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On Writing: Rhyming Verse

Have you ever wondered how hard it is to write rhyming verse?

Probably the most common and most loved type of poetry, Rhyming Verse consists of identical (“hard-rhyme”) or similar (“soft-rhyme”) sounds placed at the ends of lines or at predictable locations within the various lines. A rhyme is a repetition of similar sounds in two or more words and is most often used in poetry and songs. The word “rhyme” may also refer to a short poem, such as a rhyming couplet or other brief rhyming poem such as nursery rhymes.

How many of you still remember “Hickory Dickory Dock” or “Jack and Jill?” Do you know why they’ve stayed with you all these years? It’s because, for some reason, our feeble brains can memorize words, scripture verses, poetry, and songs when a rhyming pattern formulates the crux of the work.

Can you remember the words to a popular song or even a hymn that you might not have heard for years and years, but when you hear it, all the words AND the tune come bubbling out of your mind and mouth? Isn’t that amazing? Well, the rhyming pattern has made it quite easy to remember the literary piece.

Now, we could take the time to discuss alliteration, assonance, and forms of poetry like sonnet, tanka, and ode (and many others), but neither time nor space permit such a study. If you are truly a poet at heart, then start to discover all the fascinating facets of rhyming poetry with this site: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poetry#Rhyme.2C_alliteration.2C_assonance.

But for the time being, here at this blog, we’ll just discuss meter and rhythm in rhyming poetry.

Rhythm has everything to do with timing and the syllable structure of each word and line in a poem’s stanza. Take a while to learn what these following patterns are in relation to “stressed” (accented) and “unstressed” (unaccented) syllables:

iamb – one unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable (e.g. describe, Include, retract)

trochee – one stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable (e.g. picture, flower)

dactyl – one stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables (e.g. annotate, anecdote)

anapest – two unstressed syllables followed by one stressed syllable (e.g. comprehend, understand)

spondee – two stressed syllables together (e.g. e-nough)

When anyone tackles writing a rhyming poem, the most important detail to remember is that a good rhyming poem could be set to music. Every word, line, and stanza would fit perfectly to the tune for which it was written.

When I’m at writers’ conferences and have the privilege to critique any rhyming works by budding authors and I detect a real problem with their “rhythm and meter,” I always direct them to a source that might surprise you: the church hymnal.

If you want to study perfect rhythm and meter poetry, look at the old hymns of the faith. They are so easy to read, to recite, to sing. Why? They are absolutely flawless in the number of syllables, accented and unaccented, in each line of the poem. Let’s take a look at one or two stanzas from some famous hymn lyrics:

America the Beautiful Hymn Lyrics

(Note the perfect eight syllable/six syllable pattern in every stanza, including the refrain. Wow!)

O beautiful for spacious skies,

 For amber waves of grain,

 For purple mountain majesties

 Above the fruited plain!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet

Whose stern impassion’d stress

A thorough fare for freedom beat

Across the wilderness.

O beautiful for heroes prov’d

In liberating strife,

Who more than self their country loved,

And mercy more than life.

O beautiful for patriot dream

That sees beyond the years

Thine alabaster cities gleam

Undimmed by human tears.

America! America!

God shed his grace on thee,

And crown thy good with brotherhood

From sea to shining sea.

Rock Of Ages Hymn Lyrics

(In this hymn, the meter is a perfect seven/seven in each line. Double wow!)

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,

 Let me hide myself in Thee;

 Let the water and the blood,

 From Thy wounded side which flowed,

 Be of sin the double cure;

 Save from wrath and make me pure.

Not the labor of my hands

Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;

Could my zeal no respite know,

Could my tears forever flow,

All for sin could not atone;

Thou must save, and Thou alone.

Nothing in my hand I bring,

Simply to the cross I cling;

Naked, come to Thee for dress;

Helpless look to Thee for grace;

Foul, I to the fountain fly;

Wash me, Savior, or I die.

While I draw this fleeting breath,

When mine eyes shall close in death,

When I soar to worlds unknown,

See Thee on Thy judgment throne,

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,

Let me hide myself in Thee.

 

So, you see, if you want to become skilled at writing rhyming poetry, study the masters, study hymn lyrics, use your dictionary to find accented and unaccented syllables in words, and try your hand at this most popular and most common poetic verse.

Marsha

http://www.marshahubler.com

http://www.horsefactsbymarshahubler.wordpress.com

http://www.montrosebible.org

 

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Verbs That Sabotage Your Writing

Blue.Sad.Smiley.Face

“Jim and I were going to the store,” Mary said as she was talking on the phone with Susie. “Then we were stopping off to play miniature golf. I am thinking that we should have been at the theater in time to see the last movie, but Jim was not thinking the same way I was thinking. I was totally confused by him.”

Oh, my stars in heaven! What kind of writing is that?

In plain words, it’s “stupid” writing, littered with passive verbs that we call “being” verbs. If you want to murder your story before it ever gets off the ground, use these verbs frequently. Your reader will fall asleep before he gets to the second page.

For some reason, newbie writers and passive verbs go together like bread and butter. I’ve never been able to figure out why so many beginning writers, including myself years ago, have/had the uncanny habit of using these verbs so frequently. When you analyze what’s happening, you can actually see that it takes more forethought AND more words to write in the passive “being verb” voice. And the writing is just plain boring, is it not? And it’s a hard habit to break. After 20 years of writing, I still catch myself drifting into the passive voice world.

 What are Being Verbs?

So, what are the being verbs that turn your “wow” story into a “ho hum” nightmare?

When I taught junior and senior high English, every student memorized the list of being verbs. I constantly reminded the teens to be on the lookout for the little rascals that needed to be ditched and replaced with active verbs. So here’s the list:

Am, are, is, was, were, be, been, will be, shall be, has been, had been

Now, I’m not saying that you need to purge your entire manuscript of every being verb, but use them sparingly. Look for verbs that are in the passive voice and change them to active. Reword your sentences that the direct object or the object of the preposition becomes the subject. That will immediately change your sentences to “active” ones.

Let’s look at how we can change the opening paragraph to a more exciting visit with Mary:

“Jim and I went to the store,” Mary said as she talked on the phone with Susie. “Then we stopped to play miniature golf. I think we could have gotten to the theater in time to see the last movie, but Jim thinks completely different from me. He totally confused me.”

There you see how we eliminated almost all the being verbs. In the very last sentence, the object of the preposition, him, became the subject, he, in the rewrite.

Now, let’s look at three more bad examples that we’ll rewrite into good sentences:

Bad Examples of the “Passive Voice:” Sad.Smiley.Face

Last night Billy was bitten by Larry’s dog Bowser.

Did you see how Cathy was wrapping that wet towel around her arm?

The beautiful maple leaves were turning a bright red in the fall.

Smiley.Face.SmilingThe Better “Active Voice” Method:

Last night, Larry’s dog Bowser bit Billy.

Did you see how Cathy wrapped that wet towel around her arm?

The beautiful maple leaves turned a bright red in the fall.

There you have the “quickie” ins and outs of the misuse of the passive voice. Take a good look at your writings, hunt for the little “being” verbs, and send them on a hike. Your writing will spruce up like you’ve never seen before. Check out this website for a more in-depth study of the passive voice: http://www.dailywritingtips.com/7-examples-of-passive-voice/

Until then, happy “active voice” writing!

Marsha

P.S. Time to register for the 2016 Montrose Christian Writers Conference. Please check out all the workshops available from an award-winning faculty and print out the registration form at http://www.montrosebible.org/OurEvents/tabid/113/page_550/1/eventid_550/58/Default.aspx

Please let me know if you’d like a hard copy of the brochure. I’ll mail one to you.

 

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Feb. 1, 2016

The Quitting Writer’s Questionnaire

Can't Get Published?

Don’t Cry Over Spilled Milk!

How long have you been writing? How long have you been thinking of writing?

I’ve crossed paths with many folks who had the best intentions to write. In fact, some of them have really great ideas, and they talk and talk about their ideas, but some of those potential writers have never put one word on a page.

Hopefully, you’re not that kind of “writer.” You’ve already dived in, head first, and are trying different genres. You play with words like your dog plays with his chew toy. But do you ever get discouraged? Have you tried for years to get published, but you’ve never gotten to first base?

What exactly would it take to get you to stop writing? Do you consider yourself a “writer?”

Let’s take a quickie quiz and see how you measure up to the “Quitting Writer’s Questionnaire.” If you answer yes to more than three of these questions, then maybe you should consider parking your pen or computer in a corner somewhere and take up quilting or gardening:

  1. Do you get offended when someone tries to help you with your manuscript after he/she reads it?
  2. Have you quit the local critique group because the members just don’t “get” your style of writing? Besides, God told you what to write, and it doesn’t need to be “fixed.”
  3. Do you keep revising the same manuscript without starting to write any new ideas?
  4. Do you always let other chores and responsibilities crowd out your time to write?
  5. Are you considering paying a “Vanity Press” big bucks to get your work in print without hiring an editor to revise it and make it publishable?
  6. Have you stopped reading “how to write better” books and books in the genre in which you’re interested because you know all that stuff?
  7. Have you sent your manuscript to at least five different publishing companies, but all you have to show for it are rejection letters so you’re not submitting anything anymore?
  8. Are you jealous of friends who are getting published and you have trouble sharing in their joy?
  9. Do you have trouble finishing any project and you have about twelve good ideas started?Sad.Smiley.Face
  10. Would you rather be doing the laundry or digging weeds instead of writing?
  11. Have you stopped going to writers’ conferences because all you ever hear is “the same old thing?”
  12. Do you have to force yourself to pick up your pen or sit at the keyboard?

Maybe it’s time to evaluate your commitment to the writing/publishing business. It took 10 years for me to get my first book contract after I started publishing poems, short stories, and articles. I needed to learn the craft! It takes intestinal fortitude and patience! Patience! Patience!

Next time, I’ll address some of the issues mentioned in the list above. Only you can answer the questions above and determine which way to go with your writing venture. Pursue or quit? It’s your choice.

Well, what do you think? Do you have that burning desire deep inside your gut that makes you want to write and get your ideas on paper, or are you a paper pen tiger with no guts, no ambition, or no desire any longer to write? How passionate are you about your projects?

Marsha

(Web) www.marshahubler.com

(Writers Tips) www.marshahubler.wordpress.com Montrose Christian Writers Conference http://www.montrosebible.org

(Horse Facts Blog) www.horsefactsbymarshahubler.wordpress.com

 

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21 Days of Love.Cover

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August 3, 2015

On Writing: Marketing Post Number Three

Marsha.Chipppy.Chpmnk.2013

“To market, to market

To sell a book or two…”

That’s the little ditty that should be constantly reverberating in your brain as you write your book or wait for it to arrive from the publisher.

The majority of us writers are not big-name best sellers. We have no TV exposure and very little radio and newspaper coverage. So how do little Mr. Nobody and Mrs. WhoIsShe get their names out there in public view?

So far, we’ve discussed (with a little detail):

  1. Blogsites and websites
  2. Business card distribution

Let’s tackle the book signing venue today:

Marsha.Selling.Pottsville (2)I had previously told you that I hate book signings. For the most part I do because lots of times no one shows up and I sit there reading a good book (my own) and directing passersby to the restroom.

When I have had successful book signings at stores (by successful, I mean I sold at least 30 to 50 books), here’s what I did:

  1. When planning the book signing with the store manager, I asked to be at the store on a big sales day of the year. The best time is any Friday or Saturday between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
  2. I made sure the manager planned to get the word out, including putting up flyers or signs in the store (which I provided), submitting an article to the local newspapers, (which I wrote), and sending out e-mails to the store’s clientele OFTEN about the book signing.
  3. I called or e-mailed several days before the book signing to make sure the manager had ordered enough books. If not, I offered to bring my own just as a backup.Rachel.Mrs.H.Rebekah.Bk.Signing.Wellsboro.7.7.12
  4. On the day of the book signing, I’ve had a friend with me to walk throughout the store handing out my business cards or a small token gift like a bookmark and inviting them to my table. Often, I’ve been parked in the BACK of the store, and if I didn’t let folks know I was back there, they never saw me. (I have a friend who has tween twin girls, who wear cowgirl outfits and help me “sell” by roaming the store or standing in front of the store and handing out my business cards. Often kids can get more of a response than adults.)
  5. I offered some kind of deal, i.e. if anyone bought my whole Keystone Stables series, he/she got a free gift like a plastic model horse or a small jewelry box with a horse picture on the front, etc. (Recently I sold three complete sets of eight books each because of my “special” deal.) Other times, I’ve offered one of my other girl/horse books or I knocked off all the tax and wrapped the set in a gift pack with some binder twine, a tiny plastic horse tied on the front of the pack, and a book mark.
  6. If traffic was slow, I got out from behind the table and introduced myself to folks in other parts of the store.
  7. I looked for businesses besides book stores that might want me to have a book signing. I have done fairly well at a large local hardware store and at a horse equipment and saddle shop. Of course, horse books would be a natural sell at stores like this. (Study where “your market” hangs out and go for it!)

Now, after you’ve done everything in your power to pull this off, if store traffic is still real slow, as such was the case with a book signing I had a few weeks ago, you have to just sit and smile, maybe work on your next novel on your laptop, and write the day off as a loss.

You just never know how book signings are going to go. Swallow your pride and try again at another store as soon as you can make the contact. Making money? Are you kidding? You’ll probably break even with the cost of gasoline, but book signings are all about promotion anyway, not in any way to make you rich.

Marsha Hubler Best-selling Author of the Keystone Stables Books

CHAP.2013Brenda.Me.5.11.13

(Web) www.marshahubler.com

(Writers’ Blog) www.marshahubler.wordpress.com

(Horse Facts Blog) www.horsefactsbymarshahubler.wordpress.com

 

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April 20, 2015

Get That Novel Written!

Patti.Enjoys.Jeanette's.MM.Class.7.20.14

 One of the workshops at MCWC (2014)

Of course, it’s the dream of every writer to have a best-selling novel on the shelves of every book store in the country sometime in their writing career. And most writers have great ideas that would make super novels. But the reality is that most of us don’t have three to six months to lock ourselves up in a bedroom with our computer or get that brilliant idea down on paper in a form of the English language that can be read without an interpreter.

Here are a few suggestions for you would-be novelists to help get motivated to start and finish a manuscript that just might land you a contract with a leading publishing company. These simple steps worked for me not once, but 10 times, enabling me to publish that many juvenile fiction novels at an average of three-months writing time a piece:

  1. Analyze your time and budget it. Prioritize so that you have time to write “regularly.” Yes, I know it’s impossible to write every day, but if you have this at the top of your priority list, you’ll get it done more often than if you just haphazardly decide, “Oh, it’s Monday. I have two extra hours today. I think I’ll write.” Your novel will never happen this way.
  2. Write a short outline or synopsis of where you’re going with your story and characters. I know of authors who have written their same novel over and over, sometimes hundreds and hundreds of pages in length, and to this day they still haven’t finished it because they’ve never resolved the ending. Their characters seem to be lost forever in some kind of word time warp, never to “live happily ever after.”
  3. Don’t worry about perfect English the first time you write. Just get your brilliant idea down on paper. Worry about the PUGS (punctuation, usage, grammar, spelling) later.
  4. Let your finished manuscript sit a few weeks then get back to it. You’ll read parts of it and wonder who in the world wrote that junk? This is a great time to start revising. Go through each scene with a fine-toothed comb, making sure your characters move the plot and/or subplot forward.
  5. When you finish revising your manuscript, print the entire thing on paper, read it aloud, and get it into the hands of a critique group or other writers who will tell you the truth. Aunt Susie or Brother Bill will only tell you how wonderful you are, but that won’t get your manuscript ready for a trip to the editor’s desk at the publishing house.
  6. While you’re revising again and perfecting your work, send out your queries, at least five at a time. It might take up to three or four months for you to get a response from the editors (if at all). In that framework of time, you can hone your manuscript and shape it into something that any editor would want.

So there you have it. Get the computer turned on, get your brain tuned in, and get going. You just might be the next great American novelist!

*************************************************************************

Want a professional opinion of your work-in-progress (WIP)?

Come to the Montrose Christian Writers Conference and meet editors and an agent

who just might want your manuscript!

July 19th-24th

Beth, Tim, and Ed (Regulars at MCWC) with faculty member, Cindy Sproles (2013)

Beth, Tim, and Ed (Regulars at MCWC) with faculty member, Cindy Sproles (2013)

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April 13, 2015

Working with an Editor

 

When it finally happens, you know, the phone call or e-mail that says, “Congratulations! You’ve got a contract with our company,” prepare yourself for the exciting adventure of seeing your name in print. There’s nothing quite like it after you’ve been trying for years to do so. Have a party or go to McDonald’s for a latte or buy your dog a big box of treats. Celebrate somehow. Then prepare yourself for the next step in your writing life.

As you enter this new phase of writing/publishing, determine in your heart to do the best job you can with the editor to whom you are assigned. The editor is your friend, not your arch enemy who is set on destroying every clever phrase you’ve ever penned.

Here are a few tips that I learned along the way that might help you in your “strange encounter of the first kind” with the person who has been hired to make you look real good:

  1. Before you ever submit your first draft to your editor, revise, revise, revise your manuscript. Have a critique group edit it; have another writer friend or two critique it, and send the best possible manuscript to the editor after you’ve rewritten it at least seven or eight times. Your editor is NOT your high school English teacher. He/she expects you to know how to use commas, quotation marks, and colons.
  2. Be on time with assignments; editors are on a very tight schedule. Don’t give them deadline headaches. If you have excuses for not meeting those deadlines, you won’t be invited back for another contract.
  3. Divorce yourself from your manuscript and analyze it objectively. Your editor is going to suggest changes you won’t like. The words you wrote are not written in stone, and, as much as you think your manuscript is your newborn baby, it is not. Accept with a learning spirit the changes the editor wants.
  4. If you are set on keeping your words, discuss the matter with your editor. Explain your reasoning but be willing to listen to his/her explanation. Your editor is a hired professional who knows the ins and outs of publishing. He/she KNOWS what will work 99% of the time.
  5. Thank your editor often. When the project is done, send him/her a card of gratitude, at least. (A small gift as a token of your appreciation would be well received.) When my Keystone Stables Series had been finished, I sent my editor a Breyers horse model with a heartfelt thank you. If you follow through with a note of appreciation, your editor just might remember you the next time the publishing company is looking for an author in your genre specialty.

So, there you have the basics of working with that editor, who wants you to succeed as much as you do. Remember, you’re on the same team. Just let the editor be the quarterback.

Speaking of editors, make plans to come to the Montrose Christian Writers Conference this July 19th -24th. We have editors and an agent on faculty, all who are eager to sit down with you and discuss your projects.

http://www.montrosebible.org/OurEvents/tabid/113/page_550/1/eventid_550/58/Default.aspx

Conferees.on.Porch

 

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March 2, 2015

 The Writers’ 14 Commandments

Plastic.Ducks.on.Paper

Every writer should take himself seriously. Well, almost all the time. Once in a while, we have to turn off the computer, kick off our shoes, and have a good hearty laugh, especially if that last page of the manuscript just won’t “jive.”

There’s no better time to revert to a code of ethics (or non-ethics) to “lighten up.” Perhaps my 14 suggestions listed below will help ease the pain of your latest bout of writer’s block. So let’s look at this list and take every one of these important points to heart to make us better writers. (I’m writing this tongue-in-cheek…ly.)

  1. Thou shalt recite 100 times every day, “I am a writer, I am a writer.”
  2. Thou shalt write every day, even if it is only I AM A WRITER 100 times.
  3. Thou shalt not quit thy day job but shalt write by the light of the silvery moon.
  4. If thou quittest thy day job, thou shalt be fully dressed, gargled, OUT OF YOUR PJs, and at thy computer by 11 AM every day.
  5. Thou shalt love thy computer and kiss it good morning every day.
  6. Thou shalt not do other things before writing such as watching thy grass grow or brushing thy dog’s teeth.
  7. Thou shalt query an editor at least once a year.
  8. Thou shalt not smash thy computer after receiving thy first response from an editor.
  9. Thou shalt not take out a full-page ad in the newspaper to announce thy first letter of acceptance.
  10. Thou shalt make many copies of thy first letter of acceptance and frame them to hang in every room of thy dwelling.
  11. Thou shalt join a critique group and attend writers conferences to hold thyself accountable.
  12. Thou shalt not covet other writers’ million dollar advances.
  13. Thou shalt be pleased with thy check of $30.
  14. Thou shalt not quit thy day job but shalt write by the light of the silvery moon.

There you go! With these 14 challenges instilled in your brain, you’re destined to become a best-selling author, so get back to work!

Walk.w.Joan.and.Faith.at.Montrose

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