Friday, February 25, 2011

Tricks to the Trade

Writing takes practice. Lots of practice. Recently, I was speaking with an editor friend and she told me her English professor once said, "To become a master at writing, you must write one million words first. Then you will be a master."

No truer words were ever spoken. Deb Coonts said to me that the first book is good, the second is better, and the third best of all for the same reason. Practice, practice, practice. Practice doesn't make perfect; it makes better and you're always improving.

I've learned a great deal in the last six months about writing because I've attended a workshop put on by the Las Vegas Writer's Group and a one-day conference put on by the Las Vegas Romance Writers. If you want to be a writer, I recommend going to a few conferences (as many as you can afford because they're not cheap). Both the workshop and the one-day conference were excellent because they taught me things I'd never known about writing.

For example: Do you know what GMC is? No, it's not a dying car manufacturer or a gas-guzzling SUV. It's an acronym for Goal, Motivation, and Conflict. This is something each of your characters has and you must know as the writer to make the story excellent. I knew this instinctively, but I didn't know the proper terms for these qualities. Knowing them has improved my writing by leaps and bounds.

Another example: Get rid of the word "that". Everywhere. Just use the "Find" feature in your writing program and hit "remove", either one by one or en masse. Trust me, your writing will improve significantly.

And editors prefer conjunctions. We don't say "do not", "could not", "will not", "had not", "have not", "I am". We say (and think) "don't", "couldn't", "won't", "hadn't", "haven't" and "I'm". Use this even in description.

The last thing everyone likes (not just editors) is something other than "he said", "she said", "they said". Said? What does that mean? There's no emotion in "said". For example: "Holy shit! Where the hell did that come from?!" she said.

Uh, said? Wouldn't it be better to use the word "shouted", or "screamed" or "shrieked" or "hollered"? Heck, even "exclaimed" gets the emotion across better. But it's not always easy to think of the right word. Thesauruses are great for that, but they don't always have them all together.

Years ago, I didn't like "he said", "she said" either, so I made my own list. It has grown and I've edited it over time (back then we didn't have a need for "Tweeted" or "texted"), but it's really useful when trying to convey more emotion than just the statements suggest. They are listed below for your use when writing.

Accused Cursed Ordered Slurred
Acknowledged Declared Panted Snapped
Acquiesced Demanded Persisted Snarled
Added Demurred Pleaded Sneered
Admitted Disagreed Pointed out Snickered
Admonished Disavowed Pondered Sobbed
Advised Drawled Preached Soothed
Agreed Emphasized Prevaricated Spat
Announced Encouraged Proclaimed Spoke (up)
Annunciated Exclaimed Prodded Sputtered
Answered Exposulated Promised Squawked
Apologized Fawned Pronounced Squeaked
Argued Flattered Protested Stammered
Articulated Gasped Purred Started
Asked Gibbered Queried Stated
Assented Grated Questioned Stuttered
Babbled Greeted Quoted Suggested
Badgered Groaned Railed Swore
Barked Growled Raged Taunted
Began Grumped Rasped Teased
Begged Hissed Raved Texted
Belched Hinted Reasoned Thanked
Bellowed Hollered Rebuked Thought
Bleated Howled Recalled Threatened
Blurted Implied Recited Thundered
Boasted Inferred Recommended Told
Boomed Informed Refuted Transmitted
Breathed Inquired Remarked Tweeted
Called Insisted Reminded Typed
Cautioned Instructed Repeated Urged
Challenged Interjected Replied Uttered
Chanted Interrupted Reported Vocalized
Cheered Intoned Requested Voiced
Chided Introduced Responded Voted
Choked Jeered Retorted Wailed
Chortled Joked Returned Warned
Commented Lied Roared Went (on)
Complained Mentioned Rumbled Wheedled
Complimented Mimicked Said Wheezed
Conceded Moaned Sang Whimpered
Confessed Mouthed Scoffed Whined
Continued Mumbled Screamed Whispered
Cooed Murmured Screeched Wondered
Countered Nagged Shot (back) Wrote
Corrected Nattered Shouted Yelled
Cried (out) Needled Shrieked Yelped
Crowed Offered Signaled Yirred

So there you have it. Each word conveys a great deal more emotion than "said", although that word is also in the list (just in case you needed it). If you can think of any others, please let me know and I'll add it to the list for future reference. Good luck and happy writing! :)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Valentine's Day

It's that time of year again - Valentine's Day. Midway through February, when it's dark and cold, the red and pink lace doilies appear, along with copious amounts of chocolate and pink and red greeting cards festooned with roses.

I used to be one of those people who didn't like Valentine's Day. I won't say I hated it; "hate" is a very strong word and to full of energy to waste on something so insignificant as Valentine's Day. I thought of it as an excuse for the confectioners and Hallmark card makers to make a little extra cash. And worse, everything was pink. I really didn't like pink.

I never saw the point to it all, though I'd received Valentine's from my mother and grandmother since I was a little girl (I think it helped that I was the ONLY girl born in my family's current generation). Without a boyfriend or a significant other of any kind, it was stupid to waste so much money and time on paper and candy.

I only started to like Valentine's Day after I met my husband. He loves the excuse to get me something he knows I'll like and I find I look forward to it just to see what creative thing he'll come up with to delight me. I also like the opportunity to find something special for him; something I think he'll like or be intrigued by, as an expression of the love I feel for him.

We rarely give each other chocolate or roses, though he has the romantic side of him that almost demands he gives me flowers of one kind or another, though not always on Valentine's Day. The first year we were together, he bought me two silver rings with Celtic knots in their designs. I did a big no-no and bought him a heavy gold bracelet. It's a big no-no because we'd only been together for four months at that point and the bracelet was a very expensive gift to give so early.

To his credit, he accepted it graciously. And we didn't break up, so it all worked out. ;)

Another year, he gave me a dire wolf (Canis dirus) skull replica from Bone Clones ( I needed a comparison specimen for my Master's thesis on fossil canids. Last year, I have him a Magyar (Hungarian) bow because he's Hungarian, the same kind prevalently used by Attila the Hun and currently imported by Seven Meadows Archery (

This year, we decided to celebrate a day early because Mondays are busy and neither of us wanted to try to compete with the crowds in Vegas restaurants. I gave him some coffee from Raven's Brew Coffee and a little chocolate ( and he gave me two new romance novels (furthering my addiction; see the post January 21st). Tonight, we're planning a quiet celebration of a good dinner, candlelight, Molten Lava Cakes for dessert and cuddling on the couch while watching a movie.

Valentine's Day for me is now a way for me to express the love I have for my husband in creative ways that I know he'll like. I suppose that's what it's always been, but it always felt like a commercial for candy and pink. Spend money to show your love. It took my fairly romantic husband to show me the real message behind the day of showing the one you love how much by finding true gifts to give.

I hope your Valentine's Day becomes a day of making wonderful memories and offering the very best of your love to your significant other and loved ones. Happy Valentine's Day!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Fun author and Great Giveaway!

Just a quick note to tell you all about another great author in romance - Kate Pearce. She has some really fun and, well, erotic stories. Right now her newest books Blood of the Rose and Simply Forbidden have come out and there is a live chat at the link listed below where you can ask questions and enter a giveaway for a Kindle today.

Her books are great and certainly get the blood pumping. The Blood of the Rose is the second novel in the Tudor Vampire Chronicles and gives a fun twist to historical events. Simply Forbidden is the sixth story in the series and centers around a "notorious" House of Pleasure and is for the slightly more adventurous.

Good luck and enjoy.