December 22, 2021

NOSTALGIC MOMENT with Chris Pepple on Strong Words, Strong Writing


Monday, November 30, 2020

Strong Words, Strong Writing

Chris Pepple

I love being a writing consultant and coach for both teen writers and adults. I believe that we all need encouragement and guidance through the writing process. When I work with teens or adults, I challenge them with writing prompts that are both creative and academic in nature. Why do I use both creative and academic exercises when I am coaching someone? I am asked this question from time to time, and my answer always remains the same: creative writing strengthens our nonfiction and academic writing skills and introduces us to a variety of creative options when approaching anything we write. Academic writing teaches us to hone our research skills needed for novels and analyze material to be woven into any writing project.

When I wrote my latest book, Write Away, I used a variety of writing prompts and challenges to guide writers through the process of strengthening their writing skills. Here’s one example of a challenge from my book that can help us use stronger, more meaningful, and intentional words when we write:

As writers, sometimes we say a whole lot of nothing. We use too many words or “empty” words that sound impressive but don’t tell the readers much. We also tend to overuse words. For example, if I am telling you about a product or describing a person and I use the word “special,” what does that really mean to you if you are not be familiar with that product or that person? The word “special” has been used so much that it really doesn’t always mean a lot to the reader. You have to tell us what is extraordinary about your product, person, or belief rather than say they are special or extraordinary.

Example of weak/empty writing: Mike is an extraordinary cyclist! Buy his book today to read about his wonderful adventures.

Better: Mike amazed the cycling community when he completed the 2,007-mile bike route in three months. Buy his book to read about his trek along the Underground Railroad Bicycle Route. (This is specific and communicates details.

This challenge requires you to consider two writing styles to communicate to your audience: persuasive and descriptive. Persuasive writing encourages the reader to do something (support an organization, donate money, buy a product, vote for a candidate, etc.). The language persuades someone to take action. Descriptive writing, however, uses words to paint a picture or relay a thought or feeling to someone. In descriptive writing, you may choose to use more adjectives or more emotions to tell your story.

This writing challenge has two parts. First, think of your favorite homemade meal. This can be a dish you make or one that another family member cooks for you. (Take a few minutes to jot down notes on what you like best about this particular dish or meal.)

Part one: Now you have to market this meal or dish. In 60 words or less, tell me about your product and try to convince me to buy this dish as if you had it for sale in my local market or restaurant. This challenge uses persuasive writing.

Part two: Now you have to write about this dish as if you are including it as part of a short story or novel. In 150 words or less, describe this meal as if a character in your book is cooking it or eating it. Make the reader picture a scene with the food in the kitchen or just coming out of the oven or write as if the food is already on the table with a character tasting, smelling, and enjoying this food. This part of the challenge will be descriptive writing. (You don’t have to describe anything about the character or your “book” in order for you to write the food scene.)

Notice how your objective will be different for each part of the assignment. In the first part, you are trying to market or sell your product. You want someone to take action. In the second part, you are entertaining your reader and drawing your reader into a story with specific details of a meal. Your word choices will be different in each part.

How does this help a writer at all? Each writing challenge helps you strengthen your writing skills overall by just getting you to write. As with any skill, the more you practice, the

better you become. Also, this writing challenge helps you identify your objectives for writing. At times in life, you will need to use persuasive writing to convince someone to hire you or consider you for a scholarship. You might be trying to influence someone to publish your book or hire your band. At other times, you are going to be writing to convey an idea or entertain a reader. This writing challenge also forces you to choose strong, active, specific words to convey your idea in a limited amount of space.

Never stop challenging yourself to sharpen your writing skills and find new, fresh ways to get your words down on paper and to your readers. Happy writing!

Chris Pepple is an award-winning author and a freelance writer, manuscript consultant, and editor living in Germantown, Tenn. As a published author,her works include Write Away: Writing Guides from an Author and Teacher (2020), Finding Me (2020), Looking, Seeing (2018), Without a Voice (2017), Two Frontiers (2016), Writing Your Faith Journey (2016), Look to See Me: A Collection of Reflections (2006) and Reflections on Suffering: Defining Our Crosses and Letting Go of Pain (2012). My first novel, Two Frontiers, was a 2017 Next Generation Indie Book Awards Finalist.

She was long-time writer-at-large for Southern Writers Magazine, interviewing national authors for each issue. Her articles have appeared in many other local and national publications, including Delta Magazine.

She speaks to writing groups on topics such as self-publishing, how to find your own creative voice and how to break writer's block. Along with speaking to writing groups, She also speaks nationally to churches and nonprofit organizations on a variety of motivational and spiritual topics.

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