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Posted Tuesday, August 30, 2011, at 6:26 PM

Writing isn't just throwing a bunch of stuff down on paper and hoping someone will like it. You need to give your words plenty of consideration. Make them work for you. I know, I've said to use a conversational tone in your writing, and that's true, to a point. But we still, as writers, need to clean up the careless structure and repetition that we tend to use in everyday conversations.

A good way to punch up your writing is by using strong action verbs. Don't just write, "She ran to catch the bus." Write, "She raced (sprinted, galloped) to catch the bus. If she's wearing high heels perhaps she wobbles, her ankles bending precariously with each long stride. Flip-flops? One of them might go flying off her foot and she loses precious time retrieving it. Or, if she's really desperate to catch that bus, she opts to abandon the flip-flop, only to find, two blocks later, that the bus driver won't let her on with one bare foot anyway.

Editors and publishers love to see a writer who's not afraid to use good, strong action verbs. It shows them this is a writer who doesn't take the lazy route, and, s you can see by my bit of free-association above, the very use of action verbs generates ideas.


Use who when referring to the subject of a clause; whom for the object of a clause. Here's an easy way to remember: If you can answer the question with him or her, then use whom. (Him and Whom both end with M) If you answer the question with he or she, then use who. Who was watching the television? He was watching the television. To whom should I give the remote control? Give it to him. Whom do I love? I love him.

A Bit of Promotion:

Shapato Publishing will be at the Clay County Fair again, in the Art Barn. We will have several new books to offer, including No Turning Back: The South American Expedition of a Dragon Slayer by Benjamin "Coach" Wade, who will be a returning contestant on the new season of Survivor: South Pacific, premiering in September.

"The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug." Mark Twain

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These last two columns really work together--in fact all of the columns work together. Getting the words on paper is the easy part, but making them all work together takes much consideration. When I go over what I have written, I will often find a strong action verb I liked so much that I used it over and over. Then the thesaurus comes in handy for me.

Thanks for the clarifaction on "who/whom." I understand it--but always need to think about it in my writing.

I am looking forward to reading the newest Shapato publications--and encourage the reader to click on to Shapato's website, or get into Amazon, and then click on Shapato. You might be amazed at how much Jean has been doing.

-- Posted by Betty Taylor on Mon, Sep 5, 2011, at 7:49 AM

Since reading this bit about verbs I've been more aware of them in the reading i've been doing, esp fiction. You're so right - the more creative the verb the more exciting the reading experience is for me. And i hadn't even been aware of it! Every little bit helps, every tip to improve my own writing adds up to a better piece of work as a whole.

I took Betty Taylor's advice and did a search on Amazon.com. That was an enlightning experience! Fiction, nonfiction, children's books, even course materials. Do you sleep?

-- Posted by DHarris on Tue, Sep 6, 2011, at 5:58 AM

Did I read that right? You've published the book of a nationally (maybe even internationally) known celebrity, Coach Wade from Survivor?

-- Posted by farmergirl.sp on Wed, Sep 7, 2011, at 4:46 PM

I noticed that Jean has not answered this question yet--but you certainly did read it right. Isn't it exciting!

-- Posted by Betty Taylor on Thu, Sep 8, 2011, at 10:40 AM

Betty - thanks for your nice comments, as always.

DHarris - I don't sleep as much as we're supposed to. I know this is bad, and I certainly feel better when I get plenty of rest, but I always resent the time it takes away from me and all the stuff I want to do. Eight hours a night? That's a third of my life!

Farmergirl - Yes, Shapato Publishing has put out Coach Wade's new book, which is going to make my watching of the new season something of a nail-biter for me now that I've gotten to know him. Other than the finale, which will air live, the show was filmed a few months ago. He can't and won't tell me how he did!

-- Posted by JTennant on Fri, Sep 9, 2011, at 3:56 PM

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Jean Tennant has been writing professionally for more than 30 years. Beginning with short stories, newspaper and magazine articles, she eventually branched out to full-length work, with several novels published by Warner Books, Kensington and Silhouette. Now the owner of Shapato Publishing, LLC, in Everly, Iowa, she teaches writers' workshops throughout the Midwest, for which her schedule can be seen at: www.jeantennant.com. Jean lives in Everly with her husband, Grover Reiser, and their dogs, Kirby and Dakota. Favorite quote: "Outside of a dog, man's best friend is a book. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read." Groucho Marx.
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