Short Story Contest Opens

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http://www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com

First, second and third place winners and seven additional Judge’s Choice stories will receive publication in our fourth annual anthology. In addition, we are giving cash prizes and professionally designed eMedals to post on your site. (See medals below.)

First place: Professionally designed Gold eMedal and $100, plus publication

Second place: Striking Silver eMedal and $50, plus publication

Third place: Brilliant Bronze eMedal and $25, plus publication

Fourth and Fifth place: Finalist eMedal and publication

This is a themed contest and this exact sentence must appear in the story:

 “Explain how that happened.”

 Open genre.

  • Your story must be between 1,500 and 2,000 words.
  • No swearing, profanity, explicit sexual scenes, graphic violence, etc.
  • Your story must not have been published before. Winners grant minor editing rights for publication; Creative Writing Institute has first, non-exclusive, electronic rights to publish the winners and Judge’s Pick stories in our anthology. All Rights return to the author upon publication.
  • ONE submission per person, please.
  • Accepting submissions from July 15, 2016, until September 15, 2016, midnight, USA Eastern Standard Time.
  • Entries will only be accepted through the form at https://CreativeWritingInstitute.submittable.com/submit.
  • As you go through the submission process, there will be a space for you to copy and paste your document. Do NOT email attachments.
  • Entry fee $5.

Please direct questions to Ms. Jo Popek, head judge, at Ms.Jo@CWinst.com. Our special thanks to all judges and award winning Competition Co-coordinator, Jianna Higgins.

Sign up for The Writer’s Choice newsletter to receive articles that teach you how to win contests. Top right corner of http://www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com.

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Secret Writing Techniques #1

ASYNDETON

Writers have developed innumerable techniques to nail their reader’s eyes to the page, and one of those secret weapons is called asyndeton. However, there is nothing new under the sun. We have simply learned how to describe what we do and have tagged it with a name. These techniques have been around since Adam and Eve told stories to Cain and Abel.

Asyndeton means disjointed and unconnected. In literature, it is the art of stringing a list of clauses together without the use of conjunctions. Doesn’t sound that exciting, does it? But wait until you see the examples!

From Double Indemnity: Why, they’ve got ten volumes on suicide alone. Suicide by race, by color, by occupation, by sex, by seasons of the year, by time of day. Suicide, how committed: by poisons, by firearms, by drowning, by leaps. Suicide by poison, subdivided by types of poison, such as corrosive, irritant, systemic, gaseous, narcotic, alkaloid, protein, and so forth.

Writers aren’t the only ones who use this effectively. Orators and statesmen use it, too.

Julius Caesar said, “I came, I saw, I conquered.”

Sir Winston Churchill used it in 1940 in the address known as “We shall fight on the beaches:”

We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.

And John F. Kennedy used it: “…that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

Now it’s your turn. For hard core impact with a dramatic effect, try asyndeton!

For more great writing tips, subscribe to The Writer’s Choice (top right corner) at http://www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com, the writing school that supplies every student with a private tutor!

 

What is “Voice” and How Do You Use it?

Using Voice Effectively
by Deborah Owen

What do writers mean by “voice”? The voice, or point of view (POV), is the angle from which a story is viewed; every story and article has one. There are three types of POV and, while some are more preferred, no particular one is right or wrong.

* First person POV pronouns are: I, me, my, mine, we, us, our, and ours. New authors usually write in first person because they feel focused and closer to the story. First person draws the reader in, but it’s a limiting POV and is not the editor’s favorite.

There are two problems with first person POV. First, the constant use of “I” becomes trite. Second, the story’s character only knows what the writer knows, and cannot see from a different POV.

For example, if John says, “Susan is going to meet me at seven o’clock,” and in the meantime, Susan falls, breaks a leg, and lies helplessly on the floor, John will not know what happened to her until someone tells him. First person POV is better reserved for memoirs, journal entries, and specific stories.

* Second person POV pronouns are: you, (singular), you (plural), your, and yours. Example: “You must come with me to the Christmas play. You and I will have popcorn and lots of fun. Did you know your hat is on backwards?” As you can see, this point of view is even more limiting and never used.

* Third person POV pronouns are: he, his, she, hers, it, its, they, their, and theirs. There are two kinds of third person writing, omniscient, and limited. In third person omniscient, the readers are like flies on the wall and they can see into characters’ minds. This POV limits the suspense since the reader is left with few unanswered questions – but it’s easy to write because authors don’t have to work at “showing” the scene.

* Third person limited doesn’t show internal dialogue (thoughts) so the characters can’t foreknow anything. Like first person, the readers can see through the character’s eyes, but unlike first person, they can also see through the eyes of others.

In third person limited, the suspense builds as the writer shows the scene instead of telling it. The reader lives the story as the character lives it. Here is an example from Deborah Owen’s The Perfect Crime:

“Harrison slumped against the car, collapsed, and rolled in agony as he clutched his chest. Vision blurred, and then his eyes rolled back until they relaxed in a wide, empty stare.”

The sample doesn’t say the man had a heart attack and died, but you know it, don’t you? As you can see, even showing may have a little ‘telling’ in it.

Editors buy more third person limited than first person. Let your readers feel your characters instead of seeing them. Play with the various points of view until you’re comfortable writing all of them.

Don’t forget to ‘like’ us before you leave. For more great tips, sign up for The Writer’s Choice Newsletter (for free) at http://cwinst.com/newslettersignup.php.

Journalism Changes

by Josephine Kihiu

Journalism is a practice dating back hundreds of years. Frankly, it stems from humans needing to be know-it-alls. When reading became a luxury no longer reserved for the rich, disseminating news to a broad public proved profitable and generally beneficial. You’ve all heard the horror stories of late: journalism, especially in the print media subset, is a dying industry, clinging hopelessly to its marginal profits. Sure, the industry saw some major cuts recently. However, the reality is this – journalism is not dying. It’s just changing.

People are embracing a digital lifestyle, and so is the media. Journalists still roam unexplored niches and probe prominent minds for columns to sell, but those columns may end up online or in the journalist’s personal blog, as well as in print.

Digital journalism is an immediate response to the ever-increasing presence of the Internet via smart devices. Want a run-down of the State of the Union’s main points? Need to check your movie listings? Want to know the weather? Answer all questions using the omnipotent Internet.

Cognizant of the new shift in how the modern person acquires information, journalistic publications respond by posting pieces online. They also create apps allowing those with smart phones to roam their websites more conveniently.

Online journalism also serves expansion of journalistic expression. Unlike Harry Potter, your newspaper probably doesn’t support moving pictures on the cover, but journalists who embrace the digital shift can post videos, tweet, and blog about their findings in addition to the traditional static article. This increases potential audiences and diversifies the demographic reach (more college students pick up their iPhones than a newspaper).

But fear not, traditional readers. If you’re anything like me, you enjoy flipping broad pages and the feel of paper in your fingers. It’s familiar, like catching up with an old friend by letter or receiving news from a loved one by snail mail. Large newspapers still understand the importance of retaining the traditional, usually older, market, so don’t panic. News giants such as The Washington Post, The New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times, remain consistent sources of accurate, interesting news, faithfully delivering to your door as a reminder that all things change… yet stay the same.

Don’t forget to ‘like’ us before you leave. For more great tips, sign up for The Writer’s Choice Newsletter (for free) at http://cwinst.com/newslettersignup.php.

Volunteer your Writing Skills

by Brent Middleton

          Have you ever found yourself with free time that you could donate? Or feel an urge to give back in some small way? Volunteer writing is a fun and flexible way to pass the time and help a charity spread a message.

Volunteer writing can be for and about any number of causes or events. It could simply be social media writing (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), article writing, or even personal blogs. From a technical standpoint, the rules are few, other than the ones specified by your employer. To determine their writing style, read previously published pieces and analyze them. For instance, Creative Writing Institute likes a more relaxed, personable writing style.

Volunteer writing can present a satisfying challenge and, at the same time, expand your style. Besides gradually making you more versatile, it will offer personal satisfaction in diversifying your skillset. The more different and challenging the topic, the greater satisfaction you’ll feel in the end.

If you’re looking for a place to volunteer your writing skills, Creative Writing Institute has room for two article writers, experienced or amateur. If you’re interested, write to DeborahOwen@cwinst.com.

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Microsoft Word Tips

By Brent Middleton

Microsoft Word is massive. These are some of the lesser-known Word functions. Since computers vary to a large degree, these instructions are basic.

Page Breaks

Microsoft Word automatically inserts a page break at the end of the page, but you can also insert manual page breaks. A page break is the point in the document where the text goes onto the next page. To insert a break manually, click where you want the page to be broken, then go to the Insert tab (at the top), and look under Pages. There you’ll see the Page Break button. If you’d prefer a shortcut to perform a hard page break (one that immediately starts the next page of the document), it’s CTRL+ENTER.

Section Breaks

You can configure automatic page breaks where you want. To do this, highlight the paragraph(s) that you want to work with. Go to the Page Layout tab, click the little icon in the bottom right-hand corner of the Paragraph subcategory, and a dialogue box should pop up. Click on the Line and Page Breaks tab, and from there you can manage your automatic page break settings.

For more in-depth instructions on page breaks, check out the official Microsoft site: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/word-help/insert-a-page-break-HA010368779.aspx

There are other kinds of breaks, too, such as Next Page, Continuous, Even Page, and Odd Page. If you want to learn more about them, there’s a handy description of each right next to each one in Word.

The Ruler

One of the most underutilized features of Word is undoubtedly the ruler. Word includes both horizontal and vertical rulers, and they can be useful for aligning different elements of your document, such as text, tables, graphics, etc.

To view both rulers, click the little button in the top right-hand corner above the “move-the-page-up” arrow. If for some reason your vertical ruler doesn’t appear (in which case it’s turned off), you can turn it back on by going to File, then Options, which is just before Exit. Once in the Options menu, click Advanced, and then scroll down to the Display section. There you’ll find a series of check boxes, and one will say “Show vertical ruler in Print Layout view.” Select that one and you’re good to go.

Were these Microsoft Word tips helpful? Please let us know and feel free to suggest other topics that you might want us to cover.

Don’t forget to ‘like’ us before you leave. For more great tips, sign up for The Writer’s Choice Newsletter (for free) at http://cwinst.com/newslettersignup.php.

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For Better or For Worse: The Long-Haul Love of Writing

by David Ebenbach, teacher at Georgetown University

Writing has been a constant love in my life. What has changed over the years is the way I’ve loved writing.

When I was a kid, we had an old manual typewriter. When I banged away on that typewriter, I was pretending to be a grown-up. As I sat happily clacking my way into scripts and stories and even a novel (eight pages long), writing became something like the idea of a girlfriend. Kids my age talked about girlfriends and boyfriends, and supposedly some of them even had girlfriends and boyfriends, but of course nobody really knew what they were talking about or was really serious about it. Writing was like that for me; I loved it, but it was mostly a game of pretend.

By the time I hit adolescence, my love of writing had become similarly adolescent. I had very romantic ideas about being a passionate, misunderstood writer, and filled my journal with manic bursts of poetry and self-examination. Story ideas ran wild through me the way infatuations did.

This wildness remained into college and a few years beyond, but, as I gained experience and wisdom, I saw hints of the possibility of constancy, of calm. I began to love writing in a more committed way, finding myself increasingly willing to stay with a piece, to revise it, and see it through.

The real turning point was my decision to enroll in Vermont College’s MFA program. It would be a major investment of time and resources, and would take me down a different path from the one I’d been traveling (pursuing a degree in Psychology). Given the enormity of the move, I made the decision soberly, but also with much joy, as though entering a marriage. It was not impetuous, but rather driven by a powerful, abiding love. I had spent years in the relationship, and I knew how I felt.

Don’t forget to ‘like’ us before you leave. For more great tips, sign up for The Writer’s Choice Newsletter (for free) at http://cwinst.com/newslettersignup.php.

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Motifs vs. Symbols. What are they and how do you use them?

by Denise A. Coleman

By the time you finish reading this article, motifs and symbols will be new tools in your toolbox.

The purpose of motifs. A motif can appear as an object, word, or sound. Repeat it in various ways to build on an underlying image. The key to a motif is that it reappears throughout the piece and strengthens the story line or theme.

Example #1: Let’s use the word “broken” as a motif in the story of a broken love affair. As Brad meets with Heather to break off their relationship, motifs could impose the image of broken things in the reader’s mind, thus fortifying the underlying theme. For example, as Brad avoids a broken step, maybe a child throws a ball through the neighbor’s window. A little later, Heather breaks a fingernail or Brad breaks a shoelace. Practice will help you learn how to weave motifs seamlessly.

Or, you could symbolize the break-up this way: “When Brad said, ‘I don’t love you any more,’ Heather dropped the tray of fine crystal.” Do you see the difference in these two examples? Motifs are repetitive, whereas a symbol might occur once with great emphasis.

Example #2: You could write a story about USA’s Independence Day repeating the words “American flag” as a motif and make that the underlying theme, or you could use a climactic scene where a wounded soldier crawls through mortar fire and plants the American Flag as he draws his last breath.

While the difference between motifs and symbolism may seem minor, understanding them and using them properly is of the utmost importance. Choose your device at the onset of your story and maintain it throughout.

Archetype motifs. There is another kind of motif called archetype. Archetype motifs have appeared in literature that dates back centuries. Archetype motifs can represent heroes, villains, and sidekicks, to name a few. For instance, the Lone Ranger’s mask does more than hide his identity. It strengthens the theme that goodness does not look for recognition. Notice how subtle that archetype motif is.

There are four definitive differences between motifs and symbolism:

1. A motif supports or develops a theme while a symbol represents something.

2. Motifs are repeated continually while symbols are mentioned once or twice.

3. Motifs help define an underlying theme while symbols identify an idea.

4. Motifs depend on usage within the story while symbols rely on history and purpose.

Now you understand motifs and symbols. Practice these two techniques to perfect them.

Don’t forget to ‘like’ us before you leave. For more great tips, sign up for The Writer’s Choice Newsletter (for free) at http://cwinst.com/newslettersignup.php.

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Struggles of New Writers

by Dr. Helen Tucker, CWI Counselor

I remember those early days as a new writer; desperate to express all those thoughts and feelings on paper but terrified that no one would want to hear what I had to say. There was also the fear of not knowing where to begin, not being creative enough, and the huge fear of failure.

I decided to take a writing course as a confidence booster. We covered a section on basic grammar and punctuation. The most useful learning point was to write something every day no matter what. I began to carry a notebook and pen. When travelling on public transport, I wrote snippets of conversation I overheard and observed people as unobtrusively as possible. Based on what I saw, I made up stories and before long; I had written a short book.

The next big step was submitting. The thought of it made my blood run cold. It took me days to send it and all I could think about afterwards was all the mistakes I had made. I was thrilled when I received a complimentary letter from the editor telling me my article would be published but even now, the waiting and wondering is stressful.

Have you heard of NaNoWriMo? It stands for National Novel Writing Month and takes place every November. Those who want to write a book are challenged to write 50,000 words during November, which is an average of 1,666 words a day. Perhaps you would like to participate next November. It’s something exciting to look forward to every year, and a great way to help you write daily.

Don’t forget to ‘like’ us before you leave. For more great tips, sign up for The Writer’s Choice Newsletter (for free) at http://cwinst.com/newslettersignup.php.

*Feel free to write to Dr. Helen at dr.helen@cwinst.com.

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6 Ways to Make Money by Writing

by Deborah Owen

When there are so many creative writers out there, why is it that so few are published? Could it be that they don’t have the self-confidence to move forward to publication? More likely than not, they don’t know the secrets of how to get published.

Every creative writer’s heart soars when they see their first byline. Everyone should have that experience. Seeing your work in print is something that will never grow old. Call it a pride thing. Call it an ego trip. Call it self-centered. Call it what you want. Published writers call it slavery, reward, zest and zeal, salary and bonus.

So how do you get your work published? It really isn’t that hard. The difficult part is getting the self-discipline to follow through. Try these things:

  1. Go to your local newspaper and ask for a reporting job. Local papers usually have an opening for a reporter that will cover such things as Chamber of Commerce events, School Board reports, and sports functions. However, it makes little difference whether or not you get that job. There are other ways to wiggle your way into a newspaper…
  2. Look for accidents to report. While you wait for the mess to be cleared away, interview people who saw the accident and take pictures. (The paper will give you $5 extra for each picture they use.) Ask one of the policemen which officer is in charge. Go up to that officer with all the brass in your bones and tell him you are a stringer for [name of local paper]. (Anyone can be a stringer.) Ask if you can see him after the accident is cleared away. At that time, he will give you the names, ages, and perhaps addresses of those involved in the accident. This is time sensitive reporting, so get it to the newspaper quick.
  3. Look for people who have unusual hobbies and interview them. Hand the interview into your local newspaper, and don’t forget the pictures.
  4. Look for people doing weird things – like skiing down a dry street in the spring. That really happened. That was a news story waiting to be written!
  5. Keep the money rolling in by resubmitting the same stories to small newspapers all over the United States. The library will supply you with an extensive list of thousands of newspapers. One article regularly resubmitted can net you hundreds of dollars!
  6. When you have shown your local newspaper editor that you can get the job done, and done well, go back and ask for that reporting job over and over. Fill out an application. One of these days a spot will open up and guess who he will think of first? You.

The great thing about submitting news articles is that it doesn’t take much talent; beginners have a good shot at being published, and it’s a great way to get your first published clippings. Newspapers pay on acceptance too, so it’s quick money. Start reporting today!

Don’t forget to ‘like’ us before you leave. For more great tips, sign up for The Writer’s Choice Newsletter (for free) at http://cwinst.com/newslettersignup.php.

Science Says Writing Improves Health

It’s a Fact!

by Carol Celeste

Improving health by writing sounds too easy, doesn’t it? The physical act may seem simple, but the mental part can be hard, especially if you practice expressive writing, also called therapeutic or reflective writing. While all writing expresses something, “expressive writing” describes the difficult events of your life.

Improving your health by honestly writing about feelings may pose a challenge if you’d rather not face them. If that describes you, you might want to reconsider because hundreds of clinical trials attest to the healing power of expressive writing.

Scientists say the mental exercise of writing contributes to physical well-being as well as emotional venting. Dr. James Pennebaker, who pioneered expressive writing research, along with other researchers who followed his model, found that emotions, the immune system, and endocrine activity are connected.

During the writing process, brain wave patterns and skin conductivity levels change. After writing, blood pressure and cortisol measurements lower and immune system function improves. Those signs indicate that exploring the depths of mind and emotions reduces stress. Writers also tend to view events with logic and reach solutions that elude them when emotions rule. After an expressive writing session, writers may feel bad for a while, but when those feelings subside, the benefits kick in.

Most writing studies are based on writing for periods of 15 to 20 minutes for four consecutive days. Health continues to show improvement from four to six months after the writing episode when monitoring stopped.

Numerous clinical trials report reduced symptoms for people battling HIV/Aids, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, smoking cessation, asthma, cancer, drug dependency, hypertension, depression, physical pain, grief, and many more conditions. Cancer seems to be the most studied disease and many cancer clinics use expressive writing to improve health.

Some studies show that the control groups, those who wrote about mundane topics, also showed health benefits. There seems to be something about the act of writing that calms nerves and boosts immune system function. So, whether you tackle those misery-making events in your life, or relive a fun time, expressive writing offers a low-cost way to improve and maintain health.

You may think it sounds too good to be true. While expressive writing practice may not cure disease, it has resulted in reduced symptoms for many people who write honestly about their feelings. No one else will see what you write unless you want to share. Try writing to improve your health and see for yourself.

Don’t forget to ‘like’ us before you leave. For more great tips, sign up for The Writer’s Choice Newsletter at http://cwinst.com/newslettersignup.php.

© 2013 Carol Celeste

www.writingtoheal.com

www.facebook.com/writingforwellness

6 Ways to Make Money by Writing

Some Solid Advice

by Deborah Owen

When there are so many creative writers out there, why is it that so few are published? Could it be that they don’t have the self-confidence to move forward to publication? More likely than not, they don’t know the secrets of how to get published.

Every creative writer’s heart soars when they see their first byline. Everyone should have that experience. Seeing your work in print is something that will never grow old. Call it a pride thing. Call it an ego trip. Call it self-centered. Call it what you want. Published writers call it slavery, reward, zest and zeal, salary and bonus.

So how do you get your work published? It really isn’t that hard. The difficult part is getting the self-discipline to follow through. Try these things:

  1. Go to your local newspaper and ask for a reporting job. Local papers usually have an opening for a reporter that will cover such things as Chamber of Commerce events, School Board reports, and sports functions. However, it makes little difference whether or not you get that job. There are other ways to wiggle your way into a newspaper…
  2. Look for accidents to report. While you wait for the mess to be cleared away, interview people who saw the accident and take pictures. (The paper will give you $5 extra for each picture they use.) Ask one of the policemen which officer is in charge. Go up to that officer with all the brass in your bones and tell him you are a stringer for [name of local paper]. (Anyone can be a stringer.) Ask if you can see him after the accident is cleared away. At that time, he will give you the names, ages, and perhaps addresses of those involved in the accident. This is time sensitive reporting, so get it to the newspaper quick.
  3. Look for people who have unusual hobbies and interview them. Hand the interview into your local newspaper, and don’t forget the pictures.
  4. Look for people doing weird things – like skiing down a dry street in the spring. That really happened. That was a news story waiting to be written!
  5. Keep the money rolling in by resubmitting the same stories to small newspapers all over the United States. The library will supply you with an extensive list of thousands of newspapers. One article regularly resubmitted can net you hundreds of dollars!
  1. When you have shown your local newspaper editor that you can get the job done, and done well, go back and ask for that reporting job over and over. Fill out an application. One of these days a spot will open up and guess who he will think of first? You.

The great thing about submitting news articles is that it doesn’t take much talent; beginners have a good shot at being published, and it’s a great way to get your first published clippings. Newspapers pay on acceptance too, so it’s quick money. Start reporting today!

If you liked this article, be sure to follow our blog here on WordPress! You can also find links for our Facebook and Twitter pages at www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com.

God bless!

15 Quick Editing Steps to Rewriting Success

The Editing Commandments

by Deborah Owen

Editing can get pretty confusing. What should stay and what should go? Let this article be your guide.

Editing is another name for rewriting, and rewriting can only come once you’ve finished writing; therefore, your first step should be to complete your first draft. Once you’ve finished, instead of trying to edit all of the story or article at once, make each edit accomplish a specific purpose.

Follow these 15 quick editing steps to find out how.

1. Do some warm-up writing for ten minutes before you begin editing. During this time, write about something that makes you mad… perhaps an old flame, something an old boyfriend or girlfriend did, a spanking you unjustly received—anything that will stir your emotions and creativity. When your creative juices are flowing, you can critique you own work better.

2. Keep your eye on the goal. Refer back to the rough outline you used as the basis for your first draft. (What? You didn’t use an outline? No wonder you’re reading this article.) Be sure you’ve included all the initial points you wanted to make.

3. Check for linear flow (order of events). Don’t try flashbacks unless you know what you’re doing.

4. Don’t tell what your character is thinking. SHOW it with action, demonstration, or dialogue. Keep in mind that showing always takes three to five times more words than telling. That’s okay, as long as it’s meaty.

Example of Telling: “I’m so nervous,” Jennifer thought as she saw the doctor approach.
(boo… hiss… bad writing)

Showing:  Jennifer picked on her thumb nail as the doctor approached with furrowed brow. Noises in the room amplified. Did his strides grow longer? Slower? Was everyone looking at her? Tick. Tick. She could hear the seconds clicking on the clock overhead. A tiny drop of blood appeared as she pulled the nail into the quick, but the drop of bright blood and stabbing pain were welcome. They were the only signs of reality.

5. Edit for excessive wordiness, also known as verbiage. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines verbiage as “profusion of words, usually of little or obscure content.” In other words, excess words say nothing. Cut your sentences until they bleed. Use only one adjective at a time. Chop your descriptions down to that which relates directly to the scene and leave only the most necessary. When you delete a favorite phrase, copy it and save it in a file for another day.

6. Delete all adverbs ending in -ly, such as sadly, hatefully, etc. The use of adverbs is a sure indicator that you aren’t engaging the technique called Show, Don’t Tell.  (See #4)

7. Sentence tags: Don’t use “said she” or “said he.” Turn those words around to read “he said” and “she said.” Delete most tag endings, such as “she said with a snicker.” If you have sufficiently built your characters and the scene, the reader will know the attitudes on display.

8. Check the verbs and replace them with jazzier ones. Examples:

•          He choked until he couldn’t breathe – He hawked until he couldn’t breathe.
•          The little girl ran down the sidewalk – The little girl skipped down the sidewalk.
•          The boy hit the ball out of the park – The boy whanged the ball out of the park.

Jazzing your verbs (choosing more active verbs) will make your work glow!

9. Douse as many forms of the verb “to be” as possible. That includes is, am, are, was, were, be, being and been. These are dead verbs that say nothing. According to Wikipedia, allowed forms are: become, has, have, had (use sparingly), I’ve, you’ve, do, does, doing, did, can, could, will, would, shall, should, ought, may, might and must. The fact that they are allowed, however, does not make them desirable. Get rid of as many as possible because they weaken sentence structure. Likewise, using “could” and “would” will drop you into a trap that you’ll find hard to escape.

10. Watch for tense changes. If you begin in past tense, the entire story must be written in past tense, with two exceptions – one of which you should never use.

  • The first exception is dialogue, and that’s because people speak in mixed tenses – present, past, and future.
  • The second exception is internal dialogue (thoughts). That throws it into the omniscient voice and editors consider it a lazy writer’s way of telling what they should be showing. Don’t use it.

11. Follow the rules for prepositional phrases – no more than three to a sentence, and avoid using more than two in consecutive order. Prepositions are easy to identify. Some of the most common are: in, on, at, to, for, under, before, but there are hundreds. Find a partial list of them here: http://www.englishclub.com/grammar/prepositions-list.htm. Pick out the ones you use most and avoid them like the plague. Prepositional phrases usually tell when or where, such as: “I will meet you IN the afterlife,” or “He told his daughter to go INTO the house.” Consecutive prepositional phrases make weak sentence construction. Note: If you begin a sentence with a prepositional phrase, place a comma at the end of it (just as I did in this sentence.)

12. Punctuation:

  • Space ONCE after a period.
  • For writing in the USA, most punctuation (except the colon) lies within the quote marks. Check to see that all of your quotes are closed.
  • Don’t use a semi-colon unless it is before the words “however” or “therefore,” (in which case, use a comma immediately after those words).
  • Don’t use colons except to list things: recipes, items of clothing, kinds of perfume, etc.
  • Use commas to separate two clauses into a compound sentence. Also use commas between city and state and to offset introductory prepositional phrases.
  • Don’t use more than one exclamation mark per every 2,000 words!!!
  • Learn to use the ellipsis (three dots) properly. Remember, the ellipsis represents a pause or interruption in the sentence. It’s easy to overuse these little devils. If you find yourself falling into that trap, use a dash instead and insert a space on each side of it.

Rules for using the ellipsis:
a. When used at the beginning of a sentence: “(space)…And that’s all he said.”
b. In the middle of a sentence: “I hated to tell you that…(space)I didn’t want to hurt your feelings.”
c. At the end of a sentence: “I didn’t want to tell you….(space)”
(Did you notice that the last example ended with four dots? That’s because the last dot acts as a period to end the sentence.)

13. Use the spellchecker, but don’t totally rely on it. If you use homophones such as “right” when you meant to say “write,” or “blew” instead of “blue,” it won’t catch the error. To be safe, scan for mistakes after you use the spellchecker.

14. Check your formatting. Double-space the body and indent the first line of every paragraph. Every new line of dialogue should begin on a new line; however, if guidelines state otherwise, follow the guidelines.

15. Last of all, ask a friend to read your article aloud while you take notes on places you want to change. This is the best way to get clear perspective on what you’ve written. If you don’t have someone who can read it aloud, YOU read it aloud—but be careful to read exactly what’s written and not what your mind wants to insert. Hint: Stumbling over a sentence is usually indicative of awkward wording. Rewrite it.

Follow these 15 steps and the end result will be crisp, easy-to-understand writing that is stuffed with meat. What reader can resist that?

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Why Write?

For the Love of Writing
by Deborah Owen

The world is full of literature. Everywhere we look we see novels, magazines, anthologies, genealogies, journals, newspapers, advertising – the list is endless.

Adding to the heap of existing literature can seem pointless, but don’t surrender to frustration or discouragement. What’s inside you is unique. It is exhilarating. There are no two people in the world with the same fingerprints, and no two people who have the same effect on others.

What do you spend your time thinking about? More than likely someone else is writing about it, but isn’t presenting it with the same angle you would. It is this angle that makes what you have to say important. But that is only one of the reasons why you should write.

Some people keep a journal, log, or diary, and many have joined the new age of blogging. Did you ever wonder why so many people read blogs? It’s because they are nosey, and want to know what is going on in someone else’s life. They want the dirt on them. That same curiosity will also bring them to your articles and/or short stories.

Many write as a hobby to put their thoughts in order and express them publicly. Some have no interest in presenting their work for publication, while others write only for that purpose. No matter what kind of writing you like, you will find it fulfilling.

You may want to take a writing class to sharpen your talents and learn how to phrase your thoughts more effectively. It is this skill of stringing words together in the right order that will take your writing to the next level.

Too many writers let their busy lives pull them away from the thing that will satisfy them the most. Don’t let this happen to you. Almost anyone can afford a nominally priced writing course.

The best type to choose is the one with a mentor. Teachers will tell you what is right and wrong, but mentors are available all week long to help you improve your writing style.

If you think you have no talent for writing, but would like to give it a try, please do. You’ll be glad you did. The fact you have a desire to write says you probably have latent talents waiting to be developed. Most people who want to write can write.

Taking classes is an excellent way to crank yourself into first gear and start a long journey. You’ve heard of “use it or lose it”. That’s true of almost anything. If you smother the desire to write, it may never resurface. You will never know what you could have done, what mile markers you could have left behind, what influence you might have had, and what enjoyment has passed you by.

Move into action and find what suits you best – one-day workshops are for beginners and will cover the highlights. Three-day workshops (for beginners and brush-ups) are more intensive with two lessons that cover basic rules for the subject chosen. Two-week courses are very intensive and require a lot of time (for intermediates.) Eight-week courses are for age 14 and up. These classes will help you produce a story or article for publication.

Plunge in for a cool, refreshing dip, and give yourself the opportunity to find a new, exciting door to a more bountiful life.

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8 Editing Steps to Perfection

Mastering Editing

by Deborah Owen

Creative writers – don’t wait to edit your work until you know every word by heart – learn to edit the easy way. Do you know what to look for in editing? Have you wondered what should stay and what should go? By the time you read this article, you will know the answers to these questions.

  • One of the first things to look for is prepositional phrases. You can identify       prepositions easily. The most common ones are: in, on, at, to, for, under, before.  Prepositional phrases usually tell when or where, such as: “I will meet you in the after life,” or “He told his daughter to go into the house.” You should never have more than three prepositional phrases to a sentence, and preferably only two.
  •  Watch for wordiness, also known as verbiage. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines verbiage as “profusion of words, usually of little or obscure content.” In other words, excess words that say nothing. Cut your sentences until they bleed. Chop your descriptions down to that which relates directly to the scene, and leave nothing but the most necessary meat.
  • It should be unnecessary to mention using the spellchecker, but you would be surprised how many writers fail to use this most valuable tool. However, don’t totally rely on it. If you use the word “right” instead of “write”, or “blew” instead of “blue”, it will not catch the error. To be safe, scan for errors after you use the spellchecker.
  • Look for inappropriate punctuation. Be sure your quotations are closed. Use hyphens and colons properly. Don’t use a semi-colon when a comma will do. Be sure to use commas properly, i.e., to separate two clauses in a compound sentence, between city and state, etc.
  • Check that your order of events is stated properly. Unless you are doing a flashback, you will only confuse the reader if you switch back and forth within a given time frame.
  • Watch for tense changes. If you begin in the past tense, the entire story must be written in the past tense, with one possible exception. The only time you can properly change tenses is in dialogue, and that is because people normally speak in present, past and future tenses.
  • One of the most important parts of editing is dousing all forms of the verb “to be”: is, am, are, was, were, be, being and been. These are “dead” verbs that say nothing. According to Wikipedia, allowed forms are: become, has, have, had, I’ve, you’ve, do, does, doing, did, can, could, will, would, shall, should, ought, may, might and must. The fact that they are allowed, however, does not make them desirable. Get rid of as many of these as possible. They weaken your work.
  • Check every verb in every sentence and see if you can replace it with a jazzy verb. This is the finishing touch that will make your work glow.

So when you edit, watch for these eight things. The end result will be crisp, easy-to-understand writing that is stuffed with meat. What reader can resist that?

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How to Overcome Writer’s Block

Some Helpful Tips

by Deborah Owen

More often than not, writer’s block is caused by not writing regularly.

Most people are overcome and overwhelmed when writer’s block strikes, and rightly so. A writer who can’t write is much like a pianist who can’t play. Worse yet, writer’s block will carry over into other areas of your life. Don’t let depression and discouragement get you down. It’s vital to stay positive in order to get back in control.

Organization is the key to breaking writer’s block. Start by organizing your life in little ways, by setting short-term goals. Reasonable goals. For example, brush your teeth at the same time every day, or sweep one room at the same time every day. Try to eat at the same time. Get up the first time the alarm clock goes off, and go to bed at the same time every night. The idea is to gain control and meet your goals. When you can live a somewhat regulated life for a week or two, it’s time to work on your writer’s block in a more direct way.

Sit down to write for at least 15 minutes a day, every day. Inasmuch as possible, do it at the same time. What you write isn’t important. Write what you’re thinking about, or write a biography. Write about your parents or a childhood sweetheart that jilted you. Write about something that makes you mad or your problems in life. Anything emotional. If you can’t even write about that, write about the inability to write. Just write! Before two weeks are out, you will rediscover the muse (inward creative stirring) and you’ll be on your way again.

To prevent losing the muse, continue writing at the same time every day, and when you’re ready to take a writing course, remember Creative Writing Institute, where every student receives a personal tutor.

Don’t be satisfied with less than the best. Check it out today.

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Are Creative Writing Classes Right for Me?

A Free Writing Evaluation Can Answer that Question

by Deborah Owen

Are creative writing classes for everyone? No, perhaps not… but the fact that you’re reading this article indicates the answer may be yes for you. Ye olde subconscious doth not lie.

What Will You Learn in a Writing Class?

Even if you have good sentence structure, a good background in English, and are talented beyond your wildest dreams, you still need the inside dope on how to sell what you write. Writing classes will not only teach you the latest writing requirements, but you will also learn how to target a market, research it, write for that particular market, establish a rapport with editors, write a cover letter and develop the self-confidence to present yourself properly.

Writing shortcuts are only for geniuses or those who have connections in the publishing world. If you fall short of being a genius and you have no publishing connections, roll up your shirtsleeves and get ready to sweat with the rest of us. Anything worth having is worth making a sacrifice for.

What Will a Writing Analysis Do For You?

Do you need a punctuation review course? A brush-up course on creative writing mechanics? Do you need to learn “Show, Don’t Tell”? A writing analysis will provide an unbiased view of your skills and offer a suggested beginning point.

Almost anyone can become a writer if they really want to. Creative writing is a learned occupation, just like anything else. If you have average punctuation skills and you can craft a decent letter, the chances are good that you can become a full or part-time writer.

How to Get Started

Most people can begin selling articles to newspapers in their first writing year. Even if your goal is in the fiction realm, this is the place to start. Local newspapers pay about $15 per article (+ $5 for each picture used). Although the proceeds are low, this is a great way to fund your writing courses, collect press clippings and establish a résumé.

Creative writing seems almost romantic to some people, but it is no such thing. It can be downright frustrating and it’s very hard work. Writing classes are exciting, but they can also be difficult. The dropout rate is over 50%. To keep yourself out of the dropout bracket, develop the right mental attitude before you begin.

Creative Writing Classes – What Will be Expected of You?

You’ll need to set aside 60-90 minutes a week for homework. More is better. Some options for working that amount of time into an already pressed schedule are: rise 15 minutes earlier, stay up 15 minutes later, or use 15 minutes of your lunchtime for studying/writing. If all else fails and you can’t keep up with the workload, extensions are usually available at no additional fee.

You must have one thing in order to succeed – creative writing must be a priority in your life. Isn’t it worth the investment to become more than you are now? Isn’t it worth the investment to find out if writing is for you? Life is short. Why not take the leap?

Next Steps

For a free and honest evaluation of your writing skills, send a G-rated 1,000-word story or article to Creative Writing Institute’s CEO, Deborah Owen: deborahowen@cwinst.com. Please see http://www.creativewritinginstitute.com for writers’ guidelines (rules) to receive the best results. Your 20-point analysis will cover such things as imagery, characterization, dialogue, structure, plot, strong and weak points, “Show, Don’t Tell”, style, verb action, wordiness, passive voice, and presentation, among other things.

So go ahead. See what your potential is. You might be surprised.

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Use Inference to Say More by Saying Less

Do you know how to use inference?

by Deborah Owen

All creative writers use inference, whether by choice or by accident. So, you may be thinking, “If I can use it by accident, why should I study it?” You should study it because you can use the technique more effectively if you understand all the ramifications involved.

This is inference: Mary went into labor. She had a monkey. These are the types of headlines you see in the Enquirer and other such magazines. On the surface, one might assume the following:

  1. A woman had mated with a monkey and she got pregnant.
  2. The lady went to the hospital to give birth.
  3. Her baby wasn’t a child, it was a monkey.
  4. It was a historical event.
  5. This event would open new doors to the medical and scientific community.
  6. The news media would hound the monkey child throughout its life.
  7. Documentaries would undoubtedly be created.
  8. A movie would be in the making.

Thoughts would flood the reader’s mind. Was the woman on a safari? Did an ape molest her? Where were the other members of the safari? Was the woman married? How would her family accept the monkey baby? Would the monkey baby have human characteristics?

Or, you could read it the way I was thinking when I wrote it: Mary was in labor, and she owned a monkey. Do you see what inference can do?

Mystery writers often mislead their readers by dropping clues that can be interpreted in more than one way. Inference can also be used in riddles, jokes, and games.

Inference creates a mental puzzle for the reader to solve. The reader’s mind will always jump past the immediate and form its own conclusions based on the information it has been fed. If the writer so desires, he can change the mental image in the next sentence.

Another example:

The bride collapsed in tears and could not be consoled.

You might think:

  1. The groom didn’t show up for the wedding.
  2. Someone dropped the wedding cake.
  3. The organist or preacher could not be present.
  4. She stained or ripped her wedding gown.

We could imagine all sorts of things, but what I’m actually thinking is that her father died of a heart attack during the wedding. From what I said, however, it is unlikely that anyone would grasp that meaning. Readers will infer their own meaning from the given evidence and render their own conclusions. In other words, they will replace the lack of information with their own definition of what would cause a bride to collapse in tears.

Inference is a great tool. You can infer that a man is in love with his best friend’s wife without ever saying it. You can further infer that they are having a love affair and the husband knows nothing about it. If you introduce a gun into the equation, you can infer someone is going to die. Try your hand at inference. It’s fun.

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Choosing the Right Writing Course

Course Selection Advice

by Deborah Owen

Writing is a quickly learned skill for those who approach it properly. Within a year or two, most writing students are ready to charge into the future fully prepared.

But which writing courses should you choose and where should you begin? Take it from one who has tried all the shortcuts and found none – you’ll save yourself time and grief if you start at the beginning. This is an investment, and you’re worth the time and money it takes to reach your goal.

The writing course you should choose does not depend on what talents you have, what experience you have, what education you have, but on your level of knowledge and your goals. The chances are good that you already have some foundation, but you probably have holes in it. That is to say, you will know some things, and not others. In such a case, determine your lowest point, or “hole,” if you will, and begin there.

If you have problems with punctuation, start with a Basic Punctuation Review class. You’ll learn when and how to use proper punctuation, as well as some of the most common rules in grammar. This is an excellent refresher course for older students.

Dynamic Nonfiction is the base class that will provide you with the best writing foundation. It will teach you how to write for magazines and newspapers, develop creative thinking, develop articles, and cite properly with MLA and APA. Even if you hate nonfiction, this course is valuable beyond your wildest dreams. The values of learning nonfiction:

  • This genre is the easiest to break into
  • It is the easiest to write
  • It pays the most
  • Has the least amount of rules
  • It writes more quickly
  • 95% of all writers break into publication with nonfiction

Creative Writing 101 builds directly on Dynamic Nonfiction. Think of this class as the framework for a house. It teaches basic structure, foundational writing rules, and how to avoid pitfalls. It’s a great class for those who are interested in cross-writing (that is, writing for more than one genre instead of finding a niche and staying in it). This is the only course that includes both fiction and nonfiction, and thus provides you with the opportunity to try both.

Short Story Safari builds on the Creative Writing 101 class. This course will put the roof on your house. It will teach you methods, techniques, tips and tricks of the trade, Show, Don’t Tell, and much more. You should know the rules of English, have good sentence structure, and practice the basic rules of writing before you attempt this course.

If you like to write children’s stories, you would love Writing for Children, but this is an intermediate class. Writing for children is no easier than writing for teens or adults. It can, in fact, be harder, so be sure you have a good foundation before attempting this class. Be prepared with proper English and the basic rules of writing.

If you are into fantasy writing, you will love Fantasy World. Have you wondered how to invent those far away places you see in your mind? This is the class for you. It is an intermediate class, so be sure you get your foundational courses first.

If you are an advanced student, Wordsmithing is the class for you. There you will learn writing skills that no other class teaches. This class will explain how other authors can string words together in an artistic style. It will teach you to recognize things like assonance, consonance, asyndeton, and many more little known techniques so you can apply it to your own writing. This is the final stop on how to jazz and edit your writing with snappy styles and techniques. Wordsmithing is a unique class because you can take it at the beginning of your career, or the end. For me, it was the technique that put me over the top.

If you’re unsure whether you need a certain class to advance to a higher level of learning, the chances are, you DO. Your subconscious is telling you that your foundation isn’t complete. Don’t challenge yourself with more advanced classes. You need all the rules of writing in order to succeed. Skipping ahead usually means having to return to a lower class at a later time to pick up on what you missed.

When you have your foundation and pass through the various stages in order, the advanced classes will blend and mesh all your learning experiences into one vision. I can’t reiterate this strongly enough – get your foundation first. Start at the bottom and learn every single rule. You’ll save yourself grief in the future.

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How to Find Work as a Reporter

Reporting is Tough Business

by Deborah Owen

Do you want to be a reporter? It’s a great way to break into print, and jobs aren’t that hard to find.

Writers seem to think finding a job as a reporter is hard. Granted, that may be true in some parts of the country, but such jobs are more abundant than you realize. If you live in the city or suburbs, chances are good that there is an opportunity less than 20 miles from home.

Getting work as a reporter is all about understanding the kinds of stories local newspapers print. When people hear the word “reporter”, they picture someone trotting in and out of a major news conglomerate, spilling the beans on an adulterous President, unveiling “Watergate”, or changing into Superman in a phone booth. Unfortunately, reporting is not always a glorious job. A reporter is defined as “a person who investigates and reports or edits news stories”, and more often than not, this is very hard work.

Reporting Opportunities

Fortunately, almost every local newspaper is hard up to find a sports reporter, and/or someone to cover PTA or political meetings, as they pertain to local government. If, by chance, there are no openings in these areas, there is also the possibility of covering traffic accidents or reporting odd news.

For example, I once saw a man skiing in the middle of a western town. What made this a newsworthy event was that his skis had wheels on them – and he was skiing on dry pavement. On another occasion I saw a broken fence, bulldozer tracks across a yard, and road equipment sitting in front of someone’s bedroom window. It turned out to be a theft of the government’s road equipment. On a third occasion, I watched a sheriff’s car flip upside down as it tried to round a corner too fast. Stories are all around you.

Apart from odd news, another great source for local newspaper articles is unusual hobbies and crafts. While on vacation in the Rocky Mountains, I saw awesome statues that were made out of iron and wood. I was fascinated by the idea of a sculptor living in the boonies selling intricate merchandise to tourists in his spare time. I knew readers would be interested, too.

Always Be Prepared

As these examples show, one important point to keep in mind is that most reporting opportunities are unexpected. Always keep a notepad, pen, camera, and tape recorder with you in case you encounter a great story. Many stories are time sensitive and you will be required to write and submit your article by early the next morning.

If you are looking to have your stories printed on the front page, increase your chances by submitting a picture with your article. Call the newspaper ahead of time and ask them how they want pictures submitted. Digital pictures taken on a 35 mm camera are usually acceptable and the newspaper should pay you at least $5 per picture. An article usually pays about $10. No, you won’t get rich, but it’s a good way to break into print.

While finding a reporter’s job isn’t that hard, remember that the key to success lies in good research and timely reporting.

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