Writing News for the Sunshine State & the Solar System
www. northfloridawriters. org * Editor: Howard Denson * July 2013
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In This Issue:

Avoid boring the reader: 12 tips for writers – Joyce Davidson

NFW to critique June 8 at Webb Wesconnett

FWA news about meetings, contests, and workshops

Stuff from a Writer’s Quill Edmund Wilson

The Wrong Stuff – Howard Denson

Stuff from Hither and Yon

Writers Born This Month

NFW suspends dues indefinitely

Meetings of NFW and Other Groups

Useful Links

Need someone to critique a manuscript?

The Write Staff

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Avoid boring the reader:

12 tips for writers


Thou shalt not bore.” Writers hear that advice often, but they seldom find out how to avoid boring their readers.

1.             Have a beginning middle, and ending to everything you compose in any genre in poetry, fiction, non-fiction, plays, and screenplays. It may seem clever to end with “cliffhangers,” but these usually anger the readers. They may ask, “What happened?” When they hear the reply, “Use your imagination,” they may grumble, “That’s what you’re for.”

2.             Vary the elements in the manuscript: mood, action, sentence length, word usage, and timing. Review Shakespeare. His comedies have pathos. His tragedies have comic scenes like the drunken porter in “Macbeth.” Abide by his example. Tension in a last chapter, however, will be lost if anything interrupts the steady climb to the climax, not a late and intrusive description, explanations, or a change in mood. Maybe as the world is coming to an end, the protagonist tap-dances with a rose in his teeth. Perhaps, the sentences have grown like Pinocchio’s nose and short blurbs are in order.

3.             Read manuscripts aloud to notice unwanted repetition of words, especially those that are the writer’s favorites or are used several times on one page. Use word search to discover where synonyms would refresh the lines. If a word used is several syllables long and readers have to run to Webster, it better not show up ahead even in a hundred pages.

4.             Action requires appropriate sentence lengths to control momentum. Don’t stop to alert the reader about the training of a fighter within the middle of a fist-fight. Here it is necessary to run the gamut of synonyms unless a word is repeated for a certain effect. Time the scene so that the reader doesn’t say to himself, “Enough already.” 

5.             Refrain from “pushing” an attitude onto the reader. Let him make up his own mind. It’s better to show an act of kindness rather than to describe a character as kind.

6.             Leave out the mundane. Action should further the plot, intensify it, or reveal character. Readers know how to pour coffee and eat a sandwich. If an author wants to picture the commonplace as a trademark, he should find another one.

7.             Don’t repeat explanations. Exposition can be worked in by many different methods if the reader must be reminded, but trust him to remember. Dummies don’t read. Readers know the same information appeared earlier.

8.             In varying dialogue rarely omit the subject. We often stammer “I, I, I, I, I …”, but we aren’t going to say, “Ought to go now”. It’s annoying to come across dialogue without a name or pronoun which introduces a sentence or a fragment. In the play “January Thaw” two old farmers are talking about a trip to Canada:

 “Did you get to Canada?”

 “Didn’t get to Canada, Jonathon.”


 “Nope. Didn’t.”

 “Didn’t get to Canada. Well, I sure enjoyed hearing about your trip…. “

This is written purely for humor. In a serious piece the omission of a subject in speaking stops the flow. To vary dialogue, change the lengths of utterances, but don’t leave off subjects.

9.             Stopping the flow is dangerous. Read, read, read to sense it. Have a support group read passages aloud. Sentences someone trips over often need consideration. Unpronounceable names and obscure words may interrupt the cadence of lines, too. Recently, in a best seller a tongue-lashing term, a choker, stopped the story dead. The author should have been hand-cuffed, for he used the same multi-syllable one several chapters later.

10.          Reread the manuscript with different questions in mind. Did the author change names or descriptions like eye color? Did a character say or do something totally unbelievable before a great new development in his behavior or attitude occurred? Did an exciting element in the piece get lost or dropped or simply relegated as actually unimportant. An author wrote a novel about gruesome attacks on women and then injected scenes with little children, fluffy toy animals, and a cute dog. It didn’t work as contrast but rather detracted from the overall effect of the story. Another after a fascinating beginning, a horrendous crime, never referred to it again. A third writer switched back and forth in two barely related plots, which probably could have been two separate books.

11.          How much credit does the protagonist receive? If there is a hero, he has to accomplish the resolution himself, but it has to be a natural outgrowth of the plot. His “saving the day” mustn’t be tacked on because he is the main character. Even professional authors are guilty of having the hero show up successfully at the end whether his actions seem false or not.

12.          If a writer quickly cranks out one manuscript after another, he or she may lack the depth needed to make them memorable, but if that’s what a writer wants, that’s what the wordsmith will get. At least, he may enjoy the satisfaction that he wrote something.

NFW to critique manuscripts

July 13 at Webb Wesconnett

The North Florida Writers will have a critique-only meeting Saturday, July 13, at 2 p.m. Saturday, at the Webb Wesconnett Library (corner of 103rdStreet and Harlow Boulevard, to the east of I-295). The public is welcome to attend.

For the critiques, someone other than the author of respective works will read aloud the submissions (up to 10 double-spaced TYPED pages of prose, and reasonable amounts of poetry or lyrics). Authors may not defend their work, but they may attach questions they would like answered (e.g., “Is the scene on the beach convincing?”). Authors should listen to the words and rhythms of their creations. .

Future meeting dates and locales:

Aug. 10 – 2 p.m., Webb Wesconnett – Speaker: Melanie Powers

Sept. 14 – 2 p.m., Webb WesconnettSpeaker: Richard Levine

Oct. 12 – 2 p.m., Webb Wesconnett 

FWA news about meetings,

contests, and workshops

Victor DiGenti, the regional director of the Florida Writers Assn., gives readers the FWA Blog post about meetings, contests and workshops for NE Florida writers. Click here to access the blog.




Stuff – Forensic Grammar 


Follow the link below to find where often sane and sensible writers (and editors) have stumbled in their writing:

http://howarddenson. webs. com/theforensicgrammarian. htm

A paperback collection, “The Wrong Stuff: Findings of a Forensic Grammarian,” is available online at and Barnes & Nobel’s website. Go to



from Hither

and Yon.

Click on each link to go directly to the story.

The writers who gave us the American century

Allan Massie notes that F. Scott Fitzgerald's star shines brightly, and deservedly so. But it's probably time we reappraised his old rival, Ernest Hemingway.


How nature writing

can make us care

Stephanie Pain says, “Nature writing is being touted as a new literary genre for new times. Most of us live in towns and cities but we are all keen naturalists now – at least by proxy.” Actually, the genre has been around for ages, but, if it receives a new prominence, so be it. Pain discusses books about the gingko tree, pigeons, and the elusive goshawk.

Sam Leith's most hated

online abbreviations

A columnist for The Guardian, Sam Leith, discusses ten online abbreviations and says that, from LOL to NSFW, they tell us one thing about the user, which is “I am a douchebag.”


Are apostrophes necessary?

Not really, no


Matthew J.X. Malady writes about an organization in the U.K. that strives to protect the apostrophes to be found in geographical names. Even so, he notes that the apostrophe is a relative newcomer to punctuation, appearing in the 16th Century and having its usage expanded in the 17th Century.


Q&A: Interview

with 79-year-old

 Harlan Ellison


When Damien Walter tweeted he”d “literally kill” to interview the multiple award-winning author Harlan Ellison, Neil Gaiman replied “What if the person you had to kill was … Harlan Ellison?” Here Ellison talks about running away from home, the rights and wrongs of paying to read books and how his job on this planet is annoying people.


Revising your writing again?

Blame the Modernists


Craig Fehrman discusses “The Work of Revision” by Hannah Sullivan, an English professor at Oxford University. Her book explains how self-editing became the first commandment of literature. Handwriting led to one approach (largely minimal revision), but the typewriter and typesetters yielded a product that encouraged changes and revisions. Not discussed in the Boston Globe column is the phenomenon of a type of writing produced by word processing: “Word processing” prose is often dashed off, formatted, and then sent out to the audience.




Stuff from

a Writer's Quill


No two persons ever read the same book.


 – Edmund Wilson




Writers Born

in July


To check out the names of writers who were born this month, go to this website:

 http://howarddenson. webs. com/birthdaysofwriters. htm


The list includes novelists, poets, playwrights, nonfiction authors, writers for the small and silver screen, and others.


Looking for your favorite writer? Hit “find” at the website and type in your favorite’s name. Keep scrolling to find writers born in other months.


With misgivings, the list generally omits lyricists (to avoid the plethora of garage-band guitarists who knock out a lyric in two minutes to go with a tune). Often lyricists are accomplished in other writing areas and may cause their inclusion (e.g., Bob Dylan, Johnny Mercer, Cole Porter).


Unfortunately, some writers fret about identity theft and will only say they were born in 1972 or whenever. Typically that means they don’t get included on a “born this day” list. Recommendation: Writers may wish to create a “pen birthday”; that way, their names stay on the public’s radar.


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).


NFW suspends

dues indefinitely


The North Florida Writers has suspended its membership dues for an indefinite period. The treasury has stabilized at a comfortable level, and the NFW does not have any appreciable expenses. Members suspected we could go without dues for a couple of years and perhaps more. During this period, anyone may attend and participate in the monthly meetings. (Even with dues, writers were free to attend a few meetings to see if the NFW would suit their needs.)



of NFW and

other groups


For a listing of meetings of the NFW and other groups in Northeast Florida, click here






Writers, poets, and playwrights will find useful tools at


Need someone

to critique

a manuscript?


If you have a finished manuscript that you wished critiqued or proofread, then look for someone at






President: Howard Denson (hd3nson@hotmail. com)

Vice President: Joyce Davidson (davent2010@comcast. net)

Secretary: Kathy Marsh (kathygmarsh@bellsouth. net)

Treasurer: Richard Levine (Richie@HIDDENOWL.COM);


Presidents Emeritus: 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.