Questions. Questions. They remind me of rearing a two-year-old. Why? How come? Why not?
Though effective tools, questions are at times, a greater distraction in some non-fiction works.
I realize when I bring this touchy issue to light, a lot of devotional book writers will grab their heart and fall to the floor, gasping for air. Just hear me out.
As writers, we do a couple things we think are necessary in order to emphasize a point. The truth is, sometimes we do more harm than good – especially in writing a devotion.
It’s a common sense thing. Readers are far smarter than we give them credit. They really don’t require us to “emphasize” with exclamation points or numerous questions. When we write questions, our thought process is, “I want the reader to ponder. Think on this moment. Study this question.” But here’s the common sense part.
When you ask a question, unless it’s rhetorical, it acts like a stop sign. Our brain stops and begins to do just what we want it to do – ponder. Here’s the zinger. Our eyes keep scanning the page reading, yet our brain is still at the first question . . . pondering. In other words, readers continue to read, but they don’t fully absorb because their mind is locked in on pondering the question. We have effectively lost our reader.
They retain little, if any, of the material after the question mark. Here’s the rhetorical question – Is that what we want?
When you pile on the questions, firing them at the reader one after the other, two things happen. The reader assumes you’re browbeating them or they skip them. Have you called your mother lately? What about, sent her a card? Have you let her know you love her? Have you taken time to let her know about your life lately? Why would you wait until she dies to wish you’d talked to her? Pity the reader and shame on you.
This is a common occurrence in crafting devotions. We fall prey to the belief that if we ask the reader multiple questions, they will ponder our impacting words longer. Nothing is further from the truth. Instead of leading your reader into a deeper thought process, you stop them almost immediately at the first sign of a “?”
Questions are a valuable tool, but their placement must be strategic. The overuse of questions is a sure sign of lazy and lax writing.
It’s easy to pose a question and breeze through writing a paragraph, but the real skill in crafting an amazing piece is learning to turn those questions into strong statements. Go back to the old tried and true process of “show don’t tell.”
When a paragraph is crafted with strong statements, the reader is moved to think deeper about their own actions. Let’s revise the question paragraph above into statements and show you just how this works.
I couldn’t remember the last time I called mom, much less when I’d sent a card. I tinkered with the box of letters. To Mom from your Son on Mother’s Day. Merry Christmas Mom from Your Son and his Wife. My fingers walked through the stack of cards. Not one To Mom from Your Daughter. My brothers were always better at that sort of thing. Mom knew all about their lives, but me. . .I was just a shadow of a daughter. Now she’s gone and all I have is regret.
Now turn this paragraph in to a devotional thought:
Regret is a terrible bedfellow. If you can’t instantly recall the last phone call made to your mother, perhaps it’s time reflect. Parents give their all to raise their children and though there is the exception to the rule, most only require an occasional call or letter keeping them up to date on our lives.
Just as there are exceptions for other rules, you’ll find one for the question saga as well, but this self-editing tool will strengthen your work ten-fold. The rules always shift slightly when we enter the world of fiction where questions can become amazing hooks.
Writing is all about effective word choices. Every word, every placement of punctuation can grab and hold your reader or leave them stuck at the first line.
Craft your words so your audience reads from beginning to end without stop signs. The words you write are important and your goal should lead your reader to absorb every word—get the whole picture, not just a small portion.
Don’t write as if you’re a two-year-old firing questions at your mom. Write strong. Be meticulous with your words. Self-edit and tighten. Make the reader want to read because the sentences refuse to turn them loose.
Questions serve an important part in your writing. Learn to use them properly and let them turn your work into a moving and well-sculpted piece.
Photos courtesy of pixabay.com and Gerd Altmann
In the Midst of Chaos
3/17/2020 10:37:00 AM by: Cindy Sproles
The Heart of God
2/14/2020 7:00:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
Writing in a Pickle
1/30/2020 3:00:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
Homonyms – Did You Sea/See Them Their/There?
1/27/2020 3:52:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
The Adult Day Care Alternative
1/23/2020 5:09:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
Social Media Blitz
1/19/2020 11:20:00 AM by: Cindy Sproles
The Joys of Aging
12/30/2019 7:53:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
A Christmas Saga - Joy in the Season
12/25/2019 7:00:00 AM by: Cindy Sproles
The Reality of Who We Are?
12/22/2019 7:53:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
11/30/2019 8:16:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
Be Thankful ANYWAY
11/28/2019 7:00:00 AM by: Cindy Sproles
Who Really Sells Your Books
11/22/2019 3:47:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
Writing Your Mission Statement
11/19/2019 7:38:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
Perseverance to Write
11/16/2019 12:00:00 PM by: Cindy
The Good, The Bad, and the Memoir
11/13/2019 10:59:00 AM by: Cindy Sproles
Common Sense Tips for When You Write
11/9/2019 10:26:00 AM by: Cindy Sproles
The Battle is Fought
10/15/2019 7:00:00 PM by: Cindy
Scratch It Till It Bleeds
10/8/2019 7:00:00 AM by: Cindy Sproles
Twelve Tidbits of Wisdom from Top Christian Writers
10/5/2019 7:00:00 AM by: Cindy Sproles
Pray with Fire
10/3/2019 7:00:00 AM by: Cindy Sproles
Present Yourself Approved and Professional
9/28/2019 7:00:00 AM by: Cindy Sproles
The Easy In
9/24/2019 8:00:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
The Art of Self-Editing
9/10/2019 10:00:00 AM by: Cindy Sproles
9/6/2019 10:00:00 AM by: Cindy Sproles
15-Minute Appointments - Important Networking
9/3/2019 7:00:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
Permission to Quit - No Way
8/30/2019 9:55:00 AM by: Cindy Sproles
Don't Close Your Eyes - Bob Hostetler
2/5/2019 by: Cindy Sproles
Love Your Faculty
10/17/2018 3:00:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
The Immeasurable Power in You
10/14/2018 2:37:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
Forging Ahead after Rejection
7/17/2018 8:12:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
6/4/2018 8:00:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
Closing Up Shop - Guiding Seniors to Letting Go
4/9/2018 10:56:00 AM by: Cindy Sproles
3/16/2018 1:30:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
In Prayer - I Write
3/3/2018 9:00:00 AM by: Cindy Sproles
Keep Them Reading
1/12/2018 11:23:00 AM by: Cindy Sproles
Encouraged - Even When . . .
1/2/2018 12:00:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
12/18/2017 12:00:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
Holiday Elder Care - Be an Elder Elf
11/12/2017 7:00:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
Grateful for a Dream I Didn't Know I Had
11/9/2017 6:30:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
Keep Them Reading
11/1/2017 7:00:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
Chicken Soup for the Soul - Writer Call Out
10/27/2017 10:05:00 AM by: Cindy Sproles
Five Ways to Assure Your Work will Find the Slush Pile
10/24/2017 7:00:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
23rd Psalm Revisited
10/21/2017 7:00:00 AM by: Cindy Sproles
Contentment in Writing
10/19/2017 9:30:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
5 Common Sense Tips to Better Writing
10/10/2017 7:00:00 AM by: Cindy Sproles
8/21/2017 10:05:00 AM by: Cindy Sproles
Chicken Soup for the Soul Callout - Stories about Love
8/21/2017 7:54:00 AM by: Cindy Sproles
Five Keys to Overcoming Rejection
8/12/2017 7:00:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
Writing Call Out - Chicken Soup for the Soul
8/10/2017 8:47:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
When Words of Encouragement Wane
6/28/2017 10:54:00 AM by: Cindy Sproles
Writing Truth with Love
1/13/2017 11:05:00 AM by: Cindy Sproles
Oh To Be A Writer
1/4/2017 11:12:00 AM by: Cindy Sproles
1/1/2017 11:16:00 AM by: Cindy Sproles
6/21/2016 3:48:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
The Pain of Unsolicited
3/9/2016 3:51:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
Frozen in Place – Icey Self-Talk to Freeze Your Writing
2/9/2016 3:58:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
Not Alone: A Literary and Spiritual Companion for Those Confronted with Infertility and Miscarriage
11/21/2015 3:02:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
Thankful Despite . . .
11/20/2015 3:04:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
Stepping Up to Na-No-Wri-Mo
11/16/2015 3:08:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
The Gift of No Gifts
11/2/2015 3:11:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
Writers Be Encouraged
10/15/2015 3:17:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
Keep ‘Em Reading – It’s the Writer’s Responsibility
8/13/2015 3:26:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
7/17/2015 3:31:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
Overcoming the Fear of Writing Failure
7/8/2015 3:38:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
Making the Move – Home to Assisted Living
6/17/2015 3:41:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
I Kid You Not
6/6/2015 3:44:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
Hearing the Call to Foster – Renee McCausey
1/13/2015 3:54:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
Throw Out the Crutches
1/10/2015 5:02:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
So You Were Asked to Be A Beta Reader?
1/10/2015 3:59:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
REJECTIONS – Aaughhh!
1/5/2015 5:04:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
The Bachelor – Stephanie Reed
12/14/2014 5:06:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
The Making of a Servant
11/30/2014 5:10:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
Miracle in a Dry Season Review – Yvonne Lehman
8/27/2014 5:12:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
8/26/2014 5:17:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
World Blog Tour – Catching Up with Cindy Sproles
7/22/2014 5:19:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
The Progression of Life
7/17/2014 5:23:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
Instrumental Writing Helps – Aaron Gansky
7/4/2014 5:27:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
The Question Saga
6/29/2014 5:28:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
Defy the Night – REVIEW
4/28/2014 5:30:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
When the Work is Hard to Do
4/1/2014 5:31:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
My Heart Belongs to Him
2/14/2014 5:32:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
Review of The Vicar’s Wife
2/2/2014 5:44:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
The In on Self Publishing – Part 2
12/29/2013 3:44:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
The In on Self Publishing – Part 1
12/26/2013 3:47:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
Divorce My Words? Never!
10/25/2013 3:50:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
In a Pickle
10/1/2013 3:52:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
Bigger and Better
9/27/2013 3:54:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
Putting SOCIAL back in Media
8/10/2013 8:08:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
After the Conference Ends…
8/8/2013 8:13:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
Here a Tweak, There a Tweak, Everywhere a Tweak, Tweak
8/2/2013 8:15:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
Can You Hear Me Now?
7/23/2013 8:18:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
Golden Years, Cherished Moments
3/20/2013 7:47:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
Broken Heart Syndrome
9/26/2012 7:56:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
What About Our Elders
8/24/2012 7:57:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
A Minute – A Lifetime
8/10/2012 7:58:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles
Water, Water – Who’s Got the Water
7/31/2012 7:59:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles