Blog

5 Ways to Kill A Sentence

“Great story, but I had a hard time reading it.” “Incredible concept, but your writing didn’t jump off the page.” “A compelling plot, but the style throughout was flat.” But… but… but… Tired of hearing this about your novel? Maybe you’re guilty of a sentence crime. It happens every day in some part of the world, a poor, defenseless sentence becomes the unwilling victim of a homicide. Hit and run. Voluntary manslaughter. Murder. The saddest thing? Often times the killer is unaware a crime has been committed and continues about his or her fiction writing, unable to stop committing the …

Continue Reading

Grammar No-No’s That Aren’t (Necessarily…)

Attention Grammar Nazis, Ninjas, and Police. The following article may be too much for your purist hearts. Show of hands… how many of you out there cringe when you see a sentence like this: The gunman shoved a gun in Jenny’s face and ordered her to immediately open the safe. Or one like this: Dominick was certain this bimbo was not the one he’d left the bar with. Or this: However Pollyanna tried, she couldn’t get her mind off Darnell. Or, finally, this: Brady was tormented by memories of the accident. Okay, my hands are up for all four. So, …

Continue Reading

Right Word = Right Image = Right Emotion

You wrote the book of your heart, the novel that you dreamed about writing since you were ten. You know the one. The manuscript that poured out of your soul onto the page like it was dictated by God. Your family and your critique partners said it was the best book they ever read. You even placed in a few contests. So, you published that baby knowing that once the world fell in love with it, too, Oprah would select your novel for her reading club. Except… Reader reviews say the characters are dull and unlikeable, the story lacks depth and …

Continue Reading

The Comma Sutra of Fiction Writing (Yeah, I Went There)

The comma is the most commonly used punctuation mark in standard written English. Yet, it is the most misused. I have good news about commas and bad news. The bad news? Hundreds of rules regarding correct comma usage exist. The good news? You only need to know six of them for 99% of commercial writing purposes. Rule #1: Use a comma with an introductory element, i.e., a word, phrase, or clause before the main part of a sentence. The element usually tells something about the main clause. When the waltz was over, Ewan released his partner. Once he produced an …

Continue Reading

Conflict in Fiction… Yeah, You Gotta Have It (Part 1)

Conflict is the lifeblood of a manuscript. Without it, nothing happens except a lot of rationalization and angst. Deb Dixon explains it perfectly: Conflict is the reason your character can’t have what he or she wants. If your character could have what he or she wanted, then you have no book! In life, how we manage conflict—how we act when up against it—makes us… “us.” Same is true for your characters, especially main ones. Conflict keeps your story going and reveals much about your characters. Conflict is the gap between expectation and the actual result. Three levels of conflict for …

Continue Reading

One-Minute Grammar… Hyphenation Between Words

Poor Mr. Hyphen. He gets no respect. Considering he can combine the power of two words (sometimes three) and force them to work together to describe a noun—all in one simple swoop—Mr. Hyphen is one mighty mark. Andrew planned to build a new company headquarters with fifty stories. Andrew’s plans called for a new fifty-story company headquarters. Verb or noun phrases are hyphenated when they serve as compound adjectives, i.e., work together to describe nouns. If they show up somewhere else in a sentence, use no hyphen. Ken quit school in the fifth grade. Ken’s fifth-grade education limited his ability …

Continue Reading

How To Be An Invisible Writer

If you read the headline and expected tips on how to disappear so that your family, friends, and/or co-workers leave you alone so you can make your next deadline, sorry. However, if you have time, read on anyway. You just might learn something. As a writer, you want your reader to be interested in your characters and the action, not your writing. You must remain invisible and not distract your reader from the story with obvious or strained writing. One way is to vary sentence length and variety. Sentence Length Involves the Writer’s Purpose, Good Grammar, Variety, And Rhythm The …

Continue Reading

6 Things You Need To Know About “Was”

Some writers love it. Most are passive about it. Some editors can take it or leave it. Others abhor it. Was can be your best friend or your worst enemy. It all depends on how you use it in your writing. “Was” Is Your Rough-Draft Go-To Verb. Was is the perfect verb to use when throwing down the rough draft of your novel. Madeline was sad. The stranger was in the dark hall. Emily was coming around the corner. It was imperative they find the killer. Instead of stopping to look for the right word to describe how sad Madeline was or …

Continue Reading

Does Your Reader “See” What You “See”?

Last weekend, I was reminded that people “see” words differently. Hubby and I were cycling a beautiful section of road near Mountain Green. At one point, a woman and a man rode by and waved. Hubby said, “Did you see that couple blow past us?” “Yeah, how long have they been together?” I replied. Hubby looked at me like I’d grown a second head. (Since he regularly rides with the local cycling club and the pair waved, I assumed he knew the riders.) “What makes you think they’re ‘together’?” “Because you said ‘couple’,” I answered. And I’m a hopeless romantic. …

Continue Reading

Why Hire An Editor?

A friend recently asked me to take a look at a novel she’d bought for her Kindle. A huge fan of cowboy romance, she’d been extremely excited to sample a new indie-pubbed offering by one of her favorite fiction authors. However, my friend refused to read past the first three pages because “the writing was stilted, convoluted, and difficult to follow.” She planned to post a negative review and ask for a refund on her purchase. My friend’s reasoning? “I read fiction for pleasure. If I have to work that hard to figure out who is saying what and what …

Continue Reading