They Are What They Are



A cliché is a trite expression, often a figure of speech, whose effectiveness has been worn out through overuse and excessive familiarity.

Some examples are: “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater; leave no stone unturned, live and learn, what goes around comes around, at the end of my rope, sleep like a log,” and so on. 

There are thousands of them. We are told that they have been used too often and that, as authors, we should guard against including them in our books.

I agree to a certain extent. But, here is why I still use some—on purpose: I don’t like to tell the reader flat out what year it is. Instead, I like the reader to use the little clues I drop here and there, in order to figure it out for themselves. 

It’s just like certain time periods might use “sneakers” instead of “tennies or tennis shoes” or characters eat a breakfast of “Cheerios” instead of “Trix”, or buy a brand of cigarettes that were once popular, but no longer are sold in stores.

When I was in elementary school, we used expressions such as “Oh, fudge!” Or “Super.” But kids now say “awesome” and “epic.” Using them in writing gives authors subtle ways to tell the reader what time period the book is portraying.

Current cliches that will someday have passed their usefulness and become expressions that we will be told not to use, might be: “that being said, think outside the box, whatever, it is what it is, and my bad.” They will signify a period of time in history.

So, along with how the characters dress and the kind of cars they drive, I am suggesting to you that a sparse use of cliches can, in fact, be of help to readers.  And, I also think we shouldn’t beat ourselves up if we unintentionally include one or two in our writing. (I got called on the use of the expression “pass the time,” recently.”)

My thinking on that?

Really?  (Oops!)

Before I close, I want to share something new I just found. It is Google Ngrams Viewer. It lets you track the use of phrases through their collection of scanned books. You might want to check it out!


Online Editing, Part II





Last week, I introduced you to the AUTOCRIT online editing program. I hope you have had a chance to try it out for yourself and see how it might enhance your writing.

This week, I used a free trial on PROWRITINGAID. I found that it included many of the same features as Autocrit, but truthfully I didn’t find it to be as user-friendly, nor could I find a HELP button or figure out how to SAVE my material. (I am sure these things exist, so if you take a look at it, please share these two vital pieces of information with me…)

ProWritingAid offers a 14-Day free trial and I don’t want to fail to mention that the price—only $40 per year—is far less expensive than Autocrit.

I would suggest you opt for a free trial for both of these programs and determine for yourself which meets your needs and budget. Whichever one you choose, it will be a good addition to your writing arsenal. If you’ve been writing for less than five years, using one of these is essential. If you have been writing for longer than that, I still think you will find it cuts your self-editing time at least in half. You can devote the time you save toward the creative side of writing!!! 

Online Editing Programs



Today’s blog is short and sweet—Part 1 of a two-part series on Online Editing Programs.

A couple of weeks ago, a writer-friend told me about an online manuscript editing tool, AUTOCRIT, that automates the most tedious editing tasks for him. 

It has helped him in the areas of dialogue, excessive use of adverbs, identifying cliches, repetitious words/phrases, pacing of sentences and paragraphs, and so on. The software works with the internet browser to give summary reports, overviews, and suggestions. 

A writer uploads their work into AUTOCRIT, polishes it in more than 20 areas based on his designated genre. When satisfied with the result, the revised copy is then exported back into the original writing program (say, WORD, for example).

I signed up for a 7-Day-Free trial. I found AUTOCRIT to be easy to understand and use. It really helped me see things I was doing—and correct them—while writing. I liked having my chapter look and sound great BEFORE sending it on to a LIVE editor.

To be sure, this isn’t the only online editing program available. So, before I commit to AutoCrit’s reasonable monthly fee, I have another to check out.

I will post results/findings on it next week.

If you are like me, you want your finished book to be the best it can be. So, while you are waiting on my next blog post, you may want to check out AUTOCRIT for yourself.  

These Are Addicting




Here are little gems I could hardly wait to share with you. I found them quite by accident as I looked online for information on book titles.

These are Title Generators. Yep. Choose your genre and have fun using these. Some titles may end up sounding ridiculous, but some are edgy and even intriguing.

They are fun to play around with, but be careful. Before you know it, they will have stolen your entire afternoon!

Are Book Titles Copyrighted?



Although book titles are not copyrighted (and thus give you the right to use any one you wish, including those that may have already been used multiple times), you may not want to use a familiar title in order to avoid confusion by readers. However, more and more, authors are using portions of well-known titles in order to attract consumers. 

Consider the following:

Gone Girl.

Girl from the Train.

Pride and Prejudice.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret.

Are You There, Vodka? It’s me, Chelsea.

Catcher in the Rye.

Catcher in the Box.

Notice Anything?

These authors have taken part of the title of well-known books and reworded them for use in their own titles.


Because books that have sold well, have been typed in searches many times and have been marketed well, almost become household words.

In other words, they are FAMILIAR—both to readers and the infamous “web-crawlers.”

Whether you choose a title for your book with the words Girl or Zombies in in it, or you copy the complete title of a well-known book and simply change a word or two, chances are your book will come up in more Google searches, etc.

This is smart—if your book is in the same genre and basically on the same subject.

You are free to use these techniques to get a little more exposure for your books. A word of wisdom, though: don’t go trying to rewrite the original book—plagiarism, or even the hint of it—will get you in a lot of trouble. Here, we are simply talking about book TITLES.

More intriguing information about book titles next week…

Reel Them In



Contrary to popular opinion that a book’s cover, title, and back cover blurb are all-powerful in convincing a consumer to buy your book, may I suggest that there just may be something almost as powerful that some of us have been overlooking?

I say “may” because I have not tried this—yet. But, it IS intriguing. 

Although not necessary, chapter titles present another chance to reel the reader in, and once the purchase is made, they may keep your audience turning pages well past midnight.

First, though, I’d like to mention the positive roles that chapter titles can play for the author. That’s right. Chapter titles can help you, the author, to focus on the mission/purpose of each chapter while you are writing, making sure that each one aligns with the story’s premise.

Secondly, you can use chapter titles to help build the cause and effect relationship between the preceding chapter and the next.

Thirdly, creating chapter titles serves to attract your audience. For instance, Annie Proulx’s maritime stories use them very cleverly. Some of them are: “A Rolling Hitch,” “Strangle Knot,” and “Love Knot.” 

I read a book once, entitled “A Day in the Life of…” Each chapter—yes, all 24—were the hours on a clock, advancing from midnight forward throughout the entire day. Another book, I remember, used song titles.

If you are halfway through the writing of your book, using chapter titles might not benefit your writing. However, if you are just beginning to write and could use extra help in aligning your chapters with your story’s premise, you may want to consider using chapter titles.

Creating chapter titles may be a fun way to add interest and organization to your own writing, while attracting readers that appreciate the extra effort.

When the Timing is Right



Over the past few years, we have talked about HOW to write, discussing “rules,” trends, methods, etc. We have talked about WHERE to write to be most productive. We have even touched on WHY we write, WHO is called to write, WHAT topics we might write about, WHEN the optimum time of day to write might be.

We have covered a lot of ground.

Although we may have skirted around it a couple of times, at no time do I think we’ve talked about the timeliness of addressing certain topics.

In fact, there are some things that are best if left unsaid. 

While I may feel that I have valid thoughts to share on a number of subjects. (And, believe me, I DO believe in freedom of speech. This is NOT about that.) And even though I might even feel that some people might profit from hearing what I have to say—that some might even welcome my opinions or insight—the timing isn’t always “right.”

For example, an acquaintance of mine passed away this past year. She died from an overdose of prescription medications. Although I had some strong feelings about this subject, the timing would not have been good, if I had shared my thoughts when the minister asked those attending the memorial to come up to the microphone and speak.

Nor, did I feel it appropriate to get on Facebook and articulate my position…

Sometimes, feelings are just too raw, or the unfortunate incident still too fresh in the minds of the audience. Writers need to be mindful of the timing of some of their comments and consider how readers might be affected.

If you write BOOKS, a current event might have lost some of its painful aspects by the time a manuscript has been written, edited, and published. Ideas that were once raw and perhaps not completely thought out, may profit from this lapse of time. They may have germinated…and GROWN into more polished, fruitful, and expanded truths that will benefit a vast audience of readers. In some cases, they may even become movies or get adopted by a non-profit.

The question, then, is not, “Will you say it?”

It is, “When will you say it?”

Your answer may well be the difference between being insensitive and rude or acting as a thought-provoking visionary…a catalyst for change.