Monday, April 25, 2011

Writing Tip Card - Writing Wrongs

What do editors do when they get bored? (Okay, that's a trick question. Editors don't have time to get bored). However, in their spare time, the editors at Inspiration for Writers, Inc., made a list of the top "writing wrongs" they encounter. As the list grew, so did the suggestions for what to do with such a list. The result? A 3.75" x 8.25" glossy card you can keep by your computer to remind you to right your writing wrongs before sending out your manuscript.

The best news? We'll send a free card to the first ten people who email Sandy at Be sure to send your full mailing address and state what you want (a free Writing Wrongs card). If you belong to a writing group and would like enough for your group, email Sandy with the number of people in your group.

Now, in case you can't wait for your full-color card, here's what they say:

Think your manuscript is ready to send out into the world? Before you do, polish your prose by eliminating or reducing:
~ Spelling and grammar errors. Proof once more.
~ Telling. Take the time to act out scenes with appropriate action, dialogue, and description.
~ Was, were, is, are. Each time you locate one of these “to-be” verbs, find a way to omit it. They are often a clue of passive sentence construction. Bad: There were three boys in the room. Better: Three boys wrestled in the gym. Note that fixing passive construction forces us to use more powerful verbs and urges us to be more specific.
~ Present participles (the fancy name for “ing” verbs). Replace with past tense wherever possible. Bad: It was raining. Better: Rain pelted the windows.
~ Helping verbs. Bad: She began to sing. Better: She sang. Bad: She could hear a train. A little better: She heard a train. Much better: A train whistled in the distance.
~ Adverbs. “Ly” words are a sign that a stronger verb is needed. Bad: She was exceedingly tired. Better: She was exhausted. Better: Exhaustion weighed her shoulders, ached her limbs.
~ Creative dialogue tags. Bad: “I love it,” she jittered. Better: “I love it,” she said.
~ Dialogue tags. Replace with an action or body language. Better: “I love it!” She hopped on one foot and danced around John.
~ Dialogue explanations. Don’t tell your reader what your dialogue shows. Bad: John told her off. “Don’t you ever do that again!” Better: John’s eye twitched. “Don’t ever do that again!”
~ Intensifiers. Very, really, totally, completely.
~ Any nonessential word. If a sentence reads just as well without a word, leave it out. Common criminals: that, of, prepositions at the end of a sentence, and suddenly used to create urgency (when action should be creating that urgency).
~ Clich├ęs. If you’ve heard it before, so has your reader. Find a fresh way to say it.
~ Stacked adjectives. If you must use an adjective, pick the strongest one. Bad: The large, gray, angry fox attacked the rabbit. Better: The large fox attacked the rabbit.
~ Exclamation marks. Use only when shouting.
~ Ellipses ( . . . ). Use only when text is missing or, occasionally, as a device to show a falling off in tone during dialogue.
~ Redundancy. Say it once; say it right. Readers are smart. Really.
~ Viewpoint breaches. Know whose head you’re in and stay in it. Or stay out of all heads.
~ Smiling, nodding, laughing, sighing. Nothing wrong with these, but overuse will remove the sizzle from your finely-crafted words. If you use any of these more than once per scene, try to find more creative actions or fresher body language.
~ Gawking characters. Get your character out of the way of the action. Bad: John saw the sun rise. Better: The sun tiptoed into the horizon. Bad: Jill watched the squirrel shell nuts. Better: The squirrel shelled nuts.
~ Named emotions. If an emotion is named, it means you’re telling, not showing. Bad: She was angry. Better: She slammed her fist on the keyboard.

Be sure to request your card while supplies last. And remember, when you need a second set of eyes to review your writing, we're here.

(c) copyright 2011, Inspiration for Writers, Inc. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Animal Contest Winner, and New Contest Announcement

Congratulations to Lori from Mason, Ohio, the winner of the Amazing Animal Contest for her piece, "Teaching Without Words." Lori won a free edit from IFW, as well as some other great prizes and bragging rights. Be sure to submit your entry to this month's contest. Details are below.

The Dialogue Recovery Contest

Why don't you show us what you can do with some interesting dialogue? For your hard work you could win a copy of Joy Held's Writer Wellness as well as some other great gifts from Inspiration for Writers, Inc., (not to mention the critical acclaim of being able to say you WON one of our prestigious contests)! Enter our FREE writing contest. This month's theme is Dialogue Recovery. Here's how it works: write a short story of up to 1,000 words, the only catch is that your story must start with one of the following bits of dialogue:

"Look out! It's coming right for us!"

"And that, my dear, is why your husband willed me all of his money." OR

"Check out those buns."

Be creative! The more fun you have, the better! Submit your story to with an e-mail title of "Dialogue Writing Contest" by 11:59PM on May 6th to be considered for the contest. Also in the text of the email, please give us your name, email address, and snail mail address (yes, we keep these confidential), AND, please let us know if we have permission to print your entry, your first name, and your city/state or nation in a future blog or newsletter column. I will send a "we received your entry" email to all entrants, so if you don't get one, email again or call Sandy at 304-428-1218 during regular business hours (M-F 9-5 Eastern time).

Our editors will judge the entries on content, creativity, writing style, and writing craft. The winner will receive a prize package that includes a copy of Joy Held's Writer Wellness, an Inspiration for Writers duffle bag, a GHOSTWRITERS tote bag, Inspiration for Writers notepads, and other miscellaneous goodies. Now, get writing!