Writing Tips

I have been successful probably because I have always realized that I knew nothing about writing and have merely tried to tell an interesting story entertainingly. Edgar Rice Burroughs

Sunday, May 29, 2016

A Day of Remembrance

When you make your plans for the Memorial Day holiday, remember to start here:  

Memorial Day Writers Project (info from Google)

Twice a year, on Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day, the Memorial Day Writers Project provides a creative venue for veterans and their families, and those who have been touched by war. Day-long readings and performances take place, rain or shine, in a tent adjacent to the Vietnam Memorial (near Constitution Ave and 21st St NW).  This year, the open mic project takes place from 11:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Monday, May 30.

The Memorial Day Writers Project (MDWP) was founded in 1993 for Vietnam Veterans by Vietnam veterans Mike McDonell and Clyde Wray.

All authors, poets, singers, and songwriters are invited to take part in this semiannual event and bring copies of their books, chapbooks, and CDs for sale at the MDWP tent. MDWP participants have also come together to read at veterans' gatherings, college campuses, churches, high schools, book stores, and libraries.

For more info, go to http://www.memorialdaywritersproject.com or email dick_epstein@ hotmail.com.

The prose, poetry and songs presented on their web site represent a sampling from their open mic venue on the Mall. The men and women represented there speak the truth, their truth, and offer a look inside veterans−your neighbors−the grey-haired man two houses away or the woman across the street.

The following Author Anonymous poem has been "touched" by many hands, but these lines are some of the latest excerpts I found . . .

It is the
not the preacher,
who has given us freedom of religion.

It is the VETERAN,
not the reporter,
who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the VETERAN,
not the poet,
who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the VETERAN,
not the campus organizer,
who has given us freedom to assemble.

It is the VETERAN,
not the lawyer,
who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the VETERAN,
not the politician,
who has given us the right to vote.

Thank you to all who have served and are serving; deepest condolences to the families who lost heroes in the continuing struggle to keep this country safe and our freedoms intact.

Memorial Day info you may not know . . .

Every Memorial Day, the U.S. flag is quickly raised to the tops of flagpoles, slowly lowered to half-mast, and then raised again to full height at noon. The time at half-mast is meant to honor the million-plus fallen U.S. soldiers who have died for their country over the years. Re-raising the flag is meant to symbolize the resolve of the living to carry on the fight for freedom so that the nation’s heroes will not have died in vain.

Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day and was initiated to honor the soldiers for the Union and Confederate armies who died during the American Civil War.

Celebrations honoring Civil War heroes started the year after the war ended. The establishment of a public holiday was meant to unify the celebration as a national day of remembrance instead of a holiday celebrated separately by the Union and Confederate states. By the late 19th century, the holiday became known as Memorial Day and was expanded to include the deceased veterans of all the wars fought by American forces.

In 1971, Memorial Day became a federal holiday and was given the floating date of the last Monday in May. The original national celebration of Decoration Day took place on 30 May 1868.

Be safe out there, friends, and have an enjoyable holiday, but please remember who and what we celebrate.

You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.

PS: The ‘toons are from Facebook.
Choosing Carter  -- Kindle  /  Nook  /  Kobo   /  iTunes/iBook
Deadly Star --  Kindle  / Nook  / Kobo
Amazon Central Author Page:  http://amzn.to/1NIDKC0

Sunday, May 22, 2016


cj Sez:  Overwriting is a problem for new writers, and even experienced writers fall victim to the problem. It’s definitely something I’m guilty of in my early drafts. I recently came across some help and thought Lyrical Pens visitors might be interested as well.

What is overwriting, you ask? Overwriting can be defined as verbosity—a tendency to write too much and/or too flowery. (According to Google, “If a speech or writing style is flowery, it uses too many complicated words or phrases in an attempt to sound skillful.” Sounds a bit like academia to me.) Plain and simple writing is not only okay, it’s easier to read and understand.

A few ways to avoid overwriting:

Start your story where the action is. The beginning of a book is often the most overwritten part. When info dumps and backstory creep into the first chapter, readers (ergo agents) most often put down a book after reading the first few pages, sometimes before the end of the first chapter. Much of the backstory dumps are a result of the author’s newly created history for the character. These are things the author needs to know to create realistic personalities. Readers don’t need to see these facts on the page. They will discern the info either from bits of dialogue or character responses. If the extra pieces of info are important to the story, they can be reworked into later chapters as needed. If they are not important…

Trust your reader’s intelligence. Watch the repetitions. Don’t say the same thing three different ways. Readers really can remember what they read.

Watch the jargon and watch the purple prose. A well-placed new word is
interesting, maybe a touch of flowery language (if the character and the scene call for it), but your reader shouldn’t have to go to Google to find out what you mean. At the minimum, put the word or phrase into context or explain it during some dialogue. Do not, however, try to explain the obvious.

Well-placed metaphors are memorable, and too many metaphors, no matter how clever, are distracting. Symbolism, alliteration and other prose devices don’t tell stories. Emotions, characters and plot do. 

Don’t over-describe the action. I call those unneeded action details “stage direction.” For example: “John walked across the room, stuck the key in the lock, opened the door, and walked into the hallway.”  All that is needed might be, “John left the room, closing the door quietly behind him.” Readers will understand the rest of the action.  PS: Be judicious in your use of adverbs and adjectives.

Don’t over-describe the scene. Yes, scene and a sense of place are vital to the story, but don’t put something into the scene that has no relevance to the story. Describing a character’s office or living room in detail is only important to the degree that it describes the personality of the character. There's an old trope credited to author/playwright Anton Chekhov, that applies to writing. In a letter to a friend in 1889, Chekhov wrote, "One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it. I believe the exception would be if an item is a red herring.
Dialogue is not conversation. Dialogue is conversation concentrated. Brief. Always with the story in mind. To quote a recent piece I read: “If two characters shout for several lines of dialogue, neither character needs to say ‘I’m upset.’ Their actions will tell the reader they’re upset.” That’s the familiar Show Don’t Tell rule, though I don’t really understand how the reader will know those two characters are shouting unless you use the dreaded exclamation point, which some famous authors advise have a one- or two-per-book limit. Along that same vein, strong dialogue does not need to be supported by tags such as sneered and roared. Disruptive dialogue tags can distract the reader from the actual dialogue. “Said” and “asked” may be boring, but they help the pacing by being “invisible” to the reader.

To get rid of overwriting, edit mercilessly. Grit your teeth, take a deep breath, and kill your darlings. Okay, save them in a file for future ideas, but delete them from the story.

Do you tend to over-write? Let us know how you handle the purple prose.

Note: I’ve just registered for the Alabama Writers’ Conclave 2016 conference. It’s being held July 15-17 this year in Birmingham, AL. Check it out:  http://www.alabamawritersconclave.org/  

Okay, you-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.


PS:  If you’d like to do a guest post on Lyrical Pens to market a new book, drop me a line at cjpetterson@gmail.com   I can offer topic suggestions, a questionnaire, or you can write on a topic of your choice. Caveat: This site is definitely PG 13.    
PPS:  The "toons" are from Facebook. 

Choosing Carter  -- Kindle  /  Nook  /  Kobo   /  iTunes/iBook
Deadly Star --  Kindle  / Nook  / Kobo
Amazon Central Author Page:  http://amzn.to/1NIDKC0