Rules – Rules- Rules

The sun is slowly rising over Central Pennsylvania while the cover of night quietly fades. Another hot and humid day is on the way. But that’s okay. I hear people say, “It’s too hot.” I hear the same people on a winter’s day say, “It’s too cold.” Some folks always have something to complain about. All the complaining in the world won’t change most of what we complain about. As I said many times before, you only get one shot at this thing called life. Make it count. With that in mind, let’s get to it.

Life is filled with rules. Most of us don’t like rules. But in reality, most rules are set in place for our good, and the writing world is no exception. It’s probably safe to say in fiction writing you can get away with breaking rules. But even at that, we need to keep grammar rules in place. Let me give you seven things to think about and apply as you write.

  1. A lot, alot, or allot? “A lot” can be an adverb or a pronoun. “Allot” is a verb. “Alot” is usually a misspelling of “a lot” and there is no such word.
  2. All right or alright?. “All right” is used to replace the word “okay.” The word “alright” doesn’t exist. You can use it, but it has no meaning.
  3. Is it E-mail or email? Both the AP and Chicago style guides agree. Drop the hyphen. It’s definitely “email.”
  4. Ensure or insure? “Insure” refers to financial insurance policies and “ensure” means to make certain.
  5. Raise or rise.? Both mean the same thing, but a subject “raises” an object while something that “rises” does it on its own. 
  6. Let alone or leave alone? “Leave alone” means to leave a person alone by himself. On the other hand, “let alone” means to quit annoying a person.
  7. Might or may?. “May” and “might” mean the same thing, but “may” hints you’re more likely to do it, while “might” signals you’re less likely to follow through.

Okay (or is OK or O.K.? – all three are correct), that does it for this week. Have a great week and stay COVID Free.

WFK

Two Favorites

Welcome to Wednesday and July 1st. This July 4th we’ll be celebrating 244 years of freedom. It breaks my heart to see how much freedom we’ve given away – or have we allowed it to be taken from us? Socialism is so close. The Illuminati are just a step away from fulfilling its goal of a worldwide takeover.

Please do your research as to what is really happening behind the scenes, especially in troubled America. There is so much more than meets the eye. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me. I’ll be glad to fill you in, but you owe it to yourself to know the facts.

I’ll get off my soapbox. Let’s get on to writing and my two favorites.

No, I’m not talking about hamburgers or even chicken nuggets. I’m talking about my two favorite editing tools. And no, I’m not being paid to promote these. They just work well for me, and maybe they’d work well for you, too.

The first one is ProWritingAid. There is a free version and a paid version at a reasonable price. PWA claims to be a grammar checker, style editor, and writing mentor in one package. And it is.

The free version lets you run reports on style and grammar issues. If you’re willing to spend some cash on an outstanding editor, PWA is running a 25% off sale, but you must act fast. The sale ends at midnight, July 2.

The paid plan offers many upgrades including a thesaurus, a check for repeats, cliches, structure, sticky sentences, and a lot more. One of my students is using it and with wonderful success. I recommend it to you, as well. You can check it out at ProWritingAid.com.

I would also recommend FreeWriter (www.freewritersoftware.com). FreeWriter says of itself, “FreeWriter is a fully featured writing software suite to assist in writing novels and reports. It provides a fresh, new, graphical approach to writing. It includes our revolutionary ‘Thoughts Canvas’ technology to harness your creativity – helping deliver clear, consistent, quality writing.” It fulfills its promise.

And as the name suggests, it’s free. There is also a paid option. Although you can use FreeWriter for any kind of writing, it is especially helpful for writing novels and other fiction.

It is not an editor, but for organization, it can’t be beat. The “Thoughts Canvas” allows you to plan your scenes in minimal outline form using index cards. You can pin ideas using sticky notes to the bulletin board for future use. You can check your word count per chapter using the pie graph and track your overall productivity. There is a section for developing characters and scenes using the “Elements” section. It’s similar to Scrivener, but it’s free. That’s a big plus.

Take a look at these two and let me know what you think. That’s enough for today – and have a happy 4th. See you next Wednesday!

WFK

It’s a Beautiful Day to Follow Through

Happy Wednesday to you all! Central Pennsylvania is filled with sunshine – and humidity. But that’s okay. It’s summer! It’s time for beaches, cookouts, hiking, and all those other fun things. That is, if that nasty virus doesn’t interfere. Life as we knew it will never be life as we know it again. I’m not pessimistic. I’m realistic.

Part of reality also is this is a busy week. So I don’t have a lot of time or a lot to say. I guess the two go together well. I do want to check in and just say, “Keep at it.” Whether it’s writing or anything else, whatever you find to do, do it with everything that is in you. Don’t quit. Don’t allow discouragement to define your day. Don’t give in to the temptation to put off those things that must be done today. Be active and productive.

Okay, friends. That’s it for this week. If you have any topics you’d like to discuss, just drop me a suggestion in the comments section, and we’ll see where it leads. Until next week . . .

WFK

Business as Unusual

These are unusual times we’re living in. Our collective heads are spinning trying to figure out what’s going on, how to make the best of the new normal, which isn’t normal at all. Still, we adjust. We push through. And we’re here are on the other side, at least for now. Come October, we’ll likely be back in it. Yes, unusual times for sure, but the unusual business of writing continues.

When someone asks you, what business are you in, how do you answer? Do you default to your day job – or do you proudly tell them you are a writer? It seems to many people, being a self-published author isn’t an actual business. Then what is it? 

For some, writing is their day job. For many, it is a hobby, and what a wonderful hobby it is! Still, there are many who write part time. If you see writing as your day job, or you write part time, it a business. I wonder – do you see it that way? Do you approach your writing as a business?

Have you noticed it is hard to sell books these days? Books are not a necessity. There are so many other avenues to claim our hard-earned money. Food and housing must come first. Gas prices are rising again. Insurance premiums climb higher. An author must compete with these – and there are the other authors, the competition. If your goal is to sell books, then you have a business complete with competition, expenditures, oh, and tax reporting.

Let me share some quick thoughts about the business. If you consider writing a business, maybe you need to write – a business plan.

C. S. Lakin says, “Not using a strategic plan is akin to wandering lost in a desert with only a quart of water and a bad sense of direction.” She then lists four key areas to tackle in setting up your business plan. I’ll list them for you here:
1. Vision – where do you see  yourself one year, two years, five years from now?
2. Strategy – how are you going to get from here to one year from now?
3. Tactics – the actual methods you will use to get from point zero to the future. This will include self-imposed deadlines.
4. Action – it should go without saying that if you go through the planning and do nothing, nothing will happen.

Working together all four points will give you a solid business plan that will get you to where you want to be. You build on these four key areas as they relate to your specific situation. Put it in writing and remind yourself often of your goals. Re-access where you’re at and change your plan accordingly from time to time.

That’s it for another seven days. Enjoy them.

WFK

A Taste of Freedom

After several months of lockdown (hmm! Isn’t that a term used in prisons to confine the prisoners?), we’re finally free to be out and about in PA. It’s a good feeling. Four walls get a little boring after a while. I hope you all are safe and healthy and continue to prosper.

The past few months have been hard for most of us, and my heart goes out to those who have suffered during this time. Some are left with deep battle scars. Some are left without a loved one. Still, God is good, and whether we realize it, He is still in control. He did not cause the virus. He is not to blame, but He is in control.

America was founded on the premise that all humankind is created equal and is entitled to enjoy the right of freedom. At the risk of sounding political, our rights slowly have been stolen away from us while we slept. That’s right – while we slept. We have given them away. At least in my mind, there’s no question our rights have been trampled by overzealous government, especially at the state level.

But is that the real problem? Maybe the real problem is we allowed ourselves to be trampled. Yes, there was and possibly is a real threat, but I believe it could be handled without taking the rights of the citizens. I may have a small platform, but I want to make a difference. We simply can not allow big government to rule us. We are still (or should be) a government by the people for the people. Be careful. I sense more trouble on the way. Oh well, it is what it is. Enough complaining for today.

Let’s get down to business. As writers, no doubt we have watched webinars on writing, taken courses on writing, collected a variety of notes, and we do our best with the gift we have been given. That’s all very good, but sometimes I find it confusing. So many different ideas. So many ways to do the same thing.

That being said, it’s all very good. We can learn much from the above. But I’ve been thinking (watch out!), what if we turned this site into an online writer’s club, a place where we could safely share and critique each other’s writing. A place where we can share ideas and develop our writing style. A place where encouragement abounds, but a place where love abounds. If we are to improve, sometimes love must be tough. We need to hear not just the good, but the bad and the ugly to truly develop. I believe writers know good writing when we see it, and I believe we know bad writing when we see it. Could it be that other writers know more than YouTube?

Anyway, just a thought. It may or may not be something to consider. I need your input so let me know what you think in the comments below. Until next Wednesday . . .

WFK

Scary Days

These can be scary days we live in if we don’t know where to find the answers. The times have changed forever the face of our world. The times, they are achangin’, but I’m grateful for the time we have to spend together each week. So let’s get to it.

 Often, we’re told that all  you need is a good story to succeed. So what makes a good story? Maybe vibrant characters will hold our reader’s interest. Or could it be we need an exciting plot? All this is true. What isn’t true is that that’s not all we need. 

This week we’ll take a look at description. Remember the last time  you couldn’t put  down a book. What kept the pages turning into the wee hours of the morning? No doubt the characters were well defined. No doubt the plot was intriguing. But what about description? It’s description that makes characters come alive (of course, great dialogue always helps). It’s description that creates a believable and drivable plot.

The key to holding your reader’s attention is to activate their imagination. How do you do this? Vivid description. You can help your readers see past the pages and take them into your world by using powerful descriptions of nouns, in particular. Think people, places, and things. Let’s add events to the list.

Detailed description allows you to establish an emotional connection with your audience, thus making the content more memorable, which keeps your readers engaged and coming back. 

I leave you with three thoughts on description. Hopefully, these will make your writing more compelling and clear.

1. Focus on the human experience. Realize that you are one human writing to another human. What do you experience in your human form? The one on the other side of the book experiences the same things. Make your description identifiable. Just like you, they go through challenges, moments of joy and pain, times of frustration. Let these show in  your writing.

2. Use sensory words. This is one of the best ways to help your reader understand the scene you set before them. You have five senses. Your reader has five senses. Use them all. Don’t just allow them to understand the scene. Allow them to experience it. Below are some examples of sensory words.

Sight: Dark, dingy, gloomy, bright, dazzling, shimmering, twinkling
Touch: Smooth, scratchy, frigid, scalding, fuzzy, rocky, slick
Sound: Screeching, buzzing, chirping, clinking, growling, jangling,
thumping
Taste: Bitter, sweet, buttery, zesty, spicy, tart, crispy
Smell: Musty, foul, floral, piney, smokey, acrid

3. Include anecdotes, similes, and metaphors. Especially when writing nonfiction, anecdotes are helpful. An anecdote is just a short narrative about a real incident that helps to drive home your point. In the world of preaching, we call them illustrations.

A simile is a comparison of two things using the words “like” or “as.” For example, “The rain flooded the streets like an ocean.” A metaphor is like a simile but without the use of “like” or “as”.  We could say, “The sound of the rain was music to my ears.” We compare the flooded streets to an ocean. We compare the sound of rain to music.

It may make things a little more difficult, but I believe developing description will be time well spent. 

That concludes another Wednesday. I hope yours is as great as I’m planning mine to be. See you next week.

WFK

The Third Dimension

Life goes on. One foot in front of the other – or so they say. But sometimes it doesn’t seem that way. Sometimes life throws us off-balance. We struggle, regain our composure and move on. Is that the life of a writer or what? So many things cause us to lose our focus, but we regain our composure and move on. At least, I hope we do. 

This week, let’s look at developing 3D characters. 

The first dimension is what we see on the outside. It’s the quirks and habits, the idiosyncrasies. This may or may not be who your character really is. Without a second and third dimension, it’s hard to tell.

The second dimension is where we see what’s on the inside. Make use of backstory here. Let us know why your protagonist and other characters act and react the way they do. What is it in their past that brings out the present in them? Think dreams that never happen. Think childhood fears playing out in adult life. Don’t be afraid to let your characters act out of character from time to time. No one in actual life is true to themselves 100% of the time.

The third dimension brings the stage to life. Let your actors surprise your reader. Have your strong man crumble. Have your weak man rise to the occasion.

It’s within humanity to search for a higher purpose. Give them one. We all have a destiny, so let your protagonist reach for hers. Give her a different path to follow than might be expected. Let it be known she was created for such a time as this. Maybe this unfamiliar path works. Maybe it doesn’t, but it does give an added dimension. 

Allow his inner feelings to show on the outside, to be expressed physically. What does a new haircut tell us about how an individual is feeling? How about a character that has worn the same clothes for a week? There is a difference in appearance, and likely there is a difference in how they feel on the inside. Just an example of showing, not telling. Trust your reader to figure it out.

Another way to deepen the third dimension is to use conflicting emotions. It may be the wife knows she’s not truly loved by her husband and needs to walk out, but deep inside she loves her husband. She is torn by the decision she must make. Or perhaps she feels she needs to stay for the kid’s sake. Either way, she’s reached a point of conflict in her emotions. Everyday people reach this point repeatedly. Make her an everyday person.

Use real-life emotions. Could it be that what your character is showing on the outside really isn’t what he is feeling? There are many reasons your main man might not reveal himself to the world, but inwardly his emotion is heavy. His outward appearance may be a smoke screen for something deeper. Then again, he may be very open with his feelings. We all have emotions, and we can identify with a character that has powerful emotions. It’s called empathy, and that’s exactly what you want to create in your reader. 

Let me summarize for you. You need to show your character with all three dimensions. People are emotional beings with conflict that includes all three dimensions. They are the sum of all their parts. This is what you want your reader to grasp. We’re filled with dreams and hope for a future, but we’re also filled with shameful secrets and self-doubts. Bring it all out in your key character and you have done your job.

Well, that should do it until next week. See  you then!

WFK

Sidestepping the Issue

Another week has passed. Time obviously doesn’t wait for anybody. I’ve always been interested in time travel – the ability literally to revisit the past or to take a peek into the future. Theoretically, it can be done, but that’s where it ends. Really, we’re all time travellers. We travel one moment at a time through time. We travel through hours, days, and years. That being said, let’s get to it.

We all know the writing cliche show, don’t tell. One of the best ways I know to show is to use dialogue. But just as we have a tendency to tell too much, we may also have a tendency to allow our character to say too much. Sometimes less is better. Sometimes allowing our character to sidestep an issue is good.

Think about the following conversation between Jim and Tom. Tom has done something stupid and hurtful to Jim. You want to paint Tom as cold and uncaring. It may be to your advantage to allow silence to speak. Let me show you what I mean.

Tom’s actions caused Jim to be visibly upset. “I can’t believe you did that! I can’t believe it! Why, Tom? Why?”

Tom said, “Just let me alone I don’t have to answer you.” Not looking up, he flipped another page in the magazine.

Jim repeated, “Why did you do it? Tell me.”

By this time Tom had enough. “If  you say one more word . . . “ He stood and gazed out the window.

“I hate you for what you’ve done!”

“You’re a jerk, Jim. A real jerk.” Tom turned and walked away. 

Now, let’s remove Tom’s dialogue. Let the silence speak

Tom’s actions caused Jim to be visibly upset. “I can’t believe you did that! I can’t believe it! Why, Tom? Why?”

 Not looking up, he flipped another page in the magazine.

Jim repeated, “Why did you do it? Tell me.”

He stood and gazed out the window.

“I hate you for what you have done.”

Tom turned and walked away.

Experiment with it. Have fun with it. Try it both ways. See what works best. 

Well, time has gone for this week. Imagine that! Let me know what you think in the comments below and I’ll see you later.

WFK

Writing from the Heart

There can be no doubt good writing includes proper grammar and punctuation, the mechanics. A thought leading somewhere is also a must. You can use all the right grammar. Spell-check it three times. Use your styler. But it’s all useless if you don’t write from your heart.

So today I’m writing from my heart. A few weeks ago, I said I was done with COVID-19. But today I’m writing from the heart and I must mention it again. People are so focused on the disease they miss what’s happening behind the scenes. Before I go any further, let me say I’m sympathetic to those who have suffered from the disease and to families who have lost a loved one due to the pandemic. 

I know some of you may disagree, but the fact is COVID-19 is media-driven for the purpose of causing fear and panic. What’s behind the fear and panic? The New World Order. The NWO is that which is prophesied in the book of Revelation. It will be a one-world government headed by the antichrist.

This is not a fairy tale, and we are living in the midst of it. Just when the takeover will be,  no one can say. This may or may not lead directly into the time the Bible calls The Tribulation. It may linger for several years, but it also may begin tomorrow. Either way, the stage is being set. As far as the prophetic element of our times, I will leave a link here for you to check out.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVK_RlyVfr0&feature=youtu.be
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IP6SB3QiANs&feature=youtu.be

I have heard the lie, America is not equipped to handle the COVID-19. It is unprecedented in scope and power. Am I to believe this pandemic is the worst America has ever suffered? 

What about the influenza pandemic of 1918?  They estimate that about 500 million people or one-third of the world’s population became infected with this virus. It is estimated the number of deaths to be at least 50 million worldwide with about 675,000 occurring in the United States. 

We have the Asian flu of 1957. The estimated number of deaths was 1.1 million worldwide and 116,000 in the United States. Still, we have the N3H2 virus of 1968. The estimated number of deaths was 1 million worldwide and about 100,000 in the United States. The number of deaths caused by pneumonia is over 57,000/year. 

Enough ranting for today. So what does all that have to do with writing? Nothing except that I’m writing from my heart. I’m not big on conspiracy theories, but people are being blinded by a cover-up that falls under the category of fulfilled Bible prophecy. You need to know. Call me crazy, but that’s my heart.

Name Calling

My goodness. April 22 and there’s snow on the ground. I love snow in the winter, but right about now I’m ready for a robin or two, trees budding and a sunny, warm day with a gentle breeze floating off the mountains. Maybe next week. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy the white stuff.

What is your process for naming your characters? Names have meaning. Names in themselves tell a story. So I ask you again. What is your process for naming your characters? Here are some things to think about.

  1. Be careful of using too many names in the same story that begin with the same letter or sound similar. Think Tom and Tim or Jim and Jon. It can be confusing to your readers and that’s exactly what you don’t want. Maybe it would better to name them Tom, Peter, Scott and Hoss. You get the idea.

    You really don’t want to have two characters with the same first name and a different last name. I confess. In my book, The Voice, there are two characters – Dr. Barton and Alex Barto. Even though separated in the story by more than 100 pages, the only difference in the last names is an “n”. Too confusing.

2. Consider the time period. Different names have been popular at different times. If you’re writing a story set in the 1800s, you probably don’t want to use names like Paisley or Nova, Masen or Marshall. On the other hand, if your setting is in the present or recent past, these may be the perfect names. Only you can decide. 1800s – try Alice or Henry.

The Social Security Administration has a helpful website. You can look up the most popular names used for a given time period. Just select the decade and click or tap Go. Here’s the link – https://www.ssa.gov/oact/babynames/decades

Well, it looks like we’re done for another week. Enjoy your time until we meet again next Wednesday!

WFK