Monday, October 15, 2018

Shorter Sentences in Writing and Talking


“You can’t write like you talk,” is something I often say. Talking doesn’t have punctuation, grammar, or spelling. Talking isn’t always in full sentences. Talking and mind chatter can ramble and babble, sometimes seeming to go on and on. Writing is more formal. It follows rules.

Yes, I’ve talked about this before, but today I’m writing in a different context. Today I am thinking about what else an already-filled brain can take in.

My thoughts went to those who talk and talk until your eyes glaze over. Yes, I wonder how often I do that, too. Sometimes I can go off on an idea or story and don’t stop. It’s like I have so much on my mind, when I finally get a chance to talk to someone, the flood gates open. My mind certainly seems to talk non-stop. I have to often tell myself, “Stop!”

But when it comes to writing, we can’t just ramble on. It makes me realize how we see differently than we hear. Seeing words written can put them in a different context than hearing someone speak them. The spoken word gives us signals from the speaker. In reading, we only have our own thoughts, feelings, and knowledge to interpret the meaning or intent of the words.

What this has made me realize is that the brain needs pauses. If I ramble on and on in my speaking and the listener’s eyes is glazing over or he’s trying to get away, that’s a clue his brain needs a rest. It’s similar in writing if sentences are long and rambling. By the time the reader gets to the end of the sentence, he has forgotten the beginning or has lost the intent of the words.

As much as I love words, I’ll get bored and skip sections if: 1. A description goes on and on in one, long sentence. 2. If an entire paragraph is one long sentence. 3. I have to read a sentence more than once to understand what’s going on. (Yes, there are exceptions.)

This is giving me a greater appreciation of periods; ending one sentence to give the brain a brief rest before diving into the next sentence. It’s like stopping to take a breath when talking (and give the listener a chance to take in what you said). The period between sentences allows the reader a brief second to catch his mental breath, in a way. It’s a pause to let the brain assimilate the information it just took in.

It doesn’t matter what kind of reading we’re doing. Most of us aren’t writing college theses and we’re not out to prove to the world how smart we are. As a matter of fact, if we want people to understand our point of view, we have to make our writing easier for them to understand.

This is not saying people aren’t intelligent or can’t handle it. Part of it is because we all have so much on our minds nowadays, it’s hard to take in any new information. Plus, if we want people to enjoy the reading, we, the writers, have to make the reading enjoyable! That means writing to make the reading easier.

Maybe fiction writers are better at this. The fiction genre isn’t necessarily out to convince readers to the writer’s point of view. It’s those of us who write in nonfiction where we might be trying to prove a point or defend ourselves somehow. Those, too, trying to educate readers. In the telling of my stories, I’m always hoping that my words could possibly help someone else. Not that I’m telling anyone what to do or how to live their life. Just that, perhaps, something in my life I write about could trigger something in them to help them deal with a similar situation. (I sometimes take things I read from someone else and turn it around to make it a positive for me.)

And, maybe, here’s something to consider if you’re trying to get a point across: Think about how we learn. “See Spot run.” “Dick and Jane went to school.” We remembered this. No, we are no longer just learning to read, but if, as writers, we’re trying to teach or lead or help or provide valuable information, will someone learn from a long-winded dissertation or from sentences that seem to twist around until you don’t know whether or coming or going?

Did I just prove my point? Ha-ha. It’s something to think about. At least this is how my brain works nowadays. Information in short spurts.



Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Writing Roadblocks: Unanswered Questions





One of the issues I run into in writing a travel memoir is letting unanswered questions become roadblocks (pun intended) to my progress. Today’s topic was how to write about uncomfortable instances without sounding whiney.

I write on a personal level, giving a real-life point of view. I don’t sugar coat. I don’t make it seem like every day is full of glorious adventure. There are problems. There are mistakes. And yes, sometimes there is downright miserableness.

So, how can I be true to the real-life aspect and not sound whiney sometimes?

The goal is to show readers that it’s OK to acknowledge the less-happier situations. When you think about it, most travel books are written about wonderful sites, fabulous scenery, interesting places, etc. Yes, there is adventure and sometimes hardships, but most of the time, it seems like it’s all a fantastic time.

And, for the most part, it is. But, not everything goes as expected. Multiple issues may arise. There are disappointments. Sometimes, when in unfamiliar situations, fear and other aspects may cause emotional upheavals which can affect the enjoyment of the journey.

I want to show what it’s really like to travel; the good with the not-so-good. Not all parts of a trip are full of wonderful sights and positiveness. So, how do you get through that? Because, after all, the trip really is an amazing adventure and the good does outweigh the bad.

How do I deal with it? By writing about how I come to terms with scary situations and how to handle the unexpected. Yes, I’ll admit sometimes I totally fall apart in the moment, but I also use it as a learning experience. I ask myself how can I do better next time?

Each moment is an opportunity to learn, oftentimes minor, hardly noticeable. Other times, a situation can affect your mental outlook for a while until you deal with it …

Like that time within the first two hours of a trip when I almost got into an accident on a round-about. For the next half hour, I was paranoid about the thought. My mind spun ‘round of what could have happened and how my trip would have been ruined, until I got on a nice, quiet, windy, mountain road and was able to calm myself down.
The lesson here: Yes, I almost caused an accident, but I didn’t. At that point, I could have simply acknowledged thankfulness and put it behind me, instead of dwelling on it the rest of the day and being fearful every time I was in heavier traffic.

There are always going to be issues to deal with while traveling. We shouldn’t hide them. I want to talk about my full experiences and hopefully, if and when you get a chance to travel, something I may have dealt with will help you get through your situation.



Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Where Did I Leave Off?

View of Charleston, S.C., from the hotel

After way too long, I’m finally getting back to my book of 2015. The first draft was done, but then with moving, renovating, other life issues, and a trip to attend a wedding in Wichita, Kansas, the book was put aside. Now, with two books with first drafts, I feel compelled to finish them before going on to any other writing.

For a while, I debated about which book to finish first, the 2015 trip or the 2016. There are options for going either way. I feel incomplete because I haven’t finished either one. And although I’ve also written the main body of the first draft to the Kansas trip (which I just finished last month), I can’t do more on that one until I finish the previous one (not that it really matters which one I do first). Finishing weighs heavy on me.

Sometimes, I get stuck on questions for which there are various answers. I have to stop letting issues like this put off re-starting. One big question is the use of names. This is an issue with many writers. When to use a name, what kind of permission to get (do you need a legal form?), to be formal or informal. One of the last suggestions I read was to just use a first name or change the name.

I never use someone’s name without permission. I ask, and if yes, will just make a note of it. But after all this time, are those permissions still valid. Then, too, I feel I owe these people who gave me permission to mention them in my book. It is my way of honoring them for taking time to talk to me.

Yes, I could probably let it go and move on, but I don’t want to. I put too much work into both manuscripts to just give up. I took hundreds of pictures on those trips and there are stories to tell. I fall asleep thinking about it and wake up with it on my mind.

Yesterday, I woke mulling over the 2015 trip. Decision made, I’m ready to get on with it. I have to do this, even though it’s been over three years now. The time-frame doesn’t really matter. The story matters along with the life-lessons learned.

The start, or re-start, is made. The excitement returns. I can’t wait to tell my story.