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6 06, 2016

Recharging the Writer’s Brain Well

By |2016-06-04T12:22:52-05:00June 6th, 2016|Make Me Think Monday|0 Comments

learningIt’s been said, “When you stop learning, you stop growing.”

Or, as Albert Einstein put it “Once you stop learning, you start dying.”

Many professions recognize and require ongoing learning.

As a teacher, I needed 40 hours of professional growth per year.

As an antique dealer, I constantly read price guides, watched Antiques Roadshow, and friended Kovel’s on Facebook to keep up-to-date on antiques and pricing.

As a writer, I attend a writing conferences or workshop every year. Some are on-line or podcasts; others in person.

Those in person conferences are the ones I enjoy the most because I’m not only learning I’m meeting my people. We writers are a breed unto ourselves and networking with those who understand is a treat.

Over the winter, health issues made writing difficult. I sorta lost my momentum. My zeal to write. (In case you’ve wondered, that’s why you’ve been missing new blog posts here.)

I truly needed interaction with my kind and some brain filling.

In May I attended a mini-con presented by the RWA chapter, Colorado Romance Writers. This well-organized conference delivered. And, delivered superbly.

The fellow writers were warm, friendly, and oh so understanding. We spoke the same language.

The daylong lecture from Donald Maass, President of Donald Maass Literary Agency in New York, challenged and charged my muse, as I had expected.

I’ve been attending Maass workshops since 2006. After decades in the publishing business,The Donald truly knows his stuff. His well-used books on craft line my bookcase line my bookcase —Writing the Breakout Novel (2001), Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook (2004), The Fire in Fiction (2009) , The Breakout Novelist (2011) and Writing 21st Century Fiction (2012).

If you’re a writer looking to push your craft to the next level, you should check out opportunities at Free Expressions Seminars and Literary Services  and/or subscribe to the Writer Unboxed blog, where Mr. Maass is a monthly contributor.

That weekend conference  refilled my brain well and supercharged my muse. I’m back on course and busy pushing to have the final book in the Vietnam War Era trilogy released this year.

How do you refill your own brain well?

If you’re a writer, I highly recommend attending an in person writer’s conference or workshop.

26 08, 2013

Eight Writing Mistakes that Will Kill a Contest Entry

By |2013-08-26T06:03:57-05:00August 26th, 2013|Make Me Think Monday|3 Comments

I’ve been a member of RWA (Romance Writers of America) for years and I frequently judge chapter contests.

I’ve discovered I see the same writing mistakes repeated-contest after contest, year after year.

Most are small blunders, but unchecked these errors tip an editor or contest judge that you’re not a pro and frequently result in rejection by an editor or a low score from a contest judge.

I decided to share a list of those writing mistakes.

  • Word repetition.

All writers have little words we tend to overuse — weasel words, I call them after Margie Lawson’s classes. Words like really, just, could, would, it, were and very to name a few.

Create your personal weasel word list and be on the lookout for overused words. Then use search and replace to cut them out before submitting.

  • Extra prepositions.

Too many prepositions in a sentence make the writing choppy. There’s usually a way to reword and eliminate some of the prepositional phrases.

  • Word use

Words like affect/effect, like/such as, your/you’re, hearty or hardy, baby’s or babies can easily be confused.

If you aren’t sure which word meaning you need, find out.

  • Comma confusion

This simple piece of punctuation is the curse of all writers. We tend to insert commas where they don’t belong, which can change the sentence’s meaning, or omit needed commas.

Learn the rules — and when in doubt, ask an editor what their publication’s style demands.

  • Subject/verb disagreement

You can’t say, “A box of chocolates were on top of the table.” or “They is ready to leave.” A singular noun needs a singular verb.  A plural noun needs a plural verb.

  • Pronoun use

When using a pronoun such as he/she, make sure there aren’t two people in the sentence and the pronoun creates confusion about which one you mean.

  • Misplaced modifiers/words

This one is a personal demon of mine. I guess that’s why I spot them so quickly.

Example of a dangling modifiers and the revision from Purdue On-Line Writing Lab

INCORRECT: After reading the original study, the article remains unconvincing.

REVISED: After reading the original study, I find the article unconvincing.

      Example of misplaced words/modifiers and the revision from Towson University On Line Writing Support:

INCORRECT: The three bankers talked quietly in the corner smoking pipes.

REVISED: The three bankers smoking pipes talked quietly in the corner.

Having keen-eyed critique partners can catch this mistake. Reading to yourself out loud also helps.

  •  Manuscript format

Most RWA chapter contests do not penalize for manuscript formatting. Editors and agents might. Two areas to watch:

  1. Underline/italics. Be aware that underline usually denotes a clickable link. If you use it for emphasis, you confuse your readers.
  2. Spacing after a period. Generally accepted manuscript format is one space after a period, not two. Check the Chicago Manual of Style if you don’t believe me.

Seven little mistakes I see repeatedly. Don’t let your submission to an editor/agent or a fiction writing contest be guilty of these mistakes.

Especially not when the fixes are so easy.