Em Dashes, and En Dashes and Hyphens – Oh My!

Weather Report: Well in to the 90s. Humidity, the same. Such a change from last Wednesday when the temperature was 48 degrees. I can’t control the weather, so I live with crazy Central PA changes. We don’t have lions, and tigers, and bears this week, but we do have en dashes, em dashes, and hyphens. They can be just dangerous and frightening. Let’s make the trip together.


  • Indicates breaks within words that wrap at the end of a line
  • Connects compounded words like “mass-produced”
  • Connects grouped numbers, like a phone number 555-860-5086
  • The hyphen does not indicate a range of numbers.

En dash

  • Joins numbers in a range, such as “1993–99” or “1200–1400 B.C.” or “pages 32–37” or open-ended ranges, like “1934–”
  • Joins words that describe a range, like “July–October 2010”

Em dash

  • Supposedly works better than commas to set apart a unique idea from the main clause of a sentence. I’m not sure.
  • Shows when dialogue has been interrupted:

The em dash? I never use it, I’m improper. I only use the en dash. I always skip a space between the last word and the en dash and skip a space before the next word – if you know what I mean. No, that’s not the way it is supposed to be done, but then again, who cares? See you next week!


Thinking About Foreshadowing

Let’s look at foreshadowing this week. Foreshadowing is when an author gives a warning of a future event. The purpose is to build suspense, and there are some things to consider in using it properly. You will need to decide how it fits your story best.

Use it subtly. Foreshadowing may be something in the fabric of your writing that is noticeable but not glaring. The reader must notice it. Otherwise, it has no purpose. At the end of the novel, do you want your reader to look back and think, “Oohhhhh! I get it now!” Well, then be subtle.

Use it boldly. Without dwelling on it, make your point obvious. Let the reader know there is a reason for it and build enough curiosity to keep your audience turning pages. But please – don’t overdo it.

Make it relevant. Not every plot-point needs foreshadowing. Too much foreshadowing can cause your writing to appear silly, or worse yet, melodramatic. Use it sparingly, and make sure there is the payoff, that point where the foreshadowing is recognized.

Done well, foreshadowing will excite your reader. It will make him want to know how the pieces connect. It will prepare her for when the foreshadowing pays off.

Add it later. So you finished your rough draft and you’re revising. You can always add a touch of foreshadow after the fact. You can always remove foreshadowing, too. Just remember, if it serves no purpose, ditch it, and be sure not to overdo it.

Next Wednesday will be here before we know it. See you then!!!


With Saddened Heart

“And as it is appointed unto men once to die,, but after this the judgment: ” – Hebrews 9:27

You may have noticed there was no update this past Wednesday. I apologize for getting to it late, but my wife’s brother passed away unexpectedly Wednesday morning. An Air Force veteran of 30+ years, in what I would call perfect health, slipped away as a vapor into eternity. We will never see him again. There will be no more phone calls. No more impromptu visits.

It is appointed unto men once to die. My short challenge to you this week is to make every minute count. One day we will all follow him to the grave – to return to the dust from which we were taken; to stand before our Creator; to give an account of the lives we lived on earth. God will not be concerned with our works at that time. His only question will be, “Have you followed my Son, Jesus Christ?”

It’s been a long couple of days, so I’ll not preach (although I could). I will simply ask you, have you found peace in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? Every single human being will die at some time. You don’t know when. Are you ready? Every single human being will stand before the God of the Universe. Are you ready? If I can be of help in any way, please reach back. I’m reaching out to you concerning the most important decision you will ever make.

We’ll do our best to get back to writing next week. Until then . . .


The Hardest Thing About Writing; Self-Editing

Welcome to another manic Wednesday! It’s great to have you with us on this humid Pennsylvania morning. Hopefully, one of those Central Pennsylvania thunder storms will roll in soon and cool things off.

One of the hardest things for me to do is to edit my writing. I can catch mistakes in other’s pieces, but I miss too much when I’m checking my own – not sure why. Jerry Jenkins, notable Christian author, lists several facts to be considered when checking your own story. Where can you improve?

Have you:
Maintained a single Point of View per scene.

Avoided clichés—not just words and phrases, but
also situations.

Resisted the urge to explain, showing rather than
telling. For example, not, “It’s cold,” which is
merely flat, telling narrative, but rather, “She
shivered,” which is descriptive language, showing
a character in action, letting the reader experience
the story and deduce what is going on without
being told.

Primarily used said to attribute dialogue, rather than
any other option.

Included specifics to add the ring of truth.

Avoided similar character names or even the same
first initials to keep characters distinct. o Avoided
specialized punctuation, typestyles, font sizes, ALL
CAPS, italics, bold facing, etc.

I have to admit, I never thought about some of these. Maybe you haven’t either. Maybe it’s time. Anyway, ponder this until we meet again. See you next week!


How Many Times Have You Heard, Show Don’t Tell?

Happy late Memorial Day to everyone. I hope you all had a wonderful time of relaxation with family and friends – or just a time to kick back and lessen the pressure and stress that so easily creeps up on us. Now, are you ready to dig in for the rest of the summer?

Let’s revisit the first rule of writing. Show, don’t tell. We know what we’re supposed to do, but do we – at least with consistency? Let me give you five ways you might be telling when you could be showing.

  1. Giving too much information at one time may cause telling, especially relating to backstory. Rather than dump the whole thing on us at one time. Spread the information throughout the story. Try to not use more than three sentences at a time. Dialogue can be effective in revealing information pertinent to your piece.
  2. Don’t get into the habit of always using words to express your character. Sometimes, things are better off left unsaid. Let the action make the statement.
  3. Writing is about sharing your character intimately with your reader. There needs to be an emotional connection. When emotion is lacking, it may be because you’re telling too much. Back off and show it. A beta reader might be helpful. It’s hard for us, as authors, to know how our material affects an outsider. We’re too close to the story to see straight at times.
  4. Could it be your scenes are too short? If every scene feels like an introduction or summary, then you may have a telling problem. Telling takes fewer words, and it leaves scenes feeling like they end before they even begin. It’s like telling a friend the plot of a scary movie versus making them see it themselves. You can tell a story in a minute, but the movie takes at least an hour.
  5. A story is like a puzzle. It comprises various pieces the reader needs to put together. If there are no puzzle pieces for the reader to apply, you’ve probably told too much. Don’t spoon-feed your readers. They want to do the work, investigate for themselves, and discover the secrets within. Showing allows them to do this. Telling takes the work – and the fun out of it. No doubt you’ll lose your reader.

Well, there you have it! Stay safe and healthy until next time.


The Perfect Setup

Weather Report – Beautiful. Beautiful. Beautiful. Finally, we get a break in the weather in Central PA. Great temps in the 70s, a mild breeze and clear, blue skies with sunshine everywhere. This is perfect for me. Sunshine? Think about the quote below.

Now, on to business. For writing, what is your ideal setup? Well, we all know (at least we’re told) we need a comfortable place with good lighting, etc., but how do you personalize that? Sometimes you have to make the best of an imperfect situation.

Because of circumstances beyond my control, I’m writing this in cramped quarters – anything but ideal. I’m working off of a small corner desk, maybe four feet long and two feet wide. My laptop is out of commission at the moment. Hopefully, I will have it fixed soon. Anyway, I have spread across this tiny desk a desktop computer (and believe me it takes up space on the entire desktop). Of course, that desktop needs to be shared with a full-size printer. Wires and cords are everywhere!

Maybe I have a laptop after all. Since there’s no room on the desk, I have to balance the keyboard on my lap. It just doesn’t cut it. Every time I hit a key, it shifts. Words per minute? Probably about ten!

So what would be the perfect setup for me? I dream of an L-shaped desk. Maybe even a U-shaped desk where I’m surrounded with usable surfaces. A place where the lighting is dispersed evenly over the entire workspace, without shadows here and there.

Let’s get rid of the cords. Give me a desk where the cords can safely be tucked behind the desk, out of the way and out of sight. Give me a laptop that actually works. Towers aren’t my thing.

Okay, so my setup isn’t exactly perfect, but it works. That’s all I need. So tell me, what’s your ideal setup? That’ all for now. I’m going to go enjoy some sunshine. See you next week.


It Seems Everyone is Offering Deals

First, the weather report – With the world in mass disarray, even the weather is confused. It is unseasonably cold in PA today. Overcast with frost warnings through tomorrow. This is May, not November. Oh, well.

This is a good day to write. I’m contemplating Black’s next move. You can read the rough draft so far by going to https://letterpile.com/serializations/Black-Part-1. There is still much to take place before the story ends, so get caught up now.

It seems everyone is offering deals of one sort or another. I guess maybe it’s Memorial Day – maybe. Any way, here’s mine. Go to the Books and Resource page and pick out any three books. Total cost with free shipping – $15.00. That’s the price you’d pay for one copy of The Voice, my friend!

But here’s the trick. The Books and Resources page can’t be set up for that kind of special, so that means some extra work for you. To earn your special deal, you’ll have to send me your request to mveryownwritingcoach@gmail.com. I’ll get your books in the mail along with your discounted bill. You don’t even have to pay for them first. That’s my deal, Memorial Day or not.

By the way, Hang in there. Spring will be coming soon – I think!

Until next week,


Back in the Saddle

It’s a little chilly in Central PA today, After a week of 60 degree weather, we’re back in the 40s. That’s okay. Warmer days are coming. I know it’s been weeks since I’ve posted, but I’m back in the saddle. However, the horse isn’t out of the gate yet.

I’ve spent the last month fighting COVID. Nine days in the hospital and the quarantine time makes for a long, slow, yet necessary recovery. I’m feeling stronger every day. But I‘m still not where I need to be.

One thing I find frustrating is the brain fog that accompanied the virus. My memory is not as sharp and my creativity seems to have temporarily disappeared. I have stories and articles that are left undone. Hopefully, as my strength improves, so will the things I love.

So this is just an update to let you know I’m still here. My brain hurts too much to think – lol. I will be back to normal (whatever that is) soon and we’ll get some discussions going. Have a great week and stay COVID free. See you next week.


What Do You Do with Overstock?

March came in like a lion. Maybe that’s a good sign. She’ll be leaving like a lamb. Well, we’ll see. One thing is for sure. Each day is getting us closer to warmer weather and sunny skies. As a matter of fact, as I sit here typing away, I can’t keep my eyes off the cloudless, blue sky outside my window. Okay – enough of the weather report. Let’s move on.

Ellie sat at the dining room table staring out through the French doors as a gentle, September breeze filled the room. Autumn’s golden garb was just beginning to clothe the mountains in the distance. She wondered how life ever got so complicated. Her gaze shifted to the note in her left hand. It read in part -“Dear Ellie, . . . I never meant for this to happen. I don’t know how it all went wrong. I know I’ve caused you so much pain, and I can never make it right. Life has gotten to be too hard too fast. I’m leaving, and I won’t be back.”

Thus begins, Dear Ellie. Ellie Branson’s perfectly pieced life is forever changed by the kidnapping of her daughter. But it’s not what you think. The cost of fighting to find Carrie-Anne carries a tremendous price tag. The question is – will it be worth it?

Hey, guess what! I’m overstocked with Dear Ellie. So what do you do with overstock? I don’t know about you, but I give it away. I know. I know. That’s bad for business, but honestly, it’s not doing anybody any good sitting in storage. So here’s my offer to you. Send me your address through the Contact page, and I’ll send you a free copy of Dear Ellie. Don’t order it through the Books and Resources page as it will ring up as full price. That’s about as simple as it gets.

If you have old books you no longer use, whether it be overstock or just unwanted books, you may want to check out https://www.franklinmediabooks.com/overstock-books/. I just discovered it so I don’t know much about it, but it may be just what you’re looking for. On the other hand, it may not. I’m neither promoting or recommending it – just something I came across. Anyway. . .

Next week is just around the corner, so I’ll see you then!


Is It Ready Yet?

Is it ready yet? It’s happened to every serious writer. You start a novel or even a short story. You have a good idea, and maybe a great ending. But that’s all – and nothing else is coming to you. If you’re just starting your outline, that’s okay. But what if you’re 50 pages in? You’ve worked hours upon hours working on the next bestseller, and then . . .

Well, there’s nothing. What do you do? I can tell you this much. I will finish it If I’ve invested enough time to write 50 pages. I will not waste those hours.

Take a break – Don’t waste time agonizing over what you don’t have. I’ve found you can’t force storylines. Sometimes you just have to let them marinate. Take a walk. Watch TV (well, maybe not). Go shopping. Do whatever you have to do to get your mind off the story. That sounds counterproductive, but it may just surprise you when you get back to the keyboard.

Read – Maybe reading someone else’s material will kick-start your creative process. Reading another’s inspiring work might just lead you to your own inspiration – and your next chapter.

What if – After you’ve had a break and have refreshed your mind, try playing the “what if” game. What if this happened? What if that happened? What if he did this? What if she said that? What if they went here? What if they couldn’t go there? The possibilities are unlimited. Eventually, you’ll be able to break the ice and the story will flow again.

Hey, did I mention after a week of temperatures in the teens, it’s going to reach 52 degrees. Spring is getting closer – I think. See you next week.