Posts Tagged ‘editing’

Verbs That Sabotage Your Writing


“Jim and I were going to the store,” Mary said as she was talking on the phone with Susie. “Then we were stopping off to play miniature golf. I am thinking that we should have been at the theater in time to see the last movie, but Jim was not thinking the same way I was thinking. I was totally confused by him.”

Oh, my stars in heaven! What kind of writing is that?

In plain words, it’s “stupid” writing, littered with passive verbs that we call “being” verbs. If you want to murder your story before it ever gets off the ground, use these verbs frequently. Your reader will fall asleep before he gets to the second page.

For some reason, newbie writers and passive verbs go together like bread and butter. I’ve never been able to figure out why so many beginning writers, including myself years ago, have/had the uncanny habit of using these verbs so frequently. When you analyze what’s happening, you can actually see that it takes more forethought AND more words to write in the passive “being verb” voice. And the writing is just plain boring, is it not? And it’s a hard habit to break. After 20 years of writing, I still catch myself drifting into the passive voice world.

 What are Being Verbs?

So, what are the being verbs that turn your “wow” story into a “ho hum” nightmare?

When I taught junior and senior high English, every student memorized the list of being verbs. I constantly reminded the teens to be on the lookout for the little rascals that needed to be ditched and replaced with active verbs. So here’s the list:

Am, are, is, was, were, be, been, will be, shall be, has been, had been

Now, I’m not saying that you need to purge your entire manuscript of every being verb, but use them sparingly. Look for verbs that are in the passive voice and change them to active. Reword your sentences that the direct object or the object of the preposition becomes the subject. That will immediately change your sentences to “active” ones.

Let’s look at how we can change the opening paragraph to a more exciting visit with Mary:

“Jim and I went to the store,” Mary said as she talked on the phone with Susie. “Then we stopped to play miniature golf. I think we could have gotten to the theater in time to see the last movie, but Jim thinks completely different from me. He totally confused me.”

There you see how we eliminated almost all the being verbs. In the very last sentence, the object of the preposition, him, became the subject, he, in the rewrite.

Now, let’s look at three more bad examples that we’ll rewrite into good sentences:

Bad Examples of the “Passive Voice:” Sad.Smiley.Face

Last night Billy was bitten by Larry’s dog Bowser.

Did you see how Cathy was wrapping that wet towel around her arm?

The beautiful maple leaves were turning a bright red in the fall.

Smiley.Face.SmilingThe Better “Active Voice” Method:

Last night, Larry’s dog Bowser bit Billy.

Did you see how Cathy wrapped that wet towel around her arm?

The beautiful maple leaves turned a bright red in the fall.

There you have the “quickie” ins and outs of the misuse of the passive voice. Take a good look at your writings, hunt for the little “being” verbs, and send them on a hike. Your writing will spruce up like you’ve never seen before. Check out this website for a more in-depth study of the passive voice: http://www.dailywritingtips.com/7-examples-of-passive-voice/

Until then, happy “active voice” writing!


P.S. Time to register for the 2016 Montrose Christian Writers Conference. Please check out all the workshops available from an award-winning faculty and print out the registration form at http://www.montrosebible.org/OurEvents/tabid/113/page_550/1/eventid_550/58/Default.aspx

Please let me know if you’d like a hard copy of the brochure. I’ll mail one to you.


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January 4, 2016

Writers’ Tips: Writing and Editing your First Draft

Quill Pen and Notepad Vector | Free Vector Graphic Download

After concentrating on fiction for the last dozen blogs, let’s discuss writers’ tips in general. We won’t focus on a particular genre, but we’ll discuss the ins and outs of good writing, which will lead to a published work in your hands.

Okay, you have a fantastic idea, you’ve mulled it over in your head for weeks, months, maybe years! Now, you’re finally ready to launch your creativity into the writing/publishing world and “put your idea on paper.”

First, you need to decide for what genre you will write. Genre, pronounced jaun’-rah, is the classification in which your manuscript will be categorized. There are dozens of genres and subgenres, all which branch from several very broad ones: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, screenwriting, and music composition, to name the most popular.

No matter which genre you choose, there’s a HUGE important step you need to take while you’re writing your first draft. Go to the library and/or bookstore (music store) and read or study as many published works in your chosen genre as you can. If you want to be a good writer, a published writer, then study those who’ve already achieved that goal.

Now, I’m not saying that everything out there on the bookshelves is “classic” and worthy of being studied, but the majority of the published works are. Analyze your genre of choice, take notes, and see what enabled those works to be worthy of publication.

I have pages of notes and samples from fiction novels that show good character description, excellent use of dialogue, and “showing” not “telling” narration. I have several volumes of poetry by famous poets. I have a dozen or so Bible studies, which I’ve analyzed. From time to time, I open my files on my computer and just read through the notes to refresh my memory as to what “good” writing is. Or I’ll get one of those poetry books or Bible study guides and read them. These genres are all ones in which I’ve been published, but there’s always more to learn!

As you read and study, begin writing your first draft. There are two ways you can work on your first draft:

  1. You can write your entire manuscript on paper or in the computer without worrying about the PUGS (punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling) until you’ve finished.
  2. You can edit yourself as you go, review your manuscript often and revise, revise, revise.

No method is the “best” one. It’s your decision how you want to refine that manuscript until it’s irresistible to your readers.

I have several friends who write like crazy and don’t worry about a missing comma or a misspelled word.

Me? That would drive me crazy. As a former high school English teacher, I can’t stand a comma out of place. It’s almost like an abscessed tooth. I have to get it fixed immediately! Therefore, I revise and edit as I write so that when I’ve finished the manuscript, I have very little revising to do.

The last and vital step for you to take is to join a local writers’ critique group. If you have none in your area, post some notices on community bulletin boards at mini-marts, grocery stores, libraries, etc. and advertise that you’d like to start one. You only need four to six writers (of any genre) to have a great critique group. Decide if you want to meet weekly or monthly and get started. (Our local group meets once a month at a Starbucks coffee nook in a Target store.) This writing aid will be the most value to you. Having other writers give you an honest critique (which is quite painful) will make you a better writer. So don’t shy away from this important step in the beginning writing process.

Now, when you have all these facets of your beginning writing career in place, you can officially call yourself a writer. So stop talking about it and get started!


(Web) www.marshahubler.com

(Writers Tips) www.marshahubler.wordpress.com

Montrose Christian Writers Conference http://www.montrosebible.org/OurEvents/tabid/113/page_550/1/eventid_550/58/Default.aspx

(Horse Facts Blog) www.horsefactsbymarshahubler.wordpress.com


(More Shameless Promotion)


Whispering Hope

Book 7 in the Keystone Stables Series

Book 7. Keystone Stables

Foster kid, Skye Nicholson, has her hands full trying to train a wild Mustang and

befriend another wild foster kid who has no intentions of cooperating with anyone at Keystone Stables.

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March 18, 2015

Color Code Editing

When you decide to write anything longer than one sentence, you’ll find that it’s very easy to use the same words again and again. (Like the word “again!”) Or perhaps you’re the kind of writer who just loves to use flowery, complicated, jubilant, explanatory adjectives…like flowery, complicated, jubilant, and explanatory.

This habit not only will make your writing flat and boring, but it will also do nothing to increase your desire to learn new words and use them cleverly and effectively.

There are two nifty ways to track down overused words. One way is to use the FIND tool in your word processing program on your computer, type in a certain word, highlight it for another stunning effect, and study how often you’ve used that word in your manuscript. You’ll be more than surprised at what you find.

Another way to track down those pesky words that keep reappearing and announce to the world that you’re a beginner is to print your manuscript and get a set of colored markers. Why bother to print it out? I’ve found that the pages take on an entirely new “look,” one that for some strange reason reveals a much stronger need for revision. And, if you use the markers to formulate a color code to find certain words, your revision could border on the professional level. Here’s what to do:

Make yourself a color code with the colored markers. Here’s a suggestion how you can color code your manuscript by either circling or highlighting the words in said color:

1. RED – adjectives

2. BLUE – adverbs

3. GREEN – being verbs, such as “am,” “is,” “was,” “were,” etc. (These words are passive voice; pitch them out and use stronger verbs for the active voice)

4. PINK – commas; many commas are unnecessary and/or misplaced

5. ORANGE – fancy vocabulary words; throw the rascals out and use clear, simple words

6. BROWN – metaphors and similes; yes, sometimes they’re cute and clever, but mostly they’re as boring as a sleeping dog and don’t add anything to your writing

7. YELLOW – clichés and trite expressions; these rascals only reveal lazy writing; be creative with your words and phrases, and you’ll soon have a contract for that “next great American novel.”

If you’re brave enough, go ahead and try this exercise, if only for five or six pages. I believe when you’re done, you’ll have a visual picture of your own writing habits that will probably shock you into becoming a better writer and editor. You might want to tackle the entire manuscript. If you take the time to do it, that publishing contract might be right around the corner.

P.S. Make plans to attend the Montrose Christian Writers Conference July 19th to the 24th. Faculty sketches are at the MCWC’s website http://www.montrosebible.org/OurEvents/tabid/113/page_550/1/eventid_550/58/Default.aspx    The brochure and more details online are forthcoming. We’d love to have you join us!

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February 16, 2015

Getting the Most Out of a Writers Conference

Different Ways to be Critiqued

This is the fifth post in a short series about writers conferences and why it’s so important for writers, both newbies and experienced, to attend. This time we’ll look at the different ways you can have your work critiqued at most writers conferences.

“Have my work critiqued?” you might ask. “Why would I want anyone to look at my work? I have a novel all ready to submit to a publishing company, and I’m not about to rewrite it…or any part of it.”

Well, if that’s any writer’s attitude, I have one word to describe that person: foolish.

Types of Critiques: If you have plans to attend a writers conference, then by all means plan to have your work critiqued. Most conferences will offer several venues. A writer may choose to do one or several of them to get an objective opinion concerning the quality of writing and how the work can be made publishing ready:

  • Attend classes where the faculty member asks the conferees to bring samples of their written work to class and you do a “work-in-progress” revision over the course of the conference. With the faculty member’s lectures and suggestions, each conferee in the class works on his/her pages, sometimes in class, sometimes in the evening to bring to class the next day.
  • Attend another “work-in-progress” continuing class. This differs in that your sample pages will be sent to the faculty member ahead of time (with a fee) before the conference starts. He/she then critiques your sample pages, brings them to the conference, and you along with maybe eight or nine others in your class—class size is usually limited— revise during the continuing workshops each day with the faculty member’s mentoring and teaching basics.
  • When you arrive at the conference, sign up to meet with one or several faculty members in freebie private (usually 15-minute) sessions. During these critique periods, you sit down with a faculty member and show him/her on the spot no more than five pages of your written work. The 15 minutes are spent with the faculty member reading the pages then making suggestions. If the faculty member is an editor of a publishing company, he/she might express interest in your work, so much so that he/she could want you to submit your work to the company for consideration. (It really does happen. This is how I got my contracts for the Keystone Stables Series by Zonderkidz, my homeschool helps book by New Leaf Press, and my Loves of Snyder County Series through an agent I met at a conference.)
  • Register ahead of time with a fee to have a sample (usually 10 to 15 pages) critiqued by a particular faculty member whom you’ve chosen. The faculty member critiques the work before the conference then meets with you at the conference for a half hour, reviewing the critiqued work and making suggestions. He/she encourages the writer as well as gives invaluable advice to improve the work.
  • Attend scheduled freebie critique meetings with your peers. Often, conferences will allot some time in the schedule for conferees (and sometimes a faculty member coordinator) to meet and discuss each other’s work. Usually two or three pages at the most are read out loud, and each one in attendance offers his/her opinion and suggestions. As you can see, most writers conferences feel it’s SO important to have conferees’ work critiqued, the directors will provide all kinds of opportunities for conferees to participate. Wise conferees, both newbies and experienced including published authors, will take advantage of any or all of these opportunities to improve their writing skills. A publishing contract might be right around the corner.
  • Next time, we’ll do the sixth and last blog in this series about writers conferences. We’ll discuss relationships, responding to an editor’s request for you to submit to his/her publishing company, and odds and ends.

Happy writing!

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Meet the Author: Vie Herlocker


Over the last twenty years, I’ve had the privilege of meeting some fine people in the writing and publishing business. One of the finest I’ve ever known is Vie Herlocker from Fancy Gap, Virginia. Vie is one of those folks who has such a vibrant personality, you immediately want her to be one of your best friends. She’s witty, kind, and very professional, and she’ll do anything to help any writer be successful in this tough publishing world.

Vie Herlocker is the editor for Sonfire Media, a small Christian publisher in Virginia. Vie also provides freelance editing services through Cornerstone-Ink. Whether she’s editing for Sonfire or Cornerstone-Ink, her mission is the same:

“My desire is to encourage and mentor other writers as they develop the skills needed to answer their call to write. Each manuscript entrusted to me is a gift from God that I nurture with respect for the author and his or her voice, while moving the writing closer to publication quality.”

Book MamaVie is also known as Book Mama and her alter ego, Miz Moe. These personas add some fun at workshops where Book Mama is the cookie-Miz Moesharing encourager for writers—kind of like their real moms. Meanwhile, Miz Moe (Measley Old Editor), is tough love, pointing out possible red flags to publishers.

Did You Know?

  1. Vie lives in an RV four months at a time (with her sweet hubby, a goofy dog, an unstable cat, and a bunch of odd ducks).
  2. She has two fabulous sons and two beautiful daughters-in-law.
  3. She was a mud and dirt drag racer, winning more trophies than her husband, in the Mid-Atlantic Four-Wheel Drive Association in the late 1970s.

(And I’d give money to see some of those pictures!)

Personal Writing

Vie has published in Guideposts, Angels, Penned from the Heart, Miracles of Forgiveness, Chicken Soup for the Empty Nesters Soul, Mature Living, Church Libraries, and The Christian Communicator. She co-wrote Building Better Schools by Engaging Support Staff and ghostwrote a memoir. But her latest passion is seeing other fine authors have their books in print via the auspices of Sonfire.

The company’s latest works are Handing It Down: Teaching Your Children the Basic Truths of Faith, by Tim and Tami Thurber; With Each Passing Moment: Help and Hope for Caregivers, by Shirley Leonard; and Boundless: Discovering God in Your Eating Disorder, by Ashli Roussel (written when she was nineteen years old!) I was also privileged to have one of my juvenile fiction books published by Sonfire: The Secret of Wolf Canyon, and the company did a beautiful job with that book, of which I’m very proud.

I am also proud to call Vie Herlocker a very dear friend.

Leonard.cover.Vies.Co.Vie.Thurber.HIDVie.Bk.CoverAshliBookCoverTHE SECRET OF WOLF CANYON

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On Writing: How to Start and Maintain a Local Critique Group

 The most valuable tool you’ll ever have to become a better writer is the local critique group. If you are not involved with one, please seriously consider starting and maintaining one. Here are the guidelines to help you get started: 

    1. Contact any local writer you know. Post notices in grocery stores, mini marts, and post offices with contact information.
    2. Have a set time and date for your first meeting. It can be at your home or in a local restaurant, library, community social room at a mall, etc.
    3. Pick one person to be the leader of your group—it probably should be you since the group is your idea—or rotate by having a different leader every time you meet. Choose a central location to meet. (Our group, average of five members, meets at a local Starbucks inside a Target store.)
    4. Several days before the meeting, email or call everyone to find out who’s bringing something to critique. The leader then plans how much time will be allotted to each writer at the meeting. Example: we have a two-hour meeting once a month. If five of us bring something to be critiqued, we each get about 20-25 minutes total time for the critique. It’s best for the leader to have a timer. We usually limit our pages to about five typed double-spaced pages, but that depends on how many writers want to be critiqued.
    5. At the meeting, open with the sharing of news, i.e. someone has been accepted for publication, someone is speaking somewhere or having a book signing, writers conferences, etc.
    6. Each person who has something to critique should bring copies for all members. The author has a choice to:


            a.    send his work to each member via email attachment ahead of time to have the other writers critique his work and bring a printed version to the meeting

            b.   have his/her work read aloud by another member while the group critiques with pen

           c.   have the work read silently while the critiquing is being done.

      7.    After the reading, each person, other than the writer, discusses the manuscript.  The leader should “control” the input by giving each person at the table a turn to speak, going clockwise or counterclockwise. The author is encouraged to offer his/her input. Also, the leader should prevent discussions and personal trivia that chase rabbit trails and have nothing to do with critiquing the manuscript. Then the critiqued copies are handed back to the writer. Fellowship and sharing can take place before or after the entire critiquing session is over.

     8. Before dismissing, the next date for the critique meeting should be set.


1.  offers a chance to communicate with each other.  First, tell the writer what you enjoyed about the story and its strengths. Be positive about something.

2.  allows review of what you think needs work: boring opening, weak characters, weak plot, unnatural dialogue, etc.

3.  prevents the members not to “over-critique.”  Each writer has his own individual voice or style of writing. Other than correcting obvious punctuation, word usage, grammar, and spelling, try not to rewrite the work (especially poetry).  Too much critiquing will then morph the author’s work into your work, which is defeating the purpose of the critique group.

4.  As the author of the work, you should process the critique comments. Decide if the critique really hit home.  Some writers don’t change anything unless they get at least two or three comments about the same area of work. Try not to be offended. Critiquing is a valuable tool to make you a better writer. To err is human; and we’re all human! Be ready to accept change.

5. Remember, you are the final judge of your work.






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The Value of Local Critique Groups

To Edit or Not to Edit: That is the Question!


You’re excited about your manuscript! You think you have a great idea and you’re finally getting it on paper. You’ve read it and revised it over and over, and you think you’re ready to send it to an editor at a publishing company or an agent.

 STOP!  Yes, I said, “Stop!”

If you’ve had no one read your manuscript except Aunt Lucy or Mom, who think it’s just the most wonderful piece of literature that has ever been recorded in history, then you probably are in for the biggest shock of your life: rejection slips from editors or agents, who won’t read past your first page if it’s littered with grammar and spelling errors and poor paragraph construction, let alone “faulty facts.”

If you’re saying, “Well, I plan to self publish,” then you have all the more reason to make sure your manuscript is something of which you’ll be proud.

I’ve seen too many self published books that are sprinkled with obvious errors, which give the author and all authors of self published books a bad reputation. Take the time to do it right!

With the decline in paper book sales and the scramble to find one’s “author”ity as an author online, every writer must take the utmost care to have a manuscript that is error free. The two best ways to do this is:

  1. Hire a professional editor – expensive (from $20 an hour to $100 an hour; I edit for $20 an hour. It takes me an hour to do an average of 10 to 15 pages, contingent on the quality, or lack thereof, of the manuscript)
  2. Join a local writers’ critique group – free advice


Depending on your level of writing experience, you can consider joining any of three types of critique groups:

  1. One that has a guest speaker every time the writers meet to discuss the ins and outs, the mechanics, and the techniques of good writing, which you then apply to your own writing
  2. One that challenges the writer with a writing assignment every time they meet. You would then work on that assignment at home and bring it to the next meeting to be critiqued.
  3. One that meets for the sole purpose of editing and critiquing your work in progress to help you get it ready for publication.

 I have chosen to be a member of the Susquehanna Valley Writers Group in central PA, which meets exclusively once a month to review works in progress. We can either send up to five double-spaced pages to each member ahead of time via email to be critiqued, or we can bring enough copies to our monthly meeting for each member to edit and critique as we read the work out loud. (Sometimes kind members will offer to have the new entire manuscript sent to them via email to critique over a long period of time.)

My critique group has made me the writer I am today. When I reflect on how poorly I wrote even four or five years ago and how I’ve progressed to finally learn my PUGS (punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling), I can only thank my critique group, which usually averages four to six members. (All the members represent different genres of interest.)

Critique group members catch mistakes to which you’ve become blind. You can read the same mistake in your manuscript a dozen times, but you’ll never catch it because your brain has already programmed in the correct usage even though you’re reading the wrong word, incorrect comma, or whatever.

Also, critique group members can help with vocabulary, sentence structure, research, characterization, and plot development that you will never notice by yourself.

Case in Point:

Several months ago, I took a section of my latest novel, LOVE SONG FOR LOUELLEN. In the book, an Amish couple cannot have children because the man has the problem, not the woman. I had incorrectly used the term “impotence” to describe the problem.

However, at my critique meeting, a gal who is familiar with medical terms said, “If the man could have sexual relationships but had a sperm problem, the term is ‘sterility’ not ‘impotence.’”

Wow! None of the rest of us at the table knew the difference in the terms. Was I glad that I had taken that portion of my manuscript to the critique group. I was just finishing the manuscript and had an agent patiently waiting for it. With the advice from my critique group member, I corrected a boo boo that, perhaps, no reader might have noticed if the book had been printed that way; yet, the agent or editor might have zeroed in on it and given me a black mark concerning accuracy in my terms and background for the fiction work.

So, let me ask you? Are your ready to swallow your pride and join a local critique group to improve your writing?

If there is no critique group, then start one. Post notices in grocery stores, libraries, and post offices. In a short time, you’ll have a nice writing group that not only will make you a better writer, but you’ll have yourself a whole new group of kindred spirits who think and dream and write because they JUST HAVE TO,  just as you do.



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