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Tag: writing craft

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Show and Tell, OCCRWA’s May Online Class with Shannon Donnelly

April 27, 2014 by in category Blogs tagged as , ,

Shannon Donnelly is with us today to talk about her upcoming OCCRWA online class, Show and Tell, an Interactive Workshop. Take it away, Shannon!

Thanks Alina. We’ve all heard “show, don’t tell” and there is value in that advice. If all you do is tell a story, how does the reader participate with his or her imagination? However, a book is not a movie. While a movie requires everything to be shown (or an often awkward voice-over to be added if it’s not showing enough), a book has the luxury of being able to use narrative. And that’s where I usually get folks who are utterly confused.

Narrative seems to have gone out of fashion. It doesn’t seem to be taught, and no one seems to really get what it is. So let’s make it easy.

Merriam-Webster gives us the root for narrative/narrating as the “Latin narratus,past participle of narrare, from Latin gnarus knowing; akin to Latin gnoscere, noscere to know.”

This means it’s basically the author telling the reader the information the author knows, which the reader also needs to know. And now, you ask, what does the reader need to know, and when does the reader need it, and how much does the reader need. This is where narrative becomes an art.

This means any writer of fiction needs not only showing but telling as well. What’s the secret in knowing when to show and when to tell? This is something I’ll be covering in the May workshop, but here are a few tips:


– Where are we? (Place and world – the reader needs to be placed into the scene, otherwise it’s confusing to the reader. Do not throw your readers into the deep end without giving them some help.)

– When are we? (What’s the era, the time of the year, the month, the day, the hour? We need everything that helps the reader settle into the scene as if this moment in time really exists.)

– Who is here?(An introduction to the characters, particularly to the main characters for that scene, and for the story.)

– Why are we were? (This doesn’t have to be greatly detailed information, but you need enough details to make a reader care. Think of it this way—too little and you starve the reader’s imagination; too much and the reader quickly fills up and drops the book down.)

All this needs to be woven together, stitched in with careful threads, not dumped on the reader in big clumps. Or, to put it another way, feed the reader your telling—your narrative—with a teaspoon, not a soup bowl.


– Your characters in action—scenes are always stronger when you show a character expressing emotion with physical reactions.

– The world through a character’s senses—we all lean too much on sights and showing what a character sees, but go beyond this to show smells, tastes, touches, and sounds. Use all a character’s senses to not only make the world more vivid for the reader but to also show what your character notices.

– Your character’s emotions through words. Dialogue should never just be there to advance the plot or you end up with a character that seems stiff on the page. Just as you want to show emotions through actions, you also want to show emotion through words—this includes what someone avoids talking about, too.

Showing and telling do not have to be absolutes; mix show, use more show than tell, or use more tell than show; part of the choice is your style, and part is the effect you want to have on the reader.
Alina again here.
Thanks Shannon for giving us a taste of your upcoming lessons. This four-week class starts May 12, 2014 and registration is now open here.   
About Shannon Donnelly:
Shannon Donnelly’s writing has won numerous awards, including a RITA nomination for Best Regency, the Grand Prize in the “Minute Maid Sensational Romance Writer” contest, judged by Nora Roberts, RWA’s Golden Heart, and others. Her writing has repeatedly earned 4½ Star Top Pick reviews from Romantic Times magazine, as well as praise from Booklist and other reviewers, who note: “simply superb”…”wonderfully uplifting”….and “beautifully written.”

Her Regency Historical Romance, Paths of Desire, can be found as an ebooks on Kindle, Nook and at Smashwords, along with her Regency romances.

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Ten Things NEVER TO DO When Writing a Book

April 16, 2014 by in category Blogs tagged as
10. Never Stop Reading: After a long day of reading your own work the last thing you want to do is pick up someone else’s, but do it! You will stay motivated and learn something, too.
9. Never Rely on Inspiration: The best moments in writing a book come when inspiration finds you working. Sit down, get to work, and inspiration will come calling.
8. Never Neglect Genre: It’s tempting to walk in between genres. What would be better than a science fiction, erotic, mystery right? But remember, if you want to find passionate and engaged readers, you should find the genre that you want to write and stick with it.
7. Never Get Bored: If you’re bored writing your book, chances are that your readers will be bored reading it. If you find yourself becoming bored, or your main character is skating through the plot with ease, throw some roadblocks in the way. Conflict moves stories.
6. Never Rely on Pretty People: Men don’t always have to be fearless and women don’t always have to be sexy. Your readers will spend a lot of time with your characters so make sure there is something going on in their heads and their hearts. Readers love characters for their imperfections and their shortcomings just as much as their looks.
5. Never Lose the Through Line:Remember what story you’re writing. Be careful of veering off the path because that’s the surest way to lose your readers.
4. Never Be Afraid to Cut: Cut close to the bone. Slice away. Make the tough choices even if it means taking out things you really love. They may be great- maybe just not great that book. Know the difference.
3. Never Throw in the Towel: Too many people have unfinished books floating around on their hard drives. The easiest thing in the world is starting a book; the hardest thing is finishing one. 

2. Never Let your Characters Off Easy:   Just because you love your characters doesn’t mean you have to go easy on them. A reader wants to see characters struggle and sometimes fail. Give them a goal to work towards, make it hard to get, and you can’t go wrong.
1. Never Beat Yourself Up: The book isn’t shaping up the way you wanted it to? Someone read a chapter and didn’t care for it? Feel like jumping off a cliff? That’s fine. Those days happen. Every day that you’re thinking, “woe is me,” is another day that you could be spent finishing a chapter or polishing a plot point. You can spend your time beating yourself up, or beating your characters up. I do a lot of the former but I am trying to stop.
Happy Writing.
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June 15, 2012 by in category Blogs tagged as , , ,

I love to read. Books, newspapers, magazines and food labels are all on my TBR list. Horror has been in the mix with popular authors like Stephen King and Dean Koontz, but I didn’t know what a great horror read was until I read a short story collection by Anoynmous-9 (aka Elaine Ash) presented under the umbrella title of Hard Bite and Other Short Stories. Here was horror at its finest: edgy, scary, fascinating, the stuff bad dreams are made of.

While I celebrated the book, I also lamented that this author might never be embraced by the mainstream despite her talent. Why? Because Anyonymous-9 is what I call an X-treme novelist – a writer who does not poke at parameters, but boldly shreds them. Think Tom Wolfe’s Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and his brand of hysterical realism. Hunter S. Thompson and Fear And Loathing in Las Vegas. My favorite, Anthony Burgess’ Clockwork Orange. The X-treme novelist is often ignored, ridiculed, or, even worse, published only to languish in a no-man’s land of genreless books.

Yet when a reader discovers them – or they become bestsellers in spite of the system – there is a sense of uncovering a jewel. They keep us thinking and questioning and curious about what they will come up with next. If their work is done well, their sense of time and place, characterization and plot will challenge the reader in a way traditional novels never do; if crafted poorly, their work is merely sensationalism without direction.  The challenge for the X-treme novelist is to direct themselves without editorial help or an agent cheerleader because their vision is uniquely their own.
Some of my favorite, recently-read indie works by  those I consider X-treme novelists include :
Hard Bite & Other Stories* by Anonymous-9: A viscious, bloody, twisted tale that left me fascinated because of the author’s complete faith in the vision of her characters and their motivation. I applaud the sheer inventiveness of the world she created.
Johnny Oopsby Arthur Levine: A fanciful tale of a teenager who believes himself to be a prophet. It is a sexual, angst filled romp that is told with an unapologetic abandon and marvelous style.
Detroit Daze by Conrad Johnson**: A hard, brutal, desperate tale of a teenager’s life in Detroit that seems to lead to the same nowhere the teenager believes is his destiny.  Johnson’s deft communication of humanity within this harsh world, his use of music lyrics, is like poetic graffiti.
The Santa Shop by Tim Greaton: An unsettling, emotionally wrenching story that has little to do with jingle bells and everything to do with despair, self recrimination, and redemption. It is so well written I was actually angry that the book was not what I assumed it would be and then grateful that it was not.
X-treme authors are not pioneers; they are explorers. They are not dreamers; they are trippers.  X-treme novelists are vital to the creative process. It is usually through their efforts that new genres are born and fashions are created. Sometimes we just forget those fashions began with writers willing to put themselves on the line with something new, fresh, and often delightedly unsettling.  If you are one, embrace what you do because there are readers like me who will appreciate it and writers (like me) who will be inspired by it.
*Also look for Hard Bite the Novel.

**Conrad Johnson is the pseudonym for John Byk. Check out his live contemporary author interviews on 2012 Writers Alive

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OCC/RWA May Online Class Information

April 26, 2012 by in category Blogs tagged as , , , ,

May 14 – June 10, 2012

Passive Writing: Do You Really Want to
Send Your Reader into a Coma?

with MM Pollard

About the Class:

This workshop focuses on passive voice, nominalizations, vague -ing words, and weak verbs. These problem areas spell rejection because they rob your writing of energy and clarity. MM Pollard, English teacher extraordinaire, will show you how to fix these fatal errors BEFORE you send your manuscript to an agent or editor.

During this 4-week session, students will receive 12 lessons with practical homework assignments and personal feedback. For each topic, MM will define the problem and the provide techniques for identifying, evaluating and correcting your own work.

And, for those who post all the homework when it’s due, MM Pollard will line edit 1,000 words of their writing for all things English. (She does not edit for story elements like character development or point of view. Those topics she leaves to published authors.)

As one student stated: First I want to thank you for an incredible class. You made grammar so much fun. Your lessons were beautifully laid out. So clear. Because you explained not only what the rule was, but the reason for it, I GOT it and want to write more so that I can apply the lessons.

About the Instructor:

As a line editor for Black Velvet Seductions, MM Pollard has read many entertaining and thought-provoking stories. She has also found some common mistakes in punctuation, grammar, and usage.

Inspired by the saying: “Give a hungry man a fish, and he eats for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he never goes hungry again.” MM conducts workshops for Savvy Authors, Writers Online Classes, Novelists at Work, Orange County Chapter RWA, as well as in her own virtual classroom. Her goal is to teach writers what they need to know about English grammar, usage, and punctuation so that they won’t need an editing service to correct their mistakes in these areas.

An English instructor for fifteen-plus years, MM loves teaching and she loves words. She’s a certifiable language arts geek. One of her hobbies is collecting grammar books. She has always been fascinated by words and by the way we arrange them to tell others about ourselves, about the world around us, and about worlds we create in our heads.

Visit the MM’s Writers’ Blog at

Enrollment Information

This is a 4-week online course that uses email and Yahoo Groups.  The class is open to anyone wishing to participate.  The cost is $30.00 per person or, if you are a member of OCCRWA, $20.00 per person.

Sign up at

If you have specific questions, email 
Check out our full list of workshop at 
Want to be notified personally two weeks before each class? Be sure you’re signed up for our Online Class Notices Yahoo Group! Sign up at the bottom of send a blank email to
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