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 January, 2003

Seven Deadly Sins of Writing

by Sandy Tritt


I've often said that writing is a spiritual endeavor. If this is true, then it only makes sense that Good Prose must also have its nemesis. And surely, the Devil of Rejection temps every writer with the Seven Deadly Sins of Writing. They seem innocent enough-a misplaced comma here, an adverb there-but soon the writer finds himself sinking into the dreaded darkness of the Rejection Pile. Sadly, often the writer doesn't even know he's been deceived. So let's reveal the Seven Deadly Sins of Writing for what they are: Death to your manuscript.

I. Poor Grammar and Spelling. Surely, nothing screams "amateur" as loudly as poor grammar and misspelled words. If your grammar is poor, take a class at your local community college. These are usually low-cost (and there is almost always financial aid or grants available to cover all expenses) and will refresh your grammar skills. If your grammar is decent, invest in a good grammar reference book and use it whenever you are uncertain. See the Grammar Tips and Comma Usage Tip Sheets for help on this one.

II. Telling, not Showing. We must act out our scenes, through action and dialogue, in such a way that our reader feels that he is experiencing the drama as it is happening. See the Show, Don't Tell Tip Sheet for details.

III. Passive Voice. Using passive verbs, adverbs, intensifiers, -ing verbs and unnecessary words suck the very life out of our prose. For examples of how to make your prose as active as possible, see the Keep it Active Tip Sheet.

IV. Purple Prose. Overusing adverbs and adjectives, using cliches and euphemisms, and getting carried away with description in inappropriate places is called "Purple Prose." It's a lot of fluff with little substance. Instead of using an adverb to make a weak verb stronger or an adjective to make a weak noun stronger, omit the adverb/adjective and choose a stronger verb/noun. Instead of reusing phrases that you've heard before, find fresh ways of saying things. Instead of using euphemisms (attention: romance and love-scene writers!) for parts of the body, use real words. Too much fluff is just like too much dessert-it leaves us heaving. See the Tip Sheet on Creative Dialogue Tags for another example of this disease and check out the Controlling Character Emotion Tip Sheet for help in reducing the melodrama.

V. Repetitiveness. Not trusting our words to do their job or not trusting our reader to be smart enough to understand our words leads us to repeating ourselves. We change our wording, but still present the same idea in a slightly different way. This redundancy kills our prose. Say it Once, Say it Right!

VI. Point of View Breaches. Switching our viewpoint character without warning, "seeing" or "hearing" things our viewpoint character is not privy to, or switching from one type of point of view to another disrupts the flow of our prose and jolts our reader. Sometimes the reader isn't even able to state what the exact problem is, just that "something isn't right." Always be aware of whose viewpoint you are in and why. For more help on this subject, see the Tip Sheet Point of View and Other Devices.

VII. Lack of Persistence. Surely, giving up is the deadliest of all the deadly sins. Writers who decide they "aren't good enough" or "don't have time" to write will never be published. Writers who fail to take advice and further their understanding of the writing craft will never be published. And writers who accept rejection as defeat will never be published. To quote my favorite uncle, "You aren't defeated until you give up."

So, don't let any of the Seven Deadly Sins of Writing kill your chances of being published. Read. Write. Study. Persist. No one every said it would be easy, but if you have that passion in your soul, nothing will stop you from succeeding. Go for it.

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 1999 by Sandy Tritt. All rights reserved, except for those listed here. January 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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This is Dianne Ochiltree's site for children, parents, teachers and writers for young readers. Dianne is an author of books for young readers (birth to teenage)

and she is also a children's book reviewer. She's been writing professionally for over 25 years---about 18 years in public relations/advertising/marketing and the last 7 years as a children's writer. Dianne has two books published to date, with Scholastic and with Simon & Schuster.

http://tritt.wirefire.com The Inspiration for Writers website offers help and encouragement to writers of all levels. Tips and Techniques give practical advice about frequent writing blunders. The Writer's Prayer, inspirational quotes, and essays about the writing life add insight and inspiration. The Fiction Showcase offers short stories for the reader's enjoyment. And, for those serious about improving their writing skills, manuscript critiques and coaching services are available. Visit http://tritt.wirefire.com today!


Publishing New Writers,

January, 2003 (no. 401)

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

Submissions and comments to cookcomm@gte.net. Links are welcome.

To subscribe and/or  review our archive of past newsletters, go to

























Our Editorial Staff has expanded...


Rena Williams - Managing Editor

Helen Cook - Editor

Adam W. Smith -  Editor

Linda Alexander - Editor


Country Editors...


 Rais Neza Boneza - Uganda, Norway,

         D.R. Congo

    Dr. Karanam Rao - India

   Ken Mulholland - Australia

  The Shadow - Bahrain

Carl Fannen, England



Our Marketing Staff ...


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    Chris Cook, Ad Director



'Try.' - A four letter word

  by Kenneth Mulholland

Country Editor for Australia

Great, you've finished!

   The last words are written. The work is done. A wave of satisfaction at seeing your story to a conclusion sweeps over you. All done. All in a torrent of words.    Writer's block? Ha!
   All done.
   Yet is it?

 O.K. Done a spell-check? Sure.
   A quick read through? Yes.
   Ready to submit? No!

   Now the first rush of blood is over, it is time to stand back and take a long look.    First at the written article/story/manuscript, then at yourself.
   In point of fact, far too many Submissions are put forward without the most basic scrutiny by the most important person at the time. You.
   Fine. You are a young person, or someone older, ready to try your hand at writing. And you are in a hurry to 'get it out there.'

   Nothing wrong with that.
But let's 'get it out there' without the thing looking like a hasty mish-mash of spelling errors, repeated words and poor syntax.

   Such a simple four letter word. (O.K, I lied. it's a three letter word. Just as 'O.K' is also a four letter word. 'Okay.'  How do I know that?)
   I tried. (now it's a five letter word)
I looked it up. Where? Spell-check? No, though there might be information to be gained that way. But not enough.
   A Thesaurus? Another very useful tool. Especially if you have a good one.
It can give you a variety of substitute words to fill that elusive void, and so too can a book on synonyms and antonyms and even homonyms. (Phew, I'm out of breath.)
   But there is an old and very faithful friend. (Drumroll.)
   'The dictionary.' (Triangle tinkle!)

   Bit of a let-down?
   No way. This is your own personal Entrance Door to Language and its ever-changing meaning.
   Got an ancient dictionary? Don't throw it out!
   Just get a new, up to date one. They'll cosy up together. And between them, will give you a broad spectrum of what once was, and what now is.

   If you want to write, and ache inside with that passion, then you are going to have to learn to love language. In other words, 'words.'
   The language you speak, the way you communicate in your own personal family/business/social/cultural world is all of that.
   As it is when you write.
   And where can you find information on a whole gang of words?
   A Dictionary can be a place to simply check spelling.
   But, it can be more!
   It can be a Thesaurus, if you are prepared to read and follow the prompts. Not only written prompts, but your own gut-feeling prompts that send you searching through this vast reference collection.
It can also be an Encyclopedia. Just check out all the extra information a good dictionary adds to the meaning of each word.
   And on top of that, a dictionary makes better reading than a telephone book. (Sure, the phone book has a bigger cast, but the dictionary is more informative.)
And if you like a dictionary, and it likes you, an important requisite (is that the way it's spelled-I'll have to check in the di...)
then all things are possible.
   New words leap out at you, expanding your vocabulary, giving you a greater impact in your writing, enlarging the dictionary of your mind.

   Words and language on the whole, are gob-smacking.
   Think of a mind that can produce Coca-Cola, (1887.) Now go and check out what those two words originally meant. (did you know that 'cola' is also the plural of 'colon.')
   Any word you can think of, in your language, is to be found in a Dictionary.
'Dictionary.' I wonder what the word means. Better look it up.
   'A book dealing with the words of a language, so as to set forth their orthography, pronunciation, signification, and use, their synonyms, derivation, and history, or at least some of these.'

   J.R.R. Tolkien worked, in a team, on one letter of the Oxford English Dictionary. Remember? The author who penned 'Lord of the Rings.'
   But C.T. Onions was the 'Main Man' on the Oxford Dictionary.
   And did he know his onions!

   Tolkien, was a 'philologist' of standing. Look it up. Don't be lazy and guess or just ignore. You do want to write? Then, O.K. (originally initials of 'Old Kinderhook' U.S. Near Albany.) Borrow or buy a Webster's or an Oxford. Have it on a side table next to your keyboard. I know, a dictionary is heavy artillery, but it's chock full of ammunition. Takes too long to look things up. It's too heavy to lug around or even lift? Piffle. Learn patience and grow muscles.

   'Thiy were going to threw him into goal.' Spell-check would pick up 'Thiy' but 'threw' instead of throw? And 'goal'? What if he isn't playing sport? What if he is about to become a prisoner?
   Goal-gaol, jail. Both forms are correct, yet goal and gaol mean two different things.

   I love a dictionary. Breakfast of champions.
   An Encyclopedia of words.
Yes, the words you require to join up the dots that will make your writing better, and will make you a better person.

   Speaking of the Encyclopedia...Darn!
Ran out of time...


Lynette's creative Writing Website

(type both lines in one)




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 personís 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 ĎHeart Of Godí about organized religion and todayís churches, sharing Godís concerns and desires for America and the world.

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Passion to Write

by Rais Neza Boneza

A Passion to Write

Life in a Refugee Camp


 An Interview with Refugee Survivor Rais Boneza

by Rena Williams

Writing is a passion.  The passion has to go deeper than just ink on a sheet of paper or a voiced opinion. I believe Americans fail to see the advantage of the freedom of press, or the freedom to write.  In Africa, in one mans heart and mind, the pen became his strength and solitude in the mist of living in a refugee camp.

Rena:   Were there books allowed in camp?

Rais:    It depends. You would have to choose the things you read carefully because they did not allow critics. Reading in the camps was really dangerous. I use to do it hidden with my candle in the dark room and hanged with fear.  People around you in the camp did not understand why you kept reading or writing when it rains anxiety, misery and fear.

Rena: Why was reading dangerous in the refugee camp?

Rais:   It was because they wanted people to be ignorant.

Rena: Who are they?

Rais:  The UNHCR workers and the government.

Rena: What would be the penalty if caught reading?

Rais: Kidnapping, prison without justification.

Rena: Where there other writers besides you in the camp?

Rais: Yes, in the beginning, but after the assassination of one human rights activist, all of them decided better to die free and alone than jailed in camps.

Rena: Did you write while in camp? If so, what did you write?

Rais:   I wrote verses, poems, and stories about or everyday life in camps. I wrote several stories about the everyday life in camps and safe houses, my feelings, and tragedies. I wrote about the two things we struggled with the most in camps, sadness or nostalgia.

But my first struggle was the language. My first language is French language. Iím from a French speaking country.  It was necessary for me to learn and speak English, first. You know for writers, language is our tool of works and I managed to learn English on my own, by using old newspapers. From my country I brought with me more than a thousand poems and a hundred short stories written in French.  I translated some which produced my  Nomad anthology of poetry, which is published on AuthorMe.com. 

Rena: After learning the English language, were there more struggles besides learning the language.

Rais:  Yes, being accepted.  I experienced a type of censorship because of my situation of being a Nowhere man. But by faith and hope I was accepted in the Ugandan Writers Association, and this is where I published my first work, in English at the Makerere University Faculty of Art and Literature.

Rena: Could you explain what is a Nowhere man?

Rais:  A nowhere man is a man that had been expulsed from his own country, which was in 1998 with the explosion of the second war of liberation.  


Rena: Did you publish after you escaped from the Refugee camp, or while you where in it?

Rais:  I did publish while in camps, but also after I reached Uganda.

Rena: Could you explain the conditions of the refugee camps.

Rais:  It rains anxiety in the camp. Sadness is there ready to put you down and kill you.  Sadness is the first killer in the camp.  Iíve written several stories about the everyday life in camps and safe.  My feelings and tragedies.  In the camp people discuss the news all the time. Men and women make love abusively. People did not succumb to HIV, but from love.

Rena: Could you explain how you escaped?

Rais:   No, Iím not ready to explain and feel again that tragedy in me.

But, I will say, the biggest dream of any refugee is to get out of this situation, but unfortunately that opportunity is not given to everyone.  There are people who give monies to get out, and others who do not have anything, like my case, who just wait for the shining star.

Rena: Rais, thank you for sharing the reality of true perseverance, strength and victory. And for sharing your story with AuthorMe.Com.


Rais Boneza is a true author of strength and perseverance. One who in spite of his conditions survived the dangers of reading and writing while living in a refugee camp. 

Acknowledge that any excuse, is no excuse, in spite of your conditions, if you really have the passion to write.

Rena Williams

Managing Editor

AuthorMe.com Group


Critiquing Special

  • Limited time special, one cent per word.  Just mention Publishing New Writers  Newsletter (January, 2003).

    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.)

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