How to Get Rid of Darlings

In 1914, Arthur Quiller-Couch was the first person to write, “Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it — whole-heartedly — and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.”

It is hard for writers to get rid of something they wrote and love. It’s hard for me. The words stand out as if singing, “Don’t cut me! I can be loved.” To erase them is a death sentence to something beautifully written.

Many writers cannot pull out the eraser or hit the delete key. They end up with prose that is hard to read and understand. I know because I used to find it hard to do the cutting and my writing suffered.

Nowadays when editing and I hesitate on a word or series of words, I know there is something wrong. But, I like those words, I tell myself. Yet, when I focus on what they mean to the story I find that the words cause the reader, like myself, to stop and ask, “What is this?” The words throw the reader off and break the momentum or tempo of the story.

I learned to get rid of my pet words by saving them in a separate file for “future use.” Even though I have rarely used them in a future story, it makes me feel better when I take them out of a story for safekeeping. My cute, favorite words still exist somewhere.

Overtime, I do this saving less and less. I now delete the cute words I know do not belong and move on with the story. Although, from time to time I still find myself saving some favorite words in a file. It is always possible I could use them in some future story.

How to Write a Newsletter

Nowadays, everyone publishes newsletters. I’m involved with publishing three of them. They can be a good source of communication between the nonprofit, the community they serve, and their donors.

The newsletter helps a nonprofit stay connected with others by informing people about current operations and happenings in the nonprofit. Subject areas can include:

● Recent successes – the nonprofit is headed in a positive direction
● Schedule of upcoming events – the future is planned
● Introduction of new people, but not departures which make people ask: why did they leave?
● A list of non-monetary needs, such as more volunteers – there is always a need and it is not only about money

A nonprofit should address their specific audience by being positive and concise. Of course, this sounds easier than it is, but it is possible.

Concise writing comes from practice and reading. It is about using the fewest words to clearly state something. One thing that can help is limiting the subject areas to the most important. As an example, does a recipe have something to do with the nonprofit?

A newsletter needs to be readable. This means sufficient margins, a large enough font, and white space (where no words exist). There should be variety in the content such as pictures and subtle colors. The newsletter needs to be eye appealing along with providing information. People should want to read the newsletter.

This may sound like a lot to do, yet writing a newsletter is easier by putting in the most important thing since the last newsletter. As an example, if there were three events, pick the one that helped the most. Leave some information for the next newsletter.

Before publishing, always have others read the newsletter to catch mistakes. Most importantly, whether the newsletter is published monthly or quarterly, be consistent and always publish on time.

Writing Scenes in a Novel

Most novels are written scene by scene.

I define a scene as a period of dialogue, a movement of characters from one place or time to another, or the start and end of some action. A scene is anything that enters through a door, experiences what is beyond the door, and exits through the same door or another door.

A scene can last a few paragraphs or several pages. I think scenes work best when they are kept to around two thousand words. They can include dialogue and action with movement from place or time, yet only one of these items should be the focus over a few pages.

As an example, this blog is a scene focused on the topic of writing scenes. There’s one character (me), the blog is 300 words, and the dialogue is with the reader concerning this one topic.

While writing this blog post, I became distracted onto other topics that I moved to another blog post for another time. This is what a writer needs to do when writing a scene. Keep focused on a single topic and discard everything else. It could be used for the next scene.

Scenes need to be linked together. The links are breaks for the reader to rest from the scene’s intense moments. They are non-scenes and can include reflections from the characters or a description of the environment or both. They act like bridges so the reader can take a breath before continuing to the next scene. They are critical and carry, like a bridge, the reader to the next scene.

Our society of readers takes things in short bursts of information. There was a time when scenes were fewer and longer. Nowadays, scenes work better for the reader when they are short and to the point.

Cash Flow

Too many nonprofits use a software program to watch their money come in and go out. They do not watch the ups and downs in their bank account. Their yearly budget may say everything will be okay in the end, yet this does not consider the cash flow (income and expense) changes occurring each day.

Real cash, or what is in the bank, matters more than what any budget or software program states. A nonprofit should look at their cash flow as often as possible. This helps determine when expenses exceed income and vice versa throughout the year. This trend is important for grant writers to help determine when they need to submit a grant.

If a foundation approves the grant request, when the payout occurs is important.

After the deadline, most foundations decide on a grant request after three to five months, depending on the time of year. June to August and December take the longest. After approval, a foundation can take two to three months to write the check.

Money is usually invested somewhere and needs to be cashed out. Also, the funding needs to be processed and accounted for among foundation members and stakeholders. Some foundations also want a ceremony to present the check. A grant writer and nonprofit should plan to receive money five to eight months after the grant deadline.

While a yearly budget is good for long term planning, nonprofits should also have a monthly track of their cash flow. Grant writers can then develop a grant schedule around the cash flow.

I create a grant schedule every January with the nonprofits I help. Along with other criteria, I try to plan for the payout when cash is low for the nonprofit.