Sunday, April 27, 2014


By Bonnie Stanard

At workshop we critics often disagree about what makes good/bad writing. Some of us defend poor grammar and punctuation as creative license. “We aren’t writing themes for English 101.” Others accept point of view (POV) discrepancies. “Best-selling writers do it.” Illogical plots either engage or alienate us. Repetitious words either provide emphasis or tedium. We divide on whether characters are developed or half-baked.

Perhaps the most valid criticisms of our work are those that point out amateurish writing. But what separates amateurish from professional?

It would require a book to address subjects such as coherence, clarity, dialogue, tone, etc. But we can touch on what makes us appear amateurish. Let’s give this a mega/mini treatment. 

—Duplication of what has already been published. Will savvy readers recognize your plot or characters from other novels? We may be copying a story from a book we’ve read. Years ago, George Harrison was sued and found guilty of subconscious plagiarism of an earlier tune. The point is, we may be unaware.

—Unnoted shifts in point of view (POV). I’ve heard writers argue that POV is irrelevant. Might as well argue that plot is irrelevant, or dialogue or setting.

—Untrustworthy fabrication. When you create a fictional world, it has a “reality” that you created. To break with that reality, even in little ways, is to lose faith with your “truth.”

—Lack of knowledge about language usage. What makes people think skills acquired through instruction and practice aren’t necessary for a person to become a writer? Unlike, say, a surgeon? Okay, anybody can write a blog, you say. Yes, and if I can pull out a splinter, I can remove an appendix.

Let’s get to the mini with a list. You may say generalities are useless when it comes to creativity, but they can coach those of us learning the game. According to an issue of Writer’s Digest* that I found in my office, if you open a story with one of the following, you’re an amateur: 
action that turns out to be a dream
an alarm clock buzzing
a phone ringing
little or no dialogue for three pages
unattributed dialogue
alternatives for said
the villain, if it’s a mystery
outlandish names like Sky or Zebediah

Because we get numerous suggestions in workshop about what to change, it’s up to us to figure out which criticisms to accept and which to reject. As we participate in critiques and hone our work, we’re becoming more skilled in recognizing amateurish writing. In large measure, that skill comes from reading what others write. And that’s why we often hear the advice from professionals to read, read, read.
* Writers Digest July/August 09

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Using Images to Sell Your Work

By Jodie Cain Smith 

Unless you want your book to die a lonely, dusty death, rotting on the shelf until the pages decompose, selling your book is up to you. But do any of us really want to turn off the creative side of our brain once the writing is done and focus on marketing techniques? I say, “Don’t!” Bring your natural born creativity to your marketing plan.

Post “Buy my book! Now!” on Facebook and I’m sure your momma will comply. Heck, she might even tell the other members of the local orchid society to buy her baby’s book, but beyond that, you will likely fall short of your sales goal. Create a beautiful author website with your latest headshot, book description, and link to the Amazon Kindle store. Then watch only your inner circle click “buy now”. Keep pinning and tweeting your brains out about summer fashions and perfecting your brownie recipe, or use social media and your super-human, creative brain to sell your book!

Did you know that 80% of the content on Pinterest is images that have been re-pinned over and over again? That’s right. There are people all over the world trolling for pretty pictures. Why not create your own picture to be pinned?

Idea #1

My novel, The Woods at Barlow Bend, mentions my grandmother’s love of cooking. Among the many delicious treats she fed me over my childhood, her fried okra was my favorite. Her secret was fresh okra and a little bacon grease. (I dare you to resist okra cooked in bacon fat.) How can I use this to sell my novel? I make Granny’s fried okra, snap a couple of pictures (okra frying in my cast iron skillet, okra on my bright, red serving tray) and upload the picture to Pinterest. When the image is clicked, the link will lead to the recipe posted on my author website written within a childhood memory of Granny. Just below the recipe the reader can click on a link to purchase the novel.

Idea #2

Have you, like me, saved every shred of research you did for your novel? The research that you did enriched your work and was a fascinating treasure hunt. Make your research work for you again. From my research for The Woods at Barlow Bend, I have pictures, court documents, newspaper articles, and census reports. Using Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, I will publicize these items along with teasers from the book and, of course, a link to purchase the book. Here’s a little “for example” nugget to be posted on social media along with an image: Can you believe what Hubbard was arrested for? Find out what happened after the arrest in The Woods at Barlow Bend (hyperlinked, of course, to Amazon).

What other images could you create in order to publicize your book? What interesting and innovative content could be used social media? Telling people to buy your book is not enough. You must show them why they want to buy your book! Share your brilliant ideas below in the comment section below.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Whodunit: I Really Don’t Know But I’ll Keep Reading

By Kimberly Johnson

Uncle Sunny done it. The Frank Sinatra-singing Lothario choked the life out of the old ladies with Venetian blind cord. Afterwards, Shorty and Moe put’em in the dumpsters around Trenton. Cops were stumped on this head scratcher. Leave it to Stephanie Plum--full time bounty hunter and part time private eye-- to stumble on this beloved killer in Janet Evanovich’s Takedown Twenty

I missed that one. Evanovich kept me guessing until the end when Uncle Sunny croaked while Grandma Mazur was performing a pole dance. I don’t keep a lot of mystery novels on my bookshelf because I can figure it out. Now, I can add one.

I had two suspects: the peach-Schnapps-drinkin’ butcher or some geezer at the Senior Center. On top of that, Uncle Sunny is a mobster with family ties to Stephanie’s boyfriend who happens to be a cop. Complicated, huh? I enjoy reading these tales—the characters are regular people with plenty of drama.  I attribute the keep-me-guessing part to character development. Who could go wrong with Ranger? The sexy knight in shining armor rescues Stephanie from being tossed over a bridge by Shorty and Moe. Or Lula? She’s the sidekick who wears too much spandex and buys lettuce for a runaway giraffe. I found three writers who give pretty good advice on suspense:

Ron Lovell: Set up false leads and red herrings all along the way to throw reader off as to who the killer is. Be fair with readers—lead them to the solution of the crime methodically, planting clues, and don’t bring someone out of nowhere that the reader does not know or care about. 

PD James:  Usually, there is a murder, a closed circle of suspects with means, motive and opportunity for the crime and a detective, either amateur or professional, who comes in like an avenging deity to solve it. 

Chuck Wendig: In real life, people get run over with cars, shot with pistols, and decapitated with ancient swords. Take down your victim with all the creativity you can muster.

So, the next time I read a Stephanie Plum mystery, I’m going to double-check the false leads and fish out all the red herrings to untangle whodunit.


Monday, April 7, 2014

South Carolina Writers’ Workshop Website Improvements

By Ginny Padgett

The SCWW website has some great advantages for members beyond general information and conference registration. Recently in accordance with member requests, new pages and a number of improvements were made.

Members’ Published Works Page (  This page isn’t new but it's been upgraded. A slider feature continually rotates books so all work is visible, regardless of when it was posted. (At the present time, only five books are sliding, however that technical glitch should be rectified within the week.) Also on that page there is now a button to find work by genre. If you have work to add to this page, go to the web address above and follow the guidelines. Note: While work continues on this page, the guidelines are not visible. However, they may be found on the Quill Bulletin Board. Issues are available on the website for reference (  Please follow the guidelines carefully. 

Members’ Websites and Blogs (
This page is not new or improved. If you’d like to add your information, follow the guidelines on this page.
SCWW Blog ( I bring this page to your attention because this is where our Cola II Blog Vote Winner goes each month. The innovation on this page is content. In the past, blogging responsibility was handled mainly by SCWW Board members. This year there is an emphasis on posts from the general membership and outside guests.

Speakers’ Bureau Page ( This is a new page where members may offer their services to speak to groups based on the author’s area of expertise. If you’d like your information to be included on this page, the guidelines are available on this page. Note: It is most important to follow the guideline closely.

SCWW Board of Directors Meeting Minutes ( This is another new page to keep the membership abreast of the workings of the organization.

Not a SCWW member and your interest is piqued? Join us. There’s a website page for that too: