Tag Archives: writing tips

Open for Submissions!

Hey everyone! I’m happy to say that I’m currently open for guest posts! Short fiction, poetry, writing and publishing tips, book reviews, and a twist of new age or spiritualism is always welcome! You can check out all the guidelines here, but please feel free to let me know if you have any questions. Thanks!

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keepingand The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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Open for Submissions!

Hey everyone! I’m happy to say that I’m currently open for guest posts! Short fiction, poetry, writing and publishing tips, book reviews, and a twist of new age or spiritualism is always welcome! You can check out all the guidelines here, but please feel free to let me know if you have any questions. Thanks!

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keepingand The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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Guest Post: Writing Rules That Matter–And Those That Don’t by Teri M. Brown

by Teri M. Brown

Always. Never. It’s a rule.

Have you noticed that the self-proclaimed grammar police are always quick to point out mistakes in social media posts, emails, and even book manuscripts? I must admit that there are grammar mistakes I find cringeworthy. However, determining the right way to write is not as easy as it seems.

Know Your Audience

Sometimes, I think back to those long-ago days sitting in an English class, learning about punctuation, word usage, and parts of speech. I can hear Mrs. Swift stating unequivocal rules about commas, contractions, and writing a paper. I sometimes wonder how she would feel about my novel with its quirky sentence structures and unusual word choices – which brings me to the most important rule I’ll share today.

Know your audience. When I wrote papers for Mrs. Swift, I followed her rules because she was my audience. If I wanted to do well in her class, then I needed to write something she would want to read. For her, it was formal, grammatically correct, and formulated.

The same holds true for business writers, authors, and even texts. Effective communication begins with knowing your end reader. This will help you determine if you need to be formal or informal, can use technical terms, should add persuasive speech, and more.

For example, it’s perfectly acceptable to use LOL in a text but not when writing a formal letter to a business executive. It’s also fine to start an email to a group of friends with “Hey, guys,” but I wouldn’t recommend doing so when writing an email to a potential publisher.

Where You Live Matters

“Punctuation ALWAYS goes inside the quotes,” stated Mrs. Swift over and over again. She took off a full point whenever someone in class put a period or comma outside the quotation marks. I’ve learned, however, that ‘always’ doesn’t apply outside of the United States.

It’s true! In the UK, the punctuation goes outside the quotes. So, if you are writing for a UK audience, you should keep that in mind. (Remember the first rule – Know Your Audience.)

Writing dates correctly also depends on location. In the United States, one writes January 1, 2022 – the comma goes after the day. Those in the UK write the day before the month and eliminate the comma altogether like this – 1 January 2022.

When a Rule Isn’t a Rule

Mrs. Swift also didn’t let on that some rules change over time or are controversial. Let’s talk for a moment about the Oxford comma. This is the comma placed before the ‘and’ in a list. If I said, “I’m going to the store to buy pens, pencils, paper, and an eraser,” the Oxford comma is the one after ‘paper’ and before ‘and.’

However, some people and organizations, like the Associated Press, no longer require the use of the Oxford comma. The missing Oxford comma has even led to court cases resulting in dairy having to pay their drivers $10 million in overtime pay. To this day, the debate goes on.

Another controversy is whether a sentence can start with a conjunction or not. Mrs. Swift would be resolutely in the ‘no’ camp. However, today’s rules state that you can. And that is the real truth.

Tricks For Deciding

Of course, there are rules that we follow because they have become standard. Yet, some are difficult to remember. To this day, I rearrange a sentence to avoid using lie or lay. Here are a few tricks for helping you decide what to use.

Less/Fewer

Use less when something cannot be counted. Use fewer when something can be counted.

Example:

I wrote less often. (You can’t count often.)
I read fewer words. (You can count words.)

 Who/Whom

Answer the question you are asking with he or him. If you would say ‘him’ with an M, then you would use ‘whom’ with an M.

                Example:

To who/whom will you send a free book? Since you would send it to him, the sentence should have ‘whom.’

Who/whom will read the book? Since he will read it, the sentence should have ‘who.’

I/Me

Should you say, “Bruce and me read a good book” OR “Bruce and I read a good book.” To decide, take out the ‘Bruce and’ and read the sentence again. Obviously, you wouldn’t say “Me read a good book,” so in this case, it should be ‘I.’

What about “She gave the book to Bruce and I” or “She gave the book to Bruce and me?” Once again, take out the ‘Bruce and’ and read the sentence. In this case, use ‘me.’

Lay/Lie

Lie means to be in a recumbent position. Lie has an ‘I’ in it. If you were to lie down flat, your body would have the shape of an ‘I.”

Lay means to place something. Lay has an ‘a’ in it, just like place.

A Few Tidbits for Better Writing

Finally, here are a few things to consider that may make your writing better.

  1. Try to use active voice (subject + verb + object) rather than passive voice (object + verb + subject). ‘Historical fiction is loved by readers’ is not nearly as captivating as ‘Readers love historical fiction.’
  2. Boring sentences start with ‘there is’ and ‘there are.’ Consider starting with a subject instead.
  3. A cliché is an overused expression. Instead of using an overused phrase, create something fresh and exciting.
  4. You have 15 seconds or less to capture the attention of your reader. Make sure your headline, first sentence, and sub-headlines are strong and enticing.

Finally, I always recommend reading what you’ve written out loud. This will help you find the mistake you miss when reading it to yourself. You wouldn’t believe how many repeated words, missing letters, and odd punctuation I have found when doing this.

The bottom line is this: language matters, but language is not static. As the writer, it is up to you to determine which rules matter to your audience.

About the Author

Born in Athens, Greece as an Air Force brat, Teri M Brown graduated from UNC Greensboro. She began her writing career helping small businesses with content creation and published five nonfiction self-help books dealing with real estate and finance, receiving “First Runner Up” in the Eric Hoffman Book Awards for 301 Simple Things You Can Do To Sell Your Home Now, finalist in the USA Best Books Awards for How To Open and Operate a Financially Successful Redesign, Redecorate, and Real Estate Staging Business and for 301 Simple Things You Can Do To Sell Your Home Now, and Honorable Mention in Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year Award for Private Mortgage Investing. In 2017, after winning the First Annual Anita Bloom Ornoff Award for Inspirational Short Story, she began writing fiction in earnest and recently published Sunflowers Beneath the Snow. Teri is a wife, mother, grandmother, and author who loves word games, reading, bumming on the beach, taking photos, singing in the shower, hunting for bargains, ballroom dancing, playing bridge, and mentoring others. Teri’s debut novel, Sunflowers Beneath the Snow, is a historical fiction set in Ukraine. Learn more at http://www.terimbrown.com.

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Guest Post: Top Tips on How to Write Convincing Dialogue by Natalia Hooker

Whether we write fiction or non-fiction, dialogue can make a book much more interesting. However, it’s important to get the dialogue right.

So many times I have a read books and the dialogue is written in the same voice as the author. To write convincing dialogue, it is necessary to show the character’s personality through the way they speak.

When you are writing dialogue, I suggest to not only use a sentence here or there, but it’s wonderful to see a whole conversation come to life through dialogue. Think of it like you are watching a scene on the stage or in a movie.

Many authors aspire to have their books created into a film, and its good if you think of your dialogue that way. If you were writing a screenplay, how would the characters talk? Dialogue can make your scenes come alive.

Here are some tips to help get you started in writing convincing dialogue:

Listen closely to people talking, and hear how they express themselves. Everyone has a unique was of speaking. You need to know your character well enough so you know how they would talk.

Where is your character from? Do they have an accent? It can be fun to ‘hear’ their accent. For example, this is a character from my novel Flipped, which is about a girl band set in Italy:

Si, your cousin from London will photo us?” asks Ilaria.

Ilaria says “Si” which is yes in Italian, and then she says “photo us” instead of “photograph us”.  This is a common type of mistake I have heard many Italians make when speaking English, so I used it in the dialogue for this Italian character.

The next step is to make sure that the characters have consistent voices throughout the book. You have to know your character deeply, and what they would say and how they would say it. It’s no use capturing their unique way of speaking for a few lines only, you need to follow through so it’s consistent until the end. That said, do not overdo it either, as too much can distract from the story. For example, just a little tweak here and there to remind the reader of their accent is sufficient.

Another point to consider is the age of your character. Younger and older people have different ways of speaking, so be sure to capture the voice of the right age group.

What time period is your story set in? It’s important to be true to the era of your setting. Remember that we use a lot of colloquialisms with the way we talk today. Even just a few decades ago, the way of talking was more formal.

I was editing the work of a client for a novel set in the 1800s. She wrote that one of her characters said, “See you around.” This is modern language use which threw me out of the world she was creating. If your story is set in a certain time period, ensure you are versed with how people would speak in that era.

The correct use of tags with dialogue is important as well. Usually just a simple: he said, she said, is sufficient. And when it is clear who is talking, especially when it’s a conversation between just two people, no tag is needed.  Overusing tags can actually distract from the dialogue.

For example, “Oh my goodness!” she exclaimed suddenly. If it’s clear who is talking, it would be cleaner to simply write, “Oh my goodness!” Also, a usual rule of thumb is to avoid using adverbs with your tag.

One final point is to not underestimate the importance of dialogue in children’s books. Quite often we only think of dialogue for fiction. However, good dialogue can make non-fiction come alive and, even in a very short children’s book, it can make the reading of a book a lot more fun for the children.

If you have any questions about dialogue or would like to participate in a dialogue writing workshop (via zoom), please do not hesitate to contact me.

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Natalia Hooker is the founder of Alaya Books. With over 20 years’ experience in publishing, she is a professional editor, writing coach, publishing consultant and publisher. Whatever stage your book is at, Alaya Books will help make your book a reality. Visit www.alayabooks.com.

Natalia is the author of many books including the biography, LJ Hooker The Man, and The Misha the Travelling Puppy children’s series.

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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Hobbies for Your Characters – Writers’ Resources

Just as a quirk can make your character more interesting, so can their hobbies! Having a hobby gives your character something to do, whether they stumble into the craft shop and discover a murderer or build model planes while discussing their crumbing marriage. What hobbies would you add?

  • fishkeeping/aquarist
  • cross-stitching
  • knitting
  • crocheting
  • painting (oil, acrylic, watercolor)
  • spelunking
  • reading
  • playing a musical instrument
  • cryptozoology (Big Foot, anyone?)
  • history buff
  • volunteering (there are more ideas on this here)
  • hiking
  • kayaking
  • swimming
  • fishing
  • hunting
  • poetry
  • diving
  • sailing
  • sci-fi conventions
  • historical reenactment
  • crystals (either as a rock collector or in a New Age sense)
  • antiquing
  • tarot cards
  • bicycling
  • cooking or baking
  • scrapbooking
  • gardening
  • making fishing lures
  • writing
  • traveling (by boat, plane, bicycle, motorcycle, etc)
  • martial arts
  • running
  • crafts
  • playing billiards/pool
  • watching football
  • collecting (stamps, figurines, spoons, shot glasses, etc.)
  • surfing
  • sailing
  • photography
  • horseback riding
  • parasailing
  • skydiving
  • origami
  • mountain climbing
  • golf
  • gambling
  • skateboarding
  • chess
  • yoga
  • blogging
  • flipping houses
  • tie dye
  • pottery

I’ll continue to add to this list, so feel free to check back! Also take a peek at the other information on my Writers’ Resources page!

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keepingand The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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Getting Past Writer’s Block

There’s nothing worse than sitting down to write, only to find that your brain doesn’t want to cooperate.  Your pen is hovering above the paper or your fingers above the keys, poised and ready to create, but nothing seems to be working.

We’re all familiar with writer’s block.  There is a lot of advice out there about how to get past it, but this is what has worked for me:

Writer’s Block

-Change how you put words on paper.  I know this sounds overly simplistic, but I find that it really helps.  I can type pretty darn fast, but that doesn’t do me any good when there’s nothing to write! That’s when I turn to writing by hand.  You could also get a new pen (always inspiring, I think), draw out the story, record your thoughts on a voice recorder, or even switch computers.

-Freewriting.  Oftentimes, we get stopped in our creative writing process by the worry of whether or not the outcome will be good enough.  We pick at ourselves about the arrangement of our words and what sort of emotions they’ll exude in the readers.  But freewriting is just as freeing as it sounds.  Write without the intent of ever showing anyone.  You can burn or erase your work later if you want to.  Just write whatever comes to mind, even if it doesn’t have anything to do with your story or article.  Sometimes, I even write questions and answers about the story as I go.

-Shower.  We all know the muse lives in the showerhead.  Besides, writers have a rep for being disheveled and a little dirty, so let’s use this tool to find our inspiration and dispel the rumor simultaneously.

-Quit trying.  What?  Just stop writing?  Well, yeah!  Obviously, you can only stop for so long or else you’ll never write again.  But a really bad case of writer’s block is sometimes best served by taking a step back.  Take a walk, go read a book, or wash the dishes.  After a little while, your characters just might start talking to you again!

-Schedule your writing time.  I read this little nugget of advice about five years ago. The idea is that your brain gets used to the time frame you start using the creative parts of it, and having a routine makes things a little easier.  In my own experience, this turned out to be true!  I always get my best work done in the morning.

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Paradox, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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Tiny Tips for Crushing Your Writing Goals

If you’re looking for writing tips, then you’ve probably heard all about having a dedicated space for writing and establishing a routine.  While there’s nothing wrong with these ideas (in fact, I’ve found them rather useful myself) I’ve realized over the years that there are some very small things I do that make a big difference.  These things are so small that they might not seem significant, but I’ve found that they’ve made a huge difference in my productivity.

Auto-Save Features:  I’ve always been a big fan of Microsoft, and I was thrilled when Office got an auto-save upgrade.  Every time I start typing, Word is backing me up.  I did a decent job of saving my work on a regular basis, but if you’ve ever lost an amazing paragraph that you could never make right again, then you know where I’m coming from.  This feature is becoming pretty common on word processors, so use it.  Automatic cloud-based backup is also essential.

Timers:  I used to sit down at my computer and feel as though I needed to force my way through several hours of writing before I deserved a break.  I could do it, but it left me feeling burnt out.  My body was stiff from sitting still so long, and I was constantly looking for reasons to avoid my work.

I’ve found, however, that it’s much more effective for me to get up and away from the computer regularly.  I set a timer on my computer for an hour (and I really try not to look at it), after which I get up and move around for ten minutes.  Do whatever works for you during those ten minutes:  clean the bathroom, take your bearded dragon for a walk, or see how many sit-ups you can do.  Just get away from your desk and move your body.  It’ll keep you from getting stiff and sore, and I find that it refreshes my mind and lets me come back to my work with more enthusiasm.

Time for walkies!

Good Health:  I know, it doesn’t seem like it should have much to do with writing.  And there’s no doubt that some great writing can come from going through very debilitating situations.  But overall, I’ve found that the better care I take of myself, the more energy I have.  That makes it easier to get the creative juices flowing without falling asleep at my keyboard.  Take your vitamins, eat right, and don’t OD on coffee just because you’re a writer.

Background Noise:  Something can be said for silence, but I really prefer to have some music going when I write.  Since I don’t like anything with lyrics, I go for soundtrack-style stuff.  On Pandora, I like the Blue Man Group and Audiomachine.  YouTube also has some great stuff, and you can check out my playlist here.  It’s even more effective with headphones to better drown out the chaos around you.

What little things do you do that help your writing?  I’d love to hear about them!

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Paradox, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

Interested in having your book reviewed?  Contact me.

 

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