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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 15:22 - November 19, 2015
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     Rules vs. Tools
HUMOR: The Humble Writer, by Connell Wayne Regner
CRAFTING FABULOUS FICTION, by Victoria Grossack     
     Expressing Exposition (Exposition Part II)
     Taking the Plunge
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Recently a writer asked me which was more important: Observing the 
"rules" of grammar, construction and all that, or to follow one’s 
own creative impulses?

The question set up an automatic conflict in my own heart. On the 
one hand, I'm a bit of a compulsive editor; I cannot bear to see a 
typo even in something as meaningless as a shopping list.  On the 
other hand, like many creative types, I'm not a big believer in 
"rules," nor a big fan of people who enjoy imposing rules on 

I suspect one reason many writers abhor the concept of "rules" is 
that it reminds us too much of school.  In the classroom, we were 
told what "rules" of writing and grammar we must follow, and faced 
the penalty of bad grades if we failed to observe them.  While 
creativity was often encouraged, it was never encouraged to the 
point of "rule-breaking."  I'm sure many of us can recall the sort 
of teacher who was far more interested in checking the commas in 
our compositions than in reading what we actually SAID.

However, if we can't put our commas in the right places, we lose 
the ability to communicate clearly, or to engage the interest of 
our readers.  If, like the t-shirt, we aren't sure whether to write 
"Let's eat, Grandma" or "Let's eat Grandma," we alienate readers 
who don't feel like wasting time trying to figure out what we MEANT 
to say rather than what we actually DID say.  Most of us became 
writers because we fell in love with the way other writers 
manipulated words and punctuation to make us see and feel and 
experience things through the printed page that we had never 
imagined possible.  We wanted to do the same.  We set out to 
discover HOW--and, quite often, got handed a list of "rules."

The problem with rules is that the very word conveys a host of 
negative meanings and implications.  Rules control us.  Rules 
govern us.  Rules constrain us.  Rules translate into requirements, 
into the need to conform to the standards of others.  They tell us 
what to do.  They literally RULE us.  

Creative types tend to dislike being told what to do, even when 
that instruction is offered in the most well-meant and gracious 
way possible.  To be creative is almost by definition to be a 
rule-bender; it is to have a penchant for non-conformance, for 
seeking out the roads less traveled, to find one's own way.  And 
yet... What shall I do, if I don't want my readers to suppose 
that Grandma is on the menu?

Here's one possible solution: Change the rules...  to TOOLS.  
Because, basically, that's what they are.  Grammar is a tool.  
Punctuation is a tool.  Vocabulary is a tool.  Story structure 
is a tool.  Dialogue is a tool.  Everything that we use to create 
our written worlds is a tool.  

Once we start thinking of these elements as tools, they fit into 
our grasp far more easily.  Tools are things that one can pick up 
or put down at will.  We all understand the need for good tools, 
and the importance of being able to use those tools effectively. 
Just as a carpenter quickly learns that a saw is not a hammer, a 
writer learns that a comma is not a semi-colon.  One tool serves 
one purpose; another tool serves a different purpose.  But most 
importantly, all tools serve US.

When it comes to tools, we are the master, not the servant.  We 
control them, rather than the other way around.  We use them; 
they don't use us.  We define them; they do not define us.  We 
choose when to use them and how.  

We also have no difficulty understanding the importance of HAVING 
good tools.  If you were a carpenter by trade, you probably 
wouldn't be satisfied with the little plastic hammer that you 
allow your two-year-old to play with.  It's cute but it's not a 
very effective tool.  You would want something that WORKS.  As a 
writer, you're no different.  You're well aware that the more 
tools you have, and the better those tools are, the better 
equipped you are to create the works that YOU want to create.  

Mastering tools is also important.  Having a hammer that you 
don't know how to use isn't very helpful.  And so, as we seek to 
improve our craft, we recognize the need to continue mastering new 
or more complex tools, or the need to improve our mastery of tools 
that are fairly basic but that we haven't quite come to grips with 
yet.  But the key element, again, is the word "mastery" -- tools 
don't master us.  We master them.  

Perhaps the most important issue of all is the issue of choices 
-- which is the issue this writer was inquiring about in the 
first place.  Rules give the impression of removing choices, or 
constraining them: You MUST do this.  You must NEVER do that.  
Tools, conversely, empower us by giving us MORE choices.  The more 
tools we possess, and the more that we can use effectively, the 
more choices we have about how we pursue our creative goals.  If 
we have too few tools, we quickly discover that we can't achieve 
our goals.  The bigger our tool-kit and the better our tool-using 
skills, the greater our chances of achieving our creative dreams.

Nobody particularly likes having to live with a lot of rules.  
But you can never have too many tools.  There's another old adage 
to take to heart here: Take care of your tools and they will take 
care of you.  Learn to handle your tools with skill and wisdom -- 
and, unlike rules, they will surely take you where you want to go!  

Copyright 2015 Moira Allen

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:



Within the virtual pages of a brand new newsletter, Debora and her 
pen wrestle with the strange, weird and wonderful in a writer's 
life. Laugh and sigh, grin and grumble, sulk and smirk with them as 
they navigate the pleasures and pitfalls of the writing world, where 
chuckles and chagrin abound.

Brought to us by Writing-World.com's own Devyani Borade, Debora's 
Pen is sure to keep you chuckling (and nodding as her experiences 
come all too close to your own!)

Get your monthly fix of mirth by subscribing for free at

http://www.writing-world.com/images/Devyani.jpg for a sample!

DO YOU LOVE LANGUAGE - how words work to thrill, convince, dazzle,
and excite?  THINK LIKE A WRITER will help you corral your writing
ideas - and saddle up the stories you've always wanted to write!
Discover tools, strategies, and prompts that bring your unique
perspective, experience and ability to life on the page.  Now 
available from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00Y3TWNGI

HUMOR: The Humble Writer,
by Connell Wayne Regner

I can write in my sleep 
write in my dreams 
write in my nightmares too
I can write quite a lot 
but then again not 
or only in bed 
so it seems

I took a great pen 
to write and then send 
my publisher a forget me not
She sent back a query, 
'Oh dear, Oh how dreary 
you must have forgotten the plot'

Desperation took hold 
but never that bold 
I pretended to know what she meant
A quick change to the story 
for hope and for glory 
for the purpose of paying the rent 

A writer in me 
a reader in you 
two destined never to meet 	
but then again wait 
the postman's just late 
with my registered cheque  
Oh how sweet!

Connell Wayne Regner had successfully avoided writing creatively 
since he wrote spontaneous lyrics to music some years ago. 
Although from a linguistic background, he has serendipitously 
succumbed to fiction and rhyme after spontaneously creating bedtime 
stories for his children. His other dabblings are scattered across 
various publications, or contact: cwregner@hotmail.com

Copyright 2015 Connell Wayne Regner 

This poem may not be reprinted or posted without the written
permission of the author.



WattPad Partners with Cosmopolitan
WattPad has been working with Cosmopolitan.com to do a weekly 
syndication of some of its biggest romance books.  All writers 
need to do to enter for the chance to be featured is post their 
work on Wattpad and tag it #CosmoReads. We're also doing it on 
Twitter (https://twitter.com/wattpad/status/664503553193615361) 
but submissions still have to be on Wattpad to be entered. 

Writers should create a [free] Wattpad account and start uploading 
their work on to Wattpad. Be sure to add the tag #CosmoReads.

Here are tips on creating a story, how Wattpad works, and how to 
add a tag:

We'll be featuring a Wattpad story each week on Cosmo, so follow 
us on Twitter to get updates: https://twitter.com/wattpad_romance

You can see other #CosmoReads entries here:

For more information on WattPad’s romance books, visit

WRITERS! The 2016 edition of A Writer's Year is now available! 
Packed with inspirational writing quotes to help keep you focused, 
our planner offers a 24-hour schedule with writers in mind! Use 
it to help plan your schedule, keep track of to-do lists, track 
billable hours, organize tasks, keep track of deadlines and goals, 
and record achievements and submissions. Includes a submission
tracker. And as always, the electronic edition is available 
F*R*E*E! Visit http://www.writing-world.com/store/year/index.shtml
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(Exposition Part II)
by Victoria Grossack

Last month we defined exposition: what it is, why it is often 
necessary, and why some readers sigh when they encounter it.  
Today we will consider different techniques that you can apply 
to make your exposition better.

Make it entertaining

My first suggestion is that you should make your exposition as 
entertaining as you can.  You may have some other objectives as 
well, but if you're writing fiction, I hope entertainment is 
among them.  Here are a few ways that others have done it.


If you're a little older, and were going to movie theaters when 
the first Star Wars movie came out (now known as "Star Wars: 
Episode IV"), you may recall how cool it was when the yellow 
letters giving the back story – "It is a period of civil war. 
Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their 
first victory against the evil Galactic Empire" -- filled up the 
screen and seemed to vanish into distant stars.  While giving the
audience important back story, George Lucas also made us feel as 
we had traveled to another part of the universe.

This technique is known as the opening crawl, and Lucas was inspired 
by old Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers series.  One reason it was so 
new and cool when Lucas used it in 1977 was because then it was 
really difficult to do.  That's not so true nowadays, with computer 
graphics, but the method is still iconic.  Unless you are writing 
for the screen -- and maybe this technique will be possible with 
e-readers soon -- you may not have computer graphics at your 
disposal, but you may want to see what you can do to make your back 
story as innovative as possible.


Mark Twain's voice is distinctive and delightful, especially when he 
speaks through some of his characters, such as Huck Finn.  Huck 
could be explaining the quickest way to gut a fish and I would still 
enjoy it despite my squeamishness.  Twain achieves this through his 
word choice and the amusing observations he includes in nearly every 


Some authors address their readers directly using a technique known 
as "authorial intrusion."  Charlotte Bronte does this in "Jane 
Eyre," when she breaks through the fictional wall at a particularly 
dramatic moment and has her narrator say: "Gentle reader, may you 
never feel what I then felt! May your eyes never shed such stormy, 
scalding, heart-wrung tears as poured from mine."  

Different readers react differently to this technique.  Some may 
feel as if it kicks them out of the story.  Others may feel included 
in the story, with the sense "hey, Jane Eyre's talking to me!"  (And 
note that in the example from "Jane Eyre," Jane Eyre and not 
Charlotte Bronte is doing the addressing.)  Some readers will not 
care.  The rest (probably the vast majority) may not even notice.  

This technique is employed in other media.  Shakespeare used in the 
theatre, in his soliloquies and his asides.  A more recent example 
is when "House of Cards'" Frank Underwood speaks directly into the 
camera in order to let the audience know how clever he is.  

This technique is tricky, and you have to decide whether or not it 
is right for your story.

Just enough for reader to catch on


One way to reduce the exposition problem is to keep it to a bare 
minimum, using a method called "incluing."  With this approach, the 
information needed for the reader is only found within the 
experience of the story, with no background information given.  Here 
is the definition from the "Exposition" entry in Wikipedia:

"Incluing is a technique of world building, in which the reader is 
gradually exposed to background information about the world in which 
a story is set. The idea is to clue the readers into the world the 
author is building, without them being aware of it."

When using settings that are generally unfamiliar to your readers – 
probable if you are writing fantasy, science fiction, historical 
fiction or simply using exotic settings -- you're going to have to 
give your readers enough information so they are not totally 
confused.  If you confine these bits of information to occasional 
sentences slipped within the narrative, it may work well.


Here's an example from my current project in my Tapestry of Bronze 
series.  Two characters, Alkmaeon and Amphilochus, who have just 
arrived as suitors for Helen, are being discussed.  

	"I'll not have it," she said flatly.  "Those matricides 
	have no place in Sparta."

If I stopped there, that would meet the strict definition of 
incluing.  However, I felt that a little more was needed to keep 
the readers oriented.  So, after this line of dialogue I inserted a 
brief explanation:

	The two brothers had murdered their own mother, claiming 
	that a decision of hers -- made many years before! -- 
	had led to their father's death.

This is exposition, but by limiting to one sentence, the story only 
slows a tad; I can hope that most readers will not notice the 

Some authors may feel that this approach breaks the voice or the 
person.  For example, you may be writing in third-person intimate, a 
point of view which limits the narration to whatever is observed by 
a single character within a scene.  The sentence containing the 
background of the two brothers, explaining a bit about why they 
killed their mother (and reminding some readers of the meaning of 
the word "matricide," a word that we fortunately do not use often)
may feel like a shift into third-person omniscient.  I do not think 
this matters in the scene that I was writing, but you will have to 
make your own artistic decision.

Make your readers crave an explanation
One way to make sure that exposition is tasty to your readers is to 
make them want it, badly.  You can do this by stoking their 
curiosity.  In "The Hobbit," the first chapter, "An Unexpected 
Party," has fifteen dwarves showing up -- not all at once -- at 
Bag-End, Bilbo Baggins' hobbit hole.  They expect to be invited 
inside, and Bilbo, incapable of rudeness, does not have the temerity 
to refuse them.  They seriously deplete the supplies in Bilbo's 
pantry (and it is just as well that they consume all the perishables 
as the hobbit will depart for about a year the very next day).  
Bilbo, during all this, is desperate to know who these dwarves are 
and what they are doing in his home, and by extension, we readers 
are curious as well.  When the explanations do come, in the form of 
conversation that can be classed by many as exposition, it is 

Show instead of tell
Instead of giving the information as exposition, which will feel as 
if you are telling it, you can bring it to life by showing it.  Now, 
showing may be difficult.  If you are committed to the point of view 
of a particular character in your story, and the event happens to 
someone else, showing the event may seem impossible.  

Not everyone may understand the difference between showing and 
telling, so let me give another Harry Potter-based example.  In 
"Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," Rowling has a scene in 
which Dumbledore meets young Voldemort in an orphanage.  Now, she 
could have had Dumbledore TELL Harry Potter about his meeting from 
more than fifty years ago, and even if she had done this in a 
conversation, it would still have been telling.  Instead she SHOWS 
us what happened by having Harry observe one of Dumbledore's 
memories via the magical Pensieve.

Of course, fantasy and science fiction give authors options not 
always available to those attempting to write reality-based stories.  
So, when you are presented with this problem you will have to create 
the solution that is best for your story.  I am currently working on 
a first-person novel in which the main character has an extensive 
spy network.  This allows her to report on events in which she did 
not participate as if she had been there -- letting me show them 
instead of tell them.

A second method is to change the point of view, but you need to 
consider, as always, if this is right for your story.

Skip it
Even though you may know a lot of information about your characters 
and the story, you may not want to put it all in the actual text.  
In the Harry Potter books, Rowling created detailed backgrounds on 
many characters, details which, despite many hundreds of thousands 
of words, never made it into any of her novels.   For example, the 
character Dean Thomas was a half-blood whose wizard father abandoned 
his pregnant Muggle wife during Voldemort's first ascendancy -- not 
because the wizard did not love his wife, but because if he had 
stayed he would have endangered her.  According to interviews, 
Rowling had background information on Dean Thomas and many other 
Hogwarts students, professors, Aunt Petunia and others, but these 
backgrounds did not fit the story and so had to be left out.

It can be painful to exclude some bits, but you need to ask yourself 
whether or not the information will enhance the reading experience.  
If you think not, then exclude it -- but do not despair; you may be 
able to save the information for sequels or interviews.  

Create reference sections
Sometimes you have information that you wish to share or that you 
think would be helpful to readers but you do not want to put it into 
your story proper.  Here are some examples:

CAST OF CHARACTERS.  Some novels, such as many of Agatha Christie's 
detective novels, have a cast of characters at the beginning or the 
end.  Instead of having to remind her entire audience of the 
background of Mr. Parker Pyne, the forgetful reader can simply look 
it up.

MAPS AND ILLUSTRATIONS.  Maps are often included in books when 
characters go on quests, but they can be useful in other stories, 
too.  And instead of having to remind readers that your band of 
heroes is crossing the river at the widest point, they can look at 
it if you give them a sketch.

AUTHOR'S NOTE.  Here you can directly address the reader, in your 
own voice, and give them whatever background information that you 
feel might enhance their reading experience but that does not belong 
in the story.  I've used this spot to explain research or the 
reasons for making certain choices in my story.

You may find that the references that you create are useful to you 
as you craft your story.  And, as books become more high tech, more 
readers will be able to call up your references as they go, only 
pausing briefly before they continue their journey through your 

We have reached the end of what I can show and tell you about 
exposition.  I hope these techniques will help you give your readers 
the information that they need in a time and manner that enhances 
their reading experience, and I encourage you to create additional 
ways that suit your story.

Wikipedia contributors. "Exposition (narrative)." Wikipedia, The 
Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 


Victoria Grossack studied Creative Writing and English Literature
at Dartmouth College, and has published stories and articles in
such publications as Contingencies, Women's World and I Love Cats.
She is the author of Crafting Fabulous Fiction, a step-by-step
guide to developing and polishing novels and short stories that
includes many of her beloved columns. With Alice Underwood, she
co-authors the Tapestry of Bronze series (including Jocasta,
Mother-Wife of Oedipus; The Children of Tantalus; and Antigone &
Creon), based on Greek myths and set in the late Bronze Age. Her
independent novels include The Highbury Murders, in which she does
her best to channel the spirits and styles of Jane Austen and
Agatha Christie, and Academic Assassination (A Zofia Martin
Mystery). Victoria is married with kids, and (though American)
spends much of her time in Europe. Her hobbies include gardening,
hiking, bird-watching and tutoring mathematics. Visit her website
at http://www.tapestryofbronze.com, or contact her at tapestry (at)
tapestryofbronze (dot) com. 


Copyright 2015 Victoria Grossack 

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

Link to this article here: 

Want to learn more about crafting fabulous fiction? Get one-on-one
guidance with Victoria Grossack's personal writing class; visit

EVERY WRITER NEEDS A HOLIDAY!  "The Writer's Guide to Holidays, 
Observances and Awareness Dates" offers 1800 events worldwide --
Instant inspiration for those days when you can't think of anything
to write about!  Holiday topics are a favorite of editors, so fuel
your inspiration and jumpstart your articles today!  Available in 
print and Kindle editions; for more information visit


American writers now getting immortalized in Chicago
American Writers Museum is the first museum in USA dedicated to 
Past and present American writers, and it has leased a new central 
Location in downtown Chicago for its 2017 unveiling. "Showcasing 
the personal stories and literary works of diverse American writers,
from Mark Twain to Dr. Seuss, the interactive, high-tech museum is 
expected to draw up to 120,000 visitors annually." For more, visit:

French vending machines dispensing free short stories
Grenoble in France will host eight "Short Edition" vending machines
that will dispense free 1-, 3-, or 5-minute short stories to public.
For more, visit: http://short-edition.com/

German publisher creates picture book for Syrian refugees
The new interactive free 150-word picture dictionary by author 
Casper Amster, and his wife, illustrator Anna Karina Birkenstock,
working with the German publisher arsEdition, aims to make it easier 
for Syrian refugees and their children to integrate and communicate 
with volunteers in their new home in Germany. The digital version is 
available on smart phones, which, interestingly, most Syrian 
refugees own.

Romanian law allows published convicts to go free
A law in Romania allows prisoners who publish books to cut months 
off their sentences. Allegedly, although not surprisingly, several
imprisoned politicians and businessmen have taken advantage of it.
"The controversial regulation has created a literary boom among
wealthy convicts, as well as spurred well-paid ghostwriting
opportunities for acclaimed Romanian writers." For more, visit:



A resource for editors, offering "content geared toward every 
aspect of the editorial process, from grammar to copyright issues 
to editorial management." Writers can learn how things look from 
the other side of the table.

News and views from the world of women's magazine fiction,
specifically focusing on women's magazines fiction. Interviews and
articles, along with a blog roll of links to the submission 
guidelines of all major women's magazines that accept fiction.

If you've ever wondered what life may be like for copy-editing or
proof-reading, this page of the UK Society of Editors and 
Proofreaders tells you all about the reality of the job. In 
particular, http://www.sfep.org.uk/pub/links/links_overseas.asp
provides a link to overseas organisations that deal in the area and
http://www.sfep.org.uk/pub/mship/minimum_rates.asp suggests the
minimum rates you can negotiate for these jobs.

CONTESTS, from Writing-World.com!  "Writing to Win" brings you 
more than 1600 contest listings from around the world.  You won't 
find a more comprehensive guide to writing contests anywhere.  
Available in print and Kindle editions from Amazon!

By Aline Lechaye

They say all good things must come to an end. Unfortunately, it 
seems that this sad day has come to the Writing World Newsletter, 
and, by extension, this Free Stuff for Writers column. 

I'm glad that I had the opportunity to find and share writing tools 
with all of you. I hope that some of them helped inspire you, or 
helped you organize your writing, or just gave you something to 
smile about. 

When you do something continuously over a long period of time, it 
never really occurs to you that someday things might change, or that 
you might be getting overly comfortable, or that maybe you're 
actually living a real-life version of Groundhog Day. 

But, as a mentor of mine once pointed out, change is what begins 
every novel, strengthens every character, and drives every plot. 
Without change, there would be no need to tell stories at all. 

So, even though it's hard for me to let go of and say goodbye to 
this column and this newsletter, I'm also looking forward to facing 
a new era and new challenges, and the chance to tell a new story. 

This month, I've put together several lists of apps for you to 
explore and try. Some of these lists are updated irregularly, while 
others are updated periodically. In either case, these are great
places to start looking for online and downloadable tools for 
writing, productivity, marketing, and much, much more. 

Paperback Writer (http://pbackwriter.blogspot.com) is the personal 
blog of writer Lynn Viehl. The blog mostly discusses topics relating 
to the writing life, but you can view her comprehensive list of 
freeware and free online tools at
and her list of free fiction and non-fiction reads at
http://pbackwriter.blogspot.com/p/freebies.html. Occasionally she 
will also introduce some freebies in her blog posts, so stay tuned 
for those!

While not specifically geared towards writers (or towards free apps, 
for that matter), PC Magazine's list of Top 100 Best Apps for 
and iPhones 
are well suited to those who like to try new technology, or to those 
who prefer tried-and-tested solutions. The lists include brief 
overviews and screenshots of the latest and most popular apps for 
social media, productivity, communication, entertainment, news, 
information, and various other categories. These lists are for 2015; 
hopefully new lists will come out in 2016. 

Speaking of lists, TIME Magazine also has lists of Top 50 Best Apps 
for iPhones (http://time.com/136073/50-best-iphone-apps/) and Top 50 
Best Apps for Android phones 
Admittedly, these lists are for 2014, so some the apps might seem 
outdated (so last year!), but most of them are still good for use in 
these "modern" times. 

Finally, a list that takes "free" seriously! TechRadar has a list of 
50 free Android apps 
for your Android phone or tablet computer, and another 55 free apps 
for your iPhone 
Again, these apps are not writing-specific, but there are quite a 
few productivity apps, as well as social media/marketing apps and 
entertainment apps that are worth looking into and trying out. 

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

Copyright 2015 Aline Lechaye 

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

Look no further than Writing-World.com's own unique line of mugs
for writers and book-lovers!  See our growing selection at 

ADVERTISE on WRITING-WORLD.COM!  For details on how to reach more 
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title, visit http://www.writing-world.com/admin1/adrates.shtml


Writing World is a publication of Writing-World.com

Readers are welcome to forward this newsletter by e-mail IN ITS
ENTIRETY. This newsletter may not be reposted or republished in
any form, online or in print, nor may individual articles be 
published or posted without the written permission of the author
unless otherwise indicated.

Editor and Publisher: MOIRA ALLEN (editors"at"writing-world.com) 

Copyright 2015 Moira Allen

Copyright © 2017 by Moira Allen. All rights reserved.
All materials on this site are the property of their authors
and may not be reprinted without the author's written permission,
unless otherwise indicated.
For more information please contact Moira Allen, Editor