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August 15, 2018


          Every book has its plot twists and turns. If you’re an outliner, you map it out ahead of time. You figure out all your surprises well ahead of the game, so as you’re writing, at least to me, it would seem less exciting. The adventures would seem to me, less of an event.


            On the other hand, if you’re a pantser, or a seat-of-the-pants writer, the only thing you know is A and B. That means everything in-between is a total surprise. With that in mind, as you write, you encounter all kinds of surprises, discoveries, plot twists, as long as you never forget your ultimate goal, B.


            Can those plot twists affect the ultimate outcome, B?




            Should they?


            It all depends on what you were trying to accomplish in the first place.




            With any writer, you usually don’t just sit down and start writing. Or, you shouldn’t because more than likely, chaos is going to be the result. There has to be some kind of plan, some at least vague goal in mind.


            There, of course, has to be a starting and ending point.


            If you’re an outliner, of course, before you even sit down to start the writing process, you meticulously map it out from A to B, then depending on how detailed you are to begin with, follow that outline.


            You, as an outliner, don’t just sit down to write. You map it out first. You set your goal, maybe modify it, tweak it, then solidify it as you work through your outline.


            The only surprises you really may get are during the outline process.


            On the other hand, if you’re a pantser, before you sit down, you usually (I hope), have some sort of at least vague idea of where you want to start and end up. What’s the point of sitting down in the first place? It can’t just be to fill in a blank page, can it? Don’t you have some inkling of where you want to go, what you want to put all that effort into in the first place?


            Yup, an A and a B.


            You, as a pantser, have a goal as well, it’s just less defined, and certainly not outlined.




            Whether you outline or write on the fly, you have the end game in mind. So, you write accordingly. Surprise or plan, in either case, things are going to develop along the way you never thought of initially.


            Inspiration may (or may not) hit at the weirdest moments.




            Right at an intense scene, a slow movement area, or just anywhere, anytime, anyplace, the muse will hit you like an anvil falling on your head.


            That big twist that’ll have a huge impact on the story.


            That huge twist that’ll (hopefully) surprise everyone.




            Now that you’ve had that big aha moment, will it fit into the proceedings? Is it going to interrupt the story flow?


            If you’re an outliner, are you going to have to go back to the drawing board, and rework your masterpiece of perfection? Does that mean months of work, retooling, before you can continue writing? Or could it just mean minor tweaks?


            If you’re a pantser, does this mean tweaking B, changing it, or not even worrying about Be at all? At least as a pantser, you don’t have to go back to the drawing board because it’s all in your head!


            Now, if you’re a hybrid writer, a little bit outliner and a little bit pantser, you could be dealing with a mix, of course (don’t want to leave you out, either).




            I was humming along on my latest work and was eating breakfast the other morning (well, “other” is a relative term, it was several weeks ago, now), and a revelation hit me. I got an inspiration for a great plot twist and almost spit out my orange juice.


            I thought about it and how I could use it, and realized I wouldn’t have to do a thing different either to what I’d written so far, nor how it affected B.


            I was good to go, and it gave me chills.


            I hope my readers like it, don’t see through it, and it’s as much a surprise to them as it was to me when I thought of it.


            We’ll see.




            When you think of these aha moments, do whatever it takes to make them work. Don’t look at them as a pain, but at the same time, make sure they really work before you take the plunge.


            Happy writing!






August 8, 2018

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 presenting 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.


I once wrote a screenplay with my bud, Doug Lubahn, 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 (especially) new 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 on line.


Appraise                     To assess

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

Apprise                       To inform someone

Mary was set to apprise the committee of the bad news tomorrow.

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 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 you spilled the acid, it 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.


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

Happy writing!


August 1, 2018

With everybody and their brother giving writing advice, what makes an idea new? Since any idea is probably something that’s “been there, done that” a thousand times in the past, the fact is, it’s only new in the way it’s presented, not the basics.

You think anything I present here at Fred Central is really new?

It’s just my take, my own way of saying it, that makes it new to you…maybe.

Maybe I make it more palatable to you, the reader. Maybe I just explain it more clearly for you because I have a teaching/instructor background. I say stuff nobody else ever thought to explain, or assumed you’d know.

Like any other writer, I have my own take on things for you to either accept or reject. Nothing I say can’t be found somewhere in the hundreds if not thousands of books on the subject of writing. So, why should you read my articles, or for that fact, anyone else’s?


Any idea, regardless of how often it’s been presented in the past, has the opportunity to be presented in a way that clicks for the new reader. Even the experienced one.

I’ve had plenty of books on writing and barely cracked most of them. Instead, I stumbled along and just wrote and learned by trial and error, learned through my writer’s group, and by anecdotes from fellow writers and mentors.

In other words, think of my articles as mentor material.

I try to keep this stuff as simple and condensed as possible, with of course, my take based on sixty plus years of reading experience thrown in. After all, I started as an actual reader, loooong before I ever became a writer. I look at it from both perspectives.

My stuff is presented in a new and shorter version of what may take up fifteen or twenty pages in a book, and in a new way. I hesitate to call my stuff blogging (I’m a bit more long-form).


The principle behind blogging, is frequent short blasts to get the reader’s attention, to grab them and get clicks. Blogging appeases the short attention span, from what I’ve come to see and understand. Blogs are for people on the go.

That’s not what I do.

I have a platform, which goes along with what I do, write. I write fiction and rather than rave on and on about some hobby, which I do (but those hobbies are not related to what I write about), I wanted a platform somehow related to what I do in the writing world, but not necessarily about the genre because I write in multiple genres. So why not writing, which covers them all?

The difference is that my site is not a blog. It’s a long-form writing advice site. My articles break the 500 word rule, the short blast-beat and often, daily attention-getting rhythm expected of a blogger. My articles range from 800 to 1,200 words on average because they’re advice on writing.

So, my platform is on writing. Am I breaking ground here? Are other writers that write about writing breaking ground?

Not really.

We’re presenting new ideas that are really old, established ideas in new, unique ways.

I’m not alone in this. I’m here for those of you that have found that “resonance, or click” with my particular brand of advice.


Most of the stuff I present here isn’t particularly new. Some is unique in the way I present it. As I said above, as a teacher and instructor, I break it down into the simplest elements for you.

My goal is to cut out the bull, and give you the facts.

The difference is that I also add in my own take, my own biases (granted) based on my experiences from not only reading, but writing. There are also unofficial polls of other readers and writers and lots and lots of reading critiques. I’ve also been a silent observer to conversations between others and the fly on the wall at over a decade of writer’s conferences.

Many may not agree with all that I say here, but that’s okay. These aren’t rules I present, they’re advice. That’s a word with a meaning in the dictionary which you should not have to look up! Whether you follow what I say, use all, part of or none is up to you. I just know that what I say works in the best books out there as evidenced by the best reviews and some of the most popular books. Also, they’re the ones I personally can’t put down and they’re books that I breeze though without extra baggage, without being jolted out of the story, without unconsciously reaching for the red editor’s pen. They’re the books I can close at the end with a big smile on my face.

I hope you use at least some of what I propose because I really believe it will make the world of books a much better place. There’s way too much crap out there to punish readers as it is.

Alas, that’s not always the way the world works.

My old ideas are new in the way I present them, not in principle. They’ve been presented before. What makes them new is that they’re condensed here at Fred Central and you don’t have to dig through countless volumes at the library or bookstore, though I’m not discouraging you from doing so if you’re so inclined. Books on writing are great source material and there are some outstanding examples out there. If they’re what it takes to get the fire in your belly, if books work better versus web articles, use them! Maybe web articles can supplement what you learn from the books. Maybe you won’t need articles like these at all because of the books. Everyone is different. However, if books are not your way of learning, people like me are here for you.

Use my articles as well as others on line to help hone your skills. We, as advisors, are here for you! New ideas that are old are just old ideas presented in a new way that may be more palatable for you, easier to understand and use.

Happy writing!


July 24, 2018

I’ve been talking about word count and bloat. In those articles I mentioned cutting irrelevant story threads, those tangents authors get onto that have no real impact on the plot.

Sure, they can be fun, but in the quest for word economy and getting to the point, are they really necessary? Or, as a lot of rock critics like to call guitar solos, are they just self-indulgent?

How do you even tell?

I cannot speak as much for literary works as for action based, but I will say that the literary novels I’ve suffered through apparently were allowed a lot more leeway on the rambling. Sometimes it was hard to tell because the story threads were so buried in description and internal character musings, it was difficult to find much story movement. There’s one particular fantasy author, who shall remain nameless, that would write a hundred pages where absolutely nothing happened at all. I’m not kidding. That was one reason his novels were always over a thousand pages.

There was another novelist who wrote a murder/thriller, literate style that clocked in around the seven hundred page mark, where there were multiple story threads and so much rambling, it wasn’t until the end that I figured out not only what was going on, but forgot whether some of the story threads were even relevant. I can just imagine if the publisher had let him get away with irrelevant threads with all the literate bloat that was already there!


The best way to describe a tangent is to have a story thread that if removed, will have no impact on the main plot.

If you were to go back and surgically remove the thread, bit-by-bit, up to the point where it merges (I assume it will) with the main plot line, and it makes no difference to the main outcome, it’s a tangent or irrelevant thread.

If somehow, you cut it, but it leaves a gap, a question that you have to stumble around to fill in, maybe it’s not.

Maybe this tangent can be re-worked in much shorter form, or maybe it needs to be left alone.


Plots do not have to be a single straight line from A to B. The best are, don’t get me wrong. However, there are plenty of the great ones that have twists and turns and branches that come together. These branches are not tangents.

They’re key elements.

There’s a difference.

Key elements are exactly that. They’re key to the plot. They’re not irrelevant material.


Back to my example from a previous article with Detach and trying to order at a fast-food place. They can’t get the order right. He goes through a routine with the kids behind the counter.

While this might be a fun scene, though not for any kids that have actually been behind such a counter, it’s one of those literary character-building things.

On the other hand, it takes up space, an entire chapter.

It’s a tangent that has nothing to do with the main plot, which was searching for gold on a sunken ship.

By surgically removing it, I took nothing away from the main story/plot and made the read much easier.

Okay, let’s make it a little more elaborate.

Say you build an entire thread around several characters who are widget makers. They produce a particular widget and you go into their lives, their production process and the delivery of said widget to the main character in the story. This thread merges with the main plot where the main character uses said widget to move the main plot along.

Now, what if your main character just used the widget and you deleted the history behind it? Would that make any real difference in the story? Despite maybe being an interesting little side-trip into the lives, feelings and maybe even funny circumstances in the history of this widget, does it really matter to the reader? Does it really advance the plot, or is it just your “self-indulgence” coming through?

Sounds like it’s time to kill a darling.


Tangents should be easy to spot once you do your read-through. In the frenzy of following your muse, verbal diarrhea comes out and, especially if you’re a seat-of-the-pants writer, what comes out comes out. The better you get at this, the fewer of these mistakes you make. However, don’t get hung up on worrying about this and that so that you stop writing! Let it all out and fix it on the first edit. That can be fun as well!

Now don’t get the idea that just because you’re an outliner, you can’t throw in the kitchen sink. It can happen for you as well. Maybe not as much, but just because you map everything out doesn’t mean you won’t add in an extra “city” that doesn’t need to be there.

Learning as you go is part of this wonderful passion.

Happy writing!


July 18, 2018

You have the muse, you’re into writing, but then it comes to that one scene. You just want to get it overwith and move on. Have you run across that feeling?

There are scenes throughout a story that are necessary to move the plot along. They may seem either routine, uncomfortable, or just plain tedious to write, yet they’re necessary.

Or are they?

Is it just that you happen to be tired that day?

Could it be that the very scene you don’t want to write shouldn’t be there in the first place?

What if you’re looking at it the wrong way?

Has your muse taken vacation and you never realized it?


Every one of us has off days, no matter what our mind might be telling us otherwise. We may be rarin’ and ready to go inspiration wise, yet when we sit down to type (or write), something happens. The words don’t flow out like expected. We get to the point where we have to write “that scene” to make the plot move on, yet something doesn’t click. It becomes pedestrian, or tedious in the execution.

It’s not that the scene isn’t necessary, it’s that our muse is just at a fizzle at the moment.

Time to step back and do something else.


As you’re writing that scene, it drags on and something in the back of your head is telling you it’s not clicking. You keep on for a bit but then you stop.

Why am I writing this?

It’s the wrong direction.

I should do it this way.

As much as you hate to kill your darling, so far, it’s only a page, maybe two, so stop, go to the top and hit delete and start over. So what if you took a bit of time. It isn’t really wasted. You did an experiment and it didn’t work. No reason to cling on to something that just didn’t cut it. It’s better to sacrifice it now than try to make something work that shouldn’t be there in the first place!


Similar, but not quite the same as the section above, maybe you’re looking at this scene all wrong. In this case, like above, trash it and step back. This is a case of walking away from the computer, no matter how inspired you may be, and re-thinking what you’re doing.

Do you still have A and B? If you’re a pantser, you should. If you’re an outliner, it’s time to go back and look at your notes.

In either case, linear, outline, or whatever method you use, this is not a time to rush and just get the scene overwith so you can move on. If so, you may set yourself up for failure later on. You may write yourself into a hole.


Though this is mainly for pantsers, it can also apply to outliners as well.

Maybe you’re inspired to write. Maybe you’re super-inspired, hyper-inspired, over-the-top inspired to write!

Shut off your manuscript and write a short story or something.

Walk away from it before you do something that you can’t easily erase.

Don’t rush that scene you don’t want to write just to get to the part you do, just to get it overwith until you’ve thought it out.

DO NOT skip ahead and come back and fix it later. That can form a continuity hole in your story that can be even more difficult to fix.

I know of some writers that skip all over the place in their stories. However, when they write that way, it’s really hard to go back and repair it, make the story linear, and for it to flow properly, especially for editors!


This issue has rarely happened to me. When it has, a funny thing happened.

When I set out to write the (to me) mundane scene, the muse actually intensified the more I got into it. What started as a routine transitional scene, became a key part of the story.

Since the method I write is an adventure in itself, that mundane scene, say a meeting in a bar as an example, became a key to learning information about a forthcoming adventure.

I love writing so much that there aren’t any scenes I want to get overwith. Sure, I get tired and sometimes don’t always get to write when I want to, but so far in the twenty-plus years I’ve been at this, when I’m in my muse, I’m away in my world. There is no scene I want to get overwith. I just want to keep writing to see what happens next!

Happy writing!


July 11, 2018

In another recent article, I talked about word count. As one of my buds also pointed out, for a new author, another consideration a publisher has to figure in is cost. So, when you bring them an inflated manuscript, are they going to go along with it and add in the extra expense of your rambling?

Don’t think so, at least most of the time.

Rambling usually means bloat.


Okay, I have to say right up front, I’m not talking from a literary viewpoint. In literary writing, it’s all about the words, the characters, the description, rather than the plot. Sure, there has to be a plot, but that’s secondary to the description of everything. Of course, the story still has to eventually get from A to B, but the movement is more casual. For you that are literary authors, your pitch and genres are clear so the agents know right off what to expect. On the other hand, there can still be bloat.

For plot-driven authors, where you’re expected to get to the point, it’s a lot easier to pick out bloat in the mix. It’s especially easy when you throw in a bit of literary that’s inconsistent with the normal pacing. However, that’s not the normal bloat I’m talking about.

Bloat is unnecessary info (outside of description). It’s side plots, stuff that veers away from the action. It’s anything that distracts from the main story.


I’ll give an example “torn from the pages” of an edit from one of my Gold novels.

My main character in the Gold series is Joseph “Detach” Datchuk. He goes by Detach. He’s a diver and searches for treasure. He gets into fixes where more than treasure is involved. In other words, mayhem ensues.

In one of them, I had a thread, inspired by someone I know. He stops at a fast-food place and tries to order a custom burger, but the kid behind the counter can’t get the order right. Once again, mayhem ensues. After about the third edit, I realized this “Chapter” had nothing to do with the plot – at all.” It was just something that displayed part of Detach’s character. Maybe in a literary sense it was “character building,” but as far as moving the story along, it did nothing at all but take up space.

I killed my darling.

Folks, that was a prime example of bloat.

In my most recent example, I’m now editing the sequel to Lusitania Gold.

In Spanish Gold, in what used to be the Prologue, which is now Chapter 1, set in the 1700’s, there’s a chase scene where one character reminisces about how he and his pursuer met, along with a bit about their background.

Taking a cue not only from the first page reads at our Las Vegas Writer’s Conferences, plus a certain writer who I like (but who loves 50 page prologues), I cut the new Chapter 1 down from fifteen to four pages. I deleted all that backstory and made it just the action.

In other words, I not only cut out the bloat, I vastly improved story movement.

I killed another unnecessary darling that’ll not have an impact on the rest of the story.


My bud Deborah hit the nail on the head when she talked about cost. Not only that, but you have to consider the reader as well. The reader, unless they’re into literary prose, has to suffer through your indulgences to get to the point. The more you lose focus on your goal and indulge on your little side trips, the more the reader is going to wander away and the more it’s going to cost your publisher to print your ramblings. Not only that, but even if you’re a literary writer, your ramblings still have to be on point and not off on too wide of a tangent.

Like I’ve said many times before, write tight and right.

That isn’t just a saying. It’s a truism.

That’s one reason I’m not a big fan of most fantasy, even though I write it. When I see these five-hundred to a thousand page tomes, I just skip them and move on. It’s a big reason why I’m no fan of literary fiction. It’s why I’m no fan of certain popular writers who like to ramble (I’m currently reading one who may have broken his own rule…we’ll see…Coda: he did, and it was a great read).

The point is, most people don’t have time, and publishers don’t have the money to indulge in your ramblings and your bloat. They want you to get to the point. They want you to adequately, sufficiently, and maybe even colorfully describe, show, and bring forth your story without adding a bunch of extra baggage.

Happy writing!


July 4, 2018

I was recently asked a question about word count. I get that quite often. There are “rules” of word counts floating around out there and if you look hard enough, you’ll find set counts for certain genres. However, here’s the clincher – there’s no one set rule!

It all depends on the source.

It’s like the “pirate code – guidelines.”


When it comes to visual observing in one of my other passions, astronomy, it’s the same thing with the magnitude of celestial objects, in other words, how “bright” (or dim) the object is. It all depends on the source you get the magnitude number from, and how and what they took the reading for. Say your telescope has a magnitude limit of such and such and the object you’re trying to look for has a magnitude of such and such, which is well within range of your scope. However, you cannot see it. What’s up?

There are other factors at play.

Just like with word count.


There’s a difference between a short story, a novella and a novel.

A short story is usually up to around 15K words, however, many are around 4K but can be as much as 25K.

A novella is usually around 50K max.

A novel is from 60K on up.

Already see problems…vagaries?

Already see the “pirate code” in play?


Over the years, variations of the “rules” have been published in various forms. However, they’ve not only been fluid, but have conflicted with each other.

Without even going into details, depending on what’s been discussed at the conventions that particular year, novels can range for a first-time author from 60K to a little over 100K, depending on the genre.

Westerns, mystery and romance tend to be the 60 – 80K range.

Thrillers and some horror 70-90K.

Fantasy and science fiction 80-100K+ (the + is what gets many writers).

Keep in mind that this is anecdotal. Some of that info was derived from various numbers over the decades and these statistics are highly flexible. They are in no way set in stone.

Not only that, but there have been lots of exceptions to the rules in BOTH extremes!


I’ll tell you right off, do not go by what you see in the bookstores!

Generally, the examples you see in the bookstores are by established authors who already have a fan base and can get away with murder. They get far more leeway than any first-time author. Don’t think you, as a newbie, can just do what you want and get away with it, especially if you’re trying to break in fresh with the big six. There are, of course, first-time author exceptions, but don’t go by them, either. Read on…

Now, on the other hand, if you’re going the self-publishing route, all bets are off, but then again, don’t expect to see your book on the shelf in the bookstore either, or at least in the same quantities or as easily as someone going the traditional route!

So, what are agents looking for?

For a first time writer, regardless of genre, if you submit a manuscript that’s very long, especially for your genre, the agent is going to think that this author doesn’t know how to get to the point.

With the exception of certain epic fantasy or literary tropes, a high word count is a red flag for an author that doesn’t know how to write tight and right!

When that agent sees your cover page with the word count up top, they’re already biased to some extent. Now, when they get to the first page and see what you accomplish, or don’t, they know right away if you can make a story move.

Can you show a good western or romance in 60-80K words?

Can you do a good thriller in 80-100K words?

Can you do a good epic fantasy in 120K words?

These numbers are general, slightly arbitrary, but in the ballpark. I hesitate to give anything more specific because what you really need to do is go to the individual web site for each agency and look at their specifics.

That’s right.

What’s all this about word count?

What you’re likely going to find when you get down to the real deal is that when you go deep into the query process, a lot of the agencies are going to have their own statistics, their own requirements of what they expect for a word count. Many won’t. They’ll either expect you to know because you’re either supposed to know what’s expected of your genre, or you’re a maverick and don’t care about the rules.

If you’re a maverick, you need to step carefully. If it were me, as far as word count, I’d rather be on the short side than the long side.


Back to what I said before.

Writing right and tight is a lot better than a manuscript full of bloat.


I originally wrote my latest novel, Lusitania Gold in 1995. That rough draft was 133K to 134K words. After multiple edits and reading it to my writer’s group here in Las Vegas, I got rid of the bloat. I pared it down to 96K without losing a single bit of the story or plot. That’s right, I cleaned it up and made it better. Right and tight.

You can do that too.

What about the other side? What if your novel is too short?


So far, I’ve mostly been alluding to manuscripts that are too long, at least indirectly. However, what about if your MS is too short. What do you do?

Rather than bloat it up with irrelevant material, why not just submit it as a novella?

Just because the story doesn’t warrant a longer format doesn’t mean you have to add bloat to make it qualify. Bloat is bloat, and an agent can spot that just as easily as they can in one that’s already overbaked.

The point is, write the story right and tight, no matter what the actual length.

I can tell you if it’s much over 150K, it’ll be hard to sell for a first-time author unless it’s really killer. It can happen, but you have a lot of competition out there, so be prepared. Even that’s a vague number when you get down to it, and there have been success stories on both sides of that figure.

Whatever you do, the key is to write efficiently and without bloat. That’s the best way to get through the door, regardless of word count.

Happy writing!