Skip to main content


Showing posts from December, 2014

An Extra Month

The end is here. Another year has come and gone. Like me, do you feel you could use another month to catch up with everything undone from 2014? That’s one reason Gurutej Khalsa’s book, The 13th Month: How To Get An Extra 29 Days Each Year , caught my attention. I first learned of this author through my yoga practice – I’ve enjoyed her video, Chakra Yoga , for many years.  So I knew the foundation of the book would be rooted in yoga practice.  However, it’s written in a decidedly accessible and conversational voice, and nothing in the suggestions would keep the average person from applying the techniques.  As I read each chapter, a handful of ideas resonated with me, and these are the ones I’ll apply or ramp up in the new year. Let’s begin with the areas of food and exercise. I've long had a healthy diet, eating mostly organic (and often homegrown or locally acquired) foods. I exercise daily, in some combination of walking (3-5 miles), weight lifting, and yoga.

Ask the Editor: And then?

This post was first published here on April 8, 2010. In my newsletter, I told subscribers that if they had a grammar question, they could ask me or post the question here on The Blood-Red Pencil. Kathy Lee Scott , who’s both a dancer and a writer, emailed to ask this: Is it "and then," or could it be just "then"? One person insisted I make all my "then's" into "and then's." To my ear, it doesn't sound correct. Plus it adds an unnecessary conjunction, in my opinion. Hi Kathy, Thanks for this very timely question. I say ‘timely’ because I’ve recently heard several people ask this same question. The long-standing rule is you must put an ‘and’ with ‘then’ if you use ‘then’ as a conjunctive joining two independent clauses. You can zip over to Capital Community College Foundation ’s well-know grammar pages where you’ll find grammar guidance as well as a link to “Conjunction Junction” (Scholastic Rock, 1972). The hard truth is ‘the

Are Book Launch Parties Worth It?

This post was first published here on April 26, 2012. Left is Sally, a friend I sold my first book to in 2006. Seated is Bill, an old friend (91 yrs to be exact), then me, Morgan Mandel, to my right is Rosemary, a grammar school friend. I'd grown complacent with putting my romantic thriller, Forever Young: Blessing or Curse , on Kindle and other electronic media; but still, whenever I ran into certain friends, inevitably they'd ask when was my book Launch Party. Well, that proved print books were still in demand, at least in certain circles, so I bit the bullet and got my book published through CreateSpace, not an easy task to accomplish. I checked the proof when it came in, found some errors to correct, so sent off for another. When everything looked all right with the book, I placed larger orders. With books in hand, it was time to set up the party. Here's what I did: Reserved the venue - Arlington Heights Historical Museum - five weeks in advance Ordered

Slang and the Art of Authentic Discourse (or “You’re in the groove, Jackson!”)

This post was first published here on August 17, 2012. Whenever we open our mouths, we access a vast reservoire of linguistic reference material – words, phrases, and idiomatic expressions - that we’ve acquired in the course of our daily lives. Some of the most colorful idioms available to us are derived from the realm of slang , defined in the OED (rather amusingly) as “ The special vocabulary used by any set of persons of a low or disreputable character. ” Slang is the register of language invoked by fringe members of society (teenagers and street gangs, tramps and thieves, common soldiers/sailors, peons and low-lifes of every description) in order to mock, defy, devalue, or otherwise outmanoevre The Establishment. For this reason, slang never fails to pack a punch. This precept holds true in fiction. When characters speak, they should communicate more than they say . I.e., their believability as characters is dependent on whether the writer can endow them with a mode of

Resist the Urge to Explain

This post was first published her on May 18, 2011. When I began writing, my crit partners would often return my pages with passages labeled "R.U.E." Anyone who's undertaken writing has heard "Show, Don’t Tell"—probably more times than they've wanted. This isn't a hard and fast rule, because often telling is more efficient than showing, and done well, gets the point across. But too much telling, especially when it comes across as author intrusion, can put the brakes on the pace of your story, doing exactly the opposite of what the author intended. For example, "Mary laughed so hard, she was afraid she'd pulled a stomach muscle. Susie had just told the funniest joke Mary had ever heard."   The second sentence isn't needed; it's explaining something the reader would be able to figure out in context. The goal of any fiction writer is to get readers to care about the characters. We want there to be an emotional connection, so we

The Central Question

This post was first published here on January 28, 2013. Every plot hinges on a central question. Posing the question at the beginning of the tale and answering it at the end is sound story architecture. Does that task make your head spin? It shouldn’t. It’s as easy as choosing a story skeleton. Let’s explore a few examples. 1) The Romance skeleton poses the central question: Will they or won’t they end up together? The answer had better be yes or a satisfying equivalent. The girl can find out guy A isn’t what she wanted after all because she found guy B, but this is not the genre for an I’m okay on my own ending. That story uses the Literary (or Women's Fiction) skeleton. Romance readers want passion and fulfillment and are very disappointed if they don’t get it. 2) The Mystery skeleton poses the central question: Who did it and will they catch him? The answer is yes . The criminal may escape at the last moment to torment the detective another day, but the case t

He Said, She Said, They Said

This post was first published here on November 13, 2012. Good morning, dearies! Please excuse the T-shirt and leggings; I’m off to the local jogging track in just a bit to work on my hurdles. I discovered a snake in the rubbish bin and failed to stick the landing. It’s easy to fall into biased (and colorful) language when one is startled by a scaly percussionist, but what about the written word? The CMOS has a lovely section that covers bias-free language; let’s take a peek, shall we? First and foremost, the Manual emphasizes maintaining credibility. Getting bogged down in objectionable language or visual distractions should be avoided. Have you ever tried to work your way through a paragraph stuffed with he/she and they ? It’s like trying to decipher a store return policy. While there are many biases to be dealt with, the CMOS focuses on gender neutrality and offers several ways to avoid drawing the ire of readers. Most of these techniques draw on careful pronoun u

Don't Marry Your Writing

This post was first published here on July 17, 2010. Telling stories to a ghostwriter is like talking to a therapist or a bartender. When they get comfortable with me, my clients tell me all sorts of intimate stuff,often answering questions I never even asked. Then later they may have second thoughts, and wish they hadn’t. Here’s a frustration with working with non-writers.  Writers know that writing exposes you and makes you vulnerable. The more real and truthful you are, the more vulnerable and exposed – and the more compelling to your readers.  But non-writers don’t know that. They get their manuscript back from the ghostwriter they hired to write their story, read their words and thoughts and feelings on paper, and get scared.  They want to hedge and soften, and turn specifics into generalities, so they will feel safer. Of course, this will kill the writing.  Readers respond to gut-level stuff; that is what makes stories compelling and readable.  But it’s not just the readers

Ask the Editors: Third Person/Present Tense

This post was first published here on Nov 3, 2009. Theresa M. Moore , author of ten books, including her latest, Principles of Self-Publishing: How to Publish and Market a Book On a Shoestring Budget , Rev. Ed., and another 4 in progress wrote to ask The Blood-Red Pencil editors this question: Recently I have received two books for review which were written in third person present tense (action as it happens) instead of the standard third person past tense. I found both books hard to read as I am used to the latter style. Is this an acceptable way to write a book for new authors? Where did this style originate, and should it be accepted by editors? Here’s my take on this, Theresa. Writers are constantly being told they need to write something new, but not too new: something unique, but that the reader can identify with … a plot device that grabs the reader, but doesn’t lock them in a stranglehold … a new twist on an old story … characters who will lead the next rage-wave … and

DRM - Is Digital Rights Management Right For You?

This post was first published here on June 28, 2012. By Elle Carter Neal In the case of e-books, Digital Rights Management (DRM) is a type of technology, also known as a digital lock, employed by publishers to control how an e-book is used after it has been purchased. But digital copy protection has been around in software and gaming circles for much longer than in the publishing industry, and it is from these sectors that the greatest criticisms, and lessons learnt, can be found. Firstly, the point of DRM (and the benefits of using it) is to protect your e-book from unauthorised sharing, copying, or resale – in other words, it protects your copyright. Or does it? Read the original post here.

Who Cares What Happened Before? A Look at Backstory

This post was originally published in September 2008, but still applies. Backstory What is it? Backstory is anything that happens before the actual story takes place. Characters think and feel and know things, but where does it all come from? What shapes their opinions and reactions? It's events and circumstances that take place before the story starts. Often it's necessary to clue the reader in on some of these details to make it easier to understand and/or identify with the character. The temptation is to plop all the information down right away so the reader knows what's going on. Don't do it. What you should do is dot bits and pieces of backstory throughout your manuscript. Example: Instead of saying Jane Doe is sad because her mother is dead, you can weave in this backstory in dribs and drabs. Such as, when Jane Doe is looking at her garden, she can sigh and think something like If only Mom were here to enjoy the flowers. She did so love geraniums.

5 Tips to Stay Creative during a Busy Holiday Season

November and December are often hectic months for writers and their creative output because of three culprits: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Eve, and all of the preparations needed to make each culprit better than the previous year. Although many writers, come December, suffer from PND, Post-NaNoWriMo Disorder, and decide to take a break from writing, the rest of us often struggle to stay creative while in the midst of a busy holiday season. Below are five tips to keep your creative mojo thrumming while you deck the halls and ring in the new year! Thanksgiving , Christmas , New Year , and Writing images from REVAMP WRITING SPACE FOR THE NEW YEAR Being creative doesn't necessarily mean writing until your hands hurt--though we always love new words for a story. This tip could be extremely helpful for those of you who participated in NaNoWriMo and need a break from writing but not a break from creativity. Take the month of December an