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Watch Your Step – Part I

Through the years, our conference has enjoyed fellowship with many talented writers. Some have faithfully joined us year after year, as is the case with Diana C Derringer. This week and next, we have invited Diana to share a great article about writing preparation. In it, she illustrates the writer’s need for preparation by comparing it to going hiking with the right preparations, including the right gear. Follow her seven steps to your best writing.

Watch Your Step! (Part One)

Diana C. Derringer

Hiking can quickly change from breathtaking scenery to a breathtaking fall. We have to watch our steps. Admiring a fresh blanket of snow on a trip to the mailbox can have the same results. If we grow careless, down we go. In both cases, we know where we want to go but never arrive because we neglect necessary precautions.

Writers must also take precautionary steps to achieve our goals.

Failure to Focus

Careful walkers focus on our destination, how to get there, and sticking to the plan. A wrong step can turn ankles, break bones, or result in death.

Likewise, careful writers maintain focus. We decide what we want to say, how we want to say it, and stick to it. If we stray off topic, we stumble. That misstep may turn away editors, break our spirits, and be the death of a manuscript. We can revive it, but we must get back on path to do so.

Choose a plan. Work the plan.

Faulty Fit

A successful walk requires shoes that fit well. If they are too long or too short, we replace them with right-sized ones. If we ignore the fit, we set ourselves up for pain, danger, or both. Blisters, poor balance, and worse sideline us; and we miss our intended site.

If writers desire acceptance letters, we meet each publication’s length requirements. Editors have clear guidelines and insist we follow them. If they stipulate 800-1,000 words, we need to send 800-1,000 words. Otherwise, our manuscripts end up in a rejection stack, replaced by ones tailored to the editor’s expectations.

Read the guidelines. Write to fit them.

Flawed Form

Serious walkers never choose dress shoes for hikes. Neither do we wear athletic shoes with formal attire. We match our footwear with the demands of our destination. Not only does our own comfort depend on a proper match, so does the response of others.

A serious writer studies publications before submitting to them. We learn what their audiences expect. We verify whether they accept reprints or only first rights. For religious markets, we discover denominational taboos and preferred Bible translations. Otherwise, our manuscripts return to us or we hear nothing at all.

Determine a publisher’s slant. Conform to it.

Flights of Fancy

With a little experience, walkers can become overly confident. We get carried away with our fancy footwork. We grow cocky and tackle challenges beyond our abilities. As a result, we frequently fall flat on our face. Witnesses of our fiascoes glance away in embarrassment or laugh behind our backs.

We writers have a tendency to grow fancy with our words as well. We use 10 words when four will do. We wax poetic when simplicity suffices. We overemphasize. We repeat ourselves. We tell rather than show. We seek cleverness rather than clarity. Do you see a pattern here?

We should keep our writing tight, using enough words but not too many. If we digress, delete. That way, readers see what we want to share without seeing so much they look away or find our work sadly amusing.

Write what needs to be said. Then stop.


Diana C. Derringer is an award-winning writer and author of Beyond Bethlehem and Calvary: 12 Dramas for Christmas, Easter, and More! Her articles, devotions, dramas, planning guides, Bible studies, and poems have been accepted more than 1,000 times by 70-plus publications, including The Upper Room, The Secret Place, Clubhouse, Kentucky Monthly, Country, and Missions Mosaic, plus several anthologies.

Diana also writes radio drama for Christ to the World Ministries and shares weekly blog posts on Words, Wit, and Wisdom: Life Lessons from English Expressions. Her adventures as a social worker, adjunct professor, youth Bible study teacher, and friendship family for international university students supply a constant flow of writing ideas. Visit Diana’s website at: 

This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. tracycrump

    I love your hiking analogies, Diana! You made me laugh with “Then stop”!

    1. Diana C Derringer

      Thank you, Tracy. When we’ve said enough, we’ve said enough, right? Our efforts to go beyond often sound laughable as well.

  2. Kristy

    I agree with Tracy on this one. Write what needs to be said. Oh, how far those words reach! Thanks for a great post.

    1. Diana Derringer

      Thank you, Kristy. I have learned so much from you and others about writing and about life.

    2. Diana C Derringer

      Thank you, Kristy. I have learned so much about writing and life from you and other writer friends.

  3. Crystal Caudill

    Thank you so much for this wonderful post, Diana! I’m looking forward to reading part 2!

    1. Diana C Derringer

      Thank you, Crystal. This was fun to write. I appreciate all you do for KCWC.

  4. Linda Williford

    What a great analogy. So true.

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