Monday, October 24, 2011

Breaking Through That Pesky Writer's Block

You're stuck. You started, you've got that first chapter, maybe you even have a plan. But you sit down at your computer, and all you're doing is staring at the blinking curser on the white screen.
Today I'm sharing two of my favorite methods for blowing up that brick wall.
(1) Get thee a typewriter! (That's my latest beauty above.) Did you know that a number of CURRENT best-selling authors still use typewriters to power through first drafts? Why? It makes it nearly impossible to edit and edit and edit as you write. Sure, you can cross passages out, but they're still there in case you need them later. Instead of a new blank screen appearing when you finish a page, you have a physical piece of paper in front of you, and there's nothing quite as encouraging as that growing stack of paper. Writing on a typewriter forces you to slow down - you can't type too fast or the keys lock up, and this allows you to really think as you write - to let the mind roam as it creates. And really, is there anything more romantic than that clickity clack? Visit for inspiration!
(2) Not one for the old fashioned and just need a fire lit under you to keep going?Give Write or Die by Dr. Wicket a try. This is a particularly great tool for those of you doing NANOWRIMO this year. Choose a word count or choose a time goal, choose how strict you want the program to be, and away you go. Stop typing for too long? The program will give you a little warning, then launch an attack - either playing horribly annoying sounds or, much worse, erasing your hard-won words!
Happy writing! Get to work!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Self-Editing Tips and Tricks: Watch Words

Wordle: ME

Welcome to a new series of articles describing tips and tricks for cleaning up and self-editing your own manuscript!

Watch Words. What are they? Any of my clients can tell you – and they’ll most likely do so with a little shiver because I’ve harped on the concept more than a few times!

Watch Words and Watch Phrases! Every author has these – little authorial hiccups that you don’t notice as youre writing, but, when compounded over hundreds of pages, become very distracting to the reader. I’ve seen some funny ones: “harpy,” “zitty (which is not ACTUALLY a word),” and “fake butter” that jump right out at you when used over and over again, but others are sneakier. For instance, the word “know” seems pretty harmless. But when “know” shows up 392 times in a 392 page manuscript, each instance is enough to drive the reader to distraction, effectively pulling us right out of your gripping story – the last thing you want!
When I edit a manuscript, I always circle or highlight the Watch Words and provide the author with a list. But you can get started and purge your manuscript of the most egregious offenders all on your own with a little internet magic!

  1. Open up your manuscript in Word.
  2. Open your favorite word-mapping program. Don’t have a favorite? Use Wordle (
  3. Copy and paste your entire manuscript into the mapping interface.
  4. Marvel over the HUGE words.

Don’t have any giant outliers? Good for you! Are your biggest words your characters’ names and “the,” “and,” or “a”? Kudos!

Is your biggest word “potato”? Or “blue”? Or “eyes” or “elbows” or “lips” or any one distinct body part? Is it an adverb of some sort? Well congratulations to you too, because you’ve just found your biggest Watch Words, and you’re ready to self-edit those little buggers right out of your manuscript.

Back in MS Word, turn on track changes. Now, using the search-and-replace function, search for that Watch Word, then tell the program to replace it with the same word but bolded, italicized, or highlighted – whatever is going to pop out at you best. Have a few Watch Words? Highlight them all! Now you have an easy-to-use map, right there in your manuscript. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

New Client Testimonial!

I highly recommend Lindsay Murdock to any writer looking to take their manuscript to the next level. I worked with Lindsay for close to a year and through her painstaking evaluations of each re-write she helped me to define my writing ability and sharpen my creative thoughts. Sounds like a lot of work doesn’t it? But what fun! The freedom I found in following her road map was exciting and rewarding. I can’t say enough about her knack for not missing the slightest detail and all those “watch” words. Thank you Lindsay!

Jeff Means, Author – Entity of Origin