Welcome back to the GWN blog! Today we have Jim Cort talking about pronouns.

Here’s Jim!

Personal pronouns let you know who’s being referred to: Walter told Judy he would give the giraffe to her.  No question here about who gets the giraffe, because “her” refers to someone of the female gender, and Judy is the only such person mentioned.  That’s the thing about personal pronouns—they’re specific. Gender is one of the details that personal pronouns specify.

Gender is a tricky concept.  Anyone who’s ever studied Spanish or French or German knows that gender in those languages has very little to do with whether your baby blanket was blue or pink.  It’s a way of creating clarity of expression, linking nouns to modifiers with a sort of team colors technique.  In English, gender is about…well, gender.  And that’s where the problem comes in.

Just as there are personal (and therefore specific) pronouns like him and her, he and she, there are also impersonal (that is, general) pronouns.  Not only should he mind his p’s and q’s, she should mind her p’s and q’s as well.  In fact everybody who’s got any p’s or q’s should mind them.  That’s a general statement. When I was a lad in school, Sister Mary Paragraph taught me to say, ”Everyone should mind his p’s and q’s.”  “His” was a stand-in for the singular impersonal pronoun.  That’s what she had been taught when she was a lass in school.

But times change.  Feminist thinkers said using “his” excludes all the females.  It’s sexist; it’s discriminatory. It betrays a male cultural bias that should not be perpetuated.

OK, so what do we do?

This is not a problem in other tongues.  Lots of other languages have a singular impersonal pronoun that’s neither pink nor blue.  In fact, English has one too.  It’s the word one: “Everyone should mind one’s p’s and q’s.”  They use it all the time in England.  Nobody gets offended and everybody knows what’s being talked about.  But on this side of the Atlantic, “one” just never caught on.  It sounds pretentious and highfalutin’ to American ears.

I repeat: OK, so what do we do? We’ve got to come up with something else.  Here are some possible plans:

  • Ignore the whole thing.  Go on using “he” and “his” like nothing ever happened. This will win the approval of traditionalists, but it may get you in trouble with others who are not quite so grammatically-minded.
  • Mix it up.  Use “his” and “him” sometimes, and “hers” and “her” sometimes.  Or do something like this: him/her. This seems cluttered and confusing to me, but some people like it.
  • Use “their” and “them”—that is, use these words as singular impersonal pronouns. Sister Mary Paragraph, God bless her, would tell you this is wrong.  The fact of the matter is, it’s a usage of long standing going all the way back to Shakespeare.  A short list of English authors who have used it would include Jane Austen, Walt Whitman, Oscar Wilde. The Oxford English Dictionary, Doris Lessing, and the King James Bible.  Somewhere along the way, some nit-picking grammarian said, “You can’t do that—‘them’ and ‘their’ are plural.”  We’ve been living under that rule ever since.

This is a hard sell.  If you go this route, you’ll meet resistance from grammar purists who will insist that “their” and “them” can’t be used in this way.  However, because of the way language works, if enough people adopt this usage, it will become acceptable in time.  It’s your call if you want to join the fight.

The problem with all of these approaches is that they’re likely to attract attention to your method rather than your message.  These approaches can all become distractions.  The careful writer wishes to avoid distractions, so readers will concentrate on the message.  That leaves us with the last possibility.

  • Compromise. If you don’t want to join the fight, and you don’t want to create distractions, you can sidestep this whole mess by recasting your sentence.  Remove the need for a singular impersonal pronoun, like this: “People should mind their p’s and q’s.”  Whenever you need to make a general statement, try to make it in the plural.  Then the problem goes away, and you can devote your attention to more important aspects of your writing.

Jim Cort has been writing since someone invented the pencil. His novel The Lonely Impulse is available from Smashwords:

Cindy here again!

Great post, Jim. I usually try to rewrite my sentences to avoid stuff like this. 🙂



A Man’s Advice on Giving Birth

Welcome to the GWN blog! Today we have Bill Hopkins talking about creating characters.

Here’s Bill!

Unlike real life, giving birth in fiction to characters can be as hard and complicated or as simple and easy as you make it. Follow along and do as much or little as you want. I’ll give you examples using my amateur sleuth, Judge Rosswell Carew.


  1. Make a biography for your character. We don’t need a multi-volume work. Just choose age, sex, work, height, weight, color of hair, color of eyes, physical characteristics, etc. JRC is medium height, bad eyes, supersensitive hearing and sense of smell, scrawny mustache, and average weight for a guy who’s almost forty.


  1. Next, what does your character want? Make it short, clear, and concise. JRC wants to be a detective because he’s tired of all the repetitious stories he’s hearing on the bench. And his theme in life is that being just is more important than being legal.


  1. What’s the background of your character? I don’t go into JRC’s schooling much because being “in the military” (no branch designated) made a bigger impact on him.


  1. What are your character’s quirks? JRC doesn’t like his sidekick to touch him, he’s touchy about the way people try to give him the nickname of Ross, he’s a perfectionist, and kind of a general PITA.


  1. What would it take to make your character suffer a gut wrenching moment? For JRC, it would be running out of espresso, missing a meal, or watching a friend die. He does, after all, care about people.


  1. How does your character talk? JRC has his own way of saying things, as do all the characters in my books. I try to make the dialog unique. If you heard it aloud, you’d immediately know which of my characters was talking.


  1. What’s your character’s name? Rosswell Carew is a name hard to forget. John Smith is easy to forget. But how about John Wayne Smith? Don’t give your babies dull names. (Frank Jones or Bill Hopkins). Don’t duplicate names (Annie and Annabelle). Don’t use the same letter(s) to start two or more names. (Max, Mike, and Mark shouldn’t exist in the same book).


  1. Have you interviewed your character? I’ve never interviewed JRC in writing, but I love that kind of blog. That sounds like something I need to do next!

Cover Courting MurderCourting Murder: When Judge Rosswell Carew makes the gruesome discovery of two corpses on a riverbank in the Missouri Ozarks, he’s plunged into a storm of deadly secrets that threaten both him and his fiancée, Tina Parkmore. Unsatisfied with the way the authorities are conducting the investigation, Rosswell, who’s always nurtured a secret desire to be a detective, teams up with an ex-con, Ollie Groton, to solve the case before the killer can murder again. Rosswell uncovers a maze of crimes so tangled that he must fight his way to a solution or die trying.




River Mourn front cover


River Mourn: Judge Rosswell Carew travels to Sainte Geneveive, Missouri, searching for Tina Parkmore, his kidnapped fiancée. When he witnesses someone tossed from a riverboat ferry, he’s plunged into a nightmare world he never knew existed. Rosswell is astounded when he discovers what he saw and the fate of Tina are intertwined. Unable to interest the local authorities in the case, Rosswell teams up with his faithful research assistant Ollie Groton to discover the truth. The excitement never lets up until the last page.

Available September 2013 from Deadly Writes Press



About Bill:

Photo of Bill HopkinsBill Hopkins is retired after beginning his legal career in 1971 and serving as a private attorney, prosecuting attorney, an administrative law judge, and a trial court judge, all in Missouri. His poems, short stories, and non-fiction have appeared in many different publications. He’s had several short plays produced. A book of collected poetry, Moving Into Forever, is available on Amazon. Bill is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Dramatists Guild, Horror Writers Association, Missouri Writers Guild, and Sisters In Crime. Bill is also a photographer who has sold work in the United States, Canada, and Europe. He and his wife, Sharon (a mortgage banker who is also a published writer), live in Marble Hill, Missouri, with their dog and cats. Besides writing, Bill and Sharon are involved in collecting and restoring Camaros. Courting Murder is his first mystery novel.


Courting Murder by Bill Hopkins


A Judge Rosswell Carew Mystery

ISBN 978-0-9830504-38

Southeast Missouri University Press

Publisher’s page:

Author’s website:

Author’s FaceBook page:

Author’s Page on Amazon:

Amazon order page:

LinkedIn: Bill Hopkins

Twitter: @JudgeHopkins


Cindy here again!

Great advice, Bill! I read a book once that had five characters with names starting with M. So confusing.

Happy writing!



Part 3: Unleashing Your Muse – Free Writing Act II, Part 2

Welcome back to the GWN blog. We have Cyndi Faria back for Part 3 of Unleashing your muse!

Here’s Cyndi!

I’m back today talking about what goes into Act II, Part II. I hope you’ve been following along because after next month’s post, I’m going to offer private feedback to one lucky commenter.

The second half of a novel, beginning with Act II, Part 2, is my favorite section. Often times, I’ll have the fleeting thought that the H/h will never work things out. In this section, I experience frustration and tears right along with the H/h. After all, in a romance, I want to see the couple reunite, defeat the villain, rekindle their love and find their HEA while obtaining their original goals.

But how can this possibly happen when both the H/h are up against so much adversity?

Below is what you’ll want to incorporate into your free-write. This section begins around the 50% mark of you novel (midpoint) and ends around the 75% mark.

For reference, I’m going to use the movie Pretty Woman, staring our hero Richard Gere (Edward), heroine Julia Roberts (Vivian), and villain Jason Alexander (Phillip). Recall the following just prior to the midpoint:

Define Character Trait (Strength-Weakness):

  • Edward is a controlling workaholic. (Fear of being betrayed)
  • Vivian is a free-spirit prostitute. (Fear of being deprived)
  • Without Edward, Phillip is powerless and has an entitlement attitude.

Please note: If you end on a high at the midpoint (like sex), the All is Lost moment must end in the opposite. In our case a low.

Enter Act II, Part 2: Villains Close In (People, Past, Insecurities, etc.)

The Reveal:

  • Hero reveals he hadn’t spoke to his father in 14 years and now he’s dead.
  • Heroine reveals she dropped out of high school and came to Hollywood, but couldn’t find a job and turned to prostitution.

This reveal brings them closer and makes each more vulnerable. They have sex as a couple (false win).

Villain(s) Close In:

  • Edward takes Vivian to a company polo match. Both the company he wants to overtake (teardown) and Edward’s business partner, Phillip, are there. Vivian mingles beautifully and Edward notices, but the owner of the company Edward is trying to buy interacts with her.
  • Phillip doesn’t trust Vivian and makes his distrust of Vivian known to Edward. Edward tells Phillip not to worry, she’s a prostitute.
  • Vivian is hurt that Edward shared her profession with Phillip and that Phillip approached her for sexual services.


Allies Walk Away:

Vivian turns her back on Edward and realizes she no longer wants to be a prostitute or a free-spirit but a lady. Edward has taught her to be more goal-orientated. However, at this point she’s worse off than she started neither a prostitute or a lady. What to do?


  • Angry Phillip propositioned Vivian, Edward cautions Phillip and walks away from his business responsibilities to spend a day away from work to try to patch the damage that’s been done between Edward and Vivian. For once, living a more free-spirit way of life (taking shoes off in the park and flying to New York to see the opera), Edward experiences another side of life besides work and destroying companies, but how does he balance both worlds? What to do?

Heading toward disaster (All is Lost Moment):

With both of their support systems out of the picture (Edward’s partner and Vivian’s prostitute girlfriend), they are worse than when they started. In fact, both are so bad off that all aspects of the H/h’s life are heading toward danger if they don’t change.

At this point, however, change is illusive.

Situation Worsens by Death:

Make the situation even worse. Maybe someone dies, or an ally turns their back or attacks them, or there’s an important project that comes to an end.

H/h push back one last time using their old character traits. But, because of their backstory fears, they fail miserably:

Vivian has fallen in love with Edward, kisses him on the mouth (a forbidden act for a prostitute), and professes her love, thinking he’s sleeping and can’t hear her. (Death of her prostitution lifestyle and free-spirit way of living)

After hearing Vivian profess her love for him, in the morning, Edward offers Vivian an apartment. (Death of Edward’s fear of betrayal and his all-business lifestyle.)

Ending on a Down Note:

Vivian angrily objects Edward’s apartment proposal. That’s not the fairytale she’s looking for and packs up to leave.

Falling back on his businessman ways, however, Edward hands her the money he’s promised for her week of services.

Couple Split:

Both are completely broken and miserable without one another. And there is no going back to the old way of life having tasted the other’s world. New plan, but what?

To summarize, the point of Act II, Part 2 is for the author to prove to the character that their go-to trait isn’t working and never will again. That together they are complete, if only they’d stand up to their fears and enter the new world—Act III.

Next month I’ll wrap up how to free-write Act III.

Until then, when you’ve grasped the above information, it’s time to unleash your muse on Act II, Part 2 and free-write the next quarter of you novel (3-6 pages, single spaced. Remember anything goes). Have fun!

Happy Writing, Cyndi Faria

Visit Cyndi’s Website:

Visit Cyndi on Amazon: Cyndi’s Amazon Author Page

About the Author:
“Cyndi Faria writes with passion and her stories touch the heart.”

—Virna DePaul, Bestselling Author


Author Photo B-W

Cyndi Faria is an engineer turned romance writer whose craving for structure is satisfied by plotting emotional and cozy paranormal romance stories about Native American folklore, cursed spirits, lost souls, harbingers, and even a haunted coastal town. If you love a tale with courageous heroes and heroines, where their unconditional love for each other gives them strength to defeat their inner demons, Cyndi Faria invites you to enter the pages of her stories.







Cindy here again!

Thanks for being here, Cyndi. Can’t wait for part four!

Take a book from good to sold in 10 steps – with Shirley Jump

It’s finally Friday! Today we have a great post from New York Times Bestselling author Shirley Jump on taking your book from “good” to sold!

Here’s Shirley!

The Sweetheart Bargain coverThank you for having me on the blog! I wrote ten books in 8 years before I finally sold. I had a long, frustrating journey, because it was like I was missing something small—turns out it was a few small things 😉 What takes a book from just “good” to sold? Ah, that’s the magic answer everyone wants! In my opinion, it’s all those things that new writers see as intangible — tight, strong writing, a well-developed plot and strong, living characters. If you’re like me, you saw many of those words in your rejection letters and puzzled over them, trying to figure out exactly how you were supposed to make your writing stronger or how to make those characters come alive.

It can be done. My January 2003 release, THE VIRGIN’S PROPOSAL, was a contest winner and finalist (I won the TARA contest in 2000) but I just couldn’t sell it. I revised it a couple of times, sent it off to Silhouette, and was lucky enough to get a detailed revision letter from Mary Theresa Hussey. She had a lot of issues with the plot and wanted me to dump and rewrite about 2/3s of the book.

I knew this was my golden opportunity; the kind of chance all writers dream of. I had an interested editor, it was up to me to either rise to the challenge or choke at the starting gate. Besides looking at the plot issues, I took a serious look at the book itself, comparing it to the books I admired. On every page, I asked myself “How can I make this better?” And once I improved that page, I’d go back and improve it again. It’s possible to take a book from Good Enough to Win a Contest to Wonderful Enough to Sell – here’s how I did it.

That book sold, went on to win the Booksellers Best contest, and is the first of 50 books for me. My latest, THE SWEETHEART BARGAIN, came out September 3 with Berkley, part of a brand new series that I sold last year by using these same techniques.




By Shirley Jump


What makes a book SOLD instead of simply good enough to win contests? Several factors, I discovered when I took two previous manuscripts that had done well in contests and later revamped them to make them sell. It’s about taking the book one step further and making them not just winning, but salable:


  1. Make sure every Scene has a Goal and a Sequel. Does your main character in each scene have something he/she wants to accomplish during the course of the scene? If you have a scene that just seems to be sitting there, with no real purpose, then nine times out of ten, the lack of a goal is the problem. Each of the scene goals should feed into the main book goal, and should raise the stakes and the tension. The minute you lose your tension, you’re at the end of your book, because the characters have achieved their goals.


  1. Make sure your plot hangs together. This usually requires one read through to look for any potential holes in your plot, any questions left unanswered, etc. Be sure to make notes as you go along, rather than trusting your memory. Often, it’s a dangling plot that keeps a book from being unique enough.


  1. Did you make the most of your voice? Voice is that indefinable thing that really sets you apart from another writer. Structurally, you might have a fabulous book but if you haven’t given it your own unique flavor — the stamp that makes that book YOURS and yours alone — it won’t stand out among the others on the editor’s desk.


  1. Conflict, Conflict, Conflict: Don’t be afraid to throw more and more roadblocks into your characters’ paths. As authors, we’re often too nice to our characters and don’t give them enough hardships. Hardship fosters change which in turn creates character growth. Also, characters who solve their internal and external obstacles too early end the book too soon. Be sure there is some “but” still getting in the character’s way, forcing them to continue on their emotional (and physical, if you have one) journey before you get to the final concluding scene.


  1. Motivation, Motivation, Motivation: Do your characters have reasons for everything they do? And do those motivations come from the character’s character — i.e., what makes him/her uniquely themselves — rather than some contrivance on your part? Character actions should grow out of character experience, self concept and wants or needs.


  1. Look at your balance of narrative and dialogue. Do you have too much of one or the other? Too little in one area? Do you have long passages between spurts of conversation, which make for unnatural pauses? It really helps to read aloud at this point to make sure the dialogue holds together naturally. If necessary, act it out to really see the places where your narrative is too long.


  1. Speaking of dialogue — make sure every bit is necessary. Dialogue is a plot tool. It’s used to further the plot and show character, rather than just sitting there, filling up space.


  1. Check the obvious. Did you look at all the spelling and grammar errors? Fix the dangling participles and split infinitives? Remove all the extra “thats” and “justs”? Take out as much passive writing as possible? Try to show instead of tell?


  1. Tighten. And tighten again. Once you’ve gone through the manuscript for all of the above reasons, go through it again for tightening. Can you use one word instead of five and get the same impact? Can you reword passages with stronger verbs and adjectives, delivering more punch in every sentence?


  1. Can you use more unique phrases to express the same thing? Too often, writers relay on clichés for their descriptions instead of striving for something more unique. This is that indefinable aspect that editors are looking for — a strong book written by an author with his/her own distinctive style. To achieve that, you have to write better than those who have gone before you. Be stronger, be more precise. Try harder. That means coming up with several versions of a turn of phrase or striving to go beyond the stereotype. Don’t settle for what’s easy and predictable. Take it to the next level and you’ll soon be hearing your career go to the next level of…



ShirleyJumpNew York Times and USA Today bestselling author Shirley Jump has written more than 50 novels for Berkley, Harlequin, Entangled and Kensington books. She has won numerous awards, including the HOLT Medallion, the Booksellers Best Award and Colorado Romance Writers Award of Excellence. She’s been nominated multiple times for the Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice award, most recently for THE RETURN OF BRODY MCKENNA, the last book in her McKenna Brothers series for Harlequin. The first book in her upcoming series with Berkley, THE SWEETHEART BARGAIN, has received a multitude of pre-publication praise from authors such as Jayne Ann Krentz, who called the book “real romance,” Virginia Kantra, who said, “Shirley Jump packs lots of sweet and plenty of heat in this heartwarming first book of her promising new series,” and Jill Shalvis, who called it “a fun, heartwarming small town romance that you’ll fall in love with.”

Visit her website at

Cindy here again!

Wow, great information Shirley. Thanks so much for being here! I need to keep this list handy when I do revisions.

Happy writing.




Welcome to the GWN blog! Today I have Jim Cort talking about passive voice.

Here’s Jim.

There’s no question that the prime whipping boy of English grammar is the passive voice.  “Avoid the passive voice,” the writing manual says.  “Never use the passive where you can use the active,” says George Orwell.  Well, what’s the big problem?  What’s so bad about the passive voice, anyhow?

Let’s find out.

First of all, we need to understand how an English sentence is put together.  The normal word order for a sentence in English is: subject, verb, object.  We can put this another way: actor, action, and thing acted upon.  This is known as the active voice.  Here’s an example: I ate the pizza.

A sentence in the passive voice is arranged: object, verb, subject.  Or, again: thing acted upon, action, actor.  Like this: The pizza was eaten by me. So, here’s the first stumbling block: the passive voice takes the normal word order in a sentence and stands it on its head.  It’s cumbersome.

Next, let’s do a simple word count.  The active sentence has four words.  The passive sentence has six words.  So the passive sentence takes more words to say the same thing.  Two extra words may not seem like a lot, but look at as a percentage. The passive sentence is fifty percent longer but conveys the same information.

Now, consider the verbs.  In the passive sentence, the short, strong verb eat has been replaced by its weaker past participle eaten, and hobbled with the auxiliary verb was.  It’s a less forceful, less direct way of speaking.  And remember the paradox of helping verbs: The more you help your verb, the weaker it becomes.

When we graduate to complex sentences and more complicated ideas, we start to see how passive constructions can do some real mischief to the clarity and ease of reading we want:

This handbook should in no manner be construed as a fixed or binding contract between the Company and you, and its provisions can be considered as no more than general summaries of the benefits, work rules, and policies they address. No reliance should be placed on existing policies in making your determination to accept or continue employment with the Company.

This a lot to slog through.  The sentences are so long and so convoluted, that it’s hard to keep things straight in your head as you go along.  Also, it’s a real challenge figuring out who’s doing what.  Things that happen in the passive voice are like acts of God or forces of Nature—they just happen.

So, if the passive voice is so nasty, why do we keep it around?  Why hasn’t it become extinct long ago?  The plain truth is the passive voice does have its uses.  Here are a few instances where you might not want to resist the passive:

1. For variety.  A sentence in the passive every now and then adds variety to your writing.  It breaks up the monotony and keeps up the reader’s interest. Just think of it as a strong spice like cayenne or cumin—a little goes a long way.

2. For emphasis. As we mentioned, the passive voice describes an action as if it were an act of God, or a condition that has existed for all time.  Because of this, the passive is useful for setting policy or laying down the law: Neckties will be worn in this area.  That’s it.  It’s carved in stone.  No room for argument.

3. For evasive action. Since the passive can describe an action without identifying the actor, it’s useful for writing about something you don’t quite fully understand yourself.  (Not that this is a good practice, but we can’t walk the straight and narrow all the time.) It’s also handy for delivering bad news—you can admit that something bad happened without actually confessing to it: Mistakes were made.

Generally speaking, however, you’re better off steering clear of the passive.  Review what you’ve written and look for forms of the word be–is, are, was, were, has been, had been–coupled with a verb form.  This is a warning flag for the passive voice.  Consider if these sentences might read better in the active voice: subject, verb, object.  Most of the time, I think you’ll find they will

Jim Cort has been writing since dirt was invented. His novel The Lonely Impulse is available from Smashwords:

Cindy here again!

Great information, Jim! Thanks for being here today.

Happy writing!



A tip for writing paranormal and blurbs for Wicked Intentions

It’s Monday! Welcome to the GWN blog. Today we have JoAnne Myers with a tip for paranormals and some blurbs for her upcoming story collection.

Here’s JoAnne.

When it comes to fiction writing, almost anything goes. That is why I love writing paranormal and fantasy stories. The author can go completely over the edge and make something unbelievable seem believable. When it comes to ghost stories, I get a lot of my inspiration from real life experiences. Not necessarily my own either. I watch television programs that partake of the supernatural and paranormal flare. Programs from ordinary people who claim they experienced either an afterlife experience, or a haunting.

Some of my stories from my upcoming anthology “Wicked Intentions” are based on actual hauntings. Some stories I read about in the newspaper, and others I watched on true life experience programs. So the next time you get “writer’s block” try switching on the television. You might find something to jolt your inspiration.

Blurbs from “WICKED INTENTIONS” due September 1 through Melange Books and Amazon

WickedIntentionsJMBLOOD TIES- word count 15, 902

After the mysterious disappearance of twenty-six year old wife and mother Lisa Smalley, her twin, Attorney Audra Roper, begins having dark and disturbing visions of Lisa’s disappearance.

After taking on Lisa’s identity to flush out the person responsible for Lisa’s disappearance, Audra is thrown into a series of perils. Trying to survive while looking for Lisa, Audra’s life becomes a roller coaster of risks, heartbreak, and intrigue.


THE HAUNTING OF BARB MARIE- word count 9,845

Even as a child, Barb Marie saw dead people, which terrified her parents. With no one to talk to about her gift/curse, Barb kept her secret to herself. This took an unhealthy toil on her throughout her childhood and young adulthood.

SUMMER WIND-word count 13,039

When twenty-nine year old Ginger discovers the old mansion Summer Wind, she is mysteriously drawn to it. She and her second husband, thirty year old Mike purchase the home and the family moves in unbeknownst to them the place is haunted by evil spirits. Immediately, the haunting’s have a negative and profound effect on the family.

THE TRUTH BEHIND THE LIES-laying the Norfolk ghost to rest

Solving the brutal murder of American born Ruthie Geil becomes a gauntlet of attacks and more murders for Federal Police Inspector Ian Christian. Between the victims family, ex-lovers, and ghostly occurrences on Norfolk Island, the killer is closer than anyone realizes.

THE LEGEND OF LAKE MANOR-word count 8,297

For the young psychic Cassandra Lopez, coming to the infamous haunted mansion Lake Manor, was more like a mission. She knew the Manor and its employees needed her help to rid the home of specters, consisting of a young a slave boy, two wrongfully hanged men, a ballerina, a thieving bartender, and a pregnant woman.

THE APARTMENT-word count 5,188

When young newlyweds Bill and Gayle move into their new apartment, their lives are plagued with sightings of evil ghosts that threaten their marriage and lives. Not until they contact a psychic and rid the home of its murdered occupants does the couple find peace and happiness.

DARK VISIONS-word count 5,170

When Carrie Reynold’s starts having nightmares on her twenty-sixth birthday, she believes her “dark visions” can solve the twenty year disappearance of her father.

Author Bio:

my photo apr 2011I hail from the famous Hocking Hills region of southeastern Ohio. I have worked in the blue-collar industry most of my life. Besides having several novels under my belt, I also canvass paint.

When not busy with hobbies or working outside the home, I spend time with relatives, my dogs Jasmine and Scooter, and volunteer my time within the community. I am a member of the Hocking Hill’s Arts and Craftsmen Association, The Hocking County Historical Society and Museum, and the Hocking Hills Regional Welcome Center. I believe in family values and following your dreams.


My original canvass paintings, can be found at Books and Paintings by JoAnne!/joanne.myers.927


Cindy here again!

Sounds like some interesting stories in your collection. I love watching those paranormal shows. They do spark some ideas.

Happy writing!



Silence your inner editor

Welcome to Friday on the GWN blog! We’re international! Today we have German author Annemarie Nikolaus talking about that pesky inner editor.

Here’s Annemarie!

Years ago, my first try with NaNoWriMo was an enlightenment: to get those 50,000 words done (what I did) I had to stop massaging each sentence, till I believed it to be “right”. Just write, write, write – no matter what and no matter how. As they say: “You can always revise later, but you can’t revise an empty page.”

Okay, this we all know. But there is more to it. And it’s even more important: write “no matter what” turned out to be fun and adventurous. It let me discover connections between the characters and some twists I’d never thought of, because I did not know they existed.

Since then, I trust my characters to know what they are doing … Uhm … I try to trust them. There is one little green monster in my head who speaks up from time to time to tell me I don’t know what I’m doing.

Hell … But he is right.

What now?

Many writers at that point stop and begin to look how to fix things, maybe returning to plotting or even revising the whole thing. Me too. I sometimes still struggle not to begin brooding. Especially, when I have “too much time” – no deadline in sight.

But what else can you do, as you can’t deny it?

Instead of agonizing over the book, you might try another answer to your inner editor: Tell him you don’t need to know, because you have stuff at hand which will guide you through the novel. Your characters.

You don’t believe me? Then I have a story for you to illustrate.

During another NaNoWriMo I decided to write a historical, taking place in Naples during the revolt of 1647. At the beginning I had nothing more than my heroine, her brother and half a page about what might be the main conflict. I began to write, the story unfolded and the characters showed up. Everything was fine. But the most stunning thing happened after finishing the first draft: I discovered that the hero was one of the oldest noble families of France. And thus he had brought his own story with himself, based on the fact that in 1642 a Duke de Montmorency failed in a revolt against the French king and was executed. – The people in our stories know a lot more of themselves than we do.

In this case, being a historian, I obviously had found the name somewhere in my sub consciousness. All brooding and plotting would not have brought me there.

We can apply to our writing something psychoanalysis teaches: not to fight resistance, but to go along with it. When the inner editor shows up, let him growl, write on and have fun making stuff up.

With great success some friends have tested this same method to overcome writer’s block. Writer’s block means you dare not write, because nothing seems to be right or good enough. Now the trick is try to write as badly as you can. So you can happily tell your inner editor that you do it on purpose and he has to shut up.

By the way, you will be astonished how difficult it actually is to write really “bad”. I learned it working as a freelance journalist: Anything that I shipped was better than nothing. Whatever I sent, I had at least the chance to get paid. So I often began to write “last minute” without a clear idea in mind. Very rarely I had to revise.

Every writer is different, but maybe you are curious now: If you feel uncomfortable trying it with a “serious” project: November is not far away. You could free your calendar and subscribe to the next NaNoWriMo. You’ll have a lot of fun and perhaps kill that nasty inner editor forever.

© Annemarie Nikolaus

image002Annemarie Nikolaus is a German author and journalist. She writes in German. After twenty years in Italy she now lives in the heart of France.

So far, one of her short story collections has been published in English: ”Magical Stories”. She plans to publish the above mentioned Neapolitan historical in English, too.








Cindy here again!

Great post, Annemarie! I give myself permission to write crap the first time and go back and fix it later.

Happy writing!



Getting Dorothy in the house

Welcome to the GWN blog! Today we have Jim Cort talking about getting your characters to do what you want them to do.

Here’s Jim!

How can you get your characters to do what you want them to do? How can we get Dorothy in the farmhouse all alone, ready for the Cyclone Limited to whisk her away to Munchkin land?

This is an important question for any writer of fiction, and not always an easy one to answer. A common problem in novice’s stories is that characters behave in response to the needs of the story, instead of their own needs.  This rings false.  It hurts the story.  The characters seem less three-dimensional, and less deserving of our sympathy.

In the best fiction, motivation arises organically from the desires of the characters and the situations they find themselves in.  Character and plot unite seamlessly, and it never occurs to the reader to question why so-and-so did such-and-such.

How do you achieve this?

One way is to view your plot as a series of problems and solutions that form a chain of events.  Each of the characters has an overriding problem to solve or goal to accomplish, and the working out of these problems forms the structure of the story.  There are certain key scenes or events that figure prominently in this structure.  But there are also countless smaller events that lead up to and away from these key scenes.   As in real life, working out the big problems is a succession of smaller steps: small problems and small solutions.

But here’s the trick: In fiction (and in real life, too) the solutions are not perfect.  Inside each of the solutions lurks another problem that needs solving. Your characters are propelled through the plot by this rhythm of problem/solution/problem/solution. Their actions grow from their responses to the constant stream of problems.  Their motivations spring naturally from these cascading events in the story.

This idea is similar to the concept in law called the chain of causation.  Simply put, it says, “Event C would not have happened if Event B had not happened, and Event B would not have happened unless it was caused by Event A”.  It’s a clever method lawyers have devised to sue people for things they didn’t do. This chaining of cause and effect can provide a sturdy and dynamic framework for your story or novel.

The best way to explore this technique is to apply it to a book you’ve already read or a movie you’ve already seen.  Let’s get back to The Wizard of Oz.  We’ll use the movie instead of the book because it’s more widely known.

Let’s consider the first key event in the story: Dorothy’s house gets picked up by the cyclone with her inside, and dropped in the land of Oz on top of the Witch of the East. But the story doesn’t start there.  We first find out who Dorothy is, and where she lives, and what her situation is at home.  Ultimately, however, we have to get Dorothy in the house by herself so the cyclone can carry her off.  Here are the first few minutes of the movie, laid out in problem/solution format:

Problem:           Toto bites Miss Gulch

Solution:            Miss Gulch takes Toto away

Problem:           Toto escapes from Miss Gulch

Solution:            Dorothy runs away with Toto; meets Professor Marvel

Problem:           Professor Marvel tells Dorothy that Auntie Em is sick

Solution:            Dorothy heads back home

Problem:           There’s a cyclone

Solution:            Dorothy’s family goes in the storm cellar

Problem:           Dorothy arrives home; can’t find her family; can’t get in the storm cellar

Solution:            Dorothy seeks shelter in the house

Problem:           House flies away with Dorothy in it

Solution:            House lands in Oz on the witch


Granted, we can detect the heavy hand of coincidence in that cyclone that pops up just when it’s needed, but coincidence has its place, and a cyclone in Kansas is not all that unheard-of.  With that exception, the problem/solution structure works quite well.  Five links in the chain, and Dorothy is back in the house where we want her. We’re ready to set the stage for her main underlying motivation: her need to get home again. The characters react to the things and events around them, and not to the off-screen commands of some author-puppeteer.

It’s helpful to examine these events backwards, to better see the chain of causation:

7. Dorothy gets herself in a load of trouble by squishing the witch with her house, but she wouldn’t have been in the house when it flew away if she hadn’t sought shelter there.

6. She wouldn’t have gone in the house if she could have gotten into the storm cellar with the rest of her family, but she didn’t get back in time.

5. Dorothy was coming back because Professor Marvel told her Auntie Em was sick.

4. She would never have met Professor Marvel at all if she hadn’t run away.

3. Dorothy ran away to save Toto from Miss Gulch.

2. Toto needed saving because he had escaped from Miss Gulch.

1. Miss Gulch wouldn’t have taken Toto into custody if Toto hadn’t bit her.

And that’s where we came in.

Try this with a book or movie you know.  Try it with a story of your own.  Why does Blanche go back to the apartment, even though she knows Artie might be there? Why does Inspector Wainscoting ignore the obvious clue of the opera glasses in the punchbowl? Why would Marvin leave behind the golf clubs, but not the cribbage board? Let your characters find their own reasons for behaving as they do in what goes on around them.  Place them in a situation that will cause them to do what you want them to do. All it takes is a few problems and solutions.

And maybe a cyclone once in a while.


Jim Cort has been writing since God wore short pants. His novel The Lonely Impulse is available from Smashwords:

Cindy here again!

Thanks for a great post, Jim. I’m going to try this with my current WIP.

Happy writing.



Unleashing Your Muse (Free-Writing Act II- Part 1)

Welcome back to the GWN blog! We have Cyndi Faria back to talk about free-writing.

Here’s Cyndi!

Today, I’m talking about Unleashing Your Muse; Free-Writing Act II, Part 1. If you missed Unleashing Your Muse; Free-Writing Act I, you can read that Here. Like Act I, Act II, Part 1 makes up approximately 25% of the story. The object of free writing is to tease your muse into infusing each Act of the story with certain elements.

So let’s jump right back in where we left off:


Recall that Act I ended with the main character (MC) making a decision to leave the old world and enter into a new world. For this post, I’m going to use the romantic comedy 50 First Dates as an example. Our MC, Playboy Henry Roth, played by Adam Sandler, meets amnesiac Lucy Whitmore, played by Drew Barrymore. (Additional structure and theme blogs using this movie see Here and Here.):


From my last post, after reviewing Act I, go back to your free write and make sure to include elements that are character and story specific. As an example, below I’ve used 50 First Dates:


  • Character Arc (Enneagram Here): Shown in Act I: Henry is a playboy/biologist who’s sworn off committed relationships. By the end of Act II Part 1: Henry sees how his flaw is holding him back from obtaining his external goal. Act II, Part 2: Henry must let go of the belief that his value is dependent of the positive regard of others to discover his true identity and his own heart’s desire. Act III: Henry proves change in self during climax and becomes self-accepting, genuine, and benevolent.
  • The Thematic Statement (TS): In Act I and around the 5% mark, the reader must understand the story’s theme. In 50 First Dates, Henry believes: Commitment kills adventure, which kills happiness. Because of the MC’s backstory, the TS is the lie he’s told himself and uses to gauge his actions. It’s up to the author to either prove the TS true or false by the end of Act III. Since this specific story is a romance instead of a tragedy, the TS is proved False.
  • The Story Question (SQ): At the end of Act I, around 25% of the story, readers should be able to understand the story direction in the form of a question. In 50 First Dates—Will a playboy embrace commitment and find adventure and love?


Free-Write: What goes into Act II, Part 1?


(Note: If you can’t wrap your mind around this information now, that’s okay. Just commit the bulleted items to memory and unleash your muse.)


  • Meet New Players, Allies. Some Old Allies Remain: In 50 First Dates, we meet Lucy’s father and brother. Lucy’s father is the voice of reality and Lucy’s backstory narrator, while Lucy’s brother pretends to be what he is not—this is Henry’s mirror image (only a little goofier). Seeing the ridiculousness of pretending what Lucy’s brother is not, Henry slowly lets go of the playboy charade and learns to embrace who he is, what he wants, and his true feelings to get the girl and his external goal by the end of Act III. Henry’s old world friend adds humor and is the voice of truth and theme.
  • Both the hero and heroine share their external goals. Henry wants to study walruses in Alaska (adventure). Lucy wants to teach art.
  • Set up 3 attempts to reach the external goal, but have the MC fail due to their character flaw and sparse villain interaction (Because of Henry’s backstory—getting his heart broken in college—he’s sworn off committed relationships, even committing to repairing his yacht so he can go to Alaska. When he finds himself falling for Lucy—who cannot commit for longer than a single day—he uses his strength/flaw (sense of humor) to keep their relationship light and fun, an adventure, while keeping his distance—still not fully committing. Yet Henry’s humor in Lucy’s complicated world is exactly what she finds attractive and loveable. So she’s falling for him and he’s pushing back while unconsciously falling for her.
  • As we near the midpoint of the story, the villains—Lucy’s amnesia and women tourists—challenge Henry. In order to keep the girl he’s fallen in love with, he forgoes adventure with the other women and considers a life of quasi-happiness with Lucy.
  • Sexual/emotional connection to love interest, but can’t get together because of differences, or if they do get together more problems arise. In 50 First Dates, Henry begins each day by getting Lucy to fall in love with him all over again. At first, this is a fun adventure for Henry and a distraction to the harsh reality of sharing a life with her and her disability. However, he starts to see that, in a way, commitment can be adventurous and even fun. Henry decides that exchanging his carefree-playboy lifestyle for a committed and loving relationship with Lucy is worth giving up his dream of studying walruses in Alaska.
  • Midpoint ends in a Win or a Loss for the MC and is opposite of the all is lost moment near the end of Act II, Part II (Future post September 9, 2013). This is the POINT OF NO RETURN for the MC. Using 50 First Dates and ending in a win, Henry chooses to leave his flaw (fear of commitment) behind, asks Lucy to marry him, and is rewarded with sex.


 I hope you’ll use these bullet point items to unleash your muse on Act II, Part 1. This can be a combination of sentences, thoughts, dialogue, or whatever pops into your mind. There are no rules.


I usually write 3-5 pages, single-spaced. Sometimes information that belongs in Act I or other acts creeps in. That’s okay—just paste the information where it belongs or start a new section titled Other Acts.


Next Unleashing Your Muse post, I’ll list what belongs in Act II, Part 2. See you here September 9, 2013.


Happy Writing, Cyndi Faria

Visit Cyndi’s Website:

Visit Cyndi on Amazon: Cyndi’s Amazon Author Page

About the Author:

“Cyndi Faria writes with passion and her stories touch the heart.”

—Virna DePaul, Bestselling Author


Author Photo B-W

Cyndi Faria is an engineer turned romance writer whose craving for structure is satisfied by plotting emotional and cozy paranormal romance stories about Native American folklore, cursed spirits, lost souls, harbingers, and even a haunted coastal town. If you love a tale with courageous heroes and heroines, where their unconditional love for each other gives them strength to defeat their inner demons, Cyndi Faria invites you to enter the pages of her stories.






Cindy here again!

Thanks for being here, Cyndi. Great information as always!


Welcome to the start of another week at the GWN blog! Today we have Jim Cort talking about the subjunctive mood.

Here’s Jim!

Verbs, in addition to number and tense, also have mood. Mood is the trickiest aspect of verbs.  The mood our verbs are in nearly all the time is the indicative mood.  They indicate; they make a statement; they tell the truth about something.

But it’s also possible to say something that is not true.  We can wish that things were other than they are.  We can suggest that things be changed. We can hope they would be. This is the business of the subjunctive mood.

The subjunctive is kind of a stealth construction.  Most of the time it looks like the indicative. The present form is the same as the regular unadorned form of the verb.  This means you’ll notice it only in the third person singular (he, she, it), which has no final –s.  You’ll also see it in the verb be, which has the form be instead of am, is, and are. The past subjunctive is the same as the past tense except once again for be, which uses were for all persons.

So, how does this work?  Here are some examples: If I were ten years younger…  We propose the mayor remain in office. It’s essential that the Army do its part. If this boulder weren’t here, we could pass by.

All of these sentences express thoughts contrary to reality.  They are wishes; they are proposals; they are conditions or possibilities. The use of the subjunctive “defuses” the statements.  They are not as definite as indicative statements.

You’ll find the subjunctive used after verbs like:

  • to advise
  • to ask
  • to command
  • to demand
  • to desire
  • to insist
  • to propose
  • to recommend
  • to request
  • to suggest
  • to urge

or after phrases like:

  • It is best (that)
  • It is crucial (that)
  • It is desirable (that)
  • It is essential (that)
  • It is imperative (that)
  • It is important (that)
  • It is recommended (that)
  • It is urgent (that)
  • It is vital (that)
  • It is a good idea (that)
  • It is a bad idea (that)

Having said all this, there’s one more thing I need to say. Just about nobody uses the subjunctive in English any more.  Most grammar experts agree that it’s little used and hardly missed. H. W. Fowler, the Great Guru of Grammar, called it “moribund” in 1926, and it hasn’t gotten any livelier since.

Most English speakers aren’t even aware there is such a thing as the subjunctive until they study languages like German or French or Spanish, where it plays a more active role.  Interestingly enough, expressions in the subjunctive are commonly used today:

  • Be that as it may
  • God bless you
  • Long live the king
  • So be it
  • If it please the court…

Most people think of these expressions as old fashioned, not subjunctive.  And so, of course, they are.

What does all of this mean to you?  Nowadays, subjunctive constructions have largely been replaced with “should” or “would” constructions: Instead of We propose the mayor remain in office,the trend is We propose the mayor should remain in office.  Sometimes no helping verb is used.  If you write If I was ten years younger…, the Grammar Police won’t come knocking on your door. Chances are no one will notice at all

Of course there are still grammar sourpusses who insist on If I were…  These folks are in the minority.  The language belongs to the people, and the people have decided that subjunctive is no longer useful.  Don’t be thrown if you see it someplace, but don’t be bullied into using it yourself if you don’t want to.

The moral of the story is: if you use the subjunctive according to the guidelines here, you won’t be wrong.  And if you choose not to use the subjunctive, you won’t be wrong.

It’s a win-win situation.  How often do you find one of those?

Cindy here again!

Thanks for being here, Jim.  Thanks for the great information!

Happy writing!



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