Manuscript Cleanup

editWriters are creative. Plots and characters appear, evolve, and invade our minds, haunting us until we unleash them on paper or computer screen. That’s fun!

But there’s another aspect of writing that isn’t quite as fun. The grammar-punctuation part. It’s a chef’s version of cleaning the kitchen after making a 5-course gourmet meal. Or cleaning the house after hosting a New Year’s bash.

And yet the writing cleanup must be done!

Cleaning, like editing, becomes easier—more efficient—over time and with increased experience. And one day, tidying your manuscript may become a task you enjoy.  Instead of regarding editing as drudgery, imagine you are polishing your manuscript until it is free of the germs, particles, grime, and residue of initial drafts.

A down and dirty method for cleaning your manuscript.

Wipe out those indiscriminate, willy-nilly, neither-rhyme-nor-reason changes in tense. Remember to hose down those ( usually unnecessary ) perfect tenses.

Rinse away overused words: just, very, literally, really, maybe, quite, amazing, things, stuff, it, then. Replace with a better word.

Brush up on your grammar. Recognizing the simple from the compound complex sentence or the independent from the dependent clause helps a writer manipulate and master sentence construction and variety. Know the grammar rules before breaking them. (And yes, as a literature major I had to diagram many sentences.)

Vacuum loose punctuation: Manuscripts speckled with semicolons  and em dashes as though they were  sprinkles on a cupcake need to be reassessed. My fave punctuation book is Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation. Funny and educational.

Wash those vague words down the banal drain. Select the perfect word. It makes all the difference. Unless, of course, you’re intention is to be vague.

Polish your word choice. A word’s connotation ( the feeling the word invokes ) is more important than its denotation ( the dictionary definition.)

Sweep for the correct prepositions. Choose the one that does the job. Here’s a Preposition List.

Scour for commas-gone-wild usage. ( It’s my personal editing demon.) Check out Purdue Online Writing Lab for answers to all your comma questions.

Swab the manuscript deck for misplaced modifiers. Oddly worded sentences result in unintended–and funny–meanings. Ex: I saw a painting walking down the hall. Daily Writing tips offers some nice examples and explanations.

Shine your syntax until it gleams. Syntax is powerful. It can: emphasize, shift mood, focus, imply relationships/connections, create more or less abstraction, reveal character, establish flow/rhythm, break flow/rhythm, foster suspense, establish tone, and add variety.Here’s syntax cheat cheat.

Have fun polishing your manuscript.

Note: I really, really, really hope I don’t have any typos in this post. Please, let me know if I do!

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Writing Therapy

Writing is fraught with angst and panic and euphoria and creative outbursts and emotional meltdowns. Writers experience the highs and the lows–which is a good thing because it helps us recreate the feelings in our characters. However….

those mood swings might indicate the need for a specialized writing therapist—you know, one who understands the joys and horrors of our passion.

One of the most common writing struggles is not only learning to cope with rejection but bouncing back with even more dedication and motivation.

Below is a list of common writing issues and psychoses.

  • Synonymania: Listing 10 different synonyms for a word & deliberating over which is best for that sentence. The problem only becomes critical if the writer corrects himself while conversing with ( real ) people.
  • Ubervocabulary: A tendency to use words like  vanquish in everyday conversations.
  • Realityapnea: Zoning out in a middle of a conversation when a a brilliant idea for a scene/novel/character/sentence/climax/beginning/ending/denouement/ pops into your brain.
  • Rewriteaplasty: Writing a sentence 20 different ways and not being happy with any of them!
  • Literary Craving: Craving whatever food/beverage is in your novel.
  • OCP: Obsessive-compulsive plot discussions with significant other.
  • Excessive nostril flaring when someone refers to your writing as a “hobby.”
  • Adverbaphobia: Fear of adverbs. We’ve all heard the warning. Adverbs are clearly, certainly, positively the kiss of death!
  • Conferencosis: Confusion brought on by numerous conflicting statements made by those in the publishing industry. See What Kind of Conference Attendee are you for more information.
  • Grammaropia: Inability to see your grammar errors.
  • Excessive Verbation : Process of adding-using-including-writing-editing  verbs.
  • Prepositionectomy: Obsessive removal of prepositional phrases and/or replacing with the perfect preposition.
  • Number Anxiety: Concern that your follower/friends on social media are not exponentially increasing.
  • Spamsitude: The inability to refrain from spamming friends/followers on social media.

Who would you choose as YOUR writing therapist?

“Snap out of it.” Cher’s character from Moonstruck.










Drill sergeant from Geico commercial

Billy Crystal’s character in Analyze This








“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Rhett Butler in Gone With The Wind






Of course, if therapy doesn’t work the writer can always find relief for their woes by getting  a prescription for writers. 

What’s YOUR writing psychosis?

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Hot and Cold

hot coldTemperature symbolism is hot-hot-hot. Turn it up for burning anger or passion that sizzles. Turn it down to reveal character and mood. But be careful, the heated adjectives can be ambiguous in the cold reality of writing.

Temperature can:
  • reveal a novel’s overall mood
  • be a plot device
  • reveal a character’s personality
  • reveal a character’s mood
  • be thematic
  • The Great Gatsby is loaded with heat! Tom is a hot-head. Gatsby is hot for Daisy. Tom is hot ( lusting ) for Myrtle and hot ( with anger) when he discovers Daisy’s infidelity. Myrtle is hot to be wealthy. Gatsby made all his money on hot goods. Myrtle’s husband is hot to murder his wife’s killer. The rising temperature mirrors the rising anger/lust of the characters.
Hot—and all it’s scorching synonyms—can refer to:
  • lust: He got hot just lookin’ at her.
  • personality: He’s a hot head. ( aka rage-aholic)
  • anger: Tom grew hot when he learned Daisy cheated on him with Gatsby.
  • popularity: Every author dreams of being the next hot new author.
  • enthusiasm: He was hot for the next new novel by his favorite author.
  • physical appearance: Damn, his chiseled body is hot.
  • actual temperature: There are many descriptive words for hot, be sure to choose the one that reveals just how hot.
  • Heated words can refer to: lust, love, anger, embarrassment, guilt, shame

A few synonyms for hot! Warm, summery, tropical, broiling, boiling,searing, blistering, sweltering, torrid, sultry, humid, muggy, roasting, baking, scorching, scalding, searing, heated, red-hot, steamy

  • personality: The boss in The Devil Wears Prada was cold-hearted.
  • lack of emotion: His response to my question was cold.
  • remoteness: The detectives knew their leads were cold but they looked for clues anyway.
  • probability: It will be a cold day in hell when I forgive you.
  • austerity: Some folks think that modern furniture is cold-looking.
  • actual temperature
  • Chilly words can refer to anger, indifference, death, reality, conviction, cruelty

A few synonyms for cold! chilly, chill, cool, freezing, icy, nippy, wintry, frosty, frigid, bitter, biting raw, bone-chilling, arctic, frozen ,numb, shivery

So whether you’re writing His arctic glare sent chills down my spine or Her smoldering gaze lit my desires on fire

have fun lowering or raising the temperature in your novel.

 Related Posts: Symbols & More Symbols; Rock Your Writing

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Muse Musings

feed museJPGWhether you believe there were 9 original muses—the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne—or 3 Muses, the fact remains that there exists a few lesser known Muses. You’ve probably encountered one or two of these stealth Muses because they love tormenting….uh, inspiring writers.

So forget trying to invoke Calliope, Clio, Euterpe, Erato, Melpomene, Polyhymna, Terpsichore, Thalia, and Urania with the usual Muse summons, “Oh Muses, Sing to me” or “O Muses, O high genius, aid me now!” or coffee and pastries. Not happening—just try imagining their name on a Starbucks cup. Anyway, those Muses are busy taking selfies, writing memoirs—My Big Fat Greek Adventure and Fifty Shades of Zeus—and hobnobbing with Hollywood producers.

The real Muses—the everyday Muses for the rest of us—keep a low profile.

museHere’s a list of the Muses you probably are familiar with.

Sarcastic Muse: “I’m certain your banal character will garner lots of sympathy.” “Another calorie-laden mocha will definitely help you meet your deadline.” “Oh sure, resort to that ol’ trope.” “Of course you will figure out that plot flaw by the end of the chapter.” Cough cough. This Muse toughens us up, smacks us around—and we like it! Sarcastic Muse challenges writers by helping us hone our craft.

Nodding Off Muse: She comes—this specter of creativity—to fill our minds with characters and story lines and dialog and descriptions compelling writers to leap from their bed and jot down the best ideas ever…but wait, come back, the moment you flick on the light she vanishes into the shadows.

Dream Muse: Evil twin of Nodding Off Muse, she fills a writer’s head with wonderful plots, captivating intrigues, and evocative scenes only of which a few can be remembered in the morning.

Psycho Muse: She’ll whisper “This is fabulous paragraph—luscious with description  revealing the character’s pain” one minute only to murmur “Overwritten, tragically overwritten—why are you hitting your reader over the head with a wordy 2 by 4?” Psycho Muse helps writers reconsider and evaluate their literary techniques with an eye toward the reader. She might also be the cause of a writer’s descent into madness. Take Psycho Muse with a grain of salt and sprinkling of sugar. ( I treat my Psycho Muse to a salted caramel ice cream cone when she visits.)

Driving Muse: She comes up with the best, most amazing solutions to your plot flaws and provides riveting dialog while you are driving. The trick is to thank her profusely and repeat her brilliance until you can write it down or find the record feature on your phone.

Guilty Muse: “You really should be [ insert chore here] .” I know, you respond, but the words are flowing, the hubby and kiddos can forage for their own food. “Your friends haven’t seen you in a while.” But, I’m almost done, true friends understand. Guilty Muse helps balance our time ( “Fat Chance,” laughs Sarcastic Muse ) and urges us to complete tasks other than writing obsessively during the day–even if it’s as simple as texting hubby Get Toilet Paper on the way home.  Ever the practical one, Guilty Muse suggests rewriting a sentence in your head while tossing in the next load of laundry.

Which Muses visit YOU while writing?

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Family Bonding & Life Skills

paintingAs a mom to four grown children, I found that there were a few tasks—important tasks– I neglected to teach them before sending them into the cold cruel world. Why is that, you ask?

Moms and dads are busy. It’s often easier and faster for parents to do a task ourselves than taking the time to teach our children. So for some real family bonding time, grab your kiddo and show them how to do all those little tasks that are required in the adult world.

Warning: Princes and princesses can skip this blog. These following tasks can be handled by one of your minions.

Useful everyday skills pre-adults should learn:

  • Cook something. Pasta, scrambled eggs, steak, their favorite meal, something! Fast food is expensive and most young adults struggle financially. My oldest three can cook almost anything, the youngest never learned.
  • Bake a cake. Either from box or scratch. One of my fondest mommy moments was when my daughter made me a birthday cake.
  • Clear a jammed or stuck garbage disposal. ( Goes with learning to cook ). One twist of that wee L-shaped doodad ( allen wrench) solves the problem.
  • Understand basic cooking terminology. Sear, caramelize, reduce, baste, marinate, saute, simmer, mince, knead, etc. Oh, can someone puleeze teach my hubby?
  • Wash clothes and remove basic stains ( like grease, grass, blood, or red wine). My children have been doing their own laundry since middle school. A real sanity saver. Of course, don’t forget to add the Full Load rule. “No, you cannot wash one pair of jeans unless you’re paying the water bill.”
  • Iron a shirt—spray starch optional.
  • Sew on a button.
  • Hem pants/skirt. Granted, some fabrics or styles require an expert but knowing the basics is a money-saving skill.
  • Write a thank you and condolence letter.
  • Locate the shut off valves both inside and outside the house. Knowing about the valve on the wall at the bottom of the toilet might help future overflow problems.
  • Replace the toilet flange and other parts. When the kids’ toilet broke, I bought a basic toilet repair kit, tossed it to my 16-yr old and said, “fix it.” An hour later, he had replaced all the tank’s insides and strode around the house saying, “I. Am. Plumber!”
  • Change the heating and air conditioning filter.
  • Pump gas, replace windshield wiper fluid /wiper blades, check tire pressure/oil.
  • Mow the lawn.
  • Grow/plant something. Herbs, vegetables,flowers—no, not marijuana.
  • Prune a bush and tree.
  • Paint a room and all that goes with it. Brushes, rollers, taping, paint types, and clean-up.
  • Patch a wall. Because everyone like to get their renter’s deposit back!
  • Change a fuse.
  • Reset the circuit breaker.
  • Make an appointment on the phone.
  • Tip. Smart phones make it easy to calculate.
  • Assemble something—because ‘some assembly required’ demands patience and practice. Second son never had to assemble anything until 1st son moved out. After purchasing 2 pieces of ‘some assembly required’ furniture, I left the boxes with 2nd son and walked away. If you can read, you can follow directions, right? A few trips to the garage for tools and a “What if I have leftover parts?” question later, I had a bookcase and an end table. ( Yes, they are still standing.)
  • Clean an oven, sink, toilet.
  • Polish shoes. Two words: Job interview
  • Start/build a fire in the fireplace or fire pit.

I’m sure I left out a few tasks, so feel free to comment so I can include them!

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