Archives for posts with tag: writing

Cardinal sin #1: being plain old boring! If all your main characters do, day after day, is ordinary things like waking up, showering, eating breakfast, dressing, going to work or to the gym, getting coffee, etc., etc. why the heck should anyone be interested? We all do those things! Nothing new here! Take us where we’ve never been before; let us experience something we’ve wished we could do, go places we’ve only dreamed about. Do not bore the reader to death: You need every one you can get!

Cardinal sin #2: confusing the reader! If you have a cast of characters longer than the Bible ( and they’re all named Erin, Eric, Eamon, Edward, Aaron, etc. Eek! ) you have a problem. Oh, and do not use unpronounceable names, a pet peeve of mine. Also, make sure the reader knows to whom your pronouns refer, ie:” He took it to him, and he grabbed it from him.” ( Say what? )

Cardinal sins #3,4,5, and 6: using poor grammar, using incorrect punctuation, not correcting your spelling, and not checking what every word you’ve used actually means! These errors can be easily remedied by doing a little research and by not depending exclusively on spell-check to find them!

Cardinal sin #7: being laughable when you aren’t intentionally writing comedy! It isn’t a compliment if your readers go into hysterics over your work when it’s intended to be serious. A for-instance: My daughters almost died laughing when they read this line I wrote in Judgment on Tartarus:” Grasping his dar’dul-adz firmly in his right hand…” Needless to say, I immediately changed that passage to be less laughter-provoking! ( This is only one of the reasons I advocate getting away from your novel before going back and looking at it with fresh eyes. I bet you’ll find yourself saying, “Oh! I didn’t mean to say that!”

And, finally, cardinal sin #8: being long-winded and rambling on aimlessly, adding nothing to your plot! In her Vampire Chronicles, Anne Rice tends to dwell on insignificant details, such as the architecture of New Orleans, for page after page, but she’s not writing a travelogue! A writer in one of my groups interspersed her love story with straight-from-the-encyclopedia facts about birds! Spare me; if I wanted to read all about birds, I’d be reading a bloody bird book!

Hopefully, this blog has helped you watch out for some of the pitfalls a writer must navigate around. We all make mistakes, no matter how experienced a writer we may be. Writing is a life-long learning experience. So keep on writing,


Fairly early on in life, I discovered my shortcomings. I was too shy and nervous to be a good actor, though I had dreams of performing on Broadway. I loved to dance, but had no training. I wanted to play a musical instrument, but had no success with any I tried. I couldn’t learn to read music, though I loved music and singing. I loved biology, but wasn’t smart enough to become a scientist.

Okay, you get my drift. The saying, “Jack of all trades, master of none!” comes to mind. Although I was fascinated by a wide range of fields, I wasn’t good enough to make any of them my calling. So I finally settled upon becoming a teacher, then had to choose between art, biology, or home economics. I managed to get into an art college on my second try, then nearly flunked out first semester. I buckled down, worked hard, and managed to squeak by. Eventually, I became a decent artist, graduated with honors, and became an art teacher.

I soon discovered that teaching wasn’t all I’d hoped for. But in the meantime I had realized that I was pretty good at writing, usually earned As for my reports, essays, curriculum guide, etc. I had begun writing novels and other fiction at age eleven. In High School, I’d won a creative writing award, but never envisioned myself becoming a professional writer of fiction. I simply enjoyed making up characters and stories.

Eventually, I determined to try getting one of my books published, met with no success at first. But I couldn’t help feeling that, all along, this is what I was meant to do. I love writing fiction. I’m good at it—maybe not great, but if I’d waited until I was great, I never would’ve accomplished anything! My third book will be published shortly, and I have two more WIPs.

In order to be successful at anything, you first have to discover what you are best at, give yourself the tools you’ll need to succeed, then work your butt off. Oh, and never quit!


From time to time I have to do what I like to refer to as “priming the pump.” Way back in the olden days, when water had to be pumped by hand from a well, you added a couple cups of water to the pump to help draw water up the pipe. This was called “priming.”

But when I use that term in regard to my writing, I mean that I need just a little help to spark some new ideas or to fully develop ideas, to invoke a certain mood or a specific feeling that goes with my plot. I often read something appropriate ( being very careful not to pollute the water with too-similar ideas! ) or listen to music that sets the mood. Sometimes I even put on a DVD or silently meditate upon my theme, my characters, my plot, etc.

Sometimes I simply need to shut out the world, to be by myself and let the muse do her work. By now I have confidence that the next story is already in there, just waiting to be let out. Very, very seldom do good ideas just “pop into my head”! Should this happen on occasion, I become suspicious that my brain is simply regurgitating something I’ve seen or heard before! I try to make my work as original as possible; however, I’m well aware that little is left that is truly original. We are bombarded by influences all our lives. And we are, after all, the sum of all our life experiences.

At the very least I aim for an original take on an old idea. So prime the pump as necessary and keep on writing!