Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Pointing in the Right Direction

Ebooks have gained their place in the publishing world. No longer can we deny the impact on the market. With the availability of a variety of e-readers at very reasonable prices, there will be e-sales to cover that niche. Yet, give pause and think cautiously. After all, for authors there are advantages and disadvantages to consider when making a decision of what publishing route to take.

With e-publishing in its infancy and the economy in a slump, the stability of e-publishers to hang in there for the long haul can be precarious. An author may be taking a risk. If the e-pub goes defunct, so does the availability of his/her book. On the other hand, for new and emerging authors there is greater chance of acceptance.

For an excellent overview of this topic, check out this web page. It pertains to romance writing, but could apply to any genre.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Five Quick Tips to NaNo-ing

The countdown hour is here. It is the eve of the NaNoWriMo 2010 launching and you are in a panic. You think maybe it's too daunting, too terrifying, just too, too many words! Relax. It's only a contest. Nobody is going to bully you while you write or fire you if you don't. But in case tomorrow comes, and you decide to give it try, here are a couple of useful or maybe not so useful tips. You decide.

1. Keep to your goal: 50,000 words divided into 30 bites = 1,667 words each day! or for week-end warriors -- 4 BIG bites of 12,500 words each.

2. When you hit a "bump" in the story -- KEEP WRITING and don't look back. (It's just your mind trying to trick you because it wants to take the easy way out and quit before reaching the finish line.)

3. Pick a place and time -- it's easier when you can tell the family or whoever tends to bug you when you're doing something important, (that's NaNo, of course). Just tell them, "I'm going to write, now. DON'T BOTHER ME."

4. Don't sweat the small stuff -- (hmm, not really trying to highjack your title, Mr. Carlson) There is plenty of time AFTER November to edit, revise, edit, revise and so on. So, ... (refer back to #2 tip).

5. Get some sleep! -- Your creative side won't appreciate working with your grouchy, semi-conscious side. Trust me, even with 50,000 words and a winner's finish, you'll still have a train wreck on your hands and no amount of editing/revising will salvage it!

Happy writing!


Monday, October 25, 2010


National Novel Writing Month is upon us once again. Starting November 1st for an entire month, those who want to run the marathon of writing words at a frenzied pace should check it out. The idea (for those who have yet to experience the madness) is to write a 50,000 word novel in just 30 days. Yeah, I know, but it can be done :-) Have tried and done it myself. And without any temptation or submission to cheating, either!

So cruize on over and climb aboard the NaNo train. Exercise your creative writing muscles! That's what they are there for. Right?!


Enjoy! ^^^^

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Ghosts, Goblins, and Edgar Allen Poe

Happy Halloween ... in advance! Since it's that time of the year, I wanted to post a tribute to one of the ghoulish authors who is a master of the genre. And, as part of this tribute, it would only be fitting to ask everyone to offer up his/her favorite Poe work.

I will start us off with my favorite -- a story rather than poem -- "The Black Cat". It's impressive how kitty manages to cause such a stir. ;-).

Okay, your turn. Let's see what you might add to the list.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Finale -- A Date to Die For

The last part of "A Date to Die For" is here -- for those who are interested. Lilly manages, along with Jake's help to nab the killer who murdered Lilly's date. What a surprise she gets, and it's enough to send her over the edge! Drop on over to New Fiction Writers and spend some time to find out the unexpected twist of an ending:

A Date to Die For - Part III

And for those who need the links to Part I and Part II:

Story Part I

Story Part II

Thanks to all for your support!

Have a story that is ghoulish? Ready for the Halloween mindset? If you want to enter
New Fiction Writers Halloween Story Contest, check out the details. Tell Tony I sent you :-)

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Podcast of "A Date to Die For" Part 2

For those who have been following, the podcast of part 2 of my mystery short, "A Date to Die For", is finally up and running ...
Lilly Millenovanovich has come to Atlanta for a book event to sell a few of her novels, maybe do a bit of shopping, but most of all to meet one of her author idols, Sylvestor Stone. What she didn't count on is a date with the famous author. And Lilly thought it might have been something to look forward to except for a couple of details. One, Stone tended to talk about himself ... a lot. And of course, there is that messy detail of finding her date dead in the bathtub.
Hope you stop by New Fiction Writers and listen to what Lilly plans to do about solving the murder, without getting herself killed, that is!

Again, thanks to Tony and Renee for doing such a great job and making this possible!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Check It Out .... Weekly Websites

Free to join online short story writing group. The site offers prompts, daily contests and the option of working in a small group at first to build your confidence. Useful if you need a writing group but don't have one near you or can't fit it in around yourwork schedule. Check it out ....

Story Write

Needing promotional items for your book? This site helps with that. Anything from t-shirts to kitchen gadgets that you want to put your "label" on, this is the place to find the means to do it. Check it out ....

Your LogoWorks

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Reading ... How Do You Do It?

Having my story, "A Date to Die For", put into a podcast on New Fiction Writers got me to thinking ... how many people prefer to listen to a story rather than read it? I myself am a visual learner, so it stands to reason that I enjoy seeing the words and reading them to get the job done. Yet, there are so many benefits to listening that you don't get when reading. For instance, the delivery of words, maybe the nuance and intonation given to them, may help with the intent of the author's message. And I must say, Renee Chamblis does a wonderful job with the delivery and her voices to match the various characters' dialogue. Secondly, consider situations where looking and reading a story just aren't possible. When your driving, doing dishes, ironing, dusting, working in the yard, just wanting to keep your eyes closed, but your mind active! ... all those could warrant listening to a story.

Anyway, just curious to your opinions .... what is your preference? Do you ever listen to stories and books?

And please, if you get some free time ... or want to multitask ... check out the website and have a listen. If not to my story, then to the many others podcasted at Tony Whitford's creation, New Fiction Writers. Enjoy!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Well, it's finally finished! A collaboration among several wonderful people .... Tony Whitford and Renee Chamblis working together with me to present my story, "A Date to Die For", as a podcast featured on Tony's creative website, New Fiction Writers ... and it's ready for all to listen to Part I of a three-part series. I hope everyone will take the time to check out the site and maybe listen to Renee reading my story. By the way, the characters and storyline are offspring of my original, Whips, Cuffs, and Little Brown Boxes. I couldn't bring myself to leave the characters alone and just had to create more! Anyway, here is the link. Hope you enjoy!


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Check It Out ... Weekly Websites

Here are some helpful and fun sites. And they are all free!

Ever think about creating your own ezine? Here is a website that helps you set it up, get it started, so you can do just that. Check it out:

Net EZine

And if you want to jazz up your font look, try the features on these websites:

Freefonts and Font Space

Of course, if you are just looking for something free AND fun, this next website will fill the need. You supply a sample of your writing and find out which author's style matches yours. What a boost that can be! Even if it's just for kicks. Check it out:

I Write Like

Have fun!

Monday, August 30, 2010

"A Good Man" in The Piker Press

Well, it's up...yes it is. My short story, "A Good Man" is finally in this week's issue of The Piker Press . I hope you will take the time to cruise on over and have a look :-)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Name That Novel #25

And here are lines from a beloved favorite of all those yound and old. See if you can name the author and title.

"Money is a needful and precious thing, and when well used, a noble thing, but I never want you to think it is the first or only prize to strive for. I'd rather see you poor men's wives, if you were happy, beloved, contented, than queens on thrones, without self-respect and peace."
Congrats to April! It's Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Name That Poet #11

See whether you can recall the author of these lines -- the name, please of this nineteenth century British poet.

The grey sea and the long black land;
And the yellow half-moon large and low;
And the startled little waves that leap
In fiery ringlets from their sleep,
As I gain the cove with pushing prow,
And quench its speed i' the slushy sand.

Then a mile of warm sea-scented beach;
Three fields to cross till a farm appears;
A tap at the pane, the quick sharp scratch
And blue spurt of a lighted match,
And a voice less loud, through its joys and fears,
Than the two hearts beating each to each!
No moss shall grow under her feet :-) Congrats to Tina who answered correctly with Robert Browning

Monday, August 23, 2010

Pointing in the Right Direction -- Author Success

Debra Riley-Magnus is a marketing and advertising professional and runs an author success coaching business. As a FB friend, I found myself directed to her series of articles on building an author platform and planning the successful book launch. There are (or will be) twelve articles, starting with "But ... I'm a writer, not a business person!". Let's face it. Many authors are solitary, if not shy characters. It's difficult to get out there and sell. But it's also a widely overlooked part of the plan when authors do not start building a platform, network to increase awareness and friends, and at the very least create interest BEFORE the book comes out.

In any case, if this is something you've often thought about, please read her articles. Debra offers many practical tips to get you started and give you confidence so even the shy, solitary you can be successful in your book-selling endeavors.

Author Success

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Let's Start at the Ending

In writing, just as in reading, we are instructed to start at the beginning and work forward to the end. However, there is a situation in writing when you might want to consentrate on the ending before completing previous chapters. The point in time you most likely would need this tactic is when the plot is stuck in a rut, you can't think how to push forward no matter how you try, but you're close, so very close. Skip to the last chapter. If you've done your planning with an outline and know where you want your story to end up, then write it. Allowing that scene to come out, making it come alive with all its description, dialog, and action, might very well help you finish. Once you have written it, work backwards to develop and write those previous events.

I've always felt that outlines are an organized prewrite actitivity. However, its rigid structure can be and should be tweeked here and there as you are writing your story. Of course, there is the chance that it will back you into a corner, and your creative ingenuity won't help you escape. (And here you thought outlines, all that beautiful planning, were supposed to keep that from happening!) Welcome to the writer's world where characters often decide to rebel and go where they want the story to take them. Just remember, no matter how far estray you may go and find yourself in that corner, there are tricks of the trade to get back on track. And finally, my best piece of advice is to KEEP WRITING! That's a must. It will all work out in the .... ending!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Name That Poet #10

Try your hand at naming the American Poet who penned this poem.

Hunters, where does Hope nest?
Not in the half-oped breast,
Nor the young rose,
Nor April sunrise—those
With a quick wing she brushes,
The wide world through,
Greets with the throat of thrushes,
Fades from as fast as dew.
But, would you spy her sleeping,
Cradled warm,
Look in the breast of weeping,
The tree stript by storm;
But, would you bind her fast,
Yours at last,
Bed-mate and lover,
Gain the last headland bare
That the cold tides cover,
There may you capture her, there,
Where the sea gives to the ground
Only the drift of the drowned.
Yet, if she slips you, once found,
Push to her uttermost lair
In the low house of despair.
There will she watch by your head,
Sing to you till you be dead,
Then, with your child in her breast,
In another heart build a new nest.

Happy hunting for the name :-)
I guess I will have to let this one out. The poet is Edith Wharton. Thanks to those of you who may have read and thought about it :-)

Name That Novel #24

Here are some words from a character's inner thoughts taken from what classic novel? Title and author, if you please :-)

"Looking at these stars suddenly dwarfed my own troubles and all the gravities of terrestrial life. I thought of their unfathomable distance, and the slow inevitable drift of their movements out of the unknown past into the unknown future."

Luck to all!
And letting this one out as well (no pun intended....honestly!): It is H. G. Well's The Time Machine.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Pointing in the Right Direction

For those of you who have published or consider being published by way of ebook format .... Cheers! The stage has been set by many ereaders flooding the market. The books are all there, ripe for the downloading, so what's holding you back? Oh, I know ... the publishing world, those purists -- agents, publishers, and authors, who still seem to regard anything other than an old-fashioned paper-between-two-covers book edited, produced, and packaged by a traditional publisher to be substandard rubbish. Well, they might as well leave their ideas in the attic along with the cobwebs because it's a brand new world out there.

Just giving it some personal thought, and evidence to substantiate, there are a lot of ebooks out there that need more polishing before they hit the ebook store, but I feel that will change. As more and more legitimate publishers consider first edition ebooks as their strategy, more time and effort will be given to editing. In any case, for those who might want to read more, check out the web article on the opinion of one publisher:

E Publishing Will Replace Traditional Books

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Final Word ... "A Date to Die For"

To continue the story, Lilly and Kline go to Stone Mountain, but not for site-seeing. Their agenda? Rescue Millie and find a murderer.

On the way, I had time to mull over recent events. Stone had a major movie deal in the works, and then he is murdered. I find myself at the crime scene, get conked on the head, and accused of the murder. This being after an incriminating note is planted in my handbag. Somehow the movie contract has Stone's signature on it, along with Orville's, the one person who gains all profit from the deal posthumously, and Earl's. So, in my mind, that narrowed down the possible suspects to Orville and Earl. Though circumstances seemed to point more toward Earl Honeyville as the murderer, I wasn't convinced. What needled me with doubt was his capability to pull it off, solo. He just seemed too much of a flake to me.
"You know, I've been thinking. What if Earl had help."


"Yeah. Let's say he murdered Stone, but had help." Inside my head the wheels kept rolling.

"Like who? Orville?"

"Maybe." The wheels came to an abrupt halt. "It wasn't killer squirrels. It was kill her Earl!" I pulled up straight and grinned at Kline who by now gave me that look.

Read the grand finale by visiting my website. And if the urge tickles you, drop a line in my guestbook :-) Cheers!

Kathryn Long's Booknook

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Name That Novel #23

Let's see what you can do with this American author's work.

"Look at the ugliness. Yet one has a feeling within one that blinds a man while he loves you. You, with that feeling, blind him, and blind yourself. Then, one day, for no reason, he sees you as ugly as you really are and he is not blind anymore and then you see yourself as ugly as he sees you and you lose your man and your feeling... After a while, when you are as ugly as I am, as ugly as women can be, then, as I say after a while the feeling, the idiotic feeling that you are beautiful, grows slowly in one again. It grows like a cabbage. And then, when the feeling is grown, another man sees you and thinks you are beautiful and it is all to do over."

Title and author name, please!

Good luck :-) Congrats to Joel with the correct answer: For Whom the Bell Tolls by Hemingway

Friday, July 23, 2010

A Date to Die For -- Part IV

Lilly finds herself in deep doodoo. She scrambles to discover evidence that will prove her innocence and find the one who murdered her date. . .

Atlanta Movies Inc. sat on the outskirts of the city. The movie set consisted of some indoor studios and several buildings on the outdoor lot. Kline and I found an empty parking space in the visitor's lot.

"Okay, let's go over this one more time," I said. "I show them my press credentials and start up a dialog. Once I get them to take me on a tour of the studio, you pretend like you're ill. They'll let you stay in the office. And then when you're alone you can snoop to find the contract. Simple."

Read more at:

Kathryn Long's BookNook

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Redundancy, Being Redundant, Are You Redundant?

In a previous post I mentioned the unwise usage of trite expressions in your writing. Now, here's the second half of that topic: redundancy. Yes, we are all guilty of it. There are words in our "stable" of vocabulary that are favorites and used constantly, especially in our first drafts. Mine is "then" and "of course". When going through the editing stages (and I do mean plural of that -- you should make at least 2 or 3 or however many times it takes to make your story "perfect") I perform a word search of words I use too often. That way I can come of with a different wording, phrasing, or at least a substitute word. Of course, you as the writer will notice these words more than the reader, most likely. Still, it's your creation and you want it to your satisfaction, right?

Okay, that's a way to deal with certain words. For instance, you can't really shorten the word "then". But what about those phrases where being more consise would help? If you write "twelve midnight" do you really need the word "twelve"? Just write "midnight". Or "in the event that" can become "if". It's a personal choice, after all, and there are plenty of accomplished and reknowned authors who are quite verbose in their style. William Faulker or Stephen King, for instance. But then those such as Steinbeck show sparse detail, i.e. get to the point, no fluff, no fuss, just be clear enough. The following page has a chart listing of several example phrases and how you can tighten them up. Worth a look, I'd say. (Make sure you scroll down the page a bit to find the chart.)

Here's to being consise!

Writing Consise

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Check it Out ... Weekly Websites

Here are a couple of sites that give multitudes of information on writing, publishing, contests, etc. They are worth checking out:

Writer Advice -- not only provides advice, but also showcases author work and websites in their reviews. An added bonus is their listing of contests and markets.

Writing Fix -- for teachers and students as well as writers, known as home of the interactive writing prompt, this site provides many tips and resources, including information about workshops and classes.

Explore and enjoy!

The Plot Thickens -- continuing "A Date to Die For"

"I just want to know what you've got," Kline argued.

I could hear him on the other side of the wall. While I sat in a holding cell, Kline and the Captain had a heated discussion.

"You can't arrest her with your only defense being she was found there with the body. Hell, she was knocked out cold. Who did that?"

"I'm certainly aware of the law, detective. We have other evidence. And it's not circumstantial."

"And what would that evidence be?"

I wanted to emit an "oh, oh" because I recognized that undertone in Kline's voice. He seldom used it. Only when his anger thermometer rose above one hundred. And it wasn't pretty. I decided maybe the Captain detected it, too, because he offered up the information without anymore persuasion.

"We found a note in her handbag."

To read more, visit:

Kathryn Long's BookNook

Monday, July 12, 2010

Litbits: Stories from Me

I've created a new and budding website to showcase my work. One of the pages will have a continuing storyline. Please feel free to check out the mystery mayhem in "A Date to Die For".

Kathryn Long's BookNook

"I love book signings. They give me a chance to socialize after a very long stint in hermit-like existence. And like most writers I enjoy being able to create and control my make believe world. What I don't love is when my real world gets messy. There's no control in that. Like murder, for instance. That's real messy. So, it's understandable that the book event in Atlanta changed my opinion about book signings. About a lot of things, actually. Murder does that to a person."

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Name That Novel #22

It's about time I posted another quote. Here's one from the past, but not too distant. And his work ventured into movies and comics until I believe there was a true cult following. See what you can come up with -- title and author.

"In fact he met the brute midway in its charge, striking its huge body with his closed fists and as futilely as he had been a fly attacking an elephant. But in one hand he still clutched the knife he had found in the cabin of his father, and as the brute, striking and biting, closed upon him the boy accidentally turned the point toward the hairy breast. As the knife sank deep into its body the gorilla shrieked in pain and rage. . . .

A vivid and blinding light flashed from the whirling, inky clouds above. The deep cannonade of roaring thunder belched forth its fearsome challenge. The deluge came--all hell broke loose upon the jungle."

Good luck fellow readers! Congrats to Tina for the correct answer! Tarzan and Burroughs

Another Pointing in the Right Direction

Interested in learning about the trend book-buying is taking? Here's a power point presentation put out by Verso Digital that through survey information answers a lot of questions concerning this topic.

Book-buying Trends

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Pointing in the Right Direction ...

If you are looking for advice on what NOT to do in writing your great masterpiece, this post I'm about to direct you to might help. It focuses on the seven reasons agents will stop reading your first chapter.

  • Generic Beginnings

  • Slow Beginnings

  • Trying Too Hard

  • Too Much Info

  • Clich├ęs

  • Loss of Focus

  • Unrealistic Internal Narrative

The information for this post was gathered at a writers' conference where several agents listened to openings -- first 250 words -- of manuscripts and gave feedback. For more details, check out: WHY AGENTS STOP READING

Monday, June 14, 2010

Name That Novel #21

A portrait of American history: name this treasured story and its author.

"It ain't that big. The whole United States ain't that big. It ain't that big. It ain't big enough. There ain't room enough for you an' me, for your kind an' my kind, for rich and poor together all in one country, for thieves and honest men. For hunger and fat."
Congrats to April! The quote is from Grapes of Wrath by Steinbeck.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Check It Out ... Weekly Websites

One aspect of writing that is easy to forget ... or maybe we tend to ignore it. Like exercising. More work than fun. I speak of expanding your vocabulary. Oh, I know you probably use the thesaurus in Microsoft Word to avoid all that makes us sound dull, boring, mundane. So, why not try something different? Here are a couple of sites that help build and broaden your vocabulary.



And remember -- keep avoiding those cliches!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Check It Out .... Weekly Websites

Poetry potpourri ... you love poetry -- to read it, to write it. Here are a couple of sites that might interest you. Both offer a selection of features that I find quite useful.

The first is a resource from the Academy of American Poets with thousands of poems, essays, biographies, weekly features, and poems for love and every occasion.


This one comes from the Poetry Foundation, the publisher of Poetry magazine. It has tools for the poet, information about events, awards, and a magazine so you can submit work. Nice site.



Sunday, May 23, 2010

Believable Characters

Characters -- not just a compilation of physical and personal traits. The difficulty a writer faces when developing the characters for his/her project is complex. I've heard comments from those who say it took pages and pages into writing the story before really feeling like "knowing" the people in it. Can you imagine if the reader felt that way? If I had that much difficulty figuring out what the character in a book is about, why she is doing the things she's doing, I don't think I'd have the patience or the concern to keep on reading. I just wouldn't care.

So, with that said, it should seem to you very important to find out everything you can about your characters before you cut them loose on their journey through the plot of your story. The question is how? What should you do, what steps should you take to get to that point? First of all, you need to remember that story characters are people like you and me. Only they are in your book. To make them human means there are several points to consider. The character's motive, habits, interests, talents, past history, reputation are all important to development. Identifying these will turn your story people into real people who readers can identify with and sympathize with. They will become so invested in the characters that reading on until the very end becomes a must.

The tiny details are important. You can keep molding and adding those aspects to your characters, fleshing them out until the decisions and actions they perform in the story seem logical and believable. For instance, let's consider habits. Perhaps you could give a character the habit of chewing his nails to show a nervous personality, or someone who always doodles on her napkin after a meal, and then later a napkin is found at a crime scene. It has scribbles all over it, thus providing a clue. The character's interest in judo and the fact that the murder victim taught a judo class at a gym your napkin scribbler frequented makes the reader point a finger in her direction. These are just a few examples of how intricate the process of developing believable characters can be.

Where you get your ideas may vary. Strangers you observe, yourself. And sometimes characters are inspired by people you know. This works if you use them only as a starting point. From there, you should develop them according to what you'll need for your story. Flesh them out with those tiny details of habits, talent, motive, interests, etc. Then ask questions based on your story events. For instance, you want to write an opening scene where the character is home alone. There's a pounding on the door, someone shouting, demanding to be let in. Now, start the causal question process: what does the character do? Remember this depends on all those aspects you've created about the character. If it's the nail biter, maybe he'll hide in the closet, pretend he's not home. Next question: The guy breaks down the door and finds the nail biter. What does he do? He has a brave moment and uses the baseball bat stored in the closet and hits the intruder. You could insert a plot twist here: turns out it's nail biter's brother who has come to tell him his wife has been in a serious car accident. And the question process takes a turn and goes on from there. The point is, the better you know your characters, the easier it is to decide what to make them do, how to act. And the more believable they become to the reader.

For more about character development, a great source is Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Card.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Name That Novel #20

Let's try figuring out the work of this master of the genre. Author and title, please.

"Ten little Indian boys went out to dine; One choked his little self, and then there were nine. Nine Little Indian boys sat up very late; One overslept himself and then there were eight. Eight little Indian boys traveling in Devon; One said he'd stay there and then there were seven. Seven little Indian boys chopping up sticks; One chopped himself in halves then there were six. Six Indian boys playing with a hive; A bumble-bee stung one then there were five. Five Indian boys going in for law; One got in Chancery then there were four. Four Indian boys going out to sea; A red herring swallowed one then there were three. Three Indian boys walking in the zoo; A big bear hugged one then there were two. Two Indian boys sitting in the sun; One got all frizzled up then there was one. One Indian boy left all alone; He went and hanged himself and then there were none."

Good luck!
Well, it's been a week... so I'm letting this one out: Agatha Christy and And Then There Were None.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Name That Poet #9

In a much lighter, childlike view, let's try this contemporary author. Poet, and the title if you know it.

There's a Polar Bear
In our Frigidaire--
He likes it 'cause it's cold in there.
With his seat in the meat
And his face in the fish
And his big hairy paws
In the buttery dish,
He's nibbling the noodles,
He's munching the rice,
He's slurping the soda,
He's licking the ice.
And he lets out a roar
If you open the door.
And it gives me a scare
To know he's in there--
That Polary Bear
In our Fridgitydaire.

Good luck as always!
Congratulations to Hunter for the answer -- Shel Silverstein.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Overused and Underdone

What makes a cliche? Is there a point in time, a certain mile marker when a word or phrase can wear the label "cliche"? And who decides? Obviously, those who write have learned that they must avoid them, that editors cringe at the sight of them, and it's a quick trip to the trash can or reject pile if you don't toss them out of your final draft.

It's difficult though. They are like a particular song that gets stuck in your head. You want to clear your mind of it, but it just keeps playing and playing and playing. You think of nothing else. Cliches are there in our minds, concrete walls that block our creative construction. And it probably doesn't matter when we write our first draft. That, after all, is when we keep the story moving; it's our main purpose. But then when it's time to get rid of them, replacing them with some original lines of our own ... not so easy. Do it anyway! It's worth the hard work and effort.

A couple of tips:

Deciding if a cliche is really a cliche - try checking out websites like,
Cliche Site or West Egg . They might help you make a decision. Another way is to have someone else hear you say the first half of the phrase, and then see if he can finish it. Cliches usually pop up in a person's mind immediately.

To anti-cliche - take a cliche and try replacing words to work it into something original. For instance, "when all's said and done" could become "when nothing is left to do or say", or something like that. The point is to leave them out, even if the language you replace them with isn't clever and witty. Cliches are just that much worse.

Not everyone will agree on what is cliche. And some will be unavoidable - by choice or not. However, original writing is what to strive for. Who knows? One day your unique weave of words may even become a cliche!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Rose By Any Other Name ....

What's color? When we think or imagine color, we often recall red, blue, yellow, green, etc. Yet, when we write, how boring it becomes to use only those names. The shades in between are too numerous to mention them all. Or to even use them when we compose our descriptive passages. I posted about this in an earlier post, the idea of using our senses to vividly describe scenes in our writing. One of those items I listed was color. It seemed to generate comments all by itself.

It's always nice to have word banks to choose from, much like we do when using the thesaurus. So, I decided to search and find anything online that would give a list of colors. Well, I hit the mother lode in an unlikely place: wikapedia. I know, I know, this is usually NOT a source I rely on, or at least I tell my students to beware of the acuracy and to check other more reliable sources. But this is about colors, right? No harm in reading it. I must admit it's good, even great, complete with color graphs on which to feast your eyes.

Here is a comprised list of the more, shall we say, uncommon shades. For a more detailed description, check out the link posted below.

Red: carnelian, coquelicot, rose madder, sinopia, vermilion

Orange: carrot orange, gamboge, persimmon, tangelo, tenne (tawny)

Brown: burnt sienna, desert sand, ecru, raw umber, russet, sepia, taupe

Yellow: aureolin, citrine, jonquil, mikado yellow, saffron, sunglow, Vegas gold

Gray: cinereous, seal brown, Xanadu

Green: chartreuse, gray-asparagus, myrtle, olive drab, spring bud, viridian

Blue: bondi blue, cerulean, glaucous, iceberg, Maya blue, Tiffany blue, ultramarine

Violet: cerise, fandango, periwinkle, wisteria

Here's the link, if you want to know more: LIST OF COLORS

And of course you could always check your 64 count box of Crayola crayons! They make a great resource :-) Happy coloring with your words!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Check It Out ... Weekly Websites

Writers and readers ... they go hand in hand. So, here is an all purpose website that offers book reviews as well as profiles and interviews of the authors who write those books. A nice extra tidbit let's you take a peek with excerpts. You are kept up-to-date with listings of new releases, and well entertained by literary games and contests:


Of course once you've found something worth reading, it's nice to know where you can get the book. If you aren't sure whether you want to dish out the money to buy it, as we all know, libraries are a great alternative. This next site provides a database of libraries across the world:


And finally, if you still want to know more about the author of the book you've found, say for instance, his/her websites, etc., this author data base is a worthwhile stop:


Happy book shopping!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Name That Novel #19

Here's a short one ... passage, that is. Not too difficult, I'd think. Let's see who knows. Title and author, please.

“Life is a game, boy. Life is a game that one plays according to the rules.”

“Yes, sir. I know it is. I know it.” Game, my ass. Some game. If you get on the side where all the hot-shots are, then it’s a game, all right—I’ll admit that. But if you get on the other side, where there aren’t any hot-shots, then what’s a game about it? Nothing. No game.

Congratulations to Tina -- Catcher in the Rye by Salinger

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Pointing in the Right Direction.....

Speaking of conferences and pitching, which I spoke of in an earlier post, Rachelle Gardner has an excellent advice posting on what you should do when you go face to face with that agent or editor. Check it out:

Rachelle Gardner on Pitching

Monday, May 10, 2010

Name That Poet #8

This one is once again by a classic American Poet. Let's see who can remember this sonnet and its author:

The sun is set; and in his latest beams
Yon little cloud of ashen gray and gold,
Slowly upon the amber air unrolled,
The falling mantle of the Prophet seems.
From the dim headlands many a lighthouse gleams,
The street-lamps of the ocean; and behold,
O'erhead the banners of the night unfold;
The day hath passed into the land of dreams.
O summer day beside the joyous sea!
O summer day so wonderful and white,
So full of gladness and so full of pain!
Forever and forever shalt thou be
To some the gravestone of a dead delight,
To some the landmark of a new domain.
Congrats to Daniel! He answered correctly with Longfellow. And the poem title is "A Summer Day by the Sea". Thank you, Daniel.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Calling All Bloggers....

There are many thoughts about the best approach to canvassing your work. Going to writing conferences where pitching is done in person to agents and editors is one. So, check in and offer your opinions and experience.

Do you think pitching at conferences is the best way?
Have you ever been to one and done this? If yes, where did you attend?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Article to Note: What Authors Should Know

Visiting the Hunnington Post website, I read an article by Penny Sansevieri who writes about the reasons why some authors may fail to sell their work. It struck a chord with me. I had to admit, some of those are part of my story, my past mistakes. And I truly hope I've learned from them, or as Sanservieri puts it, that I have managed to "fail up".

Her points of advice cover: 1)not learning enough about the industry; 2)not accepting feedback; 3)not surrounding yourself with enough professionals; 4)not doing your research; 5)not clearly understanding how to measure success in booksales; 6)not understanding how New York publishing works; 7)playing the blame game; and 8)believing in the unbelievable.

As a teacher, I'm very familiar with the philosophy of being well-prepared and well-informed before you go forth and do, well, whatever it is you attempt to do. And as the author says, the mistakes you make in publishing may be costly in both time and money. And with the Internet at our fingertips, we have an unending resource of advice to read. Unfortunately, not all of it is well-intended. As one might figure, there are some unscrupulous people out there. Taking the time to learn about the industry before you try to sell your masterpiece is essential.

In any case, take a look at what this article has to offer:
Why Some Authors Fail

Friday, May 7, 2010

Name That Novel #18

Let's try this one.... slightly more contemporary, but still a classic and well-read.

"Winston had disliked her from the very first moment of seeing her. He knew the reason. It was because of the atmosphere of hockey-fields and cold baths and community hikes and general clean-mindedness which she managed to carry about her. He disliked nearly all woman, and especially the young and pretty ones, who were the most bigoted adherents of the party, the swallowers of slogans, the amateur spies and nosers-out of unorthodoxy."

Good luck!
Congrats to Tina! 1984 by George Orwell.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Great Fallback -- Outlining

Organizing your thoughts when planning a book project is often a daunting and confusing task. An outline can help solve that problem. So, you say, I'll make an outline....hmm....how do I get started? It's not really that unfamiliar. Think about school. Your teacher may have assigned you a chapter in the history text to outline. Outlining your book is like that, only in reverse. You don't have a book, yet.

What that involves is really rather simple. Start with a broad, skeleton. It could be just three major sections -- beginning, middle, and end. Then add several subsections to each for your scenes. Typing this in a word document works well because you will be able to expand each section as you add information. For supplementals to go along with your outline, I would suggest creating a plot line. Label it with the essential elements: exposition; conflict; rising action; climax; falling action; and resolution. Leave room for the details you will add to these elements. It's a great visual for you to continually refer back to. Even a timeline is a helpful tool. I've often created one the way I've done in the classroom: a big piece of poster paper taped on the wall to add events as I develop them. One more idea is using index cards with events. The advantage to these is that if you need to rearrange or shift your order of events, you can just switch the cards around.

Of course there are various approaches to this process. Some prefer to start with developing characters, at least the main ones. Creating a "resume" for each, complete with all the background info -- job, birth date, family, etc., and strengths, weaknesses, traits, i.e. just about anything you can think of to give them life, is essential. When the story hits a rut, these well-developed characters can help move it along. They will know what to do even if you don't!

All of these tools can implement the writing process. How and when you use them is the key. Overall, it's wise to use some organizational tool. To just dig in and start writing your story without knowing where you're going may lead you into the wilderness with no way out! Seriously, the "no-plan" method works for some, but I'd venture to say that it's rare.

Do you have a preference? Do you organize your ideas? Let's hear your thoughts.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Ponder to Write... Here's a Question.

To thesaurus or not: is it always a valuable tool? I've often wondered how well it works when I'm looking for more descriptive words, something more creative, something to tintilate the senses...you get the picture ;-). The point at which I begin to worry is when maybe the word I find is too much. After all, there has to be a natural sound to your writing style. Not contrived, not over the top.

Perhaps it's a matter of choice. You do it very carefully, wisely, and judiciously. Chew on it awhile to see if it sounds right. Then, if it doesn't work, pitch it out and start over. Boy, writing is hard, isn't it? At least it is if you want it done well.

So, what do you think? Is the thesaurus your friend? Do you use it often? And how would you advise people to use or not use it?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Are You Connected?

Everyone -- unless you live under that proverbial rock -- knows about Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter. These all provide a platform for social or business networking. Each has its own unique draw, depending on your reasons for signing up, and they are pretty easy to use.

One not so familiar though, but is ranked in the top five among users in the U.S., is LinkedIn . For business networking it's the best. Here, you can find discussions to help answer your questions or share your know how. Even better, it's a place where employers post jobs. And they will search the site for people who fit their needs. So, polish up your profile and show off what you know! Your contributions to discussions and articles give you that opportunity. It's also a way to gain referrals.

Of course, as with anything, it's a mixed bag -- there's the good, bad, and the ugly. We all want the good aspects of networking to come our way. Some useful guidelines help to achieve just that.

  • If you don't want info to be publicly known, don't share it.

  • Find a network that fits your needs and provide info that caters to those needs; if you're a writer, write about writing tips :-)

  • Project and network -- OFTEN; people won't know you exist if you don't put yourself out there.

  • Consider placing a photo of yourself on your profile -- it makes you real and approachable.

  • Be consistent on your sites with what you advertise; helps people remember you.

  • Find a tutorial to help you learn how to use these sites.

  • Bottom line -- as the Nike commercial says, "Just do it!" or at least, just try it.

For a more detailed account of this topic, read Social Media on Writing-World.

So, how many of you partake in social networking? And how important is it to you?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Knowing -- Setting the Limits to What You Write

An article in the April 1 issue of the online mag, www.writing-world.com , set off a quiet rumble of protest inside me -- that idea of writing only what you know. The author professes the idea that there are ways of stretching the rule a bit, but then goes on to really pretty much stick to it. She advises writers should tap into whatever they are "expert" or familiar with, such as a lawyer using his knowledge to write a legal thriller (hmm... what bestselling author do we know who does that???) Okay, I will buy that. But then the author says settings should reflect where one has lived for a significant amount of time, and only then can it sound authentic.

If this is what the author really believes, I disagree. The idea of writing what you know should include what you research. And let's face it, in this day and age you can research anything! That includes locations, time frames, professions, scientific know-how, and the list goes on. We have the resources, and we need to use them. Sure, living in a place can lend itself to making the setting "authentic", but there's nothing to stop a writer from networking and researching to get a handle on what's needed to describe a place, or to find any other info that validates the story.

So, in one respect, I agree with the author: take advantage and use what you DO know. However, I'd say, don't stop there. After all, the writing world and all its stories are our fantasies growing in our imaginations. If we want to write about the Shire, home to Bilbo Baggins or Dorothy's OZ and her trek through munchkin land, what's to stop us? After all, maybe we've never been there, but the places are familiar inside our heads. Right?

What are your views? Do you think it's too much of a gamble to venture out into realms we've never personally experienced? Or is the sky truly the limit?

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Tips According to Hemingway

I was reading an article about Hemingway's advice on writing,
Top Five Tips for Writing Well , and thought I'd take the time to pass the advice along, in brief, and make a comment or two. Of course, lots of people have lots of tips and advice on writing, but it seems rather special coming from such a renowned and respected author as Hemingway. So, let's take a look.

Tip 1: Use short sentences. Seems reasonable, especially considering Hemingway's style of writing. And this seems to support the ideas given in my post on New-age reading habits. So many readers like that fast-paced novel--I certainly do--and short sentences help do the trick!

Tip 2: Use short first paragraphs. Considering tip number 1, this seems self-explanatory, doesn't it? Now, those of us who've read all the popular books on writing advice can attest to one very frequent tip: make sure you open with a great hook. Well, I'd imagine a long, flowery introduction with too much back story might dilute the impact of that hook, whereas a shorter one would enhance it.

Tip 3: Use vigorous English. I believe nowadays we would refer to it as using powerful action words, ones that move the story and its characters along. Again, this seems to go hand in hand with what all readers want: a story that grabs them and keeps their attention.

Tip 4: Be positive, not negative. He wasn't talking about the downbeat, depressing, or negative thoughts or events your story might have. However, it does refer to your choice of words. Instead of saying what something isn't, say what it is. Otherwise, your reader will still be thinking of the negative part of the word. Example: even if you say something is painless, the reader might be thinking pain. Instead, when you say it is comfortable, no one is thinking about pain. This one seemed to be a bit over the top to me, but Hemingway must have thought it important enough to comment. Maybe I'm just not conscious of this when I read. I'll have to study on it awhile.

Tip 5: This one actually is taken from a comment Hemingway gave to Fitzgerald, more like a confession than a tip, though. To paraphrase, he claimed that for every page of masterpiece, he would write ninety-one pages of sh*t. And hopefully manage to put the sh*t in the wastebasket. There's a tip in there somewhere, I'm sure. Maybe it's to say that any writing we do is a process, much like a sculpture who starts with a lump of clay and works it into a fine piece of art. We write, we revise, and then revise some more. It's work, after all.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Name That Poet #7

Let's try for this one, a poem by another great contemporary American author. So, name and title, if you can guess.

They were women then
My mama's generation
Husky of voice--stout of
With fists as well as
How they battered down
And ironed
Starched white
How they led
Headragged generals
Across mined
To discover books
A place for us
How they knew what we
Must know
Without knowing a page
Of it

Good luck to all! The time has passed..... And the answer is: Alice Walker

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

New Age Reading Habits

As a teacher, I've found more and more evidence of a behavior that has me both frustrated and a bit angry. I see these young adults struggling to sustain even a modicum of attention to reading. Now, I know some of you will question: aren't all teens restless and constantly moving from one task to another? Well, yes they are. And the revelation as to why (or at least a major part of that reason) boinked me on the head with a great big DUH! and cried, "It's all that new-age technology, dummy!"

It made sense, even if I didn't like what I was hearing. Kids have the attention span of an ant, or at least a good many of them do. I've watched them cruising the Internet, switch web pages as quickly and often as my hubby switches channels on TV. With all that glowing glitter and glitz shining and speeding in front their eyes, what hope is there for plain pages with black print, and line after line of literary prose? Several paragraphs into page one, give or take a few, and they are nodding off, floating away, their minds totally gone from the book in front of them. If you don't believe it, read these words from Mark Dykeman: "There's no doubt that the way we read
Web pages, and our on-line content preferences, have a major impact on what we read, how long we read, and how attentively we read when on-line." THE EFFECTS OF THE INTERNET ON READING HABITS

You mean it's not just the kids? (Seriously, do you think adults are immune to all that the Internet has to give? Not to mention all the video games out there to amuse us.) Well, welcome to the new-age technology. And it's not going away.

Okay, so after this rather lengthy intro, I'm going to go to where I was heading in the first place. After all, this is a blog about writing.

If reading habits have changed, does this mean what you write should change? Should authors be thinking in terms of what will appeal to those attention-deficit readers? And how exactly should they do this? Well, you can write that action-packed, fast paced adventure. Or use the let's-make-chapters-short-and-sweet format. Two or three pages tops, then you're on to the next. Just ask James Patterson. It works for him. Maybe shorter novels to appeal to the e-reader crowd could be your choice. Is the idea driving you crazy, yet? It almost sounds like giving in, doesn't it? I mean, the idea of writing an instant soup version of what could otherwise be the next masterpiece, like a Hemingway or Steinbeck or (place your mentor author here) seems sacrilegious.

Well, let's face facts. If you are writing to get published and sell books, you have to appeal to the market. However, if you write for art's sake, and publishing isn't your prime objective, then stay the course. Write what you want, how you want, and of course, how MUCH you want. Just don't expect MY students to read it! Seriously, it's a difficult decision, deciding what will sell, what editors, publishers, and agents will like. Then again, nobody said it would be easy, did they?

So, do you think readers have changed their habits? Should writers change along with them? And how do feel about what you write? Let me hear your thoughts.

Name That Novel #17

It's been quite awhile, my dear blogging friends. But now I am back on to bring you more Name That Novel intrigue. So, let's see what you can do with this classic. Title and Author, if you please:

"My father had a small estate in Nottinghamshire; I was the third of five sons. He sent me to Emanual College in Cambridge, at fourteen years old, where I resided three years, and applied myself close to my studies.... I laid them out in learning Navigation, and other parts of the mathematicks...."

Good luck to all!