Saturday, July 9, 2016


Some of this blog post is a repeat from a 2015 Blog post, but it is important - too important to read quickly or only partially assimilate. If you read it before -- please read it again.  

Find the right word—Find EXACTLY the right word:
Your job as a writer is to find the exact words needed to tell your story well—to tell your story so your reader can see, hear, feel, even taste and smell your meaning, not only your words.
The strongest words, with the clearest meaning at your disposal are NOUNS and VERBS. Strive to keep them strong. Do not weaken them with modifiers.



Carefully choosing the exact noun and verb you are thinking of will create a picture in the mind of your reader of a character taking action—the specific action you want to show.

Be careful of misplaced and confusing modifiers—whether adjectives, adverbs, phrases or clauses:
All writers misplace modifiers in a first draft. Do not worry about them at that stage, but watch for and eliminate or relocate them as necessary in every revision. If your words confuse your reader you will lose him.
If you find a modifier located far from the word it modifies, try to move the word or phrase closer in the sentence or create two sentences. If you, the writer, cannot find the word your modifier is supposed to change although you wrote it—STOP—re-write the entire sentence.

Make sure your changes in verb tense are consistent with your point of view and the mood of your story:
Used skillfully, verbs are the heartbeat of your writing. They keep your story moving, enliven it and carry the action.
Verbs are extremely flexible, changing form to indicate tense (walk, walked) voice (gives, is given) and mood (he is satisfied, if he were satisfied)

If you have trouble with verb endings, review the rules in a good grammar textbook:
Watch out for problem verbs such as: lie and lay, sit and set. Be certain the words you use fit your meaning. When in doubt—look it up.


Find a way to replace any form of the verb “to be” as often as possible. Try to change the words do, have, or had when used as main verbs. Use concrete—real—action words to replace them—words carefully chosen to create a picture in the reader’s mind.

Watch out for inappropriate pronouns creating an ambiguous antecedent or actual disagreement:

Pronouns as subjects are subjective
Pronouns as objects are objective
Pronouns as possessives are possessive.

Most of us know when to use I or me and when to use my. Almost everyone becomes confused however between and among who and whom, we Texans and us Texans, Molly and I and Molly and me. Keep a good grammar reference handy and use it when in doubt.

Use your dictionary and your brain:
Your computer dictionary does not know the difference in homonyms. Be suspicious if a word does not look right. Most writers are avid readers and develop a good sense of what “reads right.” Keep a good unabridged dictionary handy so you can check a word the old fashioned way.

The most troublesome words are:
There and their
To, too, and two
Weather and whether
Accept and except
Who’s and whose
Its and it’s
Your and you’re
Affect and effect

Take care that inappropriate word choices do not slip into your work. Watch for such words such as capital or capitol, fair for fare. A good grammar handbook will have a longer list.

Do not use cliches—don’t even use them in dialogue:

We call these “sayings” cliches because they have grown stale from overuse. Other names for them are catchwords, hackneyed expressions, and trite words.
In the interest of getting your words on paper forget about clearing out all cliches in the first draft of your work, you will probably use them without thinking.
BE AWARE—the worn-out words and expressions you will invariably use in your first draft probably hide fuzzy or imprecise thinking.

Read your work aloud. Your best ally is your “reader’s ear.” You will hear any problems if you listen carefully:
Read aloud every sentence and every paragraph of your entire piece of writing and then let it rest at least one day and read it again.
Mumbling the words as you read will not work. Close the door and READ ALOUD —read as if you are reading to an audience. If you read silently, mumbling your words, you will get caught up in your story and read over errors. Again, close your door and read aloud—read as if you have a large audience. Let your “readers ear” warn you of problems.

Some writers use a trusted friend or family member to help them do a final revision. But take care in your choice of this reader:
Someone who loves you may say everything you write is perfect because he loves you. Conversely, even though the story is interesting, in an effort to protect you from hurt, he or she might tell you your work will never be publishable and you should stick to knitting or building houses.
With practice you can train yourself to find and remove errors from your work and revise so an editor will recommend publication—so you agent will be determined to find a publisher for your work.