Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Leave a Tip Today on the Blood-Red Pencil

As on every second Tuesday of the month, it's Leave a Tip Day at The Blood-Red Pencil.

I'd guess you know something about writing or you wouldn't be doing it. Maybe it's something simple you think isn't worth mentioning, because everyone else probably knows it. Think again. You may be surprised how many people don't.

Or, it could be something clever that you've thought up or maybe heard from someone else. Whatever the case, please share.

Your tips can pertain to any aspect of writing, publishing, or editing, and can be about any format or venue, traditional, indie, self-publishing. To share, just leave your tip in the comment section. You may also wish to leave one website or blogspot URL, in case our readers would like to find out more about you.

If you want to, we'd also appreciate your telling us where you've heard of this blog.

Here's my tip:

If you're like me and feel the need to print out what you feel is important to keep it close at hand, you may wish to invest in transparent folders. I bought what's called poly zip envelopes from Staples today, so I can spot the contents, but eliminate some of the desk clutter. They expand to an inch, and even have a zipper on the top like on Zip Lock baggies, so my papers won't slip out.

What about you? Do you have a tip? Or, maybe you'd like to comment on someone else's?
Morgan Mandel writes mysteries,
romances, and thrillers. She's a
past president of Chicago-North
RWA, was the Library Liaison
for Midwest MWA, and is an
active blogger and networker.
Her personal blog is at:
and website is http://www/morganmandel.com.

See her new senior blog at http://spunkyseniors.blogspot.com/
Her romantic suspense, Killer Career, is 99 cents on Kindle and Smashwords. Her thriller, Forever Young - Blessing or Curse is targeted for release first soon on Kindle and at Smashwords.

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  1. Omit Useless Words:
    ...there is no doubt that...
    ...no doubt...

    ...this is a subject that...
    ...this subject...

    ...the reason why is that...

    ...the fact that I had arrived...
    ...my arrival...

    Etc. I could make a longer list, and you could, too.

  2. Great examples, Celia. It's amazing how I find so many ways to tighten my manuscript I hadn't noticed on the first edit.

    Morgan Mandel

  3. Thanks for the tip, Celia. It is always so good to see examples that make us go, duh, I do that all the time. LOL

    My tip involves blocking, or choreographing, scenes with a lot of people in them. The big climax scene in my mystery, Open Season, was very complicated with action taking place inside a house, just outside the house, and on the street in front of the house. I drew a diagram of the scene, like I do of a stage when I am blocking a show, and I put all my people in their various places. Then I planned out the POV switches and how they would flow one to the other and then to another.

  4. I don't use: it started to -
    either its is or it isn't. Even starting means its already is.
    I just stopped reading a book where the author used this repeatedly.

  5. Sometimes knowledge is a dangerous thing. Like Barbara, I've stopped reading books when the author breaks too many rules or does things that irritate me.

    Before my writing bug, I probably would have kept on reading.

    Morgan Mandel

  6. I go through my manuscript and delete the following:

  7. If you're writing dialogue for men, go back and cut at least 1/3 of the words, especially the qualifiers (most of them already listed here in the comments) and questions. Men are direct. They say what the need to say, nothing more. They're not going to ask if someone wants to do something; they'll more likely just say it as a given. Not: "Do you think we should go to the store?" But: "Let's go to the store."

    Terry's Place

  8. I'm not very good at writing a synopsis before I write a book. (I usually write it at the end when the mss is complete and I'm ready to query.) I do have an idea of the plot in my head, but I don't have anything concrete written down and tend to write as I go (a definite pantster!).

    But what I do when I get mostly done with the book, is sit down and do a chapter by chapter grid - listing page count and the major action and plot points in each. I also show who's POV the scenes are in. This helps me to see if the flow is right (before doing a major read-through) and to see if there are any holes.

    Since I often write out of order, seeing this chronilogial outline is really helpful for me.


  9. When my pen stops I take a break-- without guilt. Resting my muse allows her to awaken with zest. I've never experienced writer's block.

  10. Anne,
    I very,really,truly,absolutely,
    totally agree with you.

    Morgan Mandel

  11. This has nothing to do with words, but everything to do with keeping ourselves and our muses fit and healthy: Set a timer for 45 minutes each time you sit down to write. When it goes off, get up! Stretch, do shoulder rolls, touch your toes. Drink a glass of water. Then, sit back down, reset the timer, and get back to writing!

  12. My background is in film & video production and TV commercials. I like to play mood appropriate music in the background. When I close my eyes, I can see the scene I'm in the middle of writing. The music can't have lyrics because I'm too easily distracted by the words.
    My Youtube Videos http://www.youtube.com/user/Maxbooks100#p/u

  13. These are all GREAT! I'll add a word to Anne's list (I do that list too). SUDDENLY. When I took a writing class from Dru Campbell in San Diego (Great writer - great teacher) she told her students, "You may use the word suddenly ONCE in your manuscript!" Why? It's telling. Instead, SHOW the action.

  14. So many great ideas here. I do a search for "ly" when I'm editing to root out all those adverbs. Also, I read the ms. out loud to unearth all those clunky sentences.

  15. Terry, my husband is the opposite! LOL. Which means it's not such a bad idea to break the "rules" now and again to create an unusual character. But do it with purpose, so the reader can really tell what you're doing. Add a man who is consistently ambivelent. Or even too talkative! That could be used to good effect. Great points.

  16. My tip is to write well on blogs and on other social sites. You can be more casual, but sometimes this is the first place readers will sample your writing skill and style. Don't fall into sloppy habits just because the venue is casual. Bad speling and stupid punctuation !!! is annoying everywhere, right??? There's also no rule that says you can't correct a blog error after it has published. Edit everywhere, if you can.

  17. Celia and Anne,
    I really, really, well hardly ever use too many words, although my editor tells me I do. Your tips are a great reminder for all of us.

  18. Write what you love, not what you think will sell. It's all a crap shoot, anyway, and you may as well enjoy what you do!

  19. I like Smoky's timer idea. Staying at the keyboard too long can dull the senses, also play havoc with the neck, back and wrists, even the legs get tired.

    Morgan Mandel

  20. A couple more words for the delete list (or at the least, question their use):

    Without context, words like "beautiful/ugly" and "delicious/disgusting" are meaningless.

    Excise introductory words inserted into dialogue repetitively to create "realistic voice," like "So" and "Well." You haven't created voice, you've bloated your manuscript.

  21. When I'm writing, I can be distracted by other thoughts of other projects. I keep a notebook that I call "Running Lists" and jot everything down for later. Gets it out of my mind.

  22. Read your manuscript at loud voice or have your computer read it to you in Adobe. It will help you catch repetitive words or ideas, missing words, and it will help you check if your story is flowing.

  23. I learned this when I first started out and I still do it: when going over your work, edit it as if it was written by someone you don't like. It's a lot easier to be critical, and not infatuated with it! But don't do any editing when you're creating your first draft. Let it flow, as sloppy as it is!

  24. Unplug for half a day and write! You cannot focus or help your imagination while constantly tweeting and yodeling on Facebook. Humans do not multi-task well, no matter how much they think they can. Unplug.

  25. Mystery and thriller writers tend to get so caught up in the denouement that they write the scenes too quickly. When revising, pay extra attention to your endings and finales to make sure that the action/explanations are clear and don't confuse the reader.

  26. So, Well, I guess I need to go back to my manuscript and do a search for So and Well and see if I can eliminate some of them. Well, they're kind of favorites, so I'll have to try my hardest to eliminate them.

    Morgan Mandel

  27. I review for two sites and what I am reading from the best selling authors goes against most of what we've been taught. Since they are the ones making the big bucks and getting great reviews from places like Publisher's weekly, I am going back to my original way of writing. My book was well received and loved by many even with me deliberating breaking rules like switching tenses in flashbacks, and not giving up all my beloved "ly" words. I am also fond of "ing" words. When it comes down to it, you can be a great, perfect writer with a book that no one wants or you can be a storyteller that draws people to your words, not your grammar perfection. I also don't want my work to be a clone of others , which is happening in the genre world. Writing should stand out and be remembered for years later, and this often means breaking some rules.

  28. Thanks for all the great suggestions.

    Here's a tip:
    I once asked a famous writer how he makes his characters so real. His answer was that before he begins a novel he searches through magazines for photos of people he visualize as his characters. He then tapes the photos on the wall above his computer so when he is writing his novel his characters are in the room with him.
    Donna V.

  29. I'm guilty of "suddenly".

    To the list of "So" and "Well" in dialogue, I'd add "You see". It sounds ridiculous, even though many people do use it in real life. It grates so much for me that it is one of the breakers that cause me to stop reading a book.

    HearWriteNow & Blood-Red Pencil

  30. I have an infallible cure for writer's block. When stumped for words, I engineer a conversation between the ketchup bottle and the salt cruet on my breakfast table.

    'I say, who was that lady I saw you with last night?'

    'That was no lady, sir, it was a condiment.'

    'No need to be saucy.'

    And so the drivel goes. After that, I find I'm writing.

  31. Never rush your story. It is amazing what was written yesterday is clumsily presented the next day. A superfluous word here, an extraneous exclamation there can make all the difference. I have seen too many self published stories that really do need a rewrite. Time is of the essence in the sense that it takes time to create something worthwhile. Speedwriting is for journalists who have practiced their trade and studied for it. Us writers are just that. And stringing sentences together does not make a good read in itself.

  32. Beware of 'as.' Young writers over-use 'as' for a time signature. Substitute others: while, when, once, before, after, or replace 'as' with a period and make the part after it a full sentence.

    John Desjarlais
    BLEEDER: a mystery
    VIPER: a mystery

  33. My RSS feed always delivers these time-dependent postings a day late, so I apologize for my untimely response.

    I write thrillers with fairly complicated story lines. Whenever I get bogged down at one place, I skip ahead--sometimes way ahead--and start writing a much later scene or chapter. That invariably triggers ideas about what has to be introduced earlier to lead up to the results. Obsessive-compulsives who outline everything probably never have need for this tactic, but for the rest of us, it can be both freeing and help to keep all the threads interwoven.

    --Larry Constantine
    Lior Samson's Author Blog

  34. I need to practice this myself, Turn off the phone, email, Facebook, etc and sit down to write. " I'll just check my email" wastes valuable writing time if I don't set a specific time for email.
    Write, Write, Write... then market, email, network. NO reason to do the other things if you don't have a written product to sell.

    And I agree. Write what you love, write tight, and take needed breaks for your health. All good tips from the pro's.


  35. Networking and blogging is a good way to reach other writers and readers, but never forget that the very best way to increase sales is to always have new books being published. If a reader likes one of your books, she will search for everything else you have written.

  36. When I remember I put a kitchen timer on my desk and set it for 30 minutes to an hour and try to write as much as possible within that time. Of course, I have to remember to put the timer on my desk...

  37. Great advice, everyone!
    I do a word search for my personal "favorites", words and phrases I know I overuse (like "just") and get rid of most of them.
    I also read the whole book aloud, which is great for fine-tuning.
    To create characters, I mentally interview them, asking what they were like in school or what they do in their free time, etc. That creates realistic, "whole" people in my mind rather than just a flat character I need for scene v.

  38. Great tips, guys. I'm always on the look-out for extraneous words in my editing projects (and I can keep watch in my own work.)

  39. Wow, some sound advice here for sure. My tip is for your first draft only, of course. Just keep writing. I don't worry about punctuation, capital letters, spelling. I don't do anything to stop my flow. Plenty of time for edits when you have got the bones of your story written.




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