Keep On Writing

I hit another writer’s block. I knew I had something great stuck in my head – but how would I ever get it on paper? The advice that instantly pops into mind is “just write”. But that is easily pushed aside by thoughts that say, “Why bother. It won’t be any good. This is nothing like the other stories or books out there.”

That’s why I’m grateful for exercises given by our fellow writers. For example, on Laurie Halse Anderson’s Facebook page she is giving writing prompts and a challenge to write continuously for 15 minutes straight all throughout August.

Just one of these prompts are pulling together a story I had in my head for ages. It is amazing what story elements develop as you write. You may not have it all planned out. Maybe you just have a thought or a situation in your head. But if you just write, you’ll see elements pull together.

So, if you’re stuck on a thought or worried you won’t be able to write another word, try checking out exercises like those on Laurie Halse Anderson’s page.

Jen’s Writing Tip #8: This, That and the Other Thing

Looking to cut words in your manuscript to meet the word count? After you review it for unnecessary sentences, do a search through your document. Search for the word “that.” It’s a word we use without realizing it. Many times, it just clutters up the work.

For example:

It made Tammi mad that Alice took that book.

Aside from having unnecessary words in the sentence, it’s also hard to visualize what is going on. Now take a look at the same sentence without “that.” (Plus a better adjective in there couldn’t hurt.)

Tammi scowled at Alice for taking the book.

See how the second sentence flows better? You also have a better visual of what’s going on. In this case the sentences have almost the same word count, but again, it’s more clear as to what is going on.

Here’s an example on how eliminating “that” can shorten your sentences. There are often times more unnecessary words to accompany “that.”

For example:

I found that reading the story reminded me of my childhood.

Which words would you cut to make the sentence more appealing? Now take a look below:

Reading the story reminded me of my childhood.

Which sentence did you enjoy reading more? Which one sounded more natural?

For your next manuscript, make sure that that is left out 😉

Jen’s Writing Tip #7

Watch “ly” words

We’ve heard it before. Editors don’t like words that end in “ly”. Sometimes they are necessary and even make your paragraph better, but most of the time they get in your way of a clean cut manuscript. I once was guilty of this writing sin. I had about 4 “ly” words in one paragraph. A critique partner pointed out how it slowed down the flow of the story. As I thought about it, losing all those words helped with the word count goal I tried reach. So before you hand in those manuscripts to your critique group or a publisher, read through that work. As you come across each “ly” word, see if your sentence can go without it.

Jen’s Writing Tip# 6 Top Ten Questions to Ask Your Character

When writing a story, it’s important to know your character. It’s been said you should know your character as well as you know yourself. One way to do that is to “interview” your character. You aren’t going to use all the information you come up with, but you will have a rich background of information to choose from.

How do you interview a character? Put yourself in the frame of mind of your character. What would she say or do in response to the questions? Before you know it, your character might not be able to stop talking.

Here are my top ten questions I ask my character:

10. Where do you live?

9. Who is in your family?

8. Do you get along with your family?

7. Who is your best friend and why?

6. What do you think of school? Is it fun, boring, horrifying?

5. What is the best thing that ever happened to you? Worst?

4. What do you like to do when you aren’t in school or with your friends?

3. What do you do when you get upset? Do you have a special place you go, or a routine you follow?

2. What do you think of boys/girls?

1. Tell me one interesting thing that your best friend doesn’t even to know.

I’m sure you can come up with even more questions. Once you get an idea of who your character is, you might end up with pages of questions to ask them. That’s okay. The more you know, the better your readers will enjoy your character.

Happy Writing!

Jen’s Writing Tip #5 It’s Fiction,But Is It Real?

The 10-year old hero of your story meets the villain. Before your hero jumps in a car, flies a plane or a space ship, make sure these elements make sense. Is your story set in a normal, human world where you wouldn’t see these events, or is it set in a new world – maybe another planet. In our every day life, it would be hard to believe a young child would fly a space ship or plane. But, if you created a world in your story where this is the norm, flying a spaceship to catch the villain may work nicely. When you are trying to sell your work to an editor and the reader, you want to make sure your story makes sense and the reader can “see” the events happening. Readers are clever and they sense when a character is being true to the story. If the reader feels cheated, we loose the reader. So go ahead and write that fabulous story! When it’s finished and your readers read that fictional story – will it feel real to them?

Jen’s Writing Tip #4: Watch Passive Voice

Jason ate the cookie.
The cookie was eaten by Jason.

Which sentence above do you find more interesting to read? Did one of them provide a better picture in your head of what was going on? Both sentences tell us about Jason eating a cookie, but the first one was more clear and you can easily visualize the action.

The first sentence is Active Voice. The second sentence was Passive. Active voice makes for more interesting reading and is likely to keep your reader interested. The readers will find themselves caring more about your character as well because it would be as if they were actually there.

There’s a bonus to using Active Voice – it helps when you are revising and cutting words. If you take a look at the two sentences above again, you’ll notice the first sentence (Active Voice) has four words. The second (Passive Voice) sentence has six. Imagine cutting two or more words from many sentences in your manuscript. You may find it easier to meet your word count requirement, which can only improve your chances of publication.

Jen’s Writing Tips #1 Is the Manuscript Ready?

You finished that wonderful manuscript, the story you’ve been working relentlessly on for months. Before wrapping it up with a cover letter and submission package, be sure it’s really ready to be submitted to editors. Is it free from spelling and grammar errors? Is the format correct? Does it follow the Writer Guidelines? Is the piece age-appropriate for your audience?

As editor of My Light Magazine, I’ve come across promising manuscripts, yet had to reject them based on the above criteria. Don’t let all that hard work go to waste. Be sure it’s ready to meet an editor and an editor’s expectations.

Happy Writing!

A Sneak Peek of OF ATLANTIS

I have a treat for you all today. Lanaia Lee, author of Of Atlantis shared the prologue of her book with me. I was so enthralled with the story that I wanted to share it with you. I found it intriguing since I connected with the main character right away. When you’re finished reading part one of the prologue, feel free to leave a comment and share what you think.


Archimedes, heir to the throne of Atlantis, played alone in the courtyard of his home, the palace. His father, the King, always seemed to be gone fightin bloody battles with his enemies.

On this day, Archimedes’ father, King Lionus, left for another battle, and the young child worried if his father, whom he so loved, would return to him or fall in battle like so many others did when they clashed with enemies.

Across the courtyard, near his mother’s beloved roses, he saw his nanny in deep conversation with two members of the palace guard appointed as the child’s bodyguards.

Archimedes could always tell his body guards felt very uncomfortable around him, because he was no ordinary child. At only four, he could feel their discomfort in his presence.

The last time King Lionus had gone into battle, he had come to say goodbye to his son, totally dressed in his full battle regalia. At that time, Archimedes while playing in the courtyard he saw his father and ran straight to him with open arms. When he got there, his father pulled away. Lionus told the poor child, “Keep your distance! Be a man like me and say goodbye the way I would. That is the way I taught you, so that is what I expect!”

Archimedes tried his best to hide his tears from his father, because his father would think him weak. The child knew even his own father feared him because he was different but helpless against it.

King Lionus said, “I came to say goodbye because I will be gone this time for a couple of months. You are a prince and I expect you to conduct yourself in this way during my absence. It is very important that you act like a man, especially for the sake of your mother. She worries enough, and I don’t want you to give her any more reason to do so.”

Archimedes looked at his father after secretly wiping the tears from his eyes and then said, “I totally understand what you ask of me sir. But I do wonder will you return? I just don’t want you to die. I just love you so, Father.”

King Lionus bent down on one knee to face his son, “Archimedes, you don’t have to worry. Don’t I always return? I am Atlantis, and killing me is no easy task. You know I have been wounded several times, but I have always returned. It is my destiny to rule this country, so I shall return. I know my subjects and you and your mother need me, so I always return. Just be a man for your mother and let Lord Uric help you with your studies. It is important to me that you behave and be a good boy.”

Archimedes answered his father, “I will do my very best to be a man for mother sir, but I will miss you father. I love you father!”

For a moment the child softened the heart of the King, and the King started to reach out for his son. But then the fear of his son took over so King Lionus, said, “Goodbye son,” then he turned and walked away.
Archimedes watched his father walk away from him, until he could no longer see him.

On the other side of the wall around the perimeter of the courtyard, Archimedes could hear the laughter of other children as they played. The child started to think about what the other children might be playing such as hide and seek, or maybe even tag.

Their laughter made Archimedes sad, because the other children always shied away from him fearing his strange abilities. This made Archimedes a lonely child. As he listened to the other children it made him wish he didn’t have powers. His powers made him feel like he was not as good as the others. The poor child longed just to be normal.

That’s all for today. Come back tomorrow for part two. Thanks for sharing your prologue with us Lanaia!