Writing News for the Sunshine State & the Solar System
Editor: Howard Denson
Dec. 2016
To Unsubscribe or Change Your Email Address, hit REPLY and send in your request.
Let us remember . . . that in the end we go to poetry for one reason, so that we might more fully inhabit our lives and the world in which we live them, and that if we more fully inhabit these things, we might be less apt to destroy both.
In this issue:
Stuff from Hither and Yon
            On real estate, cheating, and surviving
            The Best Independent Bookstores in America
            Top 10 escapes in literature
The Writer’s Toolbox—Mark Pernod
FWA Blog for Northeast Florida—Vic DiGenti
Click on the links below to read each article.
On real estate, cheating, and surviving
The St. Augustine paper gives a favorable review to Carrol Wolverton’s novel “Real Estate, Sex, and the World Beyond.” Ms. Wolverton’s protagonist, Jojo, has a supposedly ideal husband, except for his cheating and narcissism. To cope on her own, she enters the real estate field and stumbles until a mentor helps her regain her footing.
The Best Independent Bookstores in America
The article fails to mention any Northeast Florida bookstores, but it does emphasize that independent bookstores are not only surviving but thriving—their savvy service and welcoming environs (especially at this time of year) securing a place in our book-loving hearts.
Top 10 escapes in literature
Stories of nerve and endurance are perennially compelling whether the authors are Alexandre Dumas, Stephen King, John le Carré or others.
Any reader or writer will learn to think in terms of “tools” in a writer’s toolbox. These are handy techniques that writers often rely upon when they first put ink to paper or make letters appear on a monitor.
Shakespeare, for example, relied upon several devices (to list just a few):
--Ghosts (in Hamlet, Macbeth, Julius Caesar, etc.).
--Twins or look-alikes.
--Letters suddenly produced at key moments.
--Use of low comedy to offset a melodramatic event (the Porter scene in Macbeth, the gravediggers in Hamlet, Falstaff in the histories).
And the list could go on, and on.
Shakespeare’s toolbox reflected a treasure chest of language and insight into human character that most of us lack. Even so, let’s examine a few tools in an inadequate toolbox.
Some toolboxes may have a wide variety of tools, but the writer often reaches in for the same old devices. A hammer can be used to drive a nail or pull one out of a board, but a lazy person may try to use, say, the claws to try to unscrew something instead of fishing out a flat-head or phillips screwdriver. One is using a wrench and, seeing a nail that needs to be driven in, hits it with the wrench.
A writer should examine his or her manuscript to make sure that the same old words and expressions aren’t being used. This does not include “he/she said,” since readers do not generally notice dialogue tags. The writer should strive to eliminate as many tags as possible (relying on “dialogue paragraphs,” with part of the paragraph describing an action and another part featuring the quote from that character).
Overused tools may reflect a tired vocabulary. Every writer should have a checklist of words to track in stories or novels. “Grimace,” for example, may end up recurring 50-60 times in an 80,000-word manuscript. (To track the frequency, use Search and Replace: “rimac” replacing “rimac” will locate “Grimacing,” “grimaced,” and “grimacing.” If the ms.. only has, say, five such words widely separated in a book, then you may substitute one or two.)
Someone says something, and a character “nodded.” Count them up. If you have 50-60 instances, get rid of most of them. “Shook” appears often as in “she shook her head” or “he shook hands.” Don’t let the ms.. go out with 50-60 of these.
A phrase may appear in one ms. but be missing from others by the same writer. To show body language reflecting impatience, a writer may say she or she “drummed on the table/steering wheel/etc.” If the phrase is recurring more than twice, remove the excess.
Writers may fall back on the same set of names. Within a novel, the names should look different. If a ms. has Miller, Mueller, Milletts, etc., the reader will be seeing patterns of “M” and “ll.” Change such names to almost anything else: Baker, Grantley, Taylor . . . except these three names are “a” words. Rely on names using different vowels.
We have all been lazy, at least in first drafts. If a ms. features scene after scene of talking heads (characters around a conference table or coffeepot), then odds are their discussion isn’t advancing the story.
Any story should have some humorous elements, but some writers don’t have much of a sense of humor. Use Hitchcock’s North by Northwest as a guide. It has a serious story involving spies, murder, and a not-so-innocent damsel in distress. Mixed in with that are the protagonist’s attempts to clear himself of drunk-driving charges, murder, etc. He is vain, multi-divorced because of his boring lifestyle, but he is able to troop on, even trying to shave with a woman’s tiny razor.
The humor tool is best used when it naturally occurs: A character may be sinister but also have amusing quirks. At a minimum, a writer may try to overcome the lack of humor by working an elaborate joke into the narratives. It’s not the best solution, but perhaps it will save a scene.
A writer is often so close to his or her work that it’s nearly impossible for him or her to recognize any patterns or bad habits. Here is where an objective reader or editor can be invaluable.
So . . .
Hop to it, finish the ms., and find an objective reader to give you feedback.
December signals that you only have one other month left in 2016 to finish your projects for this year. If you want to confer inside with fellow writers, then go to the FWA blog and check out meetings of the River City Writers, the Clay County Writers, Writers by the Sea, the Ancient City Writers, and the Ponte Vedra Writers.
For more information, contact Vic DiGenti, FWA Regional Director, at or
To check out the names of writers who were born this month, go to this website:
The list includes novelists, poets, playwrights, nonfiction authors, writers for the small and silver screen, and others.
If you see that we have omitted a writer, give us his or her name (and preferably a way to verify the belly-button day).
Writers, poets, and playwrights will find useful tools at
You may join us at any time on Facebook. Webmeister Richard Levine has changed our privacy setting from Closed to Public. That way, you can check out our group at your leisure.

To begin, click on:

If you have a finished manuscript that you want critiqued or proofread, then look for someone at
Check out their entries on the website to see if they suit your needs.
They include the following:
·         Robert Blade Writing & Editing (;
·         Frank Green of The Bard Society (;
·         JJ Grindstaff-Swathwood (;
·         Brad Hall (;
·         Lynn Skapyak Harlin (;
·         Joseph Kaval (;
·         Richard Levine (
President: Howard Denson (hd3nson@hotmail. com)
Vice President: Joyce Davidson (davent2010@comcast. net)
Secretary: Kathy Marsh (kathygmarsh@bellsouth. net)
Treasurer: Richard Levine (
Presidents Emeriti: Frank Green, Dan Murphy, Howard Denson, Nate Tolar, Joyce Davidson, Margaret Gloag, Richard Levine, Bob Alexander, JoAnn Harter Murray, Carrol Wolverton, Margie Sauls, Stewart Neal