Wednesday’s Wafers: series in which I share some of my own writing.
Gift of Wonders
To Jordan from Mama (Karolyn H) Written 9/8/1993
How I have been blessed with this gift in a child.
Having discovered the greatest love
I feel so proud and grateful each time I watch him sleep.
lying in peaceful slumber.
The moment he arrived, I was elated,
But look at him now!
So affectionate, endearing, and playful.
How he loves to learn!
I want to teach him all there is to know.
Whenever he mimics my words or actions,
I feel so special and privileged.
He deserves to be free to explore the world,
and experience the good.
But to see him cry, or feel hurt
tears me apart.
I want to shield him from pain and disappointment.
There he goes – run, run, dance, dance some more!
Feel all the joy I see in your eyes.
Precious baby—yet baby no more.
This perfect little person that has taught me so much
can only be repaid with comfort and security
and a mother’s love.
If it were possible,
I would tell him every moment how much he means to me.
All I can hope is that he knows
and that his sweet smile will never leave my life…empty.
While sorting and packing, I recently discovered a long letter that I’d written to my son when he was only two years old, along with this poem that I’d written around the same time. I gave him the letter yesterday and am publishing the poem here. Now in his late twenties, Jordan has more than met my expectations and is a constant joy.
Nonfiction books and instruction booklets often contain numerous lists. Lists are helpful for displaying information in an organized, easy-to-read format. They are great for prioritizing as well as categorizing products and services.
Bucket ListTypes of Buckets
Window washer bucket
Beach sand bucket
Hotel ice bucket
Old, beat-up vehicle
Successful basketball shot
When making a list, several aspects are important to consider.
After creating a rough draft of your list, first review the title or intro to the listed items. Pinpoint the basic category in which all of your list items fit. Notice that I’ve underlined the base word in each of the following list titles that identifies what every item in a list with that title would have in common.
Why an author writes a book
The only twelve exercises you need to get in shape
Top ten video game characters
Ten steps to starting a small business
Countries that border only one other country
Therefore, the first list would include a list of reasons, not a list of book titles or genres. List number two would include a list of exercises, not a list of equipment or ways to get in shape. The third list would include charactersfrom video games, not titles of video games. The next list would include actions, not a list of occupations or expenses. And the final list would include countries, not continents or provinces.
General rules Now review each item on your list, making sure that
all items fit the list title or category,
all items are specific and complete,
verb tenses are consistent for items that involve actions,
prepositions are used properly,
only essential items are included, and
redundancy is avoided.
If your content/writing is intentionally humorous, some of these rules might not apply, but all items should at least fit the list category.
Next, I provide several examples of lists to demonstrate how these rules can be applied.
Notice the subtle differences between the first two lists, even though both are about the same subject. I’ve underlined the base word in each title. The first list includes resolutions or statements about what the writer has resolved to do. Each item completes the thought, “I resolve to ______.” The second list includes actions that complete the thought, “I plan on ______.” The verbs in this list end in ‑ing because each phrase directly follows the proposition “on.”
New Year’s ResolutionsLose weight
Fall in love
This year, I plan on
falling in love
In the following two lists, the first one is a list of reasons or motivations. If you asked an author why they wrote their book, their responses would begin with either “to” or “for.” So, each item is prefaced with the appropriate preposition. The second list contains actions that books may accomplish. So, each item begins with a verb and completes the thought, “Books can _____.”
Each list includes items that follow all of the rules noted above. Notice, however, that items are NOT interchangeable between the two list titles/categories.
Why an author writes a book
To tell a story
To teach a skill
To express ideas
For personal fulfillment
For fame and fortune
tell a story
teach a skill
provide personal fulfillment
lead to fame and fortune
For the next list, problems are noted directly underneath each item.
What does a book editor do?
Read various types of books
Correct grammar and spelling
Punctuation and spacing
doesn’t fit title
To improve awkward, confusing language
preposition, verb tense
Replaces overused or non-descriptive words
Charge based on word count
doesn’t fit new category; delete
not specific, incomplete
Advice about plot, setting, characterization, dialogue
After publishing our poetry book as an eBook, I decided to add content and completely redesign and prettify it for paperback publication. I went a bit crazy with the formatting for the poems, so it took forever. But I love how it turned out! Here’s the new description along with the Amazon link:
Two teenage cousins loved to write poetry in the 1980s before the internet was a thing. Thirty years later, after marriages, divorces and children, Kari and Terrie’s shared dream of publishing a book is finally realized.
Topics near and dear to their hearts–crushes, breakups, friendship, pets, books and nature–are the focus of poems in this nostalgic collection.
Beautiful, full-color illustrations and personal photos bring their words to life, preserving a little piece of history. This print edition has been reorganized and redesigned and includes additional photos and commentary.
[Before rightfully denouncing the post title, please continue reading — thanks so much!]
Starting sentences with “There is/are” or “There was/were” is rarely recommended and usually unnecessary.
Beginning a sentence in this way amounts to stating that a thing or things exist(s), then proceeding to say what you want to say about those things. It’s unnecessary to state that something exists because once you describe the thought or action involving this thing, you are already automatically stating that it exists (Yes, that sentence was painful to write…). Doing this twice in a sentence is not only redundant but shifts the focus from the main thought or idea to the establishment of the existence of whatever the subject of the sentence is.
Compare these examples:
Wrong: There was a duplicate keypad on the far wall of the foyer, and I quickly crossed to enter the same code.
Correct: I quickly crossed to the duplicate keypad on the far wall of the foyer and entered the same code.
In the original sentence, the subject appears to be the keypad instead of the character in the story. In the rewritten sentence, the focus is now on the character’s actions.
Another set of examples:
Wrong: There were faint sounds of tires in the driveway that caused her pulse to race in anticipation.
Correct: The faint sound of tires in the driveway tickled her ears, and her pulse raced in anticipation.
The original sentence is awkward. The rewritten sentence allows the reader to put themselves in the character’s shoes and is much more interesting.
Starting sentences with “There” is a demonstration of using a dummy subject. Writers should avoid dummy subjects because they weaken their writing, making it vague and indistinct. In the examples above, “There” replaced the subjects of the sentences. However, that was unnecessary because we know what the subjects are. If you know what the subject is, then the subject shouldn’t be replaced.
Subject: performs the action in a sentence – always a noun (person, place, thing) or a pronoun (replaces a noun: he, she, it, they, that, I)
Object: receives the action in a sentence
Verb: the action performed or received
The only acceptable exceptions would include sentences in which the subject is unknown, or dialogue that involves answering a question or giving directions. For example, if the purpose of the sentence is to state that something or someone is doing something, but you don’t know who or what is actually performing the action, then it would make sense to start with, “There is/are” or “There was/were.”
Reviewing your work and rewording sentences that begin with unnecessary dummy subjects is one of many ways to liven up and strengthen your writing. I find the need to do this with my own writing on a regular basis.
As a book editor, it is very rewarding to finally be able to say I’ve edited AND published an eBook co-written by me and my cousin. This book represents a little piece of our history. I’ll include my eBook description and link below.
Two teenage cousins loved to write poetry in the 1980s before the internet was a thing. Topics near and dear to their hearts – crushes, breakups, friendship, pets, books and nature – are the focus of poems in this collection. Thirty years later, after marriages, divorces and children, Kari and Terrie’s dream of publishing a book is finally realized.
Finding a nonfiction book that presents truly original content is not as easy as one would think.
I have edited many a self-help or business-related book that turned out to be mainly regurgitations of other people’s ideas.
Access to a world of knowledge on the internet makes it easy to find definitions, explanations, and opinions others may have about any subject under the sun. Things we read and hear stick in our minds and influence what we believe. Often they can become the foundation for a particular focus in our lives.
When an individual has the desire to write a book about something that is important to them or important to others, at some point he or she will need to write down what they know on the subject. Of course, during the process, they will almost always discover that research into certain aspects is necessary before their book is complete.
However, what I take issue with is individuals who have nothing new to add to the subject or conversation they plan on writing a book about. I also take issue with book ‘authors’ who haven’t actually written any content of their own. Instead, they’ve collected material from previously published books, combined it together in a ‘new’ book, then proceeded to call it their own creation. Or, they’ve collected famous sayings that most everyone has already heard or read and that are readily available online to anyone who conducts a basic search then re-published them as ‘their’ book.
I’m sure most people are aware that students frequently plagiarize papers or simply copy and paste information they’ve found online and call it a paper. In the world of academia, this is widely discouraged, and students who are discovered will usually experience severe consequences.
But what about in the world of self-help, inspirational, and how-to books? Call me crazy, but I believe that authors should follow a few, basic, common-sense guidelines before self-publishing these types of books.
Questions I feel any nonfiction writer should ask themselves:
How much of your content did you write from your own memory and experience?
How much of your content has already been published, either in a book, video or movie?
Are your ideas YOUR ideas, or someone else’s ideas that you just think are fantastic?
If you’ve engaged in legitimate research (online or offline), have you gained the necessary permission(s) to publish content that already holds a copyright and isn’t in the public domain? This includes images as well.
Anyone who claims to be an expert or professional at something should be able to explain the topic or activity on their own, without having to scour the internet. Of course, people are all at different skill levels when it comes to communication, grammar or vocabulary, but the basic principles or processes involved in the topic at hand should already be present in their minds, ready to share.
I personally put this theory to the test when I wrote my series about preparation for self-publishing a book. I wanted to ensure that my content was original and based on my own knowledge and experience, because there are hundreds if not thousands of sites and books that talk about this subject to some degree.
First, I brainstormed a list of elements I thought were the most important for authors who were ready to publish their book to consider. Then, over a period of time, I wrote what I knew about each element, refining and rewriting many times. Everything I wrote came from my own mind, and I did not go online for ‘help’. When I couldn’t immediately come up with the exact words I was looking for, I would let it simmer for a few days; then I would simply write what I DID know, and only that.
The final two elements in my list of nine involved things that I don’t handle as part of my editing service. But I still thought they were important for authors to consider, so I included brief, accurate, related information that I’d found through research. I made it clear that my expertise only applied to the first seven elements. I have no desire to pretend to know something I don’t, especially in the professional arena.
It was super exciting for me to discover the amount of knowledge and experience related to book editing I’ve accumulated over the years. It really is true that the best way to find out if you know what you’re talking about is to try to explain it in depth to someone else. Many times in the past, I’ve outed myself by trying to explain something that I really didn’t understand and failed miserably. I’m sure everyone can relate to that feeling — problem is, some people aren’t willing to admit it.
Reading a book full of new ideas, insights or inspirations that help me in a way I’m unable to on my own is so rewarding! I must thank each and every author who has put in the time and effort to share them with the world.