Guest Post

HAVE A BOOK TO PROMOTE? Lyrical Pens welcomes guest posts. Answer a questionnaire or create your own post. FYI, up front: This site is a definite PG-13. For details, contact cjpetterson@gmail.com cj

Sunday, July 23, 2017

On-line trolls

cj Sez: A fellow writer was grieving and questioning what to do about a one-star review on Amazon that complained about something that wasn’t even in her novel. Obviously, the reviewer hadn’t read the book.

One- and two-star reviews can be devastating, both for future sales and on the author. Wherever there’s an opportunity to post a review, there will be trolls with low ratings—whether they’re warranted or not. I’ve seen reviews by people who purchased an item on Amazon then rated the product one star because they thought delivery took too long. Had nothing to do with the quality of the product.

So where am I going with all that? It’s to reinforce why comments and reviews need to be put in perspective. I go back to the bell curve example (the one I usually use for critiques). Don’t let the bottom naysayers persuade you that your work isn’t good. Hiding within the electronic wafers of the Internet are nameless, faceless, and wretched on-line trolls. (Whew! I feel better now.)

We can’t realistically expect all reviews to be five-stars (okay, we do, anyway). I admit to having desperate pangs when someone dings a story. Yes, it skews the “average,” but then I re-read the good reviews that I do have (some posted, some not) and calm down a bit. I remind myself that I cannot please every reader out there. Duh. That’s the reason there are a gazillion different stories in multiple genres for the gazillion different readers.

If you receive a poor review from an on-line troll, I suggest you consider the source, and please do not respond to the reviewer. That might dig a deeper, darker hole than you want to dive into. For a review like that mentioned in my first paragraph, perhaps a conversation with Amazon (if that’s where it is made) might get the unfair/unjustified review removed. Might. If you're like me, you'll tend to console yourself with a mood enlightening treat.
Banana cake ala mode (quasi healthy?)
Speaking of reviews . . . have you taken the time to give an on-line review for the latest book you read? You might be able to refute some troll.



I’m nearly finished reading my first YA “eco mystery” and have loved it. I sat in on the author’s workshop at the recent Alabama Writer’s Conclave and decided I wanted to see how Claire Datnow incorporated her research into a mystery that would appeal to kids. I don’t usually read YA, but I’ve found this one very well written. When I reach the end of “Operation Terrapin Rescue,” I’m going to find a place to review it.

Personal observation truism: People watching is next to Godliness and cleanliness for writers. It's the reason I can't go to a library or a park or a coffee shop to write. All I do is people watch.

That’s it for this post. You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.

cj
NOW ON AMAZON:  A really amazing, super-duper deal for your summer romance reading.  A Crimson Romance bundle of 10 novels about athletes and the sports they love, Bodies in Motion, includes my novel, Choosing Carter.  10 wonderful reads for 99 cents on Amazon  Other ebook bundles still available on Amazon:  More Than Friends and California Kisses 

“Bad Day at Round Rock” short story in The Posse anthology @ http://amzn.to/2lQRvcD
newsletter sign-up at cjpetterson@gmail.com




Sunday, July 16, 2017

Introducing new novels . . .

cj Sez:  Carolyn Haines’s Familiar Legacy Mystery Series hosted a Facebook launch party July 14 (Flag Day and Bastille Day).

For the few who don’t know her, Carolyn Haines is the USA Today bestselling author of more than 70 books. She is a recipient of the Harper Lee Award for Distinguished Writing and the Richard Wright Award for Literary Excellence, as well as the "Best Amateur Sleuth" award by Romantic Times. Haines writes in a number of genres, from cozy mystery to horror and short fiction. She got her start in publishing in romantic mysteries with one savvy black cat detective called Familiar. She's delighted to bring back the first Familiar stories—and to introduce Trouble, son of Familiar, in a delightful new Familiar Legacy series which will feature a number of talented authors (and cat lovers!).

Books in the Familiar Legacy Series are:

Bk 1 Familiar Trouble by Carolyn Haines launched July 10 and is available on Amazon.

Bk 2 Trouble in Dixie by author Rebecca Barrett has a launch date of August 14 and is available now for pre-order on Amazon 

Rebecca Barrett writes historical fiction, post-apocalyptic fiction (writing as Campbell O’Neal), children’s stories, and short stories of life in the South. An avid reader all her life and a product of “front porch” socializing, she became a story-teller at an early age. Trouble in Dixie features that handsome, sleek, black cat detective, Trouble.

Bk 3 Trouble in Tallahassee by Claire Matturro is scheduled to launch September 12

Bk 4 Trouble at Summer Ranch by Susan Tanner will launch in October.

More new titles in the series are scheduled to launch in 2018.

***
In other publishing news, the publisher for “Bad Day at Round Rock,” my historical fiction short story in The Posse anthology, has co-written another Western novel. California Bound, co-authored by John O’Melveny Woods and Frank Kelso, is being introduced in two steps. The cover reveal is scheduled for July 19, 8 to 9 p.m. CDT on Facebook . . . https://www.facebook.com/CABoundBook/

The novel is scheduled to launch on August 16 also at 8 p.m. CDT with an interactive Facebook party. The launch comes complete with prizes. Be sure to stop by and leave a comment for a chance to win. Here’s a trailer snippet for California Boundhttp://snip.ly/40nlr 

***
One of the blogs I follow is that of author/editor/blogger-supreme Hope Clark at   http://www.fundsforwriters.com  Her “Funds for Writers” blog has been on the Writer’s Digest’s 101 Best Websites for Writers list every year since 2001. Anyway, to quote Hope:

“Writing well takes time. It isn't an instinct. You are not born with it. You do not accidentally write a stupendous tale. You develop this talent with hard work and a crazy number of hours invested in making your craft better.”

That means all writers, but especially aspiring writers, need to participate in workshops, critique groups, conferences, and read relentlessly in the genre they write. Before a writer can develop his/her own writing voice, s/he must read the good works of other published authors.

To inspire you to look at your own work-in-progress, I’ll leave you with one of Elmore (Dutch) Leonard’s famous first lines: 

“Chris Mankowski's last day on the job, two in the afternoon, two hours to go, he got a call to dispose of a bomb.”—Freaky Deaky (1988)

That’s all for today, folks. You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.

cj
PS: Click on the highlighted book titles for the buy link. 
A word from my sponsors:
NOW ON AMAZON:  A really amazing, super-duper deal for your summer romance reading.  A Crimson Romance bundle of 10 novels about athletes and the sports they love, Bodies in Motion, includes my novel, Choosing Carter.  10 wonderful reads for 99 cents on Amazon  Other ebook bundles still available on Amazon:  More Than Friends and California Kisses 
 “Bad Day at Round Rock” short story in The Posse anthology
newsletter sign-up at cjpetterson@gmail.com

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Blogger Recognition and how Lyrical Pens came to be

cj Sez:  I’ve been tagged for a Blogger Recognition Award--a kind of blogging award chain letter, and here are the rules:
1- Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
2- Write a post to show your award.
3- Give a brief story of how your blog started.
4- Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers.
5- Select other bloggers you want to give this award to.
6- Comment on each blog and let them know you have nominated them & provide the link to the post you created.

And here are my responses: 
1-  Thanks Candace Marley Connor, a wonderful SCBWI author, mother, and fellow Mobile Writers’ Guild member, for nominating me to participate in this blogging event. It’s a bit like practicing flash fiction, and that’s a great writing exercise.  (By the way, Miz Connor’s post for this event is downright wonderful. Just click on her name to read it.)

2-  I am now writing a post to show my lovely award. 

YIPPEE ! Quite lovely, don’t you agree?

3-  Here’s the brief story of how the Lyrical Pens blog got started:

Lyrical Pens began on June 22, 2009, when I clicked “publish” on my first post. You can click on the date to read it. Joyce Scarbrough was my first (and only) commenter…Thanks, Joyce, although it seems to have started a one-of trend (sigh). The blog was intended as a marketing tool for three writing/critique-group buddies (Mahala Church, Tracy Hurley, and me) who wanted to “get our names out there.” Mahala and Tracy had just co-founded the Mobile Writers’ Guild, and I had joined them as a charter member and Secretary…or maybe that was Treasurer (faulty memory). Go-getter Tracy worked through the technical part of building the website, and it hasn’t changed all that much since it began. Sadly, Tracy Hurley died in December 2010, and Mahala and I carried on. Today, where once there were three, there is now one. Mahala retired from the site in 2016.

4-  Two pieces of advice to new bloggers: First piece of advice comes with a caveat: “To thine own self be true.” That is to say, identify your goal for the blog and write your posts with that in mind. Do you want to share tidbits of personal data to grow your relationship with fans and readers? Do you want to share professional writing stuff for fellow authors? Maybe it’s a combination of both, which is where Lyrical Pens sits, although it does lean more toward the professional writing information.

Second piece of advice: A blog is a great way to build an author brand if you link your posts to your author Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, et al. Be sure to embed buy links and book trailers.  Did you notice I wrote “author Facebook page?” I have two FB pages, one for personal and one for author stuff. Your personal social media followers aren’t there to be sold to; they want to share conversations. Keep the advertising low-key on those sites. A new book notice or reminder is fine, but heavy slugs of “Buy My Book” advertising in every post might drive away some of your new Friends.

5-  I'm nominating one author, Sojourner McConnell (the nom de plume of Vicki Goodwin Turner), for this award. Sojourner is a relatively new blogger and has a brand new book release with great reviews, “Who’s That in the Cat Pajamas.”   
 
6- I dropped Sojourner a note to alert her about the award.

Okay, that’s my post for today, and I’m sticking to it. You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.

cj
And now a word from my sponsors:
 
NOW ON AMAZON A really amazing super-duper deal for your summer entertainment: Bodies in Motion. A Crimson Romance bundle about athletes and the sports they love includes Choosing Carter (rafting and off-roading)  As of this morning...10 Novels for 99 cents    (Buy Link: http://amzn.to/2turfbP )     Other ebook bundles still available on Amazon:  More Than Friends and California Kisses 
summer reading . . . Arriving tomorrow, July 10:  ,
 “Bad Day at Round Rock” short story in The Posse anthology @ http://amzn.to/2lQRvcD
newsletter sign-up at cjpetterson@gmail.com 
POSSE TRAILER for "Bad Day" short story:   https://youtu.be/I3jvofqqJwU             

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Critique groups

cj Sez:  One of my writing partners once had to leave a long-time relationship with a critique group because one member took a personal dislike to her and made the meetings miserable.

Not a nice thing, and certainly one no writer should have to experience. The fact is, finding a compatible critique group is almost as hard as finding a spouse (okay, maybe not THAT hard).

I know my manuscripts aren't going to please everyone, but what I hope to get out of each meeting are objective comments. I also know that may not happen 100 percent of the time, and that means I analyze critiques of my work on a bell curve.

The comments that fall at either end of the bell curve (Junk on the left end — Raving Marvelous on the right end) carry less weight and can be generally discarded, after I digest them, of course. Sometimes I find a nugget in there that says maybe I should tweak a line or two or three. The critiques I really look at, however, are those that cluster in the middle. This is where the comments seem to focus on the same thing. Sometimes they're positive (ooh, love those comments). More often they point to something that needs a good edit.

I've also found that the level of experience of the author/critiquer/reader is important to how I analyze the critique. Someone, doesn’t have to be an author, who reads a lot in my genre may make exactly the comments I need to hear . . . because s/he could be rendering the opinion of an on-the-library-shelf browser. That browser is the person I want to reach and entertain. I've been fortunate to have found two critiquers of that caliber. They were very helpful.

I’ve also encountered writers who try to squash everything into her/his voice and rules. A bit pedantic, perhaps, but could be helpful in the long run.

Yep, the bell curve works for me, even though negative critiques can sometimes get my goat before I discard them. I've learned that writers have to keep an open mind and be thick-skinned in order to keep writing.

In other news: 
Smashwords conducted a survey which they described as "We're looking to identify potential data driven insights that can help authors and publisher make their books more accessible, more desirable and more enjoyable to readers." You can read more about their results and analyses here:   **  

(**This caveat from James Jackson, immediate past president of the Guppies, the Sisters in Crime online organization:   “Because Smashworks best sellers and total volume are so skewed to Romance (especially relative to overall book sales by category), applying much of these results to Mystery/Suspense /Thriller is to make the assumption that our readers react the same way Romance readers do. I'm highly skeptical that those who primarily read Romance make the same kinds of purchasing decisions as those who primarily read Mystery/Suspense/Thriller.”)

I've spent the past three days at the Alabama Writers’ Conclave in Hoover, AL (Sunday a.m. headed home as you read this piece). Great learning weekend. Not a lot of money for a lot of info and networking opportunities. I recommend you try it sometime.

Note:  The Alabama Writers' Conclave was organized in 1923 and has been in continuing existence since. To find out more, check out their website: http://www.alabamawritersconclave.org/  

Okay, you-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same. In the meanwhile, here's a wish for wonderful successes with your work, and I’d love to hear how you deal with the personalities you’ve encountered in your critique groups. You are in one, aren't you?

cj

God Bless the U.S.A. on its 241st birthday July 4. 

Wishing you and your family a safe and happy celebration.

COMING ATTRACTIONS . . . Arriving July 10:  A new Crimson Romance bundle about athletes and the sports they love, Bodies in Motion, includes Choosing Carter (rafting and off-roading) Watch for it on Amazon.
Ebook bundles still available on Amazon:  More Than Friends and California Kisses 

 “Bad Day at Round Rock” short story in The Posse anthology @ http://amzn.to/2lQRvcD
newsletter sign-up at cjpetterson@gmail.com


Sunday, June 25, 2017

My path to publication

cj Sez: I’m happy to again be able to talk with you about my path to publication in the hope that maybe you’ll find a nugget in here that encourages you to continue on your own path.

I didn’t start writing seriously until I moved to Mobile, AL, in 2002. Since then, I’ve written some personal essays and short stories that have been published in several different anthologies, the latest being "Bad Day at Round Rock" in THE POSSE anthology. When Crimson Romance published my first novel, DEADLY STAR, in 2013, my sister said, “You wrote a whole book? All by yourself?” Yep, that was the summation of my perceived writing skills.

My first interest was in screenwriting. In 2000 or 2001, I think it was, I flew from Detroit to San Francisco to take a three-day seminar from Robert McKee who conducts screenwriting seminars in different cities around the United States and has published a book called STORY. His personalization to me in the book was “Write the truth” which is part of his motto and which I study hard to do.

The experience was invaluable because I began to visualize my stories in terms of the characters’ action-dialogue-and scenes that show the story. How characters react and what they don’t say can speak volumes. I see my scenes as if I’m watching them happen, as in a movie. I do know authors who visualize a particular movie star playing the heroine/hero in their books. Is that something you do? I don’t see a specific person. After I sell the movie rights (HA HA), I’ll leave it to Stephen Spielberg or Francis Ford Coppola to find the best mega-star for the role. To be honest, though, I think Pierce Brosnan would be perfect as the hero in DEADLY STAR.

For most us, and I’m very much included in that generalization, we have a wonderful idea on a theme. (Let me say right here that I don’t plot. I’m a pantser or more accurately, a pathfinder. I know how I want the story to end, but getting there is the exciting part for me.) It’s the middle that really gets us. It wants to sag. Like an old married couple, sometimes the excitement fades away after a while—unless, like that old married couple, we work at it.  

Working at it may mean changing some things around. When I make changes in the middle, it almost always mean rewriting the first chapter more than a few times. What helps me out is to read the dialogue aloud. Does it sound natural? Are the sentences so complete and full of blah-blah information that they slow the pace of the story? I’m currently reading a contest submission that reads like a daily journal. I appreciate that the author is introducing the reader to the main character. However, there are no teasers that entice me to keep turning the pages until the middle of page three. 

Sluggish pacing can happen in any part of a novel, but it very often happens in the middle of a story. When the dreaded saggy middle shows up, I may need to reinvent someone, maybe add another challenge (read that conflict) or two for the protagonist to bring back the thrill.  Structured pacing also suffers when I’m trying to get the word count up. As a former journalist and an admirer of Robert B. Parker’s writing style, I write very tight. My first drafts average about 62,000 words. However, extra words that slow the pacing and detract from the story seem to fly onto the pages when I’m racing to type “The End.”

Once I get the concept down and slog through the research, writing any story is all about editing and changes. Sometimes, I see a need to change a character’s name, a story thread, a sentence structure, or, as was true for DEADLY STAR, the whole genre.

DEADLY STAR didn’t start off as a romance. Over the course of writing and editing the manuscript, which took about four years (do I write slow or what?), one of my critique partners thought the story might be marketed as an action/adventure. Another said it was a woman-in-peril story, a third said political thriller. Someone even floated the idea that it was sci-fi.

Then, because there was a love scene in the story—let me add a disclaimer here, it isn’t a bodice-tearing romp—I recklessly entered excerpts of the manuscript into two romance contests. The judges in each thought the concept and story were good, except it needed a happily ever after ending. One judge said she was tempted to throw it against the wall because it didn’t meet the HEA criterion. I decided the story might work as a romantic suspense novel if I made a change, or three, within the manuscript and, of course, changed the ending.

Revisions done, Crimson Romance offered me a contract about three weeks after I submitted my e-query and synopsis, and DEADLY STAR was published eleven months later. I’d stumbled…been pushed, really…into the correct genre.

The message is this: Don’t be afraid or unwilling to make changes in your manuscript but do so with a caveat. Before you make wholesale changes, be sure you’ve looked at the manuscript as objectively as possible. Put the piece aside, for several days at least, much longer if possible.

You can ask any of my critique partners, and they’ll tell you I’m making changes to my WIP as the pages leave my computer and are headed for theirs. I’ve been known to send an immediate follow-up note screaming in all capital letters: DON’T PRINT WHAT I JUST SENT YOU. HERE’S THE LATEST AND GREATEST.

After working with CEOs and vice presidents and directors who loved to thumbprint every piece of paper that crossed their desks, I do understand that my words, no matter how beautiful I think they are, are not carved in stone. And, if I can’t use them in one story, I can save them for another.

When I do need to consider a wholesale change to my manuscript, I try to keep in mind that, as one of my critique partners always said, I am the captain of my story. Change can be a good thing, but to change or not to change is up to me.

That’s all for now. You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same. And to all my writer friends, I hope all your characters are happy in your head . . . we're all doing pretty well in mine. Comments? Questions? There's a spot open and waiting for those at the bottom of the post.

cj
And now a word from my sponsors:
COMING ATTRACTIONS . . . Arriving July 10:  A new Crimson Romance bundle about athletes and the sports they love, Bodies in Motion, includes Choosing Carter (rafting and off-roading)     Watch for it on Amazon.
Ebook bundles still available on Amazon:  More Than Friends and California Kisses 

 “Bad Day at Round Rock” short story in The Posse anthology @ http://amzn.to/2lQRvcD
newsletter sign-up at cjpetterson@gmail.com

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Briefly . . .

cj Sez: Haven’t been feeling up to snuff for the past couple of days so this post is going to be brief. (*See below for the reason.) What follows are stream-of-consciousness thoughts about how to Support Your Local Writers, whether you’re a writer or a reader.  

Encourage each other. Writing is not a competition; everyone can be successful.

If you’re a writer . . .
. . . and have your own blog, invite guests to post. Lyrical Pens does do that, though we haven’t been graced with a guest for a few weeks. (Got a post to share? eMail me at cjpetterson@gmail.com) When you have a guest scheduled, send out “Coming Attractions” promotions on Facebook, Twitter, et al.

Read and be willing to give your fellow authors’ work a fair critique. Be kind but be honest.

If they want to just sit and talk, grab a chair and listen. Writing is a lonely occupation, and most other people don't understand.

If you’re a yet-to-be-published writer, work on your brand. If you don’t have a business card, get one. GotPrint and Vista Print can do a bunch for not much money. (I paid $23 at GotPrint, which included about $7 shipping, for 250 double-sided cards.) Hand it out to agents, workshop instructors, fellow writers, wherever you have an opportunity to network. Get your name out there as early as possible so they can watch for your new release. Some variation of the one that follows is my suggestion:

Name  Jane Doe, Author
Writer of XXX (literary fiction, historical fiction, non-fiction, YA, romance, whatever)
eMail address
website (or Facebook) address

Now, if you’re a reader (and since writers are also readers, this applies to everyone) . . .

. . . like and comment on authors' posts on their Facebook pages. Facebook's algorithms only show posts that FB thinks other members would like to see. That means the more likes and comments a post gets, the more people will see it. 


Go to book signings, even if you can’t afford to buy the book at that time. Your attendance is encouraging. I’ve been to book signings where the author and I were the only two people there. I been the author at signings where . . . well, never mind. With a little planning, you can keep that from happening to another author.   


*Why am I not up to snuff, you ask? An army of ants marched into my bedroom the other night to escape the rain and joined me under the covers. When I dashed out of bed, I stepped into their path. Man, I’m hurting. I’m sleeping on the couch until I’m sure I’ve totally eliminated the invaders from the carpeting, but I’m hanging in there.

That’s it for today. You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.

cj
And now a word from my sponsors:
COMING ATTRACTIONS . . . Arriving July 10:  A new Crimson RomanceBodies in Motion, includes Choosing Carter (rafting and off-roading)     Watch for it on Amazon.
bundle about athletes and the sports they love,
Ebook bundles still available on Amazon:  More Than Friends and California Kisses 

 “Bad Day at Round Rock” short story in The Posse anthology @ http://amzn.to/2lQRvcD
newsletter sign-up at cjpetterson@gmail.com


Sunday, June 11, 2017

Building your author brand

cj Sez: If you saw a new book and the author was Stephen King, you'd expect to read a work of horror/psychological fiction from this prolific storyteller. How about if the author was Dame Agatha Christie? You’d expect something 180 degrees from King’s genre: cozy crime mysteries.

What you’ve just done is recognized these two authors’ unique brands.

If I said, “Murder on the Orient Express,” you’d automatically think cozy mystery written by Agatha Christie.  If I said, “She’s been nominated for the Agatha Award,” you’d know I meant Agatha Christie and you’d know what kind of story is being considered for the award.

Stephen King + Misery (Or Cujo or Carrie or The Shining, et al.) = Stephen King Brand: horror/psychological fiction.

When readers recognize your name, they’ve recognized your brand.

Building your author brand needs to be one of the first things you do, even if you are yet to be published. Start with a Facebook page. It’s free. Set up a blog site, and make sure the theme, style and voice of the two are consistent. Use similar colors and fonts in signage, swag, banners for book signings, and business cards. You want your readers to identify you and your name by your ideas and concepts. I wear my squash blossom necklace to every event I attend. 

Author taglines can be difficult if not misleading if you write in multiple genres, and I don’t have one because of this. But if you can find some link between all of your novels, you can develop a line or two about that common thread. For instance, in THE POSSE anthology, the old West settings, romance, and human interest themes are common among the stories. The tagline: “An Anthology of Historical Western Romances, by seven authentic western writers, is a romping wild ride into the wide open ranges of America’s west – filled with thrills and romance.”

Since I write action/adventure style stories, if someone asks what kind of novels I write, I say: “Jane Bond-style romantic suspense,” and they recognize that I write romance with strong heroines.

Perhaps, like author Carolyn Haines (http://carolynhaines.com ), you are into animal rescues. Make sure your readers know this. Author Tracy Weber is a certified yoga instructor, loves dogs and mysteries, and writes the Downward Dog mysteries  (http://tracyweberauthor.com )

Now you can develop a brand summary by defining who “you” are or what your books are about.

Because Carolyn Haines has written more than 70 books in different genres and under different names, she has brand recognition under different names. She accommodates that brand summary on her website thusly:

“Welcome to my website. I’m a writer, lover of animals, reader, teacher, and mischief maker. Perhaps it’s the last category that I most want to excel at!”

All of the above are just ideas to get you thinking about that important marketing tool, your author brand.

That’s it for today’s post. You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same. Questions? Comments? Drop me a note. I promise to answer.

cj
COMING ATTRACTIONS . . . Arriving July 10:  A new Crimson Romance bundle about athletes and the sports they love, Bodies in Motion, includes Choosing Carter (rafting and off-roading)     Watch for it on Amazon.
Ebook bundles still available on Amazon:  More Than Friends and California Kisses 

“Bad Day at Round Rock” short story in The Posse anthology @ http://amzn.to/2lQRvcD
newsletter sign-up at cjpetterson@gmail.com


Sunday, June 4, 2017

Overused words . . .

cj Sez:  Like the gremlins of misspellings and typos that show up no matter how many times the document is proofread, beta read, edited, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, I’m still finding repeated words in my manuscripts.

First drafts are usually full of the words that are top-of-mind, the ones with which we are most familiar. These familiar words allow writers to push through that raggedy first document rather than take time to search our minds or a thesaurus for better ones.

It’s when writers get into the rewrite, rewrite, and rewrite mode that we see how our familiar words/phrases simply can’t live up to the task in our manuscripts. They may rise to the surface as trite or overused once we get into the edit cycles.

 My solution is to use Word (or whatever software you’re using) to “Find” how many times you repeat a word. I search my entire manuscript for some word I find too often during a quick review, and then replace or delete (most often delete) the offending repetition. This neat trick often leads to word choice or phrasing improvements that I didn’t see before.

Verbs. I usually start with the things I know I use too often, but one creative writing instructor I know suggests starting with the verbs . . . the “to be” verbs (is, were), but says don’t worry about occasional usage. Next go to active verbs. I find a lot of look, smile, walk, glance, shrug, frown, and variations of each.  How many are too many. I suggest that if they begin to annoy you when you see them in the text, there are too many. I also suggest that you read your work out loud. Overused words will jump off the page and bruise your brain. Yaarrgh!

Nouns. Don’t forget to check for nouns. I always find dozens of coffee, latte, mouth, eyes, eyebrows, and hands. I also check for “then” and “while.” When I find a lot of these, I know I have a problem with poor transitions and a lot of complex sentences that tend to slow down the reader.

Adverbs. Several years ago, The Guardian.com* published Elmore Leonard’s ten rules for writers, and his number 4 is about adverbs.  Said Leonard: “Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said" . . . he admonished gravely. To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin. The writer is now exposing himself in earnest, using a word that distracts and can interrupt the rhythm of the exchange. I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances ‘full of rape and adverbs’.”  (*http://bit.ly/1Xvbg5c )

Mr. Leonard is not alone in offering this advice. That bit about the writer “exposing himself” refers to author intrusion into the reader’s enjoyment of a story. The writer is telling the readers what he/she wants them to know/sense about the character. Writers should never intrude into the reader’s story.  

My suggestion: Find a strong verb that doesn’t need an “ly” helper—i.e., instead of “walked heavily,” perhaps “plodded.”

Adjectives. Are your characters often gorgeous, handsome, tall, sexy, ripped; your rooms large, tiny, trashed? Adjectives are important and necessary, but it’s incumbent on writers to find their own unique voice to describe things. Sometimes it’s by omission of the obvious words.

One of my favorite examples is the opening line of “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley. “A squat, gray building of only thirty-four stories.”  By comparison, the reader is able to visualize that all the buildings in Huxley’s new world are skyscraper tall except that particular one. The building is shorter and uglier (squat, gray) than all the others in this bright new world. The line is a promise of extraordinary things that will happen in that odd building.

I find that the more often I search for and delete or replace overused words, the fewer I find because I am learning to recognize my tendency for repetition. Perhaps you will have the same result.  What are your favorite overused words?  Have you searched for them?

That’s it for this post. You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.

cj

COMING ATTRACTIONS . . . Arriving July 10:  A new Crimson Romance bundle about athletes and the sports they love, Bodies in Motion, includes Choosing Carter (rafting and off-roading)     Watch for it on Amazon.

Ebook bundles still available on Amazon:  More Than Friends and California Kisses


“Bad Day at Round Rock” short story in The Posse anthology @ http://amzn.to/2lQRvcD

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Sunday, May 28, 2017

Remembering our heroes on Memorial Day*

cj Sez:  Because I think this information needs repeating . . .


It wasn't always Memorial Day — it used to be known as Decoration Day. Whatever the name, it's a day of remembrance for all those who have died in service of the United States of America.

Born of the Civil War, Memorial Day began as a holiday honoring Union soldiers, and some states still have separate Confederate observances. Mississippi celebrates Confederate Memorial Day on the last Monday of April, Alabama on the fourth Monday of April, and Georgia on April 26. North and South Carolina observe it on May 10, Louisiana on June 3 and Tennessee calls that date Confederate Decoration Day. Texas celebrates Confederate Heroes Day on Jan. 19 and Virginia calls the last Monday in May Confederate Memorial Day. (In this era of intolerance and kowtowing to cries to erase visible traces of our history, the memorials respecting Confederate soldiers who died fighting for what they believed in may not continue much longer.)

The first Decoration Day, the 30th of May, 1868, was chosen because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular Civil War battle.

The “National Moment of Remembrance” resolution passed in Dec. 2000 asks 
that at 3 p.m. local time, all Americans “Voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of Remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to ‘Taps.’”

Red poppies are known as a symbol of remembrance, and it's a tradition to wear them on Memorial Day to honor those who died in war.  

In 1915, inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields,” Moina Michael conceived the idea to wear red poppies on Memorial Day in honor of those who died serving the nation during war. She was the first to wear one and sold poppies to her friends and co-workers with the money going to benefit servicemen in need. 
(cj Sez: When I was little, we called it Poppy Day instead of Decoration Day.)

Following is a tabulation of the casualties of U.S. wars (The list is not all inclusive, and the reported numbers exclude wounded and/or missing):

©Jeff D. Johnston
Civil War: Approximately 620,000 Americans died. The Union lost almost 365,000 troops and the Confederacy about 260,000. More than half of these deaths were caused by disease.
World War I: 116,516 Americans died, more than half from disease.
World War II: 405,399 Americans died.
Korean War: 36,574 Americans died.
Vietnam Conflict: 58,220 Americans died. More than 47,000 Americans were killed in action and nearly 11,000 died of other causes.
Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm: 148 U.S. battle deaths and 145 non-battle deaths.
Operation Iraqi Freedom: 4,489 U.S. service members died.
Operation New Dawn: 66 U.S. service members died.
Operation Enduring Freedom: 2,318 U.S. service members have died as of May 12, 2014.


cj Sez: I am in awe of their sacrifice, and it is with deep reverence and gratitude, I humbly say thank you to the families that America’s heroes left behind. May God Bless you.

COMING ATTRACTIONS . . . Arriving July 10:  A new Crimson Romance bundle about athletes and the sports they love, Bodies in Motion, includes Choosing Carter (rafting and off-roading)     Watch for it on Amazon.

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

cj

Choosing Carter  -- Kindle  /  Nook  /  Kobo   /  iTunes/iBook
Deadly Star --  Kindle  / Nook  / Kobo
California Kisses 10-book publishers bundle on Amazon 99 cents
Bad Day at Round Rock” a historical fiction short story in  The Posse, a Western anthology.   
Quarterly newsletter sign-up:   cjpetterson@gmail.com  

*Data from multiple on-line sources.