Tag Archives: Writing

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?

PIE IN THE SKY

Have you ever felt like too many people have their fingers in your pie?

All licking your vitality off their palms as it runs down to their wrists.  They don’t stop to ask permission. They just dip into your allotted 24 hours and sop a bit up for themselves.

Of course, they don’t realize the damage they’re doing. It’s certainly not a group effort.

They are each snatching a crumb of your time without thinking very much about the cumulative affect upon you.

 

The question is this: Where do you draw the line?

 

Before the last slice?

The last bit of fruit?

The last crumb?

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

 

ONCE MORE. . .WITH FEELING!

Old couple watching TV

“Would you like to go to NYC for New Year’s Eve?” he asked.

“Sure. Why not,” she said.

And so,  they held hands.

“What is your favorite color dead leaf?” he asked.

“Orange,” she said.

And so,  they dated.

“Will you marry me?” he asked.

“Have another beer,” she said.

And so,  they laughed.

“He asked me to marry him, is that okay?” she asked.

“About time. It’s your life,” her children said.

And so,  she said yes.

“Does Bastille Day work for you?” he asked.

“Definitely,” she said.

And so,  they were married.

“Will you hand me the remote?” he asked.

“Here ya go,” she said.

And so,  they smiled and grew old together.

 

MEET THE BUTCHER

Excerpt from my book, Bosses and Blackjacks: A Tale of the “Bloody Fifth” in Philadelphia:

 

It only took Dave five minutes to walk from the station house at Third and Delancey,  but the August heat took its toll. His collar and hatband were soaked through with sweat when he arrived at Deutsch’s shop.

“Mayor Smith told me to come and talk to you about how I can help with the election,” Dave said. He looked over his shoulder to make sure nobody saw him go in.

“Yes. Yes. Good. Come in, Lieutenant,” Ike Deutsch replied. The butcher wiped his palms and the backs of his hands on his blood-splattered apron, and they shook hands. He locked the door to the shop and flipped the “Open” sign to “Closed” after Dave entered. “Let’s go to the back where we can talk in private.” As he pulled his apron off over his head, he added, “You never know who’s peeking through the glass.”

Dave removed his cap and followed the butcher. They walked past the dead chickens hung by their ankles, beneath the fragrant sausages hanging overhead, past the glass case of roasts and chops on the left with the big roll of brown paper and large spool of twine on top. The sawdust on the floor puffed up with each step as they snaked between the carcasses hanging on heavy iron hooks, past the bloodied butcher blocks strewn with dangerous-looking implements, until at last they entered a small, dank room off to the right.

“I call this my office. Not much, I know—but it gives me some privacy.” Deutsch closed the door, threw the apron into the bin to his left, and pointing to a stool in the corner, said, “Sit, please, sit.”

Dave settled onto the stool.

Ike Deutsch plopped himself down on the chair behind a rickety wooden table serving as his desk. He whisked aside a pile of stained bills and receipts and simultaneously pulled the dirty ashtray from the side of the table to himself. He lit a fat cigar and tossed the charred matchstick into the ashtray “So, Lieutenant, I think we’re about to become partners in an exciting adventure.”

Dave tried not to choke. He wasn’t sure if it was being closeted with the cigar smoke or the thought of politics again gripping his life.

 

Hope you enjoyed this tidbit. If you’re tempted to read more, please order Bosses and Blackjacks, available from Amazon in ebook or paperback: https://www.amazon.com/Bosses-Blackjacks-Bloody-Fifth-Philadelphia/dp/1523349093

 

SUMMERTIME♫ . . . AND THE READING IS EASY!

Well, folks . . . I did it!

 

Mae’s Revenge is available just in time for your first weekend of Summer, 2017!

 

The lovely ladies (pictured above) simply could not wait another moment to find out exactly what goes on inside this historical novella.

 

And now — you don’t have to wait, either!

Available on Amazon.com: 

https://www.amazon.com/Maes-Revenge-Mari-Theater-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B071KDKT7V/

 

Thank you, dear readers, for sharing this adventure with me, and I hope you enjoy Mae’s Revenge! (Available in E-book and paperback versions.) Please don’t hesitate to use the “comment” option, above.