Wednesday, January 15, 2020

When Your Writing Needs Some CPR


by Katy Kauffman @KatyKauffman28

Lifeless words, crushing deadlines, and writer’s block. This triple threat can threaten our creativity and stifle inspiration. Our highest aspiration as nonfiction writers includes capturing a message on paper that imparts truth, grace, and power to our readers. But when we grow weary of getting the words just right, conquering our deadlines, and smashing writer’s block, the goal becomes writing something on the page. Sometimes that’s all we can do until a fresh breeze of wisdom (and divine intervention) breathes life into our writing.

How can we transform lifeless into animated, and flat into inspiring? If your busy schedule and mental blocks are killing your writing, breathe life back into it with the following CPR method. 

C – Create a lead-in that captures the reader’s interest, and weave your story or slant all the way through your writing.

A story draws the reader in, and allows them to “see” your point. Pick a story that perfectly illustrates your main idea, and share more of the story in the conclusion or repeat a part of it that builds to a climatic finish. 

If you’re using a metaphor as your slant, weave it into several parts of your writing. Use it as the lead-in to gain interest. Explain its spiritual significance as you begin to talk about Scripture. Repeat it in your ending takeaway. The metaphor reinforces your point and ties your paragraphs together.

My favorite metaphor tends to be music or dancing. (The good kind.) I have contrasted guilt and forgiveness by using music as a slant. “The haunting melody of guilt had followed her, had crept into her soul. But she heard Jesus sing a different song, one of mercy and forgiveness.”1 This contrast became the slant for talking about the woman with the alabaster flask in Luke Chapter 7, a story I have always treasured. 

P – Present not only the what of your point, but include the why and/or the how.

Many writers stop with the what. It’s essential, but it’s not the whole story. Too often “factual” causes an article to be rejected or a book proposal to end up in the slush pile. Connect the facts to what intrigues the mind and touches the heart. 

To inspire readers to take action, show them why they need to take action and how to do what you’re discussing. Use Scripture and life experience to show them why they need to take your message to heart. Give them practical steps they can start implementing immediately. 

For example, in Breaking the Chains, Laura W. Watts contributed an article titled “Fight Indifference with a Flame of Love.” She not only identified eight symptoms of indifference, showing why it was so dangerous, but she gave six ways to break free from it. 

R – Replace limp words with vivid ones, and cut unnecessary words, sentences, and paragraphs.

I’ve learned that editing is not an assault on me personally. A cut to my words isn’t a cut on my identity or value. Editing is needed. Essential. It’s a must for anyone who bears the name writer. 

A good practice is to look at every word in a sentence and see if it’s vivid and necessary. Exchange limp words with nouns and verbs that illustrate, that paint a picture in the reader’s mind. Cut the words and sentences that aren’t needed. Analyze the purpose of whole paragraphs, and see if they fit nicely into your flow of thought. Streamlined writing makes for streamlined and enjoyable reading.

My heart has ached when I’ve copied and pasted whole paragraphs into a “Deleted” file. But I knew I could visit them again if I found a home for them. The reader will never know what we have changed or cut in our writing. However, they will receive the best possible version if we faithfully infuse our writing with words that sing, touch the heart, and follow our flow of thought. 

Which step in the CPR method do you practice regularly? Which one do you need? Tell us in the comments, and may 2020 be a banner year for writing with vitality and impact. 

TWEETABLE

1 Katy Kauffman, compiler and author, Breaking the Chains: Strategies for Overcoming Spiritual Bondage (Buford, Georgia: Lighthouse Bible Studies, 2017), 13.

Katy Kauffman is an award-winning author, an editor of Refresh Bible Study Magazine, and a co-founder of Lighthouse Bible Studies. She loves connecting with writers and working alongside them in compilations, such as Heart Renovation: A Construction Guide to Godly Character, which was a 2019 Selah Awards finalist and Director’s Choice finalist. She is planning a sequel to another Selah finalist, Breaking the Chains (2017), titled Sustaining Life’s Victories.

Katy’s writing can be found at CBN.com, thoughts-about-God.com, the Arise Daily blog, and two blogs on writing. She loves spending time with family and friends, making jewelry, and hunting for the best donuts. Connect with her at her blog, The Scrapbooked Bible Study, and on Facebook and Twitter.

10 comments:

  1. Great article, Katy. Very practical, and such good ideas that will bring life to any subject! Story is key in keeping our content interesting and digestible. Jesus sure used it--and His audiences were transfixed. Thanks for the good reminders.

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    1. Thank you so much, Julie! Jesus was a master storyteller, and the truths in His stories are eternal. I'm so glad you liked the post!

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  2. Some days I think my writing needs a defibrillator before CPR, but wonderful advice to get us started when we're "stuck" Ms. Katy. As always, your wisdom far exceeds your years young lady. God's blessings.

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    1. Thank you, J. D., for the encouragement. You always joke, but I'm blessed by your writing. Happy New Year with new writing adventures.

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  3. Wise words of advice! Thanks for sharing.

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  4. What a perfect acronym to illustrate important points! I’ve been working on the R and now need to focus more on the P. Thank you.

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    1. That's great. Thank you, Jeannie! I'm glad you liked the post. I enjoy your writing!

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  5. This is one to print and keep next to the keyboard as a first aid kit for writing. Great tips Katy!

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    1. Oh, yay! I'm glad you found it helpful, Barbara. Thank you!

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