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

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)

If First Drafts Are Shit, Why Do Writers Hate to Revise?

Shitty First Draft

                                                                  Shitty First Draft?

So Much Poopy

“The first draft of anything is shit.” Attributed to Ernest Hemingway, these words have inspired admiring riffs by other writers. Anne Lamott, author of Bird by Bird, wrote, “The only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts.” Caleb Ross, author of Stranger Will, advised writers to “write your novel when you feel like shit; edit when you feel great.”

It Wasn’t Always So

So if your first draft is shitty, you must write a second. This idea is largely a construct of the modern era, something I didn’t know until reading “Revising Your Writing Again? Blame the Modernists,” by Craig Fehrman. My university students must have been throwbacks then, as they did everything but pay me to avoid revising. Continue reading If First Drafts Are Shit, Why Do Writers Hate to Revise?

Description Details: Let Your Phrases Multitask

Do your detail phrases multitask?
Do your detail phrases multitask?

Part 3 of 3: Add Detail to Your Descriptions

Here’s Part 3 of 3 on adding detail to your descriptions. Part 1 taught you the importance of using detailed sensory images, motion verbs, and concrete nouns to evoke a reader’s emotions. In Part 2, you learned how to layer details in appositive, noun, and verb phrases.

Phrases Multitask (Do Double Duty)

Today’s post continues the layering, showing you how to add adjective, adverb, and prepositional phrases. You’ll see that phrases often multitask, acting as one type of phrase in one sentence and a different type in another sentence. Continue reading Description Details: Let Your Phrases Multitask

The Writing Fail that Will Make You Sound Like a Kindergartner

TattooFAIL!
Tattoo FAIL!

Danger–Epic Writing Fail Ahead!

Writing ain’t easy–even if you love it. But at least you usually know whether you’re doing something well or not. One thing, though, might be slipping beneath your radar. If you don’t pay attention, it’s guaranteed to make your writing fail. See if you can figure it out before it’s too late. Here’s an example:

He wrote some lovely sentences. Those words sing clever news. I do hope that you read ’em all. They’re stuffed with everything!

Would you continue to read WowPow if I wrote like this? (Rhetorical question!) Did you notice how sing-song-y it sounded? But what exactly is wrong with the writing that makes it fail? Can you figure it out if I break apart the paragraph like this—?

He wrote some lovely sentences.
Those words sing clever news.

I do hope that you read ’em all.
They’re stuffed with everything!

Now the problem becomes evident—the sentences are all the same length. This gives them a regular, bouncy rhythm, not unlike The Cat in the Hat [Happy birthday, Dr. Seuss!] or “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” Delightful when you’re a toddler, like my granddaughter, but not so endearing, otherwise. Now, I’ve created this extreme example as an illustration, but you’d be surprised how many writers unwittingly think in measured ideas. They might sail “in and out of weeks, and almost over a year” [Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are], have a minotaur at the center and be full of ten-dollar words, but if those sentences are all the same length—epic rhythm fail. [You make your own joke here.]

Continue reading The Writing Fail that Will Make You Sound Like a Kindergartner