Thursday, July 21, 2016

Writing Tips and Other Advice, by Award Winning Children's Author, Sarah Hill



-Sarah Hill 

If you have a passion for writing, whether you are young or old, then I would recommend that you write about what you know and you write about what you like. This is because your knowledge, interest, and love of this subject matter will show in your writing. Immerse yourself within the topic you have chosen to write about. Spend time in that environment and understand the audience you are writing for. I am fortunate to be invited into schools for author visits and to judge children's writing competitions. Not only do I thoroughly enjoy these 'extra-curricular' activities that I'm asked to do, but I'm able to engage with the audience that I write my Whimsy Wood children's series for, and this is vital. 

The next thing I would say is that you must sit down and write. I know this sounds simple in theory, but there can be so many distractions and other things you can find to do rather than actually writing. Facing a blank page in your notebook or on your laptop can be very off-putting, daunting, and even a little scary! So much so that during the creative writing workshops I run for children, the first thing that I'll ask them to do is to pick up their pen or pencil and scribble all over the blank piece of paper on their desk. Once they've 'beaten the blank piece of paper' so to speak, and got their pen or pencil in contact with the paper, we then turn the paper over and start our creative writing workshop properly!

Don't hold back, or let yourself get hung-up on grammar or sentence structure initially. What's important when you first start writing is to get the story-line that is whirling itself around in your head down on paper. Once you've got that down, then go back and correct your grammar, spelling, and sentence structure. Be prepared to rewrite your work numerous times until you are completely and utterly satisfied with what you have written.

OK, so you now have your brilliantly written manuscript in front of you.  First things first, you must believe 110%  in what you have written and created. If you don't believe whole-heartedly in your story, novel or series, no-one else will. Always remember that the world of literature, especially children's literature, is incredibly competitive. You will come across rejection, but do not be put off by this and do not give up. If you receive a rejection letter, pick yourself up, rework your manuscript and resubmit it to another publishing house or literary agent. Please accept and understand that this is the 'nature of the beast'. Take on any constructive criticism, if you're fortunate enough to receive this, following submitting your manuscript and realise that every successfully published author has gone through a similar journey.

Finally, ensure you create yourself a support network of fellow writers on your road to, and after, publication. Join local writing groups and get yourself a writing coach. I subscribed to Suzanne's 'The Morning Nudge' a few years ago and receiving these free, daily emails really helped maintain my focus. If you are writing for children, then I would highly recommend you join the Society of Children's Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). You do not have to be a published author to join this wonderfully supportive international group. Writing can, at times, be a little lonely and insular, so having these groups along with regular interaction with like-minded people really does help further your writing career.

All that is left for me to say on the subject of writing tips, is that I have a wonderfully inspirational quote hanging up in my bedroom, which I read every morning and every night. This quote is by the marvelous Audrey Hepburn and says.... ' Nothing is impossible. The word itself says "I'm possible". '



Sarah Hill is an award winning children's author and creator of The Whimsy Wood Series

Visit the home of The Whimsy Wood Series:-
www.whimsywood.co.uk

For the latest 'Whimsy Wood' children's book, direct from the publisher, Abela Publishing, please click on this link :-

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Why You Can't Afford to Get Lazy with Your Writing!


-Pamela Woods-Jackson

As writers, we all have a basic grasp of grammar and punctuation, but in this technological age, we've gotten lazy when composing short texts, social media posts or emails. No caps, no commas, and auto-correct are the order of the day. Remember that your social media presence represents YOU to your readers, many of whom have never met you. Therefore it's important to be diligent about putting your best foot forward. In other words, EDIT EDIT EDIT and then PROOFREAD! It's one thing to fire off a quick text to a friend, but it's quite another matter to allow that lackadaisical attitude to creep into your professional writing. There is no excuse for misspelling a word, or confusing homonyms like you're and your, it's and its, or their there and they're. These kinds of easily corrected mistakes distract from the quality of your manuscript and often result in rejection from a publisher or literary agent. You don't want your fantastic story to be turned down simply because the editor couldn't slog her way through the grammatical errors. 

If editing isn't your thing, you can always hire someone to do it for you. If that isn't in the budget, see if you can work a trade with another author or even an English teacher. As a high school English teacher, I was always willing to help out fellow writers, and you probably know someone with a degree in English who would be just as generous. However you go about it, please don't send your work out to perspective publishers or agents until it is in the best possible shape. Even a few minor mistakes can get your manuscript rejected, so get ahead of the competition by making your mechanics as great as your story!

My contemporary romance CERTAINLY SENSIBLE, released December 2, 2015 by The Wild Rose Press, is a Gold Medal winner in the 2016 Literary Classics Award Contest. I am also the author of CONFESSIONS OF A TEENAGE PSYCHIC (The Wild Rose Press, 2010), which was a 2011 Epic Ebook Contest finalist. A follow up novel has just been accepted for publication by The Wild Rose Press. My YA novel GENIUS SUMMER was released in November, 2014, by Vinspire Publishing. It was a finalist in the 2013 San Francisco Writers Contest, received high marks in the 2013 Pacific Northwest Writers Contest, and was awarded the Literary Classics Seal of Approval in 2015. 

 My books can be found on Barnes & Noble and Amazon:
 https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=pamela+woods-jackson&rh=n%3A283155%2Ck%3Apamela+woods-jackson

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/pamela+woods+jackson

Contact me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Pamela-Woods-Jackson-1523690337865060/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Get it Write!



by Meredith Tennant

I took an informal poll to get an idea of what my clients really, really, deep down want when they hire me.

“I don’t want to feel humiliated,” is what one said. She doesn’t want to feel humiliated by finding out her published work is full of mistakes that could have been avoided. She’s a very creative person who describes having an abundance of ideas that she just has to get down on the page as fast as she can. She understands that there are rules to do with grammar and punctuation, but to her, the ideas are what matter. And, after all, she has me to find and fix what she doesn’t care to.

You may feel the same way. You don’t want to publish something that’s full of mistakes, but you’d really rather be writing than bothering with things that are boring or not entirely clear to you.

That’s okay. That’s what editors, copyeditors, and proofreaders do. That’s the stuff that we like doing.

My advice to all you writers is to use an editor. Editing isn’t about talent. No matter how talented an author you are, editing will always improve your work.

Having said that, many writers don’t have a whole lot of extra cash lying around to spend on editing. You may be one of them. And even if you’re not, there are things you can do to get your manuscript into better shape before you fork out any money for an editor. Look through the tips below; you’re bound to find at least a few things you can fix yourself. Your manuscript will be cleaner and there will be less for the editor to do. Which makes me feel a little sad (see the point above about what we editors like doing), but will definitely save you money, whether you’re paying your editor an hourly rate or a fixed price.

Some of these tips may seem blindingly obvious, but it’s amazing what can get missed when you’re so close to your own work. Remember that saying ‘Can’t see the forest for the trees’? It’s similar to what happens when you’ve written something. It’s nearly impossible for you to do a good job editing your own work because when you read it, you’re reading what was in your head, which is not always what makes it onto the page.

Okay, in no particular order, here you go:

1.  Read it aloud. If you’re not quite ready to read it to someone else, read it to yourself, in a soundproof room if necessary. Pay attention to where you want to take a breath, and make sure there’s some punctuation there to signal that. Conversely, any punctuation that interrupts the flow needs to go away, unless doing that will change the meaning of the sentence.

Reading aloud will also help you find missing periods, phrases that clunk rather than sing, and other howlers you’d rather the general public never knew about.

2. Check for consistency in style and tone. Is your work light, heavy, dark, funny, eccentric, formal? Make sure it’s that way the whole way through. Are there passages where you suddenly veer away from your normal style?

3. Consistency of facts. Does your main (or minor) character change eye color/birthdate/name somewhere in the book? Believe me, it’s easy to do. You decide that you prefer brown eyes/an older character/an unusual name, but you forget to go back and change all mentions of the old detail.

The same thing goes for dates, places, who said what when, etc. Word’s search and replace function is really useful at times like these, but run it a couple of times. Sometimes it skips a mention.

4. Accuracy of facts. Names, titles, dates, and other facts need to be correct. When you check these, you’re saving time that a copyeditor would otherwise spend on it. If you’re writing non-fiction, creating a document with these sorts of detail on it (known as a style sheet) will save you heaps of time/money as the copyeditor will know that you’ve checked whatever is on the style sheet. Even with fiction, preparing a style sheet with pertinent information will save some copyediting time.

5. Punctuation. This one really is a bear for lots of people, not least my aforementioned client. The point of punctuation is to make the intended meaning clear, and the writing flow.

There are way too many rules to mention in this article (and, honestly, it’s pretty dry stuff), but there are countless sources out there where you can brush up on your skills, or even fill in the gaps caused by too much staring out of the window during class. I have some short articles about some of the rules that can get you started.

6. Homonyms. Those words that sound alike, but are spelled differently or have different meanings. You wouldn’t believe how many times I see incorrect use of bread/bred, complement/compliment, there/their/they’re, bear/bare, capital/capitol, affect/effect, board/bored, principle/principal, and so on and on.

The spelling and grammar check function in Word won’t flag these as they’re perfectly good words, just not necessarily in the right place.

7. Here are some commonly confused words:

·       Lay and lie. Use ‘lay’ when you could equally well say ‘put’ or ‘place,’ otherwise use ‘lie.’

·       Who and whom. In a nutshell, use ‘who’ if you could substitute ‘he,’ ‘she,’ ‘it,’ ‘we,’ or ‘they’; use ‘whom’ if you could substitute ‘him,’ ‘her,’ or ‘them.’

·       Which or that. Use ‘which’ if the phrase isn’t essential, and use ‘that’ if it is. Simple, right? Hah, not so much. Here are a couple of examples: I only eat fruit that is in season. I only eat fruit, which happens to be why my pet elephant loves me.

·       Continual or continuous. ‘Continual’ is always going on, but takes breaks, while ‘continuous’ goes on without a break. My elephant continually eats fruit. She thinks about her next meal continuously.

·       Fewer and less. If you can count individual whatever-they-are, use ‘fewer.’ If it’s uncountable, use ‘less.’ There are fewer elephants in the room now. There’s less time in which to get the remaining elephants out of the room.

·       Affect and effect. To ‘affect’ something is to have an impact on it. The ‘effect’ is the result of something else. Having so many elephants in the room will affect [have an impact on] the air quality. The number of elephants is having an effect [causing a result] on the air quality.

8. Watch out for the passive voice. Using the active voice keeps your work vibrant. Here’s an example of the passive voice, followed by an active version: The windows were opened by my guests. My guests opened the windows.

9. Consider reworking sentences or paragraphs that ramble on and on. Keep your sentences and paragraphs a reasonable length, unless it’s your chosen style. Even then, bear in mind how easy or hard it’s going to be for your reader to follow.

On the subject of sentences, look for awkward or confusing structure. I recently edited a book where the author frequently added phrases to the end of a sentence that completely confused the meaning. Wait, what? Was the bishop in a hurry, or was it the cook?

10. Take a look at the ends of your chapters. Do they make you want to keep the light on, turn the page to the next chapter, and keep reading through the night, or do they tend to come to a stop? You might want to enlist help from a friend with this one because, as said earlier, it’s hard to edit your own work.

11. Parentheses and quotation marks come in pairs, and dashes normally do. Check that they all have their partners; they’re often accidentally forgotten. And while we’re talking about dashes, if you use a lot of them, try to switch some out for other punctuation marks. Commas, semicolons, and sometimes parentheses are useful substitutes.

12.  Apostrophes. Use to signal possession, as in ‘Joe’s camera,’ and for contraction (two words into one), as in ‘That’s [that is] Joe’s camera.’ And something I see all the time: you don’t need to use an apostrophe with decades. It’s the 1990s, not the 1990’s. With abbreviated decades, make sure that the apostrophe is pointing the right way: ‘the ’90s.’

And now that you’ve dipped into this list and maybe made some changes, it’s probably time to find an editor to help you with the rest.

About Me: "I’ve been freelance editing for self-publishing authors and mainstream publishers for years, although I started by working for a major publishing house in London. A lot of the people I work with now are first-time authors; often, they’re not sure what to expect, how to choose an editor, or which level of editing to go for. Well, I’m here to help them, and you, through the process so your book is as perfect and professional as possible."

What Authors Need to Know about Book Production



by Cecile Kaufman

The success of your book design and production depends to some extent on the materials that you deliver to the designer. These are some general guidelines.

Start with the Trim Size
The first thing your book designer needs to know, before beginning the design, is what the size of your book will be. Just as you would not buy the materials to build a shed without first deciding how big it should be, so does your designer need to know what page size she will be working with before beginning the design. There are standard book sizes; for instance, a typical trade paperback book would be 6 inches × 9 inches or 5.5 inches × 8.5 inches. Because some book printers can print more efficiently at one of these sizes than at the other, you will also want to choose your printer right at the beginning of the process. Also, if you want to get a quote from a printer, have your designer do so before you create your book, because you will need to know the trim size.

Raster and Vector
If you have images in your book each one will  be either a raster image or a vector image. Raster images are made up of tiny squares (pixels), and the resolution of a raster image is measured in pixels per inch (ppi) or dots per inch (dpi). These images are typically photographs or illustrations that have been scanned. Although there may be some leeway, depending on the image and how it will be printed, a general rule of thumb is that  raster images need to be 300 ppi or dpi at the size at which they will be printed or larger. The size is important: larger is always acceptable, but smaller is not. This is because you cannot enlarge a raster image very much before it begins to look pixelated (jagged, broken into small squares).
Vector graphics, on the other hand, are made up of points and paths determined by an algorithm. These images can be enlarged without loss of quality. Usually vector graphics that are used in print publishing will have the extension .eps. Fonts are also vector graphics.
If you are submitting scans of type or line art, for instance, a newspaper article with just type, that scan should be between 600 and 2400 dpi, and saved as “bitmap.” Although the scan is a representation of type, it is still a rasterized image, just as a photo would be, and if it is to look as crisp as real vector type would look, it needs to have additional resolution.

Name Your Files Intentionally
A consistent and understandable convention for naming files is very helpful and is the easiest way to avoid having images placed in the wrong places. A typical naming scheme would be to number the images, using three digits, like this:

greatbook_006.tif
greatbook_007.tif
greatbook_008.tif
greatbook_009.tif
greatbook_010.tif
greatbook_011.tif
greatbook_012.tif

In this way, when importing images into the page layout program, the designer will see a list that is in order, and can easily pick the correct number from the list. In the manuscript Word file, there should be a corresponding note to indicate approximately where the image should be placed, such as “insert ‘greatbook_006.tif ’ about here.”

Style Your File
Style your Word document: give each paragraph a paragraph style, or have your copy editor do so. You do not want your designer to be deciding whether an element should be a first-level heading or second-level heading, That decision is one you or your editor should make. If you are using Word, select the text, and choose the style from the drop-down menu to apply it.

Stick to the Stages
Developmental editing comes before copyediting, which always comes before layout. Design also comes before layout, and design changes usually should not be made after layout has begun. Making many copyediting changes after the pages have been laid out will incur extra costs and takes more time; it also increases the risk of mistakes especially in books which have many images (because significant changes will cause reflow of the text). Proofreading comes after the pages are laid out. Making changes after the proofreading stage should be done very carefully and someone should check the surrounding pages to make sure no text has reflowed.

The Cleaner the Manuscript . . .
In general the cleaner the manuscript is at the beginning, the cleaner it will be at each of the following stages, and the smoother the production process will be. If you understand these basics of book production then you  will have a head start on a successfully produced book.

Cecile Kaufman is a graphic designer, editor, project manager, and print buyer with over twenty years experience in publishing and commercial graphic arts. In 1999 she founded X-Height Studio, which specializes in publication design and offers full publishing services from concept to final printed product. The studio has provided print design and production, editorial services, project management, and print buying services for a wide range of clients. 


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Four Easy Ways to Write Concisely


Concision can play a huge role in the impact of your message. No one wants to wade through unnecessary words, and worse, wordiness can weaken your writing.
Here are some easy ways to tighten your writing as you self-edit. You are self-editing before you call your copy editor, right? Of course you are.

Elminate the make:  make a promise, make a deal, make a bet, make dinner (okay, you could make dinner.) But you get the idea: doesn’t it sound better to promise, negotiate, wager? Also, to cook dinner sounds more precise, doesn’t it? Or better yet, to boil pasta, simmer tomato sauce…

No basis for basis: on a monthly basis, on a weekly basis, on a temporary basis. Try monthly, weekly, temporarily. Even “each month” is better, though that’s still one word too many.

Step off the preposition train: Track down prepositions like of and to. They can often be eliminated. Especially tedious are preposition trains, where one preposition stacks upon another upon another.
How many books of Stephen King’s do you have in the library that is in Springdale?
How many Stephen King books do you have at Springdale Library?

Eliminate redundancies. Your editor will love you for this one.
Free gift
Each and every one
Share in common
Because the reason is (the reason is because)
Ask a question
Advance planning, advance reservations
Prior plans
The month of July
Repeat over and over
Positive (or beneficial or desirable) benefits
Sudden explosion, sudden impact, sudden anything, really. “Sudden” is a cheesy way to grab attention.
Close proximity

Your high school English teacher isn’t being paid to read your writing, and you don’t get extra credit for extra words. So make it easy for your reader, and they may just love you back.

JoAnne Dyer is an editor, writer, proofreader, and event planner. She founded Seven Madronas Communications in 2015. Seven Madronas specializes in helping change-makers and people doing good in the world. She’s edited dozens of nonfiction books and writes regularly for Nest Publications and The Connector magazine. When she’s not agonizing over subject/verb agreements, she’s hiking in the red canyons of Utah or cooking vegetarian dinners in her native Seattle, Washington.

JoAnne Dyer
Seven Madronas Communications
www.7madronas.com
206-465-9146
Twitter @7madronas
Facebook JoAnneDyerSeattle

Friday, September 11, 2015

STOP WRITING IN GERMAN

(AND OTHER TIPS FOR AUTHORS)



1-- Yes. German. Only German capitalizes common nouns. English does not.  Capitalize the noun only when it is part of an official title, as in “CBS News interviewed President Barack Obama.” But “Hillary Clinton is running for president.” As the letters editor at a major metropolitan daily newspaper, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people write sentences such as this: “I think our City Council is wasting the Taxpayer’s money on building a new Bus Lane.” As they say in German, “Nein!” Lower-case those nouns. And check that apostrophe while you’re at it. I’m sure the money isn’t coming from just one taxpayer. Correct sentence? “I think our city council is wasting the taxpayers’ money on building a new bus lane.”
2-- De-clutter. Think about eliminating those unnecessary explanatory phrases that mire your poor protagonist in syntactical quicksand: “I saw that there was a beautiful bouquet of roses in a vase on the table.” Better: “There was a beautiful bouquet of roses in a vase on the table.” There’s really no need to say that your protagonist saw something as a preamble to describing what he or she saw. The reader will know intuitively that the “I” in your novel is the one who saw the roses. You can do this for third-person protagonists, too. Opt for: “He’d never heard such nonsense in his life,” instead of “He felt that he had never heard such nonsense in his life.” Say “The thunderstorm scared him,” rather than “He felt scared by the thunderstorm.”
3-- The least said, the better. The fewer words you use, the more evocative the scene will be in your reader’s imagination. Don’t bog your prose down in “whiches” and “thats.” That kind of language is for lawyers, not authors: “The dog that my neighbor used to have, which was a cocker spaniel that died years ago, liked to lie on the porch.” Yikes! Talk about a convoluted chasing of the authorial tail! Try this instead: “My neighbor’s cocker spaniel, dead these many years, liked to lie on the porch.”
4-- Choose active over passive. Make the subject of your sentence take the action, rather than focusing on the object that received it. Example: “The boy was hit in the eye by the hockey puck.” For something shorter, sweeter and to the point, give the action to the puck: “The hockey puck hit the boy in the eye.”
5-- Trust your reader to fill in the blanks. I once read a manuscript that described a woman’s trip to a grocery store in San Antonio. She left her house, pressed her key fob to unlock her car door, opened the door, got into the driver’s seat, closed the car door, turned the key in the ignition, backed out of the driveway, drove to the store (and on the way, the author named every street she drove on), pulled into the parking lot, turned off the engine, got out of the car, locked the door and went into the store. Whew. But the author wasn’t done quite yet. Once inside the store, the woman went to the produce department and the author proceeded to describe every fruit and vegetable on display, as well as all the customers shopping in that aisle. He could have written instead: “Cathy went to the store and bought a bag of oranges,” and the reader would have instinctively known that Cathy did all the minutiae involving her car, without needing the details written out. The other customers should have been described only if they were going to play some role in the plot; otherwise, the reader will understand, without all the gory details, that other people were shopping at the same time as Cathy.
6-- Chuck the chuckles. Use “said.” It’s simple and unobtrusive. “I remember when you slipped on the banana peel,” he chuckled. Actually, he couldn’t have. Listen to real people talk. If they’re chuckling, they stop to say something. They can’t chuckle and talk at the same time without snorting and choking.
7-- What’s in a name? Give your characters names appropriate for the time period they’re living in, or you’ll shoot down your story’s credibility. I read a novel once whose heroine lived during the Civil War. The author had named her Jennifer. Sorry, but Jennifer is a 20th century name which came into popular usage after George Bernard Shaw used it in his 1906 play, The Doctor’s Dilemma. Before that, it was known only in Cornwall. Is your protagonist a 14th century mystic sighing away her days in a crumbling and drafty convent? Great, but don’t call her Kailey or Alyssa.
8-- Listen to that gut feeling. If something isn’t working in your novel, whether it’s a paragraph, a single sentence or a whole subplot, let it go and try a different approach. When you try to force something that doesn’t work, it reads to editors, literary agents and publishers like you forced it. You can’t fool them.
9-- If you’re writing an article for a magazine or newspaper, all the above rules apply, except of course, the one about names. Show respect for the submission guidelines, especially on word counts. At the newspaper where I work, we have a policy that letters must be no more than 150 words long. Yet, people keep sending in 500-word missives and are miffed when they’re not published. When I was a reporter, I quickly learned to write my stories to length because I found that if I didn’t, the first thing the copy editors would cut was always the paragraph I loved best. Spare yourself that grief and stick to the assigned word count.
10-- To learn from the technique and style of a genius, read The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne or The Luck of Ginger Coffey, two novels by Brian Moore. He can deliver a devastating one-two punch to your emotions with just three words. Not one word is wasted. That’s what you’re aiming for.

Naomi Lakritz has been writing and editing at daily newspapers for 37 years. She is a columnist, editorial writer and the letters editor at the Calgary Herald. She owns Naomi Lakritz Editing Services, based in Calgary, Canada, and edits manuscripts, website content, academic papers and a variety of other documents. She also translates from French and Italian into English. Her website is www.quantumorange.net and she can be reached at njlakritz@shaw.ca

Friday, August 21, 2015

Make Your Voice Original by Getting Rid of "Received Text"




What Is Received Text?
When I first heard the term “received text,” its meaning wasn’t immediately clear. I thought back to my Catholic elementary school lessons, and veritable old Moses grabbing a pair of stone tablets out of the sky. Received text—good? Important? Kinda heavy?
In fact, “received text” isn’t a good thing. It is a form of cliché, received from the nebulous lingo of lazy writing, stereotypes, aphorisms, business jargon, and slang re-digested back into soundbites and advertising copy. It’s our lingua franca, for better or worse: useful enough when it supplies you with easy rejoinders while stuck in an awkward conversation, but unhelpful when you are striving for nuance and originality in your fiction.
Most of us can identify a cliché: fast as lightning. A penny saved is a penny earned. You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. (Actually, that one amuses me.) But the English language is full of humdrum, often nonsensical phrases that suck the life out of prose: a home-cooked meal, humble abode, gone downhill in recent years, soon learned, at present, stunning beachfront, fast friends, terrible mistake, flirted shamelessly, rotating cast, newly minted, perfect opportunity, let loose… etc. Any of these can be funny if you use them in full awareness of their unoriginality, and delight your reader with them in an unexpected, even absurd context: in short, if you reclaim the element of surprise.

Because that’s what good writing is. Surprising. Interesting. Creative. If you show up at a restaurant expecting artful food from the kitchen, but get a bowl of pablum, why stay to finish the meal? Clichés are mush. If, however, the food looks okay, and has some flavor but reminds you of every meal you’ve ever eaten at Olive Garden, then you’ll probably finish it but never be back. Received text ultimately has the same effect on a reader; and frankly, though I'm loath to waste money on a mediocre meal, I would prefer the loss to having wasted ten or fifteen hours of the weekend on a mediocre novel.

Fiction is the place to be bold and brave. To tell your truth, no matter how weird it sounds. Recognizing lifeless imagery is half of the task, but the other half—fixing it—is addressed outside of the page, too. To live a writer’s life doesn’t mean wearing peacoats, drinking yourself past the fear of a blank page, or needing to move to a villa in Italy before you can pen a magnum opus.
It does, however, mean keeping a notebook. It means noticing what you think and feel. It means taking your eyes off the damn ball once in a while, and noticing the details that are always around you every single second of the day. It begins with growing once again familiar with your vast capacity for originality, and taking the risk of writing it down. We're all born with these abilities. We grow up and learn to be dull. And then, when we make a commitment to improving our writing craft, we get to relearn our creativity, and cheerfully experiment with it in the lines of a manuscript.

Examples
It is impossible for this single blog post to expunge received text from your writing once and for all. The best I can do is illuminate the first few lamps along the road. So: I've had fun draining the life out of six of my recent, favorite lines in fiction. I used word choices and phrases that I often see as an editor (the underlined parts). The information is the same, but the writing is bland, vague, and off-the-cuff. After each one, you'll see the much-better original.

1. She had an unmemorable face and bleach-blonde hair, and I was thinking to myself that if I were in her boyfriend's shoes I wouldn't want to touch her with a ten-foot pole.

"She is peroxided and greasy, with the flat, stunted features of generations of malnutrition, and privately I am thinking that if I were her boyfriend I would be relieved to trade her even for a hairy cellmate named Razor." (From In the Woods, by Tana French)

2.Rosie's mom was always a bundle of nerves. She was rich and had the luxury of holding a grudge and unchallenged stereotypes. Her fridge held nothing but condiments and old bread. Charlie didn't know what she ate, and once suggested to Rosie that maybe she was a vampire, but she didn't think it was funny.

"Rosie's mother was a high strung bundle of barely thought-through prejudices, worries, and feuds. She lived in a magnificent flat in Wimple Street with nothing in the enormous fridge but bottles of vitaminized water and rye crackers. . . . Fat Charlie thought it highly likely that Rosie's mum went out at night in bat form to suck the blood from sleeping innocents. He had mentioned this theory to Rosie once, but she had failed to see the humor in it." (From Anansi Boys, by Neil Gaiman)

3. Dench was a shifty-eyed hippy

"This was the grifter in Dench, something violent in the name of freedom . . ." (From "Wings," by Lorrie Moore)

4. That was so typical. WASPy people will make a fuss about a lost kitten, but we Dominicans, we believe in tough love.

"That's white people for you. They lose a cat and it's an all-points bulletin, but we Dominicans, we lose a daughter and we might not even cancel our appointment at the salon." (From The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, but Junot Díaz)

5. He looked surprised, and she could see realization dawning in his eyes. He was naive and coddled, and she wished he would toughen up.

"He looked at her in surprise and his eyes changed slowly, like land growing lighter after a cloud passes. He was naive, and it infuriated her the way he still possessed the luxury of disappointment." (From Be Safe I Love You, by Cara Hoffman)

6. She laughed in the face of sadness.
"She seemed to be the only one who could laugh out of sadness, a sadness that made the laughter deeper and louder still, like the echo of a scream from the bottom of a well." (From The Farming of Bones, by Edwidge Danticat)

Sarah Cypher, Editor at The Threepenny Editor
sarah@threepennyeditor.com

Feel free to share a few of your own stinkers with me on Twitter (@threepenny).

Read more about Project 2015--making this year your breakthrough year—here.