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                    W R I T I N G   W O R L D

A World of Writing Information - For Writers Around the World


Issue 13:05          13,220 subscribers            March 7, 2013
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THE EDITOR'S DESK: Who's In Your Corner?  by Moira Allen 
CRAFTING FABULOUS FICTION:  Who Speaks? Pointers about Attribution 
in Dialogue, by Victoria Grossack 
FEATURE: Less is More: 15 Quick, Clever and Clean Tricks to Reduce
Manuscript Word Count, by Devyani Borade  
FREE STUFF FOR WRITERS: Just Writing, by Aline Lechaye   
THE WRITE SITES -- Online Resources for Writers
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Who's In Your Corner?

If you're a freelancer living in the US at the moment, you're
probably wondering what "sequestration" is likely to mean to you. 
If you're not, that doesn't necessarily mean you're better off; as
our newsletter editor recently informed me, for example, Britain's
economy is in its "third dip" of recession, meaning that freelance
work is becoming harder to find and customers are taking longer to

Lean times are never good news for freelance writers.  When
companies and clients have less money to spend, freelancers have to
work harder than ever to attract -- and keep -- those clients. 
When budget cuts lead to downsizing, that can also mean more
writers competing for fewer assignments.  What can a writer do to
stay in the game?

Based on a sampling of submissions that have crossed my inbox in
recent months, I have a few suggestions.  There are, in fact, quite
a few simple steps that a writer can take to make his or her work
stand out above the rest.  And when I say "simple," I do mean
SIMPLE.  I'm not talking about going to night school, getting a
degree in rocket science (or at least an MFA), or memorizing fifty
new words before breakfast. I'm talking about tiny, basic touches
that make the difference between sending the message, "I'm a pro,"
and sending the message, "I don't know what I'm doing."  

For instance...

1) Put your name on your manuscript!  I am amazed by how many
submissions I receive that include NO byline.  Yes, I know that
your manuscript came attached to your e-mail -- but it isn't going
to STAY attached to that e-mail.  It's going to go into a folder
somewhere on an editor's hard drive, while the e-mail is going to
go into some other folder.  Months later, when the editor opens
that manuscript, he or she may not have a clue who actually wrote
it.  (Not too long ago I published a manuscript under the wrong
author's name, to the profound irritation of both the author who
wrote it and the author who didn't.)  So take two extra seconds and
type your name under the title of your piece.

2) Include a basic cover note or query with your submission. 
Recently I received a submission attached to an e-mail that
contained nothing more than a link to the author's blog.  (You know
who you are.)  It was actually a pretty good article, and we're
still thinking about it -- but that blank e-mail left me wondering
whether the author supposes these things are read by machines. 
(Yes, I know, many of you probably DO think that editors are
machines, but that's only true of some of us.  Now where'd I put
that oil can...)  Showing a little basic courtesy -- "Hello, how
are you, I've submitted an article for your consideration, have a
nice day!" takes only two or three seconds, and can make the
difference between coming across as a writer we'd like to see more
of, and one we never want to see again.

3) Get the editor's name right.  Starting your query with "Hi
there!" does NOT give an editor the warm fuzzies.  Rather, it
suggests that maybe you've shotgunned the same pitch to half a
dozen editors, and couldn't be troubled to personalize each one. 
(Worse: send me a pitch that is addressed to "Dear Angela."  That's
pretty much a dead giveaway.)

4) Read the guidelines.  I am also amazed by how many queries I
receive asking whether I accept articles, what kind of articles I
accept, how much I pay, and so forth.  Now, I grant that many
publications seem to take perverse pleasure in hiding their
guidelines from would-be authors, but we're not one of them.  This
is one of those "separating sheep from goats" things -- by telling
me that you didn't click the link, you're telling me you're not a
pro.  (This also applies to the many e-mails I'm getting lately
offering me a free "guest post" for my "blog," having apparently
failed to notice that (a) we're not a blog and (b) we don't
actually publish articles on travel, nutrition or child care. 
Seriously -- one writer, having had this pointed out to him, asked,
"Well, why is "travel writing" in your navigation menu if you don't
publish travel articles?"  I think I'm safe in assuming that this
last bit does NOT apply to any of my readers!!)

5) Put your bio on your manuscript.  Most publications will want
one if the piece is accepted, so why not save the editor that extra
step of having to ask for it?  

6) Know the difference between "query" and "submission."  It's a
small thing, perhaps, but when I get an e-mail labeled "query," and
it is in fact a "submission," I wonder a bit.  Is it possible that
the author does not KNOW the difference?  If that's the case, is
this an author who ought to be contributing to a publication for

7) Write well.  This last should be a no-brainer, but... well,
think of it this way.  Editors want to get the most value for their
money, and part of that means choosing the freelancers who cause us
the least amount of work.  The more an editor actually has to EDIT,
the less valuable that writer is to us.  When someone sends me a
piece that is riddled with incorrect punctuation, poor grammar,
run-on sentences, lack of subject-verb agreement, etc., I don't
actually care if it's otherwise a GOOD article.  I make allowances
for writers for whom English is a second language -- I couldn't
begin to write an article in another language, so I have immense
respect for those many authors who can.  But if English is your
mother tongue, master it!

Now, lest this convey the impression that I'm a bitter,
hard-hearted robotic editor, let me now hasten to point out that I
have, in fact, bought articles from writers who have made every one
of these mistakes.  But these errors also leave me shaking my head,
because the bottom line is that they make a bad impression.  And if
you're making a bad impression, it means that you're probably
losing sales.  Lots of editors have bigger slush piles and harder
hearts than I do.  It's an old axiom, but true, that you only have
one chance to make a good first impression -- so don't waste it!

I opened this editorial with the question, "Who's in Your Corner?" 
The answer, if you've gotten this far, should be: YOU.  In these
economic times, you need to be your own best friend.  If you're not
in your own corner -- if you're not taking basic steps to impress
editors with your professionalism and capabilities -- you could,
instead, be your own worst enemy!

-- Moira Allen, Editor

This article may be reprinted provided the author's byline, bio and
copyright notice are retained.  (For an author bio and complete
details on reprint terms, please visit 

Link to this article here:

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Who Speaks? Pointers about Attribution in Dialogue 

In this month's column I want to cover an aspect of dialogue: how
you, as an author, let your readers know which of your characters
is doing the speaking. You may consider this aspect trivial,
unimportant, nit-picky, even dull. But understanding it and
mastering it will contribute significantly to the smoothness and
the readability of your work. 

He said, She Said: The Most Common Approach
The most frequently used method for signaling the speaker to the
reader is some variant of the phrase he said, or she asked, if the
piece of dialogue happens to be a question. Here are a few

He said, "I want to go home now." 

He said: "I want to go home now." 

"I want to go home now," he said. 

"I want to go home now," said he. 

The first and the third variants are used most commonly, but I have
seen the second and the fourth frequently. Which should you use?
Honestly, there is little difference between these alternatives. My
recommendation is for you to consider which is clearest and least
obtrusive to the reader. For example, if the speeches are long, and
there are more than two characters in the conversation, you may
prefer the first or second variant so that your reader knows
immediately who is speaking. Another factor in your choice is the
rhythm of your writing -- you don't want to stick with one form too
long in a single passage, for it becomes monotonous.

Modifiers for Said 
The word "said" does not have to stand alone; as an author, you can
often indicate how your characters are speaking. Perhaps they are
speaking loudly or quietly; perhaps they are speaking hurriedly or
slowly; perhaps they are speaking sweetly or nastily. This can be
achieved quite easily by including the adverb next to the word
said. Here are a few examples: 

"You don't love him," Julie said nastily. "You just love his

"No, I'm not going to eat the spinach," the pimply-faced teenager
said firmly. 

"I hate you!" the girl said passionately. 

These adverbs modify how the speaker makes his or her speech. Now,
I have a prejudice against adverbs, because I believe they can
encourage lazy writing, in which the author tells instead of shows.
Nevertheless, many novels that I like are littered with adverbs
used in just this manner, so perhaps my prejudice is unreasonable. 

Alternatives to "Said" 
Often you can eliminate the SAID plus the ADVERB by using a single
word that combines both meanings. For example, perhaps instead of
SAID NASTILY you could write HISSED. 

Besides -- he said, she said -- don't you get tired of writing the
word said over and over and over again? Aren't there other words
that will do? Of course there are! So, here are some alternatives: 

Acknowledge, add, admit, affirm, allege, agree, announce, argue,
articulate, ask, assert, aver, avow, bark, beg, bid, bluff,
bluster, boast, brag, butt in, carp, challenge, chant, chime in,
chirp, chorus, cite, claim, command, comment, communicate, concede,
confess, confide, contest, continue, contradict, convey, correct,
crab, declare, defend, deliver, demand, deny, disclose, divulge,
duel, echo, emphasize, encourage, enquire, enunciate, exaggerate,
exclaim, explain, expostulate, express, fence, fib, forward, gab,
gripe, groan, grumble, grunt, guess, harangue, hiss, howl, imply,
inquire, insist, instruct, interject, interrogate, interrupt, jeer,
jest, joke, kid, lambaste, lecture, lie, lip, maintain, make known,
mention, moan, mock, mumble, murmur, mutter, nag, object, offer,
opine, orate, pant, parry, plead, point out, prattle, profess,
predicate, pronounce, protest, purr, query, question, quip, quote,
recite, refute, reiterate, rejoin, relate, remark, render, reply,
report, respond, retort, reveal, scream, screech, shout, shriek,
sing, snap, speak, stammer, state, stutter, suggest, swear, tattle,
tell, thunder, urge, utter, verbalize, vocalize, voice, warn,
warrant, wheeze, whisper, worry, yell, yowl 

Now that I've given you additional options, here are some caveats: 

First, this list is by no means complete. There are plenty of other

Second, not all of these alternatives have quite the same meaning,
so you have to use them according to the situation. 

Third, and perhaps most importantly -- even though putting this
list together was challenging and fun, and even though using the
right alternative can be very effective -- these alternatives
should be used sparingly in your replacement of the word "said."
Why is this? Well, if you use them too frequently, they call
attention to themselves. Here's a piece of dialogue to illustrate
my point: 

"It's late," he announced. 
"No, it's not," she protested. 
"We have to leave now," he insisted. 
"No, we don't," she contradicted. 
"If we don't leave now, we won't make it!" he exclaimed. 
"You worry too much," she complained. 
"Only because I'm with you," he grumbled. 

There are many problems with this passage -- the content is dull
and the rhythm monotonous -- and the dialogue is not being improved
by the verbs being used to signal attribution. These verbs are, in
my opinion, actually more interesting and more creative than the
dialogue itself. Each one by itself might be considered acceptable,
actually improving the conversation, but having so many is overdone
-- rather like an ice cream with too many flavors, or a room
cluttered with too many knick knacks. 

In contrast, the humble "said" calls less attention to itself. Even
though it may feel tiresome to type the word "said" over and over,
you, as the author, are generally far more aware of this word than
are your readers. 

Still, there are several other ways to approach this problem; let's
examine them. 

No Attribution 
It may be possible to skip attribution altogether. In short
sections, especially when just two characters are present, you can
do this without losing the reader. For example: 

"It's late," he said. 

"No, it's not," she protested. 

"We have to leave now." 

It should be obvious to readers that the character speaking the
third sentence above is again "he." In this instance, this is
"obvious" for at least two reasons. First, this is a conversation
with only two characters, and so when she isn't speaking, then he
must be. 

Second, it is also obvious from WHAT is being said. HE is
maintaining that it is late, therefore the statement, "We have to
leave now," only makes sense if HE says it. 

You can continue the conversation without attributions for a little
while, relying on the reader to understand, from alternation and
context, who is saying which piece of dialogue. However, this falls
apart when more than two characters are speaking, and the reader
can also become lost if it continues too long. (If the reader has
to start counting lines to see who was last "attributed," you've
gone on too long.) Also, you don't want your readers to be able to
tell who's speaking from context all the time, because this means
that their conversations contain no surprises. 

Note that other clues within a speech may indicate who is speaking.
These include the manner of speech, such as a tendency to use bad
grammar or long words or other peculiarities (such as talking about
"My Precious" -- generally uttered by Gollum/Smeagol of "The Lord
of the Rings"); the perspective that the character has on the
world; what the character's chief concerns are (if a character in a
Harry Potter book makes a panicky statement about schoolwork, well,
then, the speaker is probably Hermione Granger). These last few
bits are straying into the topic of WHAT people say, so this will
be saved for a future column. 

Names, especially used in a manner where one character is
addressing another, can also tell you who is speaking -- or at
least, who will speak next. Here's an example: 

"Lucy, it's late." 

"No, Ricky, it's not." 

"We have to leave now, Lucy." 

"No, Ricky, we don't." 

When the first character addresses Lucy, the reader assumes that
the next character to speak will be Lucy. Then when Lucy replies,
using the name "Ricky," we assume that the next character to speak
will be Ricky. 

The technique of using names -- although it seems to work fairly
well in the example above, for I can hear the characters getting
louder with each other as the conflict increases -- this technique
should be applied with care. First, people don't use each other's
names that often while speaking, especially when just two of them
are around. So dialogue employing this technique can sound

Second, when there are more than two participants in the
conversation, this approach does not always work. Lucy may always
address her words to Ricky -- but if Fred is around, does he
interrupt? Again, you don't want to rely too much on this method. 

Conversational Beats 
Another way to let the reader know who is speaking without
resorting to direct attribution is to imply it by combining a
character's piece of dialogue with additional information about
that character. This may sound complicated and confusing; it's
easier to show than to explain further. So here's an example using
conversational beats: 

He glanced at his watch. "It's late." 

"No, it's not," she protested, grabbing the decanter of sherry. 

He rose to his feet. "We have to leave now." 

She poured herself another drink. "No, we don't." 

The passage above contains only a single direct attribution,
protested, but you had no difficulty determining which character
was speaking, did you? 

Using conversational beats is my favorite method of handling
dialogue attribution. I like it because it gets away from having
just talking heads, which can become dull for the reader. Injecting
these conversational beats injects something more visual into a
passage of dialogue (which would otherwise simply concentrate on
the auditory sense for the reader). The conversational beats can
also complement what the character is saying. The glancing at the
watch and the rising to the feet are both acts of someone who wants
to depart, while the woman's actions emphasize the fact that she
wants to stay and have another drink. 

The conversational beats connect your story to the dialogue in many
ways. You can use them to convey the character's emotions or what
the character is thinking: 

"It's late," he said, glancing at his watch. 

She raised an eyebrow. "No, it's not." 

The raising of her eyebrow signals that she does not agree, that
she perhaps doubts his interpretation of the hour, or that she
simply does not believe him. Characters can have many physical
responses that could demonstrate how they are feeling, such as
slamming doors, stamping feet, wiping away tears, clearing throats,
or twiddling their thumbs. 

You can also integrate your conversation with the story's action.
Perhaps the conversational beats serve simply to move along an
activity. Imagine that Stan and Stella are visiting the fair while
having a conversation about another subject.

Stan handed two tickets to the man collecting them for the Ferris
wheel. He opened the gate for her. "Ready to see the city from up
on high?" 

Stella scooted onto the hard plastic seat, and pulled in her legs
as Stan climbed in after her. "I'm ready to listen to you tell me
whether or not you know where the painting is." 

"Do you really want to talk about that now?" As they swung gently
upwards, Stan gestured at the vista before them. "It's too
beautiful to waste words on an old painting. It wasn't even very

As their seat kept climbing higher -- the ground had to be eight
stories below them now -- Stella experienced a wave of dizziness.
What had possessed her to agree to meet this guy at the fair, when
she suffered from vertigo? She clutched the bar that was holding
them in, and willed herself to concentrate. "That painting may not
have been very valuable -- but my grandfather was the artist. So,
you see, I need to find it." 

In the passage above, the conversational beats are moving along
with the dialogue -- sometimes directly related to what is being
said, at other times not related to it at all. But the
conversational beats, besides taking us to a different setting and
a different activity, also let the readers know who is speaking.
You could insert dialogue attributions in the passage above -- it
would not hurt -- but it is not necessary. 

For attribution, there is no single best method. I believe you
should mix and match according to the needs of your story. As you
become more conscious of this part of your writing, you will
develop your own sense rhythm and your own artistic approach.  


Victoria Grossack studied Creative Writing and English
Literature at Dartmouth College, and has published stories and
articles in publications such as Contingencies, Women's World and I
Love Cats. She teaches a variety of writing classes at 
http://www.coffeehouseforwriters.com/courses.html.  Victoria
Grossack is the co-author of the Tapestry of Bronze series
(Jocasta; Children of Tantalus; The Road to Thebes; Arrow of
Artemis) based on Greek myths and set in the late Bronze Age. 
Besides all this, Victoria is married with kids, and (though
American) spends most of her time in Europe.  Her hobbies include
gardening, hiking and bird-watching.  Visit her website at 
http://www.tapestryofbronze.com, or contact her at tapestry (at)
tapestryofbronze (dot) com.   

Copyright 2013 Victoria Grossack

This article may not be reprinted without the written permission of
the author.

Link to this article here:

your story's foundation, create enthralling characters, make the 
most of setting, and craft the most important elements of a tale 
to create marketable stories and novels.  This hands-on online 
workshop runs March 1-25 and has limited enrollment, so sign up 
NOW! Free story critique! Details at http://tinyurl.com/bfrvb75



A statement has appeared on the home page of Giskan Solotaroff
Anderson & Stewart LLP, Attorneys at Law, New York saying that they
have been instructed to investigate AuthorHouse and all its
subsidiary companies.  The law firm is asking for authors who feel
they "have been the victim of deceptive practices" to contact them.

Coffee House Press is pleased to announce that in addition to
literary fiction and poetry, the nonprofit press will add essay
collections and creative nonfiction to their publishing program.
"Coffee House has always been interested in hybrid forms of
literature, and work that bends and defies genre categories. We are
excited to make this very deliberate gesture of expansion into
publishing essays," commented Coffee House Press Publisher Chris
Fischbach.  To find out more visit: http://tinyurl.com/coffeehs

We're all big comic book and graphic novel fans in the Copeman
household - rarely a week goes by when we don't read a graphic
novel but if you've been neglecting this genre, now is the time to
put it right.  It's Will Eisner week from 1 to 10 March and there
are hundreds of events taking place all over the United States to
celebrate the fact. If there are no events near you, check out your
local library or comic book store - you're in for a treat!


WRITING A MYSTERY OR CRIME STORY? Forensic Science for Writers: A
Reference Guide can help. Based on a long-running course offered
in colleges and universities, this survey shows you how to create
believable plot twists and enhance your stories with realistic
forensic details.  Available from Amazon and other bookstores.
For details visit http://forensics4writers.com/the-book


Writing Jobs and Opportunities
The Thriving Family 
The Thriving Family is a paying market that regularly publishes
themes for submissions. The next theme will be Christmas and the
deadline is April 26.  They also accept unsolicited queries that
fit in with the tone of the magazine.  They pay around 25 cents per
word.  For more details visit: 
http://www.thrivingfamily.com/extra/call-for-submissions and click
on writers' guidelines and themes. 
fRoots is a worldwide magazine on the topic of modern and
traditional music from around the world. They publish features,
interviews, news and reviews.  They pay shortly after acceptance. 
Always query in the first instance.  For more details visit:
Cactus Heart Open to Submissions
Cactus Heart seeks new and original poetry, fiction, nonfiction,
book reviews, art & photography. We want spiny writing & art--sharp,
relentless, coursing with energy and able to thrive in the harshest
of places, all while maintaining a vulnerable, succulent interior.
Make us swoon. Deadline 31 March 2013. Note - I cannot find any
reference to payment.  http://www.cactusheartpress.com/submit/


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FEATURE: Less is More: 
15 Quick, Clever and Clean Tricks to Reduce Manuscript Word Count
By Devyani Borade
"Maximum length: 3000. Firm limit. No exceptions. And we don't mean
3001. Word count will be the first thing checked, so please pay
particular attention to it." 

Magazines threaten to reject submissions outright if writers have
not adhered to the specified word limit. However, for writers,
stringent constraints in wordage are a constant worry. Without
being allowed any latitude in the inches, how will you be able to
express yourself freely and exactly as you want? Will you be able
to do justice to your story? Won't all the chopping and changing
morph the very essence of the prose?

Word count is a critical piece of information about a manuscript.
First, let's start with a couple of handy tip for all Microsoft
Word users out there:

i.        Text within headers and footers doesn't count towards your total
word count. So you can place your name, email address, telephone,
postal address, website and word count all within the header of the
first page and MSWord will safely ignore these.

ii.        MSWord helpfully counts and adds up your words for you at the
single stroke of a key. To do this, place your cursor on the spot
where you want to display the word count. Then on the Insert ribbon
click the Quick Parts button. A second level menu drops down.
Select Fields and a dialog box opens up. In the Categories dropdown
field, select Document Information. From the Field Names list,
select NumWords and click the OK button. Voila! The document word
count appears! After you make changes to your document, simply hit
the F9 key and MSWord updates the word count automatically.

Here are some fast and painless ways to ensure you keep that
ticking total on the top right corner of your manuscript in check,
and yet leave your beloved masterpiece unharmed and intact. And you
don't need to be a star editor to use them.

1. Add authority to action
Say what? Add something to reduce the count? That's right! The
"something" is words that denote exact and specific actions. For
example, consider the following:

"You look like a slut," Mother said, her voice dripping with fury
and loathing. (14 words)

"You look like a slut," Mother spat. (7 words)

Here "dripping with fury and loathing" describes Mother's state of
mind but is verbose. "Spat" is a specific verb that does the same
job efficiently with half the total number of words. It is both,
clear as well as impactful.

Another example:

"Hello!" she said with a lilting voice. (7 words)

"Hello!" she sang. (3 words)

2. Use gerunds and cut out the conjunction
Using the '-ing' form of verbs eliminates the need for one or two
other words, usually conjunctions. For example, consider the

He swam against the tide and soon reached the shore. (10 words)

Swimming against the tide, he soon reached the shore. (9 words)


She took a break and reflected on the situation. (9 words)

Taking a break, she reflected on the situation. (8 words)

3. Remove adverbs
Yes, we all know this is editors' constant refrain, but how many of
us actually do it? When I first started writing, it used to hurt me
to remove all my '-ly' words. I thought adverbs were marvellous
things and that my prose would seem unemotional without them. Now I
throw them in during the writing phase and yank them out during the
review phase. It all happens so fast that I barely have time to
grieve about them!

4. Remove "that"
The word "that" is probably the most used and least intrusive word
in the English language. It is also sometimes so superfluous that
it can easily be gotten rid of. Now re-read that last sentence
again without the "that" in it - It is also sometimes so
superfluous it can easily be gotten rid of. Notice any difference
in the flow of the sentence? No. In the meaning? No again. In the
clarity of structure? Not at all. In the number of words? Aha! One
down. Or rather, one up! 

5. Remove "said"
In many cases, the ubiquitous "said" can become redundant if the
sentence is re-structured more cleverly and the Point of View well
established. This not only culls the count but also makes the
sentences shorter and snappier and the prose punchier to hear. For
example, consider the following:

She drew a knife from the cupboard and turned to the chef. "Here,"
she said, handing it over to him. (20 words)

She drew a knife from the cupboard and turned to the chef. "Here."
(13 words)

The quote in the second sentence above is automatically ascribed to
the woman without specifically indicating that it was she who
spoke. The reader knows that the words are attributed to the woman
because they are in the same line and follow contiguously from the
description of what the woman is doing. 

While this device comes in handy every now and then, it must be
used with discretion or there is a chance that the reader may get
confused about which character is speaking. When in doubt, don't.

6. Remove "the"
Sometimes articles at the start of sentences can be gotten rid of
relatively safely. For example, consider the following:

The invisible reins around her neck tightened another notch. (9

Invisible reins around her neck tightened another notch. (8 words)

Unless you are repeating something that has been mentioned before
-- in which case a sentence without the "the" at the beginning
might look odd -- this trick is good for a handful of words.

Another example:

The black ribbons lent the room a sinister air. (9 words)

Black ribbons lent the room a sinister air. (8 words)

7. Remove adjectives
Don't gild lilies. When two adjectives are more than enough to
qualify a noun, why do you need seven? For example, consider the

The muddy brown old tattered faded shabby wooden armchair creaked
as she sat down. (14 words)

Yes, the armchair was not brand new. We get it, we get it!

The tired-looking armchair creaked as she sat down. (9-going-on-8

8. Compound verbs
"Has not" can become "hasn't", "she will" can easily change to
"she'll", "can't" transforms "can not" and "you've" makes short
work of "you have". Wherever possible, use the contracted form of
verbs to reduce the count of such verbs by a factor of 50%.
However, again, be aware that contracted verbs don't always flow
well everywhere. Be judicious in your usage. There is a time and
place for "it's" and a time and place for "it is".

9. Hyphenate
Thanks to the modern word-processing computer program, hyphenated
words are counted as one word by default even though they occupy
exactly the same amount of space as their non-hyphenated
equivalents. Thus, "Twenty one" totals up to two words but
"twenty-one" is just one. Other similar easy wins are
"broken-heartedly", "up-and-coming", "good-natured", and
"lickety-split." So go crazy on the hyphen, it's non-fattening!

10. Use names consistently
After you've introduced "Samuel Jones" and "Emily Black," stick to
calling them "Samuel" and "Emily" rather than their full names.
Also stay away from switching between first names and last names or
creating nicknames. There's nothing calculated to bewilder the
reader more than calling the hero "Samuel" once, then "Sam" on page
43, and then "Mr. Jones" on page 100, or worse, "our saviour, the
dashing suave wavy-haired strong-jawed blue-eyed scion of the Jones
stock" on page 658. Except, perhaps, when playing merry-go-rounds
with the Point of View. See Point 4 above.

11. Pluralise
Use "writers" instead of "a writer", "readers" instead of "the
reader", "people" instead of "a person". An added advantage of
using plurals is that where you'd have to use "his or her" to
denote personal possession, you can now conveniently use "their."
No more relying on the mercy of the magazine's house style at the
cost of declension for the puritans amongst us.

12. Substitute multiple with singular
Replace "on the other hand" with "conversely" or "alternatively",
"in order to" with "to," "in addition to" with "also" or "along
with." Other substitutions are "on time" for "in a timely fashion",
"occasionally" for "on an infrequent basis," etc.

13. Avoid clichés, idioms and proverbs
Not only are clichés boring and indicative of lack of imagination
on the writer's part, they also use up valuable real estate. Being
precise pays. For example, consider the following:

Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed after her nap, she decided to get
started on making lunch. (16-going-on-14 words)

Fresh from her nap, she decided to get started on making lunch. (12

In fact,

Fresh from her nap, she decided to prepare lunch. (9 words)
...is even better!

(See what happened there? As I was writing the above sentences, a
better way -- a shorter sentence -- occurred to me without my
making a conscious effort to make it happen.)

Another example:

"I got the job," he said, looking like the cat that swallowed the
canary. (14 words)

"I got the job," he said, looking smug. (8 words)

14. Approximate time
Unless it is integral to your story -- say, your heroine has to
provide an alibi for herself for the exact moment the murder was
being committed -- generalising time to the nearest time of the day
suffices to give the reader the rough idea. For example, consider
the following:

It was eleven o'clock in the morning when she woke up. (11 words)

It was nearly noon when she woke up. (8 words)

The shorter version makes little difference to the plot!

And again, 

It was noon when she awoke. (6 words)

...is best.

15. Stop dithering
Perhaps you could try to reduce word count by looking to see if it
is possible maybe to attempt to remove indecision. Cease! Desist!
Be direct in tone and active in voice. Avoid using "empty" words
like "perhaps," "maybe," "possibly," and "try to" that only take up
space and don't contribute much value to the prose. Not only does
it keep the wordage down, it also keeps the reader's interest, and
the editors happy.

Space-starved magazines have limited funds at their disposal with
which they need to perform all the tasks that require the smooth
and successful running of a periodical -- from buying contributions
to paying staff salaries. To maximise value with minimum
investment, it's no wonder they want to make every word count.

Just to be clear, you can't expect to use all these tips at once,
or even all the time. There is such a thing as beautiful prose that
will require the use of the odd metaphor and the periodic
adjective. Also, these tips are not intended to turn you into some
sort of a master self-editor overnight. Nor are they meant to
replace the job of editing. Professional editors may work behind
the scenes, unobtrusively and unstintingly, yet it is their sweat
that lends the sheen of dazzle to the pages they produce. A good
editor is worth his/her weight in words. And a really great one can
make the difference between the Pushcart Prize and an honourable
mention. But when strapped for time and with that deadline looming
large, these tips can act as a starting point to rein in your

Use these fast and easy tricks to get your word count down to the
magic number that will get your masterpiece out of the slushpile
and into the acceptance box. Don't let your manuscript leave home
without them!


Devyani Borade guarantees that these editing tips work! She should
know; she has used them to get her fiction and nonfiction published
in magazines all across the world. When she isn't being a wordsmith,
she's devouring comic books and chocolates alike. Visit her website
Verbolatry at http://devyaniborade.blogspot.com to contact her and
read her other work.

Copyright 2013 Devyani Borade

Link to this article here: 
For more advice on cutting down unnecessary words check out
http://www.writing-world.com/grammar/fewerwords.shtml and 

STUMPED BY YOUR PLOT?  Bored by your characters?  Wondering how to
craft a scene that sings?  "Fiction: From Writing to Publication"
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Free Stuff for Writers: Just Writing
By Aline Lechaye 

Distractions are something that every writer hates. You're trying
to meet a deadline, but that new e-mail icon in your task tray just
keeps flashing. (You have to check it, right? It might be something
important.) You take a quick writing break and decide to surf the
internet, maybe check your Facebook page, look at Twitter... and
before you know it, half the day is gone. Read on to find
distraction-free word processing programs that will bring your
computer back to basics -- you, a blank page, and your keyboard.  
WriteMonkey (http://writemonkey.com) is a portable distraction-free
word processor that can be fully customized to suit your needs. You
can adjust everything from font color to page layout until it feels
like the perfect writing environment. The full-screen writing mode
hides all of those flashing icons on your task tray, as well as the
many other temptations on your computer screen. What I like most
about this program is that you can do everything from your
keyboard, so you don't have to stop every few minutes to pick up
the mouse whenever you want to select text, scroll down, underline,
and so on. WriteMonkey runs on Windows and requires no
installation, so you can simply keep the file on a flash drive and
take it wherever you go. 

Another distraction-free word processor that I've heard plenty of
good things about is Q10 (http://www.baara.com/q10/). This freeware
runs on full-screen mode with a small line at the very bottom
showing word and page count so you can keep track of your progress
as you work. If you really want to challenge yourself, you can set
a target word count and see how long it takes you to get there, or
you can set the writing timer and see how much you can write in a
given amount of time. One great feature of this software is the
ability to add notes to any document (and quickly find them when
you need them). You can choose to download Q10 with or without
spell checker, and there are portable versions to download if you
don't want to install the software on every computer you use. 

If you don't want to carry a flash drive everywhere, pen.io
(http://pen.io/zen/) has a great online distraction-free word
processor. This web-based application is pretty much the definition
of minimalistic. The only thing you'll see is a blank page and two
buttons -- one to publish your finished work on the pen.io site,
one to convert your work to .pdf format. Want to share what you've
written with your friends? Save your work to the site and you'll be
given the option to share your page on Facebook and Twitter. 

Want a distraction-free word processor that is a little less...
bland? Try OmmWriter (http://www.ommwriter.com/en/download.html), a
word processor that comes with relaxing background images and
soothing music. The free version of the software is currently
available only for Mac computers, but a Windows version is rumored
to be on the way. (For those of you who don't want to wait, go to
http://www.creawriter.com/ to download CreaWriter, a free word
processing software inspired by OmmWriter.)

Copyright Aline Lechaye 2013
Aline Lechaye is a translator, writer, and writing tutor who
resides in Asia. She can be reached at alinelechaye at gmail.com

This article may not be reprinted without the written permission 
of the author. 


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Writing Quotes
Need some inspiration to get started?  This regularly updated
tumblr site has a wide variety of writing quotes to get you back in
the mood to get on with your writing.

Martin Edwards Writing Tips
If you want to write crime fiction you will love this site. Martin
Edwards is a much published crime fiction writer and member of the
CWA.  Here he gives you his tips for writing successful and
effective crime fiction. The site has loads of handy links for the
budding crime writer too. 

If you write or want to write contemporary women's fiction or chick
lit, then this is the site for you. It is a regularly updated blog
packed full of writing advice, including a video on beating writing
block and a newsletter.


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AUTHOR'S BOOKSHELF: Books by Our Readers

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