I used to be addicted to alliteration: the repetition of similar sounds near each other in a sentence, usually at the start of words. “Similar sounds” is an example of alliteration. An extreme example would be “Similar sounds starting successive words…”
Just as some people consider a pun as the highest form of humor, I elevate alliteration as a revered writing skill. I used to employ it often, too often, in fact.
Apparently alliteration has become passé. Some even say to avoid it, as alliteration distracts the reader. How sad. In discussing this with Chip MacGregor, he allowed that two or perhaps three sound repetitions are acceptable, while four or more are excessive.
Yikes! I’ve pulled off four and five alliterative sounds—and once proudly strung together six in a row. When in the depths of my addiction, I would replace an ideal word with an acceptable one just to satisfy my compulsion. Even now, with my craving in check, I’m especially pleased at this post’s title, with the beginning and ending of two words that showcase my skill.
My addiction to alliteration will never go away, but I am in recovery. (But, oh, how I miss it.)
How authors can resume writing without losing time or momentum
When I started writing, it always took me several writing sessions to finish anything.
I fell into a bad habit. When I would resume writing (even after taking a short break) I would re-read everything I had written so far, editing along the way. Then I felt ready to write more.
The problem was this warm-up ritual could take thirty minutes to an hour. That didn’t leave much time to add more words.
Here are six ideas to keep us from wasting time when we resume writing:
1. Stop in the Middle
Though it seems tidy to finish a section and then stop writing, this makes it harder to pick up the flow later. Instead, stop in the middle of the action or thought, such as “Smoke billowed from the window.” or “I fell into a bad habit.”
In both cases, the next sentence will proceed with ease. Although it takes discipline, sometimes I even stop mid-sentence, as in “Jeffy’s eyes grew…” or “The second point is…” This leaves no doubt what words come next.
2. Get a Running Start
When not knowing the next words, back up a sentence or two (a paragraph at the most) and re-read it. This provides a running start to jump back into our writing.
Even if the words that come next aren’t good ones, at least we are writing and moving forward. This beats staring at the monitor with growing frustration as each second ticks by.
3. Talk it Through
Another tip when we’re stuck is to write “What I want to say is…” and then finish the sentence. This often gives immediate clarity and helps words flow.
4. Begin the Next Part
Though we psychologically want to stop at the end of a section or chapter, resist that impulse, no matter how satisfying. Start the next part, even if it’s just a sentence or two. Bonus points if you stop in midsentence.
5. End with a Transition
In fiction, we call this a cliffhanger, and in nonfiction, it is preselling the next point. In either case, ending with a transitional sentence prepares us to write the next one.
6. Plan What to Write Next
Before we end our writing session, we can outline the next section, jot down talking points, or even write a key sentence. In fiction, we can write one line of punchy dialogue or note a plot twist. In nonfiction, we can lay down a pithy soundbite or profound callout.
Sometimes I write the last line of the next section. Then when I resume working, I merely write towards that ending.
These six tips help me to pick up my writing where I left off without wasting time or losing momentum. I hope they help you to do the same.
Writers are often unsure of how to format thoughts in their writing.
Thoughts are best put in italic and do not include quotes. For example:
I hope this description makes sense to you.
An attribute tag, such as “he thought” is not used, since the person doing the thinking should be obvious from the context. You know this is my thought since I am the author.
However, I have seen some publishers use different approaches, such as putting thoughts in quotes, including the attribute tag, or even skipping the italics.
One publisher made thoughts indistinguishable from spoken dialogue, except for the tag “thought” rather than “said.” I don’t appreciate these alternate presentations of thoughts. This is especially dangerous, given that many readers overlook the descriptor tag.
Now, here’s a question for you. I’m working on a story concept where two characters communicate telepathically, and I wonder how I should format it. For example:
Where have you been? Shelly was angry and relieved at the same time.
You told me to go away, so I did. Terry’s sad aura filled the space between them.
It was six months ago. Only now did Shelly comprehend the impact of her careless words. I’ve missed you…so very much.
I’ve always been nearby, just waiting for you to call me back. Terry smiled, the first visible sign that he missed her, too.
I once signed up for a trial of grammarly.com. It’s a most impressive grammar checker.
The problem was that it was too sophisticated for me. It flagged many things to check, but I lacked the needed background to comprehend the issues. Many of their suggestions were beyond me. However, I recently took a fresh look at it, and it seems they’ve made it easier to use.
Regardless, the built-in grammar checker in Microsoft Word is a great place to start. Though this still requires the writer to decide which suggestions to accept and which ones to reject, it’s easier to manage. While this won’t catch everything, it covers the basics.
In my experience as a publication editor, most of the submissions I receive could benefit from doing this basic grammar check in Word before they submitted their work. It seems many people have turned off this option (I once did), and some don’t bother to run spell-check either. Don’t make that mistake.
As you consider when to write, it is also critical to consider the issue of where to write. Not only does this depend on your circumstances, but also on your personality.
While writing is often a solitary process, some prefer to do so in the company of others. They may opt to write amid the activity of family life. There where is the kitchen table or even the living room with the TV blaring?
Where to Write
Still, others view the local coffee shop as their office of choice, making a morning commute, ordering their preferred java concoction, and remaining for several hours as they pound out their prose on a laptop computer. I’ve heard of entire books being written in these settings. In these cases, while composing remains a singular effort, it is happily and effectively done in the presence of others.
The majority, I suspect, require quiet in order to write rightly. The presence of others serves only to stymie their creative flow and production efficacy. They need a place to write with minimal distractions and no interruptions.
While some enjoy background music, others prefer absolute silence. For all these folks, a dedicated space—preferably a private room—is a necessity. If others are present during writing time, they need to not interrupt and to respect the privacy of the writing sanctuary.
In making these determinations, sometimes the question of where needs to be ascertained before the when. For example, writing at a coffee house is incompatible with middle-of-the-night inspiration.
Where I Write
As for me, I prefer to write in solitude; coffee shops, the kitchen table, and the living room are out. It took a while to find the right spot, but I ended up taking over a spare bedroom, sufficiently isolated from the rest of the house. While not quite spartan in its furnishings, it definitely has a minimalist feel to it. There is no phone or means for music, the clock is not readily visible, and the lone wall decoration declares “writer at work.” It is my writing refuge.