August 22 Writing Tips, Tricks, Thoughts

Birthdays: James Kirke Paulding (1778), Dorothy Parker (1893), Annie Proulx (1935), Ray Bradbury (1920), Will Hobbs (1947), Peter James (1948), Kurt Anderson (1954), Will Shetterly (1955),  Kate Christensen (1962), Diane Setterfield (1964), Charlie Connelly (1970)

Annie Proulx won the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award for Fiction. Her short story “Brokeback Mountain” was made into the movie of the same name.

Quote: “What I find to be very bad advice is the snappy little sentence, ‘Write what you know.’ It is the most tiresome and stupid advice that could possibly be given. If we write simply about what we know we never grow. We don’t develop any facility for languages, or an interest in others, or a desire to travel and explore and face experience head-on. We just coil tighter and tighter into our boring little selves. What one should write about is what interests one.” – Annie Proulx

“You fail only if you stop writing.” – Ray Bradbury

Tip: A simile is a figure of speech where two very different things are compared to each other, usually denoted by the word “as.” For instance: She had a heart as big as Texas.

Jumpstart: The storm rattled the windows, slashing at them as if trying to get past the thin glass to the inside. I knew if it did…

August 21 Writing Tips, Tricks, Thoughts

Birthdays: Jules Michelet (1798), X.J. Kennedy (1929), Mart Crowley (1935), Robert Stone (1937), Lucius Shepard (1943), Arthur Yorinks (1953), Sharon Draper (1948), Denise Mina (1966),

Robert Stone won the National Book Award in 1975 for “Dog Soldiers”.

Arthur Yorinks won the Caldecott Medal for his book “Hey, Al”

Lucius Shepard won multiple awards for his science fiction including the Hugo and Nebula awards.

Quote: “Achieving a goal is nothing. The getting there is everything.” – Jules Michelet

“What’s right isn’t always popular, and what’s popular isn’t always right.” ― Sharon M. Draper

Tip: Watch out for sentences starting with gerunds (ing words) as they can lead to impossible physical actions: Setting her coffee on the car roof, she got into the car. (She can’t set the drink on the car at the same time she’s getting into it, as this implies. She can get into the car “after” setting her coffee there.)

Jumpstart: Fear? Confusion? Disgust? All those things went through my mind when I woke up and found…

August 20 Writing Tips, Tricks, Thoughts,

Birthdays: H.P. Lovecraft (1890), Jacqueline Susann (1918), Jeff Brown (1926), Edgar A. Guest (1881), Sue Alexander (1933), Lionel G. Garcia (1935), Heather McHugh (1948), Kevin Baker (1958), Diedre Madden (1960), Greg Bear (1951), James Rollins (1961), Etgar Keret (1967)

Quote: “The hardest theme in science fiction is that of the alien. The simplest solution of all is in fact quite profound—that the real difficulty lies not in understanding what is alien, but in understanding what is self. We are all aliens to each other, all different and divided. We are even aliens to ourselves at different stages of our lives. Do any of us remember precisely what it was like to be a baby?” – Greg Bear

Tip: Weak words: Shakespeare didn’t call Katherina a “mean woman”. He called her a “shrew”. When a cat is chasing a mouse, it doesn’t “jump suddenly”; it “pounces”. A starving person “wolfs” his food. The words shrew, pounce and wolf are stronger than the lukewarm phrases they replace. Check your work for weak words.

Jumpstart: The moon has disappeared from the sky. What happened? What effect does it have?

August 19 Writing Tips, Tricks, Thoughts

Birthdays: John Dryden (1631), Samuel Richardson (1689), Ogden Nash (1902), James Gould Cozzens (1903), Ring Lardner, Jr. (1915), Frank McCourt (1930), Jack Canfield (1944), Greg Jonathan Coe (1961), Veronica Roth (1988)

Jack Canfield is best known as the co-creator of the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series.

Jonathan Coe holds the record for the writing the longest sentence in the literature of the English language – 13955 words (beating out James Joyce’s “Ulysses”)

Quote: “Keep Scribbling! Something will happen.” – Frank McCourt

Tip: A malapropism is the misuse of one word for another in a comical manner, such as “I took him for granite.” (instead of “granted”). They can be used for effect, but don’t overuse.

Jumpstart: I had to stop it somehow. I’d buried too many friends…and enemies. But how? I’d given everything I could and still…

Spotlight: Kim Ligon

CJ Reynolds couldn’t wait to escape his hometown. He’s loving his bachelor life as a software developer in
California. So much so that he hasn’t been back in years to see the grandmother who raised him. Mikal Benson believes her small town is perfect for raising her son, Will, alone. When Mikal finds her neighbor, Polly Rogers, sprawled on the floor in a pool of blood, barely clinging to life, she calls Polly’s grandson—CJ Reynolds—and insists he must come home. Now! From her coma, Polly whispers three words that change everything. Did she fall or was she pushed? CJ, Mikal, and Will form an unlikely team coming together to discover the truth as danger engulfs them and love transforms them into a family.


Kim Ligon has been writing stories for most of her life—some on paper and some only in
her head. She has lots of source material growing up as the oldest child in a large family
in a small town in Wisconsin. Her father was a veterinarian so there were not only lots of
children around, but all manner of house pets and farm animals too. Her love of reading
comes from her mother who was seldom seen sitting down without a book in her hand.
After a demanding career in healthcare information technology, she is now getting to do
all the creative things she loves which includes writing her stories to share with you. She
lives with her chief encourager and personal romantic hero, her husband of almost
forever, in Alabama. Please follow her further adventures at


August 17 Writing Tips, Tricks, Thoughts

Birthdays: Ted Hughes (1930), V.S. Naipaul (1932), Herta Muller (1953), Jonathan Franzen (1959), Jessie Burton (1982),

Quote: “Read it out loud. I did this five times with The Muse – exhausting, but helpful. The brain, when you read silently, often corrects things for you. It’s only when you hear the rhythm of your sentences aloud, does your choice of words fall, or clear the hurdle. Muddy images, unintentionally repetitious adjectives, things that just don’t *land*…the list goes on.” – Jessie Burton

Tip: When a writer stutters, it means that s/he has used the same major word twice within the same sentence or paragraph, or has started too many sentences or paragraphs the same way, has given all his or her characters names that start with the same letter, or has repeated the same action too many times. Look over your work. How often have you “stuttered”?

Jumpstart: You’re on your way back from a trip. At the luggage kiosk, you grab what you’re sure is your bag. After all, it had that red ribbon you specifically tied to it. When you get home, you open it and find…

August 16

Birthdays: Hugo Gernsback (1884), T.E. Lawrence (1888), Georgette Heyer (1902), Wallace Thurman (1902), William Maxwell, Jr. (1908), Matt Christopher (1917), Charles Bukowski (1920), Diana Wynne Jones (1934), Benjamin Alire Saenz (1954), Jennifer Donnelly (1963), Valeria Luiselli (1983)

Hugo Gernsback’s contributions to science fiction were so great that the prestigious Hugo Award is named for him.

T.E. Lawrence is well known as Lawrence of Arabia. His books include “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” and “Revolt in the Desert”

Georgette Heyer essentially began the Regency romance genre of writing.

William Maxwell, Jr. won the 1982 National Book Award for “So Long, See You Tomorrow”

Benjamin Alire Saenz won the 1992 American Book Award for “Calendar of Dust”

Quote: “A library is a place full of mouth-watering food for thought.” – Diana Wynne Jones

Tip: Passive vs. active voice: active voice (preferred) is when the subject of the sentence is doing something while passive is where the thing is having something done to it. Active: John threw the ball. Passive: the ball was thrown by John. Active voice gives your writing more impact.

Jumpstart: You hate big, fancy parties but must attend one coming up because it’s in your honor. What did you do? What happens?

August 15 Writing Tips, Tricks, Thoughts

Birthdays: Sir Walter Scott (1771), Thomas de Quincey (1785), Edith Nesbit (1858), Sri Aurobindo (1872), Edna Ferber (1885), Julia Child (1912), Leonard Baskin (1922), Linda Ellerbee (1944), Garry Disher (1949), Stieg Larsson (1954), Mary Jo Salter (1954)

Edna Ferber won the 1924 Pulitzer for Fiction for “So Big”

Quote: “Only amateurs say that they write for their own amusement. Writing is not an amusing occupation. It is a combination of ditch-digging, mountain-climbing, treadmill, and childbirth. Writing may be interesting, absorbing, exhilarating, racking, relieving. But amusing? Never!” – Edna Ferber

Tip: When writing a scene with setting, don’t forget about background noises we hear every day—birds chirping (or not for suspense), traffic, thunder, etc. Also think about background smells and other sensory items.

Jumpstart: The old stairs creaked and groaned under her weight and she was afraid the noise would…

August 14 Writing Tips, Tricks, Thoughts

Birthdays: Alice Provensen (1918), John Galsworthy (1867), Russell Baker (1925), Alice Adams (1926), William Kittredge (1932), Bryce Courtenay (1933), Danielle Steel (1947), 

John Galsworthy won the 1932 Nobel Prize in Literature

Russell Baker won the 1952 Pulitzer Prize in Autobiography for “Growing Up”

Quote: “I have a good vocabulary, certainly better than most writers I would say, and I will be writing away and I will type, ‘She made a very perspicacious remark.’ (Which, for those of us not au fait with every entry in the…dictionary, means clear and lucid.) I will go back th next day and cut out the word perspicacious because three are five English words that are close enough that readers will understand. I am not trying to impress you or the reader. Keep it simple.” – John Galsworthy 

Tip: Read your dialogue out loud. Does it sound like real people are talking? Or is it stilted and long winded? You should strive to keep dialogue real, but don’t copy real speech. If you listen to real people talking, you’ll find that most conversations are full of inanities.

Jumpstart: You’re on your way to a job interview. You stop at a convenience store for some coffee and a rude person cuts in front of you. Then turns and spills his drink on your new suit. And blames you. You tell him off….and get to the interview a few minutes late only to see him on the other side of the desk. What do you do?

August 13 Writing Tips, Tricks, Thoughts

Birthdays: Alfred Hitchcock (1899), Kamila Shamsie (1973), Tom Perotta (1961), Sharon Kay Penman (1945), Nikolaus Lenau (1802)

Quote: There is a distinct difference between “suspense” and “surprise,” and yet many pictures continually confuse the two. I’ll explain what I mean. 

We are now having a very innocent little chat. Let’s suppose that there is a bomb underneath this table between us. Nothing happens, and then all of a sudden, “Boom!” There is an explosion. The public is surprised, but prior to this surprise, it has seen an absolutely ordinary scene, of no special consequence. Now, let us take a suspense situation. The bomb is underneath the table and the public knows it, probably because they have seen the anarchist place it there. The public is aware the bomb is going to explode at one o’clock and there is a clock in the decor. The public can see that it is a quarter to one. In these conditions, the same innocuous conversation becomes fascinating because the public is participating in the scene. The audience is longing to warn the characters on the screen: “You shouldn’t be talking about such trivial matters. There is a bomb beneath you and it is about to explode!” 

In the first case we have given the public fifteen seconds of surprise at the moment of the explosion. In the second we have provided them with fifteen minutes of suspense. The conclusion is that whenever possible the public must be informed. Except when the surprise is a twist, that is, when the unexpected ending is, in itself, the highlight of the story.” 
― Alfred Hitchcock

Tip: Secondary characters should not take over a scene unless there’s a very good reason. They are there to support the main characters or add color to the story, not to be the main reason for the story. If they start to take over, then maybe you’re telling the story from the wrong point of view.

Jumpstart: Pick a famous piece of art or sculpture and write about the artist as s/he was creating it.