Getting Started for Authors Tip: Using Verbs to Elevate Your Writing

The 31 Days of Author Tips features the advice from Jenn Grace and other authors, publishers, and people in the writing industry. From hearing Publish Your Purpose Press Founder and CEO,  Jenn T. Grace, you’ll learn the basics of the writing process as well as more intricate details and tips not found anywhere else. You’ll learn how to be better prepared when you set out to write your story. Whether you are writing a memoir or any non-fiction where a piece of your story is shared, you’ll be better equipped for success after having listened to these tips.

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Author Tip Transcript

Guest Tipster: Heather Habelka, Director of Editing, journalist, writer, marketing collateral, campaign, jacket copy, etc

A verb is an action word. Using verbs can enhance all aspects of writing beyond a specific manuscript.

Highly recommend taking classes. Example: Gotham Writer’s Workshop. Offered on-line and in person in New York City. Consider attending local classes in your own community. Join writer’s groups.

A favorite class was with the author of Elements of Story by Francis Flaherty, a former editor at New York Times, currently professor on Journalism. Tip from his class…when you hit a wall with your writing (feels too wordy, losing momentum, blocked,(could be writing an email, blog post, book, etc.)), changing a verb can elevate writing.

Example: “He ran down the street.” Changed to “He sprinted down the street” or “He bolted down the street.” It instantly transforms writing by making it much more visual and action oriented.

“Water ran down the street.” Could become “Water gushed down the street.” The active, descriptive verb would add a different image and more vivid understanding of the mood and feeling the writer intends.

The author’s choice of verbs helps accentuate a specific voice and gives the reader a clearer picture of who the author is as a person. How an author feels in a situation (i.e. in a memoir.)

An exercise to get more familiar with verbs, is to take a list of twenty basic words from your own (or someone else’s) writing and try to convert them into synonyms with more action that creates a clear visual or emotion.

As you’re writing, use the synonym search function within your Word program or do a search within a search engine (i.e. Google or Yahoo.)

Book Subtitles are the promise of what the book is going to do and provide for the reader. Subtitles should make an author’s positioning immediately clear to a potential reader when the reader is searching titles of books on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, etc. A compelling subtitle helps an author stand out and draw a reader in to explore the book.

Benefits of writing in an active vs. passive voice: An active voice uses fewer words in a sentence. Using the active voice can help an author with a tendency toward run on sentences and thoughts, to consolidate into a clearly understood concept. This helps keep the momentum going in your writing, and keeps the reader engaged.

Passive: The book was edited by me in one day.

Active: I edited the book in one day.

Verbs can pack more of a punch and tighten up the content.

Editors specialize in cleaning up changes between active and passive voice in paragraphs to aid readers in navigating through a book. Be open to an editor’s suggestions in this area.

PYP new service offers customized consulting sessions with editors. Author’s can work with any editor to assist with this. The idea is to have sessions with an editor to collaborate with an author to help sculpt a manuscript. Helping an author find a point of view, affirm you’re on the right track before completing a full manuscript, or needs some pages reviewed to aid in direction to move forward. This service provides a second set of eyes on existing material to help move forward with a targeted direction. Saves time and money and stress in the long run.

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