10 New Year’s Resolutions for Writers

2016
Happy New Year!

I’m not usually big on resolutions

Have you broken your New Year’s resolutions yet? It’s been three days and I’m doing great! Sorry to gloat, but this—as Joe Biden would say—is a big f***ing deal for me. I generally break mine immediately, so most years I don’t bother to make any.

Last week, though, a blood test revealed the need for me to lower my sugar, so I’ve been eating healthy meals, rather than my preferred potatoes, rice, doughnuts, waffles and muffins. Hubby brought a lovely cantaloupe home from Acme today, so I have that to look forward to for breakfast tomorrow.

I usually crave candy in the evening, but last night I covered my ears to that box of Christmas truffles calling to me and washed a handful of blueberries instead. They were remarkably satisfying, some squashy and others firm, but all deliciously sweet. And I sucked them in them one by one, drawing out the pleasure, just as I would have with peanut butter M&Ms (OMG, why did I just remind myself of those?!).

Food is my addiction. I can’t remember the last time I stuck to a meal plan for a single day. But dieting is a day on the beach compared to making writing resolutions. I break out into a cold sweat and come seriously close to a Breyers mint chocolate chip binge.

 

Writing resolutions are slippery creatures

Why is it so hard for writers to write? We want to write. Love to write. Need to write. So why do we find so many excuses to get out of actually cranking out words?  Continue reading 10 New Year’s Resolutions for Writers

Is “Said” Dead? Laying to Rest Some Myths About Dialogue Tags

tombstone
Is “said” dead?

Are you sick of said?

Said, said, said. Do you get tired of writing that your characters said everything? “Yes, I ate your plums,” he said. She said, “I want to be alone.” “Josh will never eat those Brussels sprouts,” Debbie said, “even if you make him sit there all night.”

Wouldn’t it be more interesting to use a variety of dialogue tags? “Yes, I ate your plums,” he taunted. She whined, “I want to be alone.” “Josh will never eat those Brussels sprouts,” Debbie warned, “even if you make him sit there all night.”

Is said dead?

As I browsed for new pins for my Creative Power Writing Pinterest page, I kept coming across posts like these: “190 Ways to Say ‘Said,’” “I’m Sick of ‘Said,’” “Other Words for ‘Said,’” “‘Said’ is Dead.” Great action verbs were offered—protested, kibitzed, mourned, spluttered, opined… You’d think I’d re-pin those posts and plaster them all over my website and Facebook page, right?  Continue reading Is “Said” Dead? Laying to Rest Some Myths About Dialogue Tags

Top 5 Dialogue Formatting Tips

Let's talk...
Let’s talk…

Can Readers Navigate Your Dialogue?

You might write killer dialogue, but if it’s not reader-friendly, it might as well be ancient Greek. If your reader has to go back and reread to figure out who is speaking, your momentum will die right there like a car out of gas. If you present a couple of talking heads with no action, your reader will yawn as he browses for the next author’s story. Formatting conventions such as dialogue tags and beats are not just fluff—they help the reader stay aware of who is speaking at every moment, along with each character’s body language and movement in space, maintaining the dramatic tension and allowing scenes to flow smoothly.

Today’s post will teach you all you need to know about formatting dialogue, from quotation marks to paragraphing. As a bonus, I’ve copied these tips into a handy .pdf document you can download and print out to keep handy. You’ll find it at the end of the article. Continue reading Top 5 Dialogue Formatting Tips

Can This Relationship (with My Spelling and Grammar Checker) Be Saved? Yes! Here’s How…

I hate you, spellcheck!
I hate you, spellcheck!

So How Are You and Your Checker Getting Along?

Did my last post, Have You Seen Your Spellchecker Naked? reveal uncomfortable truths about how your spelling and grammar checker was letting you down? Before you give up on your relationship, try some checker counseling.

You wouldn’t dream of trying to change your spouse, partner, or significant other, would you? But as the word doctor, that’s exactly my advice on how to salvage your relationship with your checker—change its parameters and it will work better for you.

Most checkers let you personalize their settings to customize the types of errors they look for. You get to be in control in this relationship. You get to tell your checker which possible errors to flag and which to ignore. This post will tell you all you need to know about setting things right with your checker. Continue reading Can This Relationship (with My Spelling and Grammar Checker) Be Saved? Yes! Here’s How…

Have You Seen Your Spellchecker Naked?

WitchesSpellcheck

How Do You Do?

How well do you know your spellchecker? I’m not talking about the spouse or best friend you ask to double-check your writing. I mean the checker in your word processing software. Did you recently go on your first date? Or are you old friends? Have you seen your spellchecker naked?

No, that wasn’t a typo. Most writers trust that spelling and grammar checkers will find all their mistakes. However, if you rely solely on your digital checker and don’t do a manual check, your writing will likely go out infected with STDs—stupid typos and dammits.

Today’s post will lay bare digital spelling and grammar checkers. You’ll learn how they work and their claims to fame—and shame. Next time I’ll show you how to tweak Microsoft Word’s checker to make it more responsive to your needs.  Continue reading Have You Seen Your Spellchecker Naked?

Step 3: Proofreading–Easy as… (Post 4 of 4 on Writing Revision)

Easy as...
Easy as…

Easy as…!

All right! [Did you notice that was two words? Just couldn’t resist the opportunity to get that little point in…] You’ve earned your badges [Badges? We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!] for Revision and Editing, Steps 1 and 2 in the Writing Revision Process. Now comes the easy part—Step 3: Proofreading!

That is, it’s easy if you’re anal about detail, like me. [I just checked, and “like me” is correct, although if I were being formal I might have written, “If you are as anal about detail as I am.” Then again, I’d probably have to ditch “anal”…] If you have ADHD or dyslexia like some members of my family, you might prefer sticking pins in your eyes to proofreading. [I am in a mood today! Maybe I should write all my posts in the afternoon early in the week, rather than cramming them at the last minute late at night!]

You can still learn to proofread, and do it well. (And you might even learn not to hate it so much.) I actually like it. But you already know I think a hot date is reading to each other from the dictionary. Continue reading Step 3: Proofreading–Easy as… (Post 4 of 4 on Writing Revision)

Step 2: Editing–Refining Your Masterpiece (Post 3 of 4 on Writing Revision)

My Masterpiece
My Masterpiece

So now you’re a pro at revision (step 1 in the revision process, that is). From my June 22 post, Revising Writing is Like Home Renovation, you know there are three steps in the writing revision process: Revise, Edit, Proofread. On July 20, we examined Step 1: Revise. This week, we tackle Step 2: Editing.

Home Renovation
Writing Revision is Like Home Renovation

I’ve been using the house renovation analogy to illustrate the revision process. Step 1 in the house reno process meant making major structural changes. Step 2 involves doing the interior finishing work. In writing, Step 1: Revise meant assessing content and meaning—making sure you said what you meant to say. Step 2: Edit involves language issues in sentences and paragraphs—making sure you said what you meant to say the way you intended to (and should) say it.

When I edit, I begin by examining individual sentences and then look at how those sentences work together in their paragraphs. Continue reading Step 2: Editing–Refining Your Masterpiece (Post 3 of 4 on Writing Revision)