Improve your Writing by Removing Crutch Words.

Improve your Writing by Removing Crutch Words.

Completing a rough draft of a novel is a huge success. However the real work comes from revising. Working with critique partners to help develop the plot and character arcs. But what happens after you’ve done a few rounds of revision? Where do you go next? How can you sharpen your manuscript?

We all have words that we over use, words that we rely on to tell or show the story. Words that we’ve peppered our page with. Soon, you and your beta readers will being to notice the words you rely on, and with diligence you can begin to remove them from your work.

Because I write fantasy-romance, I tend to over use body parts; eyes, mouths, certain gestures for my characters like shrugging or curling their hands into fists. When over used, our readers pick up on them, which brings them out of the story. These become our crutch words.

A great tip is to create a checklist sheet. Jot down a list of your culprits and search your document, preening them out. Don’t forget body parts, facial expressions, or words that you identify as over using. Then edit out the crutch words. Try rewriting the sentence using different words? Ask yourself – do the words adding any meaning to the sentence? Will its removal, alter the story? Can the crutch word be replaced with an alternative description? Thus eliminating the obvious eyesores before your readers identify them.

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#TIP. Word document has a Find tool that searches and highlights the specific word in your manuscript, making it easy to alter or remove.

Air caution, when using the thesaurus. While its function is invaluable to us authors, it runs the risk of stripping our unique voice from the story. I must admit to replacing a word for a recommended substitute and losing the original meaning by not understanding the definition.

A rough idea, is to limit those pesky crutch words to just once per page. Of course, you don’t have to stick to that. Changing a lounge, to a front room, mid-scene is going to be jarring. As would using flowery prose to describe a lagoon, just so you don’t say water too much.

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Some genres – I’m thinking romance – expect to have an emphasis on certain body parts. Eyes in particular, because it shows emotions, and builds tension. Reading in your genre will help you identify those crutch words that have become acceptable to use.

My last tip is to read your work aloud. We’re often too close to our work to see fault. But by sounding out the writing, our brains have the ability to process the information, thus picking up on crutch words.

Yes, it’s tedious hard work, but with persistence and a thorough revisions your writing will improve. I believe in you!!

What is your main crutch word? Don’t be shy. I love it when you share your thoughts and opinions.

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Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2020.
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Why Writers Need Validation to Grow

We all crave validation. We all desire acknowledgement and acceptance. It is one of our fundamental needs as a human. Despite this yearning, I’ve battled with this concept. In a modern society, we’re led to believe that we’re failing unless we push aside these impulses and set to the hard work of getting to know ourselves, of loving ourselves and not needing validation from outside sources.

I’m crying ‘bullshit’ to the notion, we don’t need validation. Yes we do! We’re hard wired for it, in fact, it’s how we learn and grow. But sometimes we get caught up in our reasons for needing it.

In this post, I’ll be explaining the subtle difference between: Excepting who you are; putting yourself out there, battling rejection and criticism to obtain validation of something you’ve worked hard for. Over: Not appreciating your own worth; grappling for validation to prove you exist.

I want to point out that neither of these ways are wrong; if anything, it strengthens my argument that validation is vital to us. Because we, as conscious beings, will often go to great lengths to achieve those fundamental needs.

Dream Big and Let Nothing Hold You Back
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Lets talk about this subject as if we were exploring our story’s themes: Forgiveness, Revenge, Love, Fear, Redemption, Survival or Acceptance. There are many more, but in my second novel, Tali a nymph flees home and bargains her freedom, all in the bid to gain validation from an external source. She wants acceptance.

Taking the theme of Acceptance, I then developed my character, Tali, by asking questions. Why would she sell her soul to gain validation? Why can’t she love herself and follow her own path? How will she discover her own path? And who will validate her experiences to help guide her on her way?

Did you notice a change in those questions? The last two help get a growth mindset. Tali starts the story by giving all of her power away. She’s pleasing other people to satisfy their needs, gleaning what little attention she can get. Tali’s character arc takes her on a journey: She begins to understand her own self worth. She conquers her demons, regains her freedom and starts living her life to the fullest. Yet she still craves that validation, now she gets it from her friends.

Love Heart Hope Fantasy romance writer author Lorraine Ambers

I’ve parodied that example to us as writers: We work tirelessly, often alone, hanging onto the hope that we may one day get a glimmer of attention from an agent, a publisher, or a reader. This can sometimes feel overwhelming, where we feel desperate to sell our soul, I mean our book, to anyone that shows it any attention. Stop. Take a deep breath.

We need to know our own self worth; not every agent or publisher is right for us. Don’t forget we’re still on our journey. Take the time to improve, learn, grow and try again. Get validation from beta readers, critique partners, or a writing group. And fear not, I’m sure there is still plenty of validation to come.

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How do you get validation as a writer? Do you think it’s important? Share your comments, you know I love hearing from you.

Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2020.
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Dream Big and Get Writing

What should we do when life reveals itself as a broken fairy-tale? Unlike a fantasy novel, there is no white knight to save us. The first step is realization: Our world is what we make it.

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How do you create your best life? How do you discover your life’s purpose? 

Follow these simple rules:

  • Do the things that ignite your passion,
  • Dare to dream,
  • Become the person you aspire to be
  • And most importantly, take the steps to achieve those goals.

As writers we know how to hold on the vision; no one else is going to plot, draft or edit our stories. Everyday we create something new; pen to paper, fingers tapping at the key board. Over time, we hold something more than just a finished story in our hands, we gain experience, build a writing community and build upon our social media platforms.

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We are the ultimate creators of our reality, each word, each rejection, each new connection or failed attempt only brings us closer to the place we all want to reach – to have readers fall in love with our words; to experience something profound or moving, to feel a sense of kinship to the trial and tribulations our characters journey through, to escape and pleasure in our fictional worlds. 

The last thing any creative wants, is to experience a burnout: Writers block. Our imagination and determination dries up, causing our writing to come to a grinding halt. We need to listen to our mind and bodies, to slow down when things get tough. The last thing we need is to exasperate the problem, making the journey to getting back on track even harder.

Thank you message in a bottle

I’ve had my share of falling down the rabbit hole of procrastination, of not paying attention to self-care and letting stress take its toll. After the exuberance of the Christmas holidays and the celebrations of a new year, I’ve struggled to slip back into my old writing habits. In search of some much needed motivation, I stumbled across this enlightening YouTube clip. 

Psychological well-being by Nina Ellis-Hervey at TED

Nina is an inspirational woman, who has learnt valuable lessons from her failures and strives to encourage others, that they too, can achieve anything they put their minds too.

So to all of my fellow writers, as Nina says,

Dream big or not at all.

Do you have a favorite motivational or inspirational quote or video clip you’d like to share? We all need encouragement and support, and you know I love hearing from you.

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Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2020.

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Ten Steps… Stop Daydreaming and Start Growing your Business

We all have aspirations of becoming more successful, of being more fulfilled? Have you always romanticised about being a writer? Or about finishing your novel? Maybe, like me you hold onto the possibility of being published. But here’s the catch, dreams won’t come true by fantasising about them. No, you have to put in the work.

Some of you are wondering, but how? Where do we start? Well, I’m here to guide you through the process – read my Ten Step Plan to get you on track. It’s time to be brave, battle through your fears and start taking action towards your dreams.

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  • Commit – This should come as no surprise, but the next step in your plan is to actually commit. You’ve pictured the end goal, held the dream in your heart, filled notebooks and Pinterest boards with your ideas; the next move is to make a promise to your self to start. If your vision hasn’t taken off yet, then there is obviously a level of difficulty to it. Not to worry, the following steps will help.
  • Plan – Well done, the hardest part is beginning. We’ve all heard that person who constantly talks of setting up a business, or writing a novel, or converting their loft into a studio. While they have committed to the idea, they have yet to make any plans. And that’s what you should do, write it down, create a course of action and make sure it logically supports the envisaged dream.
  • Study – What? Why? I hear you groan. If it’s a necessary skill to your business, then committing to learning everything you can about that industry is vital. As a writer, I studied by attending a creative writing course, and now my skills are worked upon by reading, writing, editing and working with Critique Partners. Maybe you need to touch up on you marketing skills, or research Platform Building, or discover your Target Audience. Whatever the issue, there will be some form of developing and growing your skillset.
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  • Practise – This is where the ground work begins, building the foundations as you being to cultivate your dreams. Get dirty, get bruised and tumble into self-doubt; and then dust yourself off and climb back on that metaphorical unicorn, ready to chase your dreams over the nearest rainbow. Never give up, because you never know how close you are to making your ideas blossom into reality.
  • Action – Finally, it’s the moment you’ve been waiting for. TA DAA!! Take those tentative steps into the unknown. Be warned, reality has wicked sense of humour: Don’t be disheartened by the truth, that no matter how much effort we’ve invested up to this point, we will inevitable not be where we want to be. Maybe we’re not confident enough, fast enough, or media savvy enough. There will come a time when you hit a wall, it happens to everyone. The difference between success and failure is that the successful people never quit. Don’t berate yourself, it’s all part of the process, so let’s continue onwards with our Ten Step Plan.
  • Community – Developing a strong foundation of people who encourage and motivate you will help you stay the course through difficult times. Whether they’re friends and family, an online group for entrepreneurs, or the wonderful world of fellow bloggers; having people who can offer support when you need it most is beneficial.
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  • Health – It can be a long, winding road to reaching your goals. And many creatives struggle with mental health. It’s important to listen to your body, watch out for signs of stress and anxiety and take care of yourself. If you crash from Creative Burnout, your beloved dreams will temporarily perish. The same applies for the health of your body, so get some sleep, eat healthy meals, and take time to recover.
  • Take Risks – For life to move forward in a new direction, risks must be taken. It’s easy to stay safe, to live in your comfort zone, but nothing changes. Everyday push your boundaries, it’s the only way to grow and develop (and not just in business). Make that call, ask that blogger to beta read, attend that writing conference. It doesn’t have to be massive steps. In fact, my number one peace of advice to budding new entrepreneurs is: Conquer your fears by taking small steps, one at a time, but keep moving forward. This is how you build self-esteem, by looking back and recollecting all of those tiny achievements. You can do it, you’re AWESOME!
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  • Embrace Failures – No one is perfect, humans make mistakes, and failure in some form or another is inevitable. Don’t wallow in the misery of what you’ve lost, instead find the silver lining and learn from the valuable lessons gained. What will you do differently next time? Where will you invest more? How will you overcome the current hurdle and rise victorious?
  • Celebrate Each Triumph – Life is like trying to climb a giant beans stalk, instead of gazing up at the blanket of clouds and imagining the glittering castle beyond (or, your ideal vision of success). Celebrate each leaf that you climb! Remember to look back at all the other small accomplishments you’ve made, because that is embracing the journey, and that is the true measure of your success.
Author Lorraine Ambers - fantasy romance writer

What step are you embracing at the moment? Do you have any advice for your fellow readers, maybe a further steps to add? Whatever your message, please comment – you know I love hearing from you.

Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2019.
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Top 3 Blogging tips

It’s my 2 year anniversary this week. Yay!!!

I’m so grateful to all my followers and readers. I’m truly humbled by this fantastic community. You’re all supportive, encouraging and willing to connect. And that’s a big deal for me. I adore being an author, spending hours at a time immersed in my imagination, but it’s vital for my sanity to know that you guys are just a few clicks away.

Thank you message in a bottle

Here are my top 3 blogging tips that have helped on my journey so far…

  1. Consistency. Be realistic with how often you can post. It’s all well and good having the intention of posting 3 times a week, but if life gets in the way blogging will be the first thing to slip. So be honest about how much time you can dedicate. I knew that after family and work commitments my writing came next. That’s why I choose to post once a week and its been maintainable. It’s also been rewarding, beyond my wildest dreams. I’ve made some great friends like Ari Meghlen. Her blog is full of writing, blogging and platform building tips. Check her out.

2. Connect.  This is a two-way network. So reach out to fellow bloggers. Read their posts and leave a comment, its more personal than simply liking a post. Although I love it when anyone clicks on the little star.

This week I’ve found two new beta readers K.M. Allen and Uninspired writers.  Ladies, welcome to my realm. Take a look at their fantasic blogs full of writing tips.

3. Schedule posts. This tip is for me too. I really need to take my own advice. Organise post in advance. That way when something unexpected crops up, you’re covered. It’s easy to do: Open post settings. Under Status, click on the arrow next to Publish Immediately and a calendar opens up. Then you can set a date and time. When you’re happy with your choice hit the blue Schedule button and you’re all set.

Alternatively, why not re-blog one of your fellow bloggers posts. It’s a great way to stay consistent with your blog and helps to build connections with your bloggers.

Do you have any great tips to share? Let me know in the comments, you know I love to hear from you. Till next time, Much Love. Xx

 

Author Lorraine Ambers - YA fantasy romance writer

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2018.
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Discovering my story’s premise

Every story has a beating heat. And though every story has been written before, it has not been written by you. Therefore, each story takes on a unique premise. Now I’ve hear this a million times, but honestly I’ve only just grasped the concept. The importance of hooking readers with the premise, by either immediately revealing it or by sowing the seeds throughout the opening pages. Allowing the premises butterfly effect to ripple through your story.

If you like, it’s the first building block of your story. I thought I knew my story. I thought I’d nailed my hook. I was wrong.

YA fantasy romance Author Lorraine Ambers Desk

If you’re struggling to identify your premise, then read this great post on: How to Find Exactly the Right Story Hook by Helping Writers Become Authors. It’s written eloquently with great examples. Honestly K.M Weiland is my go to bible for writing tips.

I didn’t know this until I sent my submission package to a literary agent to be critiqued. A service Writers & Artists provide. I’d come to a dead end with my first MS. It has been rejected by 30 agents with no feedback. It was either shelve it and focus on my second novel, or give it one last attempt. And I’m not a quitter.

Debut Novel NA fantasy Author Lorraine Ambers Beta Reader

So I took a bold move and opened myself up to feedback from Sallyanne Sweeney from MMB Creative. She taught me a valuable lesson about the first few chapters. I hadn’t introduced the premise. I hadn’t introduced my hook. Therefore, I hadn’t rewarded my readers with the foreshadowed inciting moment. Which also came in too late, chapters 4 and 5. Huge mistake!

I had opened with a fast paced scene believing that was the premise. Wrong. It was simply the first domino effect of my story. Then my story floundered to world build, without teasing the reader with my premise. Therefore the story lacked enough tension to drive the plot forward to the all-important inciting moment. The protagonists call to adventure.

Now, I knew what was coming… but my readers had no clue…. worse still, they might have given up and put the book down.

Once I discovered my premise, the revisions came easily. And now the antagonist, the conflict and goal are easily identified within the first few paragraphs. And my story is much stronger for it.

Thanks for reading and best of luck with your WIP. Remember, failure is proof that you’re trying. Don’t ever be afraid to grow and learn. 🙂

Author Lorraine Ambers - YA fantasy romance writer

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2018.

 

 

YA fantasy romance Author Lorraine Ambers Desk

How to Hook an Agent

This year I’m jumping a massive fear hurdle. In April I’m heading down to London to an event by Writers & Artists at Bloomsbury. I’ll join four literary agents who’ll enlighten me on How to Hook an Agent. The talks will include; how to know when your novel is ready, advice on how to pitch your novel, and the agents will tell us what submissions have appealed to them, with examples. This is followed by the opportunity for networking, and I’ll have my first one-to-one pitch session. Eek!

I can’t tell you how excited I am. Thanks to Ari Meghlen for her fantastic critiquing, and thanks to Judith Barrow for her Creative Writing workshops and her unwavering belief in my work. I’m finally ready to charm the pants off of the unsuspecting agents by revealing my first novel in the Shadow Knight Series. (Gulp)

All bravado aside, I’m dreading this verbal pitch. I’ve tweaked my original pitch to an unrecognisable mush of words. I could always wait for the event and see what the professionals have to say, but we all know I need to walk in there prepared.

 

Conquer fear Author Lorraine Ambers

Instead, I’ve turned to my fellow bloggers for advice which I’m happy to share with you.

A pitch should address five specific elements.

  • What is the title, genre, and word count?
  • What is the setting?
  • Who is the protagonist?
  • What is his conflict?
  • What does she have to do to overcome this conflict?

An important question to consider is what makes your book different from similar books within your genre. In business terms what is its USP – Unique Selling Point. Identify that and you’re on to a winner.

Remember that a one-to-one pitch is a two-way conversation, therefore it’s likely that you’ll be asked questions. They could be:

  • Tell me about yourself?
  • What else are you working on?
  • Why do you write?
  • Where did this story come from?
  • How does your book fit into the market
  • What authors do you compare to?
  • Who are your favourite authors?

At conferences and events, there’ll be the chance to ask them questions too. They might be:

  • About the industry
  • The process of the transition from writer to published writer
  • Their style as an agent
  • About the craft

The most important piece of advice that I’ve found is that practice makes perfect. Pitch aloud, in the mirror, and to anyone willing to listen. Until the pitch sounds natural, not stunted. Until the words flow without thought or hesitation.

Remember, agents are normal people. Relax, smile and enjoy the event. Even if all you’re doing is learning from your mistakes for future success. We’re only human after all.

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Have any of my fellow writers pitched to agents? If so, do you have any additional advice to share? I’d love to hear from you, don’t be shy and comment below. 🙂

© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2016.
YA fantasy romance Author Lorraine Ambers Desk Beta Readers

Working with Beta Readers

Getting our writing critiqued is a vital learning process for writers. Through feedback, authors can mould their novel into a piece of work that’s coherent and has marketable appeal. Beta Reader’s response can help to judge which part of your book will work for your audience and those that may not.

I’ve wanted a Beta Reader for quite some time, but had no idea of how to go about it. Can we rely on our family and friends to be honest? Probably not, I tend to sugar coat things for those I care about.

How do we find Beta Readers?

Blogger Ari Meghlem recently asked this question on Facebook. Reaching out on social media is a great way of finding Beta Readers. It’s daunting. It requires bravery and a little common sense.

Finding the right reader is a vital first step. There’s no point in asking someone to read your genre if they don’t like it. Their feedback will be less than helpful. Ask questions and build a relationship. Your ideal reader should be similar to your target audience.

Debut Novel NA fantasy Author Lorraine Ambers Beta Reader

Here are my 3 tips for working with your Beta Reader.

 

Give Guidance

Develop a list of questions that you’d like answered. These might be about plot, pacing, strength of character, or the organisation of the stories concept. Your checklist should meet the specific needs of each book you write. As a great starting point for question inspiration, go check out some of my ideas on these Pinterest boards.

Learnt to love negative feedback

Not everyone will like your work. So you shouldn’t revise your book based entirely on one person’s perspective. Gaining different points of views can help pinpoint the areas that need working on. And as hard as it can be, ask yourself: Will addressing the issues make your book better? Sometimes accepting the truth hurts, but that’s how we grow and learn. So remember to thank your beta readers, and embrace their feedback.

Return the Favour

Offer to work in tandem with your BETA reader. Or consider returning the favour at a later date. By reading someone else’s work you can gain experience at reading with a critical eye. This will be invaluable when editing your own WIP.

I want to say a huge warm thanks to Ari for agreeing to beta read my first novel, her feedback so far has been fantastic. You can read Ari’s previous guest blog post Here.

Thanks for reading my post. Do you have any tips on working with beta readers? If so, please share.

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 © Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2016.

 

Author Lorraine Ambers Books Reading Literature

Do you Misunderstand Literature?

paper pen writing novel author fantasy Lorraine Ambers

A couple of weeks ago I attended the Penfro book festival in Pembrokeshire and took a couple of writing workshops. The first one has lingered in my mind. The class was Making Words Workby author Hilary Shepherd. Her novels are In a foreign country and Animated Baggage.

I arrived ten minutes early to Hillary’s workshop. We discussed her experience with different editors and I confessed my excitement and apprehension of one day working with an editor. The prospect of how someone else would interpret my novel. In that moment I made a small connection with Hillary. Our conversation fitted nicely with what she wanted to convey during the workshop. That the right words can transform our writing into something wonderful, and by editing our work we can fine tune it to be clear and concise.

fairy book girl fantasy - Rachel Adams
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I understood the concept of the class but it threw me back to my English literature days. My English teacher and I clashed on most of my reviews. Humph!

I’m not alone in this. My daughter complains of the injustice of being misunderstood. Her teacher regularly asks her to interpret someone else’s writing but doesn’t agree with her answers. (I guess it’s a family trait.)

Book Reading Edit Write Literature

I remember this all too well, it was a common occurrence during my GCSE’s.

How can there only be one correct version to literature? Surely everyone garners a different perspective? We all have different tastes and quirks. Some of us may prefer the long descriptions of Dickens, whilst others love the beauty of emotions and the tug of heart strings.

Hilary gave us excerpts to read. It was easy to see what didn’t work. Yet harder to define what was great. I appreciate and admire great writing, but emulating it in my work is a different matter.

Instead I’ll strive to learn through vicarious reading, the practice of writing. Perhaps one day I’ll look at each piece of craft and dissect it with knowing eyes.

Author Lorraine Ambers YA fantasy romance
© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2016.