Category Archives: Voice

Freezing Friday

I have no idea if this is true as I haven’t been outside this morning. But yesterday afternoon the wind was blowing and cold and the people at Lowe’s were moving flowers into a heated room in case we had another freezing night. AND it’s supposed to snow.



In your work, look for ways to trim unnecessary words. Here are three examples of ways to clean up your creative writing.

~ was-ing words can become one word. I was running = I ran

~ that can almost always go as well as well, just, very, ly words, adjectives

~ Cheri Earl taught me no need to use start or begin (unless starting a car or lawn mower etc). I started running = I ran. “Let the action happen,” Cheri says.

Words are power. But you an overdo amazing writing. Many a good novel has been ruined by the words that make it up.

Remember, less is more.

You can read where this phrase came from below (if you can get past all the ads).


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Filed under CLW, Exercises, Life, Plot, Voice, writing process


# 24

Write 25 first lines for your novel.

Jot them down quickly (you already have a first line, and you’re working on a book, so you know where you’re going–this will be an easy exercise), a minute or less per line.

That first line is a promise to your reader. It can show voice, hint at character and plot, show mood and it certainly should grab the reader.

So what are you doing with YOUR book opening?

Remember, Richard Peck (LONG WAY FROM CHICAGO, A YEAR DOWN YONDER) says, “You are no better than your first line.”

Once Richard read the first few pages of my novel that is under consideration right now. “You don’t have your best first line,” he said. He was right. I chopped off the first paragraph AND learned a valuable lesson from a great writer.

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Filed under First Line, Life, Publication, Revision, Uncategorized, Voice

Friday–What’re We Gonna Write Today?


You spend 24 hours with your main character.

What do you do?

What do you talk about?

What do you notice as quirks?

How does she make you cry?

What stories about her past does she tell you?

You go shopping. What does she buy?

What does she eat?

Can she cook?

Name three nice things she does for you.

What does she want you to do for her?

What does she read?

How does she surprise you?

Worry you?

How does she sleep? On her back? Curled up? Does she toss and turn? Snore? Talk in her sleep?

Does she want breakfast?

At the end of the day together, does she thank you for telling her story or curse you?



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Filed under Character, CLW, Exercises, Family, Life, Plot, Uncategorized, Voice, writing process

Three Thing Thursday

From Cheryl:


From Me:

Following the excerpts above, write either place or description that breathes life into your story.

Feel free to share.

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Filed under Ann Dee, Exercises, Setting, three thing thursday, Voice

Freaky Friday

For some reason, wordpress wouldn’t let me edit my last post, so I am redoing it.

Not so weird news! No this is great news! About a great friend!

Several years ago I met Luke Reynolds when he asked me to write an essay for a book called Break These Rules. We hit it off immediately and have been friends ever since. You know that feeling when you ‘meet’ someone you feel like you’ve known forever? That’s how it was with Luke.

He has a book coming out any moment now called The Looney Experiment that is terrific. Great voice. Great story.

Luke is a teacher and amazing at that, too.

We met at ALA this last June and I have to tell you, he’s as kind as I thought he was. And when I saw him interacting with the kids there, I was blown away. He was in his element. So natural.

I always feel like there’s something wrong me. I’m the odd man out.

I’ve never felt the way I saw Luke act. He was a natural. Funny. Calm. Pleased to be there. I felt like the kid (yes, I always feel like the kid) who’s so awkward people have to look away.

But not Luke.

You’re gonna love him.

Go to his website. He’s got lots of teachery things there.

Get his new book The Looney Experiment.

Meet Luke Reynolds

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Three Things Thursday

Ms Cheryl:

A writer’s “writing space” is a revered, almost legendary idea. I’ve heard one writer say that she had no writing space…as long as she has her laptop, she’s good to go. I know of another that needs a particular chair with a view, a yellow notepad, and a certain brand of tea. One friend needs pictures, toys, and brightly colored walls. Another needs a completely clutter-free desk.
For me, I need my books. I need to see them, to touch them, to remember the end goal in all of this. I need to look at the beautiful cover art. I need every series to be lined up, in order.
On the other hand, I once wrote an entire novel in a journal while sitting in a rocking chair every night for months, trying to teach my daughter to fall asleep in her crib. So I can be flexible.
What about you? What does your workspace look like? What would your dream workspace look like?
Ms Brenda:
Do you believe in Evolution? If you are a writer, you should give that some thought. We keep talking about ARCs:: Character ARCs, Chapter ARCs, Story ARCs. What is that but Evolution?
The character begins in one place (i.e., living under the stairs in his Uncle’s house — an insecure boy not sure of his place in the world, not even sure if he HAS a place in the world). Then he finds out he’s expected to go to school. A wizarding school. Because he’s capable of creating and utilizing magic. That’s some “evolution” over multiple books (and YEARS) in his life.
This boy, like any other boy, will have to change and grow — “evolve” into a good and talented and worthy young man . . . or be caught in the evil web he’s woven by going in the opposite direction.
His story means he will meet new people, learn to adjust to his every-changing (and ever-challenging) environment. Like all of us, his story will include good, bad and ugly people and places. The story begins with him in dire straits and evolves into a story of achievement and beating the odds.
Each book in this seven-tomed mammoth has its own ARC as well. And the eighth ARC is in the total of all the volumes.
Whether you are writing a short story, a novel, or a non-fiction book, whether it is a stand-alone or a part of a series, ALL those ARCs must be thought of, figured out and central to its main characters, it’s place within the (or each) book, and its over-all view within the series if you intend (or your single “story” later) dictates a multi-volume work.
The sooner you figure out each of the individual threads, the more easily you will weave the story into the fabric of the full tale.
Ms Me:
I once gave a speech where I was talking about strong writing. Of course I mentioned to cut all the adverbs and as many adjectives as possible.
A woman in the audience said, “When you’re speaking YOU use adjectives and adverbs.”
Speaking ain’t writing.
If our lives were novels, there would be a LOT of stuff fast-forwarded, thrown away and edited to fit.
We’d be cut down to 300 pages (on the way long side for me!).
All our words wouldn’t be used.
And our thoughts? Ha!
No, when we write, we pick and choose.
Our stories are the best parts of us.

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Filed under CLW, three thing thursday, Voice

Writing as a Team

So here’s how Ann Dee and I wrote our first draft.



We were very, very organized. We met together for several hours, plotted carefully, wrote everything down. We kept a log of words, characters, events and both knew where the story was set so well we could see Riverside, Florida, in our heads like a picture. We knew (after our hours planning) the beginning, the middle and the end of the novel. We’ve had to do few corrections because of this.

Lies! Lies, lies, lies!

I never know anything about a book when I start writing. In fact, when I begin any novel, I’m feeling my way along, listening to the character, seeing if I’m interested in stalking her for 250 pages.

It was no different in this book with Ann Dee.

In fact, we started out writing a dystopian–each writing just one section (all about food, mind you). Then Ann Dee, who was uncomfortable with the topic because of world events, set the idea aside and started something new. (I think we’ll write that other book at some point. The idea is dark and different for both of us and we’ve decided we want to write the thing we aren’t as comfortable with when we write together. But we might not. Who knows?)

That first chapter came from her and I had to decide if I took the novel from where Ann Dee ended or if I backed up in time a little. Howq was I going to tell my character’s story when the novel wasn’t–at this moment–about my character at all?

Writing with Ann Dee gave me permission to push my character, push the situation she was in. As I wrote, as we wrote, we discovered so much. Daddies–all kinds of daddies–good, dead, dying, crummy. All kinds of mommas–neglectful, fat, liars, the kind that ignore problems and grandchildren, the kind that dote. Two lonely preteens who need someone and happen to find the wacky kid next door. Girls who search for mysteries and solve problems they didn’t even know were there or didn’t even know they had the strength to solve.

I lead the novel in one direction, and during our first gentle rewrite decided (after talking to Ann Dee), that direction had to change. We made the book more mid grade by cutting out that plot point and now, in this last rewrite we’ll make the book solidly middle grade.

What I’m saying, I guess, is that YOU decide how you want to write with your partner. However, I’d make sure that you and the person you write with are equally balanced. This isn’t a “I got an idea for a book, why don’t you write it,” kind of deal. You each need to carry the weight of the book. That’s what I found so cool. When we finished that first draft I was surprised we’d written 50,000 + words because the weight was equally distributed between us.

Ann Dee did worry a little more than I did. In fact, when we got through with the book I was like, “Let’s send this off to my agent for a read-thru!”

Ann Dee blanched. “Now?”

“Sure, why not.”

“It’s not ready.”

“I know, but it’s close.”

“But . . . it has plot problems.”

“Who needs a plot? We have these two great characters.”


So now you and your writing partner will work on your ideas. Will you plan heavily or just follow along and see what’s gonna happen? What are each of your strengths? Do you both love to write? Both write often? What is your partnership goal for this week? Ann Dee and I can’t wait to find out.



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Filed under Ann Dee, CLW, Exercises, Plot, Revision, Voice