Category Archives: Guest Post

Steampunk Tea Served Cold by Dennis De Rose

Thank you, author and editor Dennis De Rose for responding to last Wednesday’s Visual Writing Prompt. I’m happy to be sharing your story here! Dennis happy to hear any feedback so comments are welcome!

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“Opa, can you tell me a bedtime story? I’ve had a grueling day and I’m all keyed up.”

“Mikey, how can a six-year-old have a grueling day and be keyed up?”

“Opa, age has nothing to do with it. I need your help. Dad told me I had to be asleep in twenty minutes. I was already tensed up and now look at my fingernails. Opa, my life is a roller-coaster. And you’re the only one can make the ride as smooth as pudding.”

“Mikey, I love your analogies.”

“Opa, please, I don’t care about allergies. I need to relax and you know it only works with you.” Analogies and allergies, close enough…

“OK Mikey, get under the covers and let me turn the lights down. Let me think for a second. Are you ready for a hum-dinger? You want happy or scary?”

“Opa, remember, I am almost seven. I can handle anything. But Opa, don’t turn those lights down all the way. You know how I get. Before you start, what’s the title? You know the title has to come first.”

“How right you are Mikey. This story is entitled Steampunk Tea. When I was little, just about your age or a little older… I’ll never forget one bitter cold winter night…”

“Stop Opa, you know what I have to ask you?” I shook my head. “What in the world is steampunk?”

“Steampunk is something that takes place in the past; you know history, when a lot of machines were run by steam, before electricity, with elements of science fiction thrown in for good measure.”

Well, I kinda get it but it’s a little foggy. Like Star Trek but before the electric light was invented which must have been hundreds of years ago.” I patted Mikey on the head.

“… I thought I heard a noise in my closet. I woke up out of a sound sleep. Next thing you know I saw a big shadow by the closet door so I high-tailed it under my bed, grabbing my blanket and pillow in case I needed to build a fort. I knew the corner was the safest place to be. This wasn’t my first rodeo. But when I leaned up against it, the corner felt funny, like a sponge…”

“Wait Opa, when did you go to a rodeo?”

“Mikey, I’ve never been to a rodeo. When I said ‘not my first rodeo’ I meant I had been under the bed many times. It’s just an expression.”

Oh, OK, I’ve been to that rodeo too. I’ll have to remember that. Let me place that in my memory bank.” I just smiled and continued.

“… Next thing you know the sponge wall sucked me in and threw me out the other side. But I was lucky. I landed on a trampoline and I was dressed all warm and toasty.”

“A trampoline, Opa, are you making this up as you go along? This story sounds fishy to me.”

“Mikey, I swear I am telling the truth. This is for real. Now, where was I. So, there was a pretty girl standing next to the gadget, like she was expecting me.”

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

“Hey, boy, where did you come from?” After I stopped bouncing, I got a good look at her. I could tell she was older than me. Her long red hair was tied up with pink ribbons; her cheeks were red probably from the cold.

I sat on the edge of the contraption just looking around, trying to get a sense of my unreal surroundings. It was dark, cold and foggy to beat the band. Looking over my shoulder, I saw four giant blinking teapots, each one sitting atop four huge spaceship-like legs on rubber wheels. My mouth fell open, my eyes grew large and I started to shake. It was hard to breathe.

The girl stamped her foot to get my attention. “Boy, I asked you a question. What’s your name and where did you come from?”

After she helped me down, I calmed down and answered her questions. “My name’s Dennis and I’m from New Holland, Michigan. And to answer your next question I don’t know how I got here. I was under my bed one second and bouncing on that thing the next.”

She looked at me and shrugged her shoulders. I didn’t know what that meant so I just stood there, waiting. “Come with me and I’ll show you around. Don’t be afraid. By the way, my name’s Carla and I’m almost eleven. Follow me.”

Carla grabbed my hand and all of sudden I didn’t feel the cold and I stopped shaking. Walking toward the lights, the teapot structures grew clearer and I saw people walking back-and-forth, talking to their neighbors. There were old bikes scattered about. The people were dressed funny. Some of the men wore cowboy hats, dungarees and heavy cotton work coats. The women wore bonnets, funny long hoop skirts and heavy wool shawls. The four teapots were tethered and each one had a metal ladder going from bottom to top. Walking closer, I dared to touch the hollow leg of the first teapot.

Carla grabbed my other hand. “Don’t touch that; you’ll burn yourself. Each pot is propelled by a steam engine located at the top, in the lid. Steam is forced to the wheels under high pressure. We are one of the clans, the Tea clan, and we move from place to place trading with other clans. This is our pot. Stay here while I talk to my Ma and Pa.”

I stood there listening to people speaking a language I had never heard before and watching kids playing some sort of tag game, running around the legs and wheels from one structure to the next.

Carla tapped me on the shoulder and my hair stood on end. “What’s wrong, breathe.” She smiled and her eyes lit up. “I asked Ma and Pa if you could stay with us for a while until we can figure out how to get you home again. Climb up but be careful. I will be right behind you. Take your time.”

We climbed up and through a door, but not any door I’d ever seen; there was no doorknob and it wasn’t on hinges. The door was made of a thin rubbery self-sealing material. “What the blazes is that? And it’s warm in here.”

“We traded for that new door stuff. My Pa tried to explain it to me but it’s too technical. I’ll figure it out later, he told me. The heat is forced down through vents in the ceiling. This is the second floor. Did you notice the bottoms of the kettles glowed red? Each home has a coal bin at the back; the coal is fed by conveyor belt to the fire pot. The bottom floor is a little warmer. We’re lucky the floor is heavily insulated. Oh, I forgot to tell you to take off your shoes and those thin socks.”

“Carla, my feet get cold easy. What am I going to wear?”

“Here, I have an extra pair of wooden shoes and heavy wool socks. We all wear wooden shoes. How do they feel? If you like them you can keep them.”

“You know, they feel very comfortable and my feet are toasty. Usually my feet are cold even wearing my heaviest socks. Thank you.”

“Would you like something to eat and drink? The cold always makes me hungry. We have some goat cheese, some homemade black bread and iced tea in the cooler.” I was getting sleepy so I just shook my head. “I have to go downstairs. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

We sat together at a low table in the center of the room. “Denny, how do you like the meal? I know it’s not much…”

I looked up from my plate. Carla had surprised me. No one had ever called me Denny. “I never had goat cheese or black bread but I like it. The cold tea reminds me of home. Say, something has been bugging me. How come you can speak English but everyone else speaks a different language?”

“I speak English because you do. I cannot explain that. It’s like I’ve always known English. My parents and their friends speak Dutch.” I tried to wrap my mind around that but like other things I’d seen, I just couldn’t figure it out.

“Say, Carla, I’m kind of tired. Is there someplace I can rest for a bit? We can work on me getting home tomorrow.” Carla nodded and guided me to a darkened section of the room divided into three heavy-curtained bedrooms.

“Here, this is the extra bed. Sometimes I have a friend over. Tonight you are my friend.” I had never seen a featherbed before. As I lay down she helped me remove the wooden shoes but the wool socks were so warm I decided to keep them on. She placed a light blanket over me as she bent down and kissed me on the cheek. I never heard her parents come in.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

“Mikey, when I opened my eyes I was cozy in my own bed still wearing the same cloths.”

“Opa, do you expect to believe that wild story? I mean, I loved the story but…”

“Well, Mikey, you don’t have to believe me but look under your bed.”

Mikey’s eyes grew as big as saucers. “A Pair of old wooden shoes and heavy wool socks! Opa, I can’t believe it. How…?”

“That’s for you to decide. But they’re yours now if you want them.”

A tear rolled down his cheek. “Opa, you can turn the light off now and thanks for everything.”

I kissed him on the cheek. He smiled at me and gave me a big hug. The door closed with the softest click.

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Dennis is a wonderful storyteller and a good friend. See below for links to his other writing and his editing business.

 

 

 

 

 

My Prima Dreams by Dennis De Rose

Thank you, author and editor Dennis De Rose for responding to last Wednesday’s Visual Writing Prompt. Your story was vivid and alive, I’m happy to be sharing it here! He’s happy to hear any feedback so comments are welcome!

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My Prima Dreams

… by Dennis De Rose

Bonjour mes amies, have you got a moment? Let me tell you a little story. My name is Mathilda and I am not what I used to be…

It was 1945 and the Big War had just ended. I remember the American soldiers freeing us from those German war dogs. That’s what my Maman called them. All these years later I am still haunted by my memories: looking out my bedroom window, seeing mothers and their children shot and killed or reduced to bits of bloody flesh thanks to German Sprengebombes, so many falling from the sky. I would go to bed shaking and wake up still cringing under my covers. I was only ten years old.

I will never forget the day Maman told me we were going to take a little walk, just a few streets down from our home. After lunch she bundled me up, grabbed a small bag from the floor and we began our little journey, I remember looking around, seeing people who appeared to be dazed as if they were looking for something that should be there but wasn’t anymore. The Americans were busy moving huge blocks of stone with giant growling machines. Ladies in uniform were handing out water in metal containers and sandwiches wrapped in heavy brown paper while talking to the lost ones, trying their best to comfort them. One of the ladies smiled at me and gave me a piece of bread and cheese. That little act of kindness will be etched in my memory forever.

Oh that building, it was like a giant stone masterpiece with its huge arches, two winged angels looked down on me from maybe 500 feet, at least that’s what I saw when I looked up. The golden façade nearly blinded me. And when we stepped inside it took my breath away. The Grand Foyer was magnificent, mirrors everywhere, parquet floors, sculptures and paintings, colored marble all around.

Maman had enrolled me in the Ballet de l’Opéra National de Paris and we were inside the Palais Garnier, a monument dedicated to producing the best opera and ballet worldwide. You see, Maman knew I had my heart set on becoming the best ballerina ever, she had watched me as I pirouetted through the halls, dressed in my pink tutu. But I did not know I would be staying here for a very long time, only allowed to see my Papa and my Maman every Sunday.

I kissed Maman on the cheek. She handed me the cloth bag and Mme. Carlotta showed me to my tiny room on the very top floor. She had a grumpy face and she was very quiet. Quiet people make me nervous; they cannot be trusted. The room was dusty and very hot, too hot for winter. Looking around, which didn’t take long, I spied a small rickety bed, a wooden chair in need of serious repair, a little beat-up wooden table, an old desk light with a funny looking bulb in it and a clay pot under the bed. Oh, I almost forgot to mention the dust motes flying all around. The one saving grace was the small dirty window that actually opened so I could see outside and get some fresh air.

The hot air in the room, my room now, made me tired so I decided to nap; I hadn’t slept well the night before. A sharp knock at the door shocked me to attention. Opening the door, I expected to see the sour Mme. Carlotta. The lady gestured and mentioned her name, Mlle. Yvette. I followed her down a set of backstairs and into a small poorly-lit dining room.

Our first meal was not gourmet, a bowl of warm thin soup, a crust of bread, a slice of goat cheese and a small glass of watery wine. Mlle. Yvette sat at one end and Mme. Carlotta was seated at the other. Suddenly, it struck me, no one was talking. I raised my hand to ask a question and before I could utter one word, my fingers were whacked with a long narrow stick courtesy of Mlle. Yvette. I cannot tell you what I was thinking, it was very unladylike. If my Maman ever heard me say those words I would have soap in my mouth before I could blink an eye.

Another sharp bang on my door, and I was awake at 6AM the following day. Fifteen minutes later we were seated at the same table drinking weak coffee and eating a slice of stale bread with butter and a slice of the same goat cheese. It looked moldy but I dared not utter a peep. Without a word spoken, Mme. Carlotta grabbed me by the hand and yanked me toward a small closet on the other side of the room. She glanced at me as she opened the door. I remember thinking she might be going to shove me inside and lock the door. Instead, she handed me a dirty white tutu and an old pair of pointe shoes, obviously one size too small, while gesturing toward a screened-in alcove.

My first day of beginner instruction and it continued until 10 that night with only two short breaks in between. I found out the hard way that my pirouette was a disaster, my plie was horrendous and my pointe work was shoddy at best. Over time, my grand plie, my demi-plie and my pointe work improved.

Let me rest. I need something to drink. All this reminiscing is making me thirsty. Now where did I put that bottle of Dom Perignon? Here it is. Half a glass, there we go. You know, I have to laugh. We French must be in love with the letter P, so many ballet words begin with that letter. How funny is that?

Now, where was I? Oh yes, the second day things started to look up. I made a friend, very quietly I might add. Violette Verdy was a third year student and at the top of her class. She was blonde to my black and tall to my short. Maybe she felt sorry for me but we became friends and I never questioned her motives. She was the Ying to my Yang. We became inseparable, on the sly of course.

You know, from that day on, my tutu seemed cleaner, my shoes no longer pained me and the long hours didn’t seem as long as before. But the food was still substandard, nothing could fix that. I felt lighter on my feet and my dancing improved (Violette worked with me afterhours up on the roof). But don’t tell Mme. Carlotta or Mlle. Yvette, that’s our secret. My room was still hot and dusty but I found out Violette was no better off.

I saw Maman and Papa every Sunday and I would show them what I had learned. We talked about the school and my new friend, Violette. But I never complained about what went on at school or during classes. They laughed when I told them the students had a nickname… Les Petite Rats. Maman was such a good cook but when she asked me what we were eating I would change the subject.

In 1950, Violette graduated at the top of her class and was given the coveted title of Prima Ballerina. I graduated from Intermediate two years later, dancing in several shows in and around Paris until I met my future husband, Michel, a pastry chef. By that time, Violette was touring all over Europe but we still kept in touch by post. We spent as much time as we could together whenever she was performing in and around Paris.

Violette gave up dancing in 1965 when she married Charles, a famous singer, and settled on the outskirts of Paris (I remember teasing Violette because Charles was five years younger). Ballet de l’Opéra National de Paris was looking to replace Mme. Carlotta and Mlle. Yvette due to their age and less than desirable disposition. Violette was a welcomed addition to the staff. In her free time, she often played with our three children, Mireille, Michelle and Michel Jr. Violette and Charles never had any children of their own.

Time flies when you’re having fun, that’s what they say. After my children were grown and had families of their own I decided to do something else after helping for years in our bakery. I never forgot that little dusty room and how it bothered me so much. I spoke to Michel and we agreed that I should clean houses to help me pass the time. We didn’t need the money. A few years later Michel sold the bakery.

I’m ready for another glass of wine. When I think about it, I have done quite a bit in my life. The love of my life, Michel, passed away eight years ago but we were happily married for almost 60 years. Violette, God bless her, died one month after my Michel. Luckily, Charles is still around and we spend quite a bit of time together. He still sings like he’s 30 and he fills my days with joy as we sit around remembering the “old” days.

Say, it’s been awfully nice chatting with you. I have to rush off. Charles is meeting me at the old bakery (I still get a discount). I’m not what I used to be but I’m happy.

Bon soir!

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Dennis is a wonderful storyteller and a good friend. See below for links to his other writing and his editing business.

Author Chat: Debbie Moyes

Today I’m pleased to chat with author Debbie Moyes and introduce you to her latest books.

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  • When and why did you become a writer, what inspired you? What makes you stand out from the rest? What Inspired you to write these two books?

A year ago, I watched an episode of 60 minutes about an entertainment time capsule in the midwest, and a story line popped into my head that absolutely refused to leave. I couldn’t function anymore, so I decided to write it down, and before I knew it, the story-line had turned into a book. Then that book turned into a sequel, then into a third novel. 

  • What draws you to your current genre? Or what’s the coolest thing about your genre?

As far as my genre, I have always been a science fiction nerd. I grew up watching Star Trek and find anything science-related to be so fascinating and entertaining. Naturally, that’s where my mind goes when I think of stories. I love the innocence of young love and adventure, and also tend not to use things like swearing, drinking, immorality, etc. Which naturally draws me to Young Adult. I absolutely love clean YA books. 

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  • What’s your secret, how did you get from first drafts to publication so quickly? Maybe we could adopt some of your habits.

People ask me how I wrote books so quickly. First of all, I treated it as a full time job, giving up television and staying up until my eyes couldn’t stay open any more. The story gets out quickly for me, because I see it literally as a movie in my mind, everything the characters do and say, and then I simply write down what I see. Editing is the hardest part, going through a million times, having others edit for me, etc. It’s a longer process, but it’s worth it, because seeing your work in print/ebook is awesome!

  • Tell us about your cover designs!

My covers are amazing. I knew I couldn’t have people on the cover, and I knew it couldn’t look too “Science Fiction-ish,” considering that a large part of the book is on the planet instead of space, and is much more adventure sci fi than hard sci fi. I love how the covers for both book one and two tie together really well–there’s no doubt that you can tell they’re in the same series. Both covers give off the feel I was looking for. 

  • Tell us how you hit #1 on Amazon, how did you market your books? We could use some pointers.

As far as getting to #1 on Amazon, I used basic marketing techniques. I did the advertising thing on Facebook, and told people that if they were kind enough to mention the book, to NOT say that they knew me in any way. It sounds more legit to hear someone say they read a good book, than to hear that their friend/sister/cousin wrote a book and everyone should check it out. I brought out the sequel quickly after the first book, in the hopes that readers would want to go straight to book two, instead of having to wait and then forgetting about the series completely. I also used the kindle select free days to my advantage. When the book was scheduled to go free, I signed up on several different book promotion sites and applied for my book to be featured as a free book with them. They were all free, although there’s many options for paid promotion. The days that it was free, it was being shown on various sites, as well as twitter. When people downloaded it for free, the hope it that it would then draw them in to buy the sequel. 

  • What are some helpful tips you could give to aspiring writers?

Advice I could give to any other writers would be to use others. Get many people to read your work and honestly critique it. Change things that don’t work, even if you love them dearly. And absolutely don’t stop writing, ever! Getting success with your writing is slow going, but don’t stop trying. 

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  • What journey will we experience with your story, what will we come away with?

Something I love about my series is that it’s clean. Way too many books, even Young Adult, are full of swearing, sex, drugs, etc. I love when a book has an awesome story without having to include those things and wanted to make mine that way. There’s a twist in the story that I find fascinating– it makes you look at our world and the universe in general in a different way. My stories also touch on the subject of morality and compromising values for the greater good. Is it justified? Or is it still wrong?

  • What can we expect from you next and when?

I have the third book in the World 4 Series coming out in October 2016, and another YA series in the works. I put out “hidden chapters” (parts of the story that didn’t make it into the actual novel) onto my website www.debbiemoyesauthor.com, as well as updates and random ramblings. I can’t stop writing!

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Hello! Im melting in the desert of Arizona while taking care of my four kids. Science fiction has always been a love of mine, as well as adventure and of course, anything Young Adult. I started writing World 4 as a kind of secret hobby, which then exploded into a full-on series and my new, awesome passion. I love stories that can transport you to a different place and introduce new ideas. I love these characters, and want so badly for everyone to know their story!

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Craig Boyack – Guest Post: Short Story Writing

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I really appreciate the invitation, and the topic challenge. I never really put much thought into how I came to write short form stuff. It kind of evolved, but reflecting upon that, hopefully, leads me to a good article.

Once upon a time, I wanted to write a novel. I picked up my iPad and started typing away with no idea what I was doing. I had no idea what the rules were, or that they even existed. Looking back, it was one of the most enjoyable experiences of my writing career.

The final product sucked, but I didn’t know that at the time. I kind of wandered from one cool idea to the next without much of a game plan. What I wound up with was quite a bit like a television series. The same characters engaged in tiny vignettes that were kind of cool. Archaeologist might look at those one day and decide they were my first short stories. (They certainly weren’t a novel.)

I’ve always loved short form stuff, and in many ways prefer it to a novel length work. Time is a big factor for me, and I really dig a story I can complete in one session. Prior to that first “practice” novel, I read lots of Poe, O’Henry, and magazines. I enjoy some of the ones dedicated to short stories, like Hitchock’s, Ellery Queen, and others. It never really occurred to me to write my own.

From magazines, I wound my way into comics. I think this is a wonderful way to tell a story, and there are some great graphic novels out there these days.

My Blog, Entertaining Stories, had been live for about a year when October rolled around. I wanted to do something on my blog that felt like Halloween. I enjoy reading a kind of micro-fiction called Creepy Pasta. I thought I might try my hand at that.

I did some snooping around, and someone has a website by that name. I probably have no legal worries, but didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes either. Who knows, that person might someday prove to be an ally in my self publishing journey. I came up with the name Macabre Macaroni instead.

I posted a complete story per week during October, and my blog stats spiked. One of them was the most popular post I ever made for a long time, and it’s still in my top ten. I decided the short form still had fans somewhere out there, and did a bit of digging.

Traditional publishing shunned the short form. Oh sure, some of the biggest name authors can get away with a book of short stories, but for the rest of us it’s pretty limited. Amazon changed all that for us. These days, novellas, novelettes, short stories, and even poetry are making a comeback.

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I’m a big believer in challenging myself, and include a personal challenge in all of my novels. It might be unnoticed by the reader, but it forces me to grow and improve. I approached short stories with that mindset. I’ll never know if I can write one until I write one.

I scoped out my competition, and many of them offered a single short story for 99¢. Others were writing a series, and offering a prequel for 99¢. I decided to offer a book full of short stories, and micro-fiction, for 99¢. It seems like a better deal, and it sells pretty well for me.

I searched for the rules once again, and there aren’t many. Sites offer up word count for the various lengths, but none of them seem to agree. Therefore; I reject their reality and substitute my own. I break it down this way:

  • Flash Fiction = one paragraph
  • Micro Fiction = a decent blog post. 1000 words, pushing my luck at 1500
  • Short story = 5000 to 30,000 words
  • Novella = 30,000 to 80,000 words
  • Novel = 80,000 words and up

It used to bother me that there are holes in my list. It also bothered me that novelette didn’t find a home. Today, I really don’t care. The actual story is more important than the pigeonhole it goes in. As a self publisher, I don’t have to conform to a bunch of categories that different websites define differently anyway.

My short form tales are also proving grounds for me. I called the first book The Experimental Notebook for a reason. Short form allows me to experiment with new things. I recently wrote one that I’m pretty excited about as a big monologue. It would never work as a novel, but I think it’s a great short story. I also wrote my first epistolary style story as a short story.

At some point, I’m going to put out a second Experimental Notebook. The first one sells well, and I’ve gotten some wonderful reviews. It can also be looked at as a gateway drug into my novels. Someone might take a 99¢ chance, and decide one of my novels might be fun.

I write speculative fiction, and for me the fences are pretty far apart. My stuff varies from paranormal to science fiction, and the occasional fantasy. This gives me plenty of room to keep things fresh, and the short form stuff does the same.


I hope I’ve encouraged some of you to take a chance on short form. As writers, you can try new things without dedicating months to a project to see if it works. Now you can use those cool ideas that won’t carry an entire novel. As readers, you can enjoy a complete story on your commuter bus, or coffee break.

If you’d like to check out some of mine, you can read The Experimental Notebook of C. S. Boyack here: http://a-fwd.com/asin-com=B014S2BA4U

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A speculative selection of micro-fiction and short stories. These were designed to be short reads for your commute, coffee break, and other times when readers are pressed for time. This book contains a bit of science fiction, some fantasy, and paranormal stories. 

I’m excited to see short fiction returning in popularity. I hope you will enjoy these stories as much as I did.

 

 

Connect with Me

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Totally Transform Your Next Blog Post

The Unfair Advantage Popular Writers Try to Hide

You know your writing heroes? Would you be shocked to learn that their writing is no better than yours?

Sure, the end product is better, but the first draft is just as clumsy, flabby, and downright difficult to read as any of your own writing efforts.

What popular bloggers know that many people don’t know (or don’t want to believe) is that a post isn’t finished simply because they’ve said everything they want to say. In many ways that’s just the beginning.

Think of your draft as a rough diamond. Value is hidden inside it and you need an expert gem cutter to reveal its beauty and clarity.

Which is why many top bloggers hire a professional editor to transform their rough diamonds into gleaming jewels. That’s right – someone else is helping them.

Somewhat unfair, right?

No wonder their writing seems so much better than yours. And even those bloggers who don’t use an editor have simply learned how to edit their own posts like a pro.

Fortunately, editing isn’t rocket science. If you have someone to show you how.

So let’s break down the rules that’ll help you transform your unremarkable draft into a perfectly polished post.

7 Editing Rules That Will Totally Transform Your Next Post

  • DON’T PAD YOUR PROSE WITH EMPTY FILLER WORDS
(Or: Avoid Using Grammar Expletives)

Grammar expletives are literary constructions that begin with the words it, here, or there followed by a form of the verb to be.

(Expletive comes from the Latin explere, meaning to fill. Think smelly literary landfill).

Common constructions include it is, it was, it won’t, it takes, here is, there is, there will be.

The problem? When it, here, and there refer to nouns later in the sentence or – worse – to something unnamed, they weaken your writing by shifting emphasis away from the true drivers of your sentences. And they usually require other support words such aswho, that, and when, which further dilute your writing.

Let’s look at an example:

There are some bloggers who seem to have…

The there are expletive places the sentence’s focus on some nebulous thing called thereinstead of the true focus of the sentence – some bloggers. And the writer must then use another unnecessary word – who – that’s three unnecessary words in one unfocused sentence.

Train yourself to spot instances of there, here, and it followed by a to be verb (such as is,are, was, and were) and adjust your sentences to lead with the meat and potatoes of those sentences instead.

(Tip: Use your word processor’s find functionality and search for there, here, and it and determine if you’ve used an expletive).

Other before-and-after examples:

  • It’s fun to edit – Editing is fun
  • It takes time to writeWriting takes time
  • There are many people who write – Many people write
  • There’s nothing better than blogging – Nothing’s better than blogging
  • Here are some things to consider: – Some things to consider are:

Caveat: If you previously described an object using there, here, and it, you’re not guilty of an expletive infraction. For example:

  • I love editing. It’s fun. (This is not an expletive construction since I previously described what it refers to.)

2. DON’T WEAKEN THE ACTION WITH WIMPY WORDS

(Or: Avoid Weak Verbs; Use Visceral and Action Verbs Instead)

Not only does to be conspire with it, there, and here to create nasty grammar expletives, but it’s also responsible for its own class of sentence impairing constructions.

Certain uses of to be in its various forms weaken the words that follow. The solution is to replace these lightweights with more powerful alternatives.

Let’s see some before-and-after examples:

  • She is blogging – She blogs
  • People are in love with him – People love him
  • He is aware that people love him – He knows people love him

Other verbs besides to be verbs can lack strength as well. Use visceral verbs or verbs that express some action. Let’s edit:

  • Give outOffer
  • Find outDiscover
  • Make it clearer – Clarify
  • I can’t make it to the party – I can’t attend the party
  • He went to Mexico – He traveled to Mexico
  • Think of a blogging strategy – Devise a blogging strategy

3. DON’T CRIPPLE YOUR DESCRIPTIONS WITH FEEBLE PHRASES

(Or: Avoid Weak Adjectives)

Weak adjectives sap the strength from your writing just as nefariously as weak verbs. Use the best adjectives possible when describing nouns and pronouns. And be mindful that certain words, like really and very, usually precede weak adjectives. Take a look:

  • Really badTerrible
  • Really goodGreat
  • Very bigHuge
  • Very beautifulGorgeous

Even if you don’t have a telltale really or very preceding an adjective, you can often give your writing more impact by using stronger alternatives:

  • DirtyFilthy
  • TiredExhausted
  • ScaredTerrified
  • HappyThrilled

Even worse than using weak adjectives is using weak adjectives to tell your readers what something isn’t as opposed to telling them what something is:

  • It’s not that good – It’s terrible
  • He’s not a bore – He’s hilarious
  • He’s not very smart – He’s ignorant

4. TRIM FLABBY WORDS AND PHRASES

(Or: Avoid Verbose Colloquialisms)

Today’s readers have limited time and patience for flabby writing. Their cursors hover over the back button, so say what you mean as concisely as possible before your readers vanish:

  • But the fact of the matter isBut (Avoid flabby colloquial expressions when possible)
  • Editing is absolutely essential – Editing is essential (Absolutely is redundant)
  • You’re going to have to edit your work – You’ll have to edit your work or You mustedit your work (Going to and going to have to are flabby expressions)
  • Due to the fact that editing takes time, some people avoid it – Because editing takes time, some people avoid it
  • Every single person should love editing – Every person should love editing (Single is redundant; and shouldn’t married people love editing too? 😉 )

5. DON’T PUSSYFOOT AROUND YOUR VERBS AND ADJECTIVES

(Or: Avoid Nominalization)

Nominalization occurs when a writer uses a weak noun equivalent when a stronger verb or adjective replacement is available. Like expletives, nominals usually introduce other unnecessary words when used.

Count the number of words in the before-and-after examples below, and you will witness how badly nominals weaken your writing:

  • Give your post a proofreadProofread your post (verb form)
  • Alcohol is the cause of hangovers – Alcohol causes hangovers (verb form)
  • The plane’s approach was met with the scramble of emergency crews – The planeapproached and emergency crews scrambled. (verb form)
  • He shows signs of carelessness – He is careless (adjective form)
  • She has a high level of intensity – She is intense (adjective form)

6. THROW OUT THE RULEBOOK ON PUNCTUATION

(Or: Use the Occasional Comma for Clarity)

The rules around punctuation can be complicated, even for the humble comma.

But do you truly need to know the difference between a serial comma, an Oxford comma, and a Harvard comma to write a great blog post? Of course not. (And it’s a trick question – they’re all the same.)

So my philosophy on commas is simple:

Use commas sparingly if you prefer, but if excluding a comma MAKES YOUR READER STOP READING, add another bleepin’ comma – regardless of what any comma police may say.

Let’s look at an example:

You can ignore editing and people reading your post may not notice but your ideas will get lost.

By not including a comma between editing and and, I read this sentence and asked myself, “I can ignore editing and people reading my post? Really?” Of course, readers work out the intended meaning a moment later, but by that time, they’ve already stalled.

So, regardless of what comma rule I may break by adding a comma to this sentence, as long as my readers don’t get confused and stop reading, I don’t care – and neither should you.

Let’s look at another example that needs a comma for clarity:

One day, when you find success you can pull out your golden pen and write me a thank-you letter.

By not including a comma between success and you, I read this sentence and asked myself, “Is success something you can pull out of a golden pen?”

Regardless of your stance on commas, you ultimately want your readers to keep reading. You want them to continue down your slippery slope of powerful content all the way to your call to action – without getting jarred from their trance to contemplate commas with their inner editors or a Google search.

7. BE AS MANIPULATIVE AS POSSIBLE

(Or: Use Noun Modifiers Whenever You Can)

You won’t use this technique often, but at least be mindful of it.

When we use two nouns together with the first noun modifying the second, we are using noun modifiers. I like them because they hack the flab from our writing by shortening our sentences. Let’s review some examples:

  • Tips on editing – Editing tips
  • Great advice on how to boost traffic – Great traffic-boosting advice (Traffic-boosting is a compound noun here)
  • Information regarding registration – Registration information

These sentences have prepositions between the noun sets. Whenever you spot this construction, try to implement this noun-modifying technique.

What’s Your Excuse Now?

These tips are not magical, mystical, or complicated. In fact, you could consider them downright boring, plain, and inconsequential.

But applying smart editing rules is what separates your heroes from the masses,catapults them to success, and makes readers say, “I don’t know what it is about their writing, but it’s absolutely fantastic.”

Look at is this way: You’ve expended a ton of effort on SEO, content marketing, networking, and social media promotion, all in the hopes that more people will notice your blog. So when they arrive, shouldn’t your next post blow their socks off too?

And how about your last post and the one before that? (Yes, you can apply these rules to your old posts too!)

Or are you one of those writers who think they write well enough already? Well, you might be surprised by just how many of these crimes against clarity you’re committing.

Open one of your posts right now and see how many of these editing rules you can apply.

Read each word of your post. Is the word an expletive? Is it a weak verb? A weak adjective? Does it represent nominalization or flab or break any of the other rules mentioned in this post?

Run each word of your post through this process. You will find something to improve. And your writing will be 100% more powerful as a result.

Because the search for perfection never ends.

And your writing is never too good.

Sure, proofreading and editing take time.

And yes, you’re already busy enough.

But your writing heroes edit, and they land the guest posts, book deals, and exposure you only wish you could.

So, take a break from #amwriting and start #amediting right now.

Your success will thank you.


About the Author: Shane Arthur is the copy editor for Jon Morrow’s kick-butt Guest Blogging Apprenticeship Program (aff.), where he applies these rules (and others) to polish students’ guest posts to perfection before final submission.

7 Simple Edits That Make Your Writing 100% More Powerful by Shane Arthur