Category: Sins

Step Away From The Thesaurus

Monday Evening, 62°F and partly cloudy
Listening to Tame Impala—H.F.G.W. (Canyons Drunken Rage)

I’m begging you, dear amateur writer, put your thesaurus down and take several giant steps away from it. I’m not saying you should burn it (well, maybe, but let’s not be too hasty).  For now, simply set it aside and take some time to consider how you’re using it, and why.

A thesaurus is a powerful tool when used properly. But abuse it and it will ruin your writing and out you as an insecure rube with a weak vocabulary and possibly an inferiority complex. Never attempt to use a thesaurus to make your writing more interesting or make yourself appear more intelligent and well read. It will do neither. A thesaurus can’t give you anything you don’t already have. Continue reading

How not to tag dialogue

Wednesday evening, 25°F and cloudy 
Listening to The Nice, War & Peace

Please, self-publishing authors. I am begging you. Learn how to tag dialogue. It’s not that hard, I promise. The bad dialogue tags in self-published fiction makes my eyeballs spurt blood. I’ll be covering several varieties of bad dialogue tags and what you can do to fix them. If you’re not sure how to properly tag dialogue, keep reading. If you think you’re sure but are using dialogue tags other than said or asked more than once every 5,000 words, keep reading.

Said and asked are your dialogue MVPs

You could write a 150,000-word novel using no dialogue tags other than these. It doesn’t mean you have to, but they should make up the majority of your dialogue tags (not including properly used action tags). Said and asked are your go-to tags because they are practically invisible. Continue reading

Ideas are worthless

Friday Evening, 32°F and cloudy
Listening to The Nice, She Belongs to Me.

I hate to be the one to break it to you, but that idea you have for a novel? It’s worthless. Nobody, and I do mean nobody, is buying up ideas for novels. Go ahead, Google around and see if I’m wrong. I’ll just wait here.

The good news is, if you’ve been wasting energy hoarding your novel ideas, you can relax. The dollar value of your great idea is $0.00. Nobody is angling to swipe it from you. Even if they did, it wouldn’t matter.

Yet I keep seeing comments like these in writers’ groups:

“I avoid social media pitch events like ass herpes because writers are lurking around hoping to steal my ideas.”

“Whatever my current idea is, I guard it like a state secret.”

“I flat out refuse to even tell my editor what the story is about until I’ve got the first draft finished.”

Now, there may be some good reasons to not share your ideas, but “people are going to steal them” isn’t one of them. The value isn’t in the story idea. It’s in the story’s execution. Continue reading

Peeve of the day: the “late” opener

Monday morning, 20°F with snow flurries
Listening to Tame Impala, Skeleton Tiger

There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are. —W. Somerset Maugham

The story begins with the main character alone and late for work, school, or a date. She has overslept. Curse you, malfunctioning alarm clock/newfangled smartphone! She hurries to get dressed, and rushing about, she stubs her toe. Curse you, secondhand ottoman! She runs her pantyhose. Curse you, patriarchy! She spills her cereal. Curse you, Count Chocula!

While all this is going on, she’s fretting about how disappointed/angry/annoyed her boss/teacher/date is going to be. Or worse, ruminating about her backstory (because it’s just fascinating that she grew up an awkward and bookish only child in Poughkeepsie, but moved to the Big Apple after graduation to pursue her dream of blah blah blah, and if only her stupid boyfriend hadn’t blah blah blah, and back when she was in 10th grade in Mrs. Fitch’s honors English class she should have blah blah blah).

And then, oh, the humanity, her car refuses to start. Curse you, Detroit!  Continue reading

The big-ass Mary Sue

Friday evening, 13°F
Listening to Tame Impala, 41 Mosquitos Flying in Formation

Sometimes I lay awake at night worrying about all of the poor, innocent pixels being inconvenienced by online discussions of what does, or does not, make a Mary Sue character. Many of these conversations revolve around the accused Mary Sue’s looks and talents. I contend that those things alone are not what make up a Mary Sue.

The one and only Greg Lake of ELP.

Despite what you may have heard, the problem with a Mary Sue isn’t that she’s* precocious, ridiculously beautiful, has remarkable hair, is phenomenally talented, sings like an angel, or is lusted after by all. If those factors alone made a Mary Sue, then the biggest-ass Mary Sue who ever lived was 1971 David Gilmour. Or possibly 1971 Greg Lake. And if you call either of them a Mary Sue, we will surely come to blows, my friend. Continue reading

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