Writing craft

“Brilliance in a bottle”

Hello! And a very Merry Christmas to you! Maureen Pratt here for my monthly blog which, this year, just happens to fall a couple of days after one of my favorite holidays – you guessed it – Christmas!

Maureen pic from booksigningWhat I especially love about Christmas is that we get to bring out many of our dearly-held traditions. Whether it’s in baking, decorating, music, or Scripture study “what was old is new again” as we celebrate the Season.

How does this relate to writing?

Well, it reminds me that sometimes I miss “old” traditions of the authorial kind. Writing long-hand, for example, and seeing how, as thoughts poured out on paper, the penmanship changed. Not that I’d like to go back and write an entire manuscript in that manner. Arthritis, you know. But the process  is certainly worth revisiting.

Another tradition or, rather, several with one purpose, was how we edited. Cutting and pasting, anyone? Erasing so much that a puffy pile of erasure residue wafted around you when you stood up from your desk? Or, that “old” stand-by – the smelly, sleek white liquid that dried to a crackle and gave any manuscript that “patchwork” look. “Brilliance in a bottle,” of sorts, because you had to be very sure of how and where you used it -It could get messy, and once you covered over something, you probablycouldn’t recover it intact, if it was a major revision.

Yes, nowadays, we have computer programs that automatically back-up our drafts to the “cloud,” so we will never lose a word. We have the ease of technology in erasing whatever we want and, for that matter, moving whole lines of text from one place to another. My! Have times changed!

But what hasn’t changed is the attention truly effective editing and revising require. “Back in the day” when revising could be physically painful (I did my MFA in Playwriting pre-computer, and well remember the agony of having to re-type page after page!), I and, I’m sure, many authors, spent lots of time thinking over just what needed to be altered once Draft 1 was finished. This thought process not only saved finger muscles, it also helped deepen and strengthen work; truly, the more levels you allow yourself to think through, the more full-formed the final product will be.

How do you get there without going back in time to write in a more “primitive” manner?

One very solid way of letting the editing process unfold deeply is to give it time. Finish a scene or a draft, and then let it sit for days, or even weeks. Then, re-read what you’ve written and maybe even let it sit longer before you tackle the rewrite/revision. Yes, give it time.

Another helpful tool is one I learned in grad school. After you’ve finished a scene or a chapter, make a list of questions that relate to what just happened. These questions can be about the plot, character development, scene, or anything that you wonder about (Is it all clear? Is there something that doesn’t need to be there? Is the character unfolding, or too well-developed too early on?)

Third, to let our work “go deeper,” we ourselves must grow, too. It cannot be all about the writing, but rather the life you lead as you write should inform what you write about and how you write it. So, let your life happen, be active, be curious about the world, and, most importantly, pray for greater wisdom and insight so that that light may shine through the words you set to text.

It’s way too much of a stretch to say that I’m going to dig out my typewriter this year, and there won’t be a bottle of white erasing fluid on my desk. But as we approach a brand new year of writing, I’m going to try to hold onto one outgrowth of the traditions gone by. That is, I’m going to really think before I delete, and dig deeper than ever before when I edit and revise.

What a wonderful journey that will be! And, I hope that you, too, will find your writing journey as fulfilling and graced as can be throughout the New Year and beyond!

Joy and peace,


Inspiration for Writers Writing Business


"PicHello! Maureen Pratt here with my monthly CAN blog about writing. Today, I pose a question, "Messy Desk, Pristine Prose?" or, "Does your writing environment help you or hurt you?"

I recently saw a picture of a writer at work. Everything about her desk and surroundings was streamlined and clean. Not a pencil out of place, not a book up-ended. There were no sticky notes affixed to the computer screen, and no cork bulletin board groaning with mock-ups of book covers, flyers, and a scribbled-upon calendar. Even this writer's shirt looked as if it had just been ironed!

If this is you, I say, "Bravo!" or "Brava!" How you do it, I know not, but my proverbial hat is off to you for being so tidy.

As for me and my workspace…well…not so much.

Oh, please understand, I can find everything I need. In files on piles for miles. Nohing is dirty or smudged or ripped or torn, but everything looks, well, "in process." And, you know what? I like it this way.

When I'm working, I thrive in an environment that looks like it's working, too. I seem to have an affinity for visual reminders – the scribblings on the tiniest scrap of a Post-It note can forever be imprinted on my mind and come in hand at exactly the right moment. Color-coded folders call to mind if something inside is adminstrative or creative. And various notebooks with floral or patterned covers contain specific subject matter.

To the outside observer, all of this might seem unnerving. I understand that, for many, the workplace needs to be "just so."  Recently I was at a doctor's appointment, and the physician spent several minutes rearranging the ophthalmologist's lenses so their stems were facing in the same direction ("They were offending my OCD," the doctor told me as I watched.) So, yes, I get neatness.

I just naturally don't DO neatness, at least not while I'm working.

Unless, of course, it is within my manuscripts or my internal organization. Then, I strive for utter clarity. So, specific projects have their own files,and these files have their place. Content within manuscripts is well-ordered and follows, one fact upon another, so that the beginning, middle, and end make sense individually and collectively. Those scribbled-over legal pads order my thoughts, and the Post-Its stack up just so to show the most important information first.

To look at my living room and kitchen, and then see my office, a person might surmise that different individuals inhabit them. The person with the desk overflowing couldn't possible be the same person whose magazines perch neatly on a coffee table near a neat and carefully-arranged kitchen.

Ah! But, they are! And this, too helps my writing. I can go from the scene of much creativity to a domestic locale that helps me relax, rest, and revive.

It's taken me ages to understand and become comfortable with the appearance of my "writing lair." Even now, in the back of my mind, I hear a voice say, "Pick up your room." (don't we all?!) But, I have come to realize that environment for the working writer is very important. We need to feel at home when we work, whether in a corner of the family room, at the kitchen table, or in a crowded cafe. If we support our need for the "just so" physical writing space, we can be more free with our imaginations. We just might turn out better work!

When my work-in-progress is over, edited, and accepted, I go full circle. I gather my papers, notes, and file folders,and tuck them away. I sweep clear remnants of the just-published piece. I record contact information I've collected, and update my email address lists. Before I know it, my office looks like the rest of my home – neat, tidy, clean…and just waiting for the next project to explode in a happy chaos of paper and possiblities!

Blessings to you in Our Lord, Jesus Christ!