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GRAMMAR LESSON FIVE REVISITED

June 22, 2022

            We’re back with another set of similar sounding words with entirely different meanings.

Our illustrious former Henderson Writer’s Group el-presidente, Linda Webber, used to present grammar lessons each week on the back of our meeting agendas. The gist of them were the improper use of words.

As a reminder, I’ll add the standard intro below before I get into the word list.

BACK IN THE DAY

            I once wrote a screenplay with my bud, Doug Lubahn (RIP), a famous musician. During our correspondence, I once told him I was waiting with “baited” breath instead of “bated” breath. He never let me live that one down.

            The proper use of words is something a lot of writers don’t always get. So, for your reading pleasure, below is a list of words and how to use them properly.

            The list is not near complete, so that’s why this is called Grammar Lesson Five.

            Once again, my many thanks to Linda Webber, who went through the trouble to compile these words all in one place for me to steal and present to you here at Fred Central.

These are common words that are often used out of context. They can be a quandary for a writer, and a quick trip to a dictionary, or on line can solve them, but I’ve cut to the chase.

COMMON SIMILAR SOUNDING WORDS (WITH ENTIRELY DIFFERENT MEANINGS)

Elicit                           To draw out a reply or reaction

I’ll elicit a response from him when the time comes.

Illicit                            Not allowed by the law or rules

Their illicit activities would get them thrown in jail sooner or later.

Ensure                        To make sure that something will happen

Are you ready to ensure the trap will spring when the time comes?

Insure                         To provide compensation if a person dies or property is damaged

We can insure the car only for its resale value.

Envelop                      To cover or surround

She let the blanket envelop her.

Envelope                    A paper container for a letter

He licked the envelope and sealed it before mailing.

Exercise                      Physical activity – to do physical activity

Exercise is the only way to keep in shape.

Exorcise                      To drive out an evil spirit

It was all the priest could do to exorcise the demon.

Fawn                          A young deer – light brown

The fawn was fawn colored. (Couldn’t resist that one!)

Faun                           A mythical being, part man, part goat

The faun guided Cyrill through the labyrinth.

Flaunt                         To display ostentatiously

She flaunted her assets to the male crowd.

Flout                           To disregard a rule

It’s dumb to flout safety.

Flounder                    To move clumsily – to have difficulty doing something

He floundered on the dance floor.

Founder                     To fail

You’re going to founder if you do it that way.

Appraise                     To assess

We’ll need to appraise the house before we can set a price.

Apprise                       To inform someone

You should apprise Joe of what just happened.

Assent                         Agreement, approval

She nodded her assent.

Ascent                         The action of rising or climbing up

They began their ascent of the mountain.

Aural                          Relating to the ears or hearing

It was a thunderous aural display of rock music.

Oral                            Relating to the mouth – spoken

She gave an oral presentation to the board.

Balmy                         Pleasantly warm

It was a balmy day up on the mountain.

Barmy                        Foolish, crazy

He had a barmy sense of right and wrong.

Bare                            Naked – to uncover

He was bare except for a loincloth.

Bear                            To carry, put up with (or the animal)

It was too much weight to bear.

Bated                          In great suspense

She waited with bated breath.

Baited                         With bait attached or inserted – lured

He baited the thieves with an unlocked car.

Titillate                       To arouse interest

She titillated him with a swerve of her hip.

Titivate                       To make more attractive

The cat titivated himself by licking his paws and preening in front of the female.

Tortuous                    Full of twists – complex

The book had a tortuous plot.

Torturous                   Full of pain and suffering

It was a torturous journey.

Wreath                       A ring-shaped arrangement of flowers

He placed a wreath on the gravestone.

Wreathe                     To surround or encircle

The fairies wreathed her before she had a chance to get away.

Yoke                           A wooden crosspiece for harnessing a pair of oxen

The yoke snapped, releasing the two beasts.

Yolk                            The yellow center of an egg

My egg had a double yolk.

SUMMARY

            Once again, thanks to Linda Webber for her hard work putting these original words together!

            Happy writing!

GRAMMAR LESSON FOUR REVISITED

June 15, 2022

            We’re back with another set of similar sounding words with entirely different meanings.

Our illustrious former Henderson Writer’s Group el-presidente, Linda Webber, used to present grammar lessons each week on the back of our meeting agendas before she moved on to greener pastures (literally). The gist of them are the improper use of words.

As a reminder, I’ll add the standard intro below before I get into the word list.

BACK IN THE DAY

            I once wrote a screenplay with my bud, Doug Lubahn (RIP), a famous musician. During our correspondence, I told him I was waiting with “baited” breath instead of “bated” breath. He never let me live that one down.

            The proper use of words is something a lot of writers don’t always get. So, for your reading pleasure, below is a list of words and how to use them properly.

            The list is not near complete, so that’s why this is called Grammar Lesson Four.

            Once again, my many thanks to Linda Webber, who has gone through the trouble to compile these words all in one place for me to steal and present to you here at Fred Central.

These are common words that are often used out of context. They can be a quandary for a writer, and a quick trip to a dictionary, or online.

COMMON SIMILAR SOUNDING WORDS (WITH ENTIRELY DIFFERENT MEANINGS)

Appraise                     To assess

I’ll appraise the house’s value next week.

Apprise                       To inform someone

Tomorrow, Mary would apprise the committee of the bad news.

Assent                         Agreement, approval

Joe gave his assent with a nod.

Ascent                         The action of rising or climbing up

The balloon began its ascent into the heavens.

Aural                          Relating to the ears or hearing

The band was an aural assault with their wall of amps set at full volume.

Oral                            Relating to the mouth or spoken

Marvin gave an oral report instead of a written one.

Balmy                         Pleasantly warm

The balmy day lent itself to water skiing.

Barmy                        Foolish or crazy

He was a barmy sort, prone to rash actions.

Bare                            Naked, or to uncover

She came out of the shower bare, didn’t bother with a towel and never blinked an eye when he walked in on her.

Bear                            To carry or put up with

It was too much frustration for one person to bear.

Accept                        To agree, to receive or do

He was ready to accept the consequences.

Except                        Not including

It was okay, except for that one thing.

Adverse                      Unfavorable or harmful

After all, there were adverse consequences to shooting him.

Averse                        Strong disliking or opposed

She had such an averse reaction to him, it was clear on her face.

Advice                        Recommendations about what to do

My advice is usually right.

Advise                         To recommend something

His lawyer can advise you before you make another move.

Affect                         To change or make a difference to

If you do this, you can affect the outcome.

Effect                          A result or to bring about a result.

When he spilled the acid, its effect on the Ph of the entire lake was instantaneous.

Aisle                            A passage between rows of seats

She walked down the aisle in the theatre.

Isle                              An island

The ship steered clear of the small isle and headed for the deep channel.

SUMMARYI

            Once again, thanks to Linda Webber for her hard work putting these original words together!

            Happy writing!

GRAMMAR LESSON THREE REVISITED

June 7, 2022

            We’re back with another set of similar sounding words with entirely different meanings.

Our illustrious former Henderson Writer’s Group el-presidente, Linda Webber, used to present grammar lessons each week on the back of our meeting agendas. The gist of them were the improper use of words.

As a reminder, I’ll add the standard intro below before I get into the word list.

BACK IN THE DAY

            I once wrote a screenplay with my bud, Doug Lubahn (RIP), a famous musician. During our correspondence, I told him I was waiting with “baited” breath instead of “bated” breath. He never let me live that one down.

            The proper use of words is something a lot of writers don’t always get, especially new ones. So, for your reading pleasure, below is a list of words and how to use them properly.

            The list is not near complete, so that’s why this is called Grammar Lesson Three.

            Once again, my many thanks to Linda Webber, who went through the trouble to compile these words all in one place for me to steal and present to you here at Fred Central.

These are common words that are often used out of context. They can be a quandary for a writer, and a quick trip to a dictionary, or online.

COMMON SIMILAR SOUNDING WORDS (WITH ENTIRELY DIFFERENT MEANINGS)

To                   Indicates motion

He went to the store.

Too                 Also, or excessively

She had too much to drink.

Two                The number two

There are two examples of this problem to deal with.

Then               A point in time

If you do it then, it will be better.

Than               A method of comparison

If you do it this way rather than that way, it’ll work better.

There              A place

Put it there.

They’re           They are

They’re the best at what they do.

Their               It belongs to them

It’s their problem, not ours.

Your               It belongs to you

It’s your problem, not mine.

You’re                        You are

You’re the greatest.

Were               Past tense of are

We were happy before that happened.

We’re              We are

In some ways, we’re never going to achieve that.

Where             A place

Where is it?

Bated              In great suspense

We’ve been waiting with bated breath.

Baited             With bait attached or inserted

Mary baited the hook and tossed out her line.

Bazaar            A Middle Eastern market

We explored the Bazaar on our last trip to Istanbul.

Bizarre           Strange

That was a bizarre song structure.

Berth              A bunk in a ship or train

Joe slipped into his berth and closed his eyes to ride out the rough seas.

Birth               The emergence of a baby from the womb

Jane gave birth to a baby girl.

Born               Having started life

I was born under a bad sign.

Borne              Carried

It was hard to imagine having borne such a heavy burden.

Bough             A branch of a tree

Jess ran for the heavy bough to gain shelter from the rain.

Bow                To bend the head down, or the front of a ship

Skip moved along the deck to the bow to get a better view of the ship ahead of them.

SUMMARY

            Once again, thanks to Linda Webber for her hard work putting these original words together!

            Happy writing!

GRAMMAR LESSON TWO REVISITED

June 1, 2022

            We’re back with another set of similar sounding words with entirely different meanings.

Our illustrious former Henderson Writer’s Group el-presidente, Linda Webber, presented grammar lessons each week on the back of our meeting agendas. The gist of them were the improper use of words.

As a reminder, I’ll add the standard intro below before I get into the word list.

BACK IN THE DAY

            I once wrote a screenplay with my bud, Doug Lubahn (RIP), a famous musician. During our correspondence, I once told him I was waiting with “baited” breath instead of “bated” breath. He’s never let me live that one down.

            The proper use of words is something a lot of writers don’t always get. So, for your reading pleasure, below is a list of words and how to use them properly.

            The list is not near complete, so that’s why this is called Grammar Lesson Two.

            Once again, my many thanks to Linda Webber, who went through the trouble to compile these words all in one place for me to steal and present to you here at Fred Central.

These are common words that are often used out of context. They can be a quandary for a writer, and a quick trip to a dictionary, or online. We’ll start with a common one.

HOW TO USE PASSED OR PAST

            Passed is a form of the verb to pass. It’s merely the past tense of pass with the “ed” added on.

            I’ll pass it on to you.

            I passed it on to you.

            The law was passed in 2017.

            Now past is a bit different.

            It can be an adjective, an adverb, a noun or a preposition.

            As a noun, it refers to a specific span of time.

            It hasn’t worked in the past.

            He never talks about his past.

            As an adjective, it something that’s gone in time.

            Let’s forget our past differences.

            Their best days are past.

            As a preposition, it goes from one side of something to the other.

            Corey rushed past her.

            Don drove past the house.

            As an adverb, it’s sort of the same as a preposition.

            …going past

            …ran past

            …walked past

            Just know this. Past is NEVER a verb. That’s a big red flag.

A FEW SIMPLE WORDS

            Broach: To raise a subject or discussion

            Jerry decided to broach the subject to the group before the meeting.

            Brooch: A piece of jewelry

            Nassar grabbed the gold brooch off the night stand and headed out the door.

            Canvas: A type of strong cloth

            Marie stretched the canvas tight before applying the base coat.

            Canvass: To seek people’s votes

            The party canvassed the neighborhood for the mayor.

            Cereal: A grass producing an edible grain or a breakfast food made from grain

            I eat cereal every morning for breakfast.

            Serial: Happening in a series

            Son of Sam was a serial killer.

            Chord: A group of musical notes

            Lucy tried to stretch her fingers to make a B chord on the guitar.

            Cord: A length of string or a cord-like body part

            The kidnapper grabbed his hands and tied a thick cord around his wrists.

SUMMARY

            Once again, thanks to Linda Webber for her hard work putting these original words together!

            Happy writing!

GRAMMAR LESSON ONE REVISITED

May 25, 2022

            Our illustrious former Henderson Writer’s Group el-presidente, Linda Webber, presented grammar lessons each week on the back of our meeting agendas. The gist of them were the improper use of words. I thought I’d revisit this 2017 series as it still applies today.

BACK IN THE DAY

            I once wrote a screenplay with my bud, Doug Lubahn (RIP), a famous musician. During our correspondence, I once told him I was waiting with “baited” breath instead of “bated” breath. He’s never let me live that one down.

            The proper use of words is something a lot of writers, especially newbies don’t always get. So, for your reading pleasure, below is a list of words and how to use them properly.

            The list is not near complete, so that’s why this is called Grammar Lesson One.

            Once again, my many thanks to Linda Webber, who went through the trouble to compile these words all in one place for me to steal and present to you here at Fred Central.

These are common words that are often used out of context. It can be a quandary for a writer and a quick trip to a dictionary or online.

HOW TO USE LIE, LAY, LAID, LAIN

            The first one is lie, lay, laid and lain.

                                    Present tense                          Past tense                   Past Participle

Be recumbent              Lie                                           Lay                              Lain

(recline)

Joe is going to lie down. Beth lay on the bed for two hours. Margaret had lain on the bed for two hours.

Deposit                        Lay                                          Laid                             Laid

(set down)

Joe will lay the watch on the nightstand. Beth laid the watch on the nightstand. Margaret had laid the watch on the nightstand.

Tell an untruth            Lie                                           Lied                             Lied

(fib)

Don’t lie, Joe. Beth lied when she said she liked you. Margaret had lied that night she was there.

FARTHER AND FURTHER

Farther is something you can measure as in distance.

How much farther is the gas station?

Further is a continuation of a thought or idea – figurative distance.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

POTPURRI OF WORDS

All together    all in one place, all at once

We gather all together to celebrate!

Altogether      completely, on the whole

That’s altogether a separate issue.

Along              moving or extending horizontally on

Move along, keep up the pace!

A long             referring to something of great length

That’s a long way!

Aloud              out loud

Meleena didn’t mean to say it aloud.

Allowed          permitted

No dogs allowed!

Altar               a sacred table in a church

She gazed up at the blood dripping from the stone altar.

Alter               to change

It’s not right to alter the sacred document.

Amoral           not concerned with right or wrong

They have an amoral view of life.

Immoral         not following accepted moral standards

Murder is an immoral way to handle that.

SUMMARY

            There’s sure to be more to come. I’ve outlined a few common mistakes writer’s make, whether through lack of knowledge or from just typos, we all do it occasionally. It’s good to catch this stuff before we get caught with “baited” breath.

Happy writing!

DON’T OVERDO PASSIVE: REVISITED

May 18, 2022

            I just read a great book that I almost put down after the first page. Really a half page, with the chapter number in the middle of the page halfway down, follows the pattern of many books. I’m emphasizing this to put things in perspective.

            The story started so passive I couldn’t help but count the was’s. There were two paragraphs. The first short three-sentence paragraph was clean. The second one had eight, that’s eight was’s in it. It was downhill from there. The same pattern continued for seven pages before the book finally took off. If it wasn’t for the reputation (and subsequent movie that just came out) from this author, I wouldn’t have continued. At least it was written in third-person, past-tense.

            It’s a good thing I decided to keep going because it turned out to be a great read. However, I could just as easily have tossed it because of those first seven pages. Anyone heard of those first-page read contests?

            This never would’ve made first pass at a writer’s group, let alone any editor worth their salt. Of course, this author has a rep and lots of power, so he could write the phone book and his editor will be saying “Yes Sir!” We, as unknowns, and low-down-the-totem-pole authors would be ostracized, criticized and sent back to writing school. To be blunt, the writing sucked, at least at first. It could’ve been so much better, and I think the author did his audience a great disservice. However, what do I know? He’s got the millions and I don’t.

            There’s nothing wrong with a little passivity in your writing. It’s part of our language. However, there’s a time and place for it and should be sprinkled throughout the story, not slammed into every sentence and paragraph. Active is almost always better than passive and makes your writing so much stronger. Examples:

            “Jodi had been a great friend but she stabbed Mark in the back.”

            You should do a word search through your manuscript and get rid of every had been in your narrative, except in dialogue, and they should be used sparingly!

            “Once a great friend, Jodi stabbed Mark in the back.”

            This revised sentence is much more active.

            How about this old standby:

            “It was a dark and stormy night.”

            How would you fix that and make it more active?

            “The dark and stormy night raged outside the window.”

            That is one of many ways to fix the sentence.

            “It should’ve been the best way to take care of what was once a grand scheme.”

            Hmmm.

            “The solution they came up with did not take care of the once grand scheme.”

            You can’t get rid of every passive word. That would make your prose too flat and dry. However, you should cut them down drastically.

            You can use passive words in dialogue if you don’t overdo it.

            Leave a few sprinkled throughout your prose, especially a was here and there.

            Words and word combinations to get rid of.

            was

            had

            Anything connected with been

            should’ve been

            has been

            had been

            had’ve been

            would’ve been

            as

            There are probably more I’m not thinking of right now, but those are a good start.

            What you do when you find one in a sentence is rethink the sentence. Try to reword it so that the sentence says the same thing, but it doesn’t have to use those words and it’s active, in other words, it moves forward instead of backward (or stands still). All of these passive words move backward or nowhere. They’re not active. Active words move forward, move somewhere.

            I’m not immune to passive either. I once read an excerpt from Meleena’s Adventures – Gods Of The Blue Mountains at the Henderson Writer’s Group and our el-presidente, who’s also an editor, caught me on several passive sentences. Forest through the trees!

            Until next time…

            Happy writing!

POV FROM THE BEGINNING – THE BANE OF NEW WRITERS

May 11, 2022

One of the most dreaded “rules” of fiction writing, and one of the least understood by new writers, is point of view (POV). POV is either whoever is speaking, thinking, driving the scene, or telling the story.

Because there seems to be a host of arbitrary rules for new writers doesn’t mean they’re not good ideas. POV is the perfect example. Have you ever read a book and discovered there was something about it that didn’t sit right? Maybe you skipped whole paragraphs, sections, or reached certain points where you were confused, lost, and had no idea what was going on. POV could be the problem.

Before we get into the mechanics of using POV, let’s discuss a few (but not all) types of POV. There’s first-person, where the story is told through the eyes of the character. In this type of story, you’ll see a lot of I’s, me’s and my’s throughout. I picked myself off the ground and rushed to the door. Many authors prefer this viewpoint as they feel the reader will become more immersed in the character if they’re seeing what that character is seeing through their eyes. I personally despise that point of view, but that’s a whole ‘nuther blog and not the point of this presentation.

Another type of viewpoint is omniscient. The story is told through the eyes of “God,” an omnipotent viewpoint as if it were being told by an all-seeing being. The story is not seen or told by a character but by a narrator (the author). Things are not seen through the eyes of the characters. If it’s told well, the viewpoint is neutral. If not, it gets into something called author intrusion which jerks the reader out of the story and into the personality of the author. The characters see and know things they shouldn’t and couldn’t because the author (or God) tells you ahead of time. The author might spoil things for you by foretelling events you shouldn’t know until the characters discover them.

The most commonly used POV and the one I prefer is third-person, past-tense (versus present tense). In third-person, the story is told through the eyes of a character, but as it has happened. In other words, instead of “I put on my hat and rushed through the door.” It would be “Jim put on his hat and rushed through the door.” In third person, you, as the author have a lot more leeway to describe things and show things that first-person doesn’t allow. In first-person, action scenes don’t play out near as well as they do in third.

Since I mentioned past-tense, I should also mention present-tense. Either first or third can be written in present-tense. Some authors feel that the story is more immediate or more urgent if written in present-tense. For example, in first person, “I put my hat on and rush through the door.” Or in third person, “Jim puts his hat on and rushes through the door.”

For me, as a reader, I find that anything written in present-tense drives me nuts. It’s a personal preference, but I’ll put a book down because I can’t get through one written in that style. I won’t mention the author’s name (but her initials are PC… cough cough). I’m still a big fan when she writes third-person, past-tense. Unfortunately, she tends to write this wretched first-person present-tense. It’s so irritating, I can hardly get through a paragraph let alone an entire book. I know another author that writes third-person present-tense. Same thing. Can’t read it.

Some authors like to mix POV’s. In the writing world, that is perfectly acceptable and seems to be a trendy thing to do, though it can be hard to pull off successfully. The most common used to be third-person and omniscient. However, keep in mind that these POV shifts are from one chapter or scene to the next, NOT mixed together (or there not supposed to be)! Another style that is becoming more common is first and third-person. That’s why I always leaf through books by authors I haven’t read. I’ve been tricked before. I don’t like first-person, and I don’t like present-tense, so I specifically leaf through a book and look for those features.

Regardless of which POV you decide to go for, there are some mechanical rules you need to follow. We’ll go over them in part.

MECHANICS

To use POV effectively, each scene should be told through the eyes of one character, the one driving that scene. In other words, that scene is seen, heard and felt by a specific character, not several at the same time. Every sentence should be how that character would see or perceive what’s going on. Unless your character is a mind reader, he or she cannot tell what another character is thinking. At the same time, they cannot see something that’s physically impossible for them to see, or understand things they have no knowledge of (this is where first-person can become awkward, especially in intense action scenes). Other characters can speak and perform actions, but any thoughts or feelings must be expressed only through the eyes of the character driving the scene.

If another character expresses feelings or thoughts within a scene, they must be visual or audio so that the main character of that scene can see, hear or feel them and perceive them. For example, the POV character of the scene is Jane. During the scene, Alex is disappointed in something. How do we know this? Jane has to see or perceive this by something Alex says, the expression on his face, or something he does, like his body language. Since it’s Jane’s scene, she has to perceive everything that’s happening. It can’t be Alex. That would be a POV violation. It can’t be you, the author, or that would be author intrusion. Both of these violations can jerk the reader out of the story. If Jane perceives Alex’s disappointment, it’s a perfectly natural way to keep the reader immersed.

Randall didn’t like the idea of walking down that alley. This first sentence establishes the scene in Randall’s POV. He had been attacked before. He was sure some deranged killer lurked behind that green dumpster on the right side. Now this continues his POV as he thinks of all the bad things that could happen by walking down that alley.

The next paragraph continues. Jeremy had to laugh at Randall’s paranoia. The guy was a total wimp. This is a POV violation. The scene is Randall’s, yet the author jumps into Jeremy’s head within the same scene. Now the reader has two different heads to contend with, and has to shift POV. This is likely to confuse the reader. Randall can’t possibly know what Jeremy is thinking, so how does he know this?

You can correct his by changing what Jeremy sees into dialogue. Jeremy laughed. “Man, you’re the most paranoid guy I know. You’re a total wimp.” Turning Jeremy’s thoughts into dialogue keeps the scene in Randall’s POV because now Randall can hear and react to what Jeremy says. The dialogue reflects what Jeremy is thinking.

Randall stepped down the alley with Jeremy in tow. His eyes bored into every shadow. What he didn’t know was that the alley was empty and he was worried for nothing. The first two sentences are solidly in Randall’s POV. However, the third sentence is omniscient and author intrusion. In other words, Jeremy couldn’t possibly know what is going to happen, and the author is blatantly telling you. The fix for that third sentence is: When they reached the other end of the alley, he sighed with relief. It was empty. This puts the same thought solidly into his POV.

When the POV changes within a paragraph or a scene, it’s known as head-hopping. This is the sign of an amateur and should be avoided. Sure, you’ll see some big-name authors doing it, some because they can get away with it, others under the guise of style or technique, but those are garbage excuses for poor writing. The thing is that as a new writer, no editor or agent worth their salt is going to let you get away with it. Not only that, you’re going to make it harder on your readers and that’s something you don’t want to do.

There’s nothing wrong with changing POV within a story. However, it needs to be done in the right way. If you want to get into another character’s head, change scenes, or start a new chapter.

Another thing about POV. First, always start and stop a scene or chapter in that character’s dialogue, thoughts or actions. I’ll go more into that in another blog on structuring chapters, but always start a scene or chapter with either dialogue, some action or thought from that character. Second, always end it with their dialogue, thought or action.

By keeping your POV’s straight, your readers will appreciate it whether consciously or unconsciously and you’ll have one less excuse for an agent to toss your submission into the reject pile.

Happy writing!

MOTIVATION AND DISCIPLINE REVISITED

May 4, 2022

            If you look back at some of my articles, you’ll see that I’ve either talked directly about, or talked around these subjects. As I browse the Facebook forums, I see threads almost daily addressing both motivation and discipline in one fashion or other.

            In fact…I was inspired to repeat this article after some recent posts. Plus, it’s great for new subscribers.

            It still boils down to this: Why are you doing this? Why are you writing?

JEALOUSY

            While you may have started all enthused/motivated and put out a big burst of effort, once you got into the reality of writing, you found that it wasn’t magic. While some struck lightning in a bottle, little ole’ you could never catch a break.

            Your friends or even frenemies who write that “crappy stuff” got all the luck and got the big deals, or made the big sales.

            You, on the other hand, had to sit back and could barely make anyone notice.

            It burns you up.

            Why should you bother? Why should you continue on?

IT COMES EASY FOR SOME

            Before we even get to the publishing stage, you get that fantastic idea, you start to write, but get stuck. Or, you just run out of steam.

            For others, it flows out. They can sit down any time and slam it out, page-after-page, lay down their ideas and worry about cleaning it up later.

            Some have to pick apart each page as they go. It takes them forever to crawl out a single chapter because they have to make it perfect before they go on. For many, this means losing sight of what you started to write in the first place.

            Some of you procrastinate. You’re burning with ideas, maybe even write furious notes. However, on the execution, everything falls apart. You’ll get to it tomorrow. Then the next day, then the next, then the next until it never gets done.

            At the same time, your bud has already moved on to the second or third book.

MOTIVATION

            I’ve mentioned this numerous times not only here, but in the forums. It’s one of my mantras. Is writing a hobby, a torture, or a passion? If it’s the first two, I suggest you find something else to do.

            If it’s a passion, but you still have certain of those personality quirks that hold you back, you have to think about why you’re writing this particular “masterpiece” in the first place.

            However, forgetting why you’re writing, and speaking strictly of motivation, you started a novel.

            Why?

            What’s the point?

            Regardless of why you’re doing it, you have to think of why you should finish it. If you have no compelling reason to do so, don’t! Move on. However, if you DO have a compelling reason to complete this novel, think about it and focus on that as your motivation.

            Why have you slowed down or stopped writing?

            Has life got in the way?

            Has the inspiration stopped?

            Have you hit a writing roadblock – did you write yourself into a corner?

            Think about what you originally wanted to accomplish with this project. If you still get excited about it, there’s your motivation.

            If you aren’t excited about it, or if you dread it…or if it don’t feel right, stop and figure what went wrong and fix it. If that doesn’t work, maybe it’s time to abandon the project and start another one. Let this thing sit for another time when the muse may strike again.

            If you have no motivation, it’ll never get done.

            Jealousy of someone else’s success isn’t motivation.

            Motivation is believing you have something great and working for it. Anything less will get you less.

DISCILPLINE

            For some, procrastination is natural. Getting it done tomorrow is normal, except tomorrow never comes and what may have started in a great burst of energy stays half done, or with some, never gets started.

            Discipline is setting up a time and place and sticking to it. A schedule, if need be. Some writers cannot work that way. I’m one of them. I write when I write. Period. No schedule. That doesn’t mean I don’t get anything done, because I do. I write when I feel like it, which is pretty much all the time. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m always writing on my current novel, because I write lots of other stuff at the same time. I get to the novel when I have a mind, and I make significant progress. I have no problem with either motivation or discipline.

            For some of you, you NEED discipline because you’re not inclined to stick with things as well as I do.

            Set a schedule and stick to it. This means sit down at a certain time and do something. I don’t necessarily mean write so-and-so many pages a day. That’s too restrictive and rigid. While that might work for some people, what I recommend is that you sit down and do something creative with your story. It might be a few pages, it might be a chapter. It might be research. It might be re-reading a portion, or checking continuity somewhere.

            Discipline means working on the project on a regular basis.

            Little-by-little, the work will get dun didded!

SUMMARY

            Nobody can make your luck for you except you. The first step it to actually complete something. The second step is to never give up. Motivation and discipline.

            Happy writing!

HISTORICAL FICTION

April 27, 2022

            There are countless genres within the world of fiction. I was a bit surprised to find my first Detach novel, Lusitania Gold fit into that historical fiction category (along with several others). While my intention was never to directly address history of the Lusitania and the era, it became an integral part of the story. Therefore, I had to do it right…well, as right as I could get it.

            Since it’s fiction, what does it mean to be “historical?” How does it fit into the genre?

WHAT IS HISTORICAL FICTION?

            Basically, from my understanding, historical fiction is taking real events and fictionalizing them. That’s basically it. Quite often, the stories deal with past eras while some deal with present-day.

            For instance, a story set during the Civil War and circling around, or directly using a famous battle (thanks Robin).

            That’s historical fiction.

            How about a native American school in the late 19th century (thanks Amanda)?

            Historical fiction.

NOT USUALLY MY THING

            The funny thing is that I’m not usually into historical fiction. It’s not one of my normal genres. I have enjoyed a few here and there, but in my case, the historical parts are usually part of some other genre. Like Lusitania Gold, it’s meant to be an adventure/thriller keyed off of a historical precedent, the sinking of the Lusitania.

            As I like to say, “then mayhem ensues.”

            When I think about many of the thrillers I’ve read, history plays a big part of setting the scene, if not directly stealing from reality.

THE FASCINATION WITH HISTORICAL SETTINGS

            History is supposedly written in stone. However, things are not always what they seem in reality. It depends on who wrote it and their interpretation of the facts.

            Facts.

            Yeah, that can be a loaded word.

            As writers, when we come up with something, and want to use a historical setting, it’s more than likely something we’ve always been fascinated with, even if we don’t normally read much non-fiction. It could be some event that we heard about in school or saw in a movie that sparks that interest.

            Hence, a historical fiction story.

THE BIG WHAT IFS?

            Many times, a historical fiction story has little to do with the actual events. They may just be a background to something else that happened to the hero.

            On the other hand, what if things didn’t happen as depicted in the history books? Altering history for the sake of a good story is a great example of historical fiction.

            I can go back to the old cliché plot, what if Hitler never died? What if he really lived out his life in South America (or wherever). This plot is certainly not new but makes a good example of historical fiction and altering real events to fit the story.

            In that respect, that’s exactly what happens with Lusitania Gold. I took a real event and made my own history.

ACCURACY

            Obviously, the story isn’t real in most cases. After all, your fiction isn’t supposed to be a history lesson. Yet, whether using history as a background or altering real events to devious purposes, there’s still a line that has to be maintained to keep your credibility.

            When writing historical fiction, you need to get the real details accurate, or you risk losing half or more of your audience.

            When someone is attracted to your story (Hitler, Civil War, whatever…), there’s a good chance they know a bit about that time period and details.

            As an author, it’s up to you to research.

RESEARCH

            When writing historical fiction, you need to do your due diligence. You need to get the real facts you use accurate as best as you can.

            When I say best as you can, I mean, anything you use that’s real should be verified for the time period.

            They didn’t use revolvers in medieval times. Duh…

            When the story is based in a real town, you can only stretch the setting so much. Then again, many authors, me included, give a disclaimer up front that we altered certain things for story purposes. That’s fine and dandy unless you go way off. Then again, if you’re up front about severely distorting reality, that’s a pass.

            On the other hand, writing a historical fiction piece set during a time period or an event requires more due diligence to make it credible.

            The little things count. For instance, certain things could not have happened during the events of the story because they weren’t invented yet. Unless the story is science fiction, you have a more rigid line to tow.

FICTION VERSUS REALITY

            Depending on the specific genre, you can get away with certain inaccuracies. If you do, generally, you have to justify them, whatever they are.

            For instance, you’re in a medieval setting in France.

            Your hero has a revolver.

            It might as well be a space laser, given the time period.

            How do you justify it?

            Time travel, for instance.

            On the other hand, your story is set in the Civil War. Your characters actions and technology don’t fit, or is rife with errors.

            It’s hard to excuse sloppy research, especially when you don’t have an excuse up front.

            When someone who knows the era reads your book, they’re likely to not only put it down, but throw it down if it’s way off the mark.

            To do historical fiction right, disregarding altered reality, you need to do the research and keep it as real as possible for the time period.

SUMMARY

            Historical fiction can be a fascinating subject. The idea is to get the environmental, technological, and people details correct for the time period.

            If not, you can lose your audience in a heartbeat.

            Happy writing!

HAVE YOU EVER FELT OUT OF YOUR LEAGUE? (REVISITED)

April 20, 2022

            Almost sounds like a dumb question, but let’s think about this a moment. How did you get started in this passion? The best way for me to express this is from my own example. It’s certainly not the only way it’s been done, but I believe my experience is not unique.

            When the muse hit me and I decided I wanted to write, I just did. No second thoughts. No worries about publishing, editing, marketing, critiquing. I wrote for the joy and just assumed I one day might be on the best seller lists. That was never my prime motivation, but I’ll admit it was a factor to want my stories to be out there for others to read. Back then, it never dawned on me that my writing might suck. Not until the second novel.

            When I started The Greenhouse, I’d made contact with not only my lifetime mentor, Carol Davis Luce, but Elizabeth Forrest (Rhondi Vilott). Both experienced authors, they took me under their wings and guided me with my work, gave me pointers and even dared to read some of my stuff. What I got most from the early days, was to edit and re-edit, cut waste, and work on my passivity. Even under those primitive conditions, my chops improved immensely, and I realized I wasn’t such a hot writer, not yet at least. That really hit home when I looked back at my first novel, The Cave. Funny thing is that recently, I resurrected The Cave and it isn’t nearly as bad as I first thought. With some tweaks, it would be a viable manuscript.

MILD SHOCK SETS IN

            By the time we moved to Indiana, I was well past my third novel, Lusitania Gold and several icky bug short stories. It was those short stories I presented to the Highland Writer’s Group, the very first writers I’d ever been exposed to, face-to-face. I was in for a big shock. Not only were some of these people great writers, they knew how to critique. They were able to show me what was wrong with my writing, and how I could improve it. I listened as they read their work. Some of it blew me away yet I noticed I was at a higher level than about half the group. At least all my effort started to show some payoff.

            At the same time, after writing two-plus novels and multiple short stories, I realized I didn’t know squat! In front of these people, especially the better writers, I felt like a third grader reading a valentine poem! It was a horrible and overwhelming feeling. The key to salvation came from how gentle and giving this group turned out. I’ve preached so many times about seeking out a good writer’s group, and this one fit the bill.

            Despite the very positive experience, that was my first lesson in developing a thick skin.

DEEPER SHOCK AS THE REJECTIONS ROLL IN

            After several years and a big move, along with the writer’s group from hell, which I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, I found my comrades in arms, the Henderson Writer’s Group. As my skin thickened, so did my pile of rejections. On top of that, I’d bring in what I thought was a killer chapter, read it to the group and get a bunch of constructive criticism. They’d tear it up! Aaagh! All my hopes and dreams shattered! Ha ha. Add another dent to the old ego, which I don’t really have, but you know what I mean?

            Then, along comes someone who just started writing. Guess what? They presented a story that blew everyone away. The writing was superb, and the story was wow! Talk about depressing! I’d struggled and worked my butt off for years and along came someone that just started.

            I mustn’t forget the teen that showed up at the very first writers’ conference I attended. This kid didn’t even have a full story finished, yet he half-assed pitched an idea to an agent. The agent went crazy and signed the kid on the spot! Sight unseen! Can you believe that? I still don’t know if that deal ever succeeded, but if you want to talk about frustration, there were a bunch of people there that wanted to tear up their manuscripts and walk out the door.

            The world takes all kinds, and if I let that stuff get me down, I should just quit and find something else to do. Through all this, I knew it didn’t matter. I love writing too much.

YOU CAN’T COMPARE YOURSELF TO EVERYONE ELSE

            To me, this isn’t a competition. That’s an ugly word. This is a passion, an art. A lot of people may disagree with me because sure, it’s also a business if you wish to make money. However, the money won’t be there without the art, the inspiration and the passion. That always comes first. You have to want to do this, regardless. If you think you’re a rank amateur, you will be. If you know you’re a rank amateur, build your skills but don’t let that get in the way of your muse, your drive and your passion. You’ll overcome that one day.

            The good old days.

            Happy writing!