Recommend your “Autumn Read” and enter for a chance to win an Amazon gift card

As I’ve said before on my blog, I am totally a summer child. Lounging by the pool, going to the beach, picnics, walks in the park, that’s definitely my scene. And winter in the mountains, even as far south as Virginia, can be pretty damn chilly. Winter—not so much.

But fall holds a special place in my heart. It seems to hold so much potential, so much inspiration, so much magic. It’s like the grand finale of the fireworks—you don’t necessarily want the fireworks to end, but that vibrant bursting of color is what it’s all about. Fall, for me, is the witching season. Magic is afoot. Stories are whispering in the scarlet and gold of the trees.

Maybe my love affair with autumn has something to do with the fact that it never sticks around very long. Always leaves you wanting more.

If I had a fireplace, I would spend my autumn evenings curled up in front of a roaring fire, drinking tea and reading a good book. Alas, apartment living does not allow such luxuries as fireplaces (not mine, anyway), but there are plenty cups of tea to be had.

And lots of good books. So, if you were to select books by season, which books belong to fall? I’ve culled together a few, and I’m looking for additions.

Good Autumn Reads:

  • Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
  • Yasmine Galenorn’s Witchling (Sisters of the Moon, book 1)
  • Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre
  • Bram Stoker’s Dracula (what? too predictable?)
  • Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird
  • Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic
  • Cate Tiernan’s Book of Shadows (Sweep, book 1)
  • L.J. Smith’s The Secret Circle trilogy

I would love, once I get through the backlog of ideas in my head, to write a good autumn, witchy story. Dark, vibrant, and lots of magic. And fireworks. Definitely fireworks.

I’m looking for good additions to my Autumn Reads list. So I’m making a deal. If you comment and tell me your Autumn Reads pick, I’ll enter your name in a drawing for a $10 Amazon gift card. Books from all genres are welcome.

Like a healthy competition? If you mention the contest and link to this post on your blog, you’ll be entered two more times. (If you post about the contest on your blog, please comment on this entry to let me know. Be sure to include a link back to your site in the comment.)

Rules:

Only relevant comments count (no spam). It’s a max of one entry per person per comment and two entries per person per blog link (i.e., a max of three total per person). When the clock strikes 12 midnight (EST) Oct. 8, this contest will turn back into a pumpkin. I will announce the winner on Monday, Oct. 10. That way, the lucky winner will get a chance to cozy up with a yummy read of his/her own choosing.

Happy autumn, and good luck!

3 weak sentence constructs to avoid in our writing

As writers, everything we read and write develops our ear and eye. We learn how good writing sounds, how it leaps off the page, how it sends a thrill or a chill through us. A good line has bite. And we develop an eye—an eye for glaring spelling, punctuation, or grammatical errors, so that those, too, pop off the page.

Reading a lot is a given for a writer—it develops your ear. And editing and critiquing—whether it’s a friend’s cover letter for an employment opportunity, judging for a writing contest, or the in-depth work we do for our critique partners—develops both our ear and our eye.

I’ve found a few sentence constructs that pop up in writing (my own included) that diminish the strength of the prose. When revising, we can find phrases with more “pop,” replacing weaker sentence constructs with those that have more “bite”.

1.)    There is/are/was/were. What is “there”? It’s not a character, not a meaningful object or place in the story. “There is” is one of the weakest sentence constructs I can think of, especially in fiction, when we have so much poetic license to be creative. “There is” can generally be replaced with a stronger, more vivid construct. “There is a tree deep within the forest…” can easily become “Deep within the forest, a tree stretches out its great, wide arms…” Because “There is…” really doesn’t mean much at all. But “A tree stretches…” takes us right to the heart of the sentence. When I revise my work, I try to avoid this sentence construct as often as possible. It’s too easy, it’s often telling not showing, and it’s just not powerful enough. “There is” is okay every once in a while. It’s just best in very minute doses.

2.)    I felt/he felt/she felt. If you’re in first-person or in third-person close, “felt” can be useful but highly overused—especially in a first draft. When revising, we can note these places in our writing. If we find this structure frequently, it’s time for a change. Why? Because, like “there is,” “I felt” can often be cut, leaving us with a stronger sentence. “I felt my heart thumping in my chest,” becomes the much stronger, “My heart thumped in my chest.”

3.)    Overuse of rhetorical questions. “How was Blake going to get out of this one?” “What was Cassie going to do?” I find these phrases peppering my first drafts—often because I honestly didn’t know how Blake was going to get out of this one, or what Cassie was going to do. They were more for me as a writer (clues to myself that I needed to figure something out) than for my reader. Every once in a blue moon is okay. In subsequent drafts, I try to delete these phrases as much as possible. If we’re not careful, such questions can start annoying the reader. Don’t you think? 😛

What weak phrases do you find in your own or others’ writing? How do we vanquish weak sentence structures so we can make our stories really sing?