Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Writing tool #1

Roy Peter Clark, senior scholar at Poynter Institute HERE or HERE writes a seriies of fifty tips aimed at improving your writing skills. I'm going post some highlights from his articles here. Refer to the above links for more.

Writing Tip Number 1

Begin sentences with subjects and verbs, letting subordinate elements branch to the right. Even a long, long sentence can be clear and powerful when the subject and verb make meaning early.

A reporter writes a lead sentence with subject and verb at the beginning, followed by other subordinate elements, creating what scholars call a "right-branching sentence."

Rebels seized control of Cap Haitien, Haiti's second largest city, on Sunday, meeting little resistance as hundreds of residents cheered, burned the police station, plundered food from port warehouses and looted the airport, which was quickly closed. Police officers and armed supporters of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide fled.

That first sentence is 37 words long and rippling with action. The sentence is so full, in fact, that it threatens to fly apart like some overheated engine. But the writer keeps control by creating meaning in the first three words: "Rebels seized control..." Think of that main clause as the locomotive that pulls all the cars that follow. Master writers can craft page after page of sentences written in this structure. Consider this passage by John Steinbeck from "Cannery Row," describing the routine of a marine scientist named Doc:

He didn't need a clock. He had been working in a tidal pattern so long that he could feel a tide change in his sleep. In the dawn he awakened, looked out through the windshield, and saw that the water was already retreating down the bouldery flat. He drank some hot coffee, ate three sandwiches, and had a quart of beer.

In each sentence, Steinbeck places subject and verb at or near the beginning. Clarity and narrative energy flow through the passage, as one sentence builds upon another. And he avoids monotonous structure by varying the length of his sentences. Subject and verb often get separated in prose, usually because we want to tell the reader something about the subject before we get to the verb. When we do this, even for good reasons, we risk confusing the reader:

A bill that would exclude tax income from the assessed value of new homes from the state education funding formula could mean a loss of revenue for Chesapeake County schools.

Eighteen words separate the subject "bill" from its weak verb "could mean," a fatal flaw that turns what could be an important civic story into gibberish. If the writer wants to create suspense, or build tension, or make the reader wait and wonder, or join a journey of discovery, or hold on for dear life, she can save the verb until the end.

I hope this helps a little. It gave me something to think about. Tomorrow, or soon, I will write more. If you want the whole fifty tips, click on the links above.

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Monday, October 1, 2012


This is an excerpt from That Girl. It's still a major work in progress.


We’d drifted apart after middle school, rather, she sank my boat when she sold her soul to the school elite and became the queen of King City High. Even now, years after I’d scampered away with my tail between my legs; Halle Winters will always be that girl for me. You know, the untouchable one little boys dream of and then grieve over for the rest of their lives.

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Saturday, September 29, 2012


Rule number one: Check your own stuff before complaining about something.

In my previous post I was complaining about the word verification process you have to go through to post a comment on some of your blogs, the CAPTCHA. I'm a little embarrassed to say, I had it set up on my own blog. I don't remember doing it but I vaguely remember blogger sending me a message about security and spam. I may have ignorantly affirmed it without first checking it out. My bad. Suffice it to say, I have corrected the problem and hope my friends come back to me.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

CAPTCHA-- the bane of my existence

"Capture" and standing for "Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart," CAPTCHA.

Why oh why won't these things work for me. I'm not sure if it's some security things on my computer or if I'm really so stupid, I can never get these things to work for me. I've tried to comment of some of your posts, out there in blogsville, but am forced to give up after twenty or thirty tries. It's frustrating. So that's why I haven't been able to communicate with some of you.

Recently, I accidentally installed some security thing. I didn't realize it until it was too late and I didn't notice what it was called so I can go in and delete the program from Control Panel. Still working on locating it.

So, that's my Wednesday complaint. I may coin Wednesdays "Whining Wednesday" from now on.

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Monday, September 24, 2012


Good Monday to you all. I don't have to work. Those words are a gift I give myself every Monday morning. I've been retired for almost two months and Monday mornings are the best now. I hope your Mondays are as pleasant, even if you aren't retired. Here's my Monday morning thoughts.

I've noticed lately that it's hard to know when too much word-painting is, well, too much. I'm working on a particularly emotional scene in my novel, That Girl. How much crying is too much? Where do you draw the line? Thinking over my own experiences, I can't say I've experienced any long term crying gigs. So where do you draw the line? I don't know. I guess my characters, at some point, pony up and get a grip, but when and how long will it take?

Crying isn't my only problem. What do my characters do with their extremities when they are distressed--cross their legs, fiddle with a pencil, bounce their leg in a nervous twitch. It's hard to come up with different ideas; I'm not exactly the most observant person in the world. Probably because I'm always thinking about my writing.

Do you have an inner voice that nags at you in subtle ways when something you've written seems not right? I do, God bless it, it's relentless. For example: You've worked so hard to get every word in a scene just the way you like it. You move on. The next time you read it, that little inner voice pulls your strings. No matter how you try and preserve the words you've slaved over, you finally have to admit defeat and cut the words out of the story. I give it three passes before I say, "Okay, okay already, I'll fix it." It's always better afterwords and I always wonder why I doubted and tried to second guess that little inner voice.

Any thoughts? Dose anyone else have that annoying inner voice?

Okay, take care and enjoy your Monday.

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Sunday, September 9, 2012

Procrastination and doubt

Hi again. It's good to be alive, isn't it? I've run across a website for cat lovers. I have had cats in my life and loved them, but when my last cat died, I said enough. It broke my heart. But I love looking at pictures of cats. They are so innovative and entertaining. Below is an example of what you can find on the site.

My husband and I have bought our retirement home. We actually bought it last December. Last month was the first time we'd spent any time enjoying it. We're not ready to move there full time yet. We have our old home to prepare for market. That's where we are now, half way across country from our new home. Confused yet?

That's not the subject of this post, it's the reason I've been procrastinating. I'm also crippled by doubt. We've all been through it. Some days you're flying with enthusiasm, the next, not so much. When this condition hits, It always amazes me how quickly I become distracted. Yesterday, however, I spent a half hour writing. Today I'm going to spend some time writing. Everyday I need to force myself to write. On those days I don't quite get there, I mustn't fall back into the habit of procrastination. That's my new mantra.

How do you guys fight doubt and procrastination? Any ideas?

Source: via Pol on Pinterest

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012


While cruising for inspiration, I came across a website that had me drawing a stick man. When I finished that little task, I hit the done key and the stick man went into action. He came upon a box with a lock. "Hmm," he says, "draw me a key." Let me summarize, he came across a curious box, the box became the goal, the key the solution. Problem solved. Except the box popped open and a dragon popped out. You might call the dragon an antagonist. Now we have a compelling situation. The stick man has a dragon to slay. Stick Man's priorities have changed for the moment.

Solution: Stick Man wants a sword. I draw him a sword and he fights the dragon, but the dragon fights back by breathing fire and setting everything aflame. Stick Man finally slays the dragon. Problem solved. Except the dragon dissipates and a box with a balloon attached replaces the dragon and floats away out of Stick Man's reach. Grrr. Before Stick Man can wrap his head around this new development, he must extinguish the fire. Stick Man wants a rain cloud. I draw him a rain cloud and, predictably, rain falls on the fire and puts it out. Problem solved. Except it keeps raining and floods.

Stick Man floats upward with the rising water, thinking he could now reach the airborne box. That's when the sharks show up and surrounded him, threatening to eat him. Stick Man implores me to draw a drain, which I do. The water drains, the sharks go away and the balloon breaks. The man lives happily ever after. The End.

That's a story. It's simple, compelling, full of drama. It got me to thinking. Stick Man is the hero, he has a goal, there's a problem, an obstacle (antagonist)and in the end, Stick Man will be a better person for it.

It's a bit simplistic, but it's got the framework for an interesting story. It would make a great child's story, don't you think. I was thinking it might be grounds for a basic outline. What do you think?

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Friday, August 24, 2012

In Transition, slathered with hope

You may not remember because I've been absent from the blogging world for so long, that I was going to retire and relocate back to the Northwest to the home we bought way back last December. Wow, has it been nearly nine months? I could have had a baby by now. It's physically immpossible, however. Slowly, we are dismantling from one location and re-establishing in another. We're moved into our new home, but still need to put the other on the market. But, there's work to be done. We've been in the new house for a month and,sadly, will be leaving here next week to get busy and get the old house on the market. Pray that we get a quick and fruitful sale.

I haven't had a lot of quality writing time. I seem to get bogged down and my natural state of procrastination sets in and I get lazy. I prefer to think of it as getting busy. What keeps us from our love of writing? I know I'm not alone. Has anyone been able to figured out how we can love to write, yet sabotage what we love to do with excuses and avoidance? For me it usually happens when I'm in a difficult place in the story and doubt rears its ugly head. Mentally I know it only takes a day or so to work my way out of it, but I get this dread feeling and have to psych myself back to the keyboard.

Soon, I'll be able to get my priorities in line. Please don't give up on me. Bookmark and Share


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Bum's Rush, The Novel, (An Excerpt)

This is the time I've been looking forward to for years--being able to continue my blogging and promoting my books, not to mention writing them. It will be easier since I no longer have a job to take up most of my time with.

I'm going to post segments of Bum's Rush for your inspection in hopes of wetting your appetite to pop over to and check out the "Look Inside" option to read more excerpts.

I'll also be talking about my new novel, That Girl. I'll occasionally post some excerpts from that right here.

Here's the first excerpt from Bum's Rush. I hope you enjoy it.

Something slammed into Jack with the force of a jousting pole. He grunted and staggered as a million watts of electricity passed through his body. The phone skittered on the sidewalk, and he clutched his shoulder. Someone screamed, then someone else. He looked around at the commotion, but his vision had gone fuzzy; he felt lightheaded, and a shrill ringing in his ears deafened him.

Jack looked at his hand and saw blood. That’s strange. His heart spiked in his chest. He’d been shot, damn it; he was going to die.

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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mom's Day

Happy Mother's Day to all you moms out there. I didn't realize it was mom's day until my husband wished me a happy Mother's Day. I'll hear from my kids today, but we don't exchange gifts. This is the second year I won't be making a call to my mom. Still, I'll always think of her every year on this day.

I just opened a new file for my WIP. I call it Draft 3000. It seems like I've written that many revisions. This will be the fourth. Listening to that inner voice that nags me, you all probably have one like it. It always knows when something just isn't right. I think I've figured it out this time. At this point in the game, I may have to shut that voice off or I'll never finish this book. I'm at the point where I need to stop doubting myself.

I know the mistakes I made with my first book and I'm trying to avoid making the same blunders in this book. My problem is becoming word count. I'm in danger of cutting too much. My original goal was 60K. I made that goal, but find I've cut around 5K out. It's still okay, but I can't afford anymore cuts.

I need to find a beta reader, I think. There's still a lot of work to do before I get to the point where anyone else can read it. If there's any volunteers, I'd love to hear from you.

The reason I've been so lax about my blog is we're getting ready to move. When I say move, I mean move cross country, back to Washington state. We bought a house out there already and plan to move most everything out in late June. I'm so excited. Lots of things going on right now. They say, the more new stuff you have to look forward to, time will slow a bit for you. What do they know. I'll try and stay with you a little more. I'd say by August or September, I'll be blogging so much, you all will get sick of me. Take care.

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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Is every word important?

Not only that, every sentence and every paragraph. The first few draft of a project, we write like we talk. For some, that might suffice, some people's talk is meaningful and compact. One of the joys of writing is tightening what you've already written. It amazes me how many different ways a sentence can be phrased. The challenge is keeping it real. Every paragraph has a sentence, and every sentence has words, so how important is every word you write? I suspect, pretty important. If three words change to one without sacrificing ambiguity or continuity, your story sounds polished. That's what is meant by tightening a paragraph. How to do that? Find an amazing thesaurus. You might want to check my favorite one here

Short but sweet. God bless. Until next time.

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Saturday, March 17, 2012

On the Home Stretch

Good news, I'm almost done with my second draft of "That Girl." I've had a little time off work and I've worked hard to get so much done. So it's proud of myself, I am. The third draft will be the one where I work on the presentation, so to speak. For that, I'm going to do a lot of reading.

Does anyone else get stuck when trying to describe what actions and mannerisms a person uses while talking? Some authors seem able to divers away from the norm. I find when I read a lot, I get a better sense of people's idiosyncrasies. You can only scratch your head, purse your lips, furrow your brows so many times before it becomes obvious to readers that you have no imagination. Hands on hips, clenched fists, lame humor can become boring in time. Tears, really how often does a person tear up. In real life people's feelings get hurt and their reactions are internal. Their hearts harden, their pulse quickens, they even feel the sting of tears behind their eyes. It becomes a dilemma for authors. It's easy to get in a rut. I don't think I'm alone in this. If you read the same author over and over again, it becomes obvious. I guess you could call it that author's style of writing and I think that would be true, but we know a lot of times there are no words. So you have to go and find them, whether through observing or experimenting.

These are just my thoughts on things. I'm by no means an expert, if I were, I'd be a best selling author. I just know what I know.

To all who read, God bless and happy reading.

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Monday, March 5, 2012

Reading not on the best seller's list and censoring

I've come to enjoy free ebooks. What did we do without them. Free is always good and made better because it's, well, free. Something about a free book just makes it a good read, no matter how labor intensive it is to get through. I wish I could read all the free ebook, but I've already got bunches I haven't gotten to yet.

Hey, what about Pay Pal censoring what they deem to be immoral books? They are a private company and I guess it's okay if they censor, though it seems un-American to me. We have to be very careful about censoring. It starts out small and grows like a malignancy. Pretty soon they are censoring books with questionable language, then religious themes, then violence, and next love. Seems like it's possible they might try and censor emotions as well.

That's all the wisdom I have today. Maybe tomorrow I'll be bestowed with more. God bless.

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Sunday, March 4, 2012

More complaining about second drafts

I feel like I've written four or five books, instead of three, though only one of them is published. Consider first drafts, for instance. I'm sure there are a lot of people who write first drafts and then don't turn around and totally rewrite the second. For me, the first draft is one to just get down on paper as quick as possible so as to get 'er done, as Larry the Cable Guy would say. The second draft is where I start the weeding process. I prune it and prune it until there's hardly anything left except a few of the strongest scenes, then I watch them flower. This is where I start getting really excited, but this, of course, is not the end of the rewrite, even when I'm done with the second draft. What do you think, another draft? Well, yes. This one will undergo more tightening and weeding, but it's also the start of some serious proofing. I don't want to get ahead of myself, but a stitch in time, saves nine. Let me tell you something about proofing. It's never done. Even the proofers of the best writers of the best novels don't get all the mistakes. It seems to me that errors seem to stand out more in ebooks, doesn't it? A lot of that, I think, is due to ebook glitches, but I still more proofing errors in my Kindle that when I'm just reading a paperback.

So, until next time, take care and God bless.

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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Finding the right words

As we age, changes start to happen. When you're young, you think you can beat the odds. I don't want to burst anyone's bubble, but you can only beat them for awhile. Having said that, I'll go on record by saying, attending to your health can prolong the aging process immensely. Eat a lot of Omega3 and Omega6 product, pop a bunch of pills like fish oil and flax seed to fight off the free radicals in your brain. I do the flaxseed because the fish oil comes back at me (eew) even the burpless ones. Get lots of exercise and rest, and stay away from smoking and alcohol. The smoking is easy, the alcohol, not so much. In everything, moderation is the key.

Sorry for the lecture. Everything you want to know is but an internet search away. What I've noticed and no amount of meds and food seem to matter, I have a harder time grasping just the right words, sometimes. I know what word I want, but it won't come. I use a thesaurus a lot, but that takes time. So, on top of all the other roadblocks we writers experience, here's another one to hurdle. For you younger writers, it's never too early to start a healthy regiment that includes brain food.

I hope this helps, Until next time, good bye and God bless.


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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Dates and Consistency

It's important to write and write and write. Word count is key to writing, but so is consistency, specifically dates and times. As your WIP progresses and evolves, it's easy to forget those tiny details. It can be frustrating to keep track of if you don't develop a method. There are several ways to manage this. You can keep a calender of events, plot an Excel work sheet, use your word processor's document map or spreadsheet, use a writing software package like yWriter, which is free, or Randy Engermanson's Snowflake Method, but manage it, you must. The worse thing you can do is to try and figure it all out after the fact. True as that may be, that's exactly where I'm at, now.

Personally, I enjoy using Microsoft Word's Document Map and Microsoft Excel for details. It's all right there in one, easy to use (not so easy for beginners) program. My WIP has an event that takes place at a specific date. The events that lead up to it must be plotted into the story. Easy, you might say. Well, you'd be right if nothing ever changed or something never got mixed up or moved around. Since I never do those things, it's a piece of cake. Ha, I am the worse offender of rearrangement that ever breathed. I exaggerate, but you get my drift, I hope. So happy writing, my friends and until next time, God Bless.

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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Rewrites and Second Drafts, Is there a difference?

Well, of course there's a difference between rewrites and second drafts. Not for me. I haven't written a book yet that the original first draft resembles the finished product. I write, at least, three books per story. But what if the first draft was the best one? On one of my books, one I haven't published yet, I could change the title and characters and make two books, they are so different. I might just do that.

The problem I'm having with my current WIP is finding what I want in and what I don't. I mean, physically finding it. My index finger is wearing out from scrolling with the mouse. I've been moving paragraphs and scenes so long, it's confusing me. Time to put it down for today. I'm proud of myself, though. I've spent the whole morning writing. I have more time to write now that I'm working part time, and I'm rekindling the joy I once got from writing once I get to it.

Does anyone else rewrite instead of revising and editing?

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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Trying it again

It's so easy to break a good habit and so hard to break a bad one. For me, the good habit was keeping up my blog posts, the bad one was staying away. I don't know why it happened. I love my blog, I've worked very hard at it, but in the last, say, six months or so, I've dreaded the thought of posting. Don't know why, depression, I suppose. So I'm setting up a schedule, starting next Thursday morning, Once a week, I will determine to post on this blog. As I get back in the habit, I'll get my enthusiasm back and post more often. Now, if I can remember that long, it'll be a deal. Next week, I'll talk about rewrites and 2nd drafts. Is there a difference?

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