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.

Friday, February 17, 2017

EZ ebook formatting!

I've wanted to learn to format my own ebooks for a couple of reasons:

1. I can put a book on Amazon without waiting for a formatter to work me into their calendar.

2. I can revise a book or cover whenever I want to re-upload the book for sale.

I've gone to classes, but didn't have the time to invest in learning the process--until now. Introducing...

This product is for Mac users, and it's so easy that it literally took me 20 minutes to format my book and have files to upload for Amazon and Smashwords (Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo and others.)

It has a simple tutorial, and the program is super intuitive.

It costs less than $200 for unlimited use. That is about 4-5 times paying a formatter to do it. Vellum also has other pricing plans for fewer uses.

For me, this has increased my freedom of being indie. 
I have more control over my book production than ever before!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

More about Endings

I've posted in the past about the importance of writing a great ending. I thought I'd expand on those thoughts a little bit by sharing more snips from movies, since talking about Somewhere in Time in my last post was so much fun. 

As we have discussed before, an ending is like the dessert at the end of the meal. It's the payday after all the hard work. The ending should feel satisfying to the reader. If it's an action/thriller/suspense, we should feel that we're safe now. If it's a romance, we should have a happy sigh and feel like they'll be together forever. Unsatisfying endings make irritated readers, and irritated readers don't recommend your book, they don't buy more of your books, and they might leave ornery reviews.

Let me share with you some examples from the movies.

This first one comes from Emma, a version I quite liked except for this ending scene. She's being carried off on her honeymoon by the wonderful Mr. Knightly.


Okay, they're holding hands ... but .... that's it? We've been watching them fall in love for this whole movie, and that's all we get? There was a nice proposal scene, but this is just flat. We might as well have ended the movie with the proposal because this just has no point.

My next clip is the ending of How I Met Your Mother, the television show. I have to tell you, I found lots of aspects of this show hysterical, and lots ... morally questionable. But that's neither here nor there. The point is this. The character of Ted has been presented as someone who really wants to get married, who really wants a family, who really believes in having that ring on his finger. And yet, when he meets the girl of his dreams at long, long, long last? They live together for years (totally breaking character) and have two kids before they finally tie the knot.


What the scriptwriters were hoping for was that we'd be all happy that Ted and Robyn are finally together, but here's the thing ... at least for me, that ship has sailed. They're not the same people they were years before. They've made too many choices that took them away from their original characters for us to have that same emotional investment. This ending would have been a ton better if they'd gotten together ten years earlier and the whole thing hadn't been dragged out forever and ever with so much water under the bridge.

Now, lest you be all sad and glum, I want to show you one of my favorite endings of all time. You're going to need to forgive the stupid music - hate the music - but oh, well. This is from The Accidental Husband. She's a radio talk show host who has always believed that marriage and love is just stupid and that no one can really be as devoted and committed as they pretend to be. But then he comes along and convinces her otherwise. This scene made me cry and cry and cry. He's a fireman, by the way, which is why she asks him about saving cats. 


Waah! Waah!!! Where are the tissues?? He has come down to her office in the middle of the day just so he can say hi to her pregnant tummy! Holy cow ... if that's not so romantic you can't stand it, you have no heart! This is romance. This is a happy ending. This makes you want to run out and find a guy just like this. You know that he's in this thing forever.

These are just my thoughts, and of course, you'll have your own as you watch these clips. The point is, the ending should leave the reader/watcher with a sense of closure or satisfaction. Most of the time, when I hear someone say why they didn't like a book, it had to do with the ending. So take a look at what you're writing and make sure that whether you're writing a romance, a thriller, or a drama, when the reader closes the book, they feel as though the trip they've just taken was worth it.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Is Listening to Audiobooks Reading or Cheating?

Finding time to read print books became a real chore for me about three years ago. I got to the point where I was simply dying to read books, but had no time. My stack of to-be-read print books were piling up like crazy and my Kindle and Nook were jam-packed with thousands of eBooks to read too.

My type A personality was going crazy because those books represented a to-do that I was never accomplishing and we all know how type A's love to cross things off their to-do lists.

That's when I decided to try audiobooks. At first, I felt like I was cheating and not reading. I laugh about that now looking back.

Now I would never turn back. I actually read more than ever. I tuck my reading into every nook and cranny of my life. When? When I cook, clean, wash dishes, garden, do yard work, laundry, shower, drive, anytime I have I have mindless things to do.

How do I get my books? I use Audible on my phone for the most part.

Sometimes I'll download from my local library using their online site and sometimes I'll get disks to listen to in the car or a mini walkman (I simply plug in my headphones to device which is about the size of my phone and listen away) from the library. You can even listen to them through your computer. The advantage to me, though, is having them be portable on my phone. Anywhere I go, I can listen.

Why listening isn't cheating but smart!
1.  it helps struggling readers
2.  increases intensity of absorption of the story
3.  increases emotion grip of the story
4.  helps readers use imagination
5.  helps readers think critically
6.  increases understanding
7.  you choose your pace
8.  saves time
9.  uplifts my spirit
10.it's so darn convenient ***
Why do you listen to audiobooks or why don't you?

Audible is running a special right now and instead of only getting one book for FREE for trying Audible, you get two. 
Can't beat that!
Go ahead and give it a try. See if you like it and get two free books. 
Just click HERE or on the banner below.

Many of my books are on audio with more coming all the time. Check them out here.

Cindy M. Hogan
Read my latest novel-Redemption Lost 
Join mybook club here.
Catch my deals here- just click follow

My books! Amazon, iBooksNook, Kobo

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Is This Writing Thing Worth It?

by Donna K. Weaver

We all have our own reasons for writing, and we have our motivations for seeking publication--whether traditional or indie.
I'm getting older, and I love to learn new things. I don't want to be one of those senior citizens who sees the world through a very narrow filter, unwilling to consider new things. I want to always be teachable. I want to be creative and make something that brings me (and hopefully others) pleasure.

Even now, with several books under my belt and four novels in various stages of editing, I find myself doubting what I'm doing. I wonder if all the time I spend on it is really worth the dream I gave up--of going back to college and getting my Bachelor's degree (I have an AA).

The wonderful Natalie Whipple posted a blog a few years ago that answered this question for me. Sometimes, I have to go back and read it for the reminder. She quotes Adam Heine who talks here about a writer's education. He hits the nail on the head. I especially love this part:
... But what kind of job demands years of uncompensated service before giving you even a chance at wages?

All of them, it turns out. It's called college.

College is 4+ years of work that pays nothing and (these days) doesn't even guarantee a job at the end. That's exactly what we're doing when we sit at our computer, typing a story nobody may ever buy.

It's better than college, because it's free. Better because it's easier to hold a job while writing than studying. Better because if we don't get a job with our first degree (i.e. novel), we can write another and learn more...

So long as you live life, working to get published is as valid an education as any other.

Keep writing. It's your education.
Nice, Adam. Well said.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Writing is Hard!

This week writing is hard...

We're working on four stories right now: a republish of a short story, a rewrite on a full-length novel, an old west historical romance, and a time travel Victorian romance novel, but it's slow going on any one of them.

Things we do to get back in the groove of writing:
•do some brainstorming
•do some outlining
•do some character building
•do some marketing
•do some reading
•do something else

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Chemistry in Romance

Just what is chemistry, anyway, and why is it so important?

Chemistry is when you can sense attraction zipping back and forth between two characters. It's when their connection is so palpable, you can feel it leaping off the page, and it's an important element in romance writing. People read romances because they want a really good love story, and a really good love story isn't really good without chemistry.

So how do we create that in a book?

The best way that I've found is to show everything the point-of-view character is thinking and feeling. Let me show two examples that I've just made up to demonstrate.

Example #1:

The new boy came in and took the desk next to me. He was pretty cute, with green eyes and a dimple. "Hi," he said as he sat down. "I'm Dean." 

"Hi," I mumbled, dropping my pencil. We both reached down to pick it up, and our hands brushed.

Example #2:

When the new boy came in the classroom, I couldn't take my eyes off him. There was something about the way he moved that made my stomach flip-flop. He walked over to the desk next to mine-holy cow, he had three other desks to choose from, and he chose the one by me-and I noticed his green eyes and his dimple. Green eyes. I love green eyes.

"Hi," he said as he sat down. "I'm Dean."

Did he mean James Dean, total hottie Hollywood icon? My hands started to shake, and I wished I knew how to stop them. "Hi," I mumbled, dropping my pencil. Oh, that was smooth. That was really smooth. I reached down to get it, and so did he. Our hands brushed, and it was like fire racing up my arm. Did he feel it too, or was I the only one?

Notice how in the first example, we read about everything that happened. In the second example, we read everything she thinks and feels about what happens. Which one allows us to start feeling chemistry? The second one, of course, because chemistry is largely emotional.

Allow me to show you a clip.

Click here

This is, of course, from Somewhere in Time, which is full of scientific flaws but is still one of the most romantic movies ever. Ever! Ahem. Anyway, notice all the nuances in this clip as you're watching.

First, as they're coming down the hall, they're both feeling awkward. This isn't because they don't like each other - it's because they like each other so much, they don't know what to do with themselves. When they enter her room, notice how he's looking at her back. There's so much he wants to say, but he's worried about messing it up. He takes some deep breaths. In the meantime, she's trying to control her own reactions. She knows she has feelings for him, but it's illogical. She's a businesswoman. She doesn't have time for this silliness, but he's Christopher Reeve, and he's so dang good-looking ...

When he reaches out and touches her, she gives a slight shake of her head. This can't work - it's impossible. Notice that he doesn't just grab her and plant one on her. He touches her cheek. He's trying to convince her, still giving her the chance to say no, but doing everything he can - while remaining a gentleman - to encourage her to share his feelings. She battles within herself, but then finally gives in to that battle, and then he kisses her.

And through the whole thing - the lead-up and then the kiss - the viewer's heart is in their throat. Will they kiss? Won't they kiss? And then they do, and it's awesome, and then dang. There's a knock at the door.

The point is this. We were allowed to see the build-up. The scene moved slowly enough that we could tell exactly what they were both thinking and feeling, and that's what made the kiss so awesome. If he'd just grabbed her and kissed her as soon as her door was closed, okay, it would have been a nice kiss, but that mounting chemistry is what brought it the power it needed, and movie buffs call that one of the most romantic kisses in cinema history.

Of course, I'm comparing a movie to a book, so they aren't the same thing, but we can create the same types of reader reactions through our writing. When there's an emotionally charged moment, slow down and give all the reactions and let the reader bask in the moment. And then they'll sigh and go back and read it again.  :)