Tag: Creative Writing

Are We Losing Our Ability to Write Well?

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In the last couple of weeks the concept of good grammar has been showing up all around me.  The first incident came in the form of a colleague wanting to use more active verbs in one of his articles.  When I read the example he sent of a passive and active verb, it didn’t look right to me.  To verify my suspicions I went to my references and yes, indeed, his example of an active verb was incorrect.  It was as much a lesson for me as it was for him.

The second occasion was when I attended a tele-class entitled “Tightening Your Text Like a Pro” with Arielle Ford and Linda Sivertsen (it was fabulous).   What a great reminder of how many filler words we use (really, actually, that, etc.)  I took a look at some of my recent writing and realized I had fallen off the concise-writing wagon.  I went back to my exercise of cutting my word count in half whenever possible.

Then I read this article, “Many English Speakers Cannot Understand Basic Grammar”. Yikes.  Here was another reminder that we have not mastered the basic elements of English grammar.

All this was a wake-up call for me to revisit some of my trusted resources.  A thorough reference guide with easily skim-able content is Edit Yourself: A Manual for Everyone Who Works with Words by Bruce Ross-Larson.  If you don’t have a copy, check it out!

For instance, when was the last time you looked at your writing and thought, “Do I have any overweight prepositions?” Or have you wondered, “Do I use premature pronouns?”

Overweight Prepositions:

…with reference to                         Substitute: of, on, for, about

…in relation to                                   Substitute: on, about

Premature Pronouns:

If he scores a goal, Mario will be named MVP     Change to: If Mario scores a goal, he will be named MVP

Digest a few sections of this book at a time otherwise you will question your choice to be a writer at all!  My advice is to always look at your word count and find areas to delete.  Set a goal of cutting at least 30% on your first edit.  You will be surprised at how many extra words you have that take away from the potency of your text.

Improving Writing Sessions with Clients

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“Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with shades of deeper meaning.” – Maya Angelou

Over the past couple of years I have been using my digital recorder during some of my client sessions more frequently and I am amazed at how much I have learned from this method and hope it will help you as well.

Capturing Their Voice: Whether I am collaborating, ghostwriting or editing, I find it extremely valuable to review the audio sessions to make sure I am authentic to my client’s voice.  Have I been able to pick up on their diction? Do they use particular phrases?  Do they have language patterns that are their signature style?  Do they choose words such as “not happy” instead of “unhappy” therefore creating a sense of temporary condition rather than labeling their state of mind?

Have you ever watched a celebrity or public personality being interviewed about their new book and after about 20 minutes of the interview, the host reads a passage from the book and it does not sound like them?  The same is true for recognized speakers whose presentations do not resemble their daily dialogue or the content in their products.  This disconnect can be subtle or it can be embarrassingly apparent to the audience and may jeopardize the credibility of the ‘author’.

The concept of honoring and capturing the voice of my clients, be it speakers, authors or executives, is the catalyst for the creation and branding of Your Voice, Inc.

Improving Communication with Clients: I have learned valuable lessons about my communication style and my interaction with my clients while listening to some of these audio files.  In one instance, I realized that my client asked me questions when what he was really doing was working through an internal dialogue and while I had been attempting to answer the question, he is on to the next subject.  In the present moment, and within the context of the session, this pattern was not easily recognizable.  When I was reviewing the audio, it became clearer and having noticed it in our first session I made the adjustment and both our communication with each other and our overall sessions have improved.  In another example, I was able to notice that pregnant pauses inserted after addressing certain aspects of the content were very productive for stretching my client to go deeper with the concepts and in most cases creating extremely powerful expressions and phrases that might otherwise never have surfaced.

I do not want to imply that any manipulation is occurring as a result of listening to these tapings, however recognizing personality traits, communication styles and improving the creative process have made the audio recordings invaluable to me.

Catching Every Word: With some clients it is important that their stream of consciousness, the stories they wish to add to a chapter or speech, or our concept development sessions be captured word for word.  I use the audio file to supplement my handwritten or typed notes from the sessions to create valuable summaries as well as pure content development.

In some of these instances it is most efficient for me to employ the use of a transcriber who can document the session while I am working on another part of the project.  (For referrals of top-notch transcribers, please contact us at writer@yourvoiceinc.com)

Note: My clients are fully aware that our sessions are being recorded and is done only with their permission.  All recordings remain the property of my clients and are provided to them or destroyed immediately following the completion of the project, if not on a weekly basis.