Tag Archives: American dream

Quick Editorial Tips III

Photo by Angie Ledbetter

“Was” and “Were”

Y’all have heard about passive voice, but you are still using it. Stop that horse and dismount!

Here is one simple problem I see, over and over –

“Kathryn and Angie were eating gumbo in Baton Rouge.”

Try instead, “Kathryn and Angie ate gumbo in Baton Rouge.”

“Tracy was standing next to her horse.”

Photo courtesy Tracy Hinkel

Try instead, “Tracy stood next to her horse.”

“The writers were attacking the editor.”

Try instead, “The writers attacked the editor.”

Seemed, appeared (also show, don’t tell)

Tonia Marie seemed nervous. Blah. Shawn appeared bored. Blech.

Don’t use seemed or appeared or any similar wishy-washy words. Don’t tell us a character “seemed upset,” or “appeared bored” – show us how she is upset or how she is bored.

Show us the beads of sweat on her brow, her chewing on her bottom lip, her clenching fists.

Show us her slouchy posture in the chair, her wandering or rolling eyes, her picking at her nails.

Boring dialog vs. character-driven dialog

I recently edited J. J. Brown’s American Dream. All of J.J.’s characters have a personality that translated into the dialog.

One of J.J.’s characters is a Frenchman, and his English dialog has a French flair. He would often say, “Oui?” or “Yes?” or “No?” at the end of his bits of dialog.

Do you work on giving each character a distinctive voice?

A character clears his throat before speaking

A character has a Southern accent or a Jersey accent

A character uses a lot of similes or clichés

A character uses no contractions

A character quotes the Bible

Number of words in a sentence

All your sentences have the same number of words. There is no variety in your novel’s sentence structure. I am getting bored by your mundane sentence structure. I beg you to give me some sentence variety.

All the sentences in the above paragraph have the same number of words. Boring, right? Though it is never exactly like this in the projects I edit and proofread, some sentence structure is hauntingly similar.

Giddy up! Some sentences go directly to the barn door. Other sentences take a wandering path around the side of the barn, meander behind the barn, and come out at the corral.

Photo by Jink Willis

See also Quick Editorial Tips I and Quick Editorial Tips II.

Photos courtesy of Angie Ledbetter, Tracy Hinkel, and Jink Willis.

Karen and son Kenton

Karen S. Elliott was raised by a mother who wanted to be an English teacher and who worked for Merriam-Webster as a proofreader and an aunt who could complete the Sunday New York Times crossword in a day. Their favorite expression was, “Look it up!” Karen is an editor and proofreader, blogger, and writer. Her short stories have been featured in The Rose & Thorn Journal, Every Child is Entitled to Innocence anthology, Valley Living Magazine, BewilderingStories.com, and WritingRaw.com.


Filed under Editing & Proofreading, Quick Editing Tips

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Blank Slates, by Vicki V. Lucas

It doesn’t surprise me that the United States of America is the place where self-publishing exploded for self-publishing contains the same ideals the founding fathers had on July 4th, 1776. On that momentous day, they created a place where people could change their destiny whether as individuals or corporately. All that is needed is motivation, creativity, and determination. Dr. Ed Feulner writes in The American Spirit,

“What really makes Americans fundamentally different is that for every American, life starts off as a blank slate.”

My great-grandparents seized their chance to fill the blank slate when they left all they had in Missouri to go west with their horses and wagons. Was it easy? Nope. In the middle of the prairies, they woke to find their horses gone. They had no one to stop by, no town to walk to, and no one to come rescue them. But a stranger rode up. Knowing the area, he led them to the horses. The people who had stolen the horses agreed to let my great-great grandparents have them if the horses came when they called. The horses came. By the way, the stranger’s name was Kit Carson. My great-grandparents didn’t make it rich in the west, but they filled their slate in their own way with amazing adventures, friends, and family.

My grandpa also rewrote his life. Always saddened at being born too late for the pioneer days, he retired early and settled in Alaska on a lake at the base of Mt. McKinley. He carried in the supplies, cut down trees, and built a log cabin. (Need I remind you he was in his fifties?) There were no roads. He could get there by walking, flying, or snowmobiling. After fifteen years, my grandpa suffered through several major heart attacks. He had to leave the wilderness and return to civilization. He entertained me for years by telling me of the adventures he had.

This pioneering, independent spirit of mine has been passed down from great-grandparents to me. They taught me that life isn’t about following the crowd. It’s about knowing what you want to do and seizing it, no matter what it costs or how long it takes. Walk two thousand miles to get there? Go hunting in negative thirty degree weather? Yes. But look at the joy from the obedience of the horses. The awe of Northern Lights filling the sky with vibrant colors. Life is only a grey shadow if it is not filled with great adventures.

While self-publishing seems a lot less tame than what my forefathers endured, I embrace it with all the American spirit handed down to me by previous generations. Self-publishing gives me the liberty to rewrite my life. I am not bound by restrictions as I once was. Each day, I am free to choose what needs to be done. And unlike many other authors, I have freedom of writing. I don’t have anyone who takes control of my stories. No one says to change the characters’ names or the theme of the book. No one says that people don’t buy certain kinds of books anymore, so write something different.

The American dream has given us the chance to chart our own lives, so does self-publishing. It doesn’t matter if you’ve written for years or days – you can start where you are. If something doesn’t work for you, you can change your direction or try something completely different. Your life is yours.

It can be lonely, difficult, and overwhelming. Some days, I feel like I’m wandering in a giant prairie, never seeing the end, and then my horses are stolen. But I know I’ll overcome, just as my family did before me. I will succeed because I will persist.

Does your destiny need to be changed? Not feeling free? Are chains holding you down? Perhaps it’s time to ignite the American Spirit within you given so long ago on July 4th, 1776 and pursue your life, liberty and happiness. Wipe your slate clean and join me in the freedom of self-publishing. There’s plenty of room out here for you!


Vicki V. Lucas

I have always struggled with the question “What are you going to be when you grow up?” I received my Bachelor’s in Psychology…only to find myself with no desire to work in that field. I switched careers to Teaching English as a Second Language and obtained a Master’s from Seattle Pacific University. Thankfully, I found joy in the classroom. Teaching at universities and community colleges gave me eleven years of incredible experiences, remarkable coworkers, and unforgettable friends from many different countries. However, the distant mountains began to call, and I responded, not knowing where I was going or what my purpose was. After a year and a half of traveling through the quiet places that are left in the world, I settled in Montana with my husband and my dog. I have begun to write the stories I heard on the wind.

Connect with Vicki on her webpage, Facebook, Twitter, and on her blog.


Filed under Guest Writers & Bloggers, Publishing