people who should and do know better." So in this blog I will cite a number of usages that I find falling short in clarity or lacking in some other way.
            Because Orwell also notes that "In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible," I will begin by listing several of these commonplaces, along with my sometimes satirical translation of their meanings: 

"Mistakes were made." – You will never know which person made them, and that person will never be held to account.

"We take that very seriously." – We're not doing anything about it.

"They will be brought to justice" – Don't hold your breath until we begin searching for them. We have more important things to do.

"I'm sorry if anyone was offended…" – I was right, I'm not a bit sorry, and the fault lies with those who chose to be offended. (Note: A genuine apology contains the words "I was wrong.")

"I am responsible." – All right. I've said the ritual words, and that solves the problem. Now forget about it. 

            Journalism also has its clichés for avoiding precise meanings and covering up the writer's laziness. Here are a few, along with comments on their deficiencies:

"violence erupted" – Violence actually did nothing. It was done by specific persons. A real journalist will find out which persons and name both them and their acts.

"shots rang out" – Shots did nothing. Specific persons fired the shots. A real journalist will find out who and report their names. (However, this usage would be acceptable in fiction if the POV character is just arriving on the scene.)

"chaos spread" – Same problem, same solution.

            My own word to describe these and similar expressions is labelthink.

            These examples also violate Orwell's principle of never using a phrase or metaphor that one has heard before. He has a further principle of never using a long word when a short one will save the same purpose. In that manner, it has become a habitual cliché to write "escalate" to mean "increase" or "exacerbate" to mean "make worse." (If tempted to use the longer, sophisticated-sounding word, we should not rise to the exacer-bait.)

            What are the consequences of inexact or deceptive expressions like those cited above? They are serious. As Orwell summarizes them: "This invasion of one's mind by ready-made phrases (lay the foundations, achieve a radical transformation) can only be prevented if one is constantly on guard against them, and every such phrase anaesthetizes a portion of one's brain."

To avoid anaesthetized brains, we must insist on accurate and (when possible) original expression in our writing, reading, and listening.

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