Tag Archives: writers

Writing with Style 5: Writing Discomfort

While its easy enough to simply say a character feels uncomfortable, I find that showing the discomfort goes  a long way in making that discomfort feel real. First, it’s important to identify a “symptom” of the characters discomfort. This could be anything as long as its repeated throughout the event you are writing. It could be a look, sweat pouring from the character’s forehead, cottonmouth, or anything else your imagination can contrive. despair-513529__180The trick is repetition. In the excerpt below, you’ll see my approach to showing discomfort in a new coming of age novel I’m working on. Like everyone else who writes bildungsroman, I’m trying to write the next Catcher in the Rye. I’ve bolded the repeated “symptom” so you can easily see what I’m talking about. Check it out:


from Untitled

“Jordan!” she said with a gasp and her hand over her chest. “I double checked my calendar twice. I was so worried. I—I thought you must’ve been in an accident or—I didn’t know what to think—I—”

“It’s fine, Grandma,” I said as I hugged her. She smelled like old-lady perfume and incontinence. “There was a bad traffic jam and I was sitting in it for over an hour. Must’ve been a ten car pile-up. I saw two ambulances coming back the other way before it all cleared up. Looked pretty bad.”

She gasped again. “That’s horrible.”

I felt a little bad because she didn’t think to question me, but what was I going to say? “Hey grandma, I’m late because I slept off a hangover, got in a fight, popped some painkillers, did a line of coke, had some sex with a girl I’m not dating, and then hung out by myself at the skatepark as I came down from the drugs.” Obviously, I couldn’t say that and if I did, it would break her tiny old lady heart. It’s the same with mom. You have to lie to them for their own good. They don’t want the truth. They just want to hear that you’re doing well and you’re happy and they don’t need to worry about you. That’s all they want.

After that my visit with grandma was uneventful. We watched the TV and drank tea and played cards at her little kitchen table. We didn’t talk at all while we played gin rummy and I couldn’t help but focus on her tiny ashen hands, so white I could see the green and blue of her veins. A fine mist from a humidifier sprayed into the air behind her and the room was so hot I stripped down to my white undershirt.

I still felt the hangover from the night before, and the smell of old person caused sweat to bead-up on my forehead. After the final hand grandma looked up at me and leaned back in her chair.

“You’re mother says you’re doing well in school. All A’s?”

“Yea,” I said and I wasn’t lying. I had straight A’s since freshman year.

“And you’re applying to colleges this summer?”

My palms were sweating now and I was glad we were finished with the cards. “Yea. We made visits last year. And mom wants me to apply to five schools.”

Grandma nodded her head and smiled. She was pleased. “No one from our family ever went to college. I wanted to go but there wasn’t enough money. Your mother is so lucky to have met your father. Without him, you would have grown up like everyone else in the family. You’re a lucky boy.”

I felt like I’d puke right there and my eyes started doing this thing where the bright light made them twitch. Sweat stung my eyes, and I couldn’t look at her anymore. Every time I looked at her the light in the room pulsated around her head.

“We’re all so proud of you,” she said.

I couldn’t take it anymore. “Well,” I said. “I have to get going. I’m meeting up with a friend tonight. We’re studying for a test in physics.”

“Ok,” she said. “Is it with that friend I met last summer? What was her name? Hm. Miranda?”

“Yea,” I said quickly. Grandma must’ve forgot I go to an all-boys school.

“She was such a nice girl. So polite. And pretty. That’s the type of girl you hold on to and never let go.”

“I better not be late then,” I said. And as I stood up and grabbed my shirt from the back of the chair, I started to feel good again. I hugged grandma in spite of the old-lady perfume and incontinence. “I’ll see you next month.”

Writing as Art 2.0: Mirage

th (12)Writing as Art digs deeply into the literary, structural, and poetic devices that make writing an art form. Well, its supposed to at least. The excerpts and short fiction presented are chosen from a list of submissions sent by authors around the world. But that doesn’t mean the excerpts are artistic or even well written. You see, when I first started posting these excerpts, I provided running commentary  demonstrating the authors artistic choices. I don’t do that anymore because my readers thought it was weird and hard to follow. So instead, I just post the excerpts that are sent to me and let my readers decide. Some are good. Some aren’t. Either way, let me know what you think in the comment section below the excerpt. Don’t feel like you need to hold any punches.

For this week, we have an excerpt from Jean Blasier’s novel Mirage. Check it out and let me know if its art or just cleverly written or just a bunch of crap.




The cab turned left off Sunset, past the Bel Air Hotel now emerging from the fog, its manicured lawn glistening with dew.

Lily put on her glasses and checked the directions again.  “Are you sure this is the right road?” she asked the cab driver for the third time since they left the airport.  And for the third time the cab driver responded, “Stone Canyon.”

Inside the mansion at 1520 Stone Canyon, Tim Michaels was looking out the front window, as nervous as his soon-to-arrive guest was excited.

“Dad, sit down.  I’ll get you a cup of coffee.”  Molly Michaels, Tim’s daughter-in-law, hated to see her father-in-law all wrought up about this woman who, after all, had invited herself to California.

“I don’t want any more coffee, sweetheart.  Does this sweater make me look fat?”


“Did I ever show you a picture of Lily from grade school, Molly?”

“Yes, you did, dad.  But that was a long time ago.”

“Thirty eight years.  She moved to Pittsburgh after eighth grade and  broke my heart.”

“Seems odd, doesn’t it?   All these years and you never heard from her.”

“We moved to California and lost track of Lily.”

“Until last Saturday.”

“You could have knocked me over with a feather when that letter arrived telling me she was coming here.”

“How do you suppose she got your address?”

“I don’t know.  Maybe one of those searches on the internet.”

Molly fluffed up one of the pillows on the sofa.  “Did you ever try to find her with one of those searches?”

“Yeah, I did once, after Barbara died, but there was no trace of a Lily Spitzer who used to live in Sandusky, Ohio.”  Tim picked up one of the chess pieces off the small table in front of the sofa, polished it on his sweater and returned it to the board.

It was the perfect time for Molly to say something she’d been wanting to say ever since she heard that this woman was planning to visit for an indeterminate stay.  “I think you should be careful, dad.  I mean, you don’t know anything about this woman.”

Tim looked out the window once more.  He checked his watch.  “You’re going to love Lily, Molly,” he said, ignoring his daughter-in-law’s counsel.  “She was the life of every party.”

“I’m just saying, I can’t believe she invited herself indefinitely.”

“Just until she gets settled.”

“Did she say that?”

“She said she’s hoping to stay with me for a couple of days to look around.  She’s never been to California.”

The cab pulled into the circular drive of the mansion and stopped at the front door.  Lily and the cabbie had a few words about the fare before the driver got out, walked around and opened the rear passenger door.  He picked up a scuffed, cardboard suitcase from the floor of the back seat and then helped Lily out.

While Lily stood there looking up at the brick and columned two story house, the driver walked up the three front steps and set the suitcase on the Carrara marble entry.  The suitcase looked ridiculously out of place.


That’s it. Let me know what you think by commenting below. Oh and if you’re interested in the author, Jean Blasiar, she’s a playwright and author of the Emmy Budd mysteries. Check out her website: Jeanblasiar.com


Fictionalize it!: Part 2

Welcome back to my three-part series on fictionalizing every day experiences. Last week I wrote a short memoir-like story from an event that actually happened to me (more or less). If you haven’t read it, click this link: LINK. This week, I’ve taken that story and transformed it into a completely different genre with characters, a slightly different conflict, but the same basic theme. I also maintained a few of the objects and images. I chose to write this as a contemporary romance–the type where a thirty-something lady finds a new man but is still troubled by the death of her late husband. I always get a kick out of writing romance because its so easy, andth0H9BO0OV so painfully overwritten.  Check out the transformation:


The Keychain

“What the—”

Bella’s lips quivered as she stepped out into the moonlight to find his gaunt figure casting shadows—moon-shadows across the marble terrace.

“William…” She mumbled the words, and the words tumbled and tumbled across the terrace falling flat without ever reaching his deaf ears.

Emanations of pulsing pain reverberated out into the moonlight and she traced the origin of each pulsation to the core of his damaged being. “Will…” She began again as she looked down at her weathered white dress, but couldn’t say the rest of his name.

She took another step towards him. “I loved him too much,” she repeated. That was what she had said inside. That’s why he came out here.

“Just go inside,” he said. And after he spoke, after she heard his voice she couldn’t stay away. Not now. She ran to him and her hand found the pocket of his suit.

“That hand is not a hand,” he said as he routed it out of his suit pocket. “It’s rot. A growth. And if I let it stay, the disease of your hand will infect my thigh, and then—”

She reached in the pocket again and found his keys. That was what she had searched for the first time.

“Remember this?” she asked hysterical with tears forming in both eyes. “Remember?”

She held the keychain-picture of his partner in her hand. “Remember?”

The partner died, shot in chest years ago.

“I loved him too much,” she repeated. “That’s why.”

And there were tears in his eyes too. She wanted to touch his eyes. She wanted to know that the tears were real.

“Let’s put it back to how it was,” she said. “He’s gone. But we can put it back to how it was.”

She felt his heart beat against her hand, his hands still limp at his sides. “He’s a memory now. A memory.” And memories can’t be cared for—not with hands.


Bad Writing Advice

We’ve all received bad writing advice at some point or another. Usually, the advice starts with one of the following: “always do this” or “never do that.” I actually work with someone who tells her students that they should “never use the word ‘that'”. Anyone who has followed this blog for a while knows THAT I don’t believe in limiting our choices when it comes to expression. I think it’s best to know how and why certain words, literary techniques, literary devices, etc. are used so that we CAN use them when it’s appropriate or when it serves our artistic purposes. untitled (5)So, to help battle against all the bad advice out there, I’ve made a list of literary “TRUTHS” that aren’t actually–well, true. Here’s the list of bad advice:

  • Never use personal pronouns when you can use a characters name
  • Don’t end a sentence with the word “it”
  • Never use digression
  • Never use flashback
  • Every character should be well-developed
  • Never place a comma after a prepositional phrase when it begins a sentence and is under 5 words
  • Never use an oxford comma
  • Always use an oxford comma
  • Always use the word “and” before the last item in a list
  • Never use sentence fragments
  • Never use dialect
  • Spell everything “correctly”
  • Don’t use a “hard” period
  • Don’t write in short sentences
  • Don’t write in long sentences
  • Don’t ever use flowery language
  • Avoid using plain or simple language
  • Don’t be repetitive
  • Always describe your settings in detail, so the reader can see what it looks like
  • Don’t ever bore your reader by describing the setting. Let them picture it for themselves
  • Always attribute your dialogue so the reader knows who is speaking
  • And most importantly, don’t ever use the word “that”

Well, I hope this list is helpful, and the next time you hear someone sharing one of these literary truisims, don’t be afraid to question them: “Why can’t I do ‘THAT'”



Flash Fiction Contests

Recently I was invited to submit something for a flash fiction contest. No, it wasn’t a personal invitation, I doubt that I’m that important. It was one of those spam type invitations that get sent out to thousands. Normally I wouldn’t submit anything, but with little to do this morning as my daughter played a game on her mother’s ipad, I decided to write something.

The genre is fantasy. So I decided to parody it all subtle-like, incorporating the lyrics of a Grateful Dead song. The prompt starts it off and I put the prompt in italics. The rest of the words are my own. Enjoy.


Deer People

She noticed a hint of movement beneath the starlit trees. But, that was nothing compared to the trail of blood that led out of them. And there were seven bodies left behind. He was afraid to move. The knife might come out of his stomach. Fortunately, the song he was humming provided the power to keep him alive. Then moonlight glinted on antlers in the trees.

Henry staggered, knife in hand, blood dripping through cracks between fingers.

“…Look out of any window,

Any morning, any evening, any day…”

Still singing. “Stop singing that damn song!” She screamed. “Stop it! I said stop it!”

“…You’ll find the sun is shining,

Birds are winging,

No rain is falling through a heavy sky…”

She took another step back. “You made me do it! You did! You made me do it!”

Henry fell, his face smashing into a sapling, bending the tree, denting his cheek. From the ground he sang:

“…What do you want me to do.

To do for you. To see you through?…”

And behind him she saw Elroy, of the deer people. And the antlers danced in the moonlight, the bodies obscured in shadow. Bloodthirsty eyes burned red.

Henry stood up, still holding his stomach in. “I’m fuckin…,” he said. That wasn’t part of the song. He staggered. “You…” He couldn’t say “killed us.” He spat blood.

But behind him the deer people danced on—she saw them dance on. She could see them. They were real. She knew they were real. “They’re real,” she repeated. She had been saying it but didn’t hear herself. “They’re real. They’re real.”

Henry fell again. On the ground he sang:

“…For this is all a dream we dreamed

one afternoon, long ago…”

“It’s not a dream! Not a dream. Don’t say that. Don’t say that!” But Henry wasn’t saying anything. He was only singing the song to stay alive, to keep thinking, to keep moving.

The deer people, they stopped dancing—she saw that they stopped dancing. And the red fires of eyes turned inward, towards the clearing, menacing, hungry.

“Why didn’t you drink the punch!” she screeched. “It happens quietly when you drink the punch! Like the others. You made me do it! You made it hurt!”

Henry didn’t get up. He stayed on his back and tilted his head towards the woods behind him, the last thing he would ever see. But there was only darkness behind him. Shadows of trees and nothing else.

She took a step towards him and could see the deer people closing in—she could see them, Elroy in front with his Great Claw Hammer.

“No, I’ll do it!” But she wasn’t screaming at Henry anymore. “I’ll do it. I’ll finish it.”

Henry didn’t hear her anymore. He heard the singing of his voice.

“…Just a box of rain, Wind and water, Believe it if you need it, If you don’t just pass it on Sun and shower, Wind and rain, In and out the window Like a moth before a flame…”

Henry felt something. Her. The knife slid out. He groaned.

“A sacrifice to Elroy and the deer people.”

When she looked up, knife in hand, raised above Henry’s throat, she saw them, and knew they were there, eyes blazing, antlers nodding up and down, white teeth shining in the moonlight.

Henry saw nothing behind him. Deer people aren’t real.


It would be hilarious if I actually won. The story makes no sense at all. It’s also funny that I’ll probably get an unusual amount of hits for this post because I titled it “Flash Fiction Contests”. Sorry, I’m not offering a flash fiction contest. I have nothing to offer. But I doubt very many people looking for a flash fiction contest actually read this far anyway. Thanks for reading!

Now What?

I wrote “Now What?” earlier this week. I’m working on a voice for the narrator of my next novel and these short flashes of fiction are a way for me to experiment with narration. I’d recommend this strategy to anyone thinking about writing a novel with a first-person narrator. It’s nice to have the voice down from the start. Check it out and let me know what you think:


Now What?

We were packing up the old town house. We’d lived there for a year but what’s a year. I don’t mean that as a question. It isn’t one.

Like I said, we were packing up but I was already done. I packed the night before, so my Civic wasn’t out back behind the house. It was parked down the road next to a pick-up truck or a van.

But this isn’t about my car. It wasn’t even a Civic. It was something like that though.

Anyway, one my housemates, the big one, had his whole family there and he had too much to take back.

“Does anyone want this shit?” he asked. It was stuff from the kitchen.

I took another sip of something. I don’t know. Mimosa maybe. Or Bloody Mary. I think I liked those then. Or maybe I looked out towards the river. But I don’t remember thinking much about the river. It was part of me then, always there past the field and the road from town.

“I got room for it,” I said. Well, that’s not exactly what I said. I said something like it.

And I did have room for it. My parents weren’t there yet, but they were bringing a van to carry my big stuff. My brother wasn’t there yet, either.

“Alright, dude.” That’s exactly what he said. I remember it.

Minutes passed and I hadn’t moved from my lawn chair out in front of the townhouse. I felt the grass between my toes, well, most likely. I was barefoot then—usually at least.

Someone’s parents broke into laughter. It was a woman, but I don’t remember which one. Probably the big one’s mom. Everyone else drank quietly and focused on the packing.

And then one of the other guys was sitting beside me. He might’ve been there for a while, but that’s when I noticed him.

He shook his head at the big one and the big one’s family. But he was drunk too, and I was drunk. The whole damn campus felt drunk. It always did. Well, it felt that way at least.

And then I saw my parents walking across the lawn. And then I don’t remember much. The rest of the afternoon blurred into one or nothing depending on how you look at it, and then I was in the car and my brother was driving. He was probably driving fast, but I don’t remember. I was singing. Loudly.

And then I was home or the place I called home. Summer. But not summer break. And I wouldn’t be going back. I wouldn’t ever be going back. And I was on my parents’ back deck, the same place I spent every summer, a place where I surrounded myself with friends or buddies or alcohol or all or both depending on how you look at it. I looked up and saw blue and green and the leaves on the trees were full for the first time since fall. The first week of May, and for the first time, the leaves were fully there.

“Now what?” I asked it out loud. “Now what?”

And today, years later, I ask the same question. I’m married and have a career. I’ve made something of myself, I guess. But when the leaves come out, fully out, I ask out loud sitting on my own deck, the back deck of my own house, looking up at the swaying trees with the blue sky behind, “Now what?”


Hope you liked it. Thanks for reading!


Writing as Art: A,B&E

thNCEN8Z70Writing as Art digs deeply into the literary, structural, and poetic devices that make writing an art form. The excerpts and short fiction presented are chosen from a list of submissions sent by authors around the world. The purpose is educational and based off of the idea that we can all learn from each other. I start off the conversation by incorporating annotations every few paragraphs. (These are surrounded by parenthesis and written in bold) But my annotations are only the starting point. I encourage you to comment, critique, disagree, agree and argue the literary merit of each piece.


For this week, we have an excerpt from the opening of  Mark Nash’s novel  A,B & E. Let me know what you think of it.

from A,B&E

Oh, don’t mind if I do! Thank you very much. Isn’t that just a sight for sore eyes? A Black Russian in the a.m. Vitreously fleshy. Caffeine intake at its smoothest. For nudging you back into the daylight. A tender kiss of life, to expel the deathly, dried spume from the small hours dousing. Nyx you utter tart, I salute you! For guiding me home once again and delivering me safe and sound into the arms of dowdy old Eos! A toast to…Priapus. God of the vineyard and the other thing of course. Double bubble. All my hobbies rolled into one figurehead. My ideal consort of an evening. A Greek God to top all Greek Gods. Top of the morning after the night before to ya! Na zdorovia! Eis igian! As we say here in Greece.

(I like how we jump right into this conversation. It’s exceptionally one-sided of course, somewhat like talking to a stereotypical mother-in-law or an old rich lady who’s been around the block a view times. She’s handed a drink and off she goes. She’s not completely typical, however. The several allusions, many of which I couldn’t place, could be used to show how disconnected she is from the majority of humanity. This will continue in the following paragraphs. She also has fun with word play. Specifically, she uses epanalepsis. This is the repetition of the first word/phrase from the beginning of the sentence, at the end of the sentence: “A Greek God to top all Greek Gods.” She’s smart but full of herself)

Present company excepted of course, but I find revenge is a dish best served flush across the bloke’s cranium. Well, the Greeks are all for cracking the crockery. So when in Rome and all that. Besides, they were the first ones to craft an art form from vengeance. No wait a tick, it was my second husband Damon, who really elevated it to Olympian heights. The final word in retribution. Where they look in his unblinking, guillotine eyes and heed there’s no coming back at him. Nipping any escalation in the bud. A la thalidomide.

(More fun with words here. Some alliteration and assonance with “cracking the crockery” and I like how Nash transforms the idiom revenge is a dish best served cold. This narrator takes ownership over language through this transformation. This is reflected in her claim that her second husband “really elevated” revenge to “Olympian heights.” A pretty hefty claim. It appears that she owns stock in language and revenge)

An avenger therefore, ought to be up close and personal. Doesn’t merit the soubriquet, if the recipient is ignorant as to who’s responsible. Nor on what grounds. Eyeball to eyeball, Damon’s was a pinpoint perlustration. The polygraph of his blue ice chip eyes, needling whether a man was with Damon or against him. His laser red sight, locking on to the cornea’s yellow spot. Myself, I was granted more biddable access, always with a lascivious wink.

(The big words do three things here: they further disconnect her from the rest of humanity which doesn’t know the definition of “perlustration”, they make her seem all the more full of herself, and they further show that language is her tool of choice. What do I mean by that? Allow me an analogy: Saw is to carpenter as language is to this narrator)

untitled (4)Yet even cherished in lodestone adoration, I never located the bottom of those frozen pools. And when I reversed my polarity through betrayal, I bailed out of my own ducking stool ordeal and skipped the concrete verdict.

So you see I had a good mentor. Since when immersed in an alien culture, you can’t help but have some of the local custom rub off. But I suppose I must also have borne a propensity for it. Damon always said I fucked like a woman but fought (and thought) like a man. A heady cocktail. Diamond cut diamond. That’s what made me attractive to him. How I could gain privileged entry into his fierce Brotherhood. Honorary member without member.

(Another epanalepsis “Diamond cut diamond” and a bunch of big words. Although I can’t say that I like this narrator, not as person, she’s incredibly intriguing. As a narrator, she’s both an original creation, and oddly reminiscent to some of the narrators in Poe’s short stories. She assures us that we can trust her, but she’s oddly unreliable)


And that’s all folks. Honestly, that one impressed me and I think I might need to read the rest. If you’d like to pick up a copy, here’s the link: A,B&E . And if you want to check out other books by Mark Nash, here’s a link to his Amazon author page. Thanks for reading!

Letters on Literary Devices 17: Take a Crappy!

Hello world,

It’s been a long time since my last letter. Inspiration hasn’t struck and that sort of thing can’t be forced. Recently, however, after spending a weekend with the in-laws, a strange occurrence involving my daughter and mother in-law re-awoke the mock-epistolary muses, breathing metaphorical life into the words streaming out of my fingers, onto the keyboard, into my computer somehow, and across the inter-webs.

But first, allow me a moment to share a tiny bit of background information. Here’s what you need to know: I have a two-year-old daughter who is recently potty-trained. However, she still doesn’t like pooping. It isn’t that she doesn’t like pooping in the potty. It isn’t that she prefers pooping in her pants. thOHI8V64NNo, she just doesn’t like pooping–and yes, I know, that’s weird. I mean seriously, for many people, a good poop is often the highlight of an entire day. But my daughter isn’t interested. She can’t be bothered with it.

Well, anyway, last weekend my daughter starting whining because her stomach hurt. As you probably guessed, her stomach hurt because she was holding a big one. And while sitting across from my mother-in-law, having a drink perhaps, and maybe some fancy appetizer or hors d’oeuvres or something, I said to my whining daughter, “Yo kid, why don’t you take a crap?” To which my mother-in-law, her face frozen in horror, replied, “You’re in pleasant company–its a–poopy.” To which I replied, “Yo kid, why don’t you take a crappy,” adding the “py” ending, thus softening the word for “pleasant company.”

And that interchange, followed by laughter and several other pleasant ways to say poopy; such as, “dumpy, stinky, number-twoey, shitty, etc.,” is the motivation for today’s letter. For it begs the following question: Why is “poopy” pleasant, and “crap” unpleasant? Why is the former cutesy and the latter ugly?

Well, being that I’m an English teacher and all that, I can give you a really clear answer: its the way the words sound. Yes, its that simple. “Poopy” has several sounds or syllables that are pleasing to the ear. It is an example of euphonious diction. Whereas, “crap,” has sounds or syllables  that are disharmonious to the ear making it an example of cacophonous diction.

Now, when I teach euphonious and cacophonous diction to high school students, I teach the specific syllables that sound ugly and pretty. thQ84C1P47I won’t do that here, but if you’re interested, here’s the website that I have students reference. Basically, hard or harsh sounding syllables or words are considered cacophonous. Whereas soft and flowing syllables and words are considered euphonious.

Each has its purpose. When a writer portrays ugliness; for example, its not a bad idea to use ugly, discordant words. Or, if they’re going for irony, they might use euphonious words to describe the ugliness and vice-versa. Still don’t get it? Check out this spontaneous two-line poem I just wrote about my daughter pooping. It won’t win me any awards, but I’ve italicized syllables that are euphonious and underlined the cacophonous ones to help you see the difference:


Shit, sting, crap, ouch,

Finally, it flows from bum to bowl.


There are a few things to notice here. First, it’s not a single syllable that makes the first line cacophonous nor a single sound that makes the second line euphonious. In both cases, its the preponderance of these syllables in each line that creates the effect. Second, cacophonous sounds are ones that your tongue stops on. Whereas, euphonious sounds roll on to the next sound. Say this out loud: “Flows from.” Notices how flows, flows right into from. There’s no hard stop between the words. Do the same with “Shit, sting.” Notice how your tongue stops the word “shit.” And that’s essentially the difference. A prevalence of stopped sounds, sounds ugly. A prevalence of flowing sounds, sounds pretty. And this is regardless of content. Both lines of my poem are about pooping, but the first sounds ugly and the second sounds pretty.

So, why can’t I say “crap” in “pleasant company.” thGF34V1MXWell, that’s easy. “Crap” even if I add the “py” to the end is still ugly. Both the “cr” sound and the “ap” sound are cacophonous. So even when I add the euphonious “py” it still sounds ugly. And “Poopy” which combines two pleasant sounds, “poo” and “py” will always be more appropriate while spending time with my mother-in-law.

That’s it! Have a lovely day!



Eric (I never realized how euphonious my name sounds) JamesOlson

Epic Fail: Bad Writing…well, not quite epic

A week ago I thought it was a good idea to ask authors for excerpts of their earliest writing in its original and unedited form. A week ago I thought I’d be sifting through submissions. Clearly, that didn’t happen. I don’t know what I was thinking at the time, but it seems obvious to me now that no one enjoys exposing their flaws. You see, I thought it would be fun, looking back at old manuscripts and pointing out the mistakes we would never make again. But again, no one wants to do that. th (9)

The reason is obvious and I know I’m not the first person to say this: as writers we’re constantly running away from our earliest attempts at fiction. There’s no point in dwelling on those early attempts because we’ve already learned from them.

I did, however, receive one e-mail. Yes, that’s right. I received one whole submission. It’s  from a writer working on her first novel. Here’s the message she sent me describing her excerpt: “The main issue I see with this excerpt is telling not showing. The narrator also has an inner voice sounding between 12 and 14, when she was supposed to be 16. Since doing revisions from this draft I’ve learnt much about showing emotions through actions and facial expressions, and the novel has developed to be a YA/New Adult (not quite sure yet) with an inner voice between 18 and 21.”

And here’s a paragraph from the excerpt: “I was too busy watching Lei, interpreting his expression that I only just heard Harley’s sigh of relief. Whatever that meant, sometimes it really sucked caring for people. I just couldn’t let him believe I wanted to kiss him. Or that I liked him. It’s best to be true my feelings even if that means Lei’s aren’t spared.” You’ll notice that she hit the nail right on the head. We all made these mistakes in our first books. I’m particularly touched by the phrase “interpreting his expression.”thG54L7ATM I always used to have characters interpreting or analyzing expressions. I also liked “it really sucked caring for people.” Yep, 12 year old girl. But none of this matters because we already know this. Jo Carter, the author that sent me the excerpt, she already knows this and that excerpt we all just read has already been edited. I mean seriously, none of this benefits anyone. There’s nothing to even say about it. She’s already fixed it.thN8WEX1ZP

But I shouldn’t despair at bad ideas. It’s better to move on and all that. Halfway through the week I received a message from a fellow author that said this: “How about first attempt vs edited attempt – same scene. That would be cool to see,” suggesting that I should’ve taken excerpts that show a before-and-after, a look at the decisions an author made in the editing process. And he’s right, that seems much more productive. So, learning from my mistake last week, allow me a second attempt. Please, if you are reading this and wouldn’t mind sending me a short excerpt of your writing, both before and after the editing process, send it to ejamesolson1@gmail.com. Or, if you would like to send an unedited excerpt and would like a semi-professional critique either public or private, send that along. Yes, I just offered a free critique. And like always, I’m responding to everyone.  And hopefully this second attempt will prove more productive. Thanks, and have a good day.




Send me your firstborn! I’ll feature your excerpt

Hi folks,

Next week I’ll be writing a post on the common writing errors we all made when we first started–well, writing. thE6RXNWOLPersonally, I know I’ve come along way since my first novel and I still cringe when I look back at my first attempts at describing a setting, a character, or even a feeling. Back then, I used too many adverbs, I over-explained, and I made choices with spelling that could be described as either unconventional or flat out wrong depending on who you ask. If you have an example of your early writing that you wouldn’t mind sharing, please send me an excerpt. I can’t do this without you, and I’d like to feature as many authors as I can. Here’s how you submit:

  • Send an e-mail to Ejamesolson1@gmail.com with the following:
  • Your name
  • Your  excerpt (200 words or less…less is better) pasted in the body of the email (Sorry, but I’m not opening attachments. I’m dreadfully afraid of viruses)
  • (OPTIONAL) A short explanation of why it was bad or what was wrong with it or what you learned from it
  • Title the subject line with the word “Submission Bad Writing” followed by your name. Like this: “Submission Bad Writing Charles Dickens”

thM9HIJKJFI respond to all submissions and will let you know if your excerpt has been selected. All genres are welcome, but remember that the focus is on making bad writing better. If I decide to feature your excerpt, I’ll include a link to your blog, Goodreads page, or Amazon page,  a great opportunity for anyone looking to increase their visibility. Thanks for reading this, and I look forward to hearing from you!

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