Showing posts with label Valerie Allen. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Valerie Allen. Show all posts

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Sentence No Nos


by Valerie Allen

Good writing not only exemplifies what we should do, but what we should not do. Several common problems that lead to poor writing and should be avoided are the use of FANBOYS and weak verbs. Additionally, improper use of the verb “to be,” often leads to confusion for the reader.

FANBOYS:  for; and; nor; but; or; yet; so ~ FANBOYS are seven small words used as coordinators within a sentence. Although sometimes used effectively in the hands of skilled writers, FANBOYS should not be used to begin a sentence. FANBOYS show no action and can lead to wordiness.

For one long moment, I stood still.  (I stood still for one long moment.)

And I asked her what she really meant.  (I asked her what she really meant.)

Nor will I ever do that again.  (I never will do that again.)
But, I won’t take no for an answer.  (I won’t take no for an answer.)

Or, you could drop me off first.  (You could drop me off first.)
Yet, he still didn’t seem to understand.  (He still didn’t seem to understand.)

So, I went to my room and cried myself to sleep.  (I went to my room and cried myself to sleep.)

Weak Verbs ~ A strong sentence lies in the power of strong verbs. Powerful verbs create a word picture and prompt a question in the mind of the reader. Different story thoughts are triggered by strong verbs. For example:

- He came into the room.
- He stumbled into the room.
- He bounded into the room.
- He moseyed into the room.
- He raced into the room.
- He ran into the room.
- He strode into the room.
- He sauntered into the room.

Use of ‘to be’ verbs: am, are, is, was, were ~ The verb forms of ‘to be,’ are weak. They delay the subject of the sentence, and are boring. They can cause agreement problems in sentences because they are in present, past and present perfect tenses.

I am reading.  You are reading. She is reading.  I was reading.  They were reading.
He is ready for school.  They are ready for school.
She was doing her homework.  They were doing their homework.

To produce clearer writing as you edit, review your work to avoid these troublesome rascals!

Valerie Allen writes fiction, nonfiction, short stories and children's books. (Amazon.com/author/valerieallen) She assists writers with marketing via Authors For Authors with two major annual events in warm and sunny Florida. Meet the Authors Book Fair in the Fall and the Writers' Conference: Write, Publish, Sell! in the Spring. Vendors and presentations encourage networking and marketing to increase book sales. Book Display options are available for authors throughout the USA. Valerie loves to hear from readers and writers! Contact her at: VAllenWriter@gmail.com  and AuthorsForAuthors.com


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Monday, July 16, 2018

Creating Character Names - Ol’Whatshisname!


by Valerie Allen

When naming your characters it’s tempting to give your friends, family, or coworkers a chance for their 15 minutes of fame. Before indulging in the name game consider the the following implications that names reveal about characters.

1. Names have implications such as: status, education, religion, place of birth, heritage, culture,  sex, age, etc..

2. Short names with hard sounds such as Max, Kurt, Nick, and Zena are often used for the bad guys (or gals).

3. Two syllable names and two part names are typically used for children or to portray child like qualities: Bobby, Cathy, Jimmy, Lulu; Sally-Jean, Bobbi-Jo, Jimmy-Ray

4. Single names, multiple names, hyphenated names, and initials imply importance: Cher, Madonna, John Philip Sousa, Frank Lloyd Wright, Gertrude Hart-Taylor, Charles Miller-Wright, FDR, JFK, MLK

5. Names can indicate ethnicity:  Maria, Juan, Collin, Eileen, Anthony, Lisa, Nigel, Gretchen, Vijay, or Abdul

6. The spelling of a name can imply age or character traits: Smith vs Smyth, Elizabeth vs Lizabeth, Rose Ann vs Rosanne, Lisa vs Liza vs Lissa, Carl vs Karl

7. Names must fit the theme or time period of your story, such as, biblical, Civil War era, Native American, science fiction, European, aristocratic, etc.

8. Names often reflect popular public figures or famous families during specific time periods: Franklin or Eleanor, Elvis, Shirley (Temple), Douglas (MacArthur), Amy (Carter), Chelsea (Clinton).

9. Nicknames are typically used for extroverted characters: Barb, Liz, Bill, Joe, Rick. They can also be used to reveal characterization:  Shorty, Babe, Honey, Slim, Hot Stuff, Tex.

10. Use only one common name (Jim Jones) and only one exotic name (Theodora Ginasia-Peacock) per story.

11. Use unique names for each character, not: Jack, Jim, Jon, or John in the same story, nor Mary, Marie, Maria, Marla, Maureen.

12. Last names follow the same rule, do not have: Jamison, Johnson, Jenson, Jepson in the same story.

13. Use caution with names that have special significance such as, grandfather/father/son, Sr./Jr., The III, use of family names as a first name (Fulbright, Hathaway), unisex names (Taylor, Parker, Madison), flowers (Azalea, Buttercup, Lily), gems(Ruby, Pearl),  and nature (Summer, River, Plum)

Helpful resources for character names are The World of Baby Names, Character Naming Sourcebook, and the US Census of Common Names.

Readers make associations with names based on their unique experiences, however, stereotyping is alive and well. Who do you picture when you hear the name Bertha?

Valerie Allen writes fiction, nonfiction, short stories and children's books. (https://Amazon.com/author/valerieallen) She assists writers with marketing via Authors For Authors  in warm and sunny Florida. Meet the Authors Book Fair in the Fall and the Writers' Conference: Write, Publish, Sell! in the Spring. Vendor tables and presentations encourage networking and marketing to increase book sales. Book Display options are available for authors throughout the USA. Valerie loves to hear from readers and writers! Contact her at: VAllenWriter@gmail.com and http://AuthorsForAuthors.com


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Saturday, June 16, 2018

Internet Marketing Simplified for Writers


by Valerie Allen

Marketing is ongoing, using every means to bring attention to you and your books. “Persistent Perpetual Promotion,” is behind every best selling author.

One of the quickest, least costly and far-reaching marketing strategies is using the internet. Many writers find the electronic highway overwhelming, but there is an entire world of readers who use only social media to find, read and review books. An online presence is a must for writers in the age of social media.

Here are some basic suggestions for smart marketing using cyberspace.

1)    Your e-mail signature line should contain the title of your books. Everyone you email should see the name of your book(s). It should also have your contact information, at  least your email address and web site.

2)    At least once a month go to worldcat.org to see which libraries carry your books.

3)    Google your name every week and see where the internet leads people who are looking for you. Does it go to your web site? To your book on Amazon?

4)    Each week click on Amazon.com, BnN.com and BAMM.com to see what is happening with your book(s) at those sites. Also for your ebooks on Kindle, Nook, etc.

5)    If you have a web page, consider mutual links to the sites of other authors, writer blogs and newsletters.

6)    Join with bloggers at writing sites to become known, offer suggestions, find good marketing ideas and writing tips.

7)    Create Facebook, Linked In, Google+ and Twitter accounts. Join writer's groups and groups related to your book content. Follow up in discussion groups, book clubs, offer tips, etc.

8)    Post a review online for every book you read.

9)  Amazon.com has a lot to offer. Take advantage of these features:

    Use the Search Inside the Book feature.

    Add tags and keywords so those searching by topic will find your book.

    Look at the books that have been purchased by those who have purchased your
    book; contact those authors, study their web pages, view their tags and keywords   
   
    Make a Listmania and put your book titles on it.

    Create a profile and post a review for every book you read. Use your real name and book title in your signature line.

    Join Goodreads and post your books, books you've read, do book reviews and join in discussion groups.

Remember to do at least one thing every day to market you and your books. Make it a habit!

Valerie Allen writes fiction, nonfiction, short stories and children's books. (Amazon.com/author/valerieallen) She assists writers with marketing via Authors For Authors with two major annual events in warm and sunny Florida. Meet the Authors Book Fair in the Fall and the Writers' Conference: Write, Publish, Sell! in the Spring. Vendor tables and presentations encourage networking and marketing to increase book sales. Book Display options are available for authors throughout the USA. Valerie loves to hear from readers and writers! Contact her at: VAllenWriter@gmail.com  and AuthorsForAuthors.com


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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Developing Dialogue



by Valerie Allen

There are no absolute rules about creating good dialogue, but some guidelines help shape a story. Well written dialogue goes unnoticed by the reader because it sounds right. It is not stiff. It is not artificial. It is written to sound as if someone is speaking.

Dialogue has three main functions:

1.  Reveal more about a character
2.  Establish the relationship of one character to another
3.  Move the story forward

Some basic guidelines for using good dialogue include:

•    Create a new, indented paragraph every time a different character speaks.

•    If more than one speaker is involved in the conversation use his name to clarify who is speaking.

•    Use the noun verb form (Valerie said  not said Valerie).

•    If it is a statement the tag is said (“Valerie is here,” she said.).

•    If it is a question, the tag is asked (“Valerie, where are you?” she asked.).

•    Use movement, a gesture, or a tag instead of said/asked (Valerie opened the door. “Here I am.”).

•    Use vocabulary appropriate to the age, education, and culture of the speaker, as well as the context of the story.

•    Write conversation as it is spoken, not structured as standard written English.

•    Dialogue is primarily about what the speaker believes his problems or conflicts to be.

•    Punctuate so it is easily read without confusion (George, the alligator bit me. George, the alligator, bit me.   George! The alligator bit me.).

•    Do not have characters continuously address each other by name.

•    Do not have characters giving each other information they already know; use exposition. (Not: Valerie, I remember on your birthday, May 10th, we went on a picnic. Use: Valerie, I remember last year we went on a picnic for your birthday).

•    Avoid dialects; use just a few telltale words to give the flavor of the dialect and then return to standard English.

•    Contractions make dialogue more natural.

•    Use apostrophes for missing letters (don’t, you’ve, goin’)

•    Incomplete sentences are common in dialogue (“Where are we going?”,“Out”, “Where out?”, “Quiet—l or you’re not going!”)

Good dialogue does not confuse the reader. Good dialogue clarifies what is being said by whom.

Valerie Allen writes fiction, nonfiction, short stories and children's books. (Amazon.com/author/valerieallen) She assists writers with marketing via Authors For Authors with two major annual events in warm and sunny Florida. Meet the Authors Book Fair in the Fall and the Writers' Conference: Write, Publish, Sell! in the Spring. Valerie loves to hear from readers and writers! Contact her at: VAllenWriter@gmail.com  and AuthorsForAuthors.


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Monday, April 16, 2018

Facts in Fiction




Contributed by Valerie Allen

Not all fiction is fictitious.

There will be readers who know more than you do about a person, place, object or procedure. Criticism will be quick and negative if you get factual information wrong in your writing.

Using the Names of Real People

The answer is both, yes and no. Yes, if it is a public figure with a known and accepted reputation. This would include: Jesus Christ, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., Bill Gates, Princess Diana, Mother Theresa, and similar persons living or dead.

The answer is no, if it is your mother, brother, neighbor, coworker, classmate, etc. You need written permission to use names of these private people in your writing.

Names of Places

Again, if it is well known or a generic place, you are probably safe to use the exact name. Such places as Las Vegas, The Big Apple, The Grand Canyon, The Rocky Mountains, and so on. Be careful when using trademarked or copyrighted names.

If the place named is specific or you are using it in a negative sense, it may be better to create a totally different name.

For example, you may use Ft. Lauderdale in your murder mystery, depicting it as a high crime city. However, the citizens, Chamber of Commerce, local media, and state governing bodies may take offense. They may discourage readership with boycotts, or limit it from their libraries, protest to the publisher, or bring a lawsuit.

Likewise, do not use the name of your hometown if it has a population under 50,000. The people in small towns may claim your story is libelous, your fictionalized characters are too similar to real people, and your plot too close to reality.

Names of Companies or Agencies

If you are going to write a story about insider trading, do not use the name of a real financial planning firm. If you are going to write about deliberate medical malpractice, do not use the name of a real hospital, medical company, or physician.

If you create a new name, be sure it is significantly different from the original. The words, spelling, and phonics must not be confused with the actual name.

For example, do not use American Air Lines, America Air Lines, or American Aero Lines. Do not use Raymond James Stadium, Ray James Stadium, R. James Stadium, or Raymond James Sports Arena.

There are specific names, which are so common they have become generic, and are usually safe to use.

For example, there are likely hundreds of George Washington High Schools throughout the United States. The same is true of Main Street, Riverfront Park, the First Baptist Church, and The First National Bank.

Names of Things

Careful here. Most objects and brands are trademarked and you must use a general descriptor instead of the band name.

We all know the following items have specific brand names: cola soft drinks, cotton ear swabs, facial tissue, inline skates, copy machine, an American made motor cycle, and so on. Check all of the logos and trademarks before using their specific names in your work.

Check your Facts

When including directions, landmarks, distance or time check for accuracy.

New Hampshire is west of Maine. Palm Beach is about 50 miles north of Ft. Lauderdale. Disney World and Disney Land are two different places, in two different states.

To write good fiction, you must have your facts right. This will educate your reader and give credibility to your work.

Valerie Allen writes fiction, nonfiction, short stories and children's books. She assists writers with marketing via Authors For Authors  with two major annual events in warm and sunny Florida. Meet the Authors Book Fair in the Fall and the Writers' Conference: Write, Publish, Sell! in the Spring. Vendor tables and presentations encourage networking and marketing to increase book sales. Book Display options are available for authors throughout the USA. Valerie loves to hear from readers and writers! Contact her at: VAllenWriter@gmail.com  and AuthorsForAuthors.com



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Friday, March 16, 2018

Writing - Rules of the Road


Contributed by Valerie Allen

Writers are always striving to be successful . . . to hone their craft.

Well to be successful, every writer needs to be aware of the most common standards in the publishing industry.

Here are some basic rules for clear text and easy reading:

1.    Use a word processing program. You may enjoy the kinetic energy that comes from hand written work, but ultimately your manuscript must be in a word processing document to meet publication standards.

2.    Use one inch margins on all sides; justify text. Chapter headings are typically centered.

3.    Use 12 point type, simple fonts. Times New Roman is universally accepted but sometimes titles or chapter headings are done in a different font to add interest or focus attention for the reader.

4.    Use one space at the end of a sentence. When typewriters were popular the rule was two periods at the end of the sentence due to differing sizes of letters.

5.    Dialogue requires quotation marks.
    (“Where are you?”)

6.    Start a new paragraph with each different speaker. This is especially important when there are more than two speakers.

7.    Keep the speaker’s action and dialogue in the same paragraph.
    (“What are you doing?” Valerie asked, as she entered the kitchen.)

8.    Use subject verb sentence structure.
    (USE: “This is important,” Valerie said.)
    (NOT: “This is important,” said Valerie.)

9.    For time sequence use both words: and then.
    (USE: She picked up a pen, and then wrote a note.)
    (NOT: She picked up the pen, then wrote a note.)

10.    Punctuation marks go inside quotation marks.
    (“Here I am,” Valerie said. “Where are you?”)

11.    An apostrophe replaces a missing letter (goin’, don’t. 'tis)

12.    Use italics for internal thoughts of the characters.
    (USE: That nasty old women!)
    (NOT: That nasty old women!, Valerie thought.)

13.    Limit the use of exclamation points (!) and dashes (-)

14.    Use only one punctuation mark at the end of a sentence.
    (USE: “You did what?”)
    (NOT: “You did what?!!!”)

15.    Avoid clich├ęs.

16.    Avoid over-use of fillers in your sentences: that, very, just, really, maybe, perhaps, got

17.   Consider if a character is  “asking” or “telling.” 
   (USE: “What time is it?,” Valerie asked.) 
   (NOT: “What time is it?,” Valerie said.)

Follow these basic rules to have your work appear professional and appeal to editors, agents, and publishers as well as to your readers.

Valerie Allen writes fiction, nonfiction, short stories and children's books. Amazon.com/author/valerieallen. She assists writers with marketing via AuthorsForAuthors.com. She hosts two major annual events in warm and sunny Florida. Meet the Authors Book Fair in the Fall and the Writers' Conference: Write, Publish, Sell! in the Spring. Vendor tables and presentations encourage networking and marketing to increase book sales. Book Display options are available for authors throughout the USA. Valerie loves to hear from readers and writers! Contact her at: VAllenWriter@gmail.com

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