Tuesday, July 26, 2011

LOL, BRB, IDK, JK, IMHO, TMI...What in the world is she talking about?


Too Much Information

Delia Latham

In this age of texting, chatting and e-mail, everything is abbreviated and acronymed. LOL. BRB. IDK. JK. IMHO.

Good or bad, today’s society is busy. Everyone is pushed for time. No one has ten minutes to deal with something that could be handled in two, and they want to know only what they need to know to do their jobs, take care of business, stay on the right side of the law, raise their children…or even something as simple as reading a book.

TMI. Too Much Information. That’s the one we’re going to think on for a bit, because after all, it’s the reason for the whole age of abbreviation, isn’t it?

Writers, by nature, love words. It’s difficult for us to chop our masterpieces down to a skeletal, bare bones presentation. After all, that means tossing many of our favorite flowery phrases and delectable descriptions into the circular file. Oh, the angst!

That said, most readers are at least semi-intelligent people. They can put two and two together without a lesson in addition.

What does all this have to do with TMI?

One of the things I notice most often when critiquing the work of inexperienced writers (and some who should know better…) is a tendency to overdo the details.

Consider this example:

Sally swung into the driveway and switched off the ignition. She gathered her purse and jacket, then opened the door, climbed out of the car, and walked up the path to the house. Inserting her key in the lock, she pushed open the door and entered the cool, shadowed hallway. A flip of the light switch revealed a stack of mail on the entry table, where her mother always left it. Excited, Sally tossed her jacket onto the coat rack and dropped her purse on the floor before shuffling through the pile of envelopes.

Her breath caught in her throat. There it was. After six long months of waiting, a letter from John.


Seriously. Give your reader credit for knowing a few things without having to be told. They all switch off their engines when they reach a destination. None of them can get out of their cars without opening the car door—nor can they get inside the house without walking to the door, unlocking it (usually), pushing it open, and entering.

Almost all of the above example could and should be omitted with the assumption that a reader will figure it out on their own. Easily. Without plodding through each minute little detail.

Arriving home, Sally entered the cool, shadowed entryway and flipped on a light. As it had for the past six months, her gaze went immediately to the little oak table where Mama always left the mail. She dropped her purse on the floor and sorted through the stack, barely breathing.

A hoarse cry ripped from her throat when she saw it. Finally, after six long months of waiting—a letter from John.

The first example used 112 words. The second one made the same point using only 72 words—that’s 40 words trashed. And it is true in this case as in most that less is more.

Description is easy to overdo. But it’s certainly not the only area in which writers err on the side of wordiness.

Mary switched her purse to her left arm so she could shake his hand. “Hello, Jim. How are you?”

“Doing well, Mary, thank you.” His grip was strong, but gentle. “How are you?”

“Just fine, thank you, Jim.” She extracted her hand from his grip, though she longed to leave it there a little longer. “It’s nice to see you again.”

Jim nodded. “It’s great to see you too.”

            Come on, people. Really?

            Nothing—I repeat, nothing—is more annoying than having to read through line after line of this kind of drivel. Can’t we skip the “niceties” and assume our readers really don’t want to hear every word of typical greetings like these? And since I’m being nit-picky...we don’t call each other by name in every other sentence we use, so why should our characters? It’s annoying. It grates on the nerves. It makes editors scream. It tempts readers to close the book and look for something more interesting to read.

How to avoid the TMI syndrome?

·         Think about the message you want to convey, and do so as succinctly as possible.

·         Trust your readers to have the brain power to connect the dots.

·         Trim away the excess.

I’ve offered only two examples of places writers get carried away with details and force too much information on their readers. Obviously, many more could be examined, but…well, you’re an intelligent person. You get the message already, don’t you?

Any more would be TMI.
c 2011 - Delia Latham

Ok, it's YOUR turn. What are some excesses YOU'VE come across when you read? Or how about some you've found yourself using too much when you write? We'd love to read what YOU have to say.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Those Areas of Life That are Most Important

At A Pen for Your Thoughts, we not only love to share with you  the lives of new and experienced authors, and ongoing encouragement to our military and a love of country, we also like to offer occasional writing tips, and last, but hardly not least, a reflection now and then to lift those weary spirits that often overtake us.

What more could a person ask?

One of our several regular author contributors, this week, MaryAnn Diorio, who I know you'll want to get to know better, is here to offer a little encouragement to us through our summer months. (Check in the column at the right, and you'll see who MaryAnn is. If you don't yet  MaryAnn, give her a wave, and stop by to say hello, if you get a chance.)


By MaryAnn Diorio

Some of you may know that in addiiton to writing fiction, I am a Certified Life Coach. Recently, I held a teleclass for Christian coaches on Mark 4: 19: “ . . . but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.”

Perhaps at no time in the year are we tempted to allow the cares of this life to choke out the Word than during the summer months. Traditionally times of slacking off, the summer months beckon us away from those areas of life that are most important; namely, prayer, Bible study, and building our relationship with Jesus Christ.

What can we do to resist these dangerous temptations?  Here are some suggestions:

1) Expect the temptations to come.  We usually fall into temptation because we’ve let down our guard. When you expect the enemy to try to derail you from your destiny, you will be alert to his attacks.

2) Prepare for the battle. As the saying goes, forewarned is forearmed. When you know you’re going to be in a fight, you get ready for the fight.  When you understand how Satan operates in your life, you will keep ahead of him.

3) Lean on Holy Spirit to sustain you. Jesus sent His Precious Holy Spirit to dwell in us and to lead us into all truth.  Make it a priority to cling to Holy Spirit’s side during the summer months and always.  He will alert you to temptation, and He will give you the strength to resist it.

Above all, cultivate your relationship with Jesus Christ no matter what the cost.


Saturday, July 9, 2011

He Doesn't Really Like To Talk About Himself. Whose That?

It's all about the sexual revolution, the occult, idols, little stuff like that. Huh? Okay, just who is Donald James Parker? Read on, and we'll both find out.
DJP: I don’t really like to talk about myself. It’s not about me but about the kingdom of God and the work I’m doing to try to build that kingdom. Most of my books involve cultural clash. My themes wage war against the idols of the 21st century, mostly evolution, the occult, and the sexual revolution. In addition other cultural issues are examined through the characters in my novels. Homelessness, addictive substances, broken relationships, and religious contention are involved as subthemes of the books. I also write for The Christian Pulse webzine, Christian Fiction Online Magazine, and Examiner.com. I host a radio show on Blogtalk radio named Wielding the Sword of the Spirit. Bottom line: I want to align my life with God's will. My goal is not to attain the praise of man but of God. This desire makes it extremely difficult to be embraced as an author by the general populace, but to revise an old John Wayne quote, "A crusader's gotta do what a crusader’s gotta do.

SKC:    What book or project would you like to tell us about today, Donald?

DJP: A two book series Silver Wind and Silver Wind Pow-wow.

Silver Wind is a story of a basketball coach who brings new life to a Native American reservation by leading his team to victory at the same time he allows the Holy Spirit to lead him in bringing revival to the Natives, despite resistance from local bad guys and the pastor of the church in town.

Silver Wind Pow-wow is the continuation of that story in which the coach schedules a meeting on the location reservation, a Holy Spirit Pow-wow for Native Americans from all over the nation to seek God’s favor and will for their lives. Not everybody on the reservation is enthralled with the prospect of a white man trying to divert the Native American from the Red Path to the straight and narrow path of Jesus Christ.  Activists from outside the reservation provide even more resistance as they join forces to try to thwart the plans of the mysterious Holy Ghost man the locals call Silver Wind.

SKC:   It sounds interesting! What inspired you to become a writer of inspirational books?   

DJP:    In 2006 I woke up at 2:00 AM with the distinct sensation that I had heard a voice saying "Write a book about evolution." I rolled over and went back to sleep. The next morning I went to the Lord in prayer asking, "Did you ask me to write a book about evolution last night." As clear as a bell I heard a still small voice in my head say, "And when you're done with that, I want you to go after Harry Potter and the sexual revolution."  And that launched me on this crazy journey. I’m just finishing my 13th book.

SKC:   What encourages you to continue writing?

DJP:    I guess the same thing that got me writing in the first place.  I have gotten very little encouragement from humans to make me want to continue to beat my head against a wall, but believing that sometime my books will make a difference in people’s lives keeps me banging on the keyboard.

SKC:   How does your faith enter into the voice of your books and what message are you trying to convey, if any?

DJP:  My books are at the core comprised of pure message fiction. Without the message, there is no need for me to write. There are plenty of talented people who can spin a story to scintillate the senses and make people feel warm and cuddly inside. Not many dare to step out with John the Baptist type boldness to cry out in the wilderness with messages that are not politically correct. Without my faith being involved and actively being placed into the plots I weave, I would not be in this game.

SKC:   I like the way you put that: PURE MESSAGE FICTION. And you are so right. Without the message, there is no need to write. What is your Donald secret to writing a good book? 

DJP:  Use a ghost writer.  A Holy Ghost writer.  I think the major requirement for a “good” book is to entertain while at the same time educate. Using the parables of Jesus approach, I try to create novels that promote a Godly perspective on life, teach how to cope with adversity, and even preach subtle sermons. I refuse to write anything now that does not have eternal consequences.  To do that effectively, I need to rely on the Holy Spirit. If I get a divine download, a book can’t help but be good.     
SKC:   Those are encouraging words! What plans do you have for 2012, Donald?

DJP:   I’m hoping to migrate into making movies. Someday I’d like to have the majority of my books made into movies, but I have some other plots that take precedence over my previous work. I will continue to go after the occult, the sexual revolution, and evolution. There are plenty of other issues to aim my jousting stick at as well if I run out of material for those three crusades.

SKC: I'll have to watch for your name in the upcoming movie credits. We appreciate that you are offering book gifts to one of our readers. What would you like to ask one of our readers today?

DJP:  If you knew Jesus was coming back tomorrow and you were given the instruction to read one novel to prepare you for eternity, what would it be?

SKC: Great question! And thanks so much for being with us and offering to share your books. Tell us how we can find you and your books.

DJP:  www.DonaldJamesParker.com is my website. I sell my books there for $8. You can get them at Amazon, B&N, etc. for  $12.95. 

Okay, to you readers and visitors: Check out Donald's question above. I'd love to hear your comments, and I hope I'll draw your name!

Congratulations to Mary Manners of Seymour, Tennessee. The books are on their way!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Blend of Inspiration and Practicality...Even in Summertime

What is the best way to start or end your day? Is it with romance on your mind, or is it prayer, or perhaps it might be a simple word of devotion about what you're going through as a homeschooling mom or dad not just some of the time but  365 days a year?

This week at A Pen for Your Thoughts we are blessed to be able to share Anita Mellott with you as she tells us about her books of devotion, one specifically that might just relate to you, and that special something that keeps her going as a homeschooling mom herself.

Welcome, Anita.  It's a joy having you here at A Pen for Your Thoughts. Please tell us about yourself.

 AM: Thank you so much for having me, Shirley.

Tell us about yourself.

AM: I’m a wife, homeschooling mom, and caregiver to an aging parent who lives with us.  It seems like I spend most of my time chasing an ultra-energetic toddler or taking a talkative teen to various activities, leaving me to grab a few minutes here and there to put down ideas. I can’t believe that this fall, we begin our ninth year of homeschooling!

On the professional side, with post-graduate degrees in Communications and Journalism, I’ve worked as an editor with Habitat for Humanity International, headed the Department of Journalism at Mt. Carmel College, Bangalore, India, and done a stint in public relations and advertising. My articles have appeared in Homeschool Enrichment, Novel Journey, Crosswalk.com, The Christian Post, and publications in India.

SKC:  What inspired you to write this book?

AM: After homeschooling for four years, I attended my first homeschool encouragement meeting when we relocated to Atlanta. I left that first meeting comforted that I wasn’t the only parent who faced homeschooling ups and downs. Being with others who shared the journey strengthened me. That got me wondering what it would be like to have a daily reminder of God’s presence with us each homeschool day, along with practical tips. And so the idea of a devotional for homeschooling parents was birthed.                                     

SKC:  How has your Christian background affected the style of writing you do?

AM: To be honest, Shirley, for a long time, that really wasn’t a factor in my writing. I don’t mean that I wrote inappropriate things, rather I wrote what I wanted to. Four years ago, I began to sense a prompting to write what God led me to. While I worked hard to ignore that urging, I lost my job of 13 years as a write/editor with Habitat for Humanity International, and went through a high-risk pregnancy. When, against all medical odds, I held our baby in my arms, I surrendered to the prompting to “write to encourage others.”

Since then, Jesus is the inspiration and motivation for my writing. I write about life—especially about the valleys in life because I know that though “weeping may last for the night, joy comes in the morning.”

SKC:   You stay busy writing, I'm sure. What do you do when you get off track how do you get back ON track?

AM: My regular writing commitments and critique partners keep me on track. Most of all, realizing that I’m accountable to the One who led me to write, never fails to bring me back on track.

SKC:  Oh, I love how you share that, because it is so true. How often do you visit other authors’ blogs, and what do you learn from going about the web? Do you ever get distracted by the web?

AM: I subscribe to several author/agent/publisher blogs to learn about the craft and the industry.

Yes! Facebook, Twitter, instant messaging and e-mail are very distracting. So when I sit down to write, I log out of everything to help me focus. I try to check e-mail, FB, Twitter two-three times a day, and make sure it’s not during my writing time.

SKC:  A person really has to discipline herself or himself, it is true. Every writer goes through some particular trial when it comes to their craft. What is one that gets to you the most and how do you deal with it?

AM: Fear and doubts plague me. “Should I really be writing this book?” “Can I write fiction?” “What if the editor doesn't like this article?” “What about the readers?” “Maybe I shouldn’t write since it takes time away from my family...” Such thoughts are my regular companions. I constantly need to go to the Lord and His Word for reassurance. I daily pray for discernment to know truth from lies. Also, my critique group straightens me out a lotJ.

SKC:  What do you think is one of the most important things you have learned so far in your years of living about life since becoming a published writer?

AM:  That it’s all about Jesus. I’m only a broken vessel He has chosen to use. Nothing matters apart from Him. He is the reason I live, and I want to obey Him in whatever He leads me to—as a wife, a mom, a daughter, a writer—and do it all as unto Him.

SKC: Tell us more specifically about your book, Anita.

AM: The 180 devotionals cover every facet of homeschooling and include a good bit of parenting, since parenting is at the heart of homeschooling. Most of the devotions are a anecdotal, drawn from our family’s homeschool experiences, and those of others. They delve into a biblical principle, with a “digging deeper” thought-provoking section at the end. The devotionals are a blend of inspiration and practical help for each homeschool day.

SKC: I have enjoyed having you here. As we get responses from our readers and other writers, is there anything you'd like to offer to a name I will draw at the end of our time together?

AM: Judson Press, my publisher, is happy to offer a free shipping code for any orders of School Is Where the Home Is.

SKC: We really appreciate your offering to share one of your books with our readers. How else can our readers find you and your books?

AM: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Lifeway, and other on-line and retail stores carry School Is Where the Home Is. If anyone would like to read my blog, From the Mango Tree, they can do so at my website: www.anitamellott.com . I’d love to connect with readers on Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks so much for having me, Shirley.

SKC: To the readers of the blog this week who would like to get their name in the basket to win a book of their own. What do you look for in a devotional book, and why? (Please include your email address.)