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Writing Tips – Words to Avoid – No. 9

Here is another site with writing tips for those seeking to perfect their craft:

http://www.freelancewriting.com/articles/ten-words-to-avoid-when-writing.php

You might also find this word substitute list helpful:

http://www.bing.com/search?q=word+substitute+for+could&form=PRUSEN&pc=AV01&mkt=en-us&refig=6bb8e87e5c104ea1b114ec7c0a0418c1&pq=word+substitute+for+could&sc=0-14&sp=-1&qs=n&sk=&cvid=6bb8e87e5c104ea1b114ec7c0a0418c1

Donna B. Comeaux
Freelance Writer, Novelist, Poet
Read her new book, “Selfish Ambition,” on http://www.Smashwords.com. It’s FREE.

Writing Tips – Provoking Emotions – Power Words for Writers No. 6

If I haven’t expressed this before, I want you to know that I am willing to share any and everything I know about writing. I’m not an expert. Far from it. But I am determined to share. I won’t waste much of your time here. So, let me get to the point.

Today, I shared my writing journey with a friend of mine. As I did so, she said to me, “Donna, what you need to do is look up power words. I always had a list of power words I used when writing.”

Power words. Power words? Is there such a thing? Yes! (and that’s an emphatic “YES!”)

I found a website that lists power words used to evoke all kinds of emotions. Don’t believe they work? Listen to CNN. This news channel evokes fear in us all day long and to do so they use these same “power” words over and over and over again.

Here’s the website: http://boostblogtraffic.com/power-words/

This is only one of many many websites. Search the internet and find your favorite one and use it. Be wise and crafty. Use them where needed; at the right time. Don’t overuse them. Power words without a substantive and well-written novel won’t get you very far.

Good luck to each of you. Please return the favor. If you have tips you can share with me and others, please do so. And don’t fail to go to my main menu and look at Writing Tips Nos. 1 – 5.

Donna B. Comeaux
Freelance Writer, Poet, Novelist

Fighting That Six-Inch War – The Long Grey Line

Comeaux Wedding #20

View of West Point from across the Hudson River

Chris Pestel is a 2003 graduate from the United States Military Academy at West Point. He has become a storyteller and photographer. One of the pieces he recently wrote is entitled “To Fight & Die For That Inch.” In his writings, Chris reveals the true meaning behind the fight for an inch of turf. I could spell it out for you here, reveal the essence of it all, and, no doubt, you’d probably guess the truth Chris so poignantly reveals. But what you don’t know are the people behind this truth. You don’t know their struggles. You don’t know how important it is to win their game of tug and war. You don’t know the pain of so many losses . . . on a public field of play .  .  . or their fight to keep their heads high in the midst of defeat. You don’t know the depth of responsibility placed on their shoulders. You haven’t seen their faces or felt their pain.
Comeaux Wedding #55

Picture of 2003 Army Football Players on Graduation Day

Here is your chance.

If you’ll indulge in this pictorial and narrative account of a team’s fight for perseverance, you’ll begin to clearly see the truth you may already know. That life can’t be measured by mere wins and losses. Life involves more .  .  . Well, why don’t you let Chris Pestel tell you what life is really about by clicking or pasting this link in your browser: https://medium.com/@chrisWpestel/to-fight-die-for-that-inch-1284c1e25d88

After reading this and gazing at these amazing photographs, can you really come up with a valid excuse “not” to finish your task at hand?  I can’t.  These pictures leave no room for me to have a tantrum and throw in the towel.  No one has ever asked me to place myself on the Long Grey Line and play a six-inch war game on a public stage.  All in the face of a losing season year after year.  On top of all that, I find it appalling that anyone would expect me to remain silent and loyal when asked to put on a recognizable uniform and walk among millions, proud.  And if that isn’t enough: “While you’re at it soldier, strap on a gun and headgear and march to the front line.”

Comeaux Wedding #34

2003 Corps of Cadets

Makes me think twice about throwing another pity party.  After reading this, I’d rather strap on another breatplate of determination and press toward my goals.  My weapons of choice? God and a positive attitude.

Tell me something–are you ready to gear up and fight failure?  I am.  Let’s get after it! Today! No more procrastination.

See you at the end of the fight. If I get there before you, I’ll ready the celebration banquet and save a place for you.

I see balloons flying overhead.  2015 is already starting out to be a prosperous year.  We’ve got plenty of reasons for an early celebration.  I’m expecting a victory!!

GO ARMY!  BEAT NAVY!

Comeaux Wedding #73

Donna B. Comeaux
Freelance Writer, Poet, Author

Writing for The Huffington Post

I found this article on http://www.thewritelife.com website and thought I’d pass it along.  I have been contemplating writing for The Huffington Post for some time now.  Here are tips on how to get started:

http://thewritelife.com/how-to-write-for-the-huffington-post/

Please come back to my website and share your experience.

Thanks for stopping by.

Donna B. Comeaux

November Devotional – Can I Do This?

When was the last time you did what you really wanted? And when you tried, how often did you foul it up before you finally gave up on the idea? As you sat in the dark and sulked in sorrow trying to pacify your decision to quit, did you calculate the man-hours spent chasing your dream? The reality of it all is enough to send anyone into a deep depression. Lawrence Block(1) once said, “If you want to write fiction, the best thing you can do is take two aspirins, lie down in a dark room, and wait for the feeling to pass.”

I’m sure you’ve felt that way about your dreams.

Sometimes when failures knock me to my knees, I think of Michael Jordan or Walt Disney. Neither had the natural ability to be successful at what they did. Walt Disney(2) threw hundreds of drawings in the trash before one was a success(3). At one point, he was told his idea for a cartoon character wouldn’t work because “a giant mouse on the screen would terrify women.” How silly.

Michael Jordan(4) had one obstacle after another. He lost almost 300 games, missed over 9,000 shots, and 26 times was given the ball to take the game-winning shot and MISSED.

Michael and Walt’s early days are considered failed attempts at success. Who would sit back and watch a young Jordan miss shot after shot then suggest he might one day be one of the greatest players to ever play the game? It’s ludicrous for Walt Disney to think he’d bring moveable cartoons to the big screen? Can you imagine the ridicule? Can you see the bankers cringe at the idea of extending him another loan? For a cartoon character?

With something to prove, these men managed to rise above(5) the mockery and stay focused, using their failures as motivation.

At times I wanted to throw in the towel and turn away from my dream to become a writer. I went through the motions of disconnecting my computer, cleaning my office, and placing every reference book I owned in the trash, only to put them back on the shelf—just in case.

All sorts of things got in my way—work, family issues, and the many voices convincing me I should pay someone to help me. I listened to suggestions to read one website after another so I’d better learn the art of writing. I don’t condemn efforts to help me. Matter of fact, I learned a great deal. But somewhere along the way, I committed a horrible sin. I convinced myself others were far superior and there was no way I’d measure up to their ability to create literary works of art.

No one told me to take critiques in stride or to ignore those who just didn’t get it. No one told me that being a writer was a subjective craft. That one person would look at a scene and immerse themselves in it and feel exactly what was going on, while others would pick the scene apart and find a hundred and one things wrong with it—from the number of times I used “that” to the number of times I split a paragraph in the wrong place.

To keep myself humble, I took everyone’s opinion/critique as gospel and whittled away at my ability to be creative. Before I knew it, my self-confidence was gone. I later realized I didn’t know how to sift through the noise and keep my own voice. In short, I wanted to please everyone—never mind the fact I was the storyteller and could literally do whatever I pleased with my book. One day, amid all my confusion, I asked myself if I could possibly move forward and, if so, how.

There will be days when you can’t write a word. There will even be times when after a bad critique you can’t get out of the dugout and move past your hurt feelings to finish your edits or write fresh material. It’s assured, though, unless you plant butt-in-chair and keep it there, failure will tap you on the shoulder right before it blows a hole in your world.

Not long ago, someone did just that. A lady in my critique group sent me an e-mail and said she’d be happy to critique the first chapter of my family saga. She was kind, professional, and sent me her credentials as assurance of her qualifications. I felt honored this wonderful person would share her time with me. In fact, I was a little giddy about the whole idea and could hardly sleep that night.

I wish I had.

The next day unnerved me. There wasn’t a sentence in the first paragraph that wasn’t ripped apart. Though most of her corrections were right on, she pounded my self-esteem until it resembled sawdust, making me wonder why I had the audacity to think I could write. Needless to say, I decided, “That’s it. I quit.” My husband spent countless hours talking me out of it. Still, my drive was gone, my identity shattered.

To my surprise, within three or four days, I replaced the desire to quit with a need to weed through the painful remarks and validate her critique. I highlighted anything meaningful and I ditched the rest.

The lesson here?

If you think for one minute you can withstand an honest critique, think again. My advice: before you read a critique, think of the worst day in your life then the critique won’t seem so bad. If you still can’t handle it, treat yourself to a day spa, go see a romantic movie, then go home and prop your feet up, ’cause you’re done.

Writing is a very personal experience. Yet, it becomes everyone’s business if you plan to deliver your writing to the masses. It’s not okay to waste people’s time with writing you’ve hammered out in an hour without spending twice as much time proofing it. Neither is it fair to ask a consumer to spend $7.99 to $19.99 for a book that your friends approved. Your readers deserve the best product you can produce. That means you’ll have to go the extra mile to have it proofread and edited. More importantly, you are not being fair to you if you don’t develop a passion for writing (or for anything you decide to do).

Writing should keep you up at night. It’s a common occurrence for me to tiptoe in the dark to my computer and finish an idea swirling around in my head. I’m amazed when I look up three hours later and notice so much time has passed. I can’t tell you the number of times I have tossed and turned in my bed, tiring myself out, before finally getting up to write.

To be honest, I’d rather write than eat. I absolutely hate having to stop in the middle of a scene and go to the bathroom or pause to eat lunch. I’ve skipped more meals than I can count (and still haven’t lost a pound of cellulite) and have gnawed on stale, crusted bread just so I can keep writing and not break my concentration.

For me, there’s something fascinating about the English language that dares me to rearrange every sentence I lay my eyes on. I can’t sit through a scrabble game without making a mental note of an unfamiliar word so I can later look it up in the dictionary. I crave to create words that seem to leap off the page, pound with rhythm, whip through the air, lull you to sleep or sing as soft as the sound of hummingbird’s wings. It’s nice when I dare my readers to love villains and hate heroes.

To accomplish this, I must first believe in myself. I must endeavor to believe that beyond all the dangling modifiers, misused words, run-on sentences, needless adjectives, and wordy sentences (like this one), there’s a story brewing. The healing for poorly written manuscripts are reading and writing, and more writing and reading. Sure, I can spend $199 for an online class. Not a thing wrong with it if you have the cash. Nothing wrong with taking a creative writing course at your community college either. But I assure you, nothing will cure what ails a writer than more reading and writing.

Maybe you don’t want to be a writer. Is something else gnawing at you? How long have you put off teaching that Sunday School class? Or put off starting a ladies group? For the men out there, maybe you’ve been dying to spearhead a men’s retreat. I say, GO FOR IT!!

But beware.

You will have all types of cheerleaders: those who will say you can’t and those who will say you can. One thing is certain. None of those voices really matter except your own. What good is it if someone says you can, but buzzing inside your head is: “I really can’t do this. I don’t have the expertise.” Those excuses merely explain who you are—a dear soul with a low self-esteem. Are you willing to allow these excuses to lock you in?

Writing is one of the hardest professions in the world, yet, millions have become successful at it. And here are two concrete truths: no two people have the same writing ability, and not all “published” writers write well.

Regardless, you must do as good writers do. Put a new spin on your old idea and make asserted efforts to come up with fresh ideas (good luck with this one). In addition, you must exercise discipline. It’s an absolute necessity that you plant butt-in-chair, fail a half dozen times, throw things, lose sleep, and perhaps go broke to transform your dreams into reality.

Unless you have a physical handicap keeping you from implementing these things, there is absolutely nothing standing in your way to become a writer, a Sunday School teacher, a camp leader, or kick off your first men’s retreat.

So, plant your butt-in-chair and join me on this stressful journey to success. Take whatever idea you have and hammer away at it until you have accomplished every single thing imaginable. There will be roadblocks, so, don’t pretend they aren’t coming. Prepare for them. Think of yourself as abnormal if roadblocks don’t emerge. Nevertheless, determine to move forward through whatever adversity comes your way.

You can do this. So can I. This document proves my success. Show the world yours.

Donna B. Comeaux
Freelance Writer, Poet, Novelist
http://www.awriterfirst.wordpress.com
http://www.rubyforwomen.com

Other writings by Donna can be found in the Archive section of Ruby for Women Magazine and Hope-Full Living, a daily devotional. She has an upcoming novel due for release online through Smashwords Publishing in January 2015. She has also begun work on a religious series entitled “Impact.” Impact will explore the many ways our decisions affect those around us and many throughout the world.

(1) Writing the Novel from Plot to Print by Lawrence Block, Writer’s Digest Books, 1983. http://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/39217-writing-the-novel-from-plot-to-print

(2) Bharatbhasa Free Articles. http://bharatbhasha.net/marketing.php/241

(3) The Life and Times of Walt Disney.
https://www.earlymoments.com/disney/The-Life-and-Times-of-Walt-Disney/

(4) Business Insider: Thomas Edison and Michael Jordan were Failures.
http://www.businessinsider.com/thomas-edison-and-michael-jordan-were-failures-2010-9

(5) Bio.True Story: Michael Jordan.
http://www.biography.com/people/michael-jordan-9358066?page=3

12 Useful Websites to Improve Your Writing

I didn’t know how to reblog this article from StumbleUpon so I’m providing a link to it. These websites are worth a look.

http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/8VNykg?from=%2Fto%2Fs%2F8VNykg%3Fm%3DC_PF%253D664979d9aeac0c524b3e49718c3d796b%26meta%3D31852593%26_notoolbar%26_nospa%3Dtrue

Please, please send me comments telling me if these websites were helpful or not.

Happy Writing!

Clear Writing – No. 5

PROOFING!  Proofing.  proofing?

One of the hardest professions in the world is to become a successful writer. The lingering difficulties we fight against are criticism, proofreading, and our self-esteem, which can be our greatest nemesis.

Let me address each issue one at a time.

First, let me say to each of you that we often forget how to make failures work for us. Each time someone offers you good advice, and let me emphasize good advice, we get so caught up in our failures that instead of using the opportunity this good advice affords, we have a pity party.

Please don’t hear me say you shouldn’t be disappointed or you should suppress healthy emotional reactions. But to stay in a state of pity because things didn’t go right the first time robs you of victories just over the horizon.

Criticism, however, has to be good criticism. Too often, I find editors, especially those we pay hundreds, and sometimes thousands of dollars, don’t always spell it out for us. They leave too much to the imagination. But don’t think for a minute you and I are off the hook because of this. Our writings are our responsibility, no matter what.

Keep things in perspective. The purpose of criticism is to get your writing from Point A to Point B. Without it, you are planted at the ground level forever. Your adherence to criticism can quickly place you in the pool with the big guys. So, the next time you are critiqued, have a tantrum for an hour or two then get back to work. The key to criticism is determining if it is valid. If so, adhere to it and don’t forget to implement appropriate changes. If you don’t know how to make the appropriate changes, simply ask.

Proofreading, it seems, is thought of as being the easiest of the three difficulties, but the most flawed and overlooked. After you’ve submitted a manuscript, how many times have you gone through it a day later and found a host of mistakes. All of us have committed or will commit this infraction at some point. IT’S NOT THE END OF THE WORLD! However, to commit this infraction with a great deal of consistency is considered lazy. Your manuscript is the only piece of material which represents who you as a writer. The editors, literary agents, and publishers have no other way to evaluate your capabilities other than by your manuscript. Are you really willing to submit a manuscript you haven’t spent twice as much time proofing as you did writing it?

I must interject an experience I had several weeks ago. Someone on Facebook solicited a beta reader for her novel. With that solicitation was a beautiful book cover she planned to use once the book was published. It was an intriguing cover, the type of cover that pulled into a mystery. Without a synopsis, I gave in to the pull and volunteered. It is my understanding, though I could be totally wrong here, that beta readers are individuals willing to read a book from cover to cover and provide a synopsis of their overall opinion of the book. I couldn’t get through thirteen paragraphs of the novel. Why? Because it was littered with mistakes. Typos. Misplaced dialogue tags. Insufficient paragraph breaks. Weak structure. Slow pacing. Repetitive words (more than can be considered as mere mistakes). Inconsistencies–the girl’s eyes are green, only to find out two paragraphs later that her eyes are blue without giving a valid reason for the change.

Proofreading is more in depth than looking for typos. It’s looking for consistency. Unless a character has dyed her hair, you’ll need to show us why her hair is brown in one scene and blond in another. If your character is stepping off a plane in Morocco, how is it that he’s sitting at a table having dinner in Chicago. How did he get there? More importantly, how did you get him there?

We also tend to neglect correcting overused phrases. All of us have our favorite phrases and words we like to use. It’s a daunting task to develop the patience to become meticulous about correcting mistakes. The problem is, most of us don’t really look at overused words as a mistake. Take it from me, it is. You and I are asking people to spend anywhere from $2.99 to $22.99 for our books. Would you spend $19.99 for a book only to read an author’s repetitive phraseology? I wouldn’t. So, we shouldn’t expect others to read it either. It is worth every bit of your time to go painstakingly through your novel and find the repeats; whether the repeats are of events or of wording.

Here’s a rule of thumb: many of our overused words can be found in the first chapter. Challenge yourself to find those same words throughout the entire novel. Do a word search. Highlight them. After you finish your first draft, go back to those highlighted words and replace them with appropriate substitutes. Use a Thesaurus with great care. It’s a fine reference tool, but if not used correctly, it can cause you a great deal of embarrassment.

Each of us has to develop good proofreading skills. We don’t wake up one day with this ability sharp and ready to go. This skill must be practiced over and over again until we develop keen eyes for it.

With that in mind, I’ve taken sentences from a short story I wrote several weeks ago and used them as examples. I hope these examples will help you better proof your work. Many of you might find better ways to reword these sentences. That’s great. Because you have mentally participated in this exercise is indeed the whole point.

Example 1:  She took her time and examined each dark portal as best she could until she spotted a mysterious man going in and out a door on the first floor.

Correction:  She took her time and with care examined each dark portal until she spotted a mysterious man going in and out a door on the first floor.

After I thought this sentence through, I realized “with care” means the same thing as “She took her time.” How redundant. So I changed it to read:

Correction:  She took her time and examined each dark portal until she spotted a mysterious man going in and out a door on the first floor.

OR you can say:  “She examined each dark portal until she spotted a mysterious man going in and out a door on the first floor.”

Notice how the word count decreased in this sentence. When you are making feverish attempts to pare down your wording, these are the things you look for in your writing. ALSO notice I left out “in and out of a door.”  OF isn’t necessary, so I purposely left it out. It’s a matter of style. Using OF will depend on your style of writing. However, there’s nothing wrong with omitting it.

Example 2:  We could use you in a supervisory role.

Correction:  We need you in a supervisory role.

Example 3:  Earlier, he couldn’t get warm; now he felt hot.

Correction:  Earlier, he was cold; now he felt hot.

       Correction:  To “show” action, edit the sentence this way —  Earlier, he shivered and his teeth chattered; now he couldn’t get his clothes off fast enough. <==Showing this action is what agents look for in our writing. They don’t want you to “tell” them what’s going on, they want you to “show” them.

Example 4:  Katherine exhaled slow and easy as she rested against the seat. When she looked at him again, he had joy in his eyes.

Correction:  Not sure I would change the first sentence.  There’s a lot there:  feeling, action, relief.  That one sentence creates a vivid scene.

Self-esteem is another issue plaguing many writers. Low self-esteem can cast you into a state of depression. All writers hit the wall at some point in their career. I describe self-esteem issues with one word: CHOICE. We either choose to stay in the ring and FIGHT! or we throw in the towel.

I have self-esteem crashes at least twice a day. Some are worse than others. I’m constantly picking myself up off the floor. Why? Glad you asked. I keep getting up because I’m passionate about writing. My passion drives me. My passion keeps me up at night . . . and I do mean “all” night. My passion pisses me off! Literally. Sometimes I get so mad I want to throw things. I remember one time I unplugged my computer and gathered my reference books with the intention to throw them in the trash.

But here’s the thing: After a pep talk from my husband (I just love this guy), I eventually returned to my writing. Why? There are three things I LOVE in this life. My God. My family. And writing. I have waited too long to be in this position to let go now. I have raised my children, pampered my husband (he’s such a big baby), and I serve God no matter what state I’m in. Some people work an eight-hour job. Others work half a day and make millions. The elite have inherited their monies and don’t have to do anything but sit around and whine about having nothing to do. YOU AND I, well, we write. We are no more or less important than anyone else. If we don’t write, we’d do something else. Trust me, we’d be miserable doing something else, but we’d be doing something else just the same.

So, give yourself twenty-four hours to kick, scream, threaten to throw your computer out the window, throw copies of Hamlet, Catcher in the Rye and any other favorite novel across the room. Then after you’ve worn yourself out, take a shower, grab a cup of your favorite beverage, and get back to work.

And choose to diligently become a wordsmith. Each and every time you hear a new word, immediately look it up in the dictionary, or jot it down and look it up later.  Consider the context in which the sentence is used. This is important. The one thing you don’t want to do is use a word you’ve heard on CNN pertaining to a legal matter and place it in a romantic scene of your novel. Using new words in the proper context is extremely important.

In conclusion, my strongest advice is to buy a copy of Stein on Writing by Sol Stein. If you will be diligent to read it word-for-word and implement his advice, this will end up being the best investment you’ve ever made. On Amazon.com, the book cost about $12.40. I also recommend you listen to K.M. Weiland’s weekly podcasts. Here is the website to her archives, divided by year: https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/podcast-episodes-archive/. Her writing tips are invaluable. I devote Saturday mornings to listening to whichever subject matter that I struggle with the most.

Happy Writing! . . . and don’t forget to enjoy the journey!!!

Go out on a limb and share with us the mistakes you’ve made with your manuscript. Also, share tips that you think we can all benefit from.

Updated this post:  May 5, 2018

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