Friday, February 7, 2014

Capturing the World in Words—7 Tips to Help You Focus Your Writer’s Eye

by Edie Melson

By and large writers are an observant lot. Things others might brush over or miss entirely stay with us, sparking ideas that blossom and grow. An overheard conversation can lead us to the plot of entire book.

But like any skill that comes naturally, there's still room for improvement. I call it focusing the writer’s eye. Today I want to give you seven tips to help you focus your writer's eye.

1. Stop hearing, and take time to listen. The world around us is filled with words. So much so that it becomes a kind of white noise. As writers we need to be able to pick out the bits and pieces that resonate with the souls of our audience.

2. Search out the music. The spoken word can have a lyrical quality. As writers it’s our job to capture that music on a page. Develop an ear for the cadence in words and sentences.

3. Take what’s being said—not what’s meant—and follow it an unexpected end. For example, I overheard someone talk about another person’s downfail. No that’s not a typo, I meant to write DOWNFAIL. From the context, I know he meant to use the word, DOWNFALL. But that lead me to a cool devotion on the difference between the two concepts.

4. Paint a picture . . . with words. Look at something that intrigues you, or inspires you, and recreate it in words. Try to boil it down to the essence in a way that others can experience what you did.

5. Expand your horizons. I’ve heard it said that the English language is limiting because it’s not a large language. There just aren’t as many words as in other languages. That may be true, but while the average adult is said to have a vocabulary of between 20,000 – 30,000 words, they probably only use about 5000. As writers, we need to strive to be above average. As a matter of fact, it’s my opinion we should set standard.

6. Stretch your creative muscles. Along with number 5 above, don’t just stick with what you know and do well. Stretch yourself by venturing beyond your comfort zone. If your chosen field is fiction, try writing poetry. If you are most comfortable with non-fiction, give writing short stories a try. You may not choose to add that skill to your repertoire, but what you do write will be richer because you branched out.

7. Practice, practice, practice. It doesn’t matter what discipline, every artist will tell you it takes time to become proficient with your medium. This is just as true with words. Get familiar with your medium. Take time to learn the nuances, master the graceful ins and outs of language.

What are some things you do to help you see the world around you in such a way that you can capture it on the page? Share your own tips here. Also, I’d like to issue a challenge. Take one of the above points and practice it every day for a week. Then, next Friday, report back and let’s share what we’ve learned. I’ll do it too.

And don’t forget to join the conversation!



  1. Great tips, Edie! Sharing your post with my writing buddies! Thanks for posting these and challenging us to be ever improving our craft.

    1. Pam, thank you! Truthfully, I need these challenges, and the accountability that comes with posting them on my blog. LOL! Blessings, E

  2. Your words ring true. Sometimes I'm overwhelmed by all the ideas that pop up through music, overheard conversations, etc. Even during the sermon at church I have to keep paper handy to jot down a lyrical phrase that sparks an idea for a scene. Yet I know I can be so much more aware if I'm making the conscious decision to focus on improving my craft. Thanks, Edie.

  3. Listen to kids. They come up with the darndest things. My son, many years ago, said he woke up on the edge of the night. I loved it. I wish I'd remembered to write down these things way back when. Now I'll have to wait for grandchildren.

  4. Art Linkletter certainly was write about kids and what they come up with. One of my grandsons wanted to go to the park on July 4 to see the fire cookies. Another, when I arrived at church, sat with his family and asked where his dad was, he said "He's being a mushroom" I asked him to tell me again. "He's being a mushroom." Actually he was serving as an usher.Today, this young man, just out of high school is an excellent writer, poet, and musician. I think he's even writing some songs.

  5. Number 3 sounds like a great challenge to me. I think I'll that one on.

  6. I loved number 3 too. I'll give that one a shot. And, hopefully I'll remember to report back on Friday. ;) Great post as always, Edie.