Tag Archives: Writing

Toning up your writing

“Is your writing flabby or fit?”  That’s the question The Writer’s Diet asks, and it gives you immediate feedback on your writing, showing you where you have excessive verbs, prepositions, and adverbs (among other things).

I found The Writer’s Diet via MetaFilter, one of my all time favorite websites.  I’ve been introduced to hundreds of news stories, photographers, artists, singers, ideas, and interesting individuals I would never have discovered otherwise.  This is just the latest.  From the metafilter post:  “The WritersDiet Test, created by Dr. Helen Sword, allows you to enter a writing sample of 100 to 1000 words and have it graded from “lean” to “heart attack” on its level of excess verbiage.”  Well, of course I wanted to find out where my writing fell.

Since I wasn’t on the computer with my current WIP, I entered in the text of one of my more storytelling posts on my other blog, Blessed by Holy Water in Tallinn.  The results?  My overall score was “Fit and Trim,” with everything except the verbs coming in at lean.  My verbs, though, evidently need toning.  The site also highlights each of the instances within your text, so you can see where you might look into editing your content.  I can see each and every instance I used be, is, are, were, am, and was.  Very interesting, indeed.  You can also download a full diagnosis, which includes suggestions for improvement.

I definitely wanted to see what came up with my current WIP, so I switched computers and copied in the first chapter.  My results:

My current WIP is lean, baby!!

So what about this post?  “Fit and Trim,” although my verbs still need toning (but, it counted the 6 instances I used it in the paragraph above as examples, so I think I should get a break on that!).

Try out The Writer’s Diet and let me know what you think of the site.  Do you think it’s useful?  Where did your writing sample fall on the health chart?


Posted by on August 6, 2012 in The Writing Process, Useful sites


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I said it was *not* a full edit!

As I mentioned in my last post, I decided to print out my current WIP in order to get a handle on the story.  I have a beginning, a middle, and an end, I just can’t seem to connect them all (actually, it’s more that I can’t connect the middle and the end together).  After struggling with the computerized version for several months, I wondered if printing the whole thing out would help.  I very emphatically told myself (and others) that this was not a full edit – I was not going to be editing for content, spelling, grammar, or any of the other small details.  I was focusing on the Big Picture.

But how can you ignore these small mistakes?  I see them, move to correct, stop myself, remind myself that’s not what I want to do right now, skim several more sentences with that mistake still strobing in my mind, trying like crazy to stop myself from going back and correcting.

I’m only successful about half the time…


Posted by on August 2, 2012 in The Writing Process


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Being a writer is not very environmentally friendly

In an attempt to get a handle on my WIP Ann and Luke (working title), I printed the whole thing out this morning.  All 60,000 words.  It wasn’t something I wanted to do, because, you know, I’m killing trees, and I feel bad about it.  And I know it’s something I’m going to have to do many, many times in the course of editing and revising.  If only there were some other way!

I struggled with how to print the pages out.  Wide or narrow margins?  Single spaced or double?  Narrow margins and single spaced means less paper (less dead trees), but I’ll need space to write notes.  The way it’s currently formatted (compiled out of Scrivener) I have plenty of space between paragraphs, so I set the line spacing to 1.5 and kept the margins normal, hoping for a happy medium.

Then I wondered if I should print front side only, or front and back.  Again, front side only leaves room for notes, but really, do I need that much space for notes?  I probably do, but I’m hoping not, at least not at this juncture (it’s not a full edit at this point).  So I went with front and back, figuring I could slip in a blank page if/when I really need it.

I ended up using 112 pieces of paper, down from the original 330 when it was first compiled into Word.  And I feel a little less guilty about those dead trees.

But then again, I live in Finland.  Maybe I shouldn’t worry so much about the trees.


Posted by on July 31, 2012 in The Writing Process


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It’s a writer’s life for me

Since I last blogged here, my life has changed drastically.  I am living every writer’s dream (well, one of their dreams):  living abroad without having to work for a living, all the time in the world to write.

Oh, if only I could say I was using that time well.

You see, last year I met the most amazing man.  Things were going well, and he got a job offer in Finland.  After some discussion and frantic planning, we got married and we both moved to Finland.

Unable to work, I am now a housewife.  With no kids to fill my time.  From 8 in the morning until 6 at night, I am free to do whatever my heart desires.  My job, my husband says, is to write.  He has full faith in my ability to write a best-selling novel and have it off to an agent by the end of the year.  He is my biggest supporter, my loudest cheerleader, my most enthusiastic reader.

And yet.

In the six months I’ve been a full time writer, I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished anything.  I started to finish one work in progress, but got stuck and didn’t feel like it had as much potential as another WIP.  So I started working on finishing that WIP, and I’m stuck again.  I have two other stories in my head begging to be let out, but I feel the need to get something finished rather than start anew.  After all, I’ll never get published if I never finish anything.

I told my husband the other day that if I let loose on the two new ideas in my head, I could have 50k words pounded out in a couple of weeks.  I would feel (and be able to show him) that I had been productive.  It’s this finishing thing I have a problem with.

I am also, remarkably, fairly busy.  The other ex-pat wives I know are just as surprised as I am by that.  We don’t work, we don’t have kids, and yet we are busy all day.  Not with shopping and watching TV and lunch with the girls that lasts for hours, but with the normal housework and errands you always have – dusting, laundry, dishes, mopping; going to the grocery store, the bank, the insurance company.  It’s often after 3 before I have a free moment, and then I think, “Oh, I have to start cooking dinner in a bit, I don’t want to get immersed in something I can’t really devote the time to.”  You know, like figuring out how to connect Plot Point 1 to Plot Point 2.  Honestly, I have no idea how I got anything accomplished when I actually worked 40 hours a week.

Time to turn things around.  Time to make myself a job, with tasks and deadlines and goals.

Because that is my job.

Goal/Task #1:  blog every day.  Whether it’s here on this blog, or on my other blog about life as an ex-pat, I will blog every day.  My deadline is midnight my time.

Goal/Task #2:  From 9am-11am every day, I will work on finishing my WIP.  And only that.  No dishes, no laundry, no dusting – only writing.

GoalTask #3:  I will actively join a writing group.  No lurking allowed.

Do you have suggestions on how to make yourself work as a writer?  Please share!



Posted by on July 29, 2012 in Thoughts


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Unintentional Writing Insight

“My eyes sting from the smell of typing ink. My fingers are striped with paper cuts. Who know paper and ink could be so vicious.”

    Kathryn Stockett, The Help, p. 357

Who knew paper and ink could be so vicious. True Dat.

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Posted by on September 19, 2011 in Random


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Writing Exercise, or Copyright Infringement?

Writing Prompt: Think of a critical scene in a book you love. Write a different ending to the scene, then continue the story with the new ending in mind.

Congratulations, you’ve just written FanFiction.

Time Magazine had a piece in a recent issue about FanFiction – what it is, who does it, who likes it, and who doesn’t. It was a well written piece, and it really got me thinking.

I’ve never thought much of FanFic – and by that I mean I don’t think about it often. I’ve known about it for years, of course, and have read some, but sometimes finding something of quality is difficult. I don’t even have time to find new good blogs, let alone good FanFiction, so it’s simply not something I’m into. I don’t think I’ve actually written any FanFic, although I have thought out scenes in my head: What if Angel meets another vampire with a soul and falls in love with her – would she be his salvation? What if she’s an original vampire, and is immune to sunlight? The scenes I have written in my head are a mishmash of Angel/Blade/In the Forests of the Night mythology. So, yeah, FanFic.

Because isn’t that what we, as writers, do? We imagine What If. That is our mantra. We ask What If when it comes to the stories and characters we write, so it seems only natural we would ask it of the stories we read and watch.

What if Gale had been chosen for the games instead of Peeta?

What if Tom Buchanan died – would Daisy and Gatsby have gotten together?

What happened after Johnny drove away from Baby? Did they ever meet again?

What happened when Inigo Montoya took over as the Dred Pirate Roberts?

We think What If, we write that story down, and we want to share it with others who also wonder What If. It’s natural.

But is it legal?

FanFic writers do not make money on their stories when they post to websites like, but is it still copyright infringement? Authors Ann Rice and Orson Scott Card think so, and are quite upset when fans pen What If. But others, Stephanie Meyer and J.K. Rowling, are all for it, figuring it’s a great promotional tool. Is one group right and one group wrong?

It’s said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and I think that if I were published and someone did fanfic on my work, I would be excited – I mean, after all, something I wrote inspired someone else enough to write! That’s amazing! But, wait, you’re having two of my most loved characters do what?! No, no, no, that’s not good at all. So yes, I understand perfectly where Rice and Card are coming from, in that respect, because you can’t say fanfic is fine, unless you do this with it. It doesn’t work that way.

Good FanFic truly is amazing – the ability some people have to truly know the characters the same way the original author does – or, at least, the layers the original author wants you to see. Maybe Stephanie Meyer did her own fanfic, wondering What If Bella had chosen Jacob instead of Edward, or What If Charlie dies in a werewolf attack? A thorough writer would certainly entertain the possibility, to see where the story goes.

Honestly, good (note the use of the word good here) fanfic seems like a lot of work to me. You have to really know these characters that were created in someone else’s head. That takes research, study, and more imagination than I think I have. (Not sure what that says about my skills as a writer…)

So, what do you think of fanfic? Good? Bad? Would you want someone creating fanfic based on your work?

Be sure to check out the Time article – some good quotes:

“…fan fiction was not just an homage to the glory of the original but also a reaction to it. It was about finding the boundaries that the original couldn’t or wouldn’t break, and breaking them.”

“…I love the show, but what if it went further? What happens if I press this big, shiny, red button that says “Do not press”?”

“It was a way to bring to light hidden subtexts that the show couldn’t address.”

“Fictional worlds, while they appear solid, are riddled with blank spots and unexposed surfaces.”

“It’s human nature to press at the boundaries of stories, to scrabble at the edges, to want to know what’s going on just out of range of the camera.”

“A writer’s characters are his or her children, but even children have to grow up eventually and do things their parents wouldn’t approve of.”



Posted by on September 15, 2011 in Random, Thoughts


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If you’re having important thoughts, you must be in the shower

I used to have all these random thoughts floating through my head at the most inopportune time – while driving, while showering, while standing in line at the DMV.  Without fail, those ideas would escape me before I could get to a place to write them down, no matter how hard I tried to retain them in my brain.  I have written the most beautiful prose and the most insightful blog posts without pen and paper (or other mode of documentation).  You just haven’t seen them because of the lack of ability to document them.

I’ve kept a standard 3×3 post-it note pad in my car for several years now, as well as a pencil.  Although it’s not advisable, I’ve been known to write while driving (note – I don’t take my eyes off the road as I write, or I write at stoplights).  The results aren’t pretty, but the thought at least gets on paper.

Do *not* try this at home

I have also used my bathroom mirror as a scratch-pad for years, writing thoughts and to do lists in dry erase marker.  But someone recently pointed me to this nifty invention:  The Waterproof Notebook.  Genius!!  Never miss a brilliant idea again!


I’ve been known to use whatever is handy at other times – bill envelopes, paper napkins, the extra blank page usually in the back of a book, boarding passes, the white space in magazines.  But I finally found a good sized notebook that will fit in almost all my purses.  It’s big enough to actually write thoughts in, but not so big that it won’t fit in most of my purses.  Perfect.

Except…I’ve had it for three months now, and it’s damn near blank.  All I have in it is the name of a wine someone keeps looking for, and the dimensions of a shelf I need in the kitchen.

One day last week I did have a brilliant flash of something, and was so excited when I reached in and pulled out my little notebook.  Finally!  Something important to write down!

Wait, where’s my pen?

*sigh*  This is what happens when you come prepared.

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Posted by on September 12, 2011 in Random


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