I'm very pleased to welcome multi-published author and editor Judy Griffith Gill to be with us today to talk about 'Just' and other words that will send your editor screaming from the room. Welcome, Judy.
I just want to tell you I about the letter I just got a from my sister. She said they have just experienced a fall of three centimeters of snow on the streets of Vancouver, BC, which just about never gets more than that, and when it does come, it’s just so rare nobody knows how to drive in it and cars just slide down hills, through intersections, just smashing and banging into each other. The news stations are just leaving other reporting to later, just keeping their cameras focused on crashes, which are mostly just fender-benders. She said, “All morning, it just kept falling and falling, and didn’t stop just until about an hour ago and now every bush and shrub and tree is just covered with white. It’s pretty, but I just don’t like snow.
Okay, let’s rewrite that: Moments ago I got a letter from my sister bout the three centimeters of snow lying on the streets of Vancouver, BC, where nobody knows how to drive in the stuff because it so seldom comes. TV stations ignore other news, keeping their cameras aimed at the skidding, sliding traffic, watching cars banging and smashing into each other. Luckily, most of the crashes are nothing more than fender-benders. “It kept falling and falling all morning,” she said, “stopping about an hour ago, leaving every bush and shrub and tree covered in white. It’s pretty, but I don’t like it.”
One hundred thirty-seven words v. ninety-nine words say basically the same thing, don’t they, without that non-useful word, “just”, which is nothing more than padding in the written page. Yes, we use it “just” about every day in speech, but the written word and the spoken word are definitely two different things. The word “just” in your writing, is mere clutter.
Other clutter-words and phrases to watch for because they weaken your sentences are: As a matter of fact, at the present time, seems, appears, somewhat, sort of, kind of, merely, all but, really, very, quite, extremely, severely, by virtue of, due to the fact that, for the most part, Something in the nature of, twelve noon, twelve midnight, six AM in the morning. Both noon and midnight are very clear statements of time. There is no need to add in the morning to 6 AM. Everyone knows AM is in the morning.
When you’ve finished writing your manuscript, do a global search for the word “that” and eliminate every one “that” you “possibly” can. This should read, …and eliminate every one you can.”
Mark Twain (Samuel Clements) advised writers tempted to use the word ‘very’, to replace it with ‘damn’ because the editor would delete it and make the sentence right. (Dare I say “just” right?)
Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell. — William Strunk Jr. in Elements of Style
This week, I'm very pleased to welcome multi-published author Claudy Conn who shares her thoughts on Ireland--Imagination--and Travels.
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I for Ireland or the imagination—which brings us to travel.
I have always found that visiting somewhere, anywhere takes on a life of its own and works its way directly into my writing.
A 30 minute ride to Office Supply (living in the country-anywhere is 30 minutes away), brings me into rows and rows of boring and endless paper, pens, printers and suddenly I look up and see two men discussing business. Are they partners? They appear displeased with one another. One of the men looks particularly angry and as I cast a sideways glance I look up and discover that he is staring with hatred at the other man’s back. Oh no, do we have murder in the making?
Having dinner out in the metropolis one evening and I bend to pick up my napkin. As I lift my head I see a surly man and his eyes are wide and appeared crazed as he stares across the room. He stares at a woman there who is bending to kiss the man she is with. I hear him mutter her name--I hear a low throttle of indignation in his throat. I know without being told that she is his wife. His hand goes to his waist and I see the gun tucked in at his belt. Will he pull it out? Does he mean her harm? Imagination.
Travel almost anywhere is what you make of it. A trip we took to Scotland demanded we explore Lock Ness and as we gazed at its rolling dark blue waves I was sure I could see Nessie and her newborn dipping down deep as they made their way back to the sea and her life-long mate.
In England, a trip to Stonehenge and the Standing Stones made my mouth drop. I moved in closer to stare at the monoliths in awe and it happened--I heard their call in the breeze and I went closer. What stories they whispered. I reached out and touched the stone expecting it to be cold but it wasn’t. It burned into my skin and I felt electricity shoot up my arm. There right before me were portals to a Faery Realm, and other dimensions and I couldn’t look away. Right there before me was mystery and ancient myths demanding my attention.
Travel. I stood in the ruins of what was once a castle in Ireland and the walls rebuilt themselves for me and I can see men in armor drinking ale and toasting one another after a long hard fight in the battlefield. I see their wenches cavorting with them. I hear the minstrel…
I stand before a Fairy Mound and I know that the tales that began long before the written word must be based in fact. I am a strong believer in the adage, ‘where there is smoke there is fire’. I see the fire and it is full with history. I know how the tales of leprechauns and winged tiny fairies emerged and my mind explores the possibilities.
As a writer, I have always found that research opened up my mind as I found the unexpected in ancient texts. Letters written by Lord Byron, Shelly, Keats and Moore taught me the language and style of the day.
Travel, any kind of travel is one of a writer’s greatest boons which directs us back to I—Ireland or if you will the imagination. If you are a writer, you have it in abundance—use it for it is your gift. If you are a reader, enjoy it, because that is our ultimate gift.
Hi: You might already know that writing is a must for me. Inspiration comes from everything, but especially from my hot Irish husband, our incredible daughter and her handsome husband.
And then not to be ignored is Cherokee, our ¾ wolf--her (now 3year old) l70 pound son, our horse and Mr. H the turtle.
I used to write regencies and historical romances (over 40 mass market bestsellers). “Spellbound-Legend” is the first installment in my paranormal Legend series.
Thanks so much for your interest and hoping you will stop by and say hello.
Maxine faces danger everywhere she turns. She has to keep an evil and ancient woman at bay, and all the while be instrumental in stopping the Fae Wall from coming down.
So much depends on her developing her innate magical skills. So much depends on the two men who have entered her life—one, Julian, the moody High Druid Priest who awakened after a two hundred year coma, and the other, a Fae Prince who wants to protect and keep her for his own. Maxie has decisions to make…
This week, I welcome author Celia Yeary who talks to us about Hooks.
HOOKS FOR BOOKS - by Celia Yeary
"It was a dark and stormy night…" No, no, never begin a story with the weather. The reader will skip ahead and look for action or characters, or heaven forbid, close the book. Okay, let's see. "I was falling, falling…and then I woke up." Nope, I remember, now, NEVER open a book with a dream--or an alarm clock or phone ringing. What about something really funny? For example, "Nearing the counter with a full tray, her foot slipped on spilled…." Uh, oh. That's on the list of no-no's, too.
Such a list exists, in fact. The admonitions may vary slightly, but editors are programmed to stop reading a submission after the first sentence or first paragraph if she/he sees these red flags. The nineteenth-century Gothic novels opened with long brooding descriptions of the weather, or a monologue recounting the entire genealogy of the family in the story, enough to make one's eyes glaze over.
In today's world, the reader wants and deserves action, the inciting incident, the reason for the story, and he wants it right away. In some manner, the opening sentence or first paragraph or first chapter must give the reader what he wants--"What is this novel about?"
Grabbing the attention of an editor you'd like to impress or a reader you'd like to keep is an art form all its own. Books galore sit on shelves or can be found on-line that help the budding author or the experienced one who wants a refresher course learn a bit more about a good beginning.
I once won a little contest on a blog with the opening line of my first release. First lines from ten romance novels were listed and readers voted on the best opening. This is the winning line (mine): If I'd known running away would be this hot and this dirty, I'd have stayed home. (first line from All My Hopes and Dreams, a Western Historical Romance.) But I will admit a judge for an RWA contest in which I entered the first chapter took off points for "this weak beginning." Hmmm.
However, what does my first line tell the reader? A woman is running away (from whom and why?), and the woman obviously is a little fastidious. In my humble opinion, this line met the criteria to set up the story. Plus, an editor liked it because she offered me a contract in three weeks.
Here are the beginning lines from four different romance novels.
1. It was well known around Russellville, Alabama, that Tommy Lee Gentry drove like a rebellious seventeen-year-old, drank like a parolee fresh out, and whored like a lumberjack at the first spring thaw. (The Hellion, LaVyrle Spencer.
2. He'd known all day something was about to go down, something life-changing and entirely new. ( Montana Creeds: Dylan, Linda Lael Miller.
3. Sister Bernadette Ignatius and Tom Kelly sat in the back seat of a black cab, driving from Dublin's airport through the city. (What Matters Most-Luanne Rice)
4. "Rachel! Rachel!" Ella called in the high-pitched panic voice that usually preceded bad news. (Texas Honor-Debra White Smith)
These opening lines come from Best-Selling authors. Do we need to pay closer attention to the novels we read? Go to a bookstore, find a shelf of best-sellers in romance, and open several to study the first page. Just read the first line.
Make a list of the kind of hooks that interest you in a book. Your list may be the same as mine.
1. Attention-getting 2. Exciting 3.Pulls me into the story 4. Straight forward 5. Brief and punchy 6. Rouses curiosity 7. Emotionally charged 8. A declarative sentence
Hooking your reader is not easy, but with a little self-study, you can improve your chances with editors and nail that contract. With your next or current WIP, try writing five opening sentences and ask fellow authors or your critique partners help you select one.
Good luck and happy writing-- Celia Yeary
Celia Yeary is a seventh-generation Texan, and her life revolves around family, friends, and writing. San Marcos has been her home for thirty-five years. She has five published romance novels, five “coming soon” novels, short stories in anthologies, articles, and essays with a local magazine. The author is a former science teacher, graduate of Texas Tech University and Texas State University, mother of two, grandmother of three, and wife of a wonderful, supportive Texan. Celia and her husband enjoy traveling, and both are involved in their church, the community, and the university.
After two years, Jo Cameron King’s life as a widow abruptly ends when her husband returns home to Austin. Unable to understand her angry and bitter husband, she accepts a call to travel to the New Mexico Territory to meet her dying birth father whom she knows nothing about. Her plan to escape her husband goes awry when he demands to travel with her.
Dalton King, believing lies his Texas Ranger partner tells him about Jo, seethes with hatred toward his wife. Now he must protect Jo from his partner’s twisted mind, while sorting out the truth. Jo’s bravery and loyalty convince him she’s innocent. But can they regain the love and respect they once shared?
Starting over at age thirty-nine is no picnic under any circumstances, but the task is daunting for Sara Daniels. Living an affluent lifestyle her entire adulthood in Dallas does not prepare her for instant bankruptcy, especially if a philandering husband dies suddenly, leaving her penniless, debt-ridden, and homeless.
Planning on moving in temporarily with her cantankerous mother in the small town of Del Rey, Sara faces more problems than she can handle. During the long, hot summer, she and her daughter, her mother, and a handsome distraught widower and his charming young son learn they can have second chances.
This week, The Writer's Alphabet blog returns with thoughts about genre from author, Therese Kinkaide.
I’m thinking about pie. We’re past Christmas, but we’re still knee-deep in holiday stuff, and some of that stuff is dessert. In my family, dessert is pie. Everything else is just Christmas goodies to snack on before dinner and pie.
This year may have been the first in my memory where there was no pumpkin pie at the family Christmas dinner at my aunt and uncle’s house. Now, this is not a problem for me, as I don’t eat pumpkin pie. But I found it amazing that a group of twenty-ish people who normally eat pumpkin pie easily adjusted to different desserts this year.
So many different desserts, it’s hard to choose. It’s hard to choose which to make, and it’s hard to choose which to eat. It’s a big choice. Which calorie and fat gram-laden dessert will it be?
Kind of like writing and reading. Dictionary.com defines genre as (among other definitions pertaining to art) ‘of or pertaining to a distinctive literary type.’ I’ve been a voracious reader all of my life, and I attempted to write my first book when I was in 5th grade. (Hmm. That’s interesting. My son is in 5th grade. I could see him attempting to write a book.)
However, as much as I read and as long as I’ve been writing, I didn’t become involved in the publishing world until January 2008 when my first book, Luther’s Cross, was accepted for publication with WingsEPress.com. Before I began actively searching for a publisher and before I signed my contract with Wings, I didn’t realize how many different genres and subgenres exist. If asked, I probably would have said there were four genres: romance, mystery, science fiction and women’s fiction.
Now that I spend a great deal of time researching small press websites and a great deal of my time reading (still) I have seen many genres and subgenres. I don’t often go to a bookstore or library and look for a specific genre to browse. I might go in search of a particular book or a particular author, regardless of what genre the book is.
I recently read a Barbara Delinsky blog entry about the danger of writing in a particular genre for so long that a writer becomes defined as only that type of writer. Barbara Delinsky started as a romance writer, (I started reading her books when she wrote romance novels) but she’s progressed to women’s fiction. Still many readers consider her a romance writer, and bookstores still sometimes place her novels on the romance shelves.
When I sit down to write, I don’t think in terms of genre. I write the story inside my head. I write the story my characters are telling me I need to write. Granted, I generally write women’s fiction, but I don’t want to be held to a specific genre. My first book, Luther’s Cross, is billed as contemporary romance and my new book, Fairytale, is suspense/thriller. However, I think they both also fall under the women’s fiction title. I’m also working on a time travel romance, and I have two young adult romances in progress too.
There’s much debate over traditional publishing versus small press, which is very often POD (print on demand.) I have had great experiences with my publishers (WingsEPress and LLDreamspell) and particularly in regard to genre, I think small press has definite advantages. Writers have more freedom to move from genre to genre and aren’t expected to produce book after book in the romance or mystery or horror category.
That freedom allows us writers to write from our hearts, which results in heart-felt, compelling, intense (insert your own adjective to describe your book in your genre) books. Those are the books we want to put in our readers’ hands, and those are the books our readers want to read and recommend to their friends and family. Those are the books that we hope will keep readers coming back for our latest releases.
Therese Kinkaide, author of Luther’s Cross and Fairytale and short story The House on Ash Street, which appears in LLDreamspell’s anthology Mysteries, Dreams & Darkness
Time for a happy dance. I just received word that I've been nominated for Author of the Year at Champagne Books. Woohoo! I am honored and humbled, because I know the caliber of writing that is produced by my fellow authors at Champagne.