How To Stamp Out Weak Words In Your Stories

At the moment I’m having great fun reading two books by authors who are looking to publish – and being paid for it. What a dream job for a bookworm. But I’m reading the books with a professional eye, and when I’m finished, I’ll be compiling reader’s reports, which give recommendations that will help them take their books to the next level.

In these reports, I’ll comment on how their stories work, and I’ll always, always comment on their language. Often when people ask me for a professional critique, they can’t put their finger on what’s not working in their story. But it’s not always the story that’s the problem – it’s the words we use to tell our stories.

There are words that weaken our writing without us realising it, because these words are so commonly used in everyday language. These are words that are so overused that they’ve lost their meaning, or that don’t convey the precise meaning you’re trying to convey. Or they’re words that slow down the action too much.

Alt Text: This is a word cloud featuring multicoloured words arranged in a pattern. The words all feature in this blog post and are examples of weak words. If you'd like to know what the words are, contact derbhile@writewordseditorial.ie
This word cloud features the words that I will talk about in this post, including passive voice, crutch words and filter words.

I’m going to take you through some examples of these types of ‘weak’ words, so you can banish them forever – and make your story shine.

Adjectives and Adverbs

When people are beginning to write, they don’t trust that the words they choose will say what needs to be said. So, they load their writing with overly-descriptive adverbs and adjectives, such as ‘the big angry man shouted loudly.’ If this is you, try taking out every adjective and adverb in your story. Bet you’ll discover that the rest of the words will say exactly what you need them to say.

Crutch Words

There are words we use in our everyday conversation to prop ourselves up while we’re formulating our points, words like: really, actually, like, okay. But these words don’t translate into our writing. They dilute the meaning of our sentences. If you take them out, your sentences will be shorter and sharper, and readers will feel the full impact of your words.

Repeated Words

We all have favourite words, words that we’re very attached to, and we repeat those words endlessly throughout our story. These may be words we like the sound of, such as ‘quintessential, or pronouns, such as ‘I’ or even ‘It.’ Too much repetition gets annoying for readers, so we need to drop our attachment to these words, so that we give our readers a greater variety of vocabulary. You’d also be surprised how much your word count will tumble when you remove these repeated words.

Filter Words

When you’re learning to write, you feel as if you need to explain everything, so you use a lot of filter words. Filter words explain the action, usually through sensation, such as ‘He seemed calm’ or ‘I heard the train coming.’ That means what’s happening in the story is filtered through these words, so the readers feel distanced from the action. Readers will find it much more exciting to read that ‘the train was coming.’ They’ll hear the sound themselves; they don’t need to be told.

I can give you advice on how to weed out these pesky weak words and make your story sparkle. Have a browse on my website to find out about my Writing with Me service.

Active v Passive Voice

If you’re describing an action that takes place in a story, you need to tell readers who did it. That’s why you choose the active voice over the passive voice. With the passive voice, you say the treasure was stolen; you don’t specify who stole it. Sometimes you don’t know who stole it, and then it’s okay to use the passive voice. But if you choose the active voice and say ‘A thief stole the treasure,’ it immediately conveys a sense that something important is happening, and you’ll hook readers into your story.

He Had Done It

The tense you choose for describing the action in your story may also distance readers from the action. For example, you may be writing a flashback and say, ‘Jane had gone to Spain.’ This slows down the action too much; the use of ‘had’ may give a sense that this happened in the distant past. Stick with the present tense or the simple past tense for verbs. ‘Jane was in Spain’ or ‘Jane is in Spain.’ This gives more of a sense of immediacy. 

What weak words do you want to stamp out of your stories? Send me your thoughts via derbhile@writewordseditorial.ie.

How To Deliver One-To-One Writing Workshops For Children

Recently, I’ve been surprised to find myself delivering one-to-one creative writing workshops for children. I wouldn’t have thought of offering these workshops to parents, as a one-to-one session can be quite intense, and children thrive on being able to bounce ideas off each other and have fun with their friends.

What Happens in These Writing Workshops

But I was approached by a few parents after some online writing workshops I gave this year. Their children had greatly enjoyed my workshops and didn’t want to wait until my next session of writing workshops. It started during Ireland’s long lockdown at the start of 2021, with a young boy who was writing his own book.

In August and September, I worked with a lively brother and sister duo on a story about an alien crashlanding into their house. At the moment, I’m working with two cousins on a story about a family who must rescue a treasure from a faraway land. All of these children are aged twelve and under, and it’s amazing to witness their imagination, their spirit and the progress they’ve made.

How These Writing Workshops Work

Delivering one-to-one workshops gives me the opportunity to tailor the workshops to the children’s interests, and to write stories that truly express who they are. As the two girls I’m working with are related, I thought a story about family would resonate with them, and that has turned out to be the case. There’s a strong sense of family connection in the pieces they’re writing.

If children have already begun working on projects of their own, a one-to-one workshop gives them the space to develop that project further, to learn skills that will help them bring their projects over the finishing line. For example, I showed the young boy who was writing a book how to expand his scenes, structure his story and write convincing dialogue.

You can find out more about my writing workshops for children and adults by clicking on the Solutions for Writers page on my website.

Usually, children just need a couple of one-to-one workshops to help them complete a story or develop one they’re already working on. Because they’re not having to share my time with a bunch of others, they progress much faster. While hour-long sessions work for some children, I would recommend sessions lasting 30-45 minutes, to keep up momentum and hold their attention.

Atmosphere of Writing Workshops

The atmosphere in a one-to-one workshop is a little more serious. I’ll happily admit that when I have a group of children, I join in the fun and banter. But children who go for a one-to-one workshop are more serious about their writing, so I take them seriously. I talk to them in a more grown-up way. There are still plenty of laughs, but I treat them as writers, because that is what they are.

This picture shows a little girl with blonde curly hair, wearing a blue blouse. She has a white notebook in front of her face and she’s writing in it with fierce concentration.

One-to-one workshops are a great option for children who are serious about writing. The livewires can let off steam and they create a comfortable environment for quieter children to speak, knowing they don’t have to compete with a noisy crowd. If you have a child who likes writing but isn’t into group activities, or who is working on their own book, one-to-one writing workshops could be a perfect fit.

If you’d like to find out more about my one to one writing workshops, give me a call or a WhatsApp on 0876959799.

How My Content Creation Course Works

In all my blogs, I’ve been talking about how to use storytelling techniques to create brilliant content. But I thought I’d take a break from that this week and take stock of how my content creation course has evolved since the start of the year. I’ve been having a lovely time delivering my course, which is called Bestselling Content Creation, to committed, dynamic entrepreneurs, and I wanted to share that. But I also wanted to give you an idea of how the course works, so you can decide if it would be useful to you in the future.

Content Creation Modules

There are six modules available on the course: storytelling, web content, blog posts, social media posts, video scripts and traditional marketing content. All the participants have done the storytelling module because this is the foundation for all the modules on the course. After that, people pick the modules that are relevant to them.

Photo Description: The words ‘Bestselling Content Creation for Business – Storytelling’ are printed in blue capital letters on a white background, with a blue border.

Web content has been the most popular one, but there’s also been an interest in video scripts and press releases, which would come under traditional marketing content. Most people have chosen two modules, a couple have chosen three, and one person chose to combine two modules to make one. There’s a bundled rate available for taking all six modules, so I hope I’ll soon be able to rise to the challenge of delivering all six modules.

The people who’ve taken up the course are mostly solo entrepreneurs, though in one case I’ve delivered it to two people. So far, the course has been a bit more popular with people who offer services, possibly because service businesses don’t have the luxury of pictures to do some of their selling for them. But there has been interest from businesses selling consumer products as well.

Hands-On Approach to Content Writing

I take a hands-on approach to delivering the course because I believe people learn best by doing. Also, entrepreneurs are pretty time poor, so I help them make the most of their time by getting them to actually write their content. After a PowerPoint Presentation, the participants do writing activities. They then do more writing after the session finishes to put their business story together and I give them feedback to help them bring their story forward.

A lesson I quickly learned is that many people already have content written, so they’ve already begun writing their story. My job as a tutor/facilitator is to help them build on that story. By giving them a chance to work on the content they’ve already created in the session, they can see that the skills I’m showing them are relevant and can be directly applied to their business.

People will have time and space to work on their content in the session, which saves them having to find that space later. And they’ll come away having developed their content further, which is a good result.

People say they’re satisfied with the course modules they’ve done, which I’m pleased about. Long-term, I’m hoping people will find it a lot easier and less time consuming to produce content, and I’m hoping to see beautiful blog posts and snappy social media posts from my clients popping up on my feeds in the near future.

I hope I’ve made you curious about Bestselling Content for Business. If you are and you’d like to get in touch, you’ll find all my details on my nifty digital business card, email, phone, website etc. Click on the link to view my card.

Announcing the WriteWords Online Children’s Writing Course

Every summer, I run a creative writing course for children. And I don’t see why this summer should be any different. Last week, I told you about my online writing courses for adults. Now, I’m going to do an the same for children. I’m going to run an online children’s writing course for children aged between seven and ten.

Inspiration for Writing Course

It was actually two boys I know who inspired me to take my writing courses online. Their mother asked me to give them some writing classes over WhatsApp during the height of lockdown, and they went really well. At first, it was strange speaking into a screen, but the boys took it in their stride, and given that I wasn’t in the room with them, they concentrated really well.

I’m going to run five one-hour sessions. The first four sessions will each cover a different creative writing skill. The final day will be a feast for the senses, as we let ourselves be inspired by what we hear, what we see and what we taste. The sessions will be highly interactive, with lots of laughter and chat, and they will feel like real-world writing classes.

What Will Happen During the Camp

On the first day, we’ll concentrate on language. The children will make up their own words, play with the alphabet and write about summer without using the word summer. The second day will be all about creating characters, both real and imagined.

On the third day, the children will create worlds. This is always a popular session. They create their own countries, name them and draw a map of them. They’ll also travel back in time, to imagine what their house might have looked like in the 1920s. This class will teach them about the value of setting, the place and time in which a story takes place.

Photo illustrates that the online children’s writing course will be just as enriching as a real-world course

Children writing at a big table during one of my previous writing courses. The walls behind them are white and there are paintings on them.

The fourth day is all about what happens in stories: in other words, the plot. The children will devise their own newspaper, filled with exciting stories. On the final day, as the children explore their senses, they’ll create their own disgusting recipes and list and make their favourite sounds.

If I’ve managed to whet your appetite, my online children’s writing course will run from 13-17 July, from 10-11am each day. The price of the camp will be €40 per child, with concessions for two children or more.

If you’d like to book a place for your child, call me on 087 6959799 or email derbhile@writewordseditorial.ie.

What You’ll Learn in an Online Writing Course

I was delighted at the response I got when I announced to my social media networks that I was giving online writing courses. I had written a blog post telling people what sorts of online courses I was offering for adults and children, Now I’m writing another one to tell you exactly what you can expect when you sign up for these online courses.

A question will naturally come up in your mind. What will an online writing course be like?

Answer: the same as a real-world class. Or at least as close to a real-world class as I can get it. That’s why I’m delivering interactive classes via videoconferencing rather than posting a series of videos and notes. That’s the way courses are organised on an online educational portal such as Udemy or Coursera.

I want my online writing courses to feel like the real thing. You’ll do the activities in real time and I’ll give you feedback in real time.

I will write a separate blog post about what my children’s writing camp will be like, but for now, I’ll talk about my adult writing course. You’ll have six two-hour writing sessions and each one will focus on a different writing technique. Then I’ll ask you to write your own piece, based on what you’ve learned during the course.

Getting Started

I’ll ease you in gently with lots of icebreaking activities aimed at helping you break free of your inhibitions. You’ll learn that your writing is not as crap as you thought it was. You’ll also discover that when your mind is set free, it comes up with amazing ideas. We’ll also do language activities that aim to help you describe your world in fresh ways.

Three Pillars of Storytelling

The next three sessions will be devoted to each of the three pillars of storytelling: character, setting and plot. Character will come up first. You’ll learn how to create a character and make them come alive.

In the character class, you’ll create a profile for this crazy creature. Photo Description: He’s an old man with a long, pointy bears and a thin face.

Setting refers to the world where your story happens, in terms of both place and time. In the session about setting, you’ll learn how to create believable worlds for your characters. And the plot session will help you structure your story and decide what happens next.

Other Creative Writing Skills

After that, we’ll have a session that’s a feast for the senses – literally, as you’ll be learning how to weave all five of your senses into your writing. We’ll explore how our senses can evoke emotions and unlock memories, which will give you inspiration for your writing. Our final class will deal with point of view, as in the point of view we choose to tell our story from. The viewpoint we choose will shape how your reader experiences the story and what opinion they form of the characters.

The Final Bit

After the six sessions are over, I’ll ask you to create a piece of writing of your own. You may have been inspired by one of the activities on the course, or you may have a piece of writing you were already working on. You send it to me and I will give you feedback that will help you develop it further, if you wish.

If you’d like to chat to me directly about how these classes work, call me on 087 6959799 or email derbhile@writewordseditorial.ie.