Monday, November 23, 2020

Would you Like to Worry Less?

 Years ago I developed the idea for a book, The Art of Deliberate Distraction. I hesitated to finish writing and publish it because I'm no expert in counseling or anything similar. I can claim to be someone who tries to focus on positive thinking.

With the arrival of COVID-19 and the ensuing stress, this seemed like a time to tackle the project. The result is The Art of Deliberate Distraction. It's more an article than a book, so I've added my heartwarming novella, Falling Into Place, as a bonus.

What is deliberate distraction? Deliberate distraction offers a way to consciously refocus your thinking – if only for a few minutes – so you can feel more well-balanced as you handle tough events. 

If you're trying to work from home and keep kids on task for homework or remote learning, it's tough. I remember a cartoon from the beginning of the pandemic. I don't have the image, but it said something like, "Tried remote learning. Two boys were kicked out of class and the teacher was fired for drinking wine." 

After nine months, it's harder to laugh about the restrictions and separation from our families. As one who had pneummonia last year, I wouldn't want to tackle COVID-19. So while I don't like missing Thanksgiving with my Maryland family, I prefer to love from a  distance so I can live for next year.

There are simple things we all love to do -- take a  walk, talk to a friend, read a book, binge watch our favorite TV show. When we're stressed or extra busy, sometimes it feels as if we have an obligation to worry. We do have a responsibility to tackle problems if we can, but we can also give ourselves permission to take our thoughts somewhere else by practicing deliberate distraction.

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To learn more about Elaine, go to or sign up for her newsletter. 

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Making Writing More Readable

Each writer has their own style and each character has their own voice. However, you (usually) want your writing to be read easily. A reader can  get frustrated if they have to go over a sentence or paragraph a couple of times to get the gist of it. Though if you want a character to be misunderstood, then you're golden. 

I have a mental checklist as I edit. I'm not talking about a read-through as you continue to write a story. These suggestions are for what I call polish editing.  

  • Watch for what a grade-school teacher called 'helper verbs' – especially any form of the verb to be. Was plus a gerund can usually be replaced by past tense. I was walking becomes I walked. Some authors believe that using gerunds makes an action seem more immediate. It can -- unless you do it all the time.
  • Use precise verbs. Words such as walk and look are often overused. Do a word search if you're editing online or use a highlighter if reading on paper.
  • Break up paragraphs—especially so that each character's dialogue is in a new one. A long paragraph can take up a full ebook page.
  • Avoid overly long sentences. If you use 'and' and 'but' a lot, consider shortening some sentences. Varying sentence length can be a good way to vary characters' speech patterns, so long-winded or clipped sentences, when used purposefully, can be useful. 
  • Avoid using similar names or having a lot of towns or characters whose names start with the same first letter. This especially helps when a book has numerous characters or there are many pages between mentioning a locale or name.
  • Avoid passive voice! The subject of a sentence should usually be the person performing the action. Instead of, "Those words were spoken by me," the phrase, "I said," is more direct.
If it feels as if polish editing inhibits a character's voice or makes your writing sound more like nonfiction, your approach may be too rigid. If you really don't get this, ask an editor to go over a few pages of your work and offer suggestions geared toward readability.

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To learn more about Elaine, go to or sign up for her newsletter.