Friday, March 31, 2023

So Many Writing Resources to Choose From

By Elaine L. Orr

First of all, I was so tempted to say, "From which to choose," but I chided myself to write without sounding like a formal author.

I like to read about what other writers think, but you could spend all day going through blogs. Then I came across a daily email option from Feedspot.

You've probably heard of them as the group that posts about the 100 best writing blogs. Their selections are excellent; I look at many of them.

What I also did was go to and sign up for a a daily email on writing blog posts. You can quickly go through the 10 or 20 titles offered and pick those to read. I generally spend about 10 minutes on it, and occasionally save links to some of the posts.

There is an option to pay a monthly fee o $2.99 (paid annually). However, you can choose to "pay now" with PayPal, and you get the email without a fee. There are additional services for the fee, but I don't need them. 

Essentially, you have a curated list of good posts about writing and publishing. Saves you time and you can literally learn something new every day.

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To learn more about Elaine L. Orr, visit her website or sign up for her newsletter.

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Focusing on the First Sentences Really Matters

By Elaine L. Orr

Anyone who writes fiction or nonfiction will tell you that you either grab a reader with the first few sentences or you don't. If they've read other books you've written they may keep reading, but you want those new readers.

For New Lease on Death, Jolie's work appraising houses is at the forefront even more than usual. I chose that profession because she can move around town and interact with a lot of people -- and because almost everyone buys real estate at some point. We can relate. 

However, there are many aspects to her life -- friends, family, and the food pantry she's the nominal head of. I try to blend in all of it without "telling" too much about what she does. 

I'm reworking the draft, and decided to retain the focus of the first chapter but shift the emphasis. Let's call these Opening 1 and Opening 2. Opening 1 has been in place for months.


EACH TIME I CLIMB the steps to the Ocean Alley boardwalk, I figure it won’t be long before I can’t keep up with my twins. Today reinforced the point. Lance and Leia stopped abruptly at the top of the boardwalk steps and I almost rear-ended Leia's day-care backpack. "I thought you two were in a hurry."

Lance turned to his sister and frowned. "Don't you know you're supposed to look before you cross the street?"

"It's not a street," Leia said. She moved past him and walked right, toward Java Jolt  Coffee House. "I want my apple juice."

Lance followed. “Me, too.”

"I need you two to drink your juice and talk quietly. I have to go over the notes from a house I just visited before I talk to Uncle Harry about the appraisal I have to write up."

In tandem, they said, “Boooooring.”

Since they were now ahead of me, they couldn’t see my eye roll. Every week or so it seems they test a new expression. At the moment, boring things included breakfast cereal, the stories Scoobie and I read at bedtime, and apparently quietly drinking juice after day care.

“I know you guys practiced saying that.”

Lance glanced at Leia and his smirk gave them away. They began to trot and I picked up my pace.

(A few paragraphs later, we get to real estate.)

As much as I would have liked for us to take a leisurely stroll, the appraisal I needed to finish was for a home Buck Brock had made a purchase offer for. Unlike realtor Lester Argrow, Buck hopes appraisals come in low. He’s buying houses to add to his inventory of short-term rentals, which he manages himself.

Lester is generally selling houses as a traditional real estate agent, and he makes more commission if the houses go for a higher price. As he regularly reminds me.


I LIVE AT THE JUNCTURE of Arrogant and Stubborn. On one side of the block is Buck Brock, a property developer who is pleased when real estate appraisals I do show a house’s value is less than the contract he has offered to a seller. He may get to pay less.

On the other side is Lester Argrow, whose aim in life is to sell houses for top dollar so he gets more commission – a common goal for realtors. However, since Lester entices buyers from larger cities with well-placed ads on social media, the hopeful homeowners may not be familiar with the Ocean Alley market. They offer larger sums than an appraisal will support.

Both men argue with me. I remind them the banks who will underwrite mortgages are my clients. Banks don’t want to lend money and later learn a house isn’t worth much more than the paper the mortgage is written on. The banks also pay for the work.

What is a woman to do?

Since she’s a woman with a multifaceted life, this Friday afternoon she’s going to take her four-year old twins to Java Jolt Coffee House. She will sip brown goodness while she interprets the handwriting in the notes she wrote when she conducted a recent appraisal visit.

As I climbed the steps to the Ocean Alley boardwalk, I figured it won’t be long before I can’t keep up with our twins. Today reinforced the point. Lance and Leia stopped abruptly at the top of the boardwalk steps and I almost rear-ended Leia's day-care backpack. "I thought you two were in a hurry."


The first opening let me get into the story by traipsing to the Jersey Shore boardwalk with Jolie and her twins. I needed to write that to get in touch with key characters. But it's not what the reader needs to experience at the start the story.

Opening 2 will includes the twins' chatter after Jolie's musings about what will pertain more to the core of the story -- real estate arguments (some fatal). . 

I take this as a good reminder of why we need to truly regard early versions as drafts that can be taken apart and stitched together differently.

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To learn more about Elaine L. Orr, visit her website or sign up for her newsletter.

Monday, March 27, 2023

I Wrote 25,000 Words Last Week!

By Elaine L. Orr

Needless to say, I've never written 25,000 words in a week. I've been subbing more than half time, and last week was Spring break. I decided I had to get really close to finishing "New Lease on Death." I've worked on it way too long.

I think my brain moved faster than usual because I've been writing and thinking about this story for months. I have notes jotted on pieces of paper all over the place.

Two weeks ago I spent a few hours on my Chapter Summaries. There is enough detail on each chapter that I can track the plot and subplots and if I need to move scenes around. It's not for anyone else to see unless one of my wonderful critique group members wants to see it. You'd think a crazy woman wrote it, because I ask questions of myself and sometimes write things like, "This doesn't work."

Outlines are fine, and I do make detailed notes in advance for much of a book. However, sometimes it's not enough. The chapter summaries let me see where I am and then I write detailed notes (in the same format) for the next few chapters. 

I now have 50,000 words and a path to the end, which I think would be about 7,500 more. Knowing where I'm going makes all the difference.

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To learn more about Elaine L. Orr, visit her website or sign up for her newsletter.