Sunday, June 8, 2014

Intro: My Constant Battle against Pedantic, Plodding Prose

“This is really well written and polished.”  -- Pippa

“I've finished reading the entire story and it is one of the most addictive books I've seen on this site. I read the entire second half in one session tonight because the need to know of what happened next was so strong. It is a powerful Young Adult story that deals with a variety of coming of age issues which also has a fantastic fantasy and mystery element to it. There are many original ideas with characters that are interesting and quite unique.”  -- John

“Rated this 6 stars as I love the premise of the story so far, as well as your writing style and voice.”  -- Willow

“Great voice to introduce the story. Polished writing, descriptive but not wordy. I really like the premise of this story.”  -- Jillian

“I am loving this! You have this flair for drip feeding intrigue with perfect timing. You grabbed and kept my interest.” – Sue

“Your narrative is easy to fall into, the language matches that of a teenage girl so that we feel we know Maggie, we relate to her.  I've loaded it up with highest stars. This is an absorbing read.”  -- Zoe

These are excerpts from comments left on the writer’s website,, about my first novel, SEEING MAGIC (  There are approximately one hundred comments like this for my light-hearted YA fantasy.  The heaps of praise might be a load of bull because writers are always kind to each other, and therefore, lie through their teeth.  Nevertheless, I’d like to believe there is some merit to my humble tale, but I have a terrible dark secret which haunts me.

I’m ashamed to say I’ve never taken a writing course.  I majored in Computer Engineering and Computer Science in college.  Neither program emphasized the need for strong communication skills.  My AP (Advanced Placement) English test scores and my SAT verbal score allowed me to opt out of both English 101 and English 102, so I did.  I took a few literature courses, mostly in comparative mythology, but I never learned how to write well.

My life’s course took a sharp veer off the corporate path, away from cutting edge technology, when my first-born child was diagnosed with Autism, 9-11 happened, and my husband was fired from his job all within a scant few weeks.  He went into a fugue state, spending day after day on the couch watching foreign sports programs on cable.  All of my product’s clients either declared bankruptcy in the aftermath of the collapse of the twin towers, or they were subpoenaed before Congress to explain why they were defrauding their shareholders.  No one in the telephony industry bought test equipment that year.  Meanwhile, the Health Department wanted to send therapists into my home to set up an in-home therapy program for my son, and I couldn’t let them see the condition of my husband or my house.  When my company decided to make me part of the twenty-five percent employee lay-off in July 2002, it was almost a relief.  Eliminating my salary from the payroll meant that my two direct reports got to keep their jobs.  It was the right thing to do, but it destroyed my way of life, and my self-concept.

With both of us unable to find work, a mountain of debt, a huge mortgage, and a special-needs child, life quickly went from bad to worse.  By 2004 my second child was born.  He had Spina Bifida and we were homeless.  For two-and-a-half years we lived in a 1978 travel trailer with no shower, moving from camp ground to camp ground, or sometimes from Wal-Mart parking lot to Wal-Mart parking lot.  I tried to keep myself from going insane by reading books, since the camp grounds rarely got TV reception.  A Harlequin/Silhouette book cost $3.84.  I could afford two a month.  My favorite series was the Silhouette Bombshell series, where accomplished young women saved the day.  When Harlequin Enterprises killed the series, I started writing stories for myself, needing that escape into fantasy.

Finally, in 2012, I found  My first attempt at a complete novel was very rough, although at the time, I didn’t realize it.  With advice from fellow authors on the site, I learned how to write well.  It is this advice, using my first novel as a case study, which I now present to you.

Even if I’ll never be talented enough to have a successful writing career, you may benefit since these tips come not from me, but from many talented writers, several of whom are already published.

I use an iterative process, with seven steps.  I’ll be presenting each through its own posting, using examples from my case study.  They are as follows:

1.      Get to the good stuff sooner.  Add action and conflict in the opening paragraphs of the story.

2.      Eliminate overused words and look for other common grammar mistakes which impede the flow of the prose.

3.      Remove repeated words or phrases, especially repeated metaphors.

4.      Don’t start a sentence with a conjunction, and don’t end with a preposition.  Incomplete or run-on sentences confuse and distract the reader.

5.      Look for unnecessary words or phrases.

6.      Check for continuity.

7.      Repeat, as needed.

As always, feedback, suggestions, corrections or criticism is appreciated.

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