Writing Without Fear of the Red Pen

The Fear of the Red Pen

Writing is a joy for some, but a terror to others.

What makes one person enjoy the process while others are terrified by it?

Some would-be authors find themselves constrained by the how-to’s, structural rules and regulations bought upon by well-meaning teachers who choose to use the red pen more than they ought.

It’s not that the red pen isn’t necessary, it’s just that grammar and punctuation isn’t all that writing is.

Put the fear of the red pen away and enjoy the writing process.
Put the fear of the red pen away and enjoy the writing process.

Writing is the thought, the intent, the emotion, the mental anguish, the imagination unleashed.

When used too early, the red pen is perceived as an attack against the soul.

It is what is feared, that somehow one is incapable of expressing themselves properly. The red pen is sometimes received as an acknowledgement of the fear of failure that resides within ourselves.

So, put aside the red pen until later.

Expressions should be allowed in the first stages of the writing process.

Plotting, outlining, summarizing, etc., these terms can be scary to someone who just wants the freedom to write.

So, in the beginning stages why not just write.

Let your thoughts flow.

Allow yourself to make mistakes, but get your expressions out. You might find some great ideas in those lines you have penned or typed.

Next take those ideas and expound on them.

Visualize your characters, know their hardships and fears, know them intimately.

Surround those characters with settings that magnify their problems or at least don’t interfere with the progression of the story.

Make the setting fit the story line.

Accidents on curvy mountain roads, falls from rocky cliffs, heart attacks on hiking trails, broken hearts in movie theaters, loneliness at the school dance…

Insert lively characters that fit the setting.

We expect cowboys in Texas or Australia, businessmen in suits on Wall Street, bankers in Switzerland, skiers in Colorado or the Alps, fishermen off Nova Scotia. We know and are familiar with housewives in suburbia, school teachers in rural areas, and farmers on the Midwestern plains.

Writing, authoring, scribbling, or whatever you may call it, is just expressing your imagination on paper.

Let your imagination run wild. Sci-fi, fantasy, romance.  You can pretend to be anywhere at any time.

Today, yesterday, or tomorrow…There is no limitation to time on the written pages of your mind.

Share your thoughts, share your dreams, share your fears. Hide behind your pseudonym, your pen name, your ghost writer, or whoever.

Your words become forces that confront the reality of existence.

Keep the story moving forward.

You are an author. Your words may not be written down in a best-selling novel, but they are your words in action. Just be sure your words do not kill your onward progression to what lies ahead. Make them positive words that encourage, instill, and infuse joy, excitement, and contentment.

Make your words lively to the reader. Keep them searching for the next word on the next trail of pages. The red pen can come later.


Do you find yourself fearing the red pen?

Don’t be afraid to have your writing critiqued. Share it with several people who will honestly respond to what you have written. Consider their comments.

Remember that you are the author. You can choose to accept or reject their recommendations. But if you are wise, you will learn from the critiquing experience and your writing will improve.

Proofreading for grammar and punctuation is in the last stages of the writing process. That’s when you can appreciate the red pen.

What are your fears in the writing process?
What is keeping you from becoming the next best-selling author?

Description: A Study of Words and Phrases

Description: An Author’s Quest for Words

The study of description is an ongoing and intensive study of individual words and phrases.

The one who wishes to master description is on the pursuit for the right word.

His or her mission is to find the exact word or phrase. Not just any word or phrase will do. It must be the exact word that completely and satisfactorily fits.

His quest will take him on a journey into the vast treasury of vocabulary, usage, and cultural expressions.

He must make himself acquainted with words, introduce himself to those who use words, and associate himself with the tools that open up the world of words.

His acquisition of tools will include general and specialized dictionaries, thesauruses, and word lists.

Great literary works of the present and past will capture his attention as he seeks to increase his vocabulary through this most useful pastime.

He will pore over his tools until he subdues the language and extracts just the right wording to accurately convey.

Then – Eureka!  The right word or phrase has been discovered!

The reader of his words can “see.” His description is complete. He has mastered the description.

Now he begins his quest for the next “right” word.  It must be exact! It must accurately describe.

Good authors must study description.

The following will aid you in your study of description.
  1. Increase your vocabulary through reading quality literature.
  2. Utilize dictionaries and thesauruses. Collect an assortment of specialized dictionaries.
  3. Create and collect word lists.
  4. Observe people, places, and actions.
  5. Study analogy.
  6. Memorize passages such as text from the King James Bible.
  7. Create separate concrete noun and verb lists.
  8. Notice how authors use imagery in their writings.
  9. Don’t give up the pursuit!

Copyright 2017 by Peggy Clark


What descriptive words have you discovered lately?

Have you begun your own word lists?

What have you found to be your best tool to utilize when writing?

Four Tips to a Great Book

Craft a great story.

Publish your accomplishment.

Keep me coming back for more.

Who doesn’t love lounging under warm covers with a good book in hand?

Which of you haven’t staved off sleep to finish a page-turner?

What keeps your book in my hands when others are screaming for my attention?

These four tips will drown those other voices and get me to your final page.

  1. Get my attention!

  • Use the active voice.

Even if you begin your story with the setting (where, when) that so many of us were taught in class, use active voice instead of passive voice.

Consider the following:

The sun was setting behind the hills that were around the little town of NoWhere. John and Jill were living in a house at the end of Sober Street. There was a garden beside the house. They also had a small flock of chickens.

So nowhere…and boring…and sober….and are you asleep yet?

Or would this be your preference:

The sun peered above the hills and threw its rays into the town of NoWhere reaching through the half-closed curtains at the end of Sober Street. Inside, John and Jill absorbed the potential consequences of their pillaged garden.

  • Activate your story with action.

A dramatic scene is better than an uneventful one; such as, an evening ride that happens to end in a crash. Startle me with the crash and then give me the details.

Consider the following:

John and Jill decided to go for a ride. They were riding down the highway in their red convertible when they happened upon a white truck.

Or would this be your preference:

Brakes screamed as white meshed with red, each vying to occupy the same spot of pavement.

Television dramas reveal the crime first and then continue through a series of events that lead to the capture of the accused. The action creates the desire to know what happened and why.

NCIS is the number one television drama because of the usage of this method. Its viewers keep coming back for more.

  • Use questions to get attention.

Another method is to use questions to gain attention.

Jesus used this method when relaying His Parable of the Lost Sheep:

“What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?” Luke 15:4

If nothing else, make me step into the story long enough to answer the question.

  1. Don’t make me hunt for the topic.

When presented with questions from John the Baptist, Jesus’ response was direct: Go and tell. Notice His response in the following verse:

“Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached.” Luke 7:22

John’s disciples were to report to John what they themselves had seen and heard. That is telling the story. Teachers call it “Sticking to the Topic.”

Jesus also used strong nouns and active verbs.

Notice the simple but succinct wording that lets us visualize the action:

The blind see. The lame walk. The lepers are cleansed. The deaf hear. The dead are raised. The gospel is preached.

Tell me your story with strong nouns and verbs that let me use my imagination to see the action. Don’t drag me down with a series of unnecessary and lengthy descriptives that send me to a screeching halt and a closed book.

  1. Keep me interested.

  • Give me a scenario that gets my attention and keeps me reading.

When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he told a parable that caught their attention.

“There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of my adversary.” Luke 18:2-3

  • Use the element of surprise to your advantage.

This parable pitted a ruthless judge against a widow who had no man to intercede for her. Her boldness in coming before the judge intrigued the disciples.

How would this judge respond? Obviously, not as the disciples imagined. The element of surprise caught the disciples off-guard causing them to think carefully about what they had just heard. Please surprise me!

  • Get my attention and keep me hunting for the next clue.

Unravel the threads of the story ever so slowly but at just the right speed to keep me traveling to the next page.

Don’t lose me in wasted words and unnecessary actions that add no value to the story.

  1. Make me satisfied with the ending (but you can make me beg for more!)

Cinderella and the Prince lived happily ever after. (But, what change came over the kingdom?)

The woodsman killed the wolf. (But, did Goldilocks overcome the trauma of her grandmother’s death?)

“And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And he said unto them, It is enough.” Luke 22:38

It is enough. Say what you need to say, no more, no less. (But, why two swords? One cut off a soldier’s ear; what did the other do?)

I expect Good to win over Evil. I expect Evil to be reprimanded. I expect Good to be rewarded regardless of the troubles that Good encounters.

Shakespeare’s classics stood the test of time because of these expectations woven throughout his stories.

Use these four tips to make yours a classic, and let me enjoy it for years to come.

Copyright 2016 by Peggy Clark


Do you have a story waiting to be shared?

Have you used strong nouns and active verbs?

Have you replaced unnecessary and lengthy wording with specific and descriptive wording?

Then now is the time to let someone else preview your writing. Use their analysis to improve your story.

Peggy Clark is the author of So, What's the Latest News? Messages from a Prisoner in Rome published by WestBow Press, a division of Thomas Nelson & Zondervan.