Writing Tips From a Master

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Wow, just, wow.

When Joyce and Janet, the leaders of my writing group, said with hushed voices and dreamy expressions, “If you can ever take a class of Dr. Dennis Hensley’s, do it,” I thought, Ok, sure.  I’ll keep that in mind.  Maybe.

Um, yeah.  As usual, they were right.

In March, I was privileged to take a writing intensive class with Dr. Hensley and Holly Miller, faculty of the Midwest Writers’ Workshop.  They edited and critiqued the first ten pages of my manuscript, as well as a synopsis and personal bio.  Invaluable information, I’m telling you.

But recently, I took one of the most amazing classes I have taken in my life.

Of course I have to share what I learned.

Dr. Hensley taught a one-day writing seminar through Taylor University.  The focus was Taylor’s Professional Writing degree.  (online.taylor.edu)  I had looked into Creative Writing degrees but not professional, and I wanted to know the difference, and which was better.

The answer?  Professional writing teaches the ins and outs of the industry and makes sure you are well-versed in the many different kinds of writing, whereas creative writing tends to focus on crafting words and manipulating language only.

Dr. Hensley stressed the importance of intimately knowing the industry that writers want so badly to be a part of.

Taylor offers an Associate’s degree online, and a Bachelor’s through their campus in Fort Wayne.

Oh, how I want to go back to school so badly!  Especially now that I finally know what I want to do when I grow up.  :)

The more Dr. Hensley taught, the more I did not want to leave.

He kept the entire class enthralled, on the edge of their seats, just waiting to hear what he would say next.  I am in awe of the number of things he can quote from memory.

He also shared 18 steps to becoming a successful writer, and I want to share them with you.

  1. Prefer plain words to fancy words.
  2. Prefer familiar words to unfamiliar.
  3. Use picture nouns and action verbs.  Not more words, better words.
  4. Avoid clichés, or worn-out expressions you have heard over and over again.
  5. Never use long words when a short word will suffice.
  6. Master the simple, declarative sentence.
  7. Vary the lengths of your sentences.
  8. Keep paragraphs short.
  9. Put key words you want emphasized at the beginning or end of your sentence.
  10. Use active rather than passive voice.
  11. Cut needless words, sentences, and paragraphs.
  12. Write like you talk.
  13. Avoid imitation.  No one wants to read your bad reproduction of Harry Potter.  (Bwahahahaha!!!)
  14. Think clearly and you will write clearly.
  15. Avoid gobbledygook, shop talk, and jargon.  Speak plainly and clearly.
  16. Write to be understood, not to impress.
  17. Beware of the temptation to overuse any one point of punctuation.  (This clearly does not apply to me!!!)  :)
  18. Revise with time.  Leave it alone for a while, then edit.

These are from my notes, and I apologize if I messed up anything he was trying to say!

He shared many other incredible writing tips, and if you would like to read more, please go to his website.  (www.dochensley.com)

I have just one, teeny, tiny, small bit of advice for you.  If you ever have the opportunity to hear Dr. Hensley speak, DO IT.

As in, buy a plane ticket if necessary.

He’s that good.

Write away, dear friends!  :)

In Him,

Michele

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