Sunday, September 30, 2012

Types and Tips: Notes on the critique of various genres

In the ideal critique group, members write in the same genre. The advantage is they read a manuscript from the same perspective. It enables them to help one another with problems particular to their genre. They respect the critique from one of their own over writers who are not familiar with what their reading audience wants.

For recreational reading, writers tend to stick to their favorite genera—the one they write in. In a mixed-genre group they have doubts. Will the poet receive an adequate critique from a journalist who never reads poetry? Conversely, is the poet confident she can critique a children’s picture book? She lacks the expertise needed to evaluate it, doesn't she? Maybe not.

A writing mixture comprises most groups. Since, from a critique standpoint each writing type does present its own challenges; your critiques improve when you expand your reading.

Six Reading Suggestions to Improve Your Edits and Critiques 

1.      Read outside your genre, and when you do, read with a critical mind. If you write hot romance, pick up a contemporary novel from a Christian bookstore. How does its author handle love scenes? For an example of sizzle without smut, read “Just Down the Road.” by Jodi Thomas.
2.      Are you a mainstream novelist? Spend spare minutes with popular magazines or essays for a month. Borrow an armful of picture books and read to a three-year-old.
3.      Raise your level of attention to what you see in print throughout a typical day. If your style is literary, give business letters extra attention. When you use the Internet, notice what grabs you and what you find annoying. Have you noticed how much “computer help” is written in techie jargon?  If given the chance, could you advise those writers on how to inform or instruct in plain English?
4.      Pick up a readers’ guide to poetry to gain insight into the craft.
5.      Notice travel guides. Compare them to travel advertisements.
6.      Ask members of your group for a list of their favorite books. Chances are they will lead you to their genre’s classics. You’ll gain an idea of what those writers are aiming for, and you may gain new respect for that writing variety.

Learning takes time, but there is a payoff. As you gain knowledge of genres outside your comfort zone, expect a ripple effect: the analytic prowess you develop will give you fresh insights to your own work.
In the meantime, if your ability to make specific pointers is limited, you can lubricate a writer’s gears. Freelance writer, Gilda Bryant suggests this critique sandwich: encourage, make suggestions, encourage.

© 2012, Bernice W. Simpson

Friday, September 28, 2012

A town Called Harmony

I pressed “Play” on a tiny remote. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Memories from Cats quieted the excess chatter in my mind, and while ironing, I relaxed. Soon his exquisite love songs drew me to another place—the environs of a Texas town called Harmony.

Harmony is the setting for New York Times’ best-selling author, Jodi Thomas’ novel “Just Down the Road,” her latest in the series, Harmony.

But readers know from the first paragraph, when they meet Dr. Addison Spencer, to brace for discord. It’s Saturday night, and Dr. Spencer has ER duty. “Get six rooms ready,” she tells her assistant when she learns the injured from a bar fight are on their way to the hospital.

After patching up Tinch Turner, the doctor, who lives near his ranch, drives him home. It’s not an act of graciousness on her part, but sense of responsibility. Her patient refuses to spend the night in the hospital. An odd couple, certainly, but Just Down the Road is a romantic novel, after all. The question is, how will author, Jodi Thomas manage to unite a brawling cowboy and female physician without the novel falling into implausible fantasy?

If something is brewing between Addison and Tinch, theirs is not the only possible romance in town. Brandon Biggs and Noah McAllen are both friends with old Jeremiah Truman’s niece, Reagan. Singles socialize at the local watering hole, the Buffalo Bar and Grill, and even the town’s undertaker, once resigned to his unmarried status, now dreams of wedding bells.

By page 66 love blooms all around Harmony. And tension builds.

Just Down the Road blends romance, suspense, and a cast of characters so real, we feel we've known them from somewhere.

Typical of life, certain of Harmony’s residents are a bit quirky. At a funeral “Miss Dewly, who played the ancient organ, came in and took her place. So did her two friends. They always tagged along if Miss Dewly had a morning funeral so all three could go to lunch afterward.”

But the peculiar is balanced with wisdom. In reference to his wife’s job, the Sheriff’s husband, Hank, said, “’When you love somebody like I love Alexandra, you have to let them do what they love. She’s good at her job. I've got to trust that. I guess if you love someone, you've got to love them all. People don’t come in parts you can divide out and pick what you like.’”  

After we read and live vicariously in Harmony, we're apt to forget it’s not our town. In fact, however we might like to, we cannot actually go there. 

It seemed to me, though, Ms. Thomas took writers’ license with the weather in her Texas town located not far from Amarillo. It rained more than once in the story. Oh well, we who are thankful for one-tenth of an inch don’t find it difficult to suspend disbelief...and wish.

© 2012, Bernice W. Simpson

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Nice? Yuk. -- by KittCat

Last Monday Mom didn't get the noisy, rug-eating monster out. She didn't wash stuff and make the house smell like bleach. She sat at the computer, instead—working, nice and quiet all day. Nice.

The Saturday before that, Mom had friends in. They started out poking fun at how a lady I’ll call Mrs. Rude cuz I forget her name, was really rude to Mom. Wow. I couldn't believe all the things three women could do to make Mrs. Rude wish she hadn't been tacky. I was thinking the next time Mrs. Rude saw them, she might wish she’d never been born.

But then they got serious and agreed the witch was in worse shape than a soggy kitten caught in a storm drain. Poor thing was not creative, not too smart, not pretty, not ever dressed nice, not from a happy home, and if her husband is nice, for sure the one before him wasn't  Poor Mrs. Rude. Sad, really. Worse. Pah – thet – ic. They said.

They might have joined hands and prayed for the poor woman, but Mom spoke up. “All those nots are not an excuse to act the way she does.”

As fast as I was thinking the talk was swinging back, it speeds forward. Or maybe “up” is a better word, cuz Mom added something about being thankful for blessings. Next thing I hear is how they can take the “high road.” It took me a bit, but I learned it was different from a highway, and “no more barbs” didn't mean dolls. Get this—they would be nice if they saw Poor Thing again. In fact they were finished with jibes (they’re not dances) and all forms of being catty about anybody, anytime.

When I heard “catty,” I took it as a pass for me. If catty is not so nice, but that’s how folks say cats are, I asked myself why I was on the floor instead of checking out the goodies on the coffee table. Oops! Guess I didn't catch on 100%. The “paws off the edge of the coffee table” message filled the air pretty much not-so-nice.

Well, except for Mom’s comment about my paws, she’s been real nice lately. I think she didn't trust herself, though, cuz she didn't get out much last week. She sat by the computer all day a week ago Monday, so I didn't get to write anything. Then later, she thought the computer got a germ, so she couldn't write tacky emails. As it turned out, the computer was OK, but the telephone company had gone crazy.

I didn't get to write yesterday cuz Mom had to call about the computer. She was nice on the phone, nice to the guy who came out, even nice to me when I sat on her best printer paper.

Nice. Nice. Nice. Wanna know what nice really is? --Boring. Boring, boring, boring. 

(c) 2012, Bernice W. Simpson

Sunday, September 23, 2012

When Writing Must Outshine Your Speaking Skills

You wrote your pitch and read it to your critique group. You changed it and read it again. You polished it, and then rehearsed it countless times in front of a mirror. You attended a writers’ conference and gained a ten-minute appointment with an editor. Eureka! The editor requested a proposal along with chapters or samples of your work.

You followed the editor’s instructions with the exactness of an atomic clock, but you never heard from the editor again.

What happened? An experienced writer could come up with dozens of possible reasons.

One possibility: your speaking abilities outstrip your writing skills. You stress the right words. You modulate your voice perfectly. Somehow, you innately know when to pause to let a point sink in, and when to quicken the pace past transitional phrases. Your voice is strong but not loud. It’s moderately low, but never sounds monotone.

Back in your critique group, members pass out copies of their work for the day. Then, in turn, each reads his or her work out loud. Your fellow members must appreciate your writing, because they rarely mark anything negative on your papers.

Of course they don’t. For one thing, it is next to impossible for a group member to write adequate comments, much less include suggestions to improve a phrase, while listening to a reader. By the time the member critiques one sentence, the reader may be on another page. Furthermore if you are one who could read the phone book and make it sound good, few who listen will hear mistakes.

Do read your work out loud. Read it to the dog, your mother, or a friend willing to listen. Your ear will often catch errors your eye skips. Also, it’s great practice should you ever be asked to read your work in an interview before a signing.

But before that interview comes publication, and before that is likely dozens of query letters to publishers or agents. You will not have the luxury of reading—making your work sound the way you think it should sound—to an agent or editor.

When you want a critique, let the group read in silence and mark suggestions without trying to listen and write at the same time. They will each hear your words with their inner ears. They’ll suggest changes that seem logical to them. It’s possible the rewrites you make at the urging of your group are what pulls your work together, and moves your manuscript from the slush pile into the possibility pile instead of the round file.  

© 2012, Bernice W. Simpson

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Mary Andrews's profile photo

Mary Andrews

Mary Andrews writes science fiction—Psionic Science Fiction—which encompasses the inevitable fusion of man, machine, and the paranormal.
For over two decades Mary has sought out and studied writing from too many mentors to list. She is an unconventional thinker who thrives ‘out of the box.’ Her favorite question is: WHY, since that answer, enables all solutions. She claims little fear of change: in fact, she has adventured through multiple career choices, testing many waters and distant horizons before finally realizing a love for writing.
Currently the director of the Write Right Critique Group in Lubbock, Texas, Mary continues to follow her muse, or rather, document its whereabouts, from a recreational past through the Society for Creative Anachronisms to the barely unfolding universes in her mind.
She heartily invites one and all to visit her website’s writer’s resources page as well as read samples of her work at

By Mary Andrews

Everyone has times when life and circumstances can become overwhelming. (In these hard times, for many it’s becoming a common place thing.) Quite a while back I found myself in an insurmountable position. I’d lost my job, rent was almost due and there was no hope in sight. I had an old Honda Civic and a dead Skylark in the yard.

It did not take any imagination to realize once I fell behind one rent check, I’d never be able to catch up. Every night I waded into and wallowed in a sea of inescapable doom. I was miserable, and prone to enough stress related ailments (allergies, asthma, ulcers in my eyes) to realize I would have to find a more unconventional way to deal with my financial problem before it manifested in my deteriorating health.

During one of my usual sleepless nights as I was staring at where the ceiling should be in my darkened room, I had an epiphany; if I weren’t weighed down by my bills, I would be able to get back up on my feet and reboot. Strangely enough, a million pounds of worry began to melt away as the pieces of my plan fell into place. The next morning, I began the process of closing up shop. I gave notice to the landlord, the utilities, the phone company and I began to pack up my three bedroom house.

Surprisingly enough, I found that a 10x10 foot storage room contained more than enough space to hold all my precious possessions—especially if packed to the ceiling. At the front of the piles I placed a couple of wardrobe boxes where I could reach them.

I’d decided to go ‘light and lean.’

I got rid of the dead Skylark and turned my attention to my little Honda Civic. It had a fold down back seat which provided me with enough space to take my act on the road in relative comfort. I folded and stacked all my blankets together to form a makeshift mattress and threw my pillows around as well. With the addition of a simple piece of cloth it remained inconspicuous.

Next, I went to a store and bought the darkest tinted roll of window tint I could find. This I applied to all the side windows. Then I positioned an old trunk alongside my bed and viola, my new dresser was born.

Now, I don’t know how it is in other parts of the country, but Lubbock, TX is a college town and it did not take me long to realize that across from every major park there would be some sort of apartment complex from which parking would overflow so there were always assorted cars parked there. It was perfect. All I had to do was wait until after dark and I had a place to sleep. Mwuahahaha! It all fell together.

A friend offered to serve as a message phone and address for work applications but a post office box worked for mail.

So each day convenience stores provided morning and evening pit stops as needed. I had planned to use truck stops for showers but, as it turned out, several of my friends offered theirs and by rotating each visit, none of them felt put out. In fact, some of them actually wined and dined me so I wouldn’t head back to the car. They offered me couch space or temporary shelter but in my experience, the old ‘fish and company’ rule is irrefutable--both start to stink after three days.

I suppose most of my friends thought my month-long homeless stint was a horrible, horrible feat of desperation, but in truth, each night right after dark when I slipped into the back of my car and safely locked myself in for the night, I leaned back and looked out across a pristine park full of trees wafting in the breeze under a silver moon before the man-made pond…complete with ducks.

I slept worry free knowing eventually there would be a new start somewhere.

I discovered that people only see what they expect to see. The early morning joggers never noticed me as they passed by. Even the late night group of partying college boys, drinking beer and telling tales while sitting on the hood of my car never realized I was there.

I worked temporary jobs, visited the library, checked out the mall, wrote in the park, visited friends—all things I never seemed to have time for when I lived in a house. I targeted a place I wanted to work and every Friday at three P.M. I would call and ask the secretary if they were ready to hire me. Eventually, they told me yes and I went back to work and normalcy.

Hopelessness and frustration can be debilitating. Perhaps I was lucky, but ‘out of the box’ thinking definitely set me free then and, just to be sure, my next car was a van. I believe I resorted to variations of my light and lean way of life a time or two afterwards—once accompanied by my two very well trained Dobermans.

So when things start to get you down, think of me and my wacky adventure then take a step out of your box and look around with fresh eyes. Have you missed something?

(c) 2012, Mary Andrews

Monday, September 17, 2012

Flyspecks and Pygmies

“They have their ghastly origins in the rank miasma of the tarn.” –Unknown. Creepy, isn’t it? I can hear witches chanting and see a ghost-like being holding a skull dripping with blood.

The next time you have nothing prepared for your critique meeting, (it happens to all of us at times) cancel your thoughts about the poem you planned to perfect or chapter you wanted to finish. If you’re under pressure from outside sources, take a break from serious writing. Think fun instead. For example, play Flyspecks.

A Creative Writing Activity:

Flyspecks, Briefs, Minis, Midges, Pygmies, or whatever you want to name yours, are prompts in a file or notebook you’ve set up. When squeezed for writing time, select three or less and write no more than 150 words inspired by the prompt. Have fun devising your own prompts. But, just in case you need something quick today, here are ideas to start with.

  • List words you've met in reading, but rarely use yourself. Pick one. Check the definition if you need to. Use it in a sentence or short paragraph. Remember this is a creative writing activity, not middle school vocabulary homework. Don’t try to identify the meaning of the word as you write. Simply use it.
  • Here are words to consider if you haven’t started your own list yet. Do you recognize the words miasma and tarn? The following words are listed in one of the “Cat in the Corner” blogs: burnishing, cantilevered, duvet, encomium, harridan, incipient, irascible, maladroit, mullion, oriel, pneumatic, proffer, rheumy, simper, unguent.
  • Write a brief character sketch about a person who simpers or is irascible.
  • Oscar married a harridan. Why? 
  • Mr. Blurry can’t bring himself to kill a furry little mouse. Write a 4-line verse about it.
  • Write a few lines about a story, TV show or movie you saw lately.
  • Describe a facial expression.
  • Disagree with something you read or heard recently.
  • What's a nob?
  • Disagree using humor or sarcasm. Or make a shocking statement cushioned with humor. For example, do you wonder if someone eats their children?
  • Describe a place—anything from a scenic wonder to a hoarder’s garage.
  • Is anything growing in your refrigerator?
  • Pretend you're learning English as a foreign language. Mention something that seems completely nonsensical to you.
  • What about your pet (and that could be your significant other) makes you smile, melts your heart, or invites your fury?
You have the idea, right? A good reason to commit to writing something every week: like veggies, creativity is healthful. (See my blog, Creative Thinking: Eight Great Benefits.) What that means to you is you can give yourself permission to prioritize your writing activities, even if it's a hobby. It's good for you. So go ahead and have fun.

(c) 2012, Bernice Simpson

Friday, September 14, 2012

Meet Luis Alberto Urrea

On Saturday, September 15, author Brian A. Hopkins “will teach us [Panhandle Professional Writers] how to build a world our sci-fi, fantasy and horror characters can feel at home within.” – The PPW Window

On Thursday, September 20th, acclaimed author Luis Alberto Urrea will talk about the real thing, known as the Devil’s Highway. It’s not a highway—not even a road, but a region in the Arizona desert. In his book, The Devil’s Highway Mr. Urrea says “It’s a naturalist’s dreamscape. For the illegals, it’s a litany of doom.”

If you’re prone to nightmares, The Devil’s Highway is not good bedtime reading. You won’t see much of the dreamscape. You’ll see the horror of that parched wasteland twenty-six men faced in 2001. Lost and out of water, the coyotes paid to guide the group, abandoned them, leaving them to die in a hostile desert. Twelve survived.

Luis Urrea will speak at the Civic Center next week. You have time to read the true story of the men, their dreams to rise from poverty, their desires for things we take for granted, like education for our children. You’ll follow the Mexicans from their homes through the arrangements and travel to the Mexican/United States border. Then you’ll learn details of the unimaginable trek in horrendous heat in possibly the most inhospitable region of the country.

Then you’ll have the opportunity to Meet Luis Alberto Urrea in person. A Pulitzer Prize finalist, he has won multiple awards. Mr. Urrea writes poetry and graphic novels in addition to regular fiction and nonfiction. No time to read? Go to to find about his audio books, and watch videos featuring the author.

Get event and ticket information about Mr. Urrea’s presentation in Amarillo from The Wesley Community Center: 806-372-7960.   

Monday, September 10, 2012

Less is Better -- by KittyCat

It’s crazy. Seems like humans can never make up their minds—do they want more or less?

Like, Mom tells writers how less is better. “Write tight,” she says. But then she says ya gotta learn lots of words. If it’s not smart to use them, why learn them? I don’t use lots of big words (unless my tabby friend Snook is here to spell them), and know what? People read my blogs more than Mom’s stuff.

Thinking about stuff, it looks like people always want more of it, and if they’re just getting married, they want it to match. Then, after they’re married a few years, people look around and say something about the year a certain color got popular. Result? –Garage sale time. They gotta get rid of those out-of-style red dishes and get purple ones. I don’t get it.

I’d marry Snookie if I could, and that’s all I’d want—just her—just the two of us living together. We could share a dish and it could be any color. I think that’s how it is with my human cousin, Turner, cuz his face gets a happy look when the name Destinie comes up. That’s his pretty wife and my new human cousin since they got married one year ago today.

I’ll have to get into Mom’s card basket and send them a card. Mom has tons of cards, but they don’t take much space like dishes or clothes in closets. It’s plain nutty to hear women talk about clothes. Like a flowery top’s gotta have the exact same color in it as a skirt or pair of pants, or the outfit’s all wrong.

Dad doesn’t care about all that color matching. He mostly likes jeans, and everything goes with jeans. If he doesn’t use something very often, he keeps it for years until it wears out (or Mom throws it out.) A couple of winters ago, some kid offered to finish shoveling a whole lot of snow in a trade for Dad’s snow boots. Ha, ha—not cuz the kid needed to keep his feet dry, but cuz Dad’s boots are so old, they’re cool. “Original moon boots,” the boy said. 

"Guess I'll keep them, at least till the snow melts," Dad said.

Mom’s got three pair of black snowboots, looking pretty new. She’s got three pairs of black pants, too, all kinds of white tops, and even two black and white ones. She’d have lots more room in her closets if she got rid of all but the black and white. When the colored shoes went to the thrift store they’d have shoes to match all the handbags Mom got rid of last spring.

Black and white. That’s me—a handsome tuxedo cat.
Less is better. Who needs bunches of anything when a wee bit of the right stuff works just fine.

© 2012, Bernice W. Simpson  

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Visiting Plainview

“Delightful." I told my husband when he asked about my day.

But that answer only partially describes the writers’ event I attended on Saturday, Sept 8th in Plainview, Texas. The Witness Writers, who hosted a workshop by author Jennifer Mersberger, did a first-rate job of organizing the meeting. Well publicized, it drew participants from Amarillo and Lubbock.

Jennifer Mersberger’s entertaining presentation evoked plenty of laughs. And that would be expected with a title of Lighten Up. But the program’s title is actually an acronym for the nine main points of Mrs. Mersberger’s talk, and not a tickler for a how-to on writing humor.

I checked Jennifer’s website,, for pictures of her ornaments called “writer’s blocks,” but didn’t see them. Neither drilled with holes to hold pencils or affixed with magnets to keep paperclips handy, the beautifully decorated blocks serve a higher purpose: they are something to stare at while a writer’s muse catches up with the worker’s need to meet a deadline. Clever. And at $5.00 each, the writer’s blocks make an affordable gift. I hope Jennifer will post a photo of them soon.

A photograph on my FaceBook page, taken after lunch before the last of us dispersed, was copied from one of Carole Bell’s sites: In a short interview today, Carole briefed me on the Witness Writers. Members write in various genera and not exclusively on Christian topics. The group is affiliated with North Texas Christian Writers. “Their conference held in June in Fort Worth is one of the best bargains for Christian writers,” said Carole.

According to their website, The North Texas Christian Writers hold a number of events in addition to an annual conference. The events list includes a writer’s contest, free to anyone buying a $15 ticket to their Christmas party. First prize: $50.00. Sounds like a deal for writers in the Fort Worth area.

For writers in the Amarillo area, a one-hour trek on I-27 takes you to Plainview. The Witness Writers meet on the second Saturdays from 10:00 AM to 12 noon. Their meeting format: a mini lesson followed by critique sharing. They welcome visitors. It’s a gratifying getaway, and even as days shorten, you can still be home before dark.

© 2012, Bernice W. Simpson

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Mentor Sarah Allman

“Bill,” said Sarah, her voice strong and enthusiastic, “I’m glad you’re here today.” Our writing group, including Bill Sorenson, exploded in laughter.

A few weeks before, we had discussed guidelines for our newly-formed critique group. Sarah suggested we begin each critique with a positive comment. In response to a query for suggestions, she offered several. “If nothing else,” she quipped, “say I’m glad you’re here.”

With Sarah Allman present, we always enjoyed an upbeat meeting and worthwhile learning experience. A retired teacher, she mentored all of us, including WW II Navy pilot Bill Sorenson, a few years her senior. Sarah had been working with him to use active verbs and write shorter sentences. That particular day she had counted and circled the number of words in his lengthy sentences. She cut one of his shorter sentences (twenty-eight words) to two.

You haven’t read The Bear? Bill tried to look serious, but it was too much for the rest of the group.

Sarah held her response until our laughter died down. “Your name?” Sarah enjoyed banter.

Knowing what she meant he feigned a sigh of disappointment, “Okay, it’s not Faulkner.”

As a result of Sarah’s patient tutelage, Bill gradually steered his work away from a dated style. A publisher finally accepted one of Bill’s articles. At his bedside, Bill’s daughter read it to him from the magazine that arrived a week before Bill died.

Our critique group changed throughout the years. Members joined and left, including Sarah. She and her husband Herb experienced health problems. Later Herb died. Sarah moved to Lawton, Oklahoma to be near her daughter.

On May 7, 2012, at age 87, Sarah died.

But even now, when I facilitate a critique group or prepare a Topics on Cue presentation on the subject of critique, Sarah remains a nurturing force. She was the friend and teacher who shared her writing knowledge while imparting leadership skills.

Thank you, Sarah.

(c) 2012, Bernice W. Simpson

Monday, September 3, 2012

Fleshing Characters

Character lists. They’re handy when we write or edit fiction or biographies. Your sketch of every character, before you start to write, is as important as planned plot twists. It helps you remain consistent with character details, and prevents errors your readers are apt to catch after the book is printed. For example, with the reference sketch file open, you won’t say Jill, at 5’ 9” looked up at Jack (5’ 7”) when they spoke, unless he’d gained an extra step up the hill.

It’s not enough to visualize and outline Jill’s appearance: 5’ 9”, weight: 130, beautiful with sloe eyes and wavy brown hair. It’s not sufficient to list her personality traits: ambitious and cunning, but usually pleasant, and so forth. Listing facts traps you into writing narrative description instead of revealing Jill’s character which turns her into a real person, whose choices today are rooted in her past whether remembered or not.

Starting out, you may not plan to bring Jill’s family members into your story, but you should know who they are. Flesh them out until you are as familiar with them as you are your best friend’s family. Often you can use once-mentioned characters to introduce concepts or transitions.

For example: The author wants her protagonist, Jack, to gently move against the current. In a scene, Jack quietly disagreed with his friends, but said nothing. Jill’s grandfather shot a comment toward the group’s gripe session as he took a beer from the cooler, “Men condemn because they do not understand. –Cicero.”

Can you see how the grandfather’s statement provides an easy transition? But if the grandfather is mentioned again, whatever he says or does must be consistent with his previous statement.

A link to a group on Diane Mowery’s Facebook page turns character sketching to a game. The basic idea is to write a fully fleshed-out character sketch, then submit it for random exchange. That done, each member writes a short story based on someone else’s character. For details on how a particular group works, go to

(c) 2012, Bernice W. Simpson

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Find Resources at

My future website was to have a writers’ resource list. I started it, but I’ve since met Mary Andrews. My list is like a paper glider; Mary’s—a space ship. You’ll find that space ship at

She lists some of my favorites:
  • If you’re not familiar with it, look it over. It’s the site that turns writing into a game with hundreds of participants. The idea is to create a novel in one month—specifically November 1st to 30th.
  • will give you a definition and list of synonyms in a snap. My problem with the site is its fun factor. I always want to explore enticing activities when I cannot afford distractions. If word games and recreation are synonymous with you, don’t wait until you need a definition or synonym before you put it in your search box.
  • deserves exploration, too. Click on “Browse” to find rhyming dictionaries, glossaries on numerous subjects, a visual dictionary, and more. I particularly like its flip dictionary. Often, when you have a fuzzy concept, One Look’s reverse dictionary will supply you with the specifics you need. For example, suppose you want the name of the doll similar to Mattel’s Barbie, but designed for Muslim girls. “Muslim Barbie style doll” in the search box brings up 100 terms, most not remotely close to dolls for young girls. The very first one, though, is right on target.

Mary lists search terms for common problems. “Show Not Tell Writing,” “Active Verb Lists,” “Active VS Passive Writing,” “Grammar,” “Writing Action Scenes.” Each of those searches will net you thousands of sites. Certainly they are not equal in content or teaching clarity, and are too numerous for one person to evaluate. But the numbers tell you help is out there.

A couple of entries in the space ship intrigued me simply because of their titles. Look What I Found in My Brain is a blog site that contains hundreds of articles about writing. Lee Lofland’s, The Graveyard Shift, described in 2008 as one of the best blogs for suspense and crime writers, covers more police procedures than I knew existed. Titles can be deceiving, but in this case, both blogs are first-rate resources.

The two main aspects of business are production and marketing. It makes little sense to produce what you cannot sell. Mary’s space ship is so stuffed with the business aspects of writing, there may not be room for its pilot. Included are instructions for the short elevator speech to creation of web pages and trailers.
Bottom line—if you have a great writing idea, produce it. If you need help, now you know where to find it. Then check out the social media marketing sites, and learn how to make a bundle.

© 2012, Bernice W. Simpson