TIPS Re-Boot

Along with starting up my blog again, I am revisiting the concept of blogging TIPS for new writers and others who find them useful. Eventually these TIPS will be collected and made available as a separate document.

The writing group I’m in accepts writers of all levels. This can include teenagers who’ve decide they want to be a poet or adults who have decided they have a story to tell to septuagenarians who either wish to leave their sage advice behind or write that racy love story/mystery/ science fantasy they’ve always wanted to write.  Any of the above people can be new to writing, so we often find ourselves starting at the beginning with our advice, or even fundamental explanations.

One time we found it necessary to clear up what constitutes a paragraph. For coaches, parents, or teachers who are trying to get the concept across, here’s a simple explanation of paragraphs.

[note: in fairness to subscribers and readers, this information appeared in a post here in 2018. I’ve re-posted it in its entirety for readers’ convenience.]


3 Basic Rules for Starting New Paragraphs

Okay, so you want to write – a book, a story, an essay – whatever you want to write. But you have ZERO experience.  

You know pages have words on them, and they seem to be broken up into patterns called paragraphs, but how do you know when to do that? Here are the beginning rules. Use them to get started writing your work the way it should be written.

1. Begin a new paragraph whenever you change speakers .

This means, in dialogue, one person says something, then another one says something.

Each time this happens, each time the speaker changes, they get a new paragraph all to themselves, and their spoken words are contained in quote marks (BONUS tip there)

2. Begin a new paragraph whenever you change topic.

You begin your essay by describing the outside of your house. Then you want to move on to describing the inside of it. Make a new paragraph for the inside description. When you want to describe what the back yard looks like, that is another new paragraph.

3. Begin a new paragraph when it feels like one is needed.

This can be for a pause, a change of direction in the action, or just to change theme or thought, much like a change of topic.

You may have spent some time describing how you felt when the ambulance arrived. Then the EMT has you move into the ambulance, and you need to describe how you felt – maybe more physically than emotionally -, and what the inside of the ambulance looked like.

The arrival is one paragraph, the move into the ambulance is a second, and the description of the interior is a third.

Most of all, watch for these things in your reading. As you identify them in what you read, it will be easier for you to remember to use these tips in your writing.


‘ta

Once Upon a Time….

In what might be considered another life, I volunteered as a writing coach for elementary and middle school students at my children’s schools. For the younger students, I ran a Writing Club. We’d meet once a week and work on stories and writing exercises. They’d write their stories, and I’d act as editor to help them see how to make them better.

It was exposure to the ‘grown-up world’ where kids who liked to make up stories got to see what that could mean if you did it in real life. Some years we ended the year creating a magazine to pass out that showcased the students’ work. And we always entered the local Student Writers Showcase, usually bringing home winners in more than a few categories. The day the winners were announced, students from all over the city attended workshops run by different kinds of writers, even songwriters (this was in Nashville, TN after all), and heard a well-known writer speak.

And they’d fill these lines with words to put the pictures from their heads inside their friends’.

My older students, particularly in grades 7 and 8, produced a newspaper, 4 to 8 issues a year, writing the sorts of sports, music, and school activity stories their classmates would like. These students were also encouraged to participate in the Student Writers Showcase.

My motivation was – to be honest – partly guilt. I had my own children in these schools, each with innate writing ability, and they had me as guide and editor. It seemed unfair that other students at our school might not have that advantage. I offered my services to teachers and principals of the two schools. They were happy to accept.

I’m not a teacher. In fact, I’d say I’m not even a good substitute for one. But I know writing; I love writing. I can coach the thing I love. So I would find or devise word and writing exercises for the kids. I’d answer questions and explain what it was like to have real deadlines and editors and how you got a book published. I encouraged them to write the stories they wanted, and pushed to get them to be able to share their stories by using words that would transfer the picture in their heads into the heads of their classmates.

I didn’t focus on deep grammar, sentence diagrams, or conjugating verbs. Instead I went with things like word choices, active tenses, flow and continuity. They learned to uses their senses and then describe what they detected with them. They learned it was okay to use fragments and run-on sentences. Sometimes. They learned about dialogue and paragraphs, about how to choose what to put in and what to leave out. They learned that some editors, teachers, and even readers don’t want to read bad language and how if you want these people to read your story, you’ve got to stretch to think of other words to use. They learned they could write about anything. They could write in any genre or style. They could write fact or fiction, poetry or prose or song. They could even write plays.

I like to think most of the kids enjoyed it – they were only supposed to be in the Writing Club if they wanted to write. I like to think I helped some of them become better writers, and I know a couple at least have taken on careers that make use of their good writing skills.

Re-energizing this blog means re-dedicating myself to sharing writing craft. Over time I’ll post some of the exercises and workshop ideas I used in Writing Club. Maybe they’ll help some writers out there – or some writing coaches. If you’d like to get an idea of some things we did, check out one of my previous posts:

Tip ~ INKAS ~ #1 April 24, 2019 In “INKAS”

‘ta

It’s been a Long, Long Time

It would be nice to blame my long absence on COVID-19. After all, everyone understands how it has disrupted lifetimes, styles, pursuits. The world is not what was at the time of my last post.

However, the hiatus has been a symptom of something more. Cultural and political change in this country (the US) have given many of us pause for thought. In fact, for a lot of thought. In times of peril we move to aid in fixing what has gone wrong. Crisis demands our attention and other, even lifelong, pursuits languish. So it is with writing. When your voice is needed, or when you’re required to use it in different venues than usual, the usual suffers.

Well, the crises are not exactly over. Our society is still in turmoil and unrest. There is no real telling when – or even if – it will settle down. While I fully intend to continue to raise my social action voice as needed, I am also returning to my work, perhaps to undertake things in a different way. We each seek out our new version of normal. For me it is a return to projects I had planned as well as sharing the passion of my life. Despite the occasional hiatus, I can’t not write. And, I can’t not share what I discover about writing. So, I return.

For starters, I am re-energizing this blog and will soon be putting myself on a regular posting schedule. The goal will be two per week, on different topics. I will be posting more writing hints and discussions of the noveling process, as well as sharing some of my works-in-progress. And by connecting my blog, social media, and other pages, I hope to stir new discussion and introduce interested readers to my version of the writing life.

Feel free to ask questions, or to offer suggestions, even before the next post goes up.

‘ta