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CHAPTER LENGTH REVISITED

August 10, 2022

            This article originally appeared in 2019. Given what I’ve read lately, I thought it would be appropriate to bring it up again.

            One time on a writers group forum, my good friend Toni asked a question about chapter length. It was no surprise that she got a bunch of different answers.

            I’ve discussed chapters before in several articles and alluded to their length but this time, I want to specifically deal with how long a chapter should be.

WHY HAVE CHAPTERS AT ALL?

            The big question pertaining to this subject is: Why have chapters at all?

            It harkens back to the reason we have punctuation. There was a book published in Spain decades ago that I’ve mentioned here at Fred Central periodically. The book is a couple of hundred pages long and is one sentence. The only punctuation mark in the entire book is a period at the end. That’s it. I’ve never seen the book, but have heard plenty about it. Can you just imagine a single sentence two hundred plus pages long?

            It bothers me to read a single paragraph that takes up half a page, let alone a full one.

            I’m not a fan of books with only a couple of chapters, and few scenes.

            Why?

            Pauses for thoughts – breaks to regroup, rethink, like scenes in a movie, or on TV.

            Commercial breaks where I can read a bit without getting lost in the text (I despise commercials).

            THAT’S why we have chapters.

            It’s the same reason we not only have punctuation, but sentences and paragraphs. To break the story down and make it more manageable and digestible.

SHORT OR LONG?

            I don’t completely buy into this “it takes whatever it takes” thing.

            Why?

            That gives the author free reign to ramble. When a chapter or scene is too long, it becomes tedious. Period.

            I’ve been reading for over sixty years. Sitting down for long periods has never been comfortable without some kind of break, especially when I was a young’un with a shorter attention span. Those bursts of reading got longer as I got older, and now they’re getting a little shorter again.

            Why?

            Not only does my body insist, but my mind needs a break, and I have a lower tolerance for bullshit and rambling.

            When a chapter or scene is too long, that tells me (consciously and subconsciously) that the author doesn’t know when to shut up and get organized.

            Long chapters mean the author doesn’t know how to pace correctly.

            On the other hand, super-short chapters can either be seen as hyperactive and disjointed, or perfect for reading during commercials.

            I’m perfectly fine with short chapters as long as they have a beginning, a middle and an end. If the chapter is a single paragraph, with nothing but a burst of thought, THAT’S a bad chapter. I’ve seen it before, plenty of times.

            On the other hand, I’ve seen seventy and eighty page chapters with one and two-page paragraphs and they were pure torture.

            To me, moderation is the key.

YOU KNOW WHAT?

            On the other hand, your book DOES need to take as many chapters as necessary, but you have to consider your reader, and whether you want to punish them, or not let the writing get in the way of the story.

            Think about it.

            I tend for short chapters, or longer ones with short scenes.

            I’m quite happy with moderate chapters broken up with scenes.

            You know what? I’m not at alone in this feeling. In my unofficial polling, which I do all the time, I get unprompted comments from non-writer readers about books (in other words, our potential audience). I hear all kinds of things, and pertaining to this discussion, a biggie is “I thought that chapter would never end.” “That guy (or gal) doesn’t know when to shut up.” “That was just plain tedious.”

SUMMARY

            You don’t have to have 80 chapters in your story, but you also don’t have to have 3. You can be reasonable and keep the PACING going so the reader doesn’t get bogged down.

            A book should have as many chapters as it takes, but the key is keeping the pacing going so you don’t punish the reader.

Happy writing!

SHOULD YOU PITCH TO AN AGENT OR NOT REVISITED

August 3, 2022

            I see this question come up from time to time. I thought it’d be worth a revisit.

            Pitching to an agent is a moot question if you’re going to self-publish. It’s also moot if you’re going to be your own agent and want to go directly through the publisher yourself if you think you know your way around the system well enough. Funny, after being rejected 691 times, most of those rejections from agents with only a few from publishers, I finally got my deal with a publisher. A small press mind you, but still a deal, no agent.

SELF PUBLISHING

            If you go the self-published or e-published route (which is still self-published), no agent is involved. There’s no middleman, especially with the e-pub. However, to some in the industry (cough cough… Lee Child), you aren’t worth spit. I resent that, but also see his point. There’s a lot of crap out there in the self-published world because there are no filters to weed out the stuff that shouldn’t be published. Just look at the books that make it to traditional print. There’s no accounting for taste as it is. There are plenty of bad books out there from big publishers.

            Consider how many self-published works are flooding the market, especially now that e-pubbing is taking off, that don’t have anyone to tell the author no, or to edit them and tell them where they need to fix anything. A lot of people are being ripped off of their hard-earned cents or even dollars from blind sales of tomes that may have catchy titles or artwork but turn out to be turgid, boring or amateurish drivel that a third grader could out-write. In that respect, I agree with Child, but he’s slamming a lot of great writers who are being rejected on a whim from overloaded agents and publishers who never get to even a quarter of the manuscripts submitted to them, if that.

AGENTS?

            If you decide to go with an agent, why? Because they can open doors you can’t. They live and breathe the industry. They know these people. They eat lunch and dinner with them. They go to conferences with editors and publishers, they talk to them every day. They know their likes and dislikes. The big boys. That’s the argument for them.

            Which agents do you look for? Forget the books you see in the bookstore. They’re a great way to fatten the wallet of the author that wrote them, but they’re woefully out of date by the time you see them on a bookshelf. The best way is to use the Internet. www.agentquery.com is probably the most detailed and up-to-date site out there. There used to be a great site called Preditors and Editors but they are now defunct. This site used to list the good and bad ones and could save you a lot of grief.

KNOW YOUR GENRE!

            You have to know your genre. Each agent usually takes specific genres. Study their profile. If it’s vague, take a chance. All you’ll get is a rejection. So what? 691 rejections and counting… I’m still alive.

            When reading the agent profile, be sure to check their submission requirements carefully!

THE QUERY

            Have a generic submission query, but make sure to customize it for each agent. Some will ask for a synopsis, a few pages, this and that. Some will want exclusive access to your work. If they do? Lie! I’m serious. Lie! Let’s put it this way. When you’re sending out queries or MS’s to agents (if they ask for them), they may take 6 months to a year to get back to you. Multiply that by how many agents you want to submit to and the inevitable rejections you’re going to get before one says yes. How many decades to you want to wait before you finally get a yes? I’m just saying. Their demand for exclusivity sounds reasonable assuming your MS is all that dynamite and everyone is starving for work, but the fact is they aren’t. They get thousands and thousands of MSs a month. They’re flooded with stuff and barely have time to get up in the morning, let alone read your work. So, demanding the impossible is ridiculous.

            One glaring example is my experience with one agent. He took two years to get back to me with a no.

SUMMARY

            Sure, you can take the “easy way” and self-publish but turns out, self-publishing isn’t all that easy either. There’s a lot you have to account for when going it on your own. If you want a quality product, you need more than just writing and downloading. A lot more.

            Agents or direct-to-publisher deals are also not all that easy unless you get lucky. Whatever way you go, make sure you have plenty of patience and learn your stuff.

            Happy writing!

AMAZON ADS PART 2

July 27, 2022

            As many of you know, marketing sucks. Of all the things about writing that I love, marketing is the one that gets my stomach grinding. Having to go out and “beg” people to buy my book rubs me wrong, yet without marketing, nobody will know I even exist.

            Now in the grand scheme of things, we’re going to continue to explore Amazon Ads.

            Besides having to deal with a sucky web site, there’s minimum daily budget, setting up a professional looking page, and it all gets down to keywords.

            My guess is that Amazon calculates all the keyword clicks, and when you reach your budget, it drops your ad for that day.

KEYWORDS

            I attended a writer’s conference years ago where one of the classes was on keywords. It was like trying to learn Chinese in a day. Despite that, I managed to retain a small bit of insight in using them in this ads campaign.

            Keywords designate where your book is placed. Whenever you search for something on Amazon, you’ll notice the exact match (say an author name) and then a whole bunch of seemingly unrelated books (this would apply to any product).

            The “key” to all this is setting the keywords that will get the best results.

SETTING UP KEYWORDS

            There are three ways to utilize a keyword.

            Exact: This means if someone searches for your keyword and it matches exactly, your book is more likely to show up somewhere on the list.

            Phrase: This means if that keyword is part of a phrase (example “pine” as in “pine stick,” “pine box,” etc.

            Broad: This means the word or phrase could be anywhere in a search.

            The way I originally set it up, I only went for some of the three, usually exact or phrase. I was afraid of going over budget. Hah! Most of my keywords didn’t do diddly so I didn’t get charged for anything.

            When I created a campaign for the UK, I decided that all keywords would have all three, to better my chances of something showing up.

EXAMPLE

            I entered the word Glen Buxton. He was the lead guitar player in the original Alice Cooper Band and the book is dedicated to him. However, I only added phrase at the time.

            When I went to search for Glen Buxton, my book didn’t show up at all on the listings.

            Now, I used Clive Cussler, because my book is in a similar vein. For that I used all three and it is my top performer.

BIDS

            Now things get tricky. Bids.

            You can go with the defaults set up by Amazon. I strongly suggest you do that at first. It can be from a few cents to a dollar or more to begin with. Don’t let those amounts fool you. If you use dynamic bidding, you aren’t going to get charged unless someone clicks on your ad or maybe lingers on that page (or maybe scrolls through it?, not sure).

            Impressions mean your ad came up on a search. Clicking on it is where the real money comes in and then if someone buys your book, they you get charged the full enchilada.

            The thing about bids is that the higher the bid, the closer your book with come to the first page of the search.

            Since Clive Cussler was getting the most bids, I increased the amount several times so that finally, when I went to search “Clive Cussler,” my book came up right at the top of the first page.

            The other thing about bidding though is that if you set your bid higher than your daily budget, you won’t get any results at all.

IT TAKES TIME

            To get the feel of your results (and to get any results at all), you need to run the ad for at least a month. It takes that long to build any meaningful statistics. Not just impressions (the highest number) but actual clicks or sales.

            I don’t suggest a campaign for just a month, which I did at first. When the month came to the end, I extended it two more months.

            My results so far are five books sold, two almost sold (I lost out) and my budget is sitting at $125.99. I’ve sold $38.77 worth of books, so you can see the payoff ratio at first isn’t all that great. Since I just started my UK campaign, I only have 3600 impressions and no clicks or sales so my budget is low (24 pence?). At the end of the first month, I should have better results to go off of.

HOW MANY KEYWORDS?

            I’ve talked to several people that use Amazon Ads and they both had hundreds. Yup, that’s right, you need to get creative with your keywords and use a spray and pray approach at first.

WHAT KEYWORDS?

            This is another critical factor. Getting creative with your keywords.

            My book, Spanish Gold is an adventure/thriller.

            At first I was just going with nouns for the most part. Thriller, adventure, and words that show up within the adventure like locations (Spain, England, Azores). However, I had a brilliant idea which nobody else brought up but probably use. How about similar authors?

            That’s right, don’t forget similar authors so your book shows up in the right place with similar titles.

            Turns out those author keywords are having the biggest results, at least so far.

            Even with my kitchen sink approach, I still only have about seventy or eighty keywords so far. It may expand more later, once I have several months of statistics.

            You can tell pretty quick which ones produce results all the time and which only once or not at all.

            Dump the bad ones?

            Not necessarily, just don’t go crazy on the bids. Keep them cheap. If for some reason, they start getting hits, then think of increasing your budget. No need to delete them if you get nothing at all.

            Now, there is also the negative bid thing which I still don’t understand that well.

            Say, you have a keyword that gets clicked all the time but you are getting no results at all. It may be a specific noun, phrase, or whatever. Then you start getting hits but no sales at all.

            You can designate that particular phrase, exact, or broad as a negative word so that Amazon will ignore it.

            That’s about all I know of negative keywords. So far, none of my results are giving me any useful info on how to go about using negative keywords. Like I said, the web site isn’t all that user friendly.

SUMMARY

            Amazon Ads has the potential to be a great marketing tool for those of us that cannot get out all the time. It can work for anyone.

            Give it a try!

            Happy writing!

AMAZON ADS PART 1

July 20, 2022

            As many of you know, marketing sucks. Of all the things about writing that I love, marketing is the one that gets my stomach grinding. Having to go out and “beg” people to buy my book rubs me wrong, yet without marketing, nobody will know I even exist.

            Due to the pandemic, it’s been especially hard to find ways to market a book electronically. Since the pandemic started, I’ve only done two…mark that two…live appearances. While I consider one of them a victory because I sold a book, it was still a lot of exposure to risk for such paltry results (in one way of looking at it).

            I’ve tried various social media things, including Facebook and book advertising web sites. The results were far less than spectacular.

            Not too long ago, I got an e-mail from Amazon touting their Amazon Ads campaign method.

            While I was, and still am a bit skeptical, I decided to give it a try.

THE BASICS

            Amazon Ads is a place to market your book worldwide using key words and bids. The better the keyword, and the higher the bid, the more likely someone is going to click on your book and maybe purchase it.

            That’s it in a nutshell.

            However, getting results is a lot more complicated!

THE WEB SITE

            I’m not all that hot on the web site, which is the “Books And Marketing” tab on your Amazon Author Page, which you have to create first, by the way.

            The author page is not all that hard to set up. The key is having professional looking content. Not that hard.

            Now, as for the Books And Marketing tab, this is where things get confusing. The site isn’t in the least bit intuitive. You really have to know what you’re doing, or you can end up doing an expensive “hunt and peck” approach. That, to me, isn’t a great way to get things done.

            The biggest beef is the navigation, which is pretty difficult when you have to once again, hunt and peck to figure out what to do, and then remember those sometimes complicated moves to get there.

SETTING UP A CAMPAIGN

            After polling several authors to see if it was worth it, I decided it wouldn’t hurt to try.

            Setting up a campaign was a matter of choosing which book to sell, making sure BOTH paper and e-book were represented, and then choosing how to go about the ads.

            You can use the automatic setting, which for some, is the simplest, but also the least effective way to go. Amazon decides what’s what and if you’re going to depend on them to do it the best for your book, you might as well just dump the money down the toilet and flush.

            By doing it manually, you have a better chance of avoiding that.

            First thing is a budget cap.

THE BUDGET CAP

            If you don’t want to go broke, and end up with a huge bill, you need to set a daily budget cap. Some go real cheap and others go for broke. I chose a moderate $5 a day.

DYNAMIC BIDDING

            Now, this is also a key ingredient. By setting dynamic bidding, Amazon only charges under certain circumstances. Someone (of thousands clicking on a keyword) has to click on your ad. Amazon will charge so much for this. Then if someone actually buys your book, they charge a bit more to get their cut of the sale (which they already do even if you don’t use the Ads campaign).

            In the next phase I’ll go over keywords. This is enough to wrap your head around for the moment!

            In the meantime, happy writing!

GRAMMAR LESSON EIGHT REVISITED

July 13, 2022

            We’re back with the final 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 the last of the series, and it’s Grammar Lesson Eight.

            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)

Cereal                         A grass-producing edible grain, or a breakfast food made from grains

Sasha at her cereal with lots of milk.

Serial                          Happening in a series

The old science fiction serial played a half-hour episode each week.

Chord                         A group of musical notes

Fred learned a new chord on guitar the other day.

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

The cords of muscle rippled through is body when he lifted the three-hundred pound barbell.

Climactic                    Forming a climax

It was a climactic ending to an otherwise dull story.

Climatic                      Relating to climate

Those climatic events had to do with hurricanes.

Coarse                                    Rough

The coarse cloth felt like sandpaper on her skin.

Course                        A direction, a school subject, part of a meal

Captain Johnson set a course for Hawaii.

Complacent                Smug and self-satisfied

His complacent attitude was sure to lead to a major mistake.

Complaisant               Willing to please

Holder’s second banana was so complaisant, it turned Jenny’s stomach.

Complement              To add to so as to improve, or an addition that improves something

The addition of the breadfruit was a complement to the ship’s crew diet.

Compliment               To praise or express approval, or an admiring remark

Ruby blushed at the compliment from the senator.

Desert                         A waterless, empty area or to abandon someone

The Mojave Desert isn’t as dead and dry as some think it is.

Dessert                        The sweet course of a meal

The kids couldn’t wait for the dessert of ice cream.

Discreet                      Careful not to attract attention

Remember to make discreet inquiries to the bad guy doesn’t catch on.

Discrete                      Separate and distinct

Those are discrete issues from what you proposed.

Disinterested              Impartial

We come from disinterested parties.

Uninterested              Not interested

I find it uninteresting.

Draught                      A current of air

The draught of warm air caught him as he opened the door.

Draft                           A first version of a piece of writing

I settled down with the first draft of the manuscript and began the editing process.

Draw                          An even score at the end of a game

After all of those plays, it ended up with a draw.

Drawer                       A sliding storage compartment

She slid the drawer closed after stashing her diary.

Dual                            Having two parts

The carburetor had dual chambers.

Duel                            A fight or contest between two people

Snelling died in a duel with Hampton.

SUMMARY

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

            Happy writing!

GRAMMAR LESSON SEVEN REVISITED

July 6, 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. 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 Seven.

            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)

Loath                          Reluctant, unwilling

She was loath to eat the burger.

Loathe                        To hate

I loathed getting a haircut.

Loose                          To unfasten: To set free

She let the squirrel loose and it scampered off

Lose                            To be deprived of, to be unable to find

If you don’t put your wallet back in your pocket, you’re going to lose it.

Meter                          A measuring device

The gas meter showed a large consumption the past month.

Metre                          A metric unit, rhythm in verse

Carl tried to get the metre of the chorus so he could keep up with the song.

Militate                       To be a powerful factor against

The two parties’ views militate against a common core of reference.

Mitigate                      To make less severe

Because he gave them the location of the loot, that mitigated his sentence to six months instead of a year.

Palate                          The roof of the mouth

The pudding slid smooth against his palate.

Palette                         A board for mixing colors

She dabbed three colored paints together on the palette and created ochre.

Pedal                           A foot-operated lever

Randy had never used a clutch pedal before and when he tried, he stalled the truck.

Peddle                         To sell goods

Oscar peddled dry goods at the fair.

Council                       A group of people who manage or advise

The city council voted on the measure three to one.

Counsel                      Advice, or to advise

I really appreciated my dad’s counsel when I was growing up, though I didn’t show it much.

Cue                             A signal for action or a wooden rod

Stephanie took her cue from the director and hit the stage.

Queue                         A line of people or vehicles

The queue to get in to see the Tut exhibit was over a mile long.

Curb                           To keep something in check or a control or limit

I’ve been told to curb my enthusiasm by my pessimistic friend.

Kerb                           In British English it’s the stone edge of pavement

Sally tripped over the kerb when she crossed the street.

Currant                      A dried grape

My best friend loves currant pie, but I can’t stand it.

Current                      Happening now, or a flow of water, air or electricity

Jack eased the dingy out into the river where the current pushed it further downstream.

Defuse                        To make a situation less tense

The cops came in to defuse the situation, but their uniforms only added to the tension.

Diffuse                                    To spread over a wide area

The dandelion spread in a diffuse pattern over the lawn.

SUMMARY

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

            Happy writing!

GRAMMAR LESSON SIX REVISITED

June 29, 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. 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 Six.

            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 warrant a quick trip to a dictionary, or online.

COMMON SIMILAR SOUNDING WORDS (WITH ENTIRELY DIFFERENT MEANINGS)

Forbear                      To refrain

Joe could not forbear a smile.

Forebare                    An ancestor

His forebares were early pioneers to this territory.

Foreward                   An introduction to a book

The foreward to Cindy’s book was elaborate but unnecessary.

Forward                     Onward, ahead

It’s time to move forward with our plan.

Freeze                         To turn to ice

If you leave it outside today, it’s going to freeze.

Frieze                          A decoration along a wall

I attempted to strip the paint from the frieze without damaging the detail.

Grisly                          Gruesome, revolting

The horror movie was full of grisly scenes.

Grizzly                        A type of bear

It’s a good idea to avoid the grizzly bear in the woods.

Hoard                         A store of items

The homeless man guarded his hoard of cans jealously.

Horde                         A large crowd of people

The Mongolian horde stormed the castle.

Imply                          To suggest indirectly

Are you implying that I’m guilty?

Infer                           To draw a conclusion

Without any evidence, his testimony inferred that Roger was guilty.

Pole                             A long, slender piece of wood

She used the pole to push the boat along in the canal.

Poll                              Pertaining to voting in an election

We polled the democrats and republicans in the district to see who had the edge.

Pour                            To flow or cause to flow

She poured the milk into the pan.

Pore                            A tiny opening: To study something closely

Stephanie pored over the document to see if she could make sense of it.

Practice                      The use of an idea or method: Work or business of a doctor, dentist, etc.

The doctor’s practice is in that building over there.

Practise                       To do something repeatedly to gain skill: To do something regularly

(NOTE: This is also the British spelling of the word. American English usually uses the C instead of the S. It covers both definitions.)

We went to band practise but spent most of the time partying.

Prescribe                    To authorize the use of medicine: To order authoritatively

The doctor prescribed ampicillin in a very small dose.

Proscribe                    To officially forbid something

The council proscribed dancing on the holiday.

Principal                     Most important: Head of a school

The principal shut down the school in order to address a gun threat.

Principle                     A fundamental rule or belief

A fundamental principle of drumming is the paradiddle.

Sceptic                        A person incline to doubt

There are true believers who go on faith, and sceptics who won’t believe it unless they see it.

Septic                          Infected with bacteria

The leg wound went septic because it was left untreated.

Elusive                        Difficult to find, catch or achieve

The fish made elusive targets, especially with the wrong bait.

Illusive                        Deceptive, illusory

The magician used illusive movements to fool the eye.

SUMMARY

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

            Happy writing!

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!