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Showing posts from March, 2019

Finding the Best Way to Write

I read voraciously, a habit I recommend to any author who doesn't already have it. You'll subconsciously pick up on what does and doesn't work. Characterization, dialogue, pacing, plot, story, setting, description, etc. But more importantly, someone who doesn't enjoy reading will never write something that someone else will enjoy reading. I don't write 'for the market.' I know I can't, so I just write for me and then try to find readers who like what I like. I'm not trying to whip up the next bestseller and get rich. Not that I'd complain. Nope, I have to write what's in my heart, then go find a market later. It makes marketing a challenge at times, but I wouldn't have it any other way. When you write, be a dreamer. Go nuts. Know that you're writing pure gold. That fire is why we write. An author who I truly admire, Kurt Vonnegut, sweated out each individual sentence. He wrote it, rewrote it, and didn't leave it alone unti

So You Think You Have an Original Plot. Think again.

So you think you have an original story idea. Um, think again. Christopher Booker, who took thirty-eight years to write The Seven Basic Plots, subtitled, Why We Tell Stories, boiled down all the plots to these: Overcoming the Monster Rags to Riches The Quest Voyage and Return Comedy Tragedy Rebirth Every story plot derives from one of these themes, according to Booker. I can see how a writer could manipulate her plot to fit into one of these, except maybe Riches to Rags, but that’s tragedy then, isn’t it? I won’t bust your bubble, but whatever storyline you are working on, someone has done it before―thousands of times. Now if that isn’t a downer, I don’t know what is. Your job, should you choose to accept it, is to create something different, knowing it's impossible.  There are dozens of books on how to write a novel. Many teach structure: In The Hero’s Journey, Joseph Campbell’s narrative arc, refined by Christopher Vogler in The Writer’s Journey, the hero’s journey

Writers Gotta Read, Right? March on!

Just because St. Patrick's Day has come and gone, it doesn't mean we can't read books with a bit of a "green theme." Other holidays in March offer some themes as well. How about Pi Day (March 14?) or the Ides of March (March 15)? Or spring equinox (March 20)? Sooooo let's see what's out there to whet your reading appetite. Let's start with St. Patrick's. Wear (or plant?) some green this month. National Library of Ireland on The Commons [No restrictions] The Cozy Mystery List site has a roll-call of St. Paddy's Day mysteries . And, of course, Mystery Fanfare offers up St. Patrick's Day crime fiction from cozy to noir, with recommendations of Irish crime writers thrown in for good measure. The holiday seems to invite romance. Why is that, do you think? Here is the Listopia link for 123 romance books for St. Patrick's Day. Check out the "Shamrocks and Clovers" book list —some for kids, some for adults. For the kidd

Don't Let Plagiarism Kill Your Career

Graphic courtesy of In case you missed it, there has been a recent controversy over plagiarism that has received international news attention. A story in The Guardian outlines the major points of the issue between American author Courtney Milan and Brazilian author Cristiane Serruya, who was accused of  plagiarism. The books in question are Milan's The Duchess War and Royal Love by Serruya. There were numerous instances of Serruya taking several sentences verbatim from Milan's book, and the following is just one example of what she copied: From The Duchess War - There was a reason they’d kept their conversations to inane niceties up until this point. There was no way to talk about anything else without bitterness. They had no common past to draw on, almost no shared acquaintances. His mother had spent more time visiting Sebastian’s mother—her husband’s sister—than she had lived in Robert’s household as a child. And she’d chosen to do it. He migh

There’s No One-Size-Fits-All Solution for Procrastination

Last week I was reading The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield. It’s a best seller with lots of good reviews. And some not so good. Read the not-so-good ones before buying this book. I had borrowed the book from the library because I was interested in the Pressfield’s observations about procrastination and what makes creative folks fight their creativity, sabotaging that internal drive to make art. It’s all about Resistance, he says. If you read the book, you’ll get used to seeing that word over and over: Resistance. Pressfield says he has the answer to all our procrastination problems. Become a pro by acting like a pro. Show up to work every day. Show up at the same time every day, prepared to create. Then create. Okay, I thought. I can do that. The next morning, even though I’d had only one cup of coffee and felt foggy and sleep-deprived, I hurried to my computer and sat down, ready to work. My second cup of coffe

Writing Workshops April to June 2019

Whether a one day session, one week conference, or a month-long writing workshop writing related events are a good way to commune with other writers. They are opportunities to network and get your name out there. In some instances, you can meet and mingle with editors and agents. Some offer critiques or pitching sessions. Nowhere will you find a higher concentration of introverts enjoying each other's company. Local conferences are a good place to meet potential critique groups or recruit members. Some are free. Some require a fee. Some are more social than others. Many are for new writers, but a few dig deep into craft. You should choose an event that speaks to your needs and desires. April 2-4, 2020 Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop , University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio they are skipping 2019, but you can keep up with them at April 5-8, 2019 Writing By Writers Manuscript Boot Camp,  Tahoe City, California

Oh My! Misplaced Modifiers

When I find misplaced modifiers in my own writing or in others (and usually I don't see it in my own until they are pointed out to me), I giggle like a delighted toddler. Everyone makes these grammatical goofs at one time or another. You find them in books, in signs, in Powerpoint presentations, in menu descriptions... the list goes on. So, what is a misplaced modifier? If you ask Google, this is the definition that pops up: a phrase or clause placed awkwardly in a sentence so that it appears to modify or refer to an unintended word.  The best way to know them is to see them. Here is one example from Tall and handsome, the people looked at him with awe and admiration.  The way this sentence is set up, "tall and handsome" describes "people," not "him." So what can you do to fix poor misplaced modifier, so it points to "him?" Here's one solution: Because he was tall and handsome, the people looked at him with aw

Comma or no comma, that is the question

Hello again, dearies! It's been a while since I've had a few moments to visit. Life has a way of taking us in down paths we had not planned. Ah, but I am here now, and a grammatical issues has again surfaced that needs to be addressed. What is it? The lowly comma. Back in November of 2016, I addressed the Oxford comma , that pesky little piece of punctuation that often inspires great dispute. Having proven the necessity for that very important comma to avoid ambiguity and/or raised eyebrows, I want to bring to your attention some other uses for this all-important punctuation. More and more, books, both traditionally and self published, are deviating from long established rules put into place for the purpose of clarity and flow. Our authority will be The Chicago Manual of Style Seventeenth Edition ,  recently updated by the University of Chicago to address changes in reading habits, research options, the use of  new technologies that facilitate writing and publishing, an

Dialogue Tags and Action Tags

Standard dialogue tags are said and asked . The mind skips over them, so they are invisible. "It is hotly debated whether you should ever use colorful or adverb tags," she muttered. "Some editors don't mind a few creative tags." "Some may allow adverb tags," she said skeptically. "Adverb tags are generally frowned upon." " Break this rule at your own peril," she said mischievously. Your dialogue should look like one of these examples. Note the correct formatting. Commas, periods, and question marks should fall within the quotation marks. A comma separates the dialogue from the standard tag. A period separates the dialogue from an action tag. The same formatting for the standard tag applies to a creative tag or action tags. No tag : "I see." Standard tag in the front : Sherlock said, "I see." Standard tag in the middle : "I see," Sherlock said. "I have been misinformed."