Two of the best things that ever happened to me as a writer are Romance Writers of America (RWA) http://www.rwa.org/ and Scribophile http://www.scribophile.com/ . RWA lets me meet other local romance writers, many of them published, and take on-line courses and attend a monthly meeting with speakers and contests and lots of fun. Scribophile lets me waste hours every day in the forums talking to other writers from around the world, critiquing other people’s writing, getting critiques for my writing, and the brownies are all virtual.

The bad thing about RWA is the cost, but it’s not unreasonable. I have been blessed with a scholarship that allowed me to attend the meetings while I weathered my worst financial situations. The bad thing about Scribophile is that once you start looking for errors in writing, you start to notice how many got past the editors of published books.

Passive verbs are not totally eliminated, but use with caution. http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/passive.htm

Filter words get in the way of letting the reader experience what the character is experiencing. She felt the cold vs. She shivered in the cold. http://writeitsideways.com/are-these-filter-words-weakening-your-fiction/

And so many writers struggle with dialogue tags and formatting, but it’s easy. http://bubblecow.com/formatting-dialogue-a-quick-and-dirty-guide

These are just a few of the things you learn while critiquing and being critiqued at Scribophile. And a common lament is that you then can’t read for pleasure without smacking into these bad habits that people ACTUALLY WERE PAID MONEY FOR WRITING!!! Ahem. Excuse me. (Overuse of exclamation points is something I have to work on.)

Without permission, I can’t quote directly from any books, but I can list those books. Considering the flap over Elora’s Cave and that blogger who ran afoul of them, I think I’ll let you look for yourself.

And to give you an even clearer idea of what you are looking for, here are the Bulwer Lytton contest. You may recall Snoopy on his dog house typing something about the weather. Well, here’s the original source. “It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents — except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.” — Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, Paul Clifford (1830) Yes, that is one sentence. Yes, that is really poor writing for this day and age, but nearly typical for the time in which he lived. Still, Jane Austen wrote better. http://www.bulwer-lytton.com/

And the 2014 winners. Be sure to catch the Purple Prose section. Good stuff. http://www.bulwer-lytton.com/2014win.html

I’ll be back on Sunday.

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