Author Nora Profit, executive director of The Writing Loft in Paradise, California, addressed Saturday’s California Writers Club, Sacramento Branch, and it was great fun. Profit is personable and energetic and knows how to connect with her audience. She also has an interesting message for writers—although an hour was barely time enough to scratch the surface.
According to Profit, only two percent of all writers will land a contract with established publishing houses. The other 98 percent will submit pages that don’t make the professional grade. Why? Because of the way readers read.
“Readers read to be transported in time and place,” she writes in her book 10 Glaring Mistakes Amateur Writers Make and How to Avoid Them.” To achieve this, writers must reach their audience on an emotional rather than an intellectual level.
Here are a few of Profit’s basic tips for creating moving prose.
- People hear words. This means our sentences must have cadence and rhythm.
Note: Profit read a line from my work in progress to the group. (Yep! I offered up my sh*##y first draft like a pig for slaughter.) I always thought I had a good ear for language. What came out of Profit’s mouth as she shared my words, however, sounded like ker plunk, ker plunk, ker plunk, ker plunk.
- Descriptions are intellectual and do not make the reader “see.”
- Use metaphors to connect with your reader. Not: He has large feet. Better: His feet are the size of shoe boxes.
- Get rid of adjectives and adverbs
- No introductory clauses
- Be aware of what the sentence is saying. Get rid of extraneous thoughts.
- Declarative sentences have power.
- Think in terms of scene, not chapters.
- Don’t use the word “that” if possible.
- Get rid of weak words, such as some or so, as in “Thank you so much.”
- Profit recommends writing a focus statement for each work.
Example: “I am writing this book to prove that your conscious mind is always fighting for its life.
My focus statement for This Side of Forever is, “I am writing this novel to prove there is another, more hopeful, way to understand life.”
- Past perfect tense—I had turned him in for loitering—should be not be used unless necessary.
The Writing Loft (www.thewritingloft.com) offers on-line courses in non-fiction, fiction, memoir and publishing. It also offers mentoring, boot camps, retreats and workshops.
A weekend retreat sounds good to me.