Writing… The Truth Shall Set You Free

Many writers ask me to help them improve and promote their work. However, when their actions contradict what they said they want to do with their writing, challenges arise. Author A longed to publish a memoir that could become a Hollywood film but refused the suggestion to pare 20 character point of views down to two or three. Author B desired to produce a suspense novel but rejected advice to rework the plot line so the villain wasn’t revealed in Act I. Author C expected to garner a network cooking show after indie-pubbing his roadkill cookbooks but rejected the fact …

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6 Ways to Avoid Neutralizing Your Writing

It. What a cute little, two-letter word. Small but mighty, it can mean everything yet nothing at all. A go-to word for authors of every classification, genre, style, size, platform, etc. of writing, it shows up everywhere like your shadow. Using it in a sentence isn’t necessarily grammatically incorrect or unacceptable by any seemingly formidable literary entity (usually referred to as “they”) that makes rules that, for some strange reason, authors blindly follow. However, it is a blah word. Using it in your prose often and frivolously creates vague, feeble writing that renders your compositions less enjoyable and/or effective.   …

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How To Write For 20 Miles

Motivation is an ongoing struggle for authors. Fiction and nonfiction… traditional and indie… Bestsellers and busters… all authors—at one time or another—have trouble kindling the creativity fire, including me. “If I waited to be inspired, I would be screwed.”— Srinivas Rao Host and founder of the popular podcast the Unmistakable Creative, Srini Rao, shared how he took his writing to the next level by focusing on a daily creative habit. There was only one way I was going to be able to pull this off: write 1,000 a day. It had to go from being a task on my to-do …

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Keep Your Train of Thought On Track

Keeping your readers moving seamlessly through your book is a challenge every author faces. One element that helps ensure Joe and Jane Public stay with your story and logically connect to your ideas is transitions.   Transitions are the connectors, the bridges, the stepping stones that tell your readers what to do with the information you’re presenting. They must be planned and relevant, or they stick out like files on a birthday cake. Within a paragraph, transitions provide coherence: the sense that a paragraph has only one main idea. Gene ordered his favorite meal at the taco stand. He grabbed the …

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Energize Your Writing With Active Sentences

An editing pet peeve of mine is reading a sentence that could have been great, but the author settled for good enough. For example: It was very dark as Victor stepped into the street and waited. There are four types of alcoholics. It was there that I stayed stretched out and longing for some time. There were dangerous people milling around Red Square. It is possible that Hope’s capture at the undercover exchange was inevitable. This was obviously the tastefully decorated living room of a wealthy lawyer, banker, or CEO. There will be millions of victims if the premier refuses …

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Easy Ways to Remember Difficult Words

You’re kicking butt, editing your latest piece of writing excellence, when everything comes to a screeching halt. Affect? Effect? Hmm… Affect? Effect? Argh!!! Instead of stopping your writing flow to jump on the Internet (for the fiftieth time) to look up which one it is, here’s an easy way to remember: RAVEN: Remember Affect Verb Effect Noun Affect is an action verb that means to influence something. Effect is usually a noun that means something that was influenced. (It can also be used as a verb meaning to bring about, but that usage is rare.) The dampness of the moors …

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The Easy-Peasy, Lemon-Squeezy Guide to Types of Editing

Confused by all the names and types of editing out there? Me, too! So, to be helpful (and clear up the confusion in my head), here are the nitty-gritty basics about editing stages for fiction and non-fiction books alike.   Developmental Editing addresses a manuscript’s soul. What is it? Developmental Editing (also known as structural editing, project editing, chapter-level editing, or book doctoring) focuses on big-picture items like organization, flow, market suitability, subject or plot execution, reading ease, pacing, characterization, point of view, and dialogue. Who needs Developmental Editing? Writers that are: • New to writing. • Unfamiliar with the …

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Into? In To? Onto? On To? Argh!

Prepositions like into, in to, onto, and on to can drive writers crazy. Don’t worry. Correct usage is easy if you remember a few simple things. Into, in to, onto, and on to are prepositions of direction, answering the question “where.” But not always.   Into starts a prepositional phrase that shows direction, movement, position, or transformation from one thing into another. Cinderella stepped into her carriage. Movement is to the interior of the carriage. Cinderella’s carriage turned into a pumpkin after midnight. The carriage transformed. The remodeling project turned into a big mess. Glynnis threw diced tomatoes into the …

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How to Make Your Fictional Characters Seem Real

You overhear two people on a blind date, and the first few minutes of your conversation goes something like this… “Hi, I’m Bubba.” “Nice to meet you. I’m Whitney. Where are you originally from?” “Birmingham, Alabama.” “Oh, a gun-toting, God-fearing redneck that hates anybody that isn’t exactly like you, believes the War of Northern Aggression never ended, and is currently going through a divorce from your cousin. Let me guess… you’re gonna order country-fried steak. Am I right?” “Right on all fronts, Karen! And where are you from?” “New York City.” “Ah… So, you’ll be ordering pizza or a bagel. …

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Diagramming Sentences: Grammar’s X-Ray Machine

Yeah… I hear the booing and hissing. I see the eyes rolling. Sentence diagramming? Are you kidding, Annie? No. I’m. Not. Diagramming is essential to writing better fiction. Complain all you want, but diagramming can improve your writing immensely. Just like the ER X-ray taken of my foot to see if I broke it tripping over a rattlesnake on a hiking trail (Okay, it turned out to be a stick, but it was a huge stick, and I saw it move… twice.), a sentence diagram helps you see the structure of what you wrote. By placing the various parts in …

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