Nancy Arant Williams

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Welcome to my exciting new page, The Scoop for Beginning Writers. So glad you stopped by. First of all, let me say that if this is God's will for you, you cannot fail. Having said that, I must qualify that and add-- if you study, study, study and hone your craft. Oh, and don't forget to pray, pray, pray-for wisdom.

The scripture says that what is done in the Spirit will have eternal purpose. That's the good news.

1. Okay, first of all, I want to say-RELAX. The whole writing thing is do-able. To use one of my favorite clichés, which I'm not allowed to use anywhere else, Rome wasn't built in a day, but it's there now, so take heart.

2. As a beginning writer, you may wonder whether a degree in creative writing is essential. The answer is no. The education gained on writers' loops, from books, attending conferences, joining critique groups and taking online courses will take care of any deficits. The key is to have a teachable spirit. If we are like sponges, we can't fail to be equipped to write with excellence. The most helpful thing I did when I began writing was to join a writers' loop. The experience of being with other writers and gleaning from them is invaluable, worth more than its weight in gold. And no one understands a writer the same way another writer can. Just do a Google search for 'Online writing groups' to find a group that fits your needs.

3. Don't sweat the small stuff. It's easy to get caught up in rules, the dos and don'ts of writing, and that can be discouraging as well as overwhelming. Just educate yourself as well as you can, (Amazon has a ton of books on writing), get into a critique group and let others read what you write, and you will hone your skills in no time. Put on a thick skin, though. Most of our writing, at least as beginners, (to be painfully honest) needs work. But once we get in the learning mode, we can get excited about improving our skills instead of taking offense at the criticisms of others. The thing is, no matter where you are in your writing life, you will always have someone evaluating your writing… Editors, publishers, agents all do it as part of their jobs, so if you really want to write, you need to swallow your pride and learn from those who've been around a while. And always remind yourself, "If God be for me, who can be against me?"

You can do this, so don't let yourself get discouraged. In fact, if you can find a writing buddy to share with and be accountable to, you will weather the storms much better than without one.

4.Hints to de-muddle the confusion of terminology:

*Point of View: This can terrify a new writer. First of all, POV stands for point of view. Don't let it confuse you. It just refers to the character whose eyes you look through as the story or scene unfolds.

*Getting rid of Passive voice: This is another bugaboo that can make a new writer want to run for the hills, but there is no need. Of course it's better to tell a story in active voice, but don't do as I did and remove every 'was" and "had" from your story. If you can, try to rearrange or restate a sentence without them. Occasionally the best way to say something is simply to use "was" or 'had'.

Here is an example of a passive sentence (not to be confused with passive voice, when something is done 'by someone'. Remember your freshman English?)

"It was a dark and stormy night." Now we all like that phrase because Snoopy says it, but it just doesn't say enough. Reword it to say something that I can SEE and FEEL. I want to be right in the middle of the action, seeing what you see. For instance-"The thunder cracked overhead, and the rain echoed mercilessly as it beat its staccato on my car roof, making my head throb."

Can you see and feel the storm? Can you feel the headache?

*Which leads me to my next point. Show, don't tell. You'll hear this one a zillion times, but don't worry. To make this easier, simply ask yourself to desrc
ibe what your reader would see if viewing this scene on television. Remember, you want this scene to be so alive that I can see it and feel it clearly. Here is an example of telling-"Jean was angry when she looked at him." To make it active (showing the action), I would say, "Jean's eyes narrowed, and her lips formed a thin line as she raised her chin and looked him straight in the eye." See the difference? Once again, let me SEE the action.

*Finding your own 'grand style". By this I simply mean finding your niche in the writing world. You might also hear writers using the word "voice' to desrc
ibe this.

It's easy to copy others or play it safe and do the 'usual' thing. The great fun of writing, though, as far as I am concerned, is in doing the extraordinary in your own "grand style". God made you an individual, and He wants you to use your gifts to the best of your ability. "YOUR" gifts, not those of someone else. So pray and ask God to help you develop your own niche. Your readers will fall in love with the passionate heart you put into your work, and you'll fall head over heels in love with the writing process when you do. It will also meet needs that no one else's work can touch.

*"Should I edit as I write, or write the first draft in its entirety and then edit?"

I hear this question frequently, and I am a firm believer that the muse waits for no man. In other words, while the story is flowing, simply get it down, no matter how it comes out. Don't stop to edit on the first run-through, or you may lose momentum, and when you're my age, you may also lose your train of thought, which is much harder to recapture later.

Essential secrets:
Your goal as a writer is to write 'tight'. That means succinctly, to the point and with no unnecessary words. Learn to say exactly what you mean, paring down wordiness and flowery desrc
iptions. If it's not the right word, find another word, using a thesaurus or flip dictionary. Pray, asking for the exact word you need. Make sure every page has as much 'visual' impact as possible. Use all five senses, adding texture and detail, but no flowery words.

One thing you must learn to do is be tough, and if there is a paragraph you particularly love, cut it out, or at least down. If the piece can survive without it, cut it. It sounds cruel, but honestly, for the serious writer, it's the fastest way to get a clean, concise manusrc
For the beginner, it's easy to overlook overused words. Soon, however, like a bloodhound, with training, you'll be able to sniff out excess or unnecessary words in everything you read. Here is a partial list of overused words. Keep your eyes open for them and dump them (except in rare instances when nothing else works.)

Is, was, were, up, down, just, had, became, began to, seems, noticed, had been, things, over, nice, lovely, wonderful, very, about, some, felt, out, in, that, in spite of the fact, poor (except in the case of poverty), (and any form of)-to be. 'Afterwards should be afterward; forwards should be forward. If you're not sure about a word, look it up.

Cut most adjectives and adverbs. Cut clichés, except in dialogue.

Cut similes and metaphors that don't work.

As for dialogue, listen carefully, training your ear. Would someone actually say this in real life? If not, what would they say? If you pay attention, you can actually hear it in your head. You can become a master of dialogue if you work at it.

Okay, those are the basics to help you get started. If you have other questions you'd like to see addressed here, please email me at Now, get those fingers tapping. You can do this!!~~

*Author note: The Scoop may be printed off for reference as long as you credit it to me. Please don't pass it on, except to refer others to my website at

Thanks, and Happy Writing!!~~~

And The Scoop for Beginning Writers, copyright 2003 by Nancy Arant Williams


Copyright 2003, Nancy Arant Williams. Used by permission.

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