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Friday, December 31, 2010

2011 Meeting Dates

We meet in the Excel building (white building with red roof behind the main house) at Rippavilla Plantation - click here for directions, and all of our meetings are scheduled at 7:00 p.m. Our Critique Sessions are the first Thursday of every month. Our Creative Writing Sessions are the third Thursday of every month.

Here is a list of our of 2011 meeting dates (check back often as new dates are added for special events or Webinars):

Jan. 6 - Critique Session
Jan. 20 - Creative Writing Session (moved to Jan. 27 due to snow)
Feb. 3 - Critique Session
Feb. 17 - Creative Writing Session
Mar. 3 - Critique Session
Mar. 17 - Creative Writing Session
Mar. 31 - 5th Thursday Session (open topic)
Apr. 5 - Professional Critique Webinar
Apr. 7- Critique Session
Apr. 21 - Creative Writing Session
May 5 - Critique Session
May 19 - Creative Writing Session
June 2 - Critique Session
June 16 - Creative Writing Session
June 30 - 5th Thursday Session (Open topic)
July 7- Critique Session
July 21 - Creative Writing Session
Aug. 4 - Critique Session
Aug. 18 - Creative Writing Session
Sept. 1 - Critique Session
Sept. 15 - Creative Writing Session
Sept. 29 - 5th Thursday Session (Open topic)
Oct. 6 - Critique Session
Oct. 20 - Creative Writing Session
Nov. 3 - Critique Session
Nov. 5 - Fall Feast - 6:00 p.m.
Nov. 17 - Creative Writing Session
Dec. 1 - Critique Session
Dec. 15 - Creative Writing Session

If you are not on our e-mail list, e-mail us at to recieve meeting reminders, meeting changes, and newsletters.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

LWC Member Jesse Cunningham Published

Simply B Publishing Group Announces
Jesse Cunningham

Dear friends and family,

The Simply B Publishing Group, Division of Simply B - is pleased to announce the pending release of a 30-Day Devotional Meditation book authored by Jesse Cunningham.

“Daily Meditations-Rhythmic Reflections for the Soul” offers insightful devotions partnered with thought provoking questions for meditation geared to help readers really consider the vastness of the universe and our place in it. Key scripture selections by the author help you meditate on just how much God really loves you!

Foreword by Dr. Chuck Crisco and featured poet Joanne Chantelau, drive home the theme of grace and God calling out to your heart for you to come spend time with Him.

This work is highly recommended either for a journey of self- discovery or for small group study purposes.

We cordially invite you to attend a special event for author Jesse Cunningham. He is scheduled to sign books from 7:00 p.m.until 9:00 p.m. at the Borders Bookstore located in Cool Springs on Tuesday, December 7th.

Pre-Order your copy today!

Daily Meditations – Rhythmic Reflections for the Soul by Jesse Cunningham
Paperback: Approximately 100 pages
Publication Date: December 7, 2010 (Available for pre-orders)
List Price $11.99
Special Introductory Price: 10.99
ISBN: 978-0-9823900-8-5
Library of Congress Number: 2010939586
Religion- General; Biblical Meditations; Christian Life Devotional

Regards,B Austell
CEOSimply B Publishing Group
tele: 877.353.0004

"Life is a process of becoming."
Check out Jesse's official author website:

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Fall Feast Fun 2010

LWC Group
Aren't we sophisticated?

Bottom row: Judy Lee Hooper, Virginia Andrews, Danielle Sisk, Karen Aldridge, Violet Allen, CC Muller
Top row: Eric Gannon, Suzette Greer, Sandy DelPilar, Jesse Cunningham, Dawn Bohannon, Ross Martin, Ed Chinn, Jennifer Ballard, Mary Ann Weakley, Alan Hooper
We missed you: Denise Churchill, Sheryl Griffin, Larry Walker, CeCe Dockens, and Denim Gorman (other regular attenders who couldn't make it)

On second thought...
The real us.

Ross, Alan, and Ginny

We later found out this was a party crasher posing as Alan, but we writers bought it because "ALAN" was written on his cup.

Mary Ann and CC

Mary Ann: Alan sold us some Super Hooper's Magic Hand Cream for our writer's cramps. What? That wasn't Alan, you say? Hey, why are my hands itching? Where'd that Alan imposter go?


Pencil is the newest trend in snack food for writers. The food buffet was for our non-writer guests. The pencil buffet was on the desk.

Suzette and Sandy

I believe this was the point in the evening when Suzette broke into her rendition of "Memory" from CATS. "Memory / All alone in the moonlight..."

Sandy was the first to burst into tears. After that the whole room went down.

Precious Violet.

She might have taken the "casual and comfortable dress" memo a bit too far.

Eric and Ginny

Ginny: Eric, I told you - black shirts and blue jeans. How hard was it to get that message out to the rest of the group?

Eric: I tried, but they're a bunch of writers. They just wouldn't go for it. They said it was too confining and too unoriginal and that it stifled their creativity and desire to express themselves.

Ginny: Black IS an artistic expression, especially when done in a group. Now we just look foolish - like a couple of Twinkies.

Alternate scene for this pic:

Eric: Hey there. You come here often?

Ginny: Eric, this is YOUR house. You know I've never been here.

Eric: Oh yeah, right. Well, you wanna buy a rare book?

There's that Judy again, eating another pencil. We had to cut her off when she started writing on Eric's walls. Apparently there was another pencil stashed in her hair we missed during confiscation because we later found her huddled alone in the restroom clinging to a heavily nibbled pencil. We called her a taxi.

For no apparent reason, Karen brings her latest story "Death, Fish, and Womanhood" to life through interpretive dance. It was so moving, most were unable to watch. Suzette's song had left everyone's emotions so raw and vulnerable already.

Danielle, Meghan (Eric's wife), and Dawn

Okay, I'm blocked on this one. Someone give me a clever caption for this pic.

Jen, Mr. Jen, and Mary Ann

Jen: I've buried this cat ten times now, and he just keeps coming back.

Mary Ann: Are you sure it's THIS cat you keep burying?

Jen: I'm telling you it's THIS cat. Look at it's eyes. The thing is possessed. If you don't believe me, ask my vampire friend here, Patrick.

Mary Ann: HE'S a vampire?

Jen: Yeah, why?

Mary Ann: I didn't know vampires wore canteloupe.

Patrick: Hold on there, mortal. This isn't canteloupe. It's orange.

Mary Ann: I'm an interior designer, buddy. That shirt is canteloupe.

It just got uglier from there. Let's just say, the vampire was no match for Mary Ann.

Extra group pics below:

Post by: LWC Director, Karen Aldridge. Visit her personal blog at My Writing Loft.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Is Rippavilla Haunted?

Since our writers' group meetings are on the Rippavilla Plantation grounds, for fun I'm sharing this video with you. I came across this program on Rippavilla's facebook page. It aired on the PBS program Tennessee Crossroads about a week ago - just before Halloween. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, it certainly makes our late-night meetings there a bit more entertaining.

By the way, did you all see that little girl running across the driveway after our meeting last night? What? You didn't see her. What about that drunk guy dancing in the parking lot? No? Hmmm...

Post by: LWC Director, Karen Aldridge. Visit her personal blog at My Writing Loft.

Quotation Punctuation: Inside or Outside?

I like to research and follow up when there is a question raised during our writing meetings. Last night, our question centered around whether or not we should always place ending punctuation within the quotation marks. I’ve dug into some reputable sources as well as some general forum discussions on the topic, and my findings are recorded below.

I believe the key word here is "always". This is one of those grammar topics (like the series comma or sentence spacing) that when you get a few writers/editors/professors in a room, you're going to end up with a variety of answers. This is one reason why the misleading word "always" should never be used.

The quick explanation is that the British use a logical approach (this is the actual terminology, not my opinion) to this grammar issue. They place the punctuation mark where it logically and naturally should fall based on the context of the sentence. The American usage, which has been ingrained in many of us since childhood, is a typesetter approach to this issue (read more about this in the Grammar Girl passage below). The typesetter issue is the same reason Americans used double spaces between sentences (also ingrained in us early on). It's taken a while, but most Americans have, logically so, phased out the double spaces and now use single spaces.

There are many American grammar and style books that direct writers to "always" place punctuation inside quotation marks, but as everything changes, so does grammar usage. The same grammar books will make exceptions. Every guide book I researched said question marks and exclamation points, for example, should be placed where they make the most sense. And colons and semicolons "always" (there's that misleading word again) go outside of the quotation marks - as I have researched today, even this I'm finding is not always the case. Many American writers have opted to use the British logical approach to this issue because it is a more natural way of writing and reading.

Are you asking, "What should I do?" (That was a tricky little sentence, by the way. There were a couple of rules I could have used to determine my question mark usage in a sentence that is a question within a question - I went with the most logical approach.) First, choose a usage and be consistent. Usually I recommend going with the American rule over the British rule, but in this case, I feel you are covered either way. If you choose the American typesetter rule, you are covered because... well, you're an American writer. If you choose the British logic rule, you are covered by reason. Personally, in twenty years, I think we'll be comparing some other archaic grammar rule to "remember when we still used the American typesetter rule for quotation punctuation?" It's going to fall just like the double-space rule fell. But for now, choose to be consistent, and you will be okay.

Second, always - and I really mean "always" here - do what your publisher says. In American publishing, my guess is that the majority still follow the typesetter rule, but some have shifted, so always find out how your publisher wants it, and do it like that. In the world of publication, the only rules that matter are your publisher's.

Here are some more references to help you as you research this issue:

From Grammar Girl
( ):

Typesetters Quotations Versus Logical Quotations

There's another difference in how Americans and Britons treat quotation marks. In the U.S. we put periods and commas inside quotation marks, and in Britain they put periods and commas outside quotation marks. My admittedly U.S.-centric memory trick is to remember "Inside the U.S., inside quotation marks. Outside the U.S., outside quotation marks." [I think this is not completely accurate - I believe the Britain rule allows inside or outside placement depending on the context of the sentence which is what makes it a logical usage.]

The reason for this difference begins with the introduction of movable type. Before typesetting, nobody paid too much attention to where they put periods and commas relative to quotation marks, but periods and commas became a problem with the advent of typesetting because they were so tiny. Printers found that the periods and commas were more stable when they were placed inside closing quotation marks, so that's the way they started doing it (7, 8).

Again, our British friend Fowler seems to have made the difference in his book The King's English. (9) Typesetting technology had advanced to the point where it wasn't necessary to shield periods and commas anymore, and he argued for what he considered a more logical system of letting the context of the sentence determine where the period and comma should go. The British seem to have taken his suggestion to heart and Americans seem to have ignored it.

Because of these origins, it is sometimes said the British use logical quotations and Americans use typesetters quotations.

From Webster’s Third New International Dictionary (I’ve bolded the passage numbers that closely relate to this issue):

13.1 Direct quotations: "When I am dead," said one of the keenest minds, "lay a sword on my coffin."

13.2 In long quotations, left-hand marks are placed at the beginning of every paragraph, as well as at the end of the selection.

13.3 Quotation marks are usually not used when the quoted matter is set in smaller type or in paragraphs indented on both sides.

13.4 Single quotation marks enclose a quotation within a quotation. The witness said, "I heard him say, 'Don't be late'; then I heard the door close."

13.5 Quotation marks enclose titles of short poems, paintings, lectures, articles, and parts or chapters of books. (Titles of whole books, periodicals, and newspapers are usually italicized in context.)

13.5.1 In American usage printers usually place a period or comma inside closing quotation marks whether it belongs logically to the quoted matter or to the whole sentence or context.... But when a logical or exact distinction is desired in specialized work in which clarity is more important than usual (as in this dictionary), a period or comma can be placed outside quotation marks when it belongs not in the quoted matter but to a larger unit containing the quoted matter. The package is labeled "Handle with Care".

13.5.2 Only one other mark accompanies closing quotation marks, whether the quotation and the whole sentence or context call for the same mark or for different marks. We shouted, "Where do you think you're going?" Why did you bellow, "Get out of here!"

13.5.3 A colon or semicolon is usually placed outside of quotation marks. "Fame is proof that people are gullible"; with this quotation, he retired in silence.

13.5.4 A colon or semicolon is sometimes placed inside the quotation marks when it belongs inseparably to the quotation. However, a terminal colon or semicolon of quoted matter incorporated in a sentence usually gives place to appropriate end punctuation. "Sirs:" is a salutation....

13.5.5 A question mark or exclamation point is usually placed inside or outside the quotation marks according to whether it belongs to the quoted matter or to the whole sentence or clause that includes the quotation. Can you forget his angry exit after he shouted "Include me out"? "And what do you think of this new novel?" his friend asked.

13.6 Quotation marks, often single quotation marks, sometimes enclose technical terms unfamiliar to the reader; words used in an unusual sense; and coined word, trade or shop jargon, or slang for which the writer implies a slight apology. An "em" is a unit of measure used in printing. He is "goofy" according to their lingo. 'Strangeness' is a property of elementary particles.

More Web sites to review:


A very special thank you to Karen Phillips. She had a copy of The Chicago Manual of Style I requested on e-mail and sent me the passages on the quotation punctuation issue. This reference (5.12 below) states that there are times when the punctuation may or should be placed outside the quotation mark. Our job as writers is to pick up on those rare times and use the punctuation appropriately.

Basically in the writing world, your publisher’s rules come first, and The Chicago Manual of Style rules come second. If it is in this reference, you can be assured of the accuracy.

Here are the passages from The Chicago Manual of Style:

American Style—
5.11 When a declarative or an imperative sentence is enclosed in quotation marks, the period ending the sentence is, in what may be called the American style, placed inside the closing quotation mark. If the quoted sentence is included within another sentence, its terminal period is omitted or replaced by a comma, as required, unless it comes at the end of the including sentence. In the latter case, a single period serves both sentences and is placed inside the closing quotation mark.

“There is no reason to inform the president.”
“It won’t be necessary to inform the president,” said Emerson.
“Emerson replied nervously, The president doesn’t wish to be informed about such things.”

5.12 Quoted words and phrases falling at the end of a sentence can, in the vast majority of cases, take the terminating period within the closing quotation mark without confusion or misunderstanding. In those rare instances when confusion is likely, the period not only may, but perhaps should, be placed after the quotation mark.

Examples (notice the difference between the two sentences) :
From then on, Gloria became increasingly annoyed by what she later referred to as Sidney’s “excessive discretion.”
The first line of Le Beau’s warring to Orlando has long been regarded as reading “good sir, I do in friendship counsel you”.

Post by: LWC Director, Karen Aldridge. Visit her personal blog at My Writing Loft.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fall Feast

Living Writers Collective


Saturday, November 13
6:00 P.M.

Eric's House
(Directions will be sent in an e-mail closer to the date)

Sign up at any LWC session or e-mail Karen Aldridge

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Specification Prompt

There were twelve members in attendance at our September 16 creative writing session. Mary Ann Weakley shared her notes from the Kentucky Women Writers Conference which she attended the prior weekend. Here are some of her notes:

Speaker: Sue Halpern: Rhodes Scholar, Guggenheim Fellow, doctorate from Oxford, author of many books.
Topic: Finding Your Voice
  • Find your voice by writing; when you find words not working, get rid of them.
  • Read, read, read; become a self editor.
  • Observe. Interrogate your senses; make adjectives mean something
  • Be specific, use taste, smell, etc.
  • Get rid of throw-away words, e.g. fun, pretty, bright.
  • Strike a balance between descriptive and mundane.
  • Overwriting is a big sin. Description needs to fit into context.
  • Keep the reader engaged; be coherent.
  • Careful of repetition of words.
  • Be a good listener/editor.

Speaker: Erin Cox: Agent; Develops and represents writers for Rob Weisbach Creative Management, New York. Previously Book Publishing Director at the New Yorker.
Topic: Agents, How to find one and keep one.

  • Most important is, a Good Story and Good Writing.
  • Develop a platform to sell your book. Who will you sell to, how will you sell.
  • Use blogging, Facebook, Twitter--keeps you connected.
  • Personal connections: other writers, booksellers, collect e-mail addresses.
  • Know your end goal.
  • Next wave publishers are looking for: GHOSTS! Vampire is over.
  • Young Adult writing is easier to break into; needs good setting and strong characters.
  • Nonfiction is easier to sell than fiction.
  • Try to get published in literary journals.
  • Get something published anywhere you can. Shows aggresiveness and experience of going through the process.
  • E-magazines are good place to publish. Glimmer Train popular one.


1. Mary Ann passed around two bags of candy - one bag contained peppermints, the other contained peanut butter candy bars.

2. Each member chose one piece of candy (peppermint or peanut butter).

3. We were instructed to use our senses and create a descriptive paragraph about the candy focusing on specificity.


In our Creative Writing sessions, we have twenty minutes to brainstorm and write. The focus is on opening our minds to other types of writing or other writing ideas we might not explore on our own. Our focus is not on grammar, style, or technique as it would slow our creative process. So keep in mind, when you see Creative Writing session stories on this blog, they have not been proofread and drafted in multiple - these are speedy, one-shot brain dumps. Here are some of the paragraphs created from our prompt above:

By Suzette Greer (peppermint)

Twisted into crackling celophane, braided red and white, the scent of Christmas burst through the wrapper. Slow, rythmic, contemplated gestures released the tiny treasure into my hand. Oh the joy of that first touch to the tip of my senses. The fresh clean bite of winter air, woven into a single morsel, melting like ice behind my lips. When I can bear no more… crunch! - crunch! - crunch! The fragments blend and drift down my throat, but in my mouth, lingers wonderful peppermint!


By Judy Lee Hooper (peanut butter - done outside of the creative writing session)

I hold the small package in my hand. As I begin to liberate the tiny morsel from the cacoon that protects it from a cruel world, the sound of cellophane crinkles in my ear. The sweet aroma of peanut butter asails my senses, taking me back to my childhood. How long have I deprived myself of this simple luxury? One that does so much for me yet cost so little? Too long - I decide - too long.

I savor the remembered flavor of the peanut butter and the sweet crunchy coating as they melt on my tongue. I am transported to another time, childhood. Ahh...the taste of yesteryear.


By Karen Aldridge (peppermint)

The peppermint is crisp. Frosty vapors ascend into my nasal cavity and tickle my mucous membranes. The texture, smooth at first is fading into textures my tongue explores. Now, sharp crevices form slicing at the tip of my tongue. There is a sticky sensation gathering on my lips and the corners of my lips meld together and take some effort to part. My eyes are awakened as the vapors move to the tops of my sinuses and the lights seem brighter. A clicking vibrates through my head as the peppermint travels among my teeth. The flavor sharpens making my tastebuds recoil in flavor shock.

Post by: LWC Director, Karen Aldridge. Visit her personal blog at My Writing Loft.
Contribution by: Mary Ann Weakley (Notes from KY Women Writers Conference)

Monday, August 30, 2010

Preparing to Write a Novel?

For those of you who want to participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writers Month) this year - I posted an article about this a few weeks ago (read it at What is NaNoWriMo?) - I found a great method to help you with the preparation phase of your novel.

It is called The Snowflake Method by Randy Ingermanson, and you can find it at The Snowflake Method.

I actually came across this method about two years ago, and being more of a wing-it kind of person, I put it to the side and forgot about it. Three partially completed novels later, I've come across it again in my writing program and now I'm going to have to use it. But I've also learned that a result of the lack of novel preparation or novel design (all that stuff you do before you actually start writing your rough draft) is an unfinished novel or a novel that doesn't go deep enough to fully connect a reader to your story. If the writer doesn't go deep enough, how can the reader? That's not to say, all writers write poorly if they don't pre-plan, but I have realized in my case, I'm just no good at winging it.

So, for NaNoWriMo this year, I'm not winging it. Using The Snowflake Method, I'm going to create a thorough novel design and know exactly where my novel is going when opening bell rings come November 1. As you read through the process on the Snowflake Web site (above) you will discover many of the techniques we have learned during our lesson times in our Living Writers' Collective Creative Writing Sessions - writing hooks, characterization, and synopses, for example (in other words - you all can do this). Here is a brief overview of the ten-step process of The Snowflake Method:

Step 1: Write a one-sentence summary of your novel (use your writing hooks lessons for this one)
Step 2: Expand the one-sentence summary into a full paragraph
Step 3: Create a one-page summary sheet for each character
Step 4: Expand each sentence of your summary paragraph (from step 2) into a full paragraph (this creates a synopsis)
Step 5: Write character synopses for each character (major and important characters)
Step 6: Expand the one-page synopsis (from step 4) to a four-page synopsis
Step 7: Create character charts for each character (you could use our characterization lesson to do this)
Step 8: Outline each novel scene (this is where you really start to create your story)
Step 9: Expand each line of your outline into a multi-line paragraph description of the scene.
Step 10: Write your first draft (this will go fast because you already have all of your scenes done - this will also be where you will start on Nov. 1 for NaNoWriMo)

The idea is that with each step your novel grows and expands in detail like a snowflake.

I have completed through step 3, and it has been painless and a lot of fun. And it has been an extremely creative process - my storyline is already expanding in amazing ways. If anyone would like to join me and start preparing for your next or first novel, let me know (e-mail me, LWC members) and we'll work through the process together - maybe meeting before or after LWC meetings to provide advice and support to each other.

If you are a screenwriting person ( I know we have at least a couple in LWC), check out and link to ScriptFrenzy. This is NaNoWriMo for screenwriters, and I believe it takes place in April.

Post by: LWC Director Karen Aldridge. Visit her personal blog at My Writing Loft.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Online Writing Tools

I just can't keep these great online writing tools to myself any longer. These are two of my favorites, so check them out.

Grammar Girl: Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing - I do not think there is a grammar question I have asked that I haven't been able to find through Grammar Girl. This site is amazing - the grammar advice is sound, and it is right at your fingertips, so hop over there and do some exploring. Make sure you have lots of time because you might become addicted, and you could probably spend hours browsing this site.

Grammar Girl has a blog on which she regularly posts issues related to grammar (234 posts to date). If you have a specific topic you are looking for, she has a search box - type in your topic and click "SEARCH" and all of her posts which address that topic will be listed. She also has a daily tip that you can subscribe to through e-mail or read on her Web site. The top-five tips she currently has listed are:
  • affect versus effect
  • who versus whom
  • lay versus lie
  • ending a sentence with a preposition
  • "all right" versus "alright" - one is a word, one is not (do you know which isn't? Check Grammar Girl to find out)
I've added Grammar Girl to "WRITING LINKS" on the left sidebar, so you can access it from our LWC blog with just a click.

Dr. Wicked's Write or Die is an awesome tool to help keep your fingers moving. The idea is to use your own negative reinforcement to achieve your writing goal. You set your own time parameters (for example, 500 words in ten minutes), you select a consequence (gentle, normal, kamikaze, or electric shock), and you select a grace period (forgiving, strict, or evil). Then you click on "Write" and you start writing. If you don't write fast enough to achieve your goal in the time period you selected, your consequence will be enforced.

This is so darn cool - you have to give it a try. You don't have to sign up, just click over, put in your parameters, and start writing. You can link directly to the parameters input screen by clicking the picture below or on the right sidebar of this blog:

Write or Die

To learn more about what Write or Die is all about, click this link: About Write or Die

Here are the consequences pasted directly from Dr. Wicked's Write or Die Web site:

Gentle Mode: A certain amount of time after you stop writing, a box will pop up, gently reminding you to continue writing.
Normal Mode: If you persistently avoid writing, you will be played a most unpleasant sound. The sound will stop if and only if you continue to write.
Kamikaze Mode: Keep Writing or Your Work Will Unwrite Itself

I like the normal mode (I'm not brave enough to try kamikaze). If you stop writing, after a certain amount of grace time (whatever you selected) the screen will turn to pink, then darken until it turns bright red. Once it turns bright red, if you are in normal mode, obnoxious music will force your brain into action - if for no other reason but to stop the horrid music. If you want to save your material, be sure to C & P it into Word - Write or Die does not save your writing beyond your current activity.

Oh, and if you're asking why would I want to write under such stringent circumstances, review this blog post for the answer.

If you have an online writing tool you love to use, share it with me, and you may see it posted on the Living Writers Collective blog in the future.

Post by: LWC Director, Karen Aldridge. Visit her personal blog at My Writing Loft.

Does Your Story Bore Your Reader?

"If your scene makes you [the writer] cry, your reader will sob. If your scene makes you laugh, your reader will howl. If your scene bores you, your reader will stop reading." - Jerry B. Jenkins (stated during 8/10/10 Thick-skinned Critique Webinar)

Your story should be a series of active scenes. Readers read to disappear from mundane, every-day life. Give them drama and action and a reason to keep turning the page. Scour every paragraph for boring details that mimic routine life and kill them.

Don't tell readers your character parked the car, walked across the street, and climbed the steep stairs to the courthouse - just get to the action in the courthouse. Jenkins calls this "on-the-nose" writing, or stating the obvious (mirroring real life without adding to the story). These humdrum, life-mimicking details would be understood by the reader - the reader would know the character had to get to the courthouse somehow, but the how wouldn't be important and stating it would only serve to bore your reader.

Of course, if your character hit a pedestrian parking his car, or got into a fist fight with a cab driver while crossing the street, or fell on the steps and sprained his ankle and was helped up by a beautiful woman who later turns out to be the judge in his trial - those things would certainly further your story, so let them live.

Jenkins says whatever emotion your scene evokes in you, it will evoke that emotion in your reader times ten. If a scene you have written bores you, it will bore your reader times ten. At best, they will skip passages to try to get to the meat of the story. At worst, they will put your book down and never pick it up again.

Post by: LWC Director, Karen Aldridge. Visit her personal blog at My Writing Loft.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Characterization - July 2010 Creative Writing Session

“To even begin to accurately bring a character to life on the page you must do your homework, quiz yourself fastidiously about every last detail of your character’s inner and outer life.” - Noah Lukeman from The Plot Thickens: 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life

The first two chapters in Lukeman's book are dedicated to creating full characters. Both chapters almost completely consist of questions you need to ask yourself about your character. The first chapter lists questions you need to know about the character's outer life (appearance, employment, education, finances, location, medical background, possessions, etc...). The second chapter focuses on the inner life (inherent abilities, spirituality, sex, values, vices, etc...)


It was Lukeman's thorough list of character questions that inspired our July Creative Writing session. First, I handed out a list of character traits for popular movie characters and asked members to guess who the traits applied to. Examples of characters I used are Clarice Starling, Don Corleone, and Forrest Gump. Then, I handed out a sample list of the questions Lukeman addresses in his book (LWC members: e-mail me if you want the lesson, and I will send it to you).

I emphasized that character descriptions do not need to be directly entered into the story. The reader does not have to have every last detail placed neatly on the page; however the writer needs to know every last detail in order to fully bring their character to life on the page. Some of these details will naturally work their way into the story – if they do not naturally work their way in, they should not be there and should simply remain in the writer’s head as he creates his story.

Pages 39-41 in Lukeman's book contains a personality test consisting of positive and negative trait measurements. Using a sampling, we each completed a personality test on the person we are closest to. The point was to show writers that we need to know our character at least as well as the person we know best in life.


1. Each member wrote a sex (male or female) on a scrap of paper and placed it in container one.
2. Each member wrote an age (no younger than 18) on a scrap of paper and placed it in container two.
3. Each member wrote a profession (being creative) on a scrap of paper and placed it in container three. Professions included pet sitter, choo-choo train conductor, singer, charter sailboat cook, exotic dancer, anthropologist, and alchemist.
4. Each member wrote an inner life characteristic on a scrap of paper and placed it in container four. Those included bug collector, chocolate doughnut addiction, cocaine addiction, and problem with authority.
5. The containers were passed around, and each member drew a piece of paper from each container, creating a basic character out of randomly drawn traits.
6. Each member (about 10 of us) wrote a sketch of their basic character.


In our Creative Writing sessions, we have twenty minutes to brainstorm and write. The focus is on opening our minds to other types of writing or other writing ideas we might not explore on our own. Our focus is not on grammar, style, or technique as it would slow our creative process. So keep in mind, when you see Creative Writing session stories on this blog, they have not been proofread and drafted in multiple - these are speedy, one-shot brain dumps. Here are some of the stories created from our prompt above:

By Alan R. Hooper

Prompt References – 23 years old, Male, Conductor on a Choo-Choo Train, collect insects.

Hannibal Gump, was a young, 23 year old who acts like he was 16. He is 6ft 3ins tall, lanky, with hair that would be more suitable on a younger member of the Jackson Five, an Afro, beyond words, multi colored like a rainbow.

His job, as a Choo-Choo train conductor in the Kiddy Park at Six Flags gives him all the attention he needs, when the kids see his hair; he loves to see their glances of appreciation. His big problem is that no girl will look at him twice, his gawky frame and his fuzzy Afro, usually with a large comb stuck in it, puts them right off.

The other thing is if they do get to know him, his pet collection of assorted insects, mostly cockroaches he catches under his sink, turns them off completely, forever.Of course, his close set eyes, each looking in a different direction makes it difficult for anyone to look him in the eye. Do you look into the right eye or the left, take your pick?


By Sheryl Griffin

Prompt References - 74 years old, Male, Singer, Addicted to cocaine

I am a seventy four year old man who has been singing in Honky Tonks for sixty years. I started singing on my own when I was sixteen years old. My father and mother sang in the church choir and I naturally joined them as soon as I could talk. Singing is who I am.

Once I got a taste of the Honky Tonk life I felt I was in Heaven. The free drinks! The women! Everywhere I went people clapped and sang along with me. I loved the excitement of my life.

I don't recall when or how but at some point in my mid thirties one of the regulars who followed me from town to town, introduced me to something he called "magic powder". He said it would help me be more creative in song writing, give me energy, that my now (even in my thirties) worn out body needed. The Honkey Tonk life is a hard life!

Before I knew it, every penny I made was going to that 'magic powder. As I sit here and look back now at age seventy four, I can't say that cocaine really improved my songs or my career. It has in fact, caused a lot of pain and loss. I lost family and friends. I lost my home. I have spent time in jail.

I now have a second chance at life to live, to write songs, and sing like never before. As I sit here in Rippavilla Rehab, I thank God for this second chance at life!


By Karen Aldridge

Prompt References - 40 years old, Female, Pet sitter, Forgives but doesn't forget
Some people might call me unambitious or lazy. I've just never been a nine-to-five kind of girl. Money doesn't thrill me and school bores me. I do love pets, so becoming a pet sitter just came natural to me. I'm thirty-two years old and still live at home with my parents, which makes it easy for me to do my job. I don't like living with my parents - my mom and I don't get along.

Mom spanked me when I was ten for throwing milk in my brother's face. She didn't see him step on my toes, but even if she had, I probably would have still gotten spanked - she always loved him more than me.


More coming soon.

Post by: LWC Director, Karen Aldridge. Visit her personal blog at My Writing Loft.

What Is NaNoWriMo?

November is National Novel Writing Month, but in the writing world, it is simply known as NaNoWriMo or "Thirty days and nights of literary abandon!". The goal of NaNoWriMo is to write a 50,000-word novel (or part of a novel) in thirty days, starting on November 1 and ending on November 30. The purpose is to surrender yourself to literary abandon and find out what your brain can come up with if you release the reins and cut it loose?

Why would you want to do this? Allowing yourself to write your first draft without stopping to analyze and correct your material is a very powerful writing technique, and the lesson you learn from it can open your mind to grander, more imaginative stories. And the biggest bonus and motivator is, at the end of thirty days, you’re 50,000 words closer to a completed first draft.

Anne Lamott is the author of Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, an excellent book on writing. This book contains the best chapter on writing a first draft I have ever read. Lamott recommends you allow yourself to write a terrible first draft. I have to warn you that her language can be a bit colorful, but her messages are poignant and worth the read.

Excerpt from Lamott’s book:

“For me and most of the other writers I know, writing is not rapturous. In fact, the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts.

“The first draft is the child's draft, where you let it all pour out and then let it romp all over the place, knowing that no one is going to see it and that you can shape it later. You just let this childlike part of you channel whatever voices and visions come through and onto the page. If one of the characters wants to say, 'Well, so what, Mr. Poopy Pants?,' you let her. No one is going to see it. If the kid wants to get into really sentimental, weepy, emotional territory, you let him. Just get it all down on paper, because there may be something great in those six crazy pages that you would never have gotten to by more rational, grown-up means.”

Lamott shares that she was always afraid to leave her house after writing a first draft. She feared she’d be killed in a terrible accident. Then someone would find her first draft and think she’d committed suicide because she’d lost her ability to write. Of course, she’d always come back and clean it all up in subsequent drafts. But her point was to get it all out as fast and effortlessly as possible, then go back and make it all work. NaNoWriMo is about getting it all out as fast and effortlessly as possible - in December, you can go back and make it all work.

Last year, over 120,000 NaNoWriMo participants wrote 2.5 billion words during the month of November. When you register (participation is free), you will set up an account on the Web site. This account allows you to access writer forums and connect with other NaNoWriMo participants you may know. Through these connections you can keep up with your friends’ word counts or have some friendly competition. Regions also compete against other regions for the highest group word counts.

If you have a blog or Web address, you can also download NaNoWriMo participant tags and word-count widgets. You will also be assigned to a regional NaNoWriMo coordinator in your area (for us locals, our coordinator is in Nashville). The coordinator sends out e-mails to inspire and motivate us and manages facilitators who schedule write-ins so we can meet with other participants and write (most of last year’s meetings were in the Franklin area – the library, coffee shops – if we have enough NaNoWriMo participants from our area, I can be a facilitator and we will meet in Spring Hill).

If you plan to participate, now is the time to start thinking about what you plan to write. You are not allowed to start your novel until Nov. 1, but you can start preplanning now (plotting, characterization, outlines), because on Nov. 1, you want to be ready to hit chapter one running.

Go to the NaNoWriMo Web site at Click on the “About” tab and the “FAQs” tab to get a good understanding of what it’s all about, then spend some time exploring. You do not win anything except the success of your own hard work and the accomplishment of having 50,000 words on paper. However, learning to yield yourself to the creative processes of your mind and dedicating yourself daily to the craft of writing will be invaluable tools as you journey on the road to publication.

Tip: In order to complete 50,000 words in thirty days, you will have to write 1,667 words per day.

I did not finish last year, so I am extra determined to complete my 50,000 words this year. Is anyone else up for the challenge… a little friendly LWC novel-writing competition maybe?

Post by: LWC Director Karen Aldridge. Visit her personal blog at My Writing Loft.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Fiction Writing Blunders

Each Wednesday, Jerry B. Jenkins posts writing tips on his blog. Currently he is doing a series called "8 Basic Fiction Writing Blunders", and I think you will enjoy reading these. I will try to remember to link them here each Wednesday.

Jerry B. Jenkins is the author of over 150 books. He is also the owner and director of the Christian Writers Guild which strives to train high-quality writers. Jenkins is best known for authoring the best-selling Left Behind book series.

His Wednesday blog series is NOT written to Christian writers - it is written to ALL writers. So, no matter what fiction genre you write in, you will learn a lot from these posts. In fact, the first two Wednesday writing posts have dealt with cliché writing and on-the-nose (stating the obvious) writing. Those could apply to writing outside of fiction as well. Check them out:

Week 1: 8 Basic Fiction Writing Blunders (Morning-routine cliché) by Jerry B. Jenkins

Week 2: 8 Basic Fiction Writing Blunders (Answering-the-phone cliché) by Jerry B. Jenkins

Week 3: 8 Basic Fiction Writing Blunders (The clutter of detail) by Jerry B. Jenkins

Week 4: 8 Basic Fiction Writing Blunders (Skip the recitals of ordinary life) by Jerry B. Jenkins

Week 5: 8 Basic Fiction Writing Blunders (Don't spell it out) by Jerry B. Jenkins

Week 6: 8 Basic Fiction Writing Blunders (Pass on the Preachiness) by Jerry B. Jenkins

Week 7: 8 Basic Fiction Writing Blunders (Setting the Scene) by Jerry B. Jenkins

Week 8: 8 Basic Fiction Writing Blunders (Coincidences) by Jerry B. Jenkins

Post by: LWC Director Karen Aldridge. Visit her personal blog at My Writing Loft.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Inserting the Copyright Symbol

There are a number of ways to insert the copyright symbol, but this is probably the fastest:

ALT + 0169 (you have to do this on the number pad - it won't work using the top numbers)

If you are on a laptop and your laptop doesn't have a number pad or if you have a MAC, click the link below for other options. You can also find the copyright symbol in the symbols (insert, symbols) area of Microsoft Word.

Check your laptop closely. On first glance it may not seem to have a number pad, but I can use the function key (if you have one it should be near your space bar or Ctrl key) on my laptop and use part of my letter keyboard as my number pad (the numbers are highlighted in blue on the keys). So for my laptop I use ALT+Fn+0169 (MJO9 on my keyboard).

Post by: LWC Director Karen Aldridge. Visit her personal blog at My Writing Loft.

Is Copyright Necessary?

There is a great Web site you can use to answer any copyright question you may have. I'm including the link and linking you directly to an article that addresses the issue of whether registering your copyright is necessary or not -

I am not a copyright expert, but my layperson understanding of copyright protection of written material is that in the years before computers, it was more important - there were no electronic trails to lead you back to the actual writer. In our day and age, our electronic stamp is on our material establishing and proving our copyright at the moment we save it. Even material written and posted on Web sites and blogs is protected.

I am involved in some professional forums and Web sites where writers post stories they have written. An example is Writers post stories they would like to sell or give to publications, and anyone is welcome to view them - no membership needed. They also offer monthly contests, and contest entries are available for all members to view. We have a similar forum through the Christian Writers Guild where we post stories for contests. We also post our stories when we want a general critique from other Guild members and students. There are also many online writers' groups that function by e-mailing their writing material to each other. Even in our LWC group, many of us often give our hard-copy material to other members and let them take it home and read it or critique it.

Does any of this guarantee that someone isn't going to steal something you write and try to sell it? No. But you can be assured that if they do, your electronic stamp is proof that the material is yours. And you can include the copyright symbol for added emphasis if you wish (we automatically own the copyright the moment we write it, without having to register for it - so you can add the copyright symbol to your material). Click here to find out how to add this symbol.

Of course there are larger works, screenplays and novels for example, that may be an exception(though copyright at that point would normally be handled by your agent).

If you still want the added protection and benefits of registering your copyright with the government's US Copyright Office, I am including the link to this as well -

Post by: LWC Director Karen Aldridge. Visit her personal blog at My Writing Loft.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Grammar School: Numbers

During our July Critique Session, the question of how to write numbers was discussed. This is one of those grammar topics that can, at least on the surface, seem a bit confusing, like the serial comma. But when you drill down and do the research, you can weed through the confusion and master number writing.

The general rule is when a number can be written in two words or less, spell it out. If greater than two words, write the number:

I have ninety-nine erasers in my antique-erasers collection.
My great-grandmother is one hundred years old.
There are seventeen children coming to Lucy's birthday party.
It should take me about six hours to read this 175-page book.

However if you have a series of numbers, aim for simplicity and consistency (spelling out all but 145 would be awkward, so keep it simple):

My lucky numbers are 12, 54, 97, and 145.

Rule exception - any number occuring at the beginning of a sentence is spelled out:

Seven hundred and thirty students attend my son's school.

It gets a little tricky with round numbers, but if you just remember all round numbers are spelled out, you should have it. Here is an excerpt from Grammar & Style at Your Fingertips by Lara M. Robbins:

If the number is larger than 101 but is a round number, then it would also be spelled out. A round number is a number ending with one or more zeros.
  • There were an estimated seven hundred fifty million people watching as Diana married Prince Charles.
  • There are already more than two thousand bookies taking bets on who will win the next Kentucky Derby.
RANDOM HOUSE WEBSTER'S grammar, usage, and punctuation says that generally (the word "generally" lets you know there are some exceptions), most of the following are written in figure form: dates, decades, pages, dimensions, decimals, percentages, measures, statistical data, exact amounts of money ("When providing references to money in written dialogue or round numbers, spell out the dollar amount" - Lara M. Robbins), designations of time when followed by A.M. or P.M., and addresses. Here are the examples the book gives:

June 24, 1945
the 1920's
124 B.C.
p. 263
p. xxvi
2' X 4'
2.5 cm
23 percent
93 miles
4262 B Street

There are exceptions to these I just listed, so be sure to get a good grammar book with a thorough section on number writing. My favorite is Grammar and Style at Your Fingertips by Lara M. Robbins (link above). I do have this book as well at the Random House book I referenced above at all of our Critique Sessions.

Memorize the rules, and familiarize yourself with the exceptions to the rules, and you will have a solid grasp on number writing.

Keep in mind that technical, academic, and business writing as well as many magazines and newspapers follow a common rule of spelling out numbers from one through ten and using numerals for all others. If you purchase a grammar book, make sure it is not a grammar book geared toward business writing (The Gregg Reference Manual is one example) unless your writing falls into one of the categories I just listed. Currently, I am not aware of anyone in our writers' group who writes in any of these categories.

Post by: LWC Director Karen Aldridge. Visit her personal blog at
My Writing Loft.

Live it - Then Write About It

Two weeks ago, my kids and I disappeared deep into the Allegheny Mountains in West Virginia for a week. In our log cabin in this remote part of West Virginia, there was no Internet or television, no cell phone access or landline telephone, and no air conditioning or microwave.

I love shedding off life's modern-day conveniences and getting cozy with nature - the bugs, the creatures that slither, the nocturnal explorers, the deer, the bears, the birds, the giant river turtles, and the frogs that are twice as big as my hand and whose sweet tunes lull me to sleep at night. I've always been a tomboy, and I still love exploring the forest floor for animal tracks, seeing how far a millipede can climb my bare arm, and catching (or trying to catch - I'm not as good at it now as I was when I was a kid) slimy frogs.

During this trip, I learned a few new things:
  • Spotting the twenty-third deer is equally as fascinating as spotting the first one.
  • Bear feces looks suprisingly similar to human feces.
  • Spiders and crickets will seek shelter in your toiletries case.
  • The mystery of the unexplainable loose dirt that keeps appearing in your bed will be solved on the last day when you realize you've been sharing your bed with a raccoon all week.
  • The lack of modern-day conveniences/distractions will bring out the best in seven- and five-year-old boys.
  • If your child has a loose front tooth, take him innertubing a few times. Hayden's tooth now rests somewhere in the Greenbrier River.
  • Kroger-bought pears taste fresher in the woods.
  • If you wake to the sounds of a curious bear in the middle of the night, when - if - you go back to sleep, it is inevitable that you will dream you are attacked by a bear.
  • Around day four, you'll start to wonder if anything major has happened in the world - like has our government been overthrown? Has California fallen into the ocean? Has the rapture occurred and I wasn't one of the selected? But then a deer and her fawn will leap by your cabin, and you'll decide it doesn't really matter what's going on in the crazy world outside these woods.

Last year, this same trip to West Virginia inspired me to write a short story called Death of a Whippoorwill. I received an honorable mention in the 2009 Silver Quill Short Fiction Contest for that story. I want to encourage you all to find a special place, at least once a year, where you can disappear from your distractions and absorb inspiration for your writing. Don't go with the plan to write; go with the plan to explore and observe and enjoy. Live it - then write about it. For me, getting as close to nature as possible seems to do the trick. For you, it may be something else, but whatever it is, make the effort to do it. Living it will flood you with ideas and inspire poignant messages through writing that shines.

To read more about my trip, click here to read "This Dark Night" on my personal blog.

- Post by: LWC Director Karen Aldridge. Visit her at My Writing Loft.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

A Lesson from "A Dash of Style" - The Comma

One of my favorite authors is Cormac McCarthy. His stories, on the surface, always seem so abysmal. McCarthy has a way of exploring the evil depths humanity can sink to that makes us question our own inclinations toward dark behavior given the right circumstances. He makes us ask ourselves "if I were in that situation would I - could I - be capable of such depravity?" And the reason we even consider asking ourselves such a question is because the situations are so extreme, yet fully believable.

I readMcCarthy's The Road in three days, and I didn't sleep for three nights after. It left me anxious and jarred and horrified all at the same time - all despite the spark of light, the slim trace of hope, McCarthy weaved in at the end. It was the journey along The Road that shook me.

The amazing thing about this book, besides the Pulitzer-winning story and writing, is the lack of punctuation. McCarthy is known for using minimal punctuation, but in The Road the lack of punctuation anchors the story. In a dead, gray world stripped of everything where the man is simply called "the man" and the boy simply called "the boy", commas would be superfluous.

But McCarthy doesn't forgo commas and other punctuation to emphasize a stripped and wicked world - minimal punctuation is McCarthy's creative style - his effort to write as simply as possible with as little interruption as possible - to write powerfully without those "weird little things" (McCarthy calls punctuation) getting in the way. McCarthy believes, "if you write properly you shouldn't have to punctuate." And he's darn successful at it.

Because commas are the most abundant punctuation mark used in writing, their near absence in McCarthy's writing is the most noticeable. But only at first. A few pages in, you feel like you're walking along that road with the man and the boy, and punctuation is the last thing on your mind. Only a true master of grammar could create such vibrant prose by bending the grammar rules we are all so accustomed to. McCarthy had to fully understand its use before he could mold it into a simpler and freer form.

Of course we can't all be Cormac McCarthys, but we can strive to master grammar so that we can better use it and, yes, even bend it to fit our creative style. According to Noah Lukeman, the comma is the hardest of all punctuation marks to master. But once you have it, use it to your creative advantage. Here are some key points from "Chapter 2 THE COMMA" in Lukeman's book A Dash of Style: The Art and Mastery of Punctuation:

  • The comma can be used to divide a sentence or to connect two sentences, and with that power, it can change the meaning of a sentence.

  • "Not only is [the comma] the most flexible, not only are its uses the most varied, but is also carries few rules and has been used (and not used) by great authors in many different ways"

  • "It is the glue that holds a sentence together."

  • It provides clarity when conveying several ideas in one sentence.

  • It pauses and allows the reader to catch his breath.

  • It can be used to indicate the passing of time - Example from Lukeman: Lynne Truss addresses this point with an apt story in Eats, Shoots & Leaves: "Thurber was once asked by a correspondent: 'Why did you have a comma in the sentence, "After dinner, the men went into the living room"?' And his answer was probably one of the loveliest things ever said about punctuation. 'This particular comma,' Thurber explained, 'was Ross's way of giving the men time to push back their chairs and stand up.'"

  • Writers misuse the comma more than any other punctuation mark. Most by overuse.
  • Too many commas make the reader feel they are moving in slow motion.

  • "Sometimes commas are simply unnecessary" (even when they are technically correct). "Some sentences work with a comma, but also work equally well without one. If so, it is preferable to omit it."

  • "The comma is one of the only punctuation marks so widely used that its ommission is a stylistic statement."

  • Omitting the comma speeds the pace.

  • "Omitting commas can help achieve a stream-of-consciousness feeling."

Post by: LWC Director Karen Aldridge. Visit her personal blog site at My Writing Loft.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Lesson From "A Dash of Style" - Part 1

Over the next couple of weeks, I will summarize the lessons I learned while reading A Dash of Style: The Art and Mastery of Punctuation by Noah Lukeman. This book addresses how the creative use of punctuation can develop and enhance a creative writer's style. The focus is not on the rules of punctuation. Lukeman's focus is on using your own style to puctuate a sentence in a way that reflects the sentence's proper context and effect. In other words, a sentence may be puctuated a variety of ways, and a creative writer must choose the way that achieves the desired effect.

In order to use the creative punctuation techniques effectively and appropriately, it is important to understand the correct use of punctuation. Although Lukeman has not written this as a rule book, he has written it with the expectation that the reader has a knowledge of the rules of punctuation.

As a creative writer, we are given license to stretch the rules of punctuation when it is intentional and done to achieve an artistic purpose - if the effect is seamless. If a reader stumbles over or stops at poorly punctuated sentences, the effect is failure; instead of artistic punctuation, the writer has shown poor punctuation, and the reader will probably put the book down if the pattern persists. This is the fine-line lesson on punctuation that Lukeman shares.

The book is exceptional and a must-have for the creative writer.

Today's Lesson: THE PERIOD (The Stop Sign)

Lukeman quotes on the period: "All other punctuation marks exist only to modify what lies between two periods - they are always restrained by it, and must act in context of it." "To employ it is to make a statement; to leave it out, equally so." "Its presence divides and its absence connects."

One of Lukeman's examples on the period:

Lukeman: "Consider the below example from [Rick Moody's] novel The Ice Storm that, ironically, displays his abundant use of the period:"

Example: No answering machines. And no call waiting. No Caller I.D. No compact disc recorders or laser discs or holography or cable television or MTV. No multiplex cinemas or word processors or laser printers or modems. No virtual reality.

Lukeman: "He could have chosen to separate these thoughts with merely a comma, or even a semicolon. By choosing to use periods, he allows each to sink in, more effectively cutting us off from the modern world."

By contrast, Lukeman gives the following example on the abundant use of the period:

Example: He talked to the manager. She recommended a book. He looked it through. He liked it. He bought it.

Lukeman: "Such a series of short sentences feels childlike - particularly if the content is banal, as it is here. Most writers will not resort to such extremes... ."

On a future blog, I will share a brief lesson from Lukeman on "the speed bump of the writing world", the comma.

Visit Noah Lukeman's Blog by linking through our sidebar or here:

Purchase the book by linking here: A Dash of Style: The Art and Mastery of Punctuation by Noah Lukeman

Post by: LWC Director Karen Aldridge. Visit her personal blog site at My Writing Loft.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Report on M.M. Buckner Presentation

Nearly twelve people were at the M.M. Buckner author chat at Barnes and Noble in Cool Springs on Thursday, January 28, 2010. Living Writers Collective members present included Mary Ann Weakley, Jennifer Ballard, and Danielle Sisk.

M.M. Buckner asked if we were writers and what we wrote. She had people in the audience talk with each other and ask/answer questions about their own experiences.

She recommended the Writers Market web site as the most comprehensive and up-to-date resource. Buckner said it was smarter to contact a publisher first, and get an agent after you have a publisher. Get an agent to handle deals and rights. Small publishers are good to consider because they are more welcoming to new and unagented writers.

Buckner said writing a synopsis is a great exercise to “look at the bones of your book,” to see gaps and what doesn’t follow, and to review and revise.

Buckner advised using friends as readers. No matter what kind of books they read (or write), they will have valuable input. Joining a critique group is great for growing a thicker skin, learning to handle rejection, using criticism to improve, and getting braver about sharing work. When published, writers get lots of criticism and negative reviews. If you are part of a group it's important to participate and give feedback.. If you show an interest in the work of others, they will do the same for you.

Buckner shared a lot of well-known things about publishing:
  • It’s a slow business.
  • Don’t expect to make money at first.
  • Self publishing is a lot of work.
  • Don’t send a revised version of the same work to a publisher who rejected it unless asked to.
  • Always double check information and updates on publishers' websites before submitting work.
  • The publishing industry is changing

Buckner said keep writing to improve - practice does work and make a difference. Also attend meetings and workshops, and keep reading and learning more about writing. is a great way to meet local groups specific to particular genres.

Planning is a good way to get familiar with plot and characters. Use surface plots and underlying themes to hold readers' attention.

Bucker said blogging is useful for promoting and networking but requires time and commitment.

Posted by: LWC member Jennifer Ballard - Visit Jennifer's website at

Monday, January 11, 2010

Special Writer's Night - M.M. Buckner

LWC has added this event as a special meeting for our group. Mark the date on your calendars -

Barnes and Noble Writers Night will be held Thursday, January 28, 7:00 PM at the Cool Springs store. The guest speaker will be M. M. Buckner, science fiction writer and author of several novels. She was listed in B&N Top Ten for Science Fiction books of 2009.
Web site for M.M. Buckner:

M. M. Buckner (Mary M. Buckner) is a U.S. science fiction author specializing in hard science fiction, and also an environmental activist. Her third novel, War Surf, won the 2005 Philip K. Dick Award for best novel of the year, and her first novel Hyperthought was nominated in 2003. Buckner studied English at Memphis State University and earned an M.A. in Creative Writing from Boston University. She worked as marketing vice president for a financial firm before her work earned two Diamond Addy Awards. Afterwards, she devoted herself mainly to writing.[1] Her novels include Hyperthought, Neurolink and War Surf (all published by Ace). Twice, she has been interviewed on the podcast The Future And You: first in December 2005 concerning global warming and then in May 2006, shortly after winning the Philip K. Dick Award, to describe the experience. She is married to Jack Lyle and currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee.

*All of the above information was shared by Kathy Rhodes, President of Council for the Written Word in Franklin Tennessee.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Agent Profile - Noah Lukeman

If there is such a thing as an agent groupie, I'd probably consider myself a Noah Lukeman groupie. His advice is invaluable in the literary world. He goes beyond the common sense approach and addresses writers' issues from a unique and fresh perspective.

Lukeman offers free advice regularly through his blog Ask a Literary Agent. You can also link to it at any time through our "Publishing Blogs" on the Living Writers Collective blog side bar. On Lukeman's blog, readers ask questions through the comment function and he creates his blog posts based on those questions. Here's a recent question:

"Mr. Lukeman, If I have a debut literary/historical novel that's 110K... is this too long? What would this word count mean to agents and editors and how would it affect my chances of representation/publication?"

Click here to read Lukeman's response.

You can also sign up for Lukeman's monthly newsletter and download his entire book How to Write a Great Query Letter - both free - on his blog site.

I was first introducted to Lukeman through his book The First Five Pages. I wouldn't have even considered myself a serious beginner writer at the time, and this book was one of the tools that inspired me to take the next step and move beyond hobby writer. It was written on my level, and as I read I thought "Hey, I can do this."

Last night, I was browsing the book store and came across another of his books The Plot Thickens: 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life. I would consider this a bit more advanced (still, an important tool for all levels of writers), but if you are already in the throes of writing a novel or have a manuscript you want to polish or if you want to write a novel, get this book. It contains advanced techniques on characterization, conflict, the journey, transendency, suspense, and context. It spends the first three chapters on characterization (the foundation of every book - the biggest piece that can make or break a novel). It's a small book - maybe 5X7 - no chit chat, just the important stuff. I was so enthralled with it, I sat down in the floor at BAM and lost myself in the book - stopping after about 30 minutes only because I had somewhere else to be. I made a mental note to place it on my next Amazon order.

As I browsed Amazon, I ran across another of his books I plan to pick up A Dash of Style: The Art and Mastery of Punctuation. I haven't looked through this one, but since it is a Lukeman, I am confident it will have plenty to offer me.

This does not exhaust the list of Lukeman's educational materials, but this will give you a start. I warn you - once you start reading Lukeman's advice, you may become a groupie, like me.

Posted By: Karen Aldridge