Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Simple Words for Simple Actions

As writers, sometimes we get caught up in the idea that we need to describe everything that our characters are doing down to the tiniest detail. We want our readers to be able to "see" the action, but we forget that our readers are already familiar with the actions we're describing.

For instance:

Tammy climbed into the shower stall and checked to make sure the water was just how she liked it by holding her hand in the stream. Then she reached for the shampoo bottle, squirted some in the palm of her hand, and worked up a good lather. She rinsed carefully, then followed with conditioner. After that, she used body wash.


Tammy took a hot shower to clear her mind and was ready to call Tom and give him her answer by the time she toweled off.

This is, of course, an exaggerated example (mine generally are). But the point is this - your reader knows what goes into taking a shower. They don't need to have each step explained. Unless there's something unusual about this shower - maybe she reaches for the conditioner and there's a black widow on the bottle and it kills her dead - we don't need so many details. Just get to the point you're trying to make.

Remember - simple words for simple actions.

She can drive down the street without us seeing her put the key in the ignition and turn it.
She can make a phone call without punching buttons.
She can order her meal without reading all the menu options.

The reader will know that each of these things happened, and you can save precious page space by skipping over them.

Now, one warning about this - don't show her standing up unless we knew she was sitting down. That's one thing that will throw a reader off - physical positioning of the character. So use a little judgment, but see where you can cut the fat in your manuscript by deleting the things that the reader will know automatically. This will pick up the pace of your story and keep the reader more engaged.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Styles of Grammar

When I was a little girl and in school, I could have sworn that my teachers presented grammar as set-in-stone rules. The way they showed me how to do something was the only way to do it. I graduated from high school and moved on to college, and no one ever said anything different.

Well, guess what? I moved into the business world and attended a training session that provided me with a "Duh!" moment.

Latin grammar never changes because Latin is a dead language. Dead? Yes. Because there's nowhere in the world where people actively speak it, so it never changes.

That doesn't work with English. English is a vibrant, ever-changing language. It's the official language in several countries, and each one manages to tweak it in their own way. For example, in 2007, the word Woot was the Merriam-Webster Dictionary word of the year. If you follow the link you'll see what it means. But do you know where it came from? We Owned the Other Team. It's a gaming term that's now being used by people who aren't gamers.

Snarky is another word I like. I heard it for the first time when I became a moderator at the Leaky Lounge. Many of the other moderators are British, and that's been mostly a British term, according to Dictionary.com. But I'm hearing it a lot now, both from people I associate with and on American television and in American books.

But everyone needs to know there are different styles of grammar. And the rules are different, depending upon the style you're using. When I teach classes on grammar, I suggest that my coworkers choose one style and be consistent. At work, we use the Gregg Reference Manual. This is business oriented, but it's still a good resource about grammar rules. They update every five years to keep up with trends.

Notice in the following (hilarious) video the reference to the Chicago Manual of Style. They aren't talking fashion.

So where are your grammar strengths? How about your weaknesses? What resources do you prefer to use?

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Super-long Sentences

What's a super-long sentence? One that is meant to convey a great deal of information to the reader, but instead of breaking it down into concise, easy-to-understand chunks, decides instead to put everything in one long string that might or might not be clearly broken up with proper punctuation, making the reader have to go back to the start and read it over again carefully to make sure they understood without missing anything, and thereby taking a lot of the enjoyment out of reading because it becomes more like a homework assignment. There - like that.  :) 

When you write a super-long sentence, you run the risk of two things. First, losing your reader halfway though. Sometimes when I encounter a long sentence, I've forgotten what we were talking about by the time I've reached the end. The other danger is that of reader fatigue. How tired did you feel after reading that sentence in the previous paragraph? Whether you realize it or not, you might be one of those readers who takes a millisecond mental break at the end of each sentence, and if you go too long without getting one, you might get worn out faster.

Not every sentence has to be super short. In fact, it's more enjoyable to read a document that has a wide variety of sentence lengths and structures. The brain likes to be kept active.

So, what's a good way to determine if your sentences are too long? I have two rules of thumb.

1. Can the reader easily follow your train of thought from beginning to end?
2. Can you read the sentence aloud without taking a breath, or are you gasping and panting for air before you reach the end? If you can't do it in one breath, chances are, it's too long.

Remember that reader enjoyment is our primary goal, and as we pay attention to our sentence length, we can create a story with better flow that our readers will appreciate.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Retreat and Write!

We just wrapped up our spring retreat and are ready to announce our fall retreat! Are you ready to crank out words, go to great classes and hang out with other awesome writers?

 Mark your calendars for September 14-17th in Heber, Utah!

How to sign up for this retreat: 

FYI: There are only 20 spots. All meals are included AND there will be mini-workshops on Building Your Presence as an Author and Marketing during the retreat so that if you choose to go to all the workshops, you will have all the tools you need to Brand yourself, and your books for your target audience.  See pics of the awesome accommodations for the retreat here. Sign ups open on Saturday, May 13th at 8am MST. NO EARLIER.

1. Pick which bed type/price you would like (see below)

2. Send an email to iWriteNetwork@gmail.com with your first and second (if you have one) preference.

3. We will send you a confirmation email and a link to pay-through Paypal- (you may choose to split your payment into three and send one third immediately, the second on third on June 15th and the last third on August 15th. You must pay in full by August 15th.)  We must have your payment within one hour of receiving your confirmation email or your spot will be given to the next person in line.

NO REFUNDS-thank you. (You can, however transfer your bed to someone else if you discover you are unable to attend.)

The bed options:  (if you are planning to choose a queen or a king bed, you might want to find someone to be your roomie if you care who is in the bed with you.)

**Anything not highlighted is available
***Anything highlighted in red is reserved/paid for

Bedroom 7: 1 King with bathroom                    2 spots for $275 each

Bedroom 6: 3 bunk beds            3 lower bunks @ $175 each
                                                       One, Two, Three
                                                    3 upper bunks @ $150 each
                                                       One, Two, Th

Bedroom 5: Queen and a Bunk   2 spots in the queen @  $200
                                                 One, Two,
                                                       1 upper bunk @ $150
                                                       1 lower bunk @ $175

Bedroom 4: 2 Queens          4 spots @ $225

                                                       One, Two, Three, Four

Bedroom 3: 1 Queen           2 spots @ $225 each

Bedroom 2: 1 Queen                           2 spots at $225 each
                                                         One, Two,

Bedroom 1: 1 Queen                          2 spots at $225 each
                                                                One, Two  

We are So excited to have you join us!!!
Have question? 

Email us-

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Digging Into Research

Deanna and I (pen name: Jo Noelle) are writing in a new genre for us. It's still romance, but this time it's historical romance. And it's set in the American frontier. We've been doing quite a bit of research for this. Here's how:

Read about it...

View it... movies and travel videos on YouTube

Experience it...

One of the perks of being a writer is getting lost in the research of the new world you are writing in.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

In the Writing Zone

For the most part, I don't believe in writing muses - I believe that when you sit down and get to work, that opens up doors for ideas and inspiration. You've got to be listening if you want to hear them. However, I very much believe that there are certain things we can each do to get ourselves in the writing zone and prepare ourselves to do that work.

The tricky part, though, is that those things are going to be different for each person, and sometimes it's a matter of experimentation to discover what they are. I'll share some of mine with you, and I'd love it if you shared yours in the comments. This will help us all brainstorm new things to try.

1. I absolutely must be wearing sweats, pajama bottoms, or knit pants when I sit down to work. I've found that if I'm wearing jeans (too stiff) or a skirt (my legs stick together), I can't concentrate. I need the joy and peace and harmony of stretchy cotton. And in order to illustrate this concept to its greatest potential, I present this to you.

2. There are certain times of day that are better for me to do certain tasks. I check my emails and do my administrative stuff in the late morning/early afternoon. I can edit in the late afternoon/evening, and then my best writing time happens starting at around nine p.m. and goes until around 2:00 a.m. That's just the weird way my body is wired. If I wake up and try to write first thing, I'll sit here and stare at the computer for an hour, which is a total waste of time. I've learned when my brain is best at each thing, and I stick to that schedule. 

3. I must have water sitting next to me. Writing is thirsty work, y'all! It also helps keep me more alert, and the need to use the bathroom regularly gets me up and moving around at least a little bit once in a while. When I run out of water, my productivity immediately goes down. My family knows me well enough that sometimes when I call out to them, they'll come find me with a cup of water already in hand because they've anticipated what I'm going to ask them for. (Yes, I do use my family like indentured servants. It's good for them. Puts hair on their chests.)

4. Another thing I have found is that I write better when I have a constant input of stories, either books or movies. I don't steal ideas from these sources, but they open up the doors of my imagination and allow my brain to create more freely. Any time I get stuck on a book, I'll take a few hours and watch shows or read, and I'll soon find that I'm unlocked again. I actually prefer to watch a show to reading during those times, though, because I need to engage different parts of my brain than I've been using.

Whenever you have a good writing day, take a look at what your routine was and see if you can identify some key points to what made it successful. I used to think I could only write in quiet ... yeah, well, then I had kids and it was either learn how to write with chaos or never write again. We adapt and adjust. But if there are certain things that seem to help you, pay attention to those and make the most of the writing time you have.