Blooper-Proof Your Novel: How to Find and Fix a ‘Reality Violation’

Scene time and place: A Civil War combat zone, just after a skirmish. Soldiers limp away from the conflict, weary and depleted. One falls to the ground, too weak to make it back to camp. The ground is littered with bodies of the wounded and dead. Far in the background, a white SUV speeds across the battlefield.

Whoops! It’s a goof in a Hollywood production, and we congratulate ourselves on catching it. We all get a laugh out of bloopers we find in the movies, but when they show up in a novel we’ve written, they aren’t quite so funny …

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Hedge Words and Inflation Words—Prune These from Your Writing

As writers, we all know wordiness is something to avoid: never say in ten words what you can say in four. But while we get that in theory, it’s often hard, in practice, to produce tight writing. We look at the sentences on the page, suspecting they are verbose, but don’t know what to change or to eliminate. Let’s look at two common writing flaws that clutter the manuscripts of many aspiring authors. I call these culprits “hedge words” and “inflation words” …

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‘Begs the Question’ or ‘Raises the Question’?

No, esteemed author friends. "Begs the question" does not mean "raises the question." What is our language coming to? I sound like a pedant, but honestly ...  the rash of "begging the questions" we're now seeing everywhere, even on news shows and in presumably "edited" books, is enough to drive an editor around the bend. People think it sounds cool ... Read More

‘What’s Wrong with My Query Letter?’

Something is amiss. You’ve written a great novel. You’ve sent your query letter to over sixty agents, and still you’ve had no requests to see the entire manuscript. Why isn’t your query letter working? As a book editor and writing doctor, I get emails from first-time novelists telling me this common tale of woe. When they send me their query ... Read More

Writing Children’s Dialog: How to Get It Right

Are you struggling with the task of writing children's dialog? Some of the worst dialog ever written, in both film and fiction, has been dialog for kids. We all know children are not just miniature grownups—they don’t think like adults or talk like adults. Yet writers seem to forget that when they go to write a story and place words ... Read More