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March 1, 2023


(What Not To Do!)

            In this part we’ll get down to some technical thingies. We’re going to go over what not to do.


            I mentioned never to use negativity or put yourself down. Here are a few examples. Some are overt, while a few may be a bit more subtle.

            I know you get lots of submissions, but before you throw mine in the slush pile, I’d appreciate if you’d give me a chance.

            Ding ding ding! Red flag! You’re starting negative right out of the gate! Don’t even bring the subject up! In the first place, you should be starting with your slug line. Second, you’re giving the agent the perfect excuse to do just what you are hoping they won’t do.

            I’ve been submitting to lots of agents but was hoping you’d be the right one for my work.

            Do I have to explain this one?

            I’m a struggling writer and found your agency online. I would like to present my character…

            A little more subtle but saying you’re a struggling writer is not only a cliché, it’s a given and also a negative. No need to voice it. Scratch the first sentence.

            Thank you for considering my work. I may not be the best writer in the world, but I know I’ve come up with a winner here.

            You had him or her at the first sentence and blew it with the rest. Hack off that second sentence.

            Now for a little biography sample.


            I’m an accomplished writer with high grades in English grammar in high school and college. I excelled at all of my term papers and almost had an article published in the alumni newsletter but due to budget constraints, the issue was never printed. I had a short story called The Flag printed in Mystery Journal for Fiberglas Press, 1989.

            She’s a mystery writer. The only relevant credit is the last one. The rest of it is pure fluff and irrelevant. Trash it. Inflating a bio with irrelevant material is no way to win friends with an agent. If you only have one credit, so be it. In the good old days, it was okay to throw in the kitchen sink. Nowadays, agents don’t have time to slog through all this crap looking for gems. You’re better off to keep it tight and right. Besides, “almosts” don’t count.


            I’m sure you get lots of really “great” stories at your agency, but now get ready for a real treat. XXX will blow you away.

            Oh, please! Sarcasm, conceit, grammar problems, the list goes on.

            That’s it for now. Next time, an example of a query letter that worked. From there I’ll discuss other forms of query letters and why they may or may not work.

            Happy writing!



February 22, 2023


            I need to tell you up front that this discussion pertains to pitching fiction and not non-fiction. When it comes to queries, they’re two different animals. I’ve never pitched non-fiction and don’t have a clue how to do it, so if that’s what you’re after, sorry! They’re called proposals, by the way.


            Now that you’ve heard the inevitable (you’re going to have to do one), how’re you going to go about it? The easy answer is to tell you to go to the bookstore or the wyberry (library, sorry, I like to play with words) and stock up with literally (if that isn’t a metaphor) hundreds of books on writing query letters. Or, I could condense it all down for you and let you know what’s worked for me and what hasn’t. Keep in mind that you can come up with a generic letter, but you’ll have to modify it for each agent. Not only it is good to personalize each one, but many agents have their own ideas of what a query letter should contain. A generic query letter smacks of impersonalization. That, my friends, is a big red flag with a trash can bulls-eye right in the middle of it!


            The most successful query/pitch letters contain three things: The slug line (or pitch), what the story’s about, and a bit about yourself (what makes you qualified to write the story). Of course, you don’t write only those things. Remember, this is a letter to a person, not a machine. The key is that the letter should be brief, to the point and only contain relevant information. On top of that, it must be grammatically correct, contain no typos and something you might not always hear from others, it cannot contain any negatives or sarcasm.

            Whatever you do, do not put yourself or others down! Do not use sarcasm! I must step back and say that if the sarcasm is part of the plot or storyline, that’s something else. If it’s about you or other authors, don’t use it!

            Another thing to never to do. Okay, it’s something that’s extremely risky and 99% of the time doesn’t work. Write the query letter in character. Yes, I’m talking about your main character being a hard-bitten detective with a few screws loose upstairs. He or she writes the letter. It’s written on an old typewriter with a cigarette burn in one corner and coffee stains in another. The letter’s folded wrong and you sign it with your character’s sloppy signature, typing your real name and address on the envelope. Cutesy-poo to-the-max, but most agents and publishers have been there-done that, and can’t hit the trash can with it fast enough. Some may even respond with a nasty letter. A romance writer may send theirs on frilly stationary soaked in perfume.

            Play it straight. No gags, no gimmicks to get yourself noticed. I’ve had more agents tell me they get extremely annoyed by these tactics and put these authors on their ***t lists. Keep that in mind.

            It’s extremely important the letter have no typos or grammatical errors. When an agent gets hold of it, if they see you can’t even write out a single page without an error, what will a novel or short story look like?

            Next time, we break things down even further.

            Happy writing!


February 16, 2023


            Probably one of the hardest things an author has to write is the pitch letter. Yeah, I’ve probably said the hardest thing to write is the synopsis, or maybe the book blurb, but when you get right down to it, none of that matters if you can’t sell the book in the first place.

            With the upcoming virtual Las Vegas Writer’s Conference, I figured it was time to revisit this series.

            I’m reminded of the teen who doesn’t want to finish high school and comes up with the excuse, “Well Axl Rose of Guns N Roses never graduated, and look at him. He’s a big rock star millionaire.” Well, there’s ambition, talent, and dumb luck. He could just as easily have failed and never would have had anything to back himself up with. Mr. William Bruce Rose Jr. (his real name) might be the guy cleaning your pool while you’re making the big bucks because you went on to get a degree or the right tech school. Of course, people don’t picture all the hard work Axl put into his craft, regardless of a degree but…

Why I bring this up is that some authors think their story is so hot they won’t need to sell it, that agents will be knocking their door down to buy it from them. A pitch letter (or to bother trying to pitch their story) isn’t on their radar. They can skip the hard work because their story is so hot, agents and publishers will seek them out.


            Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen often in the real world. The funny thing is that I actually did see it happen once at the very first writer’s conference I attended in 2005. There was this teenage kid pitching a story he hadn’t even completed. He didn’t have a proper query letter or even any writing samples, as I recall. Yet when he pitched his idea to one of the young adult agents, she signed him on the spot! To this day, I don’t have any idea if anything ever came of that kid or his books (if he ever completed one), but it was one of those magic Axl Rose type moments where lightning strikes and I was there to witness it.

            Do you think it will happen to you? Fat chance! You, my friend, are going to have to work for it like the rest of us, if the numbers bear out. So, suck it up and start listening (or reading, if you want to get technical).


            The pitch letter or as it is more widely known, the query letter, is your way of getting the attention of an agent or publisher. It’s a way of tapping them on the shoulder and saying “Hey, I’ve got something to show you.”

            Agents and publishers get literally hundreds if not thousands of these letters per day/week/month. They’re always looking for the next best thing, something they can sell to make a ton of money. At the same time, they have to slog through all this crap. To get their attention, you need to be brief, to the point, no bull. Or as Jack Webb used to say in Dragnet, “Just the facts, Ma’am.”


            In past posts, I’ve alluded to staying on track, keeping your story to the point and being concise. It’s critical you do that in a query letter. You’ve got just a few quick lines to blow their socks off, to pique their interest, to leave them wanting for more. By the time that agent or publisher reaches the end of that letter, they should know the story is a good fit for their agency, they should see that you have the chops to pull it off, and they should be intrigued by the premise, or pitch line. If you can pull all three of those things off, I can almost guarantee they’ll be asking for more.


            Next time I’ll discuss the structure of the pitch/query letter and some of the various forms.

            Happy writing!


February 8, 2023

The 2022 virtual Las Vegas Writers Conference was a resounding success. We’ve developed a reputation as one of the best writers conferences in the nation, as mentioned in several top notch writers publications. It’s well deserved. As an attendee to every live event from 2005 up to 2019, I can attest to that. I’ve seen this conference grow, change, and go through many different versions over the years. We have a reputation and a high standard.

In this article, I won’t go into too many details except to outline some of the reasons why this conference has gained its reputation. Over the next few weeks, I may be revisiting some of the articles from the past that are relevant to the conference. They’re more detailed and the info in them hasn’t changed all that much. Some things you may hear repeated and that’s because these things are an integral part of our success.



One reason the Las Vegas Writer’s Conference is such a success is because of the size.

It’s an intimate online Zoom setting. We’re limited in size to a smaller group which means everyone gets to interact with everyone.


There’s only one price. Once you pay the conference fee, that’s it. If you want to chat with any agent, publisher, or author, it’s included in the price of admission.


Every attendant and faculty member is accessible through the chat window.

Not only do you have ample opportunities to set up private appointments (sessions) with agents and publishers, you interact with them during classes. Since it’s online, there’s no one with a “possee” that accompanies them to a signing booth, does their scribbles on a book or two, does a couple of pitches and then leaves. Since there’s no physical location and no travel, it’s much more convenient for them and they’re there for the duration.


There are a variety of classes, the meat of the conference, that cover every aspect of the publishing and writing world. From writing to editing to marketing, there are almost always classes to cover everything you can think of and learn from. These classes are often taught by the very people you come to pitch your work to.


Every year, writers get successful pitches and queries to agents and publishers. While the ultimate return may be low, once in a while someone strikes gold. The chances of obtaining an agent are much higher with a virtual face-to-face meeting than a random letter in the mailbox. Each year, someone obtains a big-time agent or publisher from our conference.


The Las Vegas Writers Conference is one of the best in the nation for many reasons. As a writer, you should attend at least one if you’re serious about getting published, whether traditionally or self-published. Yeah, even self-published authors can get a lot of value out of this conference. There’s plenty to learn for everyone, as nobody is excluded from the mix.

Happy writing!

The conference link is: 2023 Las Vegas Writers Conference


January 25, 2023

            Since I’m not a big fan of characterization, one would think I don’t care about why characters do what they do. Far from it. I just don’t need to read on an on about it. Rather than call this motivation, which implies endless narrative, I’d rather approach it from the view of justifying why characters do what they do. I know this is semantics, but I’m just more comfortable with the term justify.


            While it may occur in real life, in a story, you need to justify each word so as not to waste the readers time. This is a roundabout way of saying to cut the bloat, stuff that’s irrelevant to the story. At the same time when it comes to the storyline, everyone that does anything does it for a reason.


            Having a random character do something with no explanation is distracting and irrelevant.

            When it comes to the story, everything a character does needs to have a reason why.


            As those of you that have known me for a while have figured out, I’m no fan of literary prose. I’m a more to-the-point type of reader and writer.

            When it comes to a character doing something and why, it doesn’t need to be a book within a book. It can be as simple as a single sentence. Whatever the reason for the action, I go for moderation.

            In other words, get to the point.


            Unless you’re doing a character study (which I abhor), you can keep character motivation simple.

            A character makes a noise every time they do something. Why do they make this noise? This is a perfect opportunity to add some character depth. In this case, I might go as much as a paragraph. Or, I might sprinkle a few sentences into the narrative to justify this quirk.

            While not every excruciating detail needs to be explained, if it’s something significant, yes, you need to give the why. You just don’t need to write three chapters on why the character makes this noise whenever they do something.


            Okay, I said that dirty word, which isn’t really bad in of itself. It’s what it implies.

            Motivation is chapter after chapter to explain why a character does something.

            Justification, at least to me, is a sentence, paragraph or two.


            I see it all the time in reviews of either books or movies that the characters had no depth. This is especially true in movies. If you’re like me, unless it completely makes no sense what the characters do and how they act, a few simple lines or actions or even memories (okay flashbacks) are fine if they’re simple. While I’m no fan of extended flashbacks, as in initial justification, if the flashback is short and not jarring, I’m fine with them.

            To some people, ninety percent of the book should be characterization. I don’t even expect to please everyone, especially these people. I’m more on the other end with a few simple words so the story gets to the point.

            That does not mean I love shallow characters. It’s just that I don’t need that much and if the characterization lingers too much, I lose interest and start skipping pages.

            That folks, is my point. While there should be a reason why every character does or acts the way they do, it can be justified in just a few lines or more, scattered throughout the narrative so that the story moves.


            Every action in your book needs justification. However, that justification doesn’t need to be most of the book. This justification should be significant, make sense, and go with the story in the most efficient way possible.

            Happy writing!


January 18, 2023


            Recently, someone on the forums was talking about getting rid of fluff. This article which appeared first in 2018 and then again in 2020 talks about story length. This should have no effect on getting rid of fluff. If your story ends up not what you expected after necessary cuts, so be it. Don’t try to fluff it up all over again just to make some arbitrary word count. Either go with it or come up with some other compelling and productive reason to lengthen it (which seems a bit of looking at it the wrong way).

            There are some writing contests that demand a certain word count. Maybe as a challenge, do it juss cuzz. However, when it comes down to it, the story should be whatever length it ends up being after cutting the fluff.

            Without further adieu, here’s the article again.


Quite often, word count comes up on the Facebook forums. I last wrote about it in 2018 with this article, Word Count. Back in 2020, I finished the first draft of my third Meleena book, Across The Endless Sea. Now I figured would be a good time to resurrect the subject.

I was recently (and yes, even 2023 recently) asked a question about word count. I get that quite often. There are “rules” of word counts floating around out there. 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.” Aaaargh!

            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 where 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. The object you’re trying to look for has a magnitude of such and such, which is well within range of your telescope. 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 contradicted 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 wide ranging numbers over the decades and these statistics are highly flexible. They’re 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 (or how many are left nowadays). There are, of course, first-time author exceptions from indie publishers, but don’t go by them, either. Read on…

            On the other hand, if you’re going the self-publishing route, all bets are off. Then again, don’t expect to see your book on the shelf in the bookstore, 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. When they get to the first page and see what you accomplished, or didn’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 convey 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 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.

            Like I said at the beginning of this essay, I just finished the first draft of Across The Endless Sea. Right now, it sits at 135,418 words. Since this not the first book with my publisher, as an established series (the third in my fantasy series), I’m within the ballpark already. However, I know it’s got some bloat. After all, it’s a first draft. There are things I can probably cut that won’t affect the story. Maybe not. Maybe I can correct a few commas and it will be perfect. Yeah, sure! I’ve been at this passion way too long to believe that.

            What I do know is I don’t need to add a bunch to it. I’m set on that front.

            Happy writing!


January 11, 2023

            I’ve alluded to this issue many times here at Fred Central. What’s the difference between a bad/mediocre book or a great one? A very good indication is how long it takes to read it.

            I’m not talking about slow readers, but fast readers who get bogged down in endless narrative, super long chapters, awkward phrasing, tedious plots.


            Not just looking at my own reading, my wife is a good indicator. She reads fantasy almost exclusively. Along with her are several friends who are readers and not writers. This is what I get.

            “I didn’t think I’d ever get to the end of that chapter.”

            “I didn’t think I’d ever get to the end.”

            “He/she keeps repeating the same plot thing over and over again.”

            “The ending sucked.”

            “The author writes these weird and awkward sentences.”

            “There’s almost no punctuation.”

            “The names are indecipherable.”

            Folks, I hear this stuff all the time. Many of the books are popular but I guess it takes a certain crowd to get through them intact.

            Then on the opposite side, I’ve seen plenty of reviews from people like this:

            “The thinly veiled characters…”

            “The author never fleshed out the characters.”

            “The basic plot didn’t warrant the story.”

            “I never knew the characters.”


            Back to my mantra of not punishing your reader, how can you come to a happy medium.

            Plots, for instance, are all the same. There’s a book or saying somewhere that there are only seven plots. No matter how you twist it, it comes down to one of those seven.

            I wonder why the critics are always griping about the simplistic plots???

            Fleshing out the characters can be done quick and dirty, or drawn out. You don’t really learn anything new, it just takes a lot longer to get there. Is that what they mean by fleshing out the character? More words?

            Super long or even no chapters or scenes makes for a real slog of a read. Over and over again I’ve said not to punish the reader. That means shorter and more succinct chapters and scenes. You can say the same thing in a more palatable form.

            Back to characters again, getting to know the character doesn’t take endless paragraphs of narrative and exposition, where a few simple words or phrases can do the same thing.

            Some people are never satisfied with the characterization, no matter how simple or elaborate you are. If they don’t like the characters in the first place…there you go.


            The average reader only has so much time to sit down and read as it is. Wouldn’t it be nice to get to the point and not waste their time?

            Okay, some readers have a literary bent when they invest in words as much as what you’re trying to say. For these few, investment in word count is important. Sure, you have to actually say something, but for a literary reader, it needs to be drawn out.

            In most cases, the reader doesn’t have time to stop and smell every rose, get excruciating details about the environment, the character’s endless internal thoughts.

            In most cases, the average reader wants you to get to the point so they can enjoy the overall story. This is becoming even more critical nowadays with TV and phones, video games and ADHD.

            It behooves you to get to the point.


            It all gets back to that phrase, “It took me forever to finish that book.”

            That should tell you something. For whatever reason, the reader didn’t like something about the book and it was a real slog.

            Don’t let your story turn into a slog for the reader.

            Happy writing!


January 4, 2023

            I last talked about this specifically in 2018. This morning, I had an inspiration to write a new article about experimenting with styles and discovered I already had! With over 500 articles in my arsenal, it’s hard to find something new. In any event, it’s been long enough in the past to revisit it again.

            It comes up quite often on forums and in discussions where writers like to experiment with styles. You’ve all probably heard the old mantra “write what you feel.”

            Let’s look at that loaded statement.


            I personally write what I feel, every day, every time I sit down to write. There’s an infamous Hemmingway quote where he agonizes over a single paragraph. I don’t, not even an entire chapter, which is what I usually write when I sit down to do a session. I don’t even agonize over an entire short story, which I also usually write in its entirety in one sitting.

            I just write it.


            Because I feel it.

            Others interpret that Hemmingway saying as meaning they feel different styles of writing. This is along with whatever it is they want to say.

            Not only do these writers have something to say, but they have certain barriers, lack of, or burdens thrust upon them where their writing (or lack of skill) is getting in the way of putting it all down. So, they feel like experimenting with styles to see how it all comes out.

            What’s the result?


            There are wildly varying styles of writing out there, partially because the author is experimenting with “what they feel,” what’s easy for them to write because it suits them, or because they’re too lazy to learn to write correctly.

There, I said it.

            What’s the result?

            The readers suffer.

            Some readers are more tolerant than others. If the story is really good, they can overlook bad or awkward writing, to a point, so they can enjoy a good story. Some suffer to get to the point. Others may finish this “experiment” and go on to another book from an author that’s learned his chops and breeze through it without the writing getting in the way. It’s like a breath of fresh air.

            Okay, you had your experiment. Maybe your book sold well, maybe it didn’t. Your legacy is now out there. Are you going to continue in that vein or are you going to wake up and try not to keep punishing your readers?


            I read a LOT. An average of a book a week. I find a startling difference between certain authors. I have favorites because they know how to write.

            I like to try new authors.

            What are the results?

            Once in a while, I discover a great new writer. Most often, they have a series which sells well. Sometimes they’re one-off.

            Quite often, I get real duds. Why?

            The writing sucks.

            The writer experimented and it didn’t work. Either they had no oversight, or their publisher took a chance and let the writing slip through. Most of the time, I never hear from these authors again, or if I do, I often see a different style with the next book. OR, their next book sells just as bad.


            It’s okay to experiment with a short story, to hone your chops and get a feel for how to write. However, when it comes to a full-length novel, people are investing time and money into your work. You’d better have your stuff together by then. You’d better be done with your experimenting around, your “feeling it,” and be ready to make the reading experience as easy and transparent as possible.

            You’d better be ready to make your writing not get in the way of the story!

            If you’re of the notion that it’s you’re writing, and if the audience doesn’t like it, well tough, get ready for a garage full of books. It’s hard enough even with great writing to get noticed.

            If the whole point is to dazzle readers with your writing skills and chops, nobody cares. They care about what you have to say, not what gymnastics you can do with point of view, grammar, punctuation, and tenses.


            Get the experimenting out of your system with writing exercises and short stories. Save your great novels for your best writing, for the writing that will hook the reader and keep them absorbed in the story, not stumbling over your writing gymnastics.

            Happy writing!


December 28, 2022

            When I originally posted this in 2018, I had good reason. Today, in late 2022, I continue to find this subject in books I read. The difference is that I’m now adding another thing that jars the reader. We’ll get to that in a moment.

            There are many ways to jar your reader.

            What do I mean by jarring your reader?

            First off, I think of the tired old joke I used to tell my grandson when we’d get into the car. Whenever someone opens a door, we’d get a warning on the dashboard Door Ajar. So, I’d tell him the door has turned into a jar. When the door closes, I’d tell him the door turned back into a door again. Hey, it’s a grandpa thing.

            Now, back to the gist of this. Jarring the reader is when you jerk them out of the story. In other words, you have them absorbed into your world. Then, you perform some blunder and it spoils the mood. In other words, it jars them out of your world and has them scratching their head with the internal thought: “What’s that?”

            Whether it’s a minor or major blunder depends on your literary outlook.

            I get accused of it occasionally when I read at my writers’ group.


            Let’s look at how one can jar the reader. I’ll start with what inspired me to write this article. As often happens, it was prompted by a book I’d just read. Since the original article came out, I’ve read plenty more to add to my arsenal of proof as I see it.


            There are many ways to jar the reader out of the story. A biggie is, of course, bad writing.

            Anything that takes the reader out of the story could be considered bad writing, yet let’s talk strictly about the writing itself, and not other factors.

            A big example, which I found in the latest book I read was my favorite pet peeve, point of view.

            I just read a book that had no point of view at all. It wasn’t even omniscient. It was a complete free-for-all. What jarred me out of the story was that the writer shifted points of view from one sentence to the next. In other words, one character said something and then in the next sentence within the same paragraph, another character said something, with no differentiation between the two characters.

            Folks, THAT made me stop reading. I had to re-read the two-sentence paragraph two…maybe three times and try and figure out what was going on. After several reads, I finally figured out through implied speech that the second sentence was a different character!

            Next, from the same book, the writer shifted scenes without scene breaks. Even though there were scene breaks within the very long chapters, he only randomly used them. Instead, he quite often just shifted scenes at random with no transition. I was reading along and bam! New scene, with no rhyme or reason.

            The POV and the abrupt scene changes jerked me out of the story so many times, it ruined the immersion and flow. Each time, it took a while to get back into the story and I never really recovered because it happened again a few pages later.

            That’s an example of bad writing jarring the reader out of a story.


            Say, you’re talking about guns in a thriller or mystery. The character puts a silencer on a revolver.

            Ding ding ding ding!

            Anyone with gun knowledge is going to scream fowl. This technical error is going to jar them right out of the story. While things might have been humming right along until that point, an obvious error like that is going to spoil things.

            Same thing for an error like location, time, language, whatever. Anyone with basic knowledge of these things is going to be jarred out of the story.

            You need to do your research! Poor research will jar the reader and spoil the illusion.


            I’m currently reading a fantasy to the group. In this case, it’s my world, so I can pretty much build it any way I want. At the same time, I not only have to play by my own established rules, but there are still borders I can’t cross, things I just can’t do.

            When I throw in some term or phrase that doesn’t fit, it jars the reader out of the world. My writer’s group is pretty good about calling bull when I toss in something that is just too much of a stretch. It’s purely unintentional most of the time, but once in a while, it’s deliberate. When it’s deliberate, I have to justify it. If I can’t see a good reason for it, I have to change it.

            If it doesn’t fit, it jars the reader out of the story. It spoils the mood.


            This is a huge issue for me and I see it a lot. While some may call it stylistic, I call it jarring and unreadable.

            What I mean is when the author starts with one style and switches in the middle (or anywhere else) in the story. As many of you know, I only read third-person, past-tense. I try to be careful to screen the book in the bookstore before I buy. However, some authors like to switch POV styles, tenses, or even formatting in the story. This jerks me right out of it. It’s great if I can catch it in the bookstore by leafing through the pages and looking for changes. Online, it’s impossible as (for instance) the look inside feature on Amazon only gives a few sample pages

            This change of POV is meant to emphasize something different, like a flashback, or a dream or whatever. To me, this interrupts the flow of the story, and doesn’t emphasize anything leading me to skip it. While I may miss key info, I don’t care. Often, I can’t even tell the difference except skipping these sections just makes the story shorter.

            This applies no matter what style you start out in. I’ve read a few first-person novels that were tolerable because of the writing…right until the author switched to third, or present tense, or poetry…of all things.

            I’ve read where an author started with a great action scene, then bogged down in backstory and characterization for way too long before jumping back into action scenes.

            What I’m talking about is consistency, not jumping styles so the reader (or the author) doesn’t get bored. That’s jarring.


            Your story is creating a world and drawing the reader into that world. When you flub something, it jars the reader and jerks them out of the illusion. It’s critical you eliminate these points, so you don’t spoil that illusion of reality for your reader.

            Happy writing!


December 21, 2022

            I originally posted this article in 2015. Much of it still applies today though when it comes to the numbers I stated back then, don’t even ask what they are today. I’ll elaborate and add things along the way.

            I’m not a complete luddite. I’ve been on Yahoo Groups (now pretty much defunct) since they first appeared on the net, done users groups when many had never heard of them and joined Myspace, another platform that’s gone bye bye. Anyone remember that? Today, I’m still a regular participant on Facebook. It’s not like I’m inactive on social media. However, sometimes it gets a bit overwhelming. Case in point, Twitter.


            I resisted Twitter for a long time because I just didn’t like the idea of talking in incomplete sentences and abbreviations. However, after attending the social media sessions at the 2015 Las Vegas Writer’s Conference, I realized it would do me good to take the plunge. Still, I resisted all the way from April until June of that year before I joined. When I did, not only did it open up a new world of opportunity, it opened up a world of overwhelming numbers.


            I followed and followed, but as a double-edged sword, a lot of people have followed me. As a result, I now get an overwhelming number of messages every hour, not just daily, and sometimes by the minute.

            When I originally wrote this article on a Saturday night in 2015, I followed 500+ people and had 300+ followers. A few days later on Tuesday, as I did a final edit, I had followed 759 people and had 396 followers. Some I’ve blocked, the usual porn girls wanting a good time, a few with foreign writing that looked suspicious, or those that simply annoyed me (politics), while others are right what I’m looking for.

            The thing is, at that point, I was a little lost on what to do with all the info. Geez, I’d only been on less than a month!

Today I have no idea what the numbers are as I barely use the platform.


            I started small, thanking the one or two people who followed me by tweeting them back. However, when I started getting them in the tens and hundreds, what to do?

            Others sent me thanks for following, but how would you do it en-masse?

            Several, maybe more than several have re-tweeted several of my tweets. I find that a great honor, but how do I return the favor? I even asked them but never received an answer message (or tweet) back. I’d accidentally stumbled across the retweet, like, follow and a few more buttons at the bottom of most of the tweets. Some don’t have those buttons. I never noticed them before. Maybe that’s why that one person never replied. “Hey, dumbass, look at the bottom of your screen.” Well, the message this person sent didn’t have those buttons, or options, or whatever you want to call them at the bottom of the message bubble.

            Even though I’m a little less ignorant than I was back then, today I feel very awkward, and don’t want to alienate my budding audience. Therefore since 2015 I’ve gradually lost interest in the platform. Now, with all the political controversy and censorship or lack of it, I just don’t want to add the grief anymore. Now, I post a tweet for my weekly articles and that’s about it. I don’t even check the stats anymore.


            At the time of this original article, I’d made around sixty-three tweets. Most had to do with my articles, or something to do with my writing. A few were just random things I felt like saying. I’ve been told by others either at the conference or just in general talk that you should tweet every day. If possible, store up a series of tweets so you can drop one every day so people don’t forget about you. Oh yeah? At that point, since I’d just started out, I had a hard time seeing that as an issue since with my small footprint, I couldn’t tell who most of my followers really were (or if they really paid any attention) and who I’d followed, let alone who knows about me. When I got over 2,500 tweets with only 759 follows 396 followees, how am I supposed to sift through that?

            Okay, since I wrote that paragraph, I’d been paying attention to the top of the pile, my direct messages and notifications. I was getting direct feedback amongst all the thank you for following me’s. Anytime I participated in a discussion, I’d get feedback. Someone was paying attention.

            Folks, it wasn’t all bad. Just took some getting used to. I needed to filter through all the flack. I can relate to everyone else having to do the same thing.

            One other note, I took Joan Stewart’s advice and make heavy use of hash tags (#) in my tweets. If you use Twitter, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

            Like I alluded to before, I am not a big participant anymore. It was just too much work.


            I’ve not even talked about the other social media sites line Pinterest (which I haven’t used in years) and the ones I can’t remember. I have had an invite to join Pinterest at one time, but never got around to doing much except posting a bunch of photos which is incomplete at this point, since my last entry in 2017. I’ve had others tell me it isn’t all that great for publicity anyway. As for the others, outside of Facebook, since I can’t even remember their names except Instagram and Tik Tok, well…

            Happy writing!