Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Leave A Tip On the Blood-Red Pencil Today

Spring is in the air. Buds are blooming into beautiful flowers.

Some manuscripts are still buds or seedlings waiting to realize their full potential. Others are almost there. One cogent tip may be all that's needed to fertilize a manuscript so it can leap from an author's computer onto Amazon, Smashwords, maybe a traditional publisher, or another place in the universe where its beauty can be appreciated.

Today, as in every second Tuesday of the month, you're invited to Leave A Tip On The Blood Red Pencil. Share something you've learned about writing. Even if the tip seems obvious or too tiny to mention, do it anyway. Writing is a learning experience, and not everyone knows exactly what you do.
If you agree that someone else's tip is terrific, you're more than welcome to say so. Stop by more than once, check out the other tips, and decide whether you'd like to use one or more in your writing.

I'll start with one -

Be sure to vary sentence structure instead of starting every sentence the same way. You can do this by making some if them short, some long, some starting with prepositions or conjunctions, some without.

Okay, now, it's your turn to leave a tip. Don't forget to also leave your name, along with one website or blog link. It's not mandatory, but is much appreciated, if you mention where you've heard of us.
Morgan Mandel

Killer Career is 99 cents on Kindle and Smashwords

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  1. My tip is Lose the Adverbs. Especially after dialog tags. Instead of saying - she said thoughtfully, just say she said. Or better yet, show her doing something that shows us she's thoughtful. She scratched her head, or she lowered her eyebrows or she did that funny little thing she always does when she's thinking. Kill the adverbs!

  2. Forgot to add my url -


  3. Learn to use the best word when you want the reader to understand your point.

    For instance, Before I corrected the sentence above, I wrote 'learn to use the RIGHT word.' Hmmm .... right is the opposite of left. That is not what I meant. I did mean BEST which is a choice that is superior to all others to express your concept.

    For instance:

    Finding the best word is difficult but concrete is hard when you find it.

  4. When editing, have a separate 'master file' and copy over only the parts you are happy with. Don't write directly into this file if you have to produce new material as you edit.

    That way you feel less pressure to create perfect new content during the editing phase. Works for me anyway!

    I also open a new file for each edit so I can leave the old version untouched. You never know when you mgiht think 'Whoops, how did I solve that plot problem first time around?'


  5. My tip is divest yourself of material things so you can spend more time writing and less time at a job that may not nourish your creativity.

    I don't remember where I first heard of you, but you've been on my blog roll for a long time.


  6. My tip is to read the manuscript from back page to front when editing. It's amazing how not reading the story helps with the edits.


  7. Here is a tip that helped me a lot when editing: Convert your manuscript to a pdf file in Adobe, and then go to view in your computer, and click on the READ-OUT-LOUD feature. The computer will read your story. You can't believe how many errors you may catch this way, especially missing words, repetitious words and redundant ideas. In addition you will find out if your story flows or not. Try it. I used this technique to edit my new book Rx IN RUSSIAN a new release at The Wild Rose Press.

  8. Thanks for the marvelous tips so far. I never heard of the read out loud feature in Adobe. I'll have to try it.

    Morgan Mandel

  9. I'm the most productive in a coffee shop. There are no distractions, especially if don't hook up to the free wireless. The caffeine and the atmosphere seem to jog me out of being blocked.

    I have found that copious amounts of Diet Dr. Pepper late at night is almost as good.

  10. Use the "Find" control F feature a lot: Look for "ly" adverbs, "was" probably passive tense, "When" make sure your comma use is correct in those sentences, words you know you repeat.
    The find feature is a great help in editing.


  11. Patricia HarringtonApril 12, 2011 at 9:02 AM

    I never met a "that" that I didn't love. I keep a list of pet words and then ruthlessly go through the manuscript to cut them out. Usually, the poor things are adverbs, the "ly" words, I leave them in the dustbin. Must say, they don't go away EASILY but re-group to sneak into a manuscript another day.

    On another note, anyone checking out/buying Winter's Soul, Gothic mystery novella $2.99) on Museitup Publishing, Amazon. Leave a comment, let me know. Sending equal donation to Japan's Dog/Cat Rescue efforts.

  12. Great tips so far. Great tip from Christine about reading pages backwards for the final proofing. That is a trick I learned from a magazine publisher many moons ago when I was just starting out as an editor for the magazine.

  13. Wow I really enjoyed the advice. As a new writer I sometimes struggle with many of these and I love getting advice on steps I can take to combat these problems. Keep the tips coming!


    Mother/Gamer/Writer @ http://empyreanedge.com

  14. There's always a better verb. Instead of walked: entered, marched, trotted,

    Instead of look: glanced, gazed, peered.

    Think of the stronger verb for your sentence!

    You can find me at:
    Stephanie Burkhart Online
    http://www.stephanieburkhart.com &


  15. Learn grammar and punctuation rules. At the very least, pay attention to Word's complaints about the language, spelling, or structure in any part of your manuscript. While not always right on, this useful feature takes a giant step in the right direction.

    Owning and using the Chicago Manual of Style makes great sense. Commas (or lack thereof) can make or break a sentence, a paragraph, a book. Yes, this is a pain in the backside, but your utilizing this valuable tool can transport your reader from a “huh?” moment to an “aha!” moment—and that’s worth its weight in gold.

  16. It's important that the parts of the scene lead somewhere and that it builds the plot. As you read and edit, slash stuff that isn't a story building block.

    Maggie Toussaint

  17. Lose the ellipsis. So many really strong writers water down their work with seemingly dangling thoughts. More often than not, a period works as well and seems more decisive. Really, the ellipsis is like the ! and should be used at most, three times, in a manuscript. Getting rid of this crutch is the fastest way to strengthen the voice of the characters, as well as the author.

  18. My tip today is on behalf of all the people in the world who read books aloud to others: If you are going to qualify how something is said, could you please do it before the dialogue?

    Case in point:
    "Don't do it," he said. To underscore his urgency, he lowered his voice to a whisper.

    All the important info comes after I've boomed out, "Don't do it"! Makes me want to go back and re-read.

    Much better:
    He lowered his voice to an urgent whisper: "Don't do it."

  19. Either as you write or on the first read-through, open a second document and track your characters. You'll might be surprised by unnoticed mistakes, like minor character Josie crossing the street to avoid a black cat in Chapter 28 when she moved out of state in Chapter 14.

  20. I love Kathryn's tip! I'd never thought of it and it makes so much sense.

  21. My tip is to write even when you don't feel like it. Something will come to you, and you'll make more progress than you think!

  22. As Deborah said, write. You can edit crap but you can't edit what you have not yet written.

  23. Don't spend too much time showing versus telling during your first draft. You will be rewriting so much of it later when you nail everything down that you'll have to redo it anyway.


  24. Excellent point, Maggie! If it doesn't contribute to the story, get rid of it.

    Kathryn, what you said makes perfect sense and will contribute so much to the smooth, logical flow of the story. Great advice for all writers!

  25. My tip comes from the workshop I am currently attending: "All action must advance the story. If it doesn't, get rid of it." I'm an old follower, but I found The Blood Red Pencil through Straight from Hel.

  26. Use wordle.net to create a word picture of each chapter. This shows you which words you might be over-using without realising.

  27. I posted a couple of Track Changes tips on my blog yesterday. You can find them in here.

    Terry's Place
    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

  28. I just read a blog this week that said the best possible promotion you can be doing is writing more books. Word-of-mouth is still the very best advertising and it's free. But if you don't have a selection of books for eager readers to buy, they will go on to another author. So do what you love the most and write more books! Words that warm the cockles of my heart!

  29. So many tips, and all of them great! The more the better.

    Morgan Mandel

  30. About reading your manuscript aloud: This may sound weird, but I read somewhere (I forget where right now) to read your ms in a kind of monotone, because if you dramatize it like you would if you were reading a book aloud to your kids, you may be injecting life into it that isn't actually there on the printed page. If you just read it in a more emotionless way, you're more likely to detect parts that fall flat and need a intense or colorful words, varied sentence structure, faster pacing, etc.

  31. Print a copy of your manuscript and edit that. It's difficult to see your mistakes on the computer. Get a cup of coffee or tea, sit in your favorite chair with a red pen and go for it. You'll be surprised at what you missed on the computer

    Carlene Rae Dater

  32. Writers need to learn the benefits and uses of the colon and semi-colon. Instead of breaking up the clauses into a number of sentences learn which colon is better to make the passage flow rather than having it sound choppy with lots of smaller sentences.

  33. Strive to learn something new each day that will help you in your writing. And write!

  34. Excellent comments, but first and foremost love what you do.
    Margot Justes
    A Hotel in Paris

  35. I save the links from 'Blood-Red Pencil,' and re-read them later.
    Vary sentence structure for pace, timing and mood. For that reason I will probably still use the occasional adverb.
    Listening to other authors is extremely useful. I listen and mentally review what I've been doing lately!


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.


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