General, My Thoughts, Self-editing Tips, The Publishing Process

When Editors Go Bad

If you’ve been reading my little blog for any length of time, you already know that editors aren’t prefect. [Yes, I just wrote “prefect.” Squirming yet?] As evidence of this, I present to you some of the most common mistakes editors make. By “editors” I mean me. And by “mistakes” I mean errors in judgment prompted by sleep deprivation, excessive drinking, lack of confidence in the job, or plain ol’ incompetence. I’ve given each of the editorial screw-ups a title, but these are only my made-up titles and are not the terms officially sanctioned by the National Governing Board of…

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Other Writer's Words, Self-editing Tips, Writing tips

Writing Tips from Novels: Alex and the Ironic Gentleman

Yes, there are lots of great books “on writing” (my favorite is the one that goes by that name, except capitalized; it’s by Stephen King), but I’ve found that you can get some great tips from the characters and narrators of Actual Novels. And isn’t it more fun to read a novel than a book about writing a novel? Sure it is. I have a few of these lined up in the queue (gosh, I love writing that word), but I thought it might be fun to open this irregularly recurring blog feature with an unexpected little book. It’s called…

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Beyond Categorization, Self-editing Tips, The Writer's Life, Writing tips

Writer Vs. Self-Editor

Once upon a time, there was a writer… Whoa, hold on there. Wait one darn minute, mister. Excuse me? “Once upon a time”? Really? Where’s the originality in that? Surely someone who calls himself a “writer” can do better. There was a writer… Pa-thet-ICK. Look, I’m just trying to… “Was.” Passive verb, my friend. You should know this by now. Passive verbs suck. Spice it up a bit. Put some life in your words or you’re going to put your readers to sleep. I appreciate your concern, but I’m not trying to write the Great American Novel. It’s just a…

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Self-editing Tips, Writing tips

Talking About Talking [Updated]

I promised a post about writing good dialogue. So here it is. (Because you don’t want yours to end up looking like this.) Before I share a few book excerpts, consider these general tips. Keep in mind, these are principles, not hard-and-fast rules. Avoid repetition of attributions. While you need the occasional “he said” and “she said,” you don’t need one for every line of dialogue. If it’s a conversation between two people, establish the characters at the beginning, then allow for the natural ebb and flow to reveal who’s saying what. Now, if you’ve got a long stretch of…

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My Thoughts, Self-editing Tips, The Publishing Process, The Writer's Life

Let It Die

Is it time let your novel die? That’s a question every writer faces at least once in his or her writing life. The decision to pull life support is difficult at best, debilitatingly impossible at worst. You’ve worked on this novel for, what, months? years? How many hours have you invested? Even a poorly-written novel takes a long time to write. Then there’s the emotional cost. Whether you love your characters or hate them, they’ve most likely become real to you. (I’m 99 percent certain I’ve seen some of mine hanging out at the local Starbucks.) Giving up on their…

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Ideas, My Thoughts, Self-editing Tips

Your Novel Doesn’t Stink Enough

Scent. The forgotten sense. Take a look at your work in progress. How often do you invite the reader’s nose into the story? My guess? Not as often as you should. Consider real life for a moment. (In case you’ve forgotten, this is the life where you have to do laundry and feed the dog and occasionally acknowledge the existence of your spouse and/or children.) Breathe in each the following. Be sure to pause long enough for the brain to write the scene that goes with the scent. Diesel fuel. Chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven. The sidewalk after…

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Self-editing Tips

When Details Become Distraction

Version One. Benny’s cherry red Converse sneakers squeaked their delight on the Asian Mahogany Pergo laminate floor while his mother stirred the Nestle Semi-Sweet morsels into the cookie dough using the wood-handled Le Creuset spatula with the blue non-stick silicone surface that never failed her. “Now?” asked Benny, his brown eyes barely visible beneath the blue, red and white of the too-big Chicago Cubs baseball cap. “Not yet,” she answered, and she stirred some more, thankful for her Paderno copper mixing bowl and her Okite Creama Botticino countertop and a pair of neon orange Crocs that might elicit snide comments…

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