Calliope Writing

Monday Morning Quote Love – Very Damn Good Advice

substitute damn for very writing tip



-Reblogged- 7 Tips for Paranormal Writers
September 7, 2016, 10:39 am
Filed under: Reblogged Content, writing, Writing Tips | Tags: , , ,

This post from Jacqui Murray is a must-read for anyone who dabbles in the paranormal genre (such as myself).


A Writer's Path


by Jacqui Murray

One of my writing gigs is as an Amazon Vine Voice. They send me free books (and other products) and I share my honest opinion. If you go to Amazon, you’ll find a label (Vine Voice) by my name, as you will with all of the other Vine reviewers. It just means we accept the responsibility to share our thoughts as objectively as possible.

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-Reblogged- Write to Change the World
May 6, 2016, 9:18 am
Filed under: Reblogged Content, Writing Tips | Tags: , , ,

Incredible blog post on The Gloria Sirens. My favorite passages:

“We know—everyone reading this knows—that writing and reading is important. We know it is part of us, that we are people who understand the world through words. But still, we may sometimes need others to remind us that it’s not only ok, it’s important that we spend our time writing and reading. It’s important on the level of the self—as Anne Lamott says, “Because this business of becoming conscious, of being a writer, is ultimately about asking yourself, How alive am I willing to be?” And it’s important on the level of the world, because we are changing other people with our words. We change their minds, we change their understanding. That’s what change is: ideas, transmitted in ways that influence people.”

“Whatever your age, remember that you are part of the revolution. Your words will change the world.”

-Reblogged- Beware of the Deadly Info Dumps in Your Novel: 3 Signs to Watch For
April 19, 2016, 10:17 am
Filed under: Reblogged Content, Writing Tips | Tags: , , ,

The awful info dump…this is one that I have a hard time with in my own writing. Great post by Cindy Fazzi.

Cindy Fazzi

Photo credit: Keoni Cabral via Visual Hunt / CC BY Photo credit: Keoni Cabral via Visual Hunt /CC BY

Countless writing books, articles, and workshops tell us to avoid the deadly “info dumps” and flashbacks when writing a novel. And yet, I recently read two well-publicized literary novels, which to my dismay turned out to be info-dump fests. It took me forever to finish the first book, while I simply gave up on the second. Moral lesson: Beware of info dumps, even if you’re writing literary fiction.

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Friday Fun Is Here: 6 Quizzes to Test Your Bookworm-ness
April 8, 2016, 12:44 pm
Filed under: Books, Literature, Writing Tips | Tags: , , , , , ,

Based on my previous post focused on quizzes, you know: I enjoy taking them. Especially when they relate to vocabulary, grammar, writing, or reading.

So let’s take some book-related quizzes, shall we?

Be prepared to quiz away an hour of your life.

Are You More Paperback or Hardcover?

I got paperback – as it should be. (If you’ve ever tried reading a hardcover book while lying in bed, you know why I say this. Or if you’ve ever gone on a trip with a huge, 600-page hardcover book. Or if you typically travel with more than one book…like some of us do.)

Who Is Your Romance Novel Boyfriend?


Ah, romance. This one wasn’t as much fun for me as the others because I got someone from a book series I haven’t read: James Fraser from Outlander. I know some Outlander lovers, so I’ll have to ask if this is a good thing.

The Guess the First Sentence Quiz

Got only 15 out of 22 right on this one – I dare you to see how well you can do.

The Reading Personality Quiz

My result?

You are a Book Junkie.

You are addicted to books. Air, food and water apart, you need an uninterrupted dose of books in order to survive. You don’t just read books, you devour them. You can read just about anything. You can never have enough of books.


book junkie

Only Real Book Lovers Remember These Small Details from These Iconic Books

Oh, I didn’t do well on this one. Not at all.

Can You Identify These Books by Their Covers?

Not too shabby:

You got 16 out of 20 right!
Not bad at all. Excellent, even! You have a great eye for design, while still staying focused on the most important stuff: the writing itself.

Can We Guess Your Age Based on Your Taste in Books?

Based on my result, which is below, the answer to this ever-important question is an emphatic “NO.”

You got: 16

You’re in the most exciting time of your life as a reader — you’ve got a whole world of books ahead of you! Take this time to explore, and read everything you can get your hands on.

not a child

And a Little Something(s) Extra Once You’re All Quizzed-Out:

  • Morten Just created a free text editor that limits the writer to using only the 1,000 most common words in the English language. The responses were varied…and hilarious.
  • Julie Proudfoot has some invaluable advice that I find myself, as an editor, reminding writers of frequently: Read that ish out loud.
  • Joel Orr spills the beans on verbs – and how to enhance them in your writing. Short and sweet and oh-so-true.

He Said, She Exclaimed, They Intoned: Fun with Dialogue Tags!

Before we jump in, let’s nail down what a dialogue tag is for those of you who are confused. Hint: there are three of them in this post’s headline.

Fun with dialogue tags - problem with goats

In the above sentence, “he mused” is the dialogue tag.

Simply put, it’s a phrase that attaches to a piece of dialogue, whether it’s internally thought or verbally expressed, attributing the line(s) to the speaker.

If you write a short story, novella, or full-length manuscript, chances are you’ll pen dialogue between characters and will, therefore, have to deal with attributing that dialogue.

Following are some tag sins to avoid to keep your dialogue from being hell to read.

Fun with dialogue tags - Dialogue Tag Sins

Sin #1: Incorrect Punctuation

Tons of articles have been written on properly punctuating dialogue tags.

My point? There’s enough material here to warrant an entire blog post, and there are already plenty on the topic. If you’re looking for a great article focused solely on dialogue tag punctuation, head over LitReactor.

Sin #2: Overusing Tags

“I can’t stand strawberries,” Jane said.

“Are you nuts?! Strawberries are my jam,” Henry replied.

“You’re sick in the head. How could someone like you – otherwise, so normal – like those seeded little monsters?” she said.

“Because I’m human, Jane. Because I’m human,” he said.

“Moron,” she said.

In the above exchange, each of the five lines of dialogue was accompanied by a tag. This is totally unnecessary (as is the word “totally” in this sentence). Why?

  • There are only two characters involved in the conversation.
  • Henry calls Jane by name (so we know she’s who spoke previously and who replies after).
  • There’s no description or action that followed or was part of the tags.

A better use of dialogue tags would be as follows:


Fun with dialogue tags - strawberry dialogue

Sin #3: Under-Using Those Bastards

…On the other hand, there’s of course such a thing as using dialogue tags too infrequently. For example, when more than two people are involved in the conversation, it can at times be difficult for the reader to determine who’s saying what. If you’ve done an amazing job at giving the characters distinct voices, perhaps most readers could figure it out…but why make following the dialogue unnecessarily hard?

Sin #4: Trying to Be All Fancy-Pants

Fun with dialogue tags - Orwell quote

“I can’t tell if Billy likes me,” Amy-Sue said despondently, twisting her hair around a finger.

“Stop being modest, Amy-Sue,” Harriet exploded. “You know he has a thing for you,” she said, licking her lollipop and making a face; she hated licorice.

“Whatever, Harriet,” Amy-Sue snapped harshly.

“Don’t get defensive, Amy-Sue,” Harriet said quickly with a roll of her eyes. “It just annoys me when you act so oblivious.” She looked down at her lollipop and inquired, “Want this?”

“Gross! Your spit’s all over it,” Amy-Sue exclaimed loudly. But after a second, she reached out a hand and demanded, “Give it over, Harriet.”

The above snippet of dialogue is too much. As you read it, chances are that you tripped over the words and became distracted by them at least once.

  • Yes, it’s wonderful when you add insightful description to your tag.
  • Yes, when an adverb is used, the reader gets a better idea of how the character said a particular line. That can be good.*
  • Yes, when a character calls the other character by name, it helps create natural dialogue – while also giving the reader a helping hand with regards to who’s speaking and who’s being spoken to.
  • Yes, it’s great when you use a verb other than “said” – reading “he said,” “she said,” and nothing else becomes monotonous.**

But all in the same conversation, and every line of dialogue having a little something “extra” (or a few somethings extra)? You’ll produce clunky, hard-to-read dialogue.

Minor Sin: Spoke Up

One dialogue tag that seems to trip up some folks is “spoke up.” This tag implies that the speaker is being introduced – if not to the scene, then at least to the conversation – so it should never come after the dialogue is spoken; otherwise, it’d be a little late to the party.


“But all I want for Easter is a case of silver bullets,” Tim spoke up.


Fun with dialogue tags - silver bullets on Easter dialogue

Staying Sin-Free

Dialogue tags are tricky, necessary beasts. But if you treat them just right, you’ll tame them, making your dialogue more powerful and engaging.

There’s so much more to say, but that’ll have to do for now. Tell me:

What are your pet peeves when it comes to dialogue tags? Tricks and tips? I showed you mine – now you show me yours.

And Something Extra…

  • Chartreuse or lime? This handy-dandy color thesaurus can help you pick the perfect word for the color you’re imagining.
  • What’s your reading personality? Let Oprah’s Book Club tell you with a quiz. According to Oprah, I’m an aesthete. Duh.
  • Writing: good for the body and the mind, according to recent research.
*But for the sake of all that’s holy, don’t forget what the wise Stephen King said: “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”
**But there are some words that, used in a certain context, will only make your dialogue read awkwardly. Inquired is one of those words, especially in the above example.

Writer’s Block, You’re a Bitch

As someone who has been writing stories since the innocent age of five, I’ve experienced writer’s block. That would be an understatement. Truthfully, it’s more like I’m in a constant state of writer’s block, with spurts of “Holy crap, I can write!”

Funny Writers Block

So, you can imagine my excitement when one of my favorite people, author David Seaburn, said he wanted to write an article about the subject.

Dave, take it away!

Sometimes when I look at a blank page on my computer screen, I can tell it’s making fun of me or daring me to put even one tiny mark on its unsullied surface. No, I’m not kidding. This is for real. Sometimes it even looks, well, hostile, like it’s giving me the finger; and personal, like it’s saying “What in the world made you think you could write?” Lucky for me, I have other things to do when that happens. I stay away, not because I really want to, but because I have other stuff in my life. Who’s going to change the litter? Or binge-watch The Americans? I can’t just drop everything and sit down in front of a mind-numbingly blank page and, like, write. Who does that?


I just can’t write anymore!!

Okay, so, it’s hard being a writer because sometimes writing is the last thing you want to do or feel you can do. It’s anxiety-provoking when you don’t have anything in the tank. I mean, what does that say about you? That you’re a loser or something? I hate being in that position, so I’ve found some tricks that help me avoid the dreaded Block of the Writer.

Make Writing Habitual

First, I find that it helps if I write routinely, no matter what I write. You can define “routinely” for yourself, but generally speaking, that’s several times weekly. Sometimes I don’t work on fiction. Instead, I may write in my journal or edit what I’ve already written or work on a short blog post. But whatever I do, it helps if I put my butt in the chair routinely (there’s that word again) and practice, as if I were learning to play the piano.

writers block frustration

Shut Up Your Inner Critic

I also try to keep the self-loathing at bay. Getting way up in your own grill when you’re trying to be creative, well, it doesn’t help. I work at being gentle with myself or reminding myself that I have done some good writing in the past, that my writing skills haven’t dribbled out of my ear while I was asleep, that this will pass. Be patient.

…But Don’t Be Too Patient

Before I forget, don’t wait for inspiration. You may never sit down at the computer again if you wait to be inspired. Sometimes inspiration never shows up, but your writing may still be very good. And if it does show up, it probably sneaks in while you’re plodding along, just trying to put words and sentences together.

Source: The Oatmeal

Source: The Oatmeal

Stop Yourself While You’re on a Roll

Here’s a good trick. Ernest Hemingway said, “The best way [to avoid getting blocked] is always stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day…you’ll never be stuck.” I like this one a lot. I’ve stopped mid-sentence when I was on a roll, because when I sat down the next day, it was so easy to get started again. (Please overlook the fact that Hemingway eventually committed suicide. I don’t think that detracts at all from his sage advice. Mostly, anyway.)

Take a Break

I find that sometimes the best thing I can do is get up and walk away for a little while. Go to the bathroom. That’s where the best ideas are hiding. Or get the mail. Or make a cup of coffee or tea. Somehow this rearranges my brain cells, making it just a little easier to go forward.

writers block path

Don’t Give Up Just Because You’re Lost

The best protection against getting blocked is to keep going even if you don’t know where you’re headed. I learned this the hard way. I carried notes around for my first novel for ten (count ‘em – ten) years before I wrote the first sentence. I did this because I didn’t know how the book would end. Actually, I didn’t know how the first chapter would end.

Now I struggle less with this, because I understand that the “not knowing” part of writing is pretty common and that writing into a story is the best way to keep going, the best way to discover what’s ahead. Reminds me of E.L. Doctorow’s famous response to people who asked him about the uncertainty of the writing process: “I tell them it’s like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” I wish I had written that. I probably had writer’s block at the time.

Happy writing!

David B. Seaburn lives near Rochester NY. He has written five novels, two of which were expertly edited by Katrina Robinson. His latest novel is More More Time (2015, Savant Books). Also, visit his Psychology Today blog here.

Dave, you da man.

And just because it’s that kind of day, I’ll let Ryan Gosling wrap things up.

Funny Writers Block Hey Girl

Hell yes, you will, Ryan Gosling. Yes you will.

How do you deal with writer’s block? Do you huddle in the corner and cry, or do you take it on like a man?!

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