Tighten your writing and make it sharper

belly-2354_1920.jpgAt the meeting of the Gettysburg Writer’s Brigade last week, we talked about cutting the flab from your writing. One of the first things Will Hutchison recommends is searching out each word that ends in –ly in your writing and see how the sentence reads without the word. You will be surprised to find that the sentence will probably read fine without it.

We also had lists of words that should be avoided, and if possible, cut from your writing. Here are some of the word:

  • Really
  • Very
  • That
  • Just
  • Then
  • Start
  • Begin, began, begun
  • Rather
  • Quite
  • Somewhat, somehow
  • Dialogue tags – said, asked, replied (You will need some of these to clarify who is speaking in dialogue, but writers often overuse them.)
  • Down, Up
  • Wonder, ponder, think, though
  • Breathe, inhale, exhale

You can search the web to find other words that add flab to your writing. Smart Blogger and Diana Urban’s website both have excellent articles. Sorry, I don’t have the links, only copies of the articles. You will find instances where these words are necessary, but they are often unnecessary.

Don’t worry about cutting the flab while you’re writing the first draft. The important thing to do for that draft is to get everything on paper. It’s during the later drafts when you are self-editing that you should look for ways to tighten your writing.

You’ll find it reads better, which will please both you and your readers.

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Finding festivals and fairs to sell books at

A part of the discussion among members of the Gettysburg Writers Brigade this past Wednesday involved where to find festivals where we can sell our books.

Here are two websites that I use that make searching for festivals easy.

Festivalnet.com allows you to search for the details of festivals across the country for free. If you want more details, you can either join the website, or you can do a web search for the name of the festivals you find.


I’ve been doing the latter, but it is becoming time-consuming so I will be joining with a basic level membership.

Given that the Gettysburg Writers Brigade is in Pennsylvania, I found another site called PA-vendors.com that gives, even more detail about Pennsylvania festivals than Festivalnet.com.

You can also find similar sites for festivals in New Jersey, Maryland, and Delaware.

So if you would like to find a long list of potential places where you can market your books, check out one of these websites.’

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Give your writing productivity a boost

dictation_recorders-mainI’m always looking for ways to increase my productivity. As a one-man show, I either have to do the job or pay to have someone else do it. So I’m always trying to get more from my day to tick off another few items on my “to do” list.

I have been thinking about dictation for awhile now. I even bought the Dragon Talk software. However, I quickly figured out that my most likely time to use dictation was not necessarily when I was going to be sitting at my desk.

I let the idea fall by the wayside for a while. Last week, I decided to try it again.

I downloaded a speech-to-text app onto my phone. Then the next time I went walking, I pulled out my own and started dictating a chapter in the book that I’m working on. When I had finished, I emailed the text to myself.

When I got home later, I opened my e-mail and copied the text into a word document. Then I took a couple minutes to read through the text, add punctuation, correct spelling, and format. Within about a third of the time that it would have taken me to type 1,000, I had my draft of the scene done. Plus, most of the time that it took to prepare the scene, I did while I was walking.

That’s an increase in productivity!

The other place where I’ve found the app pays off is when I go to bed. As I lay there winding down each night, I tend to think of things I need to do or scenes I want to write.

Now when that happens, I grab my phone and start dictating. Then I can review what I dictated in the morning.

Next up, I’d like to find a way to have my computer translate interviews that I conduct while I’m researching. I can’t simply use the app because there are translation errors that I would need to be able to refer back to original interview to check. I’m thinking I need to record the interview and then see if I can play it into my phone so that it’s translated.

Whether it works or not, dictation has definitely increased my productivity. I also think that it helps improve the flow of my writing, particularly when I’m writing dialogue.

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Have you tried Scrivener?

scrivenerI keep hearing about a program called Scrivener. The articles I read say that it helps make a writer more efficient. Has anyone here tried the program? It’s not expensive, so that’s not what is holding me back.

I just don’t want to spend hours learning a new program that I’m not sure will be of any help to me.

The features that the website lists for Scrivener are:

  • Corkboard “The cork notice-board is one of the writer’s most familiar organisational tools. Before Scrivener, though, the index cards were not connected to anything; any alterations made to the sequence of cards on the corkboard would have to be replicated manually in the draft. In Scrivener, every document is attached to a virtual index card onto which you can jot a synopsis; moving the cards on Scrivener’s corkboard rearranges their associated text in your draft. Mark common themes or content using labels, or stack cards, grouping related documents together. Scrivener’s corkboard gives you the flexibility of a real notice-board while automatically reflecting any changes you make in your manuscript.” – I already do something similar using my Word planning document.
  • Outliner “Prefer a more traditional planning environment? View and edit the synopses and meta-data of your documents in Scrivener’s powerful outliner. Organise your ideas using as many or few levels as you want and drag and drop to restructure your work. Check word counts, see what’s left to do using the Status column. Scrivener’s outliner is easy on the eyes, too, making it ideal for reading and revising an overview of a section, chapter or even the whole draft.” – This is something else I do with my Word planning document.
  • Scrivenings“Scrivener’s innovative “Scrivenings” mode allows you to move smoothly between editing your document one piece at a time or together as a whole. It’s up to you how small—or large—you want to make the individual sections of your manuscript: novelists can write each scene in a separate document or whole chapters as one; scriptwriters can work scene-by-scene or act-by-act; academics can break down their ideas into individual arguments. However finely you break up your work, Scrivenings mode allows you to collect the constituent components into a single editor, so that you can edit them as though they were all part of one document: in Scrivener, you’re only ever a click away from seeing the forest or the trees.” – I’m not sure I would even use this.
  • Text Editing “Scrivener provides access to all the features of a full rich text editor: add tables, bullet points and images and format your text however you want using the format bar at the top of the page. Add footnotes and comments in the inspector and choose how they should be laid out when you export or print. And because the font and style you find most comfortable for writing and editing may not be the same as those required in your final document, Scrivener’s advanced Compile settings optionally allow you to print or export your work in a completely different format.” – I don’t see how this is something different than what I can do with Word.
  • Tools for Writing Non-Fiction “Scrivener isn’t just for writing novels and other forms of fiction. You will find useful templates for writing in common style formats, as well as general non-fiction, fiction and script templates. Integrate your preferred bibliography management software into Scrivener’s menu system for easy on-demand access to your library of references. Those working with gigantic libraries of reference material in PDF and other formats will appreciate the ability to link to original files rather than importing them into the project, giving you the best of both worlds: Scrivener’s built-in split viewing and full Binder organisation, without the overhead of storing gigabytes of research data in your projects.” – This sounds like it could be useful to me.
  • Scriptwriting “While Scrivener is not intended to replace dedicated screenplay software, its familiar scriptwriting features make formatting a script straightforward. So you can draft your script inside Scrivener using the unique research and structural tools and then export to RTF, before opening it in industry-standard scriptwriting software such as Final Draft. And because you can mix up script formatting with regular text, it makes writing treatments easier than ever.” – This is a feature that I don’t see myself using.
  • Statistics and Targets “A live word and character count of the current section is always in view at the bottom of the screen, and you can set a word or character count target for each section. For a wider perspective, though, Scrivener’s Project Statistics panel allows you to check the word and character and page counts of your manuscript so far, and Project Targets let you set the number of words or characters you aim to achieve for the whole draft or just for the current session. Call up the targets panel to see your progress reflected in the coloured bars as you write.” – This just seems like a fancy version of something that I can easily do on my own.
  • Snapshot “Never be afraid to make mistakes. Scrivener’s “snapshot” feature makes it easy to return to an earlier version of your text. Before embarking on a major edit, take a snapshot and you’ll be able to return to the current version any time you want. Not sure about the changes you’ve made? Just call up your snapshots in the inspector to refer to previous edits or restore an older version of the text.” – This is just saving back-up versions.
  • Full Screen Evolved “Because sometimes you want to blank out the rest of the world while you write—or at least the rest of the screen. One click in Scrivener’s toolbar and you can leave the rest of your desktop behind. Fade the background in and out, choose the width of the “paper” and get writing. Prefer an old-school green-text-on-black look or maybe white text on a blue background? No problem. Flexible appearance options mean you can set up the full-screen mode as you please. Change documents, apply keywords—or most importantly, just write—in one of the most beautiful distraction-free modes available.” – Another feature that I don’t see myself using.
  • Name Generator “For fiction writers—or journalists and other writers who need to come up with pseudonyms to protect the identity of interviewees—Scrivener has a dedicated name generator. Choose from name lists from a range of origins, and let Scrivener generate batches of random names for use in your projects. You can even look up the meanings of many names using an extensive name dictionary.” – This might be useful to me.
  • Automatic Back-ups “You can tell Scrivener to back up your projects as zip files whenever they are opened or closed—great for ensuring there’s a recent backup of your project always stashed safely away in Dropbox.” – This is something I would use because sometimes I forget to back-up my files.

So what are your impressions of Scrivener?



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Podcasting tips for authors

I know some in the group are looking for ways to better market their books. Here’s something to consider. I’ve been interviewed on some podcasts and follow others. I think they can be very useful in not only marketing but also providing information to people.

This is the second post Dr Katie Linder has written for us on Podcasting. In Part One she discussed some of the benefits of being a researcher/podcast. In this post she lays out a pratical strartegy for starting. I think I might have to give it a go! If you haven’ t listened to Katie’s […]

via How to start podcasting your research — The Thesis Whisperer

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Writing a Historical Fiction Novel ~ Staying Inspired

Some good tips to keep motivated.

Dreaming of Guatemala

Writing a story takes a lot of time, effort, and motivation. It takes allowing the characters to grow in your mind, imagining the type of setting/s you’ll be placing them in, and deciding where you want the book to begin, go, and end.

As I’ve found through the planning process of my own current novel, which has consumed all of my creative writing energy for the past couple of years, writing a historical fiction novel, in particular, is even harder to plan and write than other genres, in my opinion. There’s certainly much more research involved, as historical fiction is typically based around something that really happened, to some extent!

So the question is, how does one stay inspired on the path of planning and writing a historical fiction novel? That’s what I’ll be talking about today, and I hope that I’ll be able to inspire you …to stay…

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Your writing doesn’t suck. Your story does.

51egWQWh1zL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_I am reading a book called Story Fix by Larry Brooks. I’m still in the early part of the book, but I read something that resonated with me. Brooks said that over the best years, he evaluated hundreds of stories as an editor. He said, “Because, based on results, very few of those six hundred writers get that nuance. They simply chose the wrong story, or an inadequate story, to write. Their instincts didn’t show them a higher bar to reach for, and their submitted stories bore the evidence of that fact.”

I think the reason this resonated is because I am working on a story right now that I’m wondering whether the story is strong enough to carry an entire novel. When I have a strong story, I’m interesting in writing. It captures my attention and imagination. Right now, I’m not feeling that about the book that I’m writing.

With 19 books under my belt, I can look at them and know to a certain degree whether the story works. I can look at them and see differences in how strong the story is. I’m not saying that some of the books weren’t publishable, but I can recognize that the story wasn’t as engaging as it could have been should have been I hope for.

This becomes particularly apparent in series. You’re using the same characters and same settings, but books within the same series are not similarly popular. It’s because the story of one of those books is weaker.

One of my favorite authors, Dean Koontz, has probably written close to 100 books. I love0894 his novels and have read most of them, but even he has periods where some of his novels are weaker than others. It doesn’t mean that those aren’t good novels, but compared to his novels when he is on fire, the weakness becomes apparent.

Sometimes you might not recognize this in your own writing until you have finished the novel, polished it, and edited. Then you have a decision to make. You can abandon the story if it is too weak to save, or you can dig into the structure, characters, and story to figure out what went wrong and fix it.

My feeling is that you should at least finish the first draft before making those decisions. If you do, you may see what is wrong with the book when you can see it in its entirety.

Brooks says that the two major reasons why a story doesn’t work are either proposition isn’t strong enough or the execution isn’t effective enough. However, there’s a lot of wiggle room with what is “strong” and what is “effective.” He compares it to the definition of beauty. It is in the eye of the beholder. One reader might consider your book wonderful while another reader won’t.

So if you find yourself wondering why your manuscript isn’t selling, don’t necessarily doubt your writing talent. Consider whether the story you want to tell is worth telling.

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