Jen’s Editing Tips – Then, and then, and then

There’s a word out there many writers love to use, including myself. We like to insert it into a sentence and then sit back and smile. Then, without realizing it, we like to use it again three sentences later. Then again, then again, then again.

Jen's Editing Tips

And then, after we’ve put the finishing touches on our work, we send it off to our beta readers to critique. Then, after waiting on pins and needles, we get their feedback and discover we’ve used and abused this most beloved word. So, we then grab a red pen and start crossing it out.

Cross, cross, cross!

With each deletion, our adoration for this word cools, colder then colder. Then, before we know it, we realize the word is nothing more than a crutch. A filler. A fluff word that acts like a catalyst for action and movement, but then turns out to be a hinderance in disguise. So, we then decide to avoid the word unless it’s absolutely necessary.

But then, and only then.

And Then

Like the word “as,” many writers tend to overuse the word “then.” Who can blame them? It’s a great word! Unfortunately, when we repeat it again and again, we risk a handful of problems:

Fluff, fluff, fluff

In a way, “then” is like “that.” At least 50% of the time, we don’t need it. It’s a fluff word we insert on instinct, not necessity. We also tend to add words around “then” to help us transition into the rest of a scene; fluff words that lead to over-explained actions, cluttered sentences, and stilted tones.

To show you what I mean, here’s an example from my action-adventure, “La Jolla.”

With “then”:

Cole pried himself free and then struggled on. He had to get to Finn.

But then, before he could reach his brother, the bridge heaved, like a briny belch had blown out of the waters below. Cole cried out and then his knees buckled. Cal Poly made a mad grab for him, but then missed.

Right then, Finn’s shrill voice cut through the metallic booms and wails. “Cole!”

Then the tracks collapsed.

Then the train plummeted.

Without “then”: 

Cole pried himself free and struggled on. He had to get to Finn.

The bridge heaved, like a briny belch had blown out of the waters below. Cole’s knees buckled. Cal Poly made a mad grab for him and missed.

“Cole!” Finn’s shrill voice cut through the metallic booms and wails.

The tracks collapsed.

The train plummeted.

Laundry List 

The more we use “then,” the more our stories resemble a laundry list of actions. Mr. Character did this, then this, then this, then this

After a while, our stories start to sound like a broken record. And we all know what happens when a reader gets bored or annoyed by a story’s repetitive rhythm…Yep! They stop reading.

Here’s another example to illustrate what I’m talking about.

With “then”:

And then gravity’s force lifted Cole off the ground and then smashed him into the ceiling. Purses, cameras, and then even backpacks whipped past him.

“Grab my hand!”

Cole then looked down.

Finn raised his arm and then strained to reach him. Their fingers brushed once, twice—and then Finn lunged and grabbed Cole’s wrist. Right then, as he yanked Cole down, the train plunged into the water. The impact tore Cole out of Finn’s white-knuckled grip and then catapulted him into the rear window face first.

And then, for a breathless moment, he stared through the spider-webbed cracks spreading across the glass, down into a deep, black chasm.

Without “then”: 

Gravity’s force lifted Cole off the ground and smashed him into the ceiling. Purses, cameras, and backpacks whipped past him.

“Grab my hand!”

Cole looked down.

Finn strained to reach him. Their fingers brushed once, twice—Finn lunged and grabbed his wrist. As he yanked Cole down, the train plunged into the water. The impact tore Cole out of Finn’s white-knuckled grip and catapulted him into the rear window face first. He stared through the spider-webbed cracks spreading across the glass, down into a deep, black chasm.

Spoon-Feed 

Then this happened, Ms. Reader. Then this. And then this–Are you following along, Ms. Reader? Am I being clear enough? Because then this happened. And then this…

Readers are smart. They do not need to be taken by the hand and guided from point A, to point B, to point C, etc. So, be brave and trust your audience’s intelligence by transitioning scenes in simpler, more creative ways than “then.”

Here’s one more example from “La Jolla” to show you what I’m talking about:

With “then”: 

Then Cole rolled over. With the train vertical, everybody, including Finn, hung above him. Then he sat up and blinked. All around him, a symphony of sobbing pleas, splintering glass, and grinding metal deafened his ears. Then he took a deep breath and struggled to his feet. Then he reached up and unbuckled Finn. “You okay, buddy?” He lifted him down and then set him on the ground.

Finn nodded.

“Good, cause we gotta go.” Then he kneeled down and struck the damaged window with his elbow. Then again and again.

Nothing.

Then, out of nowhere, Cal Poly appeared. “Watch out!” She peered over the top of her seat with a five-pound dumbbell. Then Cole blinked. He thought about asking her how she’d found it, but then decided it didn’t matter. People packed the weirdest stuff. Then he took hold of Finn’s arm and shoved him back, out of the way.

And then Cal Poly dropped it.

Without “then”: 

Cole rolled over. With the train vertical, everybody, including Finn, hung above him. A symphony of sobbing pleas, splintering glass, and grinding metal deafened his ears. He struggled to his feet and unbuckled Finn. “You okay, buddy?” He lifted him down.

Finn nodded.

“Good, cause we gotta go.” He struck the damaged window with his elbow.

Nothing.

“Watch out!” Cal Poly peered over the top of her seat with a five-pound dumbbell. He didn’t ask her where or how she’d found it. People packed the weirdest stuff. He shoved Finn back.

She dropped it.

So, how do we prevent ourselves from overusing “then”? Well, here are a few strategies I have found helpful:

  1. Read your story out loud. You’ll be amazed how many repetitive words and phrases you hear when you do this.
  2. Ask someone to read your story to you. That way you can close your eyes and listen to it without being distracted by how it looks on screen/paper.
  3. Use the “Find” option and search for “then.” Remove as many as you can.
  4. Replace “then” with a ridiculous word like “hiccup.” See if you need to keep it. Chances are, you don’t.

So, there you go! I hope you’re able to take this editing tip and apply it to your work. Heaven knows I have to every time I sit down to write.

Don’t forget, my editing website is up and running! If you’re looking for someone to help with your story, check out Jen’s Edits and Critiques.

For more tips, visit my Jen’s Editing Tips page!

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Jen’s Editing Tips – Cut the S–Hit Delete

A couple of weeks ago, I received feedback for my first round entry in the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge (NYCM). 

Jen's Editing TipsWhile my critique from the judges focused on a couple of minor plot hiccups, many of the other competitors received this comment:

“The best advice I can give you is to always strive to keep your writing as tight as you can get it. Cut out as many unnecessary words as you can and when you think you can’t cut any more, start over. Always try to paint a picture with your words.”

This comment spurred a conversation on the competition’s forum. Many writers, including myself, discussed strategies for eliminating the fluff from our work to make it as tight and vivid as possible.

It-is-my-ambition-to-say-in-ten-sentences-what-othToday, I’d like to share some of those strategies with you. It’s important to know how to cut the s–hit the delete button and remove unnecessary words from your work. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing flash fiction or a novel. Tight, concise sentences will make your story stronger.

So, here we go! Here are my top five tips for cutting the fat from your work!

1. Stop Telling, Start Showing

Was. Should. Could. Felt. Heard. Saw. Thought. Noticed…

Cut, cut, cut!

Not only do these telling words eat up space, but they keep your audience at arm’s length. Instead of inviting readers into your story and experiencing it firsthand, you make them stand back and observe it from afar.

Let’s take a look at an example from “La Jolla,” my first round entry in this year’s NYCM Flash Fiction Challenge.

Telling:

The rumbling was growing louder, and the vibrations became harder. Cole heard a chilling screech tear through the train. It was followed by a metallic groan and cracking glass. The train was speeding over a bridge when it lurched sideways. Cole went staggering into an old man. He felt him grab his arm in a hand that was trembling and shivering uncontrollably. “We’re gonna die!”

Total words: 65

Showing: 

The rumbling grew louder, the vibrations harder. A chilling screech tore through the train, followed by a metallic groan and cracking glass. The train sped over a bridge and lurched sideways. Cole staggered into an old man. He grabbed Cole’s arm. “We’re gonna die!”

Total Words: 44

By removing the telling language, I chopped over 20 words and I thrust my readers into the story. They went from being an observer to a participant.

2. Go on a Which Hunt (“Which” and “That”)

My business communications professor at CSU loved to mark my papers in red pen. She crossed out half of my words, circled the other half, and alway–always–scrawled this note at the bottom: “Go on a which hunt, Jenna!”

At the time, I despised my professor’s red pen and “which hunt” comment. Now, I’m thankful for it. To this day, I can’t use “which” or “that” without asking myself, “Is this absolutely necessary?” Most of the time, it’s not. “Which” and “that” tend to be empty, fluff words. Worse, they often lead us to over-explain things.

Let me show you what I mean with another example from “La Jolla”:

With “Which” and “That”:

Finn strained to reach Cole, which was near impossible. Their fingers brushed once, twice—Finn lunged and grabbed his wrist, which was trembling from fear and panic. As he yanked Cole down, the train plunged into water that was the color of steel. The impact tore Cole out of Finn’s grip, which was so tight, his knuckles were white, and catapulted him into the rear window face first. Cole stared through spider-webbed cracks that spread across the glass, down into a deep, black chasm that never seemed to end.

Total Words: 89

Without:

Finn strained to reach Cole. Their fingers brushed once, twice—Finn lunged and grabbed his wrist. As he yanked Cole down, the train plunged into the water. The impact tore Cole out of Finn’s white-knuckled grip and catapulted him into the rear window face first. Cole stared through the spider-webbed cracks spreading across the glass, down into a deep, black chasm

Total Words: 61

See the difference? By cutting out “which” and “that”, I eliminated almost 30 words. Plus, I removed extra details the reader didn’t need to know. They could imagine the scene without them.

3. Skip Dialogue Tags

This is my policy about dialogue tags: If you don’t need it, don’t use it.

Nothing against tags, but they’re often unnecessary. If a reader knows who’s speaking, then why clarify it? And if you can insert an action (smile, glare, hair flip, run, jump, etc.) instead of a “said” or “asked,” then why don’t you? It’ll paint your scene brighter and bring your characters to life better.

Let’s use an example from my short story, “The Ark,” to illustrate what I mean.

With tags:

Her mom squeezed a dollop of sanitizer onto her palm and asked, “How’s Cal? You two still dating?”

“Don’t,” Becca snapped.  

“What?” her mom asked. 

Becca glowered at her and said, “Don’t act like everything’s fine.”

“I’m not,” her mom exclaimed. 

“Because things will never be fine again,” she hissed. 

“I know. But, please, honey,” her mom said, raising imploring hands, “let’s move on…”

Total Words: 64

Without tags:

Her mom squeezed a dollop of sanitizer onto her palm. “How’s Cal? You two still dating?”

“Don’t.” 

“What?”

Becca glowered at her. “Don’t act like everything’s fine.”

“I’m not.”

“Because things will never be fine again.”

“I know. But, please, honey. Let’s move on…”

Total Words: 44

Of course it’s okay to use dialogue tags. But, before you do, ask yourself if you really need them. Or, better yet, see if you can replace them with an action. You’ll save yourself words and make your story more evocative.

4. Beta Readers

Two weeks ago, I wrote my second round story for the NYCM Flash Fiction Challenge. Besides being a total emotional drain, “Kleine Mäuse” was a mental drain too. I had to chop over 700 words from my first draft to meet the competition’s strict 1K limit. For hours, I narrowed the plot, condensed my sentences, and deleted any and all fluff.

I succeeded in eliminating 500 words…But I had 200 more to go, and I didn’t know where to cut.

So, blurry eyed and mentally zapped, I turned to my beta readers. I emailed them my story and begged them to help me find those final 200 words without hurting the plot or characters. Gradually, their suggestions trickled in: “Delete this.” “Reword this.” “Do you need this?”

My story drained from 1,200 words to 1,160… 1,120… 1,070… 1,035… 1,012…994. Victory! With the help of my betas, I got my story under the 1K requirement. I also made it stronger by removing redundancies, weak sentences, and other things that dulled my story’s edge.

So, even if you’re not in a contest with a strict word count limit, I strongly suggest you rely on beta readers to help you chop unnecessary words. I assure you, you might think your work is as tight as it can get, but it’s not. Let someone with a fresh pair of eyes and a clear head help you see what you cannot.

5. Read Out Loud

Personally, my favorite editing trick is to read my work out loud. Not just once, but multiple times. And not just to myself, but to someone else. Or, better yet, to have someone else read it to me.

It’s amazing how many flaws you catch when you hear your work read out loud. Repetitive words, clunky sentences, stilted transitions, useless dialogue tags…The list goes on and on. So, if none of my other tips have helped you, then heed this one. It will do wonders for your stories!

It-is-my-ambition-to-say-in-ten-sentences-what-othHopefully you’ll be able to use one or all of these strategies to cut the you-know-what from your work and take it to the next level.

Don’t forget, my editing website is up and running. If you’re looking for someone to help with your story, check out Jen’s Edits and Critiques.

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Jen’s Editing Tips – Delete “Ing”s, Chopping Them Out For Good

A few weeks ago, I discussed a simple word that can ruin a story if overused. Today, I’d like to discuss a similar topic.

Jen's Editing TipsJust like the word “as,” this thing can wreak havoc on your writing, heaping on unnecessary problems if overused. In the past, I made this mistake too, babbling on and on. But, with a lot of hard work, I broke the habit, shattering it with sharper, clearer sentences. Today, I hope to help you break the habit too by showing you how to refrain from tacking on extra thoughts at the end of your sentences, carrying on for no good reason.

Some of you have might’ve already caught on to what I’m doing here, formulating my sentences in a way to show you what I’m talking about. In fact, you’re probably rolling your eyes at me, shaking your head, and praying I stop soon. But, sorry, I can’t stop doing this, extending my sentences to prove a point. I must keep going until everyone picks up on the clues I’m dropping, placing them right before their eyes.

Speaking of eyes, my own are starting to hurt, burning from the horridness of this sample. And it is horrid, carrying on the way I am, stringing my words together, connecting them so you can see for yourself how overdoing this thing can damage a story, killing it slowly, but surely.

To be perfectly blunt, I don’t understand why writers overuse this method to transition their sentences, forcing audiences to keep reading instead of adding a period and starting a new sentence, giving them a break, making their lives easier, and remembering they’re only human and their eyeballs can only take so much before they well up and overflow, streaming with tears and silently wondering if this sentence will ever end, or if will it keep going and going, racing to infinity and skyrocketing to a level of ridiculousness that makes me want to cackle with glee at my ability to use this subtle, but destructive weapon to blast clarity and cohesion to smithereens and annoy the you-know-what out you amazing weirdos who are still somehow reading this gibberish, squeezing your fists and thinking, “If this girl doesn’t stop, I’m going to scream and throttle her, silencing her for good!”

Okay, okay. I might’ve overdone it on that last bit. But, hopefully, you were able to follow along and pick up on today’s topic.

maxresdefaultJust like the word “as,” “ing” transitions can hurt your story. The more you use them, the more problems occur: Redundancy. Wordiness. Confusion. Over-explaining. Telling, not showing…The list goes on and on.

For now, I’ll focus on the three main issues:

Never-Ending, Ending Never! 

Let’s get the most obvious out of the way first, shall we? As you probably noticed in my example above, “ing” transitions tend to drag sentences on and on and on…and on. They extend sentences beyond the point of clarity and comfort, cause repetition, and have the potential to suck all of the drama and tension out of a scene.

One way to avoid this? Read your work out loud. Yes, you heard me. Out loud! If you run out of breath while reciting a sentence, then chances are you need to chop out an “ing”, or two…or three.

Let’s test the method with an example from my horror, “Why?:

With “ing”:

“Yeah, see!” Gracie cried, pointing triumphantly at the orange flare that once again sparked in the distance, shimmering brighter than the sun and lighting up the foggy skies to a glittering canvas of doom. It was followed this time by a deep, resonating boom that rippled through the water and up along the beach, quivering through the sand pebbles, startling a flock of seagulls, and silencing the crowds, chattering and laughing only a few seconds before. Everybody froze, including the squealing children playing with their shovels and buckets, as well as the aloof teenagers acting like they didn’t care about anything and listening to music. The children stopped playing and the teenagers yanked the buds out of their ears, focusing on the horizon with everyone else, watching as the light grew brighter and brighter, casting its eerie glow on the choppy waves and illuminating the gray skies, humming with the buzz of impending disaster. 

Without “ing”: 

“Yeah, see!” Gracie pointed triumphantly at the orange flare that once again sparked in the distance. This time, it was followed by a deep, resonating boom that rippled through the water and up along the beach. Everybody froze. Even the children stopped playing and the teenagers yanked the buds out of their ears. In unison, the crowd turned and stared out at the choppy waves and foggy skies.

As you can see, I was able to convey the same scene in half the amount of words simply by chopping out my “ing” transitions.

Unnecessary Information

Writer: “I’m not sure if the reader will completely get this sentence, so I’m going to add an ‘ing’ transition to give them extra details, saving them from possible confusion and helping them see the picture I’m trying to paint.”

Reader: “Okay, I get it! Sheesh, why doesn’t the writer trust me?”

Seriously, trust your readers. They’re smart. They don’t need to be told every single thing, and they definitely don’t need “ing” transitions to help them understand something already mentioned or implied.

Let me show you what I mean with another example from my horror, “Why?”

With ing:

The rumbling grew louder and louder, deafening Gracie’s ears, and the orange flares grew closer and closer, blinding her. Small, black shapes appeared through the fog, shocking and unexpected. At first, Gracie thought they were birds soaring over the water, flying towards her and everyone else. Then she realized they weren’t flying. They were falling, plummeting into the ocean with silent splashes and disappearing into the deep blue, vanishing from sight.

Why does the reader need to know the rumbling deafened Gracie’s ears? Or the orange flares blinded her? Or the sight of black shapes in the sky shocked her? Those reactions are implied. I don’t need to spell them out for the reader.

Without “ing”:

The rumbling grew louder and louder. The orange flares grew closer and closer. Small, black shapes appeared through the fog. At first, Gracie thought they were birds flying over the water. Then she realized they weren’t flying. They were falling into the ocean with silent splashes.

Every time you use an “ing” transition, ask yourself, “Why I am writing this?” If the answer is, “Because I don’t trust the reader.”, then hold back. Leave the extra information out and see if your beta readers, critique partners, and/or editor(s) miss it. Chances are, they won’t.

And if they do, big deal. It’s better to add information than subtract it.

Bueller?…Bueller?

Bueller?…Bueller?

Monotony?…Monotony?

I’ve said it once (or twice), and I’ll say it again (and again): A story is like a song, and readers listen to it closely. If they’re unable to groove to its beat, then they’ll probably find something else to jam to.

When you overuse “ing” transitions, you basically hit the repeat button and play the same song, over and over. And that means your story has a monotonous sound. Even if the length of your sentences change, or you insert plenty of white space, you won’t be able to escape the redundant rhythm you’ve created with your excessive “ing”‘s.

Let’s do one last example from “Why?”:

With “ing” 

“It’s a plane,” she whispered, trembling at the terrible realization. “Oh my god…Phil!” Her shrill scream echoed through the humid air, shattering the trance that had been cast upon the beach, jolting the crowd back to life. Everyone began moving, bolting for safety. Mothers grabbed their kids, screaming and crying. Surfers clutched their beloved boards, holding them over their heads and using them like shields. Lifeguards jumped from their lofty towers, blowing their whistles and waving for people to run for safety. Everyone fled, scurrying away from the destructive onslaught of debris hurling towards them.

Without “ing”

“It’s a plane. Oh my god…Phil!” Her shrill scream echoed through the humid air and shattered the trance that had been cast upon the beach. The crowd jolted back to life and ran for cover. Mothers grabbed their kids, surfers clutched their boards, and lifeguards jumped from their towers. Everybody fled from the destructive onslaught of debris hurling towards them.

The more “ing” transitions you have, the louder they become. And the louder they become, the more your readers will notice them. And the more readers notice them, the more redundant and monotonous your story sounds. So, find them and ask yourself, “Is this helping my story’s beat?” If not, delete it.

In fact, delete all “ing” transitions from your work if they aren’t necessary. And, yes, “ing” transitions can be necessary. Sometimes longer sentences are beautiful and wonderful. Sometimes additional details are needed for clarity’s sake. And sometimes a story’s rhythm demands it. But not every time.

So, hunt down your “ing” transitions and ask yourself, “Do I need this?”

If you don’t, chop it!

I hope you found this editing tip useful! Don’t forget, my editing website is up and running. If you’re looking for someone to help with your story, check out Jen’s Edits and Critiques.

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Jen’s Editing Tips: Kiss Your As’s Goodbye

For today’s editing tip, I thought I’d focus on a simple word that can ruin a story.

Jen's Editing TipsIt’s a word that might not be as fancy and obvious as some, but as you begin to use it more and more, it’s hard to ignore.

I hope as I carry on you catch it. I promise, it’s right in front of your eyes as you read this. It’s as clear as a summer day. As clear as a sparkling window. As clear as (insert cheesy simile here).

Have you caught it yet? No? Well, as you keep reading, I’m sure you will.

It’s a word many writers like to use as a way to connect and transition their sentences. Even I love it as I sit down to work. It’s as addictive as Peanut M&M’s!

But, as you might’ve noticed by this point, this word becomes a problem the more you use it. It’s redundant, wordy, and as annoying as rush hour traffic. In fact, as I continue to insert it as many times as possible, I feel like banging my head against a wall as hard as I can.

And, as you finish reading this, I bet you’re thinking, “Okay, I get it. Stop before I bang my own head against a wall as hard as I can!”

Okay, okay. I’ll stop before we all start banging our heads against a wall. But, hopefully, you picked up on what I’ll be discussing today: The word “as.”

It’s time to kiss it goodbye.

maxresdefaultIt’s amazing how innocent and sweet this two-letter word seems. But, I assure you it’s not. Writers need to be wary of overusing it in their work for a few reasons:

Repetitive

“As” is just like every other word out there. The more you use it, the more noticeable it becomes. And the more noticeable it becomes, the more distracted readers get. And the more distracted readers get, the less focus they have. And the less focus they have, the more likely they’ll put your story aside and find another.

Ahhh!

Repetitive words can ruin a story. And sweet and innocent ones like “as” are the worst because they sneak in the back door and slowly kill a story by grinding on readers’ nerves. But, don’t worry. There’s a trick you can use to find and eliminate “as.” Simply replace it with another word, preferably a ridiculous one that STANDS out. Like, “hiccup.”

But, hiccup you might’ve noticed by this point, this word becomes a detriment over time. It’s redundant, wordy, and hiccup annoying hiccup rush hour traffic. In fact, hiccup I continue to insert it hiccup many times hiccup possible, I feel like banging my head against a wall hiccup hard hiccup I can.

And, hiccup you finish reading this, I bet you’re thinking, “Okay, I get it. Stop before I bang my own head against a wall hiccup hard hiccup I can!”

Lazy

Way back when, a fellow writer told me, “Stop being lazy! Get rid of the ‘as’ crutch and find a stronger way to word your sentences.”

At first, I didn’t understand what they meant. How was using “as” considered lazy? Well, after working hard to rephrase my sentences to eliminate each one, I saw what they meant. “As” is such an easy strategy to transition our sentences and/or show simultaneous actions. But easy isn’t always better.

With “as”: 

He slammed his hands over his ears as he dug his nails into his tangled hair and screamed and screamed. As he did, the entire canyon shied away from him. Pebbles skittered down the steep walls as birds scattered into the air and gusts came to a halt. Even Caroline took a step back as Gary continued with his unhinged outburst. 

Without “as”: 

He slammed his hands over his ears, dug his nails into his tangled hair, and screamed. Screamed and screamed and screamed. The entire canyon shied away from him. Pebbles skittered down the steep walls, birds scattered into the air, and gusts came to a halt. Even Caroline took a step back, unnerved by Gary’s unhinged outburst.

Wordy

Maybe you’ve noticed by this point, but every time I use “as,” my sentences get longer, clunkier, and more confusing. That’s because they draw out sentences and add unnecessary fluff.

Chop out the fluff!

If you do, your words will land a mightier punch.

With “as”:

A twig snapped behind them. Charlie spun around and, as he aimed the flashlight at another clump of trees, the branches rustled and unease crept up his spine. As he did, he wondered if his dragon had returned? Or if this was another monster? A real one?

“I wanna go back!” Annie squeaked as she yanked on his arm. “Please, Charlie? Please?” 

“Okay!” He gripped his sword as he slowly backed away from the trembling pine needles.

Without “as”: 

A twig snapped behind them. Charlie spun around and aimed the flashlight at another clump of trees. The branches rustled. Unease crept up his spine. Had his dragon returned? Or was this another monster? A real one?

“I wanna go back!” Annie squeaked. “Please, Charlie? Please?” She yanked on his arm.

“Okay!” He gripped his sword and slowly backed away from the trembling pine needles.

Now, should you kiss all of your “as”s goodbye?

No, of course not. Just like every word, “as” has its place. In fact, it could be the perfect one to use to maintain your story’s rhythm and flow. However, you need to be aware of how often you use it. Because, as you might see from this sentence as you read it, the word “as” can become as off putting as an alarm clock on a Monday morning. As irritating as a younger sibling. As distracting as…

Okay, I’ll stop. 😉

I hope this week’s editing tip will help you write stronger, clearer stories!

Don’t forget, my new editing website is up and running. If you’re looking for someone to help with your story, check out Jen’s Edits and Critiques.

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6 Keys to Revising Your Fiction

Welcome to Twitter Treasure Thursday! Yes, I’m fully aware it’s been a few months since the last one. Sorry! Just blame my manuscript and crazy life. 😉

Anyway, to kick off 2015’s Twitter Treasure Thursday features, I found an article from one of my favorite resources: Writer’s Digest. While skimming their Twitter feed, I came upon an article all about revising. Since I’m about to jump into the fourth revision of my manuscript, I decided to check it out.

resized_all-the-things-meme-generator-revise-all-the-revisions-b120e9As expected, the article offered up some great tips courtesy of playwright and author, Monica Trasandes. I actually chuckled at one point because Trasandes uses the same trick I do when chopping out beloved sentences and paragraphs….When you read it, you’ll get it. And I strongly encourage you to read it since Transandes provides such excellent advice!

6 Keys to Revising Your Fiction

4) Be tough, others certainly will be

Assume every editor or producer you ever meet, within five minutes of shaking your hand will be thinking of ways to say no to you. Why? Saying yes will require that they convince others of the work’s merits—editors if it’s prose or financiers if it’s a play or a film. That will mean a lot of work on their part—probably unpaid.

Assume every editor is looking for a reason to say no. Don’t give it to them.

A teacher of mine, at Emerson, Pam Painter, would write DB on manuscripts, which stood for “do better.” She was saying, ‘this really isn’t the best you can do, is it?’ You have to be willing to ask that of every sentence you write.

To read the entire article, click here!

For more useful advice, follow Writer’s Digest and Monica Trasandes on Twitter!

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Friday Funny with Mad Editing and a Merry Christmas

Since today will be my last Friday Funny until after the New Year, I thought I’d have fun by kicking things off with some dancing from one of my favorite Christmas movies, White Christmas.

Are you getting into the holiday spirit and shaking that booty? Come on, you know you want to…at least a little. 

Hey, if Bing Crosby can do it, so can you! 😉

Anyway, as I mentioned, today will be my last Friday Funny for the next few weeks. With the holiday hoopla revving up, a two week vacation quickly approaching, and a mad dash to the finish line of my third draft, I need to take an itty bitty break from my blog. But don’t worry. I’ve decided to run a small feature while I’m gone:

My Top 10 2014 Posts.

IMG_4120Basically, I’ll be re-sharing my most popular posts from the past year (based on the number of views).

So, if you think about it, I won’t really be gone.

Glancing at my stats page now, I see my most popular posts include stories I’ve written, helpful articles I’ve found for Twitter Treasure Thursday, and some articles I wrote myself. So, you’ll get a little taste of everything.

I also have a dear friend who might do a guest post while I’m gone, so stay tuned for that special treat!

As far as life has gone the past couple of weeks…

Yeah, things have been on the frustrating side. I really can’t explain why other than I’m hitting a wall and simply need a break. You know, a vacation. A real one. Like, on a beach somewhere with nothing to worry about but getting a sunburn by accident…

Of course, there is no beach vacation planned, and taking a break right now is impossible. If anything, I need to work harder. My January 1st deadline is rapidly approaching and I’m only one third of the way through editing my novel.

Okay, I’ll admit it. At this point, it’s going to take a Christmas miracle for me to finish my third draft by January 1st. A combination of fatigue and diligence has slowed my progress way down.

However, I’m determined to finish it by January 16th, which is when the first round of the Short Story Challenge 2015 kicks off. I just need to stay positive and focused.

Luckily, I’m taking a week off of work starting on the 23rd, and besides celebrating Christmas and a few other holiday events, I have nothing planned, so I should have plenty of time to dedicate to finishing my third draft.

Don’t worry. Life hasn’t been all work and no play for me. A couple of weeks ago, my family and I took my nephews up to The Polar Express event at the Colorado Railroad Museum. To say it was magical would be an understatement.

1939799_10101899434320383_2937349853069502961_n

1604978_10101899434799423_3646238437629819534_nWe boarded a train with our tickets, had hot chocolate served to us by dancing waiters, and listened to The Polar Express read aloud. Then we disembarked and walked over to watch the actual Polar Express train arrive.

I don’t know how it happened, but as we watched the train chug along the track towards us with its steam billowing, it began to snow. Soft, perfect little flakes that hadn’t been in the forecast but decided to fall anyway in that moment. It made the entire experience surreal and unforgettable.

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My nephews aboard the Polar Express

10440778_10101899435468083_6522615166308918613_n-1As we rode the train, we were entertained with various reenactments from the story, as well as a visit from Santa who gave my nephews a sleigh bell. We even had our tickets punched by the conductor with the letter “B” for “Believe”.

10389674_10101916656437123_5972138565947193689_nThe entire event was amazing and will likely go down as the main highlight of this holiday season for me.

Well, time to wrap things up and get back to working on my manuscript! I searched and searched for a writing funny based on the holidays, but I couldn’t find one 😦 But here are some that will still hopefully give you a chuckle. Enjoy!

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f917926d7f239d09a7b19d9486d6090bI wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Be safe, have fun, and try to relax more than me 😉

Jen’s Roundup

In case you missed my last few posts, here you go!

Music Monday – Superheroes – The Script

My First Writing Conference – Top 10 Things I Learned

Music Monday – Bad Moon Rising – Creedence Clearwater Revival

What I’m Thankful For

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Friday Funny with Editing, Exhaustion, and Hoopla

It’s Friday! Let’s shimmy, shake, and dance it up!

Why do I always make you dance with me on Fridays? Hmm, maybe I need to find a better way to celebrate the fact we’ve made it to the end of the week?…Or maybe not? I like dancing and this is my blog, so…

Yep, my decision’s made. We shall keep dancing on Fridays. Beware! 😉

A quick sum up of my week goes likes this:

I wrote.

A lot.

Okay, okay. I didn’t write as much as I needed to. Honestly, it was one of those weeks where life distracted me. It didn’t help things got off to a rocky start after spending last Saturday at the Colorado Writing Workshop hosted by Chuck Sambuchino. I’m not going to go into too much detail about my experience at the writing conference since I plan to dedicate another blog post to it. However, I will say it was great and I learned a lot!

It was also completely exhausting. The combination of nerves, focus, frantic note taking, and socializing did a number on me. I woke up on Sunday feeling like a zombie, and I carried that fatigue with me into the week. All I wanted to do was curl up on my couch, watch TV, and sleep.

Thankfully, I snapped out of my weary fog by Tuesday and got myself back on track…Well, mostly. You know, life. Stuff. Distractions.

Side note: I’ve discovered that whenever I create a deadline for myself, God decides to have a big laugh by throwing unexpected obstacles at me. It’s like He says, “Deadline, huh? Hmm, I wonder if I throw this, this, and this at you if you can still finish on time?…Yeah, that sounds like fun. Let’s see how you do–And go!”

Don’t worry, I didn’t eat my feelings or gorge upon ice cream all week…Just a lot of peanut M&M’s 😉

As far as my manuscript goes, I edited the first four chapters (hopefully five by the end of today). Yes, I know I need to pick up the pace if I want to make my January 1st deadline, but…Honestly, I’ve decided I’m not going to rush for the sake of making that deadline. I want things done right, and I want them done well. So, if that means I end up being a week or two late, then so be it.

I believe one of the main reasons I’m working a little slower is because after attending that writing conference on Saturday, I’ve become extra sensitive to certain aspects of storytelling. I find myself tweaking and revising things I hadn’t expected to tweak or revise, and I suddenly see issues I hadn’t seen before.

Oh, the joys of editing 😉

Anyway, that’s it for today. As I mentioned, I do plan on sharing specific details about my experience at the Colorado Writing Workshop later. I learned a lot from the great Chuck Sambuchino and I hope to tell you about some of them. So stay tuned for that!

In honor of my up and down week, filled with edits, exhaustion, and personal hoopla, here are today’s Friday Funnies. Enjoy!

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10256795_890169144327045_3018233349446529036_nHow was your week? I’ve spoken to a few of you in private about your progress with NaNoWriMo, and I’m amazed how many have hit the 50K goal/will hit it by the end of the weekend. You’re crazy! And total rockstars!

But, really, whether you’ve hit the 50K goal, are on track to reach it, or are so far behind, you know it’s impossible to make the November 30th deadline, don’t stop! Keep writing. That’s the point of NaNo. Write, write, write!

Jen’s Weekly Roundup

In case you missed my posts from earlier this week, here you go!

Music Monday – Ghost – Ella Henderson

Why You Should Enter the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge 2015

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