Because I write in two genres—traditional mystery and paranormal romance—I’ve been reading a LOT of genre fiction over the last few years and I see some scary trends.
One of them is what I call verbalization: Taking perfectly good nouns and turning them into not so good verbs. So many of these come from the jargon that various careers develop.
Two of the ones that make my jaw ache are exit and task.
“He exited…” No, he “left”, he “went out” he “walked away.” An exit is a freeway ramp…unless it’s a stage direction.
“She tasked me with…” No, “She gave me a task,” “I performed my task” “She told me (or asked me) to do…”
I know that English is a constantly evolving language, but let’s not slip into the trap of using these buzzwords. There are more than a million words in English today…don’t forget to use those good old Anglo-Saxon and Norman French words that gave birth to English as such a vibrant language.
And please, study up on verb tenses. The past tense of “sink” is not “sunk.” It’s “sank.” As in “She sank to her knees in grief.”
One popular writer will use this and it’s as though the dam bursts…inaccurate words escaping everywhere!
The other frightening trend is lack of basic research.
I read a book by a NYTimes best seller (romantic suspense) and the author talked about the “1859 Gold Rush.” The author supposedly lived in Northern California. How could s/he not know it was 1849?
I will not read any more books by this author since s/he was too lazy to look up one crucial fact.
Most recently, I read another romantic suspense where the author had one character in the epilogue say “well, the company is community property.”
The entire tension and plot of the book hinged on an inheritance of a company from a grandfather. This was sole and separate property and would not become community property simply because of a marriage.
I write fiction, but I care enough about my readers to make sure basic information is correct and accurate, to use as many action verbs as I can, to not write jargon because it’s fast and easy. I’m asking my readers to come into my made-up worlds and devote a few hours to my stories—I owe it to them not to use false facts.
Michele Drier was born in Santa Cruz and is a fifth generation Californian. She’s lived and worked all over the state, calling both Southern and Northern California home. During her career in journalism—as a reporter and editor at daily newspapers—she won awards for producing investigative series.
SNAP: All That Jazz, Book Eight of The Kandesky Vampire Chronicles, was awarded second place by the Paranormal Romance Guild’s reviewers for best paranormal vampire book of 2014. The Kandesky Vampire Chronicles also won for best series in 2014. The Kandesky Vampire Chronicles include SNAP: The World Unfolds, SNAP: New Talent, Plague: A Love Story, DANUBE: A Tale of Murder, SNAP: Love for Blood, SNAP: Happily Ever After?, SNAP: White Night and SNAP: All That Jazz. SNAP: I, Vampire, Book Nine in the Kandesky Vampire Chronicles is scheduled for publication early 2015.
She also writes the Amy Hobbes Newspaper mysteries, Edited for Death and Labeled for Death. A third book, Delta for Death, is coming in 2015.
5 Tips for Writing a Good Article or Blog Post by Lourdes Venard
With social media, blogs, author newsletters, online news sites, and more, there’s an overabundance of items to read. If you’re like me, you’re never able to read it all. Some days, I can barely keep up with my email!
So how do you make your item stand out? I’ve been in the newspaper business for 30 years, and I’m editor of First Draft, the newsletter for the Sisters in Crime Guppy chapter. Below are five tips I’ve learned through the years and which you can use, whether you are writing for a blog, a newsletter, or even a Facebook post.
1) Give a promise of advice. Did you notice the title for this article? I purposely picked five points I wanted to touch upon. Telling readers that you are giving them five pointers (or any specific number) is one way to grab the busy reader’s attention. I learned this technique from a marketing professional, but as I thought about it, it’s really a time-honored way of getting people to pay attention. Moses, after all, came down the mountain with 10 very specific commandments.
2) Grab them with your first sentence. This is a lesson from Journalism 101. Journalists call their first sentences the lede, and the idea is to either impart the most important information or have something that will hook the reader. A good lede is golden. One of my favorite crime reporters (who became a crime fiction author) is Edna Buchanan, who wrote for The Miami Herald. She was known for her offbeat ledes, such as the one that topped a story about a drunk ex-con who wanted his food immediately and got into a fight in a Church’s fried-chicken outlet while still at the counter. He was shot and killed by a security guard. Her lede: “Gary Robinson died hungry.”
3) Write with authority and write what you know. This is one of the first lessons that I learned as a young journalist. Obviously, you need to have all the facts to back up your authority. Once you do, convey to the reader that you know your stuff. Comb your article for “probably,” “maybe,” “supposedly,” and other milquetoast words. The “write what you know” part comes before the “authority.” A journalist does a lot of reporting, more than what goes into the final product. If you are writing about a new subject, research, research, and research. Don’t make assumptions, and get all your facts. Then write as you know your subject—which you should, at this point.
4) Keep it short. More is not necessarily better. As an editor, one of the things I do most often is trim. Remember, readers don’t have unlimited time. If you have a long article or blog post, they may never reach the end. Strunk and White’s The Element of Style exhorts writers to “omit needless words.” This book is one of the slimmest volumes ever written on grammar and good writing, yet it is a classic. The authors certainly took their own advice.
5) Be genuine. There’s a place for blatant self-promotion, but if that’s all you ever do on the Internet, people will notice—and you will get a reputation. Be yourself, share as much about yourself as you are comfortable, and be social—because that’s the idea behind social media, right? I admit, as an introvert, I sometimes struggle with social media. I like posting inspirational sayings on my business Facebook page, but find that people really connect with the personal—photos of my cat (very popular!), the deer in our yard, my family, and food I’ve cooked. People also like personal, self-effacing stories. When a writer whose books I read turns out to be funny, passionate, or offbeat online, I love her all the more—and she doesn’t need to tell me for the 20th time that her new book is out. Believe me, if I like her, I’ll make a point to seek out her newest books.
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Lourdes Venard has worked at major American newspapers, including The Miami Herald, Chicago Tribune, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and Newsday. She is also a freelance book editor, editing both fiction and nonfiction. Her work as a freelance editor spurred her to write Publishing for Beginners: What First-Time Authors Need to Know, an e-book available at Amazon.com