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 February, 2004

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Advanced Techniques: Say it Once, Say it Right

by Sandy Tritt


            Let’s face it. We’re writers because we love words. We love the way they sound and we love the way they roll off our tongues. We love to string them together and give meaning to our existence through them. Words are our babies. And one of the toughest things we must do as professional writers is to weed through these babies we’ve created and eliminate those that don’t pull their own weight. Yes, we are talking infanticide here. Killing our babies.

            Redundancy is one of the carnal sins of writers. We don’t trust our words to do their job. We don’t trust our reader to catch our meaning the first time. So we repeat ourselves. Unfortunately, any word that doesn’t add to a story, detracts.

            Now, before you slam this book shut on me, let me offer an alternative. For large groups of words that I just don’t have the heart to kill, I keep a file on my hard drive titled “Babies.” Whenever I write (what I consider) beautiful prose that just doesn’t fit my story, I cut it from my manuscript and move it to my “Babies” file. That way, I don’t feel like a murderer.

            But for those little redundancies, the little repetitions (like in this sentence), the best alternative is death. Let’s take a look at an example:


            Shelly sat cross-legged on the over-sized sofa. Her life was about to change. She peeked inside the envelope. The letter in the envelope was neatly folded. She took the letter out of the envelope and opened it. She was afraid of what it would say. She was scared that Larry was giving her the brush-off. Her trembling hands held the paper open. With great trepidation, she read the words that would change her life forever. She would never be the same again.


            Okay, redundancy irritates us. Did the writer think we were so bored we had nothing better to do than read the same thought over again? Or did the writer just think we were too stupid to catch on to what was happening? My guess is that the writer was trying to slow down the pacing and became lazy.

            Regardless of the reason, we, as writers, don’t want to irritate our readers. Therefore, we need to use care in choosing words that best say what we need to say, and then say those words once. We gotta trust our words to do their job and we gotta trust our reader to do his. So, let’s revisit Shelly’s letter and see what we can do with it:


            Shelly sat cross-legged on the over-sized sofa and peeked inside the envelope. She removed the neatly folded letter and opened it. Her hands trembled as she read the words that would change her life forever.


            Well—it’s better, but we can see the need to slow the pacing. To do that, we can add one of the following to the paragraph:

·        “She wiped her palms on the shirt Larry had given her.”

·        Something to give the depth of her feelings: “She wouldn’t be able to bear life without Larry.”

·        The use of other senses: “The letter smelled of Old Spice. Shelly took a deep whiff and imagined Larry sitting next to her, holding her hand, rubbing her knuckles, bringing her fingers to his lips for a soft kiss.”


            See Pacing previously in this section for more ideas on controlling the pacing.


            Redundancy can also come in the form of a single word or phrase. For example, “free gift” or “sum total.” Entire websites are devoted to naming and eliminating these little nuisances.

            Some writers repeat ideas in a list, such as, “She was tired, worn out, and exhausted.” Okay. Wouldn’t just saying she was exhausted serve the purpose? Better, say it more creatively and actively, like, “Exhaustion hung to her like possums to their mama.” (just kidding!)

            Be aware of repetition in your writing. Crisp prose has no room for it. So, the next time you feel like a redundancy, repeat this to yourself ten times:


            Any word that doesn’t add to your prose, detracts from it.

            Any word that doesn’t add to your prose, detracts from it.

            Any word that doesn’t add to your prose, detracts from it.

            Any word that doesn’t add to your prose, detracts from it.

            Any word that doesn’t add to your prose, detracts from it.

            Any word that doesn’t add to your prose, detracts from it.

            Any word that doesn’t add to your prose, detracts from it.

            Any word that doesn’t add to your prose, detracts from it.

            Any word that doesn’t add to your prose, detracts from it.

            Any word that doesn’t add to your prose, detracts from it.
Exercise: Say it Once, Say it Right


Give your hand a try at eliminating these redundancies (see Section 6 for possible solutions):


1. Janie had a tiny little hand.



2. Wilbur ate quickly, in a hurry, and rushed through dinner.



3. Jacqueline looked at the old antique and quietly whispered to the neighbor next to her.



4. “I don’t wanna go home!” she whined.



5. “Don’t touch me,” she warned.



6. There was three seconds left on the clock. The arena was quiet, totally silent. Not a sound was heard anywhere. No one shouted. No one breathed. No one moved. Michael stood on the court and posed, then raised his arms and aimed the basketball at the net. He shot the basketball. It left his hands and in slow motion, it lifted into the weightless air, then silently slid through the net without so much as a swoosh. The quiet crowd exploded with cheers, catcalls, applause, clapping and screaming. With less than a single second left on the time clock, the Lakers stole the lead. They won. They had done it. (Hint: my solution to this one might surprise you)

(from Section 4, Workbook)

Want more great tips and techniques? Our Inspiration for Writers Tips and Techniques Workbook is now available. Expanded tips, more topics, reproducible worksheets, exercises to practice what you learn and much more--check it out! Free shipping anywhere in the United States.

(c) copyright 2002 by Sandy Tritt. All rights reserved, except for those listed here. September be reproduced for educational purposes (such as for writer's workshops), as long as this copyright notice and the url: http://tritt.wirefire.com are distributed with the pages. For use in conferences or other uses not mentioned here, please contact Sandy Tritt at tritt@wvadventures.net for permission and additional resources at no or limited charge.

   Keep writing!

Sandy Tritt

Inspiration for Writers tritt@wvadventures.net

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Growing Up in the Twelve Tribes Cult

by Melissa

Melissa has asked to share this story as a warning - what can happen if you are trapped in a cult. We share this as a warning, and an example of how writing can serve an important purpose in society.

I wanted to share my story of growing up in the Twelve Tribes cult. I wanted to share what it's really like on the inside.

I went there when I was only six years old with my mother, brother and my sister. I didn't have a choice in the matter for I was only a child as we all were. Thankfully we all have left except my mother. I pray every day for her safety and that one day she will be strong and leave as well.

Growing up in a cult is very different from the outside "real world" that I was also told was evil. I often wondered why it was so horrible and what it would be like to leave but as I grew older I got more courage and eventually left. I started seeing a lot of hypocrisy as I got older and wondered why I was treated different from the other girls my age.

It was because my mother was single and they didn’t believe that she was capable of raising us on her own. This is something that happens in a cult with children that have only a single mother.

I wondered why some of these girls seemed to have so much and why I never was able to get anything. I became very angry and at times I would steal from others because I felt very wronged. I was forced to become an adult at the age of 12 and carried on a regular duty as the other women in the house such as cooking or caring for a mother that had just had a baby.

I would not be allowed to things after "school" training class with the other girls, for I had to come home to cook dinner. I made friends with the adults, for I related to them and didn't feel right around my peers. My mother had no real say so in our lives.
I lived with other families and was tossed from house to house. There was this time that I was put into an empty room with a pillow and blanket to lie on and a glass so that I could go down to the bathroom to get some water. I was put there with no food all day and I was told that I would not be let out until I told the truth about playing with a doll that I had found. I was there all day and that night my mother came in and brought me to my room to go to bed.

The next day I was again placed in the empty room until I gave in and told them I had played with the doll. I was then paddled on my butt with a paddle that left welts that later turned to bruises.

Then there was this time that I was left with another couple for a week when I was sixteen because the couple that I was living with at the time went out of town. There were two things that happened in that week, actually. I had a crush on one of the single men there and the women had him come over and pull my pants down and had him paddle me on my butt to try and make me not have a crush any more. I was also paddled for asking one of the women visitors for a sanitary napkin because they made their own and I was paddled for asking her for one.

I remember times when I would be paddled so much that, when I went to see my mother, I was covered with black and blue marks all over my body and she would rub lotion on me to help them heal. I had no real childhood and I was never allowed to go on trips with others my age because I had responsibilities in the house, plus I would take over the others things as well while they got to go on trips. I would always pretend to be happy when inside I felt so much anger.

Then one day I had had enough and I had taken an over dose of Tylenol because I wanted to get out of my pain. I ended up being taken to the hospital where they pumped my stomach and I stayed for a weekend. I went back and that very next day I left and started a new life for myself. I hope my story helps others feel free to contact me for further info. And that’s what the Twelve Tribes are really all about.

These are just a couple of my stories if you would like to know more feel free to contact me for more info. Melissa


To contact Melissa, write us at 12tribes@author-me.com and we will contact her in your behalf.)

Critiquing Special

  • Limited time special, one cent per word.  Just mention Publishing New Writers  Newsletter (February, 2004).

    Critiques by Sandy Tritt

  • Unlike most editors, I consider my role to be a mentor or a coach. Instead of just telling you what is wrong, I explain how to correct the problem, and I work with you to teach you how to write effective prose. More than 50% of my business is repeat business, and I relish establishing long-term relationships with other writers.

  • Treat you with respect and compassion. All criticism will be of the "constructive" sort. My purpose is to improve your writing, not to destroy your confidence.

  • Mark your manuscript, correcting grammatical and spelling errors and suggesting alternative wording where appropriate, line-by-line.

  • Highlight areas that are especially well-written, so you will know where your strengths are.

  • Where appropriate, offer suggestions for plot development, character development or other areas that could be strengthened.

  • Return a two-to-four page written analysis of your work. This will include evaluation of: plot, setting, characterization, dialogue, special effects (flash forwards, flashbacks, etc.), voice, point of view and any other areas particular to your work.

  • If appropriate, recommend reading or resources to strengthen your areas of weakness.

  • Answer any questions you  have via email.

  • Provide my telephone number for a personal follow-up, if you desire.

For Sandy's success stories, see http://tritt.wirefire.com/Manuscript_Critique.html

Write Sandy at tritt@wvadventures.net

(See Sandy's article above.)


Read...   Move Over Maharishi

By Dee Landerman

An ordinary housewife is catapulted into the unknown. For over twenty-five years with one foot in the other dimension, experiences visions, apparitions, and visits from the divine. As a Christian Intuitive with the ability to see into a person’s spirit, she experienced first hand where the departed go.

She shares her life openly with you, with the intent to give answers and direction for you to find power, peace and acceptance in your own life. Dee reveals the ‘Heart Of God’ about organized religion and today’s churches, sharing God’s concerns and desires for America and the world.

Click here for more info...

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Publishing New Writers,

February, 2004 (no. 502)


Publisher: Bruce L. Cook, P.O. Box 451, Dundee, IL 60118.  Fax (847) 428-8974.

Submissions /comments  cookcomm@gte.net.

Links are welcome.


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Don't read this!

by Ken Mulholland.

Well hello!
So you've bothered to wander down this far.
There's nothing here worth bothering about.
 . . . . . .
Good grief!
Not still hanging around to see what's cooking?
 . . . . . .
Alright! That does it!
So far I've said absolutely nothing, and yet you're still here.
Well, what a pathetic way to introduce 'Hooks.'
Here, try saying this backward. 'hooked, bee, oil, well.'
Yes, that's right, it's an old Irish joke, and it has a much ruder version, something to do with 'beef', but we won't go there or Bruce Cook will have me flogged, keel-hauled and drawn and quartered.
(Not to mention being banned from Author Me)
Darn! I said 'Not to mention!'
 . . . . . .
As I was about to say, the bed was thumping, and why wouldn't it be? Considering that two men and three women... or was it three men and two women?
Oh never mind that now, it's only a story about a pyjama party pillow-fight...maybe.
Oh sorry, did those few words get your attention?
Captain Hook.
Never smile at a crocodile.
What a great grabber!
 . . . . . .
Alright! If you've made it this far, then let's talk about 'Hooks.'
A 'Hook' is supposed to be what makes a reader want to read further.
(This is what the previous line actually is.)
By all accounts, it's the thing that an article, a story, a novel, a gang-buster trilogy hangs itself on.
Hooks come in all sizes. (Much like the fishing variety.) They can be subtle, 'His fingers curled about her lovely neck.'  or threatening, 'his fingers curled about her pulsing throat!'
They can be lollies, 'Andy Pandy ended up, upside down, his head jammed firmly between Miss Golly's...iron garden gate. (They can also be quite naughty.)
Hooks, it is my contention, can come along at any point. Not only are they there to drag you in at a beginning, they can be employed throughout a writer's work, even to the conclusion. Indeed, I suspect that one of the better uses of a hook is at the end of a story. That's where a writer wants a reader to be intrigued to the point where they must purchase the follow up book.
And of course they are useful at the end of chapters, leaving a reader hanging. 'She couldn't hold on any longer. Her aching fingers began to slip...'
Also, there are the cliché hooks: 'Captain we have to surface, or this man will die!'  'It was a dark and stormy night.'  'Once upon a time.' 
And there are the classic end hooks: 'Louie, this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.'  'Oh, I'll have to think about that tomorrow.'  'Shane! Shane! Come back Shane!'
Hooks abound in advertising and promotional material, real estate, car sales, insurance and almost anything you care to consider...Even email.
BEWARE. Never open an email attachment without first checking its sender. The cost of a phone call can save you. Ring the sender. Or else face the prospect of losing all your precious writing, correspondence and research.
Hookers, (No not that kind) Email hookers who want to cause as much vexation as they can, will offer you hooks to open attachments that will invade your computer with all kinds of viruses. I have seen at first hand the devastation such invasions can cause.
"Sure, but I know the sender's name: that's Steve, must be Steve Benson. I'll open the attachment...you know, only a little way." (Yeah, right, like being a little bit pregnant!) The temptation is great, just to click the mouse, after all who'd want to shut you down? It couldn't be a virus, You've never had one before. You might even wonder what it's like? It's kind of like seeing a sign on a park bench that says 'Wet paint.' But is it still wet? Better stick your fingers on to make sure...Yep, still wet, damn! Only this time it's more than just turpentine that you'll need.
Be aware always. The Hook that trawls, trawls for thee. Don't be a poor fish.
O.K. After the sermon, all I have left to say is that there are good hooks and bad hooks. For writers, the hooks that they attempt to use will be as useful as they make them. A story, a poem, a novel will have to stand on its own feet, no matter how good the hook.
The job of the hook is simply to grab the reader, or to hold the reader somewhere through the work and again, at the end.
I intend, with a single word at the conclusion of 'The BlackEagle Girls,' to demonstrate exactly what I mean.
Of course the hook is that you will have to read the tale to determine if the end hook works. Give it a try, you just might get...well, I'll leave that to you.
And now, you might say, who is this person? By what criterion does he make these statements? Why should  we, the readers of this Newsletter, take any notice?
I say to you, that I am just as you. I am a writer. It makes no difference whether I am published, or you are published, I am simply voicing my thoughts so that you can read. It's called communication. If you agree, fine. if you don't, make a noise.
The classification is Writer. I write. You write.
Thus, we both do what we have to do.
By the way, I heard, and let's keep this just between us, that when Bruce Cook was about ten years old, he got his...
Hmm...Just, don't have enough time left to tell you.
Outta time, and outta here.
(Bruce, you'd better stay tuned...)

Ken Mulholland

Country Editor - Australia

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