Category Archives: Advice

16 Out of 10 Tips Can’t be Wrong!

  1. The writer’s job is to get the main character up a tree, and once they are up there, throw rocks at them.

Vladimir Nabokov

A story without challenges is just plain dull. Nobody wants to read that. Readers want an escape, and it’s your job to give them that.

  1. There is only one plot – things are not what they seem.

Jim Thompson

This kinda made my head explode (in a good way). My eyes were opened. I realized that we want – as readers – a roller coaster ride, twists, turns… and as a writer, we have to challenge ourselves to deliver them.

  1. Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.

Anton Chekhov

If you have ever been in a critique group, you’ve heard this a thousand times. This is the essence of “show versus tell” and it’s the main thing lacking in your writing. This is what immerses a reader in your story.

  1. All readers come to fiction as willing accomplices to your lies.

Steve Almond

This is very liberating for a writer to realize. Once you get it, the doors are open to a lot of stuff – if you have the guts to write it. Willing accomplices. They want you to do it. That’s huge.

  1. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

Kurt Vonnegut

It’s also been said as, he who tries to please everyone with a story pleases no one. Find your muse and write to her. Not every story is for every reader.

  1. Great writing isn’t safe.

Dan Alatorre

It’s not gratuitous to include myself on this list because I work with a lot of new writers and this is what they’re afraid of: someone I know might read this! Put that aside and write in a way that will grab the reader, about any topic. If it feels real enough and you put the emotion in, readers will laugh with your characters and cry with them, and thank you afterward. But it’s a lot of effort, and you really have to put your bare soul on the page. Go there.

  1. It ain’t whatcha write, it’s the way ‘atcha write it.

Jack Kerouac

Your writing voice is yours, not a copy of someone else’s, and you must use it as a tool to deliver the goods. In that, style counts.

  1. The best stories don’t come from “good vs. evil,” but “good vs. good.”

Leo Tolstoy

For the bad guy’s point of view, he’s probably not the bad guy. Mind = blown. And understanding that, your writing just went to a new level.

  1. No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.

Robert Frost

Pour emotion onto the page. Have tears falling into the keyboard as you create the drama. You can, and when you do, your reader gets it because it reads true.

  1. Good books don’t give up all their secrets at once

Stephen King

What can I say? We all love/hate to be teased. We all love a good surprise midway through. We all love a good twist. We all… well, you get it.

(It’s okay to have a few more, for after the writing, for the editing, the publishing, the motivation to start, the evaluating afterward…)

  1. A good story is life, with the dull parts taken out.

Alfred Hitchcock

I love this quote, and not just because I messed it up while texting from a jacuzzi with a friend. If it’s seen as life, it’s relatable. But it’s not everything from life. That’d be boring. Just the good stuff. That’ll make a nice foundation for a good story.

  1. Don’t wait. The time will never be just right.

Napoleon Hill

Do not deprive the world of your story. Don’t polish it forever, because at some point it’s not better, it’s just different. Publish it and get on to your next one. You have more than one great story in you.

  1. If you wait for inspiration, you’re a waiter, not a writer.

Dan Poynter

That hurts to read, doesn’t it? Yeah, so don’t expect the Great American Novel to find you. It won’t. It will come as a result of a lot of hard work and days where you didn’t feel like writing but did anyway.

  1. If it’s funny enough, you can do anything.

Dan Alatorre

I have covered the most egregious topics imaginable by being funny when I did it. And as a rule, this totally works. Think court jester, speaking truth to power, but without the silly hat thing.

  1. If a book is well written, I always find it too short.

Jane Austen

I think everyone does. Don’t worry about the length of your story, worry about how engaging it is.

  1. And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.

John Steinbeck

This gives you permission to have early works. Everyone will expect you to get better with each story you write, because you are constantly learning and improving. Your next book is you best one, and none will be perfect, so stop expecting that and stop denying the world of your stories.

SPECIAL THANKS TO DAN ALATORRE – AUTHOR! (for compiling this list)

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ARGHH! . . . I’M SO CONFUSED!

By Maeve Maddox

My cumulative list of “words commonly confused” continues with ten that begin with the letter S. The confusion relates to spelling or meaning.

1. sight / site
Both words function as nouns and verbs.

As a noun, sight is a thing seen. Ex. The Pont du Garde is an astounding sight.

As a verb, sight means “catch sight of something or to take aim.” Ex. The lookout sighted land at dawn. Ex. The surveyor sighted the compass.

Site is from Latin situsplaceposition. The principal meaning for web users is probably “a web address.” Ex. Daily Writing Tips is one of my favorite sites.

The context in which site is frequently confused with sight regards physical location.

Examples of correct usage:
• A small Iron Age settlement was found during excavations at the site of a new housing development near Swindon.
• Redness, soreness, swelling, or itching may develop at the site of the injection.

2. stationary / stationery
Stationary is an adjective meaning fixed or unmoving. Ex. All of his traffic violations involved stationary vehicles.

Stationery is a noun meaning writing and office materials, especially writing paper and envelopes. Ex. She’s old-fashioned enough to write letters by longhand on monogrammed stationery.

Tip: An easy way to remember which is which is to be aware of the er in stationery. It matches the -er at the end of paper.

3. storey / story
This distinction concerns British speakers, although some older Americans were taught to observe the difference between storey, “the level of a building,” and story, “a tale.” Younger generations of Americans are accustomed to using story for both meanings.

Examples:
• I live in a one bedroom second-storey walkup in Chelsea.
• Children derive comfort as well as vocabulary from a daily bedtime story.

The plural of storey is storeys. The plural of story is stories.

4. sometime / sometimes / some time
Sometime is an adverb that means an indefinite, unstated time in the future. Ex. I’ll clean the garage sometime.

Sometimes is an adverb that means “continually, off and on, occasionally.” Ex. Sometimes she reads in the evening instead of watching television.

Some time is a phrase that refers to a period of time. Ex. My web design took some time to complete, but was worth the wait.

5. shear / sheer
Both words function as different parts of speech with numerous meanings. The confusion is that of misspelling sheer as shear when the meaning of sheer is “thin, fine, diaphanous.”

INCORRECT: She bought some shear curtains for the living room.
CORRECT: She bought some sheer curtains for the living room.

Shear is a verb meaning “to cut” or “remove wool by cutting.” Ex. We watched the men shear the sheep.

6. set / sit
As a verb, set means, “to place.” Ex. Please set the hot dish on a pad.

The verb sit means, “to be or remain in that posture in which the weight of the body rests upon the posteriors; to be seated. Ex. Are you going to sit at that computer all day?

7. sale / sell
Sale is a noun meaning “the act of selling.” Ex. He regretted the sale of his old Encyclopedia Britannica.

Sell is a verb meaning “to transfer ownership of something for a price.” Ex. When are you going to sell your golf clubs?

Sell functions as a noun in the expression “hard sell.” Ex. Jones has mastered the art of the hard sell: he can bully a customer into buying anything.

The error with these words is to use sell in place of sale, as in this example from a site about garage sales:

INCORRECT: I had a garage sell and I only made 5 dollars! .
CORRECT: I had a garage sale and I only made 5 dollars! .

8. straight / strait
Both straight and strait function as more than one part of speech. The error with this pair is one of spelling.

In all its uses, strait conveys the ideas of “tight,” “tightly fitting,” and “narrow,” whereas straight connotes the idea of “not crooked.”

Here are some examples of both strait and straight:

• What the British call a “strait waistcoat,” the Americans refer to as a “strait jacket”: a garment for the upper part of the body, made of strong material and admitting of being tightly laced, used for the restraint of violent lunatics or prisoners.

• One meaning of strait as a noun is “a comparatively narrow water-way or passage connecting two large bodies of water, like the Strait of Gibraltar.

• A straight line is the shortest distance between two points.

• The old soldier stood straight and tall as he saluted the flag.

9. statue / statute
statue is “a representation in the round of a person, animal, etc., which is sculptured, molded, or cast in marble, metal, plaster, or a similar material. Ex. One of the most famous statues in the world is the Davidof Michelangelo.

Generally speaking, a statute is a law. Ex. The perpetrator was identified just before the statute of limitations ran out.

The usual error with this pair is to write statue for statute, as in this comment on a legal site:

INCORRECT: My husband was sentenced to prison on a 20 year old burglary charge in California? Can they do this? Is there no statue of limitations on this type of crime?
CORRECT: My husband was sentenced to prison on a 20 year old burglary charge in California? Can they do this? Is there no statute of limitations on this type of crime?

10. sensuous / sensual
Both adjectives relate to the senses and are often used interchangeably.

Sensuous, however, contrasts with the adjectives spiritual and intellectual. Although often equated with sexuality, sensuous can describe anything that appeals to the bodily senses, producing an agreeable effect conducive to physical comfort or contentment. For example, the touch of a cat’s fur, the aroma of bread baking, the warmth from a cozy fire, etc. are sensuous in nature.

Sensual, on the other hand, implies a certain indulgence of appetite, a gratification or titillation of the senses that goes beyond what might be considered acceptable, at least in public. Ex. Madonna and Led Zeppelin Make a Startling, Sensual Pairing in “Justify a Whole Lotta Love.”

 https://www.dailywritingtips.com/

 

SILENCE IS NOT GOLDEN!

I recently read a “writer’s advice” column telling authors to avoid political posts if they want to increase their book sales.

I disagree!

This is how whole populations are silenced.

Those of us who write, have a responsibility to speak up loud and clear for those whose voices are whispers.

If writers shy away from expressing their views, they are capitulating to those in power, who happily quash any questioning of their authority, action or inaction.

Throughout history, writers have been at the forefront of free speech. If we stay on the side-lines, in order to make a profit, we do a disservice to not just our own readers, but to our society in general.

 

Your thoughts?

PARDON ME, MADAM AND/OR SIR . . . BUT, I HAVE A QUESTION!

Bull dog resized - two

I’m curious — how many of you, Dear Readers, pay attention to the political news of the day?

Are you too busy with your day-to-day life maintenance activities to care what is going on in the rest of the world?

Do you think politicians are all crooked, so what’s the point?

Do you think you can’t do anything that would make a difference?

 

Well! Have I got news for you! It’s my handy-dandy guide to changing your world — and it’s free! That’s right! No need to spend your hard-earned cash! No shipping and handling fees! Nothing! Nada! Zip! Zero!

 

It’s right here in beautiful technicolor, for anyone to enjoy!

 

Handy-Dandy Guide to Changing the World:

V-O-T-E!

That’s right, folks . . . Vote . . . each and every time you get the chance!

Cast your ballot right in your own neighborhood – 

And it’s FREE!♥

Who’s in charge now, folks?

YOU, that’s who! Feel the power!

 

This has been an unpaid Public Service Announcement, sponsored by the writer of this post.

THE QUEEN AND I HAVE A YULETIDE MESSAGE FOR YOU!

STAY CALM, and:

Finish shopping for your family, and 75 of your closest friends and colleagues, making sure you stay under that $200 limit you set for yourself this year;

Bake 500 dozen cookies that are so special no one has ever eaten them before;

Decorate at least three trees of varying size for inside your house with different themes, one of which must be woodland creatures;

Check batteries on all those “safe” candles you now own, so the cats and dogs, and babies don’t set themselves on fire;

Add one more string of lights outside, so TV station satellites can pick out the glow of your home from space;

Cook every kind of meat that exists so everyone (including that Uncle we all have) enjoys Christmas dinner;

Cook every vegan dish you can think of so the two people you know who are vegan don’t starve;

Watch all twenty gazillion Christmas movies in one weekend while you . . .sing along to every Carol that was ever written;

Send out at least two thousand Christmas/holiday cards to remind everyone you’ve ever met in your life that you are still alive;

And, most importantly — make sure the liquor cabinet is well-stocked, so you can accomplish all of the above!

Enjoy the holidays . . . and try not to hurt anyone.

From our castle to yours … MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!

NO CRUTCHES ALLOWED!

Your Secret Editing Weapon: Lose Your Crutch Words

I know the copy editor was just trying to be nice, but I burst out laughing at her carefully worded comment in my last manuscript. I had to imagine what she must have thought as she realized she needed to mention it.

What the flick?

“Please note ‘flickering’ throughout” she wrote. Then she put a smiley-face so I’d understand she wasn’t being critical, only supportive, and went on to say, “There seems to be a lot of flickering going on in your manuscript.”

Flickering I thought? Flickering? I was baffled. But when I did an edit-find for flicker, there it was. I mean, there it was. Again and again and again.

Monitors flickered. People’s eyes flickered. Birds flickered. Lights flickered. I can’t even remember all the things that flickered. Somehow I had gotten that word into my head, and apparently it seemed like a good one, and every day as I wrote my thousand words, I guess I figured I should use it. It never crossed my mind that I was repeating it. Like crazy.

Just don’t

Has your own version of “flicker” happened to you? Trust me, it has. When we’re in the midst of writing, when we’re in the zone and the words are flowing, our brains tend to default to words that are comfortable. How many times do you write “of course”? How many times do you write “right”? Right? How about “just”?

What would happen if you went through your manuscript looking for those words? How many do you think you would find? I promise you, you’ll be shocked at how many times you type “just.” You don’t even notice it. But it is just clogging your manuscript.

Oops, I said it again. And “even.” That’s another one.

Actually, crutch words make everyone the same

Whatever. Does more than one character say whatever? Does more than one character say “you’re kidding me?” Does more than one character say “I know, right?” ? Not only do we latch on to our personal crutch phrases, but we tend to assign them to every character. That’s a pitfall because it makes every character sound just the same.

I mean—the same. Not “just” the same.

Actually. Certainly. Supposedly. Allegedly. By the name of. As a result. Really. How many times do you use those?

More important: How many of them do you need?

Pick one of your words. Put it in edit-find. (You know how to do that, right?) Prepare to be amazed. And you might as well laugh, because now you have the power to fix it.

Next, see if your manuscript is—over qualified. How often do you use kind of, sort of, possibly, maybe, a little? What are you qualifying? What would happen to your manuscript if you cut those sentence softeners? Try it. Doesn’t it sound stronger to say it is something, rather than a little bit something?

Raise your hand if you’ve heard this

And check your choreography. How often do people tuck their hair behind their ear? Wave someone off? Flip a hand. Raise an eyebrow. Raise both eyebrows? How often do people nod? Or pause? Or pause, nodding?

Do people shrug? Do they grin? Do they shrug and grin? Think about it. In real life, people rarely do those things. Shrugging, maybe. Grinning? Not so much. And shrugging and grinning is as goofy as it gets.

It’s damn important, though, for a stronger manuscript

When you excise your crutch words, you’ll see your manuscript take on a new quality. In my current WIP, the copy editor noted the word “though.” I mean…though? But when I did my faithful edit-find, I found I’d used it 72 times. Seventy-two times! I thought: why didn’t I say although? Why didn’t I say but? Why didn’t I rearrange the sentence so the entire structure was different? When I took out all but about 15 of those “thoughs,” the sentence rhythm changed. The balance changed. After noticing my repetitions, I had to think harder about new ways to express the same thought—and the result was a stronger manuscript.

Oh, I forgot “very.” How many verys do you have? Mark Twain, the story goes, had a perfect solution. He suggested every time you want to use the word “very,” replace it with the word “damn.” Then your editor will take it out, and your sentence will read the way it should have in the first place.

So here’s today’s tip—go on a treasure hunt for your personal repetitions. And keep a list of them to remind you!

And then—get writing.

 

The “find” option can become your best friend when editing. Please feel free to share your most common crutch words in the Comments section of this post…it may help the rest of us kick those crutches to the curb!—L.C. Bennett Stern

 

♫ WHEN THE MOON HITS YOUR EYE, LIKE A BIG PIZZA PIE—THAT’S AMORE! ♫

A friend of mine posted this fun piece on Facebook, and I thought you, Dear Readers,  would enjoy playing along. The link is at the bottom of this post.

Below, is the result I received when I entered my birthdate:

Waning Crescent in Capricorn —

This Birthday falls on a Waning Crescent in the constellation Capricorn. Sometimes called the “Old Moon”, this phase is visible in the Eastern sky just before dawn. Each day of the Waning Crescent the Moon’s bright side is getting smaller until the New Moon.

Individuals born during this Moon Phase are extremely imaginative and creative. They also are very spiritual and attuned to the unseen forces of the Universe.

Waning Crescent Moon

The Waning Crescent Moon is the very last Moon phase, where the Moon is nearing the completion of its cycle. Individuals born under this phase are influenced by the energy of an aged, wise Moon, and are gifted with a kind of energy that isn’t necessarily reflected in personality or even in the physical world.

In other words, you are likely a talented psychic who is closely in touch with your spiritual side, even if you may not realize it. Through dreams and daydreams, you may receive insights or even visions that help you to be more successful in life. In line with this tendency, you may also have an extremely active imagination. This is because human imagination is the most active under low light conditions – near-darkness, with just a hint of what’s around us, is a very fertile ground for the imagination.

Your deep insights can make you seem mystical, like you exist in a different dimension from other people. Combined with your tendency to have unconventional hobbies, behaviour, and opinions, this can make you somewhat of a loner. Many people may find you too eccentric to relate to on a deeper level, even if they appreciate your wisdom and advice.

Your best bet is to find people who are just as imaginative as you are, and who appreciate you in your entire glorious, weird self.

 

(I’m guessing some of my friends here fit this mold!)

 

http://www.moongiant.com/birthday-moon/

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IN GOD? WE TRUST

Frame of Mind series. Composition of human face wire-frame and fractal elements with metaphorical relationship to mind reason thought mental powers and mystic consciousness

I recently hit upon the idea that God (my god, your god, the force, whatever name you give universal truth) brings enlightenment through science…

Consider all of the changes in thinking that have occurred because of scientific discovery, and all the damage done through science denial.

We humans have the capacity to reason. This is a powerful gift which has continued to expand throughout the history of humankind. One brick of knowledge upon another, and then another, ad infinitum.

To my mind, to deny science is to deny “universal truth”/God.

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NO ONE IS COMING, BUT WE ARE ALIVE AND WE ARE TOGETHER

Chuck Wendig is a novelist, screenwriter, and game designer. This is his blog. He talks a lot about writing. And food. And pop culture. And his kid. He uses lots of naughty language. NSFW. Probably NSFL. Be advised.

I set that as my 7AM reminder this morning.

I set it because, I dunno, maybe up until this point I’ve been hanging onto a loose and fraying thread that clearly, surely, some savior force would come in and reverse what was coming. The vote would prove to be rigged. The “OMG RUSSIA DID IT” investigation would advance to the point of no return. Obama would rip off Comey’s mask and reveal Old Man Giuliani underneath, who would’ve gotten away with it if it wasn’t for you crazy Millennials. Joe Biden would challenge malarky-havin’ Comrade Dumpkov to a ski contest on the K2 and he would win the day against the rich punks for all us underdogs and underachievers. I dunno what the fuck I thought was going to happen. Probably nothing, but maybe something.

Maybe?

Please?

Yeah, no.

No one is coming. Our plane crashed, and we’re alive, and no help is on its way.

That sounds dramatic, I know, especially to people who think this isn’t a big deal — but we’re staring down the barrel of a president whose stated intent is to sand down nearly every foothold we’ve gained in the last several decades. Worse, he’s got the run of the table with a Congress who has already begun their monstrous rending and flaying. Everything’s on the chopping block: women’s rights, health care, the free market, arts, humanities, science, education, national parks, bald eagles, anyone who has ever been marginalized, you, me, all of humanity, the whole fucking planet. Pounds of flesh cut from those who cannot afford to lose them, and given over to the vampire kings above us who want to bleed us all dry. It’s not dramatic to think that, at the very best, we’re going to experience an existential tumult over the next four years. At the worst, I dunno. At the worst we get hill cannibals, probably. Nuclear hill cannibals.

No one is coming.

But we are alive.

And we are together.

That means something. I don’t mean that in a glib, WE ARE THE WORLD way, I don’t mean it to be some kind of shallow sing-a-long. I mean that our president — the one who comes with the biggest winking-butthole-asterisk of all time by being a president who won by losing, who won with the help of shady Kremlin no-good-niks, who won by surfing to the White House on a churning tide of sexual assault and racism and inane non-policies, who still hasn’t filled most positions, who wants to fill his cabinet with the swamp monsters he exposed by draining the swamp — our president is way the fuck outnumbered. This is our asterisk president. This is a president who we didn’t earn, who didn’t win, who has a historically low approval rating and a historically high disapproval rating. He works for us, and we outnumber him by heroic numbers.

That’s a real thing. That’s truth. It’s not arguable that he’s surrounded by a miasma of illegitimacy. He can earn his way out of that — he can clear the fog by doing right for all Americans, not just the richest among us — but let’s be clear, the likelihood of that happening creates betting odds no gambler would take.

No one is coming.

But we are alive.

And we are together, and we can save each other.

You’ll say to me now, what does that mean? What does that mean, we can save each other?

My honest answer is, I don’t yet know. Not really. Because I don’t know what’s coming down the pike. I know the next four years will be contentious, but I don’t know if they’ll be ruinous or simply bizarre. But here’s what I think it means.

I think it means we can be there for each other. And we can be kind. We can help each other up.

It means we can use what power we have to help those who have less power.

It means making each other laugh, because oh Sweet Saint Fuck, we’re gonna need to laugh.

It means staying involved, and keeping up the pressure, and using our voice and our vote not just for our behalf but for the behalf of our neighbors.

It means sharing the things we love: art and books and movies, quotes and images and ideas.

It means knowing who our enemies are, and pointing our metaphorical weapons to those outside the trench, not to those hunkering down in the mud alongside us.

It means kitten pictures and dog videos and other forms of random comfort, and of course what I mean is otters, because fuck yeah, otters, you can’t deny the healing power of otters.

It means turning an ear to listen and offering a shoulder to cry on and letting people just wordlessly shriek at or near you for as long as they need it.

It means working around the system to find new ways to keep each other afloat — it means giving money to the ACLU or Sierra Club or it means demanding our companies do better for us even when our government won’t, it means finding loopholes and trapdoors that help us to help each other, it means empowering others to do the work when it’s work we can’t do ourselves.

It means harnessing the one-two-punch power of Critical Thinking and Empathy, which not coincidentally are also the names of each of Uncle Joe Biden’s malarky-thumpin’ fists.

It means being good stewards of this planet because we all share it, and no matter what the administration wants you to believe, it’s our responsibility not to fuck it up.

It means creating art and telling stories because stories have power, stories help us through, stories provide a narrative for those of us now and those who come later.

It means helping ourselves and practicing self-care because sometimes before you help someone else with their oxygen mask you gotta make sure yours is on nice and tight.

It means whatever it means going forward.

I’ll be here at the blog and online if you wanna swing by and say hi. Hope you’re doing okay. Fuck the inauguration. Go to a protest. Check out a museum. Read a book. I’ll see you on the other side.

p.s. fuck international fascism

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