New Site! Time to move the blog again.

Ta-da! I made myself a professional landing page on the interwebs for all things me. Art, writing, blogging, and the general mayhem of my life. I even managed to combine my life and writing advice blogs and move them over. Yay for consolidation! I’ve found if I spread myself over too many sites then I do nothing on any of them, just like my notebooks. Hence me having posted nothing for too long almost everywhere.

So you should look here from now on for blog posts from me. I head to LTUE tomorrow and have a lot of catching up to do, which means there’s a lot of content coming.

Onward to the future we go!

Guess Who’s Not in Canada Anymore!

That’s right! Me! My husband’s work contract expired and they didn’t extend, so we moved back to Utah in April to get our feet back under us.

Let’s look at pictures of adorable kitties moving across country! Waltz has always had issues with traveling in the car. He’d cry and cry and cry the whole way back and forth to the vet or any other surprise short trip we’d do to try and get him used to the crate. When we moved out to Canada I bought a small dog-sized carrier for him since he’s a big 14 pound cat and his little box was too small to stretch out in on a long drive. He ended up riding out with my dad and brother since I had to fly to Canada earlier than expected and I heard he pretty much hid most of the time, but started to get a little brave the last day. It’s a 4 day trip.

When we moved in to our Canadian apartment we got Hazel. She makes Waltz happy and comfortable, even in the carrier! With her in the crate with him there’s not a single peep from either kitty while driving to and from the vet. Hazel has never had an issue with riding in the car, that is until the big move. My dad and brother flew out to help us with the move back to Utah and brought a regular-sized cat carrier for Hazel. She was NOT happy to be in a separate box from Waltz. Waltz was fine knowing she was in the same car, although not happy to be in a box, but Hazel was all cry cry cry! She put up enough of a fit that we let them both out after we’d made it onto the highway.

Hazel wore herself out in the first 30 minutes on day 1 of complaining about the box, which irritated her eye, so she spent most of that day asleep in her box.


On day 2 Waltz was so excited/anxious about the whole deal he spent some time panting in my hubby’s lap. Hazel felt lots better so she ran around the car hollering. It took me a while to figure out she was calling for Waltz. She’d get in the trunk and cry cry cry until he’d get up from wherever he was sitting, usually in hubby’s lap (he’s apparently best human and always the chosen seat for Waltz), and go over to watch her over the top of the back seat. She settled down once he decided to sit in front of her box for a bit.


Day three came and I decided we didn’t need both cat carriers in the car since Waltz was spending all his time outside of them. We put the smaller carrier in the moving truck and rearranged the back seat.  Turns out that Waltz did want to hang out in the carrier, he just hadn’t been able to before. He and Hazel managed to share! They almost never cuddled before this. At one point I took a turn driving and Waltz sat in my lap for almost five minutes. Hubby took pictures of that to prove that sometime I can be best human too.

The last day both kitties spent most of their time in the carrier. Hazel did decide to come hang out in the driver’s seat when we stopped to get gas. Waltz was all excited to be back home and Hazel adjusted to the new environment almost immediately.


And that’s how traveling across country went with the kitties.

2016 in Review – with pictures!

Let’s see, I didn’t manage to post lots last year, so I’ll do my best to sum most of it up in one post.

The year started and moved along smooth enough. Not much exciting happened until May 3rd, which is when I started updating my webcomic Fur & Fangs! I managed a steady two pages for a couple months, and then I auditioned to Hiveworks¬†in June. They rejected my audition, but hey, I did it! I didn’t manage my time well in the process, though, and got myself messed up on my update schedule. It didn’t help that I had two consecutive visits from the in-laws and then my parents coming about a month after the audition, so looming stress and my lack of time-management skills had me falling off the productivity wagon and I developed some situational depression. I focused on writing instead of my comics and am only now getting myself back into the swing of things with Fur & Fangs. Updates will be resuming shortly! They may be irregular for a while, but they’ll happen!

Mother’s day isn’t a super big deal to me yet since I don’t have kids, but my church always does something for it. Often they give all the women in the ward a gift of some kind, sometimes music or chocolate, but usually it’s a flower. This year they handed out carnations. Waltz LOVES green plant stuff, and gave me a hard time wanting to chew on the flower. I looked it up to see if it was safe for him, but it turns out that carnations are toxic for cats. However, instead of throwing it away, my hubby figured out a way to keep my flower safe from my “bee.” Since Waltz had already broken the stem down to its shortest length, the flower fit perfectly in a jar. I was able to keep it on my desk for weeks. ūüôā I like flowers, so that brought a little extra happiness into my life.

Another thing that happened in 2016 was Pok√©mon Go! I downloaded it as soon as I possibly could, which turned out to be with everyone else in the USA even though I was in Canada since I have an American phone and an American phone plan. It got me out exercising and I love it! It’s my first ever Pok√©mon game. I picked Bulbasaur as my starter and named it Tulip. I’ve decided on a plant-theme for my names. After several exchanges of named pok√©mon for new ones with higher CPs, I stopped naming them right away. My hubby has snuck in and named some while I wasn’t looking, so for a while my Nidorans were Rick Rolling me. Just yesterday I caught my first Vulpix and hit 100 pok√©mon registered in my pok√©dex! Since winter hit I majorly slowed down in my leveling, so I’m barely¬†level 23 now. I don’t like walking in the cold. Oh, and I picked team Red.

Late July and early August was taken up by visits from family. With the in-laws we explored Montréal and a nearby ski resort. With my parents we went to Thousand Islands, Sacred Grove and other nearby Church history sites, Niagara Falls, and also wandered Montréal. I took lots of pictures, so those will each get their own posts.

It took me about a month after that to surface from the situational depression, and from then until the end of the year I didn’t manage much more than writing. I did poke at my comic, but didn’t make much progress. I found myself despairing. Somehow I’d managed earlier in the year to write and comic, but I couldn’t figure out how. How had ¬†done it? Should I still try? Should I give up? Was it worth it? What did I want from my life? I made decisions a couple times, but after each decision I found myself falling back into the same unproductive pattern. About half-way into December a friend told me something about themselves that hit a lightbulb for me. I learned something about myself that made it so I could move forward and be productive again. It gave me ambition! I was going to accomplish things! And then it was Christmas break and I did nothing but play games and watch TV. ūüėõ

So now that I have that information I’m making great strides in becoming a professional from-home worker. I still have a long way to go, but I’m finally moving forward again!

That’s about it for 2016. It was a rough year in more ways that one. I learned things about myself and made about as much backwards progress as I did forwards, but I think I still managed to come out a little bit ahead. Onwards I now head to 2017 with a positive attitude and determination!

It’s a New Year! Hello 2017, Good-bye 2016.

New year, new resolutions, new goals!

Although, before I let you know about my new goals, maybe I should review my progress in 2016. I had goals and did make some progress. Here’s how I listed them in my deviantArt journal at the start of the year:

The important resolutions in 2016:

1. Art every day.
2. Draw every day.
3. Social media/blog every day.
Then there are some others to help me accomplish those and all around be more productive, like limiting how much I spend watching TV (*cough* anime *cough*) and gaming (Yay Guildwars 2!).

The Goals for 2016:

1. Start posting pages for my web comic Fur & Fangs!
2. Finish the outline for F&F.
3. Finish the script for F&F.
4. Audition for Hiveworks with F&F!
5. Start the next drafts on Mythics & Chook’s story.
6. Make stuff to sell.

Writing every day was also part the the resolutions, so I don’t know why that didn’t make it onto the list there, but I guess this was the deviantArt journal, so it was geared towards art.

How did I do on these goals? For the start of the year, great! Up until I had two consecutive family visits I was writing and working on my comic (arting) almost every day. About 85-90% of the time? I still watched too much TV and played too many games, though. My time-management left much to be desired. I did start posting comic pages! I did audition for Hiveworks (and was rejected, but hey, I applied)! I almost finished the outline for F&F (still have the last act to fill out).

I did NOT social media/blog every day. Major fail there. I got nowhere near close to finishing the script for F&F. I only made 2 necklaces to sell and never posted them anywhere. I strained myself in the Hiveworks audition process and put a hiccup in my updating schedule for my comic, and once those family visits happened I completely fell off the wagon due to situational depression and then even after I recovered from the depression I failed to get back on the wagon art-wise. I did get back to writing, though, and finished the year pretty strong in that.

You want to know how strong I finished the year writing-wise? I managed to write 158,682 words! Most of that was comic script, some of it was fun fluff, and some was on my novel.

Overall, I’d say I succeeded and failed enough to neutralize out 2016. I plan on learning from all that and doing much better in 2017!

Here’s my resolutions and goals for the year ahead!

2017 Resolutions

  • Become a professional from-home worker by establishing and maintaining professional practices and self-management.
  • Write every day.
  • Art every day.
  • Journal every day.
  • Be kind and helpful. Make friends and uplift others. Be a light.

2017 Goals

  • Finish a draft of Mythics.
  • Finish the F&F Outline.
  • Make merchandise.
  • Resume posting F&F and maintain steady update schedule.
  • Create a couple short-form comics.
  • Establish myself as a streaming artist.
  • Build my audience.

I’m already slipping a little on my resolutions, but this week I plan on taking them by the horns and showing them who’s boss!

How did you do on your goals/resolutions for last year? Do you have any new ones for 2017? Tell me about it! ūüėÄ

Animal Adventures at Work – Deer!

These two are from June 13, 2014.

 

These are from June 20, 2014:

 

 

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This picture is blurrier than I thought when taking it. Using the display on the back of the camera instead of an eye-hole is problematic. :/

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Some Horsetail! Genus Equisetum, a living fossil. There was lots of it around in the forest.

 

 

 

 

And these are from July 17, 2014

 

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Deer hanging out by one of the studio trucks in the parking lot.

 

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Had to zoom to get a “closer” shot for reference. They’re wild and leave if you approach.

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It stretched like this a couple times as I got closer. Looked really weird.

 

So… my plans obviously went not as hoped…

Hiiiiiiii.

It’s been six months since my last post. I had hopes and dreams! They did not work out.

Where have I been? Well, I’ve been trying to produce a webcomic all on my own while writing novels and trying to have a social life/any kind of life in general. I’ve learned that I need to focus on one instead of two big things at a time. Writing novels is a big project. Solo producing a comic is a big project. I can’t do them both and stay mentally healthy,¬†so something has to go on the shelf.

Stories are my passion, especially writing them, so the thing I’ve chosen to shelve for now is my webcomic. Fur & Fangs is a story I love dearly and want to give the best treatment I possibly can, and I’m a much better writer than I am an artist, so for the moment I’ll focus on writing it and maybe find a way to make it a comic later. It might end up being a novel instead, or a novel and a comic. Either way, the comic itself is going on indefinite hiatus until I have a solid story and funds to hire someone to help make it happen.

This does not mean I’ll stop drawing the characters or making art! Art will be more of a hobby now, instead of a job, which means I can go back to drawing the things I love to draw and growing as an artist. I was unable to do anything except comic pages while trying to comic, so my critter designs and experimentations got dropped. My artistic skill-growth stagnated. Now I can grow and play with my art again like I used to love to do!

This means I can blog again! Somehow I couldn’t fit it in with two big projects, but I should be able to do it with just one. Like I said in my last post, I have a lot to catch up on here on the blog.

Now the big question is, how do I now want to structure my artistic career? I need to earn money somehow, and right now I’m not really making anything. I have a Patreon that was structured around Fur & Fangs. Now it needs new rewards and goals. I have some budgeting to do to see if I can afford to become a streaming artist. The internet in Canada is metered, and I can only afford to maybe stream once a week with the plan I have. I also have games I want to play and stream. Streaming takes a LOT of internet. Internet isn’t cheap. ūüėõ

So, yeah. Big changes happening for me over the next couple weeks! New goals! New website should happen! Yay! Fun times!

Anyways, this post is getting long. Hopefully things will become more clear to me in the next few days and I can give you a more concise plan next time!

Laters!
-A Ro

 

So, I live in Canada now.

Wow. It’s been a while, and things have changed! I went from living in my parents basement with my husband, a cat, and a snail, to living in a 3rd floor apartment in Montreal, Canada, with my husband, 2 cats, and no snail.

Sadly, I had to leave Gandalf behind. It’s illegal for snails to cross state borders without an education permit, let alone international borders. They’re considered agricultural pests. I released him out into the nearby wilderness between neighborhoods.

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I put him under a sunflower. Those are his favorite.

As we were moving in we met a nice lady on the floor above us who had rescue kittens in need of a home. We fostered them for a couple days to see if either would get along with Waltz, and one did! Hazel and Waltz hit it off immediately, no adjustment period, and they hang out and play happily.

Hazel also likes to chase things on the computer screen, especially when I’m playing Guildwars 2, but the mouse is her favorite. Gotta catch the little pointer thing!

Behold my new kitten. Such majesty, such grace. She’s a dork. Hazel¬†chirps and squeaks and begs for pets on a regular basis. She¬†also comes running whenever I start to sing, even if she’s napping.

Waltz remains as adorable and handsome as ever, and is very happy to have a friend. He was getting lonely before.

I also started updating my web comic! I’m plugging along writing the script and drawing pages. It’s exciting! I’ll tell you all about it soon, probably in my next post. I’ve got lots to tell you! Life, moving, Canada, comic, my cosplay & Salt Lake Comic Con 2015. So much! It’s exciting times. I promise I’ll post more now. I won’t promise how often, but expect things to become more regular. ūüôā

 

Beginnings

Oh hey, it’s 2016! I suppose the start of a new year is as good a time as any to talk about beginnings and endings.

Beginnings

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The intimidating first page. Many writers struggle to conquer it and write the perfect beginning. Sometimes it scares them so much they never start. What to do? How do you write the perfect beginning for your story?

Just do it!

You can never write your story if you never put words on the page. Guess what, you don’t have to write the beginning first! Liberate yourself from the pressure of the perfect beginning¬†and write. If you’re feeling lost for your beginning, you can¬†start anywhere.¬†Get into the story and the awesome beginning scene will come to you.

Even if you think you have the perfect beginning planned out, often times you will reach the mid-point of your story and realize the story really starts in a different place. Some authors advise to always throw out your first chapter and start in chapter two. While I don’t personally advocate that practice, I do advise that you write knowing that anything you put down is expendable and rearrangeable.

Some writers start too soon in their story, some writers start too late. At this point in life I fall in the latter category. I’m always going back and adding stuff to the beginning. In fact, for my current book series, I’m having to go back and write almost an entire book’s worth of new beginning since I skipped over it in my impatience to get to “the good part” (a.k.a. the only part I had figured out). I’m missing out on all sorts of key scenes and important character development. Oops. Outlining ahead of time might have helped me there.

What goes into the beginning?

The main purpose of the beginning is to hook the reader and reel them into the story. You hook them with your first sentence, then spend the next few paragraphs to pages reeling them in. With readers you have a few pages, but with editors you only have a few paragraphs. So, pretty much your story needs to be awesome right from the start and keep building from there.

You need intrigue in the first paragraph, even in the first sentence. Establish that something is unique about your story. Show them the characters, setting, and conflict.¬†You don’t have to introduce your main character at the start, but don’t stay away from them too long.

Beginnings build a sense of the story’s tone.

A good idea for learning about beginnings is to pick up good books and read the first few paragraphs and pages. Take notes. What does the author do? What catches your attention? What about it makes you want to keep reading?

Tip: One way to decide where to start is to ask yourself what is the most interesting scene to start with, and who has the best view of it? (It doesn’t have to be the protagonist.)

What NOT to do.

Do not start with a weather report. 99.9% of manuscripts starting with weather reports go straight into the trash at the slush pile because they are overdone. The 0.1% that don’t are astounding works of word art, and are probably written by already well established authors who can get away with things.

Don’t start with a report of the character waking up and their regular morning routine. It’s boring. The only reason to start with a morning routine is if something is different right off the bat.

Don’t start with dreams. Editors don’t like it, and it is also overdone. Only rare exceptions make it through the slush pile.

Don’t start at the protagonist’s birth unless something about it is unique, like in Natalie Whipple’s Transparent¬†where the doctor drops the baby because she’s invisible.

DO NOT start with a bored character. Bored character equals bored reader. We don’t want them bored at the start. We want to hook them and get them interested. It’s hard to be interested in boredom.

Prologues, yay or nay?

Prologues are really a personal preference thing.

Prologues can either¬†hurt or help. If they add to the story, then they help. If they bog things down right from the start, then they hurt. Some people skip reading prologues. Some people read them. If the information given in the prologue is important to the story, then you can just make it your first chapter. If it’s not important, but gives some cool insights on the world or characters you can leave it as a prologue. However, that cool stuff can probably be worked into the actual story as well.

Prologues should be SHORT. Readers want to get to the meat of the story as fast as possible. Don’t slow them down more than necessary.

Don’t waste time or characters to sacrifice just to show that there’s a monster in the story. ¬†Well, you can do it, but be aware that it’s cliche. If you do, I advise making it key to the plot.

Don’t use the prologue as an info-dump. Any information about the world or backstory important to the story should be worked into the actual story itself. Anything extra you want to share can go in an appendix or on your author blog/online community you build for your special little tribe of readers. J.R.R. Tolkien and J.K. Rowling are¬†good examples.

So there you have it.

I hope this helps you with your challenge of writing the beginnings in your stories. They aren’t easy, and there’s no one right way to write them, but I know you can do it.

Now go forth and write!
Your Writing Senpai

Much of this post came from what I learned from:
LTUE 2015 panel with J. Scott Savage & Larry Correia
Carol Lynch Williams
Writing Excuses

Writing Notes # 5- Writing Combat/Action Scenes

More notes from LTUE 2015! These are notes from the writing combat panel I went to. I can’t remember everyone who was on the panel at this point, but it did have Larry Correia and Maxwell Alexander Drake. For more details and depth on the subject you can go to Mr. Drake’s website www.DrakeU.com and listen to his lesson “The Anatomy of a Fight Scene Parts 1 & 2.”

Why write violence?

Because it’s fun. What other reason do you need?

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Larry pointed out that the more peaceful a civilization is, the more violent their entertainment becomes. For example, look at the Romans. The gladiator battles and violent entertainment happened mainly when the Roman Empire was settled and fairly peaceful.

Another big reason is because violence taps the deepest into human emotion. It makes the characters grow the most. During violence, conflict, and danger we get to see their raw cores. We see what makes or breaks them.

How much of a particular fighting style do you need to know in order to write it?

Think about what your audience will know. If your audience knows a lot, then you need to know a lot in order to not throw them out of the story. For example, Larry is a gun nut and writes for an audience of gun nuts. If you were writing for that audience you would need to know a LOT about guns in order to keep them happy. Larry rants on his blog about all the things he sees authors do wrong with guns (Larry says that the only nuts worse than gun nuts in this aspect are horse enthusiasts.)

If your intended audience doesn’t know a lot, then you don’t need to know as much and can get away with smoke and mirrors/hand-wavium (as Brandon Sanderson would put it). However, knowing the art can give you insight to all sorts of cool details that make for wonderful immersive description that helps it feel real.

Another thing to keep in mind is how much does your protagonist know? Unless the hero is some super awesome veteran at their art, people tend to revert back to their most basic training. For lots of people that basic training is scream and run. If your protagonist is a master at this art, then it would be good for you to do some in-depth research so you can pass them off as one.

Humor?

Random things pop into your head while you’re in combat.¬† It’s a crazy dangerous thing and your brain needs to relieve the stress, so humor is very appropriate.¬† In real life the darker someone’s job is, the better at humor they are. (Or so they claimed at the panel. It makes sense, though.)

How do you decide what to put in?

First decide what you think would be AWESOME, then make it happen.  You can write the entire book around making that awesome thing happen.

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How do you write violence and have it make sense?

While fighting is chaotic, you need order to the chaos to keep the reader grounded and in the book. You can slow things down for a moment to focus on a detail, like how the hero feels their knuckle split in a punch and the blood oozing into the crevase between their fingers, then go back to the chaos. Some grounded, specific details give the reader something to hold onto. Also, don’t leave stuff out or the readers will notice. If you have a bunch of people fighting at once, then you need to know what’s going on with all of them. Even if you’re writing 1st person you can give hints at what’s going on in the background to let the reader¬†know stuff is going on. Otherwise they’re going to wonder why the guy across the room didn’t just shoot the bad guy and save the¬†protagonist.

Know all the surrounding of where the battle takes place. That way the hero can be clever with their surroundings. For example, if their gun gets chucked across the room, why don’t they pick up the chair next to them and brain their opponent? Remember how your character thinks. It might take them a while to realize they can use their surroundings, if they ever do, but know what options they have.

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Be realistic with your consequences. If the person gets broken ribs, they won’t be able to move without a ton of pain. A person goes into shock when punched in the face, removing their ability to be¬†mentally articulate at that point.¬†If a gun goes off in your ear you won’t be able to hear. Know what the potential consequences are for the physical damage you’re dealing your characters. Use it to make things more interesting.

Even super heroes are affected by pain. Don’t use the excuse of “Oh, they’re super powerful or magic or whatever,” to ignore the consequences of battle. Even if the character is super powerful or magic, they still have to deal with the consequences and rise above them. Use that to your advantage.

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Most importantly, focus on the characters. Focus on the combat and violence going on around your viewpoint characters. Show us what’s in their head. Dig into their heart. Keep the reader anchored to the protagonist or whoever is the viewpoint character at that point. After all, we’re reading the story because we care about the characters. The jeopardy feels more real and potent when we stick with the characters we care about.

And there you have it!

I hope this little bit about combat makes sense and helps you.

Now get writing!
Your Writing Senpai

Words to Avoid and Why (a.k.a. Newbie Writing Mistakes #1)

Hello everybody! Today I would like to speak to you about words, specifically words you should avoid while writing your stories. You might ask why should you avoid certain words? Isn’t writing a form of self-expression? Isn’t there no one right way to write? While that’s true, there is no one right way to write, there are tons of weak ways to write. One guaranteed way to strengthen your writing is to apply the $1 per word analogy I learned from Carol Lynch Williams.

The $1 per word analogy.

First, let’s pretend you’ve been given $80,000 to write a novel. Yay!

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Just look at all that money!

However, there’s a catch. You have to spend that money on writing the story, and each word costs $1. If you go over then the money for the extra words comes out of your pocket, but if you stay under then you can save¬†the money for future stories. In that case you’d want to choose¬†your words carefully, right?

I would.

Don’t worry, the payment for the words doesn’t come until you start submitting to agents and editors, so you have time to trim¬†down and strengthen your novel in every draft.

However, you can save yourself some future effort if you avoid certain words from the start. These are the weak ones that hinder your story and keep it from breathing. The ones that make agents and editors look at your story and say:

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And then proceed to drop you off the building and never give you a second thought.

So what are these words? Okay, okay, I’ll tell you.

Chief words to avoid.

They are (drumroll): “ly” adverbs, be verbs, be-ing phrases, begin/start, that, just, finally, creative dialogue tags, and unnecessary repetition. (This list subject to grow as more words come to my attention.)

Let’s go through them and discuss why.

“ly” Adverbs

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Credit:  Logophilius Editorial LLC You can go read their article about adverbs as well.

You know what they are, those conditioning words people like to stick by their verbs. There are three¬†kinds of “ly” adverbs: defining, affirming, and expounding. The first¬†two are bad, and the third is iffy.

  1. Defining adverbs. This is where the writer chooses a weak verb and then needs to further explain the action taking place. Examples: walked quickly and looked lovingly. You can replace all of these with strong verbs like “sprinted” and “gazed.” Save your dollars by exchanging these¬†weak two-word verbs for strong single ones.
  2. Affirming adverb.¬†These¬†are redundant adverbs since they repeat something inherent in the connotation of the verb. Examples: dodged nimbly, trudged slowly, angrily stormed. One must be nimble to dodge, trudging is a slow action, and is there really any other way to storm than with anger?¬†Don’t spend your dollars on redundancy.
  3. Expounding adverbs.¬†These are where the adverb adds to an already strong, or at least not-weak, verb. They give details that aren’t inherent in the verbs meaning. Examples: inhaled deeply, groaned loudly, changed quickly. As they stand these phrases are concise and precise. They are okay, and can be left as-is in your manuscript. However, they lack punch or emotion. They’re uninteresting. That’s what makes them weak.¬†Strengthening sentences with expounding adverbs is¬†one¬†exception to the $1 per word trimming method. There’s no way to make them better, other than losing the adverb and the tiny detail it gives, without adding words. These are good places to put similes and metaphors to liven up your writing.

Now, you might be asking, “But, Senpai, if the third type is okay and we’re trying to save our dollars, why would we add metaphors?” Well,¬†it’s more about choosing the best way to¬†spend your dollars and not just being cheap. Better ingredients cost more, but make a better tasting cake. It’s worth it to spend a little more in some places as long as you make sure what you add to the story is strong and pushes¬†everything forward.

“But Senpai, I like adverbs! They’re part of my voice!” That’s okay, as long as you use them sparingly. Certain genres are more forgiving of adverbs than others. Do your research to make sure your use of adverbs fits the genre you’re writing for. However, your writing will become stronger if you trim them out. Practice writing without them first. Then, if you still desire to use them after you have that down, you can introduce them back in a way that won’t hinder your story.

Be Verbs

Am, is, are, was and were, be, being, been.

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They’re dull and lack any depth, emotion, or impetus to move the story forward. They’re passive voice. Be verbs tell instead of show, which readers frown upon in most cases.¬†You can replace ninety percent of be verbs with action verbs.

Also, see the “Unnecessary Repetition” section below.

Be-ing Phrases

He was chasing tadpoles. She had been reading all afternoon. Gregory was laughing so hard that milk came out his nose.

Be-ing phrases can ALWAYS be replaced with a single-word action verb.

He chased tadpoles. She had read all afternoon. Gregory laughed so hard that milk came out his nose.

They cost you $2 where you should be paying one. Also, be-ing phrases distance the subject and reader from the action taking place. They are never necessary. Avoid them like the plague.

Began/Start

This is another thing I learned from Carol Lynch Williams. Adding any form of “began” or “start” before an action distances the character from the action, is passive, and slows the story down. Let your character get to the action. Don’t distance them from it. Don’t use “began” or “start” for any action done by your protagonist.

This doesn’t mean you never use them in other ways, but you shouldn’t use them in the immediate moment of the story. Examples of okay use are “When the war started,” or “I knew something was up when Jane started acting out.” Note that these either reference things in the past or a character other than the protagonist.

That

It’s a filler word for the most part. It is needed, but not near as much as you think. Write without it and then put it back in where needed.

Just

“Just” is¬†an overused expounding adverb. It’s often unnecessary. You can make the argument that “just” helps add a degree of meaning, and that is true. Sometimes using “just” will add to your sentence/story, but only if you use it sparingly so it retains some punch. Use it all the time and it becomes meaningless.

Finally

True, “finally” is an adverb and I’ve already addressed those. However, I feel that “finally” is a special word that deserves proper attention and respect. There is a sense of relief and comfort that comes from this word. It’s actually a very strong word and I do believe it should be used AT THE END of a story, and then maybe just once.

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“Finally” is a power word. Overusing it cheapens the impact it should have, so save it for the end when the emotions and consequences are highest and it can have the most influence.

Creative Dialogue Tags

Remember how your high school teachers taught you that you should get creative with your dialogue tags? People don’t just “say” things. They shout, gripe, postulate, roar, insinuate, and all sorts of other things, right? They claimed that using “said” was boring and uncreative.
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Your high school teachers were wrong.

Creative dialogue tags pull your reader out of the story and force them to reimagine what just happened. “Said” blends in and is near invisible, the reader’s eye skims over it and they stay in the story. Or you can attribute dialogue to characters by association to¬†action. Readers will connect the latest action to the following dialogue. That’s the truly invisible dialogue tag.

Creative dialogue tags are also redundant if you’re writing right.¬†The action and description of the scene around the dialogue should already let the reader know what kind of intonation and volume the characters are using. There’s no need to be redundant and state the tone and volume again with a dialogue tag.

You are allowed to use “whisper” and I’d say maybe “scream,” SPARINGLY, but I recommend using them as action association instead of as tags.

Unnecessary Repetition

Avoid repetition on the page. Having too many of a type of spelling or word on a page, especially when they’re close together, trips up the reader and slows the story down. This applies to all words.

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For example, I told you in the previous section to stick to “said” instead of a variety of dialogue tags. When there’s a lot of dialogue and you’re only using dialogue tags, then there will be a lot of “saids” on the page. “Said” becomes a little less invisible when there’s a lot of it. That’s one reason why it’s important to use action association with dialogue. Mix it up a little.

Avoid using the same words multiple times in close sentences. For example, you don’t want to end two sentences in a row with the same word. The start of sentences is more forgiving, but it’s also best to avoid starting two sentences with the same word. The same applies to the subjects and verbs of the sentences, not just their starting or ending words. This is another reason to avoid be verbs. If you rely on be verbs, then you’re going to have a ton of the same word in a paragraph. It’s boring and slows down the reading experience.

You can use repetition for poetic or symbolic reasons, but again, this should be done sparingly and only after you’ve learned how to play within the rules.

Parting words on the subject.

Applying the $1 per word analogy and avoiding these particular words in your writing will strengthen your skills as a writer. However:

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Learn these principles, apply them, then find your own voice and build on it. Once you know how to write well you can break the rules in masterful ways, BUT¬†not until you’ve mastered writing within the “rules.” Even after that you still need to follow the guidelines to make sure your writing doesn’t fall apart and your diversions from it can shine.

Now go forth and write!

Love,
Your Writing Senpai