How NOT to Bore Your Readers

E. Tip of the Day: We all strive to keep things interesting for our readers. Except Mr. Passive Writing! He can sneak up on you without warning, and take you down! It’s something every writer does, most of the time unaware they are even doing it. So don’t worry if you didn’t realize Mr. Passive Writing was taking over your novel. Here’s a tip on how to avoid the enemy.


Certain words can clue a writer in to knowing they are writing passive action scenes. Using these words will make the writing passive and distant to the reader. So, avoid using these words often in action scenes when possible. Sounds easy enough, right? If you’re not sure how often you use these type of words, do a quick global search on your manuscript using the “find and search” tool.


Examples of words to avoid or at least try to keep to a minimum in your story are the following: “that,” “like,” “seem,” or “seemed to,” “decided,” “some,”and most words ending in “ly” –wonderfully, sweetly, selfishly, savagely, happily, likely, etc. The list goes on and on…


There are a few “ly”s that are okay to use on occasion: “slowly,” “quietly,” and “quickly.” However, if you can find another way to portray the scene without using these words, do it. 🙂 Not using the words listed above will keep Mr. Passive Writing away, bringing the reader closer to your story. A win-win situation for both the writer and the reader! Good luck!

Example 1 by Mr. PW: He decided to drive to the cliff.

Example 1 by WD: He drove to the cliff, marveling at the beauty of the landscape around him.

Example 2 by Mr. PW: She seemed like she was going to vomit.

Example 2 by WD: Her face turned pale and she ran to the bathroom. In a moment I heard hacking sounds from within.

Example 1 by Mr. PW: He selfishly played with the toys.

Example 2 by WD: He scooped up his toys and turned away from the other children to find a corner to play.

Goslings in Disguise: This photo is a good example of passive writing. The goslings blend in so well with the ground it is difficult to see them at certain angles.

Mistaken Identity

E. Tip of the Day

Family support is important for any successful profession, but it is especially important for a successful writing career. I’ve been lucky to have a family that supports my every dream. However, don’t mix up “family support” with “free proofreaders”.

Asking family members to read your work in progress is a common enough practice among new writers. Don’t worry. We’re all guilty of doing it, even me. 🙂 A family member’s approval of your writing gives you validation that Yes, you can write! However, it can sometimes put a strain on a relationship, and may even make your family resentful of your writing career. No one wants that.

Proceed with caution when asking family members to read your work. If someone works in a profession that relates to your plot–a crime scene investigator, for instance–ask them for their professional opinion of the scenes you’ve written involving the CSI. And leave it at that, unless they’d like to read the entire novel. But keep it professional. Be aware you are using their valuable time to read your book, time they could be spending doing tasks they need to get accomplished, and don’t take advantage of that. They’ll appreciate your consideration, and later when you need that support when your book sales aren’t as high as you’d like them to be, they can still be there to comfort you.

If you’re just looking for someone to proofread your work, use the pros when necessary. Most writers are happy to help each other out, and may even see plot holes you may have missed. In the event you’ve finished your work in progress and need an editor,  that’s what we’re here for–to help you!

For a list of our services, visit:

Keeping the Pace

E. Tip of the Day: Did I get your attention with the photo of the sunset? If yes, that was the idea. 🙂

Wisconsin Sunset

Pacing is a big part of keeping your reader’s attention throughout the story. A writer needs to challenge the reader with equal parts of character introspection, action scenes, dialogue between characters, and beautiful narration. Each has its own part to play, and their own pros and cons which we’ll be exploring in more detail at a later date. But for now, let’s look at the different roles.

Character Introspection: This is one of my favorites because as a reader you can really get to know the character, see how they feel about controversial issues, how they feel about other characters and places, and best of all, how they handle stressful situations.The main character could be backed up into a corner in a sticky situation, and somehow they find a way out of it. Their inner strength shines through to do what it’s best for their situation no matter what the sacrifice is to them. And as a reader, we get to see that struggle and achievement first hand. It’s exhilarating!

Action Scenes: The action is what keeps the reader interested most of the time, so it’s very important to include action scenes often in your story. Although the character walking from one end of the hallway certainly can be construed as action, it’s not really the type of action the reader may necessarily be looking for. So, be careful with adding in too much “boring action”.

In a romance, the reader is just begging for a kissing scene between the hero and heroine halfway through the novel. So, using the romance genre as an example here, walking from one end of a hallway to the other could easily have enough tension in the scene for the reader to stay interested–especially if that hero is waiting for the heroine at the other end of the hallway with a kiss. But this isn’t always the case, so be aware of how you’re using your action scenes.

Dialogue Between Characters: When using dialogue, it’s important that the writer always shows the reader new information with the conversation. So many times I’ve read dialogue between characters where the writer has re-hashed the same information that the main character just told the reader about in the previous chapter using character introspection. It makes the story redundant. Stay away from redundancy, when possible.

Use dialogue as a way to show character emotions and add more tension to the story. One tip: make sure each of your characters has their own distinct voice. I’m not saying give each one of the characters their own accent. Not at all. I mean, use different physical tags and sayings to make those characters stand out. This will help your reader keep the characters straight in their heads while they’re reading, and therefore keep the story interesting for them.

Narration: Choose how much of the story you’d like the reader to see through the main character, and how much of the story will be narrated. Seeing the details through the main character will, in most cases, feel more real to the reader. But there are some details better left to narration.

Having a good balance of all the parts will help you write an edge-of-the-seat story with great pacing, and will ultimately help you reach your goal of showing the reader an entertaining time with your story. Good luck!


Great Inspiration!

E. Tip of the Day: Great inspiration can come from anywhere. Family members, a piece of furniture, or even an aquarium. Some of the things that have inspired me are: marine life, pets, trees, items at museums, and family members. Keep your eyes open. You never know when or where inspiration will hit!

I couldn’t help but share a photo that seems to have a story behind it. Doesn’t the  sturgeon seem like he’s up to something. What has inspired you to write a story?

Mr. James Sturgeon

Living the Dream

Learning how to bake bread was one of my dreams. It was one of those things I desperately wanted to learn how to do, but I had no idea where to even begin. One day, I realized I wasn’t going to learn how to make bread by just reading about it. I had to put on my apron, get out the ingredients and get my hands full of flour. And sometimes, that’s what we need to do as writers. We need to dig in and commit ourselves to our writing.

If you want to be successful at publishing a novel, there’s a few key facts you need to know before you start writing. You need to have time to commit to the process of writing. You need to be creative in storytelling, and confident in your skills. And you need to know people.

Commitment is important because a novel won’t get written by itself. You have to pour hours and hours into writing, revising, and making that story perfect. If you write 10 words a day, and you’re writing an 80,000 word novel it’s going to take a very long time to finish. It’s possible, but it won’t be a very fun process. If you write at least 1000 words a day, or more, that process will still take a while. But do the math. You’ll be finished in a lot less time, and you may still have your sanity intact.

How creative are you? Do your words flow when you’re telling a story to a friend? Or is it difficult to share anything? There’s times when I’m editing someone’s work when I will be completely and utterly amazed at their storytelling. It’s breathtaking reading those words, seeing how the writer has strung the words together. And then there’s other times when it can be frustrating for me as an editor, reading someone’s work that isn’t ready to be published. Deep down inside you know where you stand. Be confident in your writing, and show it by using the language. Use synonyms for the word “look” and don’t be afraid to remove “like” or “that” from your vocabulary. Be creative!

The last element you need is people. You need to have your own network of readers and supporters. The profession of writing is not something you can do alone. Yes, the concept of your novel may be your own idea. Even the actual writing of the story may be completely on your own. But most successful writers have friends they can bounce ideas off of when they’re questioning themselves, friends to ask their opinion on what they have written, and share with them their hopes and dreams of being a successful writer.

Family support is very important, too. Your family needs to be aware you are serious about writing. Because if they know what you are doing is meaningful to you, they will be more understanding and respectful of when you need to close the door on them for hours at a time. They may even bring you food occasionally. When you’ve completed your novel, and you’re ready to shop it around (after it’s been revised and fully edited of course), those supporters may be the help you need to market your novel to the masses.

Commitment, Creativity, and Compassion. That’s all you need to get started. I believe in you. Do you?

How Many Drafts Does It Take To Make a Loaf of Bread?

In December of 2011, I was Terry Odell’s guest blogger where this article was originally posted. I’ve made a few revisions. I tend to edit myself occasionally. The white bread recipe that inspired me to write this article I learned from my friend and editing mentor, Larry Segriff. For a time, making bread was a great stress reliever in my life. The white bread recipe was simple and easy for someone who was a novice bread maker.

 Most writers, in my opinion, submit their manuscript too early to publishers, perhaps thinking editors at publishing houses will help them with needed revisions. Unfortunately, in today’s marketplace editors don’t have that luxury, and a manuscript is rejected because it is not well-written. Revising is an important part of the writing process. Here’s my recipe for your very own well-revised manuscript…

You just finished your first draft. Congratulations! Finally, after months of hard work it’s time to submit your manuscript to a publisher. Wrong. Your manuscript has only the broad strokes at this point. Didn’t you know it’s time for your first draft revision?

Think of your manuscript as a simple recipe of white bread. You have flour (characters), yeast (plot), salt (climax) and water (setting) combined in a ceramic bowl. That’s your first draft.

What’s a good period of time to let your manuscript rise? A week to a month. As a writer, you need time away to distance yourself, and forget the story. This gives you an objective point of view when you come back to the novel to do the next stage in the writing process. Revision.

No matter what type of writer you are, you may leave out important little details in that first draft that will more than likely come easily when revising the second draft. Using this simple bread recipe, these little details are like spices flavoring your basic white bread. Specific details added in about setting, characterization, plot, dialogue, tension, conflict, and timing are so very important in making a once stereotypical character live and breathe in a world readers can relate to.

Okay, so you’ve just finished your second draft, reading all the way through it, adding in great details that even you didn’t realize about the main character. You also added in wonderful details on setting, and maybe fixed a plot hole you didn’t see before. What’s next? Submission? Not yet.

This time take a minimum of 48 hours away from your manuscript. Now that your bread has had time to rise, punch it down gently so it can begin to rise fully. In your third draft, be critical of the grammar, punctuation, transitions from sentence to sentence, paragraph to paragraph, and chapter to chapter. Be critical of every word your characters say to make sure it is in their voice. Be aware of how you’re “showing” and not “telling” the story to your readers. This is very important. And be sure to spend the same amount of time revising the middle and ending as you do on the hook and the first three chapters. Okay, ready? Now, it’s time to bake.

Your first batch of bread has baked in the oven. It’s time to taste-test it to see if it’s any good. Your manuscript is now ready to send out to your trusty First Readers, writers in their own right, who will give you an honest opinion. They may catch a few things you missed in earlier revisions. That’s great! But give yourself some credit. You got the manuscript this far.

Weigh your First Readers’ edits/questions carefully, keeping in mind their own success in the field before changing anything dramatic in your manuscript. Thank them for their help. Now, it’s off to fix those pesky typos you may have missed your readers caught, and bake another batch of bread.

Your recipe is the best you can make it. It looks great and tastes even better. You’ve spent countless hours on it, perfecting it, making it your own, and adding in your own blend of flavor. You feel confident you’ve given it your all. You have engaging characters, an interesting storyline, and a great conflict. The ending will give your readers pure enjoyment. And your hard work has exhausted you.

Now it is time to find a professional editor. They will look at your manuscript objectively, tasting it and weighing it against other breads they’ve tasted. You’ll get the validation from a professional in the field, and your characters will be happier. A good editor will make sure your characters don’t do something they wouldn’t or shouldn’t normally do. After all, readers wouldn’t buy bread that is crushed, or characters that push the suspension of disbelief.

One more set of revisions, adjusting the storyline or characters making sure the amount of flour and yeast is just so. Tasting it one last time before it’s put out in the open for others to taste. Yes, now is the time to submit your manuscript to a publisher. So submit it and forget it.

It’ll be a while before you receive a response. But don’t sweat it. You’ve written a wonderful story. You’ve made the bread you’ve set out to bake, and someone out there should like it. Hopefully.

And if they don’t, that’s okay. Just try a new recipe. Perhaps with a different brand of flour or a little less yeast this time. Sometimes it takes a few tries before a recipe is successful. Good luck!