Living Write

I Meant to Do That

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One of my favorite things in the world is when you get to the end of a chapter, a TV episode, or a movie installment of a serial and your mind screams, “This can’t be the end!”

Watching he screen turn black as Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia barely escape the grips of Darth Vader and regroup, knowing Han Solo is frozen in carbonite and on his way to Jabba, my heart breaks. I ache. It will be three years before the Jedi returns to save the rebels. I vow that I will be first in line on that day.

…Or it will be next fall before I see if Ducky survives his heart attack. Or it will be next week before I know if Monroe is executed.

That’s what I love about books. There is always “one more chapter” as I tell myself at 2:30 in the morning. After all, how can I sleep soundly when the heroine of the story is about to walk into the coliseum to face the lions? No matter how much faith you may have in the author, you have to see the poor girl through.

“Just because they’re fictional characters doesn’t mean they’re not real,” I told a reader friend the other day. We laughed. But we understand each other. Readers are invested.

My friend asked me about my writing, too. “So when you’re writing, do you plan out the chapter breaks, or do you go back and divide the story into chapters later?”

I told him that I love to write episodically. I work very hard to leave every chapter at the apex of the roller-coaster. That’s the tingly sensation I crave, and I’m not alone.

Yes, I meant to write it like that. I want you to get to the end of the scene and whisper, “Just one more chapter,” a dozen times a night.

 “This suspense is terrible. I hope it will last.” -Oscar Wilde


Living Write

10 Ways to Jump Over Writer’s Block

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I’m often asked how I deal with the dreaded Writer’s Block, and if it’s even a “thing.”

Well, I’ve heard lots of writers say that if you have an outline and a plan, you’ll never suffer from Writer’s Block. From my experience, I would say that isn’t quite right. With a detailed outline you might not lose direction, but sometimes being blocked is more about how smoothly dialog is going—or not going, as the case may be. It may be more about making your story more realistic or imaginative. Maybe it’s about just seeing things with focused eyes. So here are a few suggestions to try if you find the juices have stopped flowing.

click to see and buy1- Take a walk. Sometimes a little fresh air and physical activity is all that’s needed to get your brain tuned in to your characters.

2- Take a nap. Your mind and body click to see and purchasemay be over-stressed and in dire need of recuperation. It happens; don’t be afraid of rest.

3- Eat something healthy. Fuel is important. Grab an apple and use the snack as an exercise for your senses. Focus on how it tastes, how it sounds as you bite into it, how it smells, how it looks, and how it feels—not only in your hand, but on your tongue. Little things sometimes trigger big thoughts.

click to see and purchase 4- Read something someone else wrote. Remember that stack of books on your nightstand? Grab one and start it. Find inspiration in the beauty of another author’s work.

5- Listen to music. Pull up that playlist and danceclick to see and purchase around the room for 20 minutes. It’s fun, and will send that oxygen straight to your brain.

click to see and purchase 6- Write something completely different. If you write fiction, take time out to write a blog post.  Or even try your hand at something completely new. Try a flash fiction exercise, with 300 words or less.

7- Think about what’s really causing the problem. Is it the subject of your work, or is it the “don’t wannas?” If it’s a particular theme click for free downloador subject, meditate for a few minutes on why that might be a problem for you. Is it a subject you avoid in your daily life. Example: Your main character and father having a conversation, when that may be something you struggle with in reality. Find the prickly stuff and write that. You don’t have to leave it in, but you might discover something amazing if you do.

click to see and purchase8- Pull your characters out of the scene you’re writing, and write them into a scene that might bring out different emotions. Trap them in an elevator. Have aliens interrogate them. Make them sing karaoke. Whatever you think might work. Get to know your characters better, and you’ll hear their voices more fluidly.

click to see and purchase9- Establish a writing routine, and make it a little bit weird. Before you begin writing each day, grab your coffee, put on your Chopin, say ‘hi’ to your little elephant figurine, and spin your chair around once. Doing these things (or whatever quirky things you must do) when you feel inspired can help trigger inspiration on the days when you’re dragging. It’s a little like muscle-memory. And it works.

10- When all else fails, write anyway. Write badly. Write something so terrible that you’ll have no choice but to fix it later. You’re going to edit anyway, so get your word-count in and call it a day. Fake it ‘til you make it. Writers write. It’s what you do. Remind yourself that this is what you LOVE.

Living Write

How Much Editing Should You Do?

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I am often asked how much editing I do before I know a manuscript is ready to shop or publish. This question is tricky, because I know how paralyzing it can be to wonder if your work is ready for others’ eyes. There is always something that can be tweaked, reworked, reworded. I am blessed to have a critique partner and a close friend who happens to be a professional editor, but not everyone is so fortunate.

I have put together a check-list that I use, but I also rely on my friends’ advice and critique along the way. Another great tool that I use is a group of beta readers—volunteers willing to tell the truth about my manuscript before it goes to publishing. I ask them to provide feedback about content and clarity. Of course, anyone who finds typos or mistakes is asked to mark or correct them, but I find betas to be really great for finding inconsistencies or omissions.

My editing checklist consists of six stages. I advise other writers to go through these steps before sending their manuscripts to any publishing professional, like an agent or publisher. You want to look as professional as possible before it goes to their editors.  I recommend for everyone to use a professional editor before self-publishing. One of the worst mistakes a writer can make is to put out a wonderful story that is filled with mistakes, inconsistencies, and confusing dialog. If a reader puts down your book because of these things, they probably won’t pick it up again.

Here is my checklist; I hope you find something in it to help you construct yours.

Editing Checklist

( ) First Draft—No Editing

Just get it all out there in writing.

Seriously, don’t even think about editing as you write.

( ) First Round—Content and Clarity

Make sure your manuscript says everything you think it says.

Read out loud, or have someone else read it aloud, to be sure.

Make sure your research is thorough and accurate, even for fiction.

Make sure your story is easy to understand.

Remember to include sensory imagery on every page.

( ) Second Round—Point of View (PoV)

Make sure each chapter is told from the appropriate character’s point of view.

If PoV changes from one character to another, make sure the shift is obvious.

( ) Third Round—Voice

Make sure each character uses his/her specific and unique voice.

If you read a quote out of context, would you know who was speaking?

( ) Fourth Round—Spelling, Grammar, and Vocabulary

Make sure that your narrative is grammatically correct.

Do NOT rely on spell-check and grammar-check to get it right. It won’t.

Dialog doesn’t require proper grammar, as long as it suits your character’s voice.

Are you using the most precise words for the situation?

Don’t send your reader to a dictionary more than twice in one book.

( ) Fifth Round—Format

Make sure your manuscript is formatted according to your publisher’s guidelines.

Double-check your publisher’s guidelines—really.


Happy writing!

Living Write

Ready to Write

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November is National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo, as promoted at That means that October has been NaNo Prep month!

For the last several years I have been participating in the writing adventure. I prepare outlines and inspiration boards. I do research and take notes. I revise my outlines. I clean my desk. I tell everyone that I love that I’ll see them again in December.

The trick of writing 50,000 words in 30 days is simply to write. Make the time—set aside a segment of every single day—and write. Write like the wind. Write as though your life (or income) depended on it. Write like nobody is reading. Write like… whatever it is that will get you motivated to write. No one will take your writing more seriously than you do. When you get real about it, others will, too.

Click to see and purchase!

Make a pact with your family and friends so that they help you write, not distract you from your task. Wear a “do not disturb” hat. Send them out for a day at the park or pizza. Offer them a “walk-on” role in your novel, or at least a shout-out in the dedication. Let them know how much it means to you. Tell them what writing your story feels like.

When it comes down to the end, though, don’t stress about not making 50K by November 30. Just do your best. And if you need another week to finish, take it. The deadline is there for motivation, but even if you do reach your goal—DON”T send your novel to be published December 1st. Do your editing. Make it right, make it clean, make it beautiful. Make it a quality product that on which you’ll be proud to have your name for years to come.

Sign up and participate. You’ll be glad you did. The rewards are amazing—nothing monetary, unless you pursue it—but the feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction are better than cash, anyway. Be my buddy on NaNoWriMo (Kim Black)!

Te help me with my character profiles (especially for a series of novels that I’m working on) I developed a workbook to keep everybody straight. It turned out pretty nice, so I have made it available on amazon. Have a look!

Happy writing!

Living Write

Who Wants to Be a Better Writer

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Click to purchase this cute card holder!In this post-modern world where everyone is encouraged to express their opinion to the universe—in 140 characters or less on occasion—we should all strive to be better at articulating our thoughts in writing.

I laugh along with everyone else at the cartoons about the Grammar Police and the proper use of “there, their, and they’re,” but why is it funny? When did poor grammar become a joke?

I recently was interviewed about a fundraising event our writers’ group is hosting. It’s sad to think that we needed a fundraiser. Why would a non-profit organization that promotes better writing not be filled to the brim with members? You can’t throw a stick without hitting a blogger.  Most people do some sort of writing every day in their job.

Whether one writes reports, articles, direct mail copy, blogs, marketing material, novels, instructional pieces, web copy, emails or even personal correspondence by hand (gasp!), it’s important to present oneself as an intelligent person.  We rely on spell-check and grammar correcting programs too much.

Being part of a group that teaches when to use “further” instead of “farther” helps to make you a better writer. It makes for better reading, too. It’s not about looking like a smarty-pants. It’s about making the reader’s experience more enjoyable or more informative, without making them get out a red pen to correct you.

When a reader decides they know more than you, they stop reading. Period. Your article, blog, instructions, or story is no longer relevant to their needs.

If you’re a writer (and you certainly are) join a writers’ group. Take a class. Learn, grow, and improve. If you’re the one who already knows it all, then join a group to help others. Please. The universe needs you.