They’re. Their. There.

Are You a Rule or an Idea Person? When it comes to grammar rules I like to make my own  and I like them to be memorable.  I do that with mnemonics


You can remember that
They’re my friends,
so  use y in both words.


You can remember that
Their has the next to I in it –
The book is theirs, I have my own.


You can remember that
There is a from of here (a place to be)
It’s not here it’s over there.

Speaking of new ways to look at old things:

The Voice of Poetry

Poetry is the nexus for all writing, whether it be fiction or nonfiction, screenplays or plays. Maybe some poetry lives in a rarified atmosphere that leaves most readers a little dizzy. I don’t know, but I do know that a fiction writer must be able to breathe that air.

The mastery of language is our duty. We enter this world by placing one word after another in comprehensible and unique ways.

– Walter Mosley, The Writing Life, Washington Post  11/20/05

Giving writers the prompts of ‘archeology’ and ‘relationships’ these two poems came about:


In this heat,

beyond your downward

burrowing shoulder

I observe the

moving fan—

shaking and trembling—

its motion

mirroring our moves,

an incessant rhythm

on the desk

where you have

pinned me;

like no collector

ever has.

Collector. Collected.

Connected by stinging sweat.

But I am not

opened here—


Bell-jarred and


Though it is true—

I am

your possession

and gloriously,

I find

you to be an archeologist.

Digging deep


what long has been buried.

Explorer of this

cipher, keep searching—

shift more of this sad sand away.

inscribe me—

assemble me—

or better yet,

call me by

my Latin Name.

The Find

I found a girl in the sand.

A hand at first,


With more yet to unearth.

At every turn

She burned me.

Hotter than

the surrounding sands.

Grit in places

I never expected.

I dug so deep

keeping a whispered pledge

not to break


She made me work.

So hard

my hat fell

from my head in


So that the brilliance of

the sun

in our eyes

blinded my discovery

and me.

Which do you think was written by a woman, and which by a man? Is that something you decided by the poetic voice they employed, or by the pronouns used?

What would you think if I said both were written by men? Or both by women?

Which poem touches you more? Why?

Did any of the phrasing move you as you read it? Did either poem reach you more than the other? Can you see yourself writing like this?

With your own work – whether Poetry or Fiction, or Creative Non-fiction, or even your blogs, are you writing of I or Me or Mine in ways that are more universal, and less self-facing for your readers?   Is that the trick to the mastery of writing that reaches more folks? Telling stories?

You’ve been at the grocery store. And something funny happened there, so funny that you want to tell your friends about it. It was so funny, it might be a story you tell to a lot of people. You may even use it in your novel.

So you sit around the lounge at your dorm, or the lunchroom where you work, or some other place you gather at regularly, getting ready to entertain everyone with telling this story. Your friends always like your stories, you’re a person who tells things well, people always listen because they can see you’re a storyteller.

This story from the grocery store has to do with a lady and her four-year-old. It’s hilarious.

Do you start the story like this:

 Standing in the check outline waiting for her turn to be rung up, this lady leans against her cart wearing her old work out clothes. A washed out, pale pink crop T-shirt, her midnight blue workout pants rolled down to show her stomach. Her simple white socks, extend up her ankles, in contrast to the black hair scrunchie which holds her blond bangs away from her forehead. She’s holding her son’s hand, He’s got red hair. And he’s dressed in little, brown Oshkosh bib overalls, with a yellow cowboy belt, along with black baby Nike shoes. Finally her turn at the register arrives…


Probably not.

There’s nothing hilarious about what they had on. The funny part was….

Novice writers open their novels with something like this example all the time. With what someone wore. Not why there are being introduced. Not the reason the character is there in the scene, doing something. No reaction from the character to some action for us to see or imagine. No purpose of their existence being illustrated. Just a presentation of the color of their hair, and sixty or more words about what they are wearing.


if you see you’ve fallen into this default type of opening to your novel, try to re-vision your opening scene to give us why your character is there in that scene. Or what they are doing there. At the least, illustrate them so we feel we know something about their character, based on your descriptions.

Unless those workout pants and the cowboy belt are part of the hilarity of your scene, save those details, pepper them (lightly) into the action, reactions, motivations, or emotions of the story you’re showing us ‘in scene’.

Use the detail of your characters’ dress or hair color because it reveals something about them– do they consider themselves a fashion plate? That’s a perfect reason to detail their outfit.

Are they proud or vain? Okay, they show them reacting to how they feel about being dressed to the nines.

Wearing something because they just got paid and could now afford it? Did they run out to buy this thing they wear? Show us the purchase, and their feelings about ownership— don’t start and stop with the item, disclose what the purchase means to them.

Is their blonde hair jet black because they hate their parents this week? Does their makeup or nail polish show something about them beyond how they look?

Look at this example here, a few lines about sixteen year-old Cinda:

Cinda’s black bangs nearly covered her plucked eyebrows. The cap on her un-nerving black dyed hair read ‘Cin’ in red embroidered script.  She scratched at her ankle with short bitten nails painted a glossy shade of bruise purple.  A small, neat tattoo peeked out from under her busy fingertips: a tiny green frog. Her toenails were painted the same battered shade as her fingers.

This is nearly the same word count as the example above, but here, aside from seeing someone, we’re also given hints in her actions, in the verbs and adjectives used, about who this girl might be and how she might be acting. Along with getting how she wears her hair, eyebrows, and nails.

Do a search in your work – find those less than storytelling descriptions of clothes and hair color you’re telling us about.  Revise for the action, reactions, motivations, or emotions of the story you’re showing us.

You can’t teach someone to write fiction in a single pass.  Writing happens in layers, and the coaching of the craft of writing also happens in layers.

At the base, there’s the mechanics of grammar and punctuation rules, some novices can meet with me and already have a sound understanding of this, while some may need a session because these things were never learned in school.  Read the rest of this entry »

Welcome to Bridge to Story

Here’s a link to my website.

(52 free writing lessons for novices writing fiction or memoir)

Take work from your mind to the page now. Coaching sharpens storytelling craft & style. See your story shine. All genres, memoir.

Novice writers spend a lot of time reading how-to books and attending workshops and classes. A lot of these offer exercises, story starters and prompts to try out your writing skills…like….

  • Write ten opening lines
  • Keep a list of unusual names for future characters
  • Write a paragraph beginning with the phrase _____

But if you exercise then set aside your resulting work in notebooks and journal you will never discover where those exercises might take you. In this lesson we’ll take the steps of looking at your own work and expanding your exercises by questioning them. The goal is reviewing with an eye for turning exercises into scenes, short stories or novels; by looking at your work and taking the next step: reworking exercises to actually writing more

Check it out now, and then contact me for one-on-one coaching.


During the NaNoWriMo months of April, July and November this year I’ll get a lot of emails, Skype messages, and blog posts from novice NaNo-ing writers I follow, saying,

“Today’s word count is…!!”

Some of them are starting at zero. Some are rebelling and adding on to earlier works in progress.  Everyone has a goal. Some magic number they’re aiming for.

Size is secondaryOne wrote to me of their WIP from last year, “Turning this into a novella means adding at least 15,000 more words to it.”

And I asked, “Don’t you mean, turning this into a novella means rounding out the Female MC’s overall arc and her main problem/desire?”

Because even during NaNo months, word count, if you’re not a genuine beginner, is secondary to a solidly realized storyline.

Read the rest of this entry »

A Quick Half Dozen

April 12, 2013

Narration into Scene

Narration into Scene


These six previous posts are a sly way of letting you see the type of coaching I offer in one-on-one session with my clients.

Work is slowing, and I could use more novices eager to learn the basics of writing well.

So check these posts out, and tell your writer friends too. Email me for rates. and Re-blog.

ej Read the rest of this entry »

First off, here’s the link for the Call for Excerpts Submissions. I’m looking for novices’ excerpts (200 words)  from your WIP for my next book, Revision for Beginners.

Now then, Today I’m talking about how hard it is to make characters life-like and less-writerly in your manuscript. If I could give every novice this writing advice, I’d be in heaven. Read the rest of this entry »

After this July’s release of my non-fiction ‘Tell Me (How to Write) a Story, the next book I’m working on is going to be a collection of excerpts from novices, in first draft, which I’ll edit into first revision and last revision samples, coaching as we go through the excerpts.

I’m titling it ‘Revision for Beginners’ and I’m calling for submissions of first draft excerpts. I expect a publication date of mid 2014.

I’m looking for any 200 words from your Work In Progress.CallForSubmission

I am NOT looking for wonderfully polished excerpts.

The goal is to have your excerpt help others learn the art of revision.

I’ll be selecting 20 excerpts, and I’ll be editing them to a first pass stage, and then onto a further round of edits.

Each round is accompanied with coaching info and the how & why the edits are made.

Your work will be attributed to you by your name, pen name, or NaNoWroMo screen name as you choose.

Each contributor will receive 3 printed copies of the book. As well as one ARC (advanced reader’s copy) in mobi format, to be used if you are a blogger and wish to review the book, or know a blogger who you’d like to allow a review.

If you’re interested, please send your excerpt to you submission with a subject line of ‘Revision for Beginners