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Anne R. Allen's Blog


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Anne writes funny mysteries and how-to-books for writers. She also writes poetry and short stories on occasion. Oh, yes, and she blogs. She's a contributor to Writer's Digest and the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market for 2016. 

Her bestselling Camilla Randall Mystery Series features perennially down-on-her-luck former socialite Camilla Randall—who is a magnet for murder, mayhem and Mr. Wrong, but always solves the mystery in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way.

Anne lives on the Central Coast of California, near San Luis Obispo, the town Oprah called "The Happiest City in America."

Anne blogs at Anne R. Allen's Blog...with Ruth Harris 
and at Anne R. Allen's Books

Sunday, November 23, 2014

8 Bogus "Rules" New Writers Tell Each Other

by Anne R. Allen

We get lots of questions from new writers who have spent time in forums and online writers' groups where they've been given advice by other newbies. Some of that advice is fine, but a whole lot is dead wrong.

Unfortunately, the wrong stuff is usually delivered with the most certainty.

That's because the most ignorant people are generally the most sure of themselves. This phenomenon has been scientifically proved. It's called The Dunning-Kruger Effect. Nobel Prize winners David Dunning and Justin Kruger of Cornell University did a study in 2000 that proves the least competent people really are the most likely to overestimate their own competence.

I remember feeling perfectly confident I knew everything worth knowing at age four. Then I went to school and it ruined everything.

I do still encourage the use of critique groups and beta readers as a first step in learning the ins and outs of the craft and business of writing, but keep in mind that most of what you hear in a critique group needs to be taken with a grain of salt. And now, with the rise of social media, the chances of getting bad or misleading information has increased exponentially.

So make sure you cross-reference if a suggestion for a change goes against what you've observed or heard from respected authorities.

Some of these "rules" are pretty comical—the opposite of what the publishing industry considers good writing. I have a feeling some frustrated new writer may have made them up to justify bad writing habits.

When in doubt, ask a professional or look it up. There are many, many good books that teach the basics of how to write fiction. One of my favorites is How to Write a Damn Good Novel by James N. Frey (not the James Frey who who wrote the bogus memoir.) I also like The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman (nice and short). Screenwriters' bibles Story by Robert McKee, and Save the Cat by Blake Snyder are great for story structure, and of course every writer's library should have a copy of The Elements of Style.

If you have a favorite nuts-and-bolts writing book, do tell us about it in the comments.

I hope you'll pass this post on to new writers who may be led astray by "the blind leading the blind" syndrome that can happen in social media.

Here are eight bogus "rules" I've heard recently.

1) When writing something inspired by your own life, every incident must be told exactly as it happened, or somebody will sue you.

If you know somebody is likely to sue you if you include them in a memoir, it's safest to disguise them with a name-change. Better yet, fictionalize your story. For advice on how to fictionalize a "true story," read Ruth Harris's great post on the subject from earlier this month.

But even if you're writing a memoir or a piece of creative nonfiction, you still have to craft it into a story with an arc. That's a story with an inciting incident, conflict, and resolution. That's never going to be exactly "the way it really happened," because real life is a meandering journey, not a tidy story. Plus real life has lots of boring bits. Do NOT include them if you want anybody to read your book.

A memoir has to tell a story. That means it has dialogue and scenes. You can't help putting less than accurate words in people's mouths unless you recorded every word ever said to you.

For advice on how much "truth" to put into a memoir, here's an enlightening post from Jane Friedman: How True and Factual Does Your Memoir Have to Be?

She points out how subjective all memory is, so no one person's memory is going to provide 100% absolute provable facts.

2) Novels can not contain contractions.

This one floored me. A writer had been told this by an "editor". (Which shows you should carefully vet freelance editors. As I said last week, anybody can call herself an editor, so do your research before you hire somebody.)

If you follow this editor's advice, every person in your novel will sound like Star Trek's Mr. Spock.

People who speak English as a first language (and are not robots or space aliens) use contractions. If your characters don't use them, your novel or memoir had better be set in a robot colony or the planet Vulcan.

3) "Said" is boring. Use more energetic tags like "exclaimed","growled", and "ejaculated."

Whoever thought up this one is treading dangerously close to Tom Swifty territory.

"Said" is invisible to the reader. Any other dialogue tag draws attention to itself. Use other tags judiciously, the way you do with exclamation marks. You do use exclamation marks judiciously, don't you!!?

4) In a memoir, everyone in your life must be given equal time.

Somebody has been telling memoirists that even if they were personal friends with Elvis, the king shouldn't get any more space in a memoir than Great Aunt Myrtle Mae, if the two people were "equally a part of your life."

Sorry. Unless you're writing an autobiography for your family's eyes only, this is the worst advice possible.

First, a memoir is not an autobiography. Autobiographies are a chronology of a life from the cradle to now.  Nobody's likely to read them unless they're written by heads of state, tech moguls, or members of the Rolling Stones.

A memoir should be the story of a particular incident or related series of incidents in your life that will be of interest to the general public. Maybe how you overcame a disability, had Elvis's love child, or invented Post-It Notes.

So unless your Great Aunt Myrtle Mae was Elvis's date for the prom, or a crazed fan who broke into Graceland and stole a leather jumpsuit in which she wants to be buried, only give her a walk-on part in your story.

A lot more people want to read about Elvis than want to read about how much you loved your Auntie. Sorry, but that's the way human beings work. We've always been suckers for royalty.

5) Head-hopping is necessary if you have more than one character in a scene.

You don't need to tell us what everybody is thinking in every scene. That only confuses the reader. Good writers can show the reactions of other characters through the eyes of the scene's point-of-view character.

After all, you're seeing your entire life through the eyes of one point-of-view character: you. And you probably know what's going on. Or think you do.

Learn to use body language, facial expressions, and dialogue to let us know how key characters are relating to the action.

The exception is a story told from an omniscient point of view, which is not the same as head-hopping. Omniscient POV uses a god-like voice that knows everything. You'll often see it in high fantasy, which is told in a "bard's" storytelling voice.

An omniscient voice also works well in a humor novel, because it makes the story sound like a stand-up comedy routine. Carl Hiaasen does this brilliantly. So does Dave Barry.

But be aware omniscient POV in most genres seems old-fashioned, is hard to pull off, and is often taboo with agents.

For a hilarious take on the omniscient narrative voice, here's a brilliant video by Nick Offerman in which the characters in a Western movie rebel against that all-knowing narrator.

For a great overview of POV, read this post from Kristen Lamb: Point of View: How to find the perfect voice for your story. It's a must-read for anybody having POV issues (and most newbies do.)

6) All internal monologue must be put in italics.

I've even seen this in guidelines from small publishers. It's not wrong, but it's not the norm.

Putting internal monologue in italics is a convention that comes from mid-20th-century pulp fiction. You especially see it in thrillers. Some literary authors, like William Faulkner, also experimented with it. Some contemporary authors like to use italics to show alternate points of view. I've seen both Terry McMillan and Marian Keyes do this. They're both brilliant authors, and they used the device well.

But italics are on their way out. I've seen agents say in their guidelines they won't read anything that's italicized. That's probably because italics are harder to read and cause havoc with electronic formatting, especially for ebooks.

These days, writers generally use the "deep third person" point of view that allows for inner monologue without dialogue tags. Here's a great post on deep point of view from Rhay Christou at Writers on the Storm.

7) Good writers never use sentence fragments: all characters must speak (and think) in perfect English.

Oh. My. God. If all your characters speak in complete sentences, they'll sound as if they're living inside a school book report.

Where they're probably cohabiting with those Vulcans from #2.

Even Jane Austen's characters speak in sentence fragments. Shakespeare's do to, as in: "But Soft!"

When you write a novel (or a memoir or a play), your aim is to to present realistic characters, not impress your third grade teacher.

I've met some people who insist that even fictional five-year-olds must have a perfect understanding of the subjunctive mood and never, ever mistake a gerund for a gerundive.

Do I have to say why this is a recipe for snoozerific, inauthentic, bad fiction?

Or farce. It could make a pretty funny farce. Otherwise, do not listen to these people.

Nobody uses perfect grammar when they speak. Not even Ph.Ds. (My parents both had Ph.Ds: one in English and the other in Classics, so trust me on this.)

The rules for writing fiction are very different from the rules for writing a scholarly essay. If you confuse them, you're going to end up with a pompous, comical mess.

8) Never use the word "was."

This is my unfavorite piece of writing advice and you see it everywhere.  I wrote a whole post about the "was police" in 2012. They're wrong. Using the verb "to be" in any tense is perfectly fine.

"Was" is not always "passive." The past tense of the verb "to be" is also used in creating the past progressive tense in English.

Passive: "The book was read by me..." Passive voice tends to sound pretentious and annoying. (But sometimes the passive voice is necessary, so don't try to eliminate it entirely. )

Past Progressive: "I was reading the book when some idiot came in and told me the word 'was' is taboo for writers."

If you change the construction to "I read the book" instead of "I was reading the book" you have no sense of timeline. It would be dumb.

Yes, doing a search for "was" is a handy tip for self-editing. It helps to weed out passive construction (when it needs weeding.) A "was" search can also pinpoint lazy writing habits like starting descriptive passages with "there was." But there's nothing intrinsically wrong with the word. People go way over the top with their hatred of the past tense of the verb "to be."

Let it be.

What about you, Scriveners? Do you have a favorite nuts-and-bolts writing guide? Have you heard any of this bad advice? What's the worst piece of advice you've been given about writing? How do you react when somebody tells you, with great conviction, something you know to be wrong? 


Sherwood Ltd is only 99c for two weeks! 

It's #2 in the series, but can be read as a stand-alone.

This is the one where Camilla Randall a.k.a. "The Manners Doctor" goes to England. 

She and Plantagenet will be returning to England in book #5, coming up in the spring: So Much for Buckingham, which will tackle the controversies surrounding Richard III, the way Sherwood Ltd deconstructs the Robin Hood myth

At Amazon US, Sherwood Ltd is 99c, at Amazon UK, it's 75P, at Amazon CA it's $1.13, Amazon AU it's $1.12 and Amazon IN it's 49 rupees (yes, India gets a special deal.) And in all international Amazon stores. Here's the link to the International Amazon Landing page.

"Camilla realizes that here is a gang of modern day outlaws. At first, she’s disgusted by their foul mouths and sexist macho ways, but she comes to see among Peter’s disreputable but loyal friends personifications of all the members of Robin Hood’s gang of old – Little John, Friar Tuck, Will Scarlet and all the rest; yet does she want to play Maid Marian?

[She] finds herself caught up in a web of intrigue, and has no idea who in this surreal world of latter day outlaws she can trust; who are the villains, who are the heroes, and who are both?

…it’s a wonderful spoof full of absurd synchronicities with the Robin Hood legend, incongruous happenings, over-the-top yet fully believable characters and a whole series of twists to the plot. I was particularly impressed by the excellent background details; this US author reproduces the speech patterns of various sections of UK society perfectly."
…from a review by UK reviewer "Mary Ann."

And Food of Love is now available as an audiobook, narrated by C.S. Perryess

Part thriller and part screwball romantic comedy, Food of Love tells the story of Regina, a former supermodel, now princess of a tiny European principality, who has lost her skeletal figure and finds herself threatened by an unknown assassin.

Fearing her royal husband wants to kill her now that she's not model-thin, she seeks protection from her estranged African-American foster sister, conservative Christian television pundit, Rev. Cady Stanton.

Reverend Cady has some serious weight and romantic issues of her own, compounded when an "accident" intended for Regina leaves her temporarily blind. But when Regina is declared dead and Cady's seventy-year old secretary is wrongly arrested for smuggling a small nuclear bomb to the funeral, Cady takes control.

With the help of a porn mogul, a Russian spy, a rap diva and her fierce hairdresser-girlfriend, Cady is able to save Regina, restore the bomb to its proper owners, and unearth the long-buried family secrets that hold the key to her own happiness.


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Blogger CS Perryess said...

Great stuff, Anne. I would like to put the Perryess Stamp of Disapproval on the folks out in the world promoting #3, 5, 6, & 7. Oy. I've run into new folks who've written novel-length manuscripts strictly adhering to these rules, & editing these out is really a pain in the patoot. Thanks for another fine column.

November 23, 2014 at 10:21 AM  
Blogger Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Someone recently mentioned the internal dialogue should be in italics to me. No, I did not make that change in my upcoming book.
I try to pare down the amount of times 'was' appears, but there's no way to eliminate it entirely. Besides, the story would read really odd.
One can never have too many exclamation points!!!!!!! Just kidding.
And only use 'ejaculated' in erotica...

November 23, 2014 at 10:28 AM  
Blogger G. V. Anderson said...

I've always used italics for internal dialogue and quite like it - but it's always great to find alternatives! I'm a new reader to your blog, Anne, but it's brilliant. :3 Thanks for the great post and recommendations!

November 23, 2014 at 10:36 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

CS--You're right that those writers make things really difficult for editors. A lot of academics who try to write fiction tend to write this way. That's why agents often say they're turned off when they read in a query that the writer is professor.

November 23, 2014 at 10:43 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Alex--I'm glad you didn't pay attention to the italics "rule". I heard it first about two years ago, and tried to say, um, then why don't I see this in 90% of published books? And eliminating "was" is impossible.. I knew a poor writer who was told to eliminate every "was" and her story sounded so awkward! As if English were not her first language.

November 23, 2014 at 10:47 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

G.V.--Welcome! If italics work for you in your genre, and nobody's complaining, there's no problem. But it's certainly not required.

November 23, 2014 at 10:49 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Perfect post! Thanks, Anne.

Somerset Maugham said that there are only three rules for writing but no one knows what they are.

Somerset nailed it. If you're just starting out, think of rules as training wheels and approach them as you do garlic: with respect. As you become more experienced and your prose becomes more fluid, you will end up using the rules that work for you and ignoring the others. Personally, I think that rules tend to clutter the mind. ;-)

November 23, 2014 at 11:06 AM  
Blogger D.G. Hudson said...

I do like the use of italics to signify internal thinking, as it causes less confusion. I'm not a fan of long narrative and prefer dialogue and scenes. With all the dialogue which keeps the story moving, I find I can follow the different characters minds easier if the thoughts are in italics. I like omniscient viewpoint too. I know of another best selling author who uses italics for internal thoughts in her stories with a historical focus, and I like her work a lot. Perhaps its preference, but the story should be the main focus, not how the story is written. Some people like simple reading, without having to think too much, some do not. Some like to know what drives the characters, some do not. I use italics, and a few other devices, as it suits the story and what I'm writing.
Thanks for clearing up the muddle of the 'laws' of writing. . .

November 23, 2014 at 11:09 AM  
Blogger Keith said...

I just came across some writing tips by Ursula Le Guin, who was (oops) lamenting students who were deathly afraid of exposition due to show not tell nazi bullying. Her quote:

"As for 'Write what you know,' I was regularly told this as a beginner. I think it’s a very good rule and have always obeyed it. I write about imaginary countries, alien societies on other planets, dragons, wizards, the Napa Valley in 22002. I know these things. I know them better than anybody else possibly could, so it’s my duty to testify about them."

As for favorite writing books, The Art of Character by David Corbett has been very helpful and another that I found surprisingly helpful in shaping a premise despite its vintage is The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri, written for playwrights in 1946.

On the matte of italics, I use close 3rd and don't use them for internal dialogue, but do use them if a POV character is remembering something that someone else said. I just find quotation marks too disruptive in those instances but still need to clearly distinguish that someone else said it. Curious to see how you feel about that.

November 23, 2014 at 11:14 AM  
Blogger Donna Fasano said...

Bravo, Anne! I love debunkers and you are one of the best. :) And have I say, I love sentence fragments. My characters often speak and think in fragments because, well, so do I. lol

November 23, 2014 at 11:17 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Ruth--"Approach rules as you do garlic" Perfect. LOL! Too many rules do clutter the mind. And they can really slow down your writing process.

November 23, 2014 at 11:18 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

D.G. I think italics are used in some genres more than others. SciFi and thrillers seem most likely to use it. But it's not common in romance, where there's usually lots of internal monologue and it would get tedious and hard to read.

November 23, 2014 at 11:22 AM  
Blogger Lexi said...

"I've seen agents say in their guidelines they won't read anything that's italicized. That's probably because italics are harder to read and cause havoc with electronic formatting, especially for ebooks."

What captious creatures agents are, each with his/her own rules for hapless authors to attempt to obey. I hope they enjoy it while they can.

And havoc with electronic formatting, especially for ebooks? What? Speaking as an author who does her own formatting, I don't get this at all. There is no problem formatting italics in ebooks.

November 23, 2014 at 11:26 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Keith--I almost included "Show don't tell" and "write what you know" in this, but they need another post. They're true to a point, but the cause of lots of bad writing. LeGuin's quote is great.

Thanks for the recommendation of Corbett's book. I read Egri a million years ago. Glad to know he's still relevant.

That's the way I was taught to use italics: for a quote that's being repeated in the protag's head, when quotation marks would just be confusing, because it's not being said at the time, but remembered. It's all about making things as clear as possible for the reader.

November 23, 2014 at 11:28 AM  
Blogger sue mcginty said...

Can really relate to this. I was in a group once where the leader went ballistic if someone used "as" to denote simultaneous action. Can be overused I agree, but all in all its a pretty handy dandy little word.

November 23, 2014 at 11:31 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Donna--Thanks. Me too! :-)

November 23, 2014 at 11:44 AM  
Blogger Linda Maye Adams said...

That stuff is everywhere and very pervasive. It seems like if you end up in a group of writers, they try to keep everyone at a rank beginner. If anyone questions something, it's "You have to know the rules to break the rules" -- but with no definition of that. It's used more to tell someone, "You can't break any rules or you won't get published" -- even though the people quoting the rules have no idea what they're talking about. The problem is a lot of these sound reasonable, especially when some of them are mentioned by agents, and they can take on new life. The worst culprits are writers who have editing services as a side business. They're always suspect because they're selling a service, and sometimes they're writing system.

About a year ago, I broke off from writing message boards and unfollowed a lot of writing blogs. Some of it was simply because it was hard watching really bad advice be passed around as absolute rules. If I dissented, I was usually ignored or told I didn't know what I was talking about. The groupthink was really bad. But the other half of it was that some of those rules were leaking into my writing. I'm not an outliner, and most rules and advice assume your outlining (worse, many outliners believe the processes are the same). There's one of those rules floating around that says pantsers can't plot; therefore they need plot points or story beats (translate this as "You need to outline."). Garbage like that was seriously messing me up. I can trace back nearly every writing problem I've had to a rule, like "Know what your ending is." If I plan out my ending, I wreck the entire story. Without fail. I tossed the rules and started a new book. I'm about 5K from the end. The last book took 5 years because I spent so much time fixing what the rules broke, and breaking more. I started this one in July, and it took only five months.

There's really only one rule that counts for anything: Trust your process. You're the only one who knows that best.

November 23, 2014 at 11:46 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Lexi--I'm a cybermoron who doesn't do my own formatting, so I only know what formatters have told me. Apparently some of them find italics in Word don't format easily through Calibre, or whatever that program is called. I was asked to use fewer italics and em-dashes, because they both caused problems. I've heard it from several different sources.

I've also heard anti-italics talk from several agents. One said in her guidelines that she'd delete anything with italics. I assumed it was a formatting issue, but maybe it's just because they are harder to read.

November 23, 2014 at 11:49 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Sue--I agree. And I get so tired of rigid thinkers like that.

November 23, 2014 at 11:50 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Linda--I can relate. I got some very bad advice at writers conference workshops when I was starting out. The groupthink is the problem. You figure if *everybody* is saying it, the stuff must be true. But it's just this group living in its own little world with a collective mindset.

As far as process, like pantsing vs. plotting, that is so personal to the individual writer that there is NO way anybody can make rules for it. Things like beat sheets and outline templates work for some people, but I only use that stuff for editing. I have to write the story first and then mold it into a pattern later.

Congrats on the new book! That's awesome.

November 23, 2014 at 11:58 AM  
Blogger Rosalyn said...

These "rules" made me laugh. And as a PhD myself (also English), I can testify to the not always grammatically correct myself. I'm constantly amazed by the "rules" my students pick up: never use passive voice, never start a sentence with a conjunction . . . My favorite guideline is simply: be prepared to defend your choice. If you can tell me *why* you've used a fragment, you're probably okay.

November 23, 2014 at 12:08 PM  
Blogger Lexi said...

Dear me. I'm no expert, but I format using HTML, where you can see exactly what you will get, and solve any problems that may arise.

I agree that wodges of italics (one book I saw had the whole Prologue in italics) are not pleasant to read, but that's no reason to outlaw them altogether.

November 23, 2014 at 12:14 PM  
Blogger Maria D'Marco said...

hey Anne!

I have no searing comment to make beyond: thanks for the laugh. :D I was cracking up 2 minutes into your post and had to express my appreciation immediately - in fact, I've not gotten past you being four and having school ruin things.

Guess I should finish reading now...

November 23, 2014 at 12:14 PM  
Blogger Eileen Goudge said...

Best advice I ever got was from the speaker at a writers conference who went up to the podium, looked out at the audience and said, "What are you people doing here? You should be home writing." The point is if you practice your craft, all else will follow. Practice doesn't make perfect, but it tends to cut down on boneheaded mistakes and taking bad advice.

November 23, 2014 at 12:21 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Rosalyn--Thanks for confirming what I said about PhDs! Good guideline. If you're using fragments because you don't know what a subject and verb are, not so good, but if you're using them because that's how your character talks, then you're fine.

November 23, 2014 at 12:23 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Maria--Yeah, I was one know-it-all little kid (oldest) so I thought I had the whole world figured out. Then I went to school. What a bubble-buster.

November 23, 2014 at 12:26 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Eileen--I'm so glad you could comment. I hope Blogger will continue to behave itself.

There are an awful lot of writers who put more energy into writing clubs and forums than they put into actually writing. My editor calls them "procrastination clubs". I think that might be more accurate than we want to admit.

Writers absolutely shouldn't write in a vacuum, but groups have their own set of problems. There's always somebody who has to be "right" and make everybody else "wrong." It has nothing to do with facts and everything to do with ego.

November 23, 2014 at 12:31 PM  
Blogger Phyllis Humphrey said...

Great post, as usual. My favorite How-To book is DON'T MURDER YOUR MYSTERY (or DON'T SABOTAGE YOUR SUBMISSION) by Chris Roerden. But it's best for a writer who has completed at least one book. I also read the Lajos Egri book years ago. I, too, ran into an editor who wanted to remove every "was." Stilted writing! I don't read Science Fiction so am not aware of the use of italics there. I first saw it in romances. The editor of SOUTHERN STAR wanted to put half the heroine's thoughts in italics, but I vetoed that. "The book is written in the heroine's VP. How can you put some of her thoughts in italics, but not others?" I won - no italics. I am also against using "as" to indicate simultaneous action. As a Rita Judge for RWA, I found a book with seven "as" clauses on one page! Annoying to read.

November 23, 2014 at 12:31 PM  
Blogger Melodie Campbell said...

Every Crafting a Novel course I teach - EVERY SINGLE ONE in 22 years! - someone is determined to write their life story, but 'fictionalize it because I know that memoirs don't sell.' Anne, I am bookmarking this post, as usual, for my next crop of students :)

November 23, 2014 at 12:38 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Phyllis--Thanks for the recommendation. Great title.

How annoying to have an editor who wanted to do that. I haven't seen it in romances, but mostly I read rom-coms, so I may have missed it. But I've got to say it's harder to read and looks kind of cheesy to me. And some thoughts but not others? It makes no sense.

This is the first I've heard of the no "as" rule. I'll have to look into it. So you're not supposed to say "As I was walking that ribbon of highway, I saw above me an endless skyway"? What's supposed to be better?

November 23, 2014 at 12:43 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Melodie--I'm so glad I can help you get through to those students. I know some things are so entrenched in people's minds they can't unlearn them. So many people don't know the difference between a memoir and an autobiography.

November 23, 2014 at 12:46 PM  
Blogger Rosi said...

Great post. Lots to mine here. I especially like the link to the Writers in the Storm post on deep point of view. Thanks.

November 23, 2014 at 12:51 PM  
OpenID paulfahey said...

Hi, Anne, I can really relate to #1. Or not relate is what I guess I mean. I've run into so many people who say, "Well, that's exactly the way it happened, and I'm not changing it," and I want to yawn in their face. Uh-uh, no one wants to read EXACTLY what happened. EVER!!! (Sorry about the exclamation points.) The other rules are just as ridiculous. Glad you pointed them out. I'm sharing this terrific post as always. BTW, the deep third person link is wonderful. Loved it.

November 23, 2014 at 12:57 PM  
Blogger Donna OShaughnessy said...

Thank you Anne for an amazing post, so full of grand info and great tips AGAINST the "great" tips. I've been writing forever but got serious enough at age 55 to return for my BA in Creative Writing. Most of my professors are decades younger than I. Some are all about the rules you mentioned while others are all about the story. Being mature helps me sort through the good and bad advice and continue outside of the classroom to seek out my own resources, like you. I have also had wonderful advice within my workshops from the really young writers who often see what I have missed. One text though I have enjoyed is, "Between the Lines: Master the Subtle Elements of Fiction Writing" by Jessica Page Morrell. It is extremely well organized with clear examples from a variety of authors.

November 23, 2014 at 1:08 PM  
Blogger G. V. Anderson said...

Thanks for the welcome! :)

November 23, 2014 at 2:03 PM  
Blogger Barry Knister said...

Anne-- Thank you. In the link you include with point #7, you have given me ammunition to use in an ongoing tussle with my editors. Both of them insist that italics is necessary for internal monologue, or close third-person. But neither of them has clarified how to make close third come alive. I personally don't see why using present tense with she said/he said and no italics OR quote marks can't work, if carefully used. I think our conflict comes from their wish to adhere to traditional conventions, and mine to modify them.

November 23, 2014 at 2:38 PM  
Blogger Barry Knister said...

Anne-- correction: I meant point # 6 in your post. That's where you question the use of italics for interior monologue.

November 23, 2014 at 2:41 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Rosi--I had such an aha moment when I read that post! I've always used deep 3rd person but never knew it had a name.

November 23, 2014 at 2:45 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Paul--That's probably the biggest reason I gave up editing. 90% of people who hired me wrote memoir (or autobiography) and most of them refused to allow any storytelling to go on. It was going to be in the style of a Joe Friday police report or nothing--a recipe for writing unpublishable drek. I loved that deep third person article, too.

November 23, 2014 at 2:48 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Donna--Thanks for the recommendation of Jessica Page Morrell's book. That's not one I know.

I'm glad you do see how critique groups can be useful, even when many members are wrong. They do catch those little things that are invisible to you.

And sometimes even college professors of creative writing can have really wrong-headed ideas. That's because it's simply not an exact science. And publishing has fashions, just like clothing. Many things aren't wrong or right. They're just out of style.

November 23, 2014 at 2:52 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Barry--I'm glad that link is so helpful. I hope they'll listen.

The thing is, putting internal thoughts in italics is NOT traditional. Dickens didn't do it. Neither did EM Forster or F. Scott Fitzgerald or Evelyn Waugh or Daphne du Maurier (I just pulled some random books out of my shelves to check.)

It's a funny quirk invented by mid-century pulp writers like Mickey Spillane. I find it ridiculous that we're all supposed to emulate him.

November 23, 2014 at 3:00 PM  
Blogger Deb Atwood said...

Hi Anne,

The no "as" rule has to do with faulty cause and effect. Here's a post about it from Kristen Lamb's blog: http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/2014/09/11/kiss-your-as-goodbye-a-simple-grammar-trick-for-better-fiction/

As for rules I get tired of hearing show don't tell. Some of the most fantastic literary writers--Arundhati Roy, Adam Johnson, Jhumpa Lahiri--to name a few ignore that rule beautifully. I want to learn how to tell don't show, but I've yet to figure it out.

November 23, 2014 at 3:24 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Deb--Thanks! I missed that post on Kristen's blog. I'd never thought of non-simultaneous action problems as an "as" problem, but I do see how a search for "as" could point them out. But again, this is a self-editing tip that people seem to have turned into a rigid rule.

And I'm with you on telling not showing. Some of our greatest writers have done that. And people use the "showing" thing to such excess they can waste pages describing stuff when all the reader needs to know is, "the house is on fire."

November 23, 2014 at 3:43 PM  
Blogger Shari Schwarz said...

You point out some great tips here. As a new writer, I've had cps who are also new writers. It's been a learning curve to know what to take from them and what to filter out. I just hope I haven't given bad advice on this journey! Thanks for posting about this.

November 23, 2014 at 4:11 PM  
Blogger Romance Novels in Color said...

Great advice as always. I happen to be a fan of Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell. ~ Delaney Diamond

November 23, 2014 at 4:29 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Shari--It's true it's a learning curve. For all of us. I've given advice on this blog that I later changed my mind about. It happens. The thing is--don't let yourself be bullied if it doesn't feel right to you.

November 23, 2014 at 4:44 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Delaney--Great one! James Scott Bell has some excellent how-to books.

November 23, 2014 at 4:45 PM  
Blogger florence cronin said...

Anne, you've (you have for sure :) done it again. I have one caveat to add. If you are doing the English of someone who is actually speaking another language (and please do not ... DON'T YOU DARE ... give actual language ... However, when you are in that person's voice contractions sound wrong. The spoil the voice of that one character.

To follow your lead. You don't need to follow any rules other than to get the reader hooked on the story. Once you do that, whatever your characters say will be believed, he said again, and of course, he did not need to to it by shouting :)

Gees,this is so much fun :)

November 23, 2014 at 5:35 PM  
Blogger G. B. Miller said...

I've always read most everywhere that using italics is unhealthy, but if you have a character that is talking to say, their symbiont for example, the use of italics is absolutely necessary. Using the word "said" for such dialogue makes absolutely no sense and in fact, IMHO it simply clutters up the page.

As for when someone tells me something that I know is 100% wrong, I use the phrase "Okay." and continue on the correct trajectory path. Unless it's from a incompetent supervisor, then we employ a workaround or two.

I think I have one writing book near me: "Self Editing for Fiction Writers" by Rennie Browne and Dave King. It came highly recommended by another writer on their blog. The copy I have is 20+ years old, but it still contains some solid advice.

Father Nature's Corner

November 23, 2014 at 6:27 PM  
Blogger Lexa Cain said...

Great choice of "bad" rules. I struggled with 6 until an editor (a real one) helped me with the actual rules, and I continue to struggle with 8. The more I allow myself to use "was," the more they seem to creep in there - and not in a good Past Progressive way. ;)

November 23, 2014 at 7:39 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Florence--I agree! foreign languages and weird dialect stop the story. Just give a flavor with a few words and phrases. When I was a kid, I hated books with dialect in them, like Treasure Island. So annoying trying to translate that stuff when you'd never heard the accent the author was trying to show.

But simply eliminating contractions shows the character is foreign. It always sounds stilted--as if the character isn't at home in the language he is speaking.

November 23, 2014 at 7:43 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

G.B.--I have heard so many people in the publishing business tell me they hate italics that I'm always wary of using them. I use them too much for my editor's liking, though. I agree it's best to eliminate all dialogue tags when possible.

My mentor, Catherine Ryan Hyde, uses the phrase "duly noted" to tell people she's heard what they say and will give the advice all the consideration it deserves, which is usually none.

I think I've heard of Rennie Brown. I'll have to check out that book.

November 23, 2014 at 7:47 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Lexa--It's true that "was" can be a crutch word, but it's often the best choice. We need to learn to pick and choose.

The italics thing seems to be more widespread than I realized. But it was never used until the 1940s that I know of, so it's a relatively new gimmick. And not necessary, IMO. I think it's a fad that's had its day.

November 23, 2014 at 7:50 PM  
OpenID jennifertanner said...

Great post, Anne. I remember how the rules confused and frustrated me, and how some contest judges perpetuated the madness. I've got a few Noah Lukeman's books. The First Five Pages is excellent.

November 23, 2014 at 8:40 PM  
Blogger Dan Perry said...

Anne -- Thanks for the great post. The hardest one for me when writing my memoir was #5 (POV). In my first draft I kept assuming I could read other people's minds. Eventually I fixed it so that I could only see through my own eyes. And I forbade myself from seeing into the future. ("Little did I know at the time...")

These rules all seem so obvious now, but it took years of practice for me to learn them (with many failures along the way). I wish I had had this list when I was getting started.


November 23, 2014 at 10:07 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Jennifer--You're right about contest judges. It's hard to find people who will take the time and they're not always competent. And then there are "customer reviewers"...I'd better not get started.

November 23, 2014 at 10:25 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Dan--I think POV is the toughest one for newbie writers. I've tried to explain it to so many people. You see them wandering around in a mental fog, then suddenly the light bulb goes on. Little did I know when I started writing that we'd all have to take that journey...LOL

November 23, 2014 at 10:28 PM  
Blogger Tam Francis said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I got sucked into #6, #7 and #8. I still watch my "wases" to make sure there's not a better verb and plug my writing into the "to be" verb analyzer and try to keep it to around 20% "to be" verbs!

Great useful post. Thank you!

~ Tam Francis ~

November 24, 2014 at 11:56 AM  
Blogger Wm. L. Hahn said...

Hi Anne, I'm last to the party again (this time the Giants' game was in the late-night slot, and I couldn't concentrate before it started!). What a great column, and just to pile on about #6, PoV is one of the writer's great tools and strengths when choosing how to present a scene. I think of "favored third person" where you see what everyone does and hear what everyone says, but it's not quite omniscient because you tend to stay inside one character's head (the only one about whom you read of their thoughts and feelings). Classic heroic fantasy lives here- and a new character/PoV per chapter has become the rage thanks to masters like GRRM.
I love it, and realizing this was the norm helped me understand my current protagonist, Solemn Judgement. I NEVER get inside his head, and even in scenes where he's the "star" I need a narrator to observe him. The process of someone else looking at him and picking up visual clues as to how he feels or thinks is, I think, a nice way to show what pressures he's under. I've always remembered this lesson.
And italics? You can have my italics when you pry them from my cold dead keyboard- journal entries, proclamations, crowds singing the chorus, dream sequences- and of course exclamations galore. Heroic fantasy is replete with italics and long live them.

November 24, 2014 at 11:58 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Tam--I'm so glad you were rescued from those bogus rules. Yes, it is a good idea to keep the "wases" under control, because they can make for boring writing, but they're not wrong.

November 24, 2014 at 12:59 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Wm--I hope a good time was had by you and all your Giants :-) You're right that POV is a powerful tool. How fascinating that you never get into your lead character's head. A clever trick for making somebody seem heroic and remote.

Dream sequences are often put in italics. In fact, I wonder if that's where the idea of putting inner monologue in ital. came from. Ditto songs, letters, journal entries, etc. Those are tried and true uses of italics, to set the words apart from the regular narrative. I hope those aren't going to become taboo.

November 24, 2014 at 1:06 PM  
Blogger Kassandra Lamb said...

Hearing the anti-was advice always sets my teeth on edge! Thank you for continuing to set the record straight on that one (and the others). I loved your post on that awhile back, with the squirrels.

My favorite craft book is Stephen King's On Writing, mainly because he made it read like a story, rather than just straight advice.

Another "rule" that is a pet peeve of mine (that a few people talk about above) is the dialect one. I think there is a middle ground. I try to use enough dialect to sound realistic without making it hard to read. And my editor is quick to point out when I've overdone it.

November 24, 2014 at 4:47 PM  
Blogger Kassandra Lamb said...

Oh, and my go-to phrase for advice I think is wrong is, "That's useful information to have." The useful information is that the person doesn't seem to know what they are talking about. :)

November 24, 2014 at 4:49 PM  
Blogger Rick Taubold said...

I'll agree that most internal monologue should not be put in italics, but I generally advise writers to put DIRECT THOUGHTS in italics, and by those I mean the character thinking the line as if he/she were speaking it (first person, present tense), not merely musing about something. That said, I also advise writers to minimize direct thoughts and use indirect ones (which I believe is the equivalent of internal monologue). Do you agree?

November 24, 2014 at 6:33 PM  
Blogger Rick Taubold said...

And I never italicize indirect thoughts. :)

November 24, 2014 at 6:36 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Kassandra--I'm so glad you remember my squirrels. I had fun with that post. Stephen King's book is as much inspiration as nuts and bolts, but I agree it's a must read.

Dialect is tough. I agree you want to put the flavor of it in, if somebody's speaking in a highly unusual dialect that's important to the story. But too much funny spelling puts people off.

LOL the "useful information".

November 24, 2014 at 7:54 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Rick--If used very sparingly, for instance to show somebody shouting internally. "Don't go in there, moron!" it might work,

But generally italics in monologue show a quote, as in "I remember exactly what she said; 'don't go in there, moron' " My inner quotes show what would normally be italicized. But I admit I don't know the conventions for thrillers. I read mostly literary and women's fiction and mysteries. And stories in the New Yorker and literary magazines. Italics there are usually used for things that are quoted, like letters, journals, and remembered speech. Or to show alternate points of view.

November 24, 2014 at 8:01 PM  
Blogger Julie Musil said...

I remember being surprised when I learned internal thoughts didn't need to be italicized. It actually freed me from trying to decide when to italicize. There's always something to learn, and I'm glad you put out this "myth buster" post.

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 25, 2014 at 6:45 AM  
Blogger Dr John Yeoman said...

Excellent advice again, Anne! 'Truth in a story'? If you're ever tempted to parody a real living person in your novel, here's a tip that could save your shirt. Have the 'real' person appear on a conference platform alongside the fictive villain, and figure the real person as a saint. If the real person then sues you for defamation, protest: 'I could not be referring to you, as I presented you as an entirely different person from the villain, and - what's more - said you were a saint.' Collapse of court case...

But as I'm not a lawyer, don't take my advice too literally.

November 25, 2014 at 6:45 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Julie--Italicizing is a slippery slope, for sure. It's best to avoid them if you can. I think that convention must have started in men's action-adventure novels. Many more men seem to adhere to that "inner thoughts in italics" thing. It certainly doesn't happen in literary novels.

November 25, 2014 at 9:31 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Dr. John--Parody has different rules, especially for public figures, which is why TV comics can get away with so much. But if the person isn't a public figure, your ploy certainly could work. I also heard that Terry McMillan put an ex-boyfriend in a book but made the character fat and not well-endowed, so she knew he wouldn't say "that's me." LOL Probably apocryphal, but a good story.

November 25, 2014 at 9:36 AM  
Blogger Liz Crowe said...

great post as usual. And how did YOU know I had Elvis' love child? I'm with you on the "was" thing. I have one editor for whom the word must be associated with electric shocks to her genitalia or something but I'm easing her away from her obsession with axing ALL of them. The word creates a balance and I once took a chapter, eliminated them ALL and concocted possible replacements which really made me sound like a rookie. Which I am, but still...you get me.
Have a lovely weekend, Anne

November 26, 2014 at 5:34 AM  
Blogger Kay said...

Wish I had had this post to read about twenty years ago! My worst advice was:
Never use a flashback. Never use a metaphor. And NEVER EVER "stet" anything unless you have God himself to back up your opinion. Guess who contributed the last piece of advice?

November 26, 2014 at 9:04 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

LOL. Gotta put in an Elvis joke. It must be painful to work with a "was" Nazi. I hope you showed her how silly it sounds when you eliminate them all.

November 26, 2014 at 9:07 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Kay--Terrible advice indeed. Writing without flashbacks or metaphors makes for some mighty bland writing. And as for an editor who won't let you overrule changes...I think that's called a bully. I hope you fired him.

November 26, 2014 at 9:11 AM  
OpenID jennyhansenauthor said...

Fantastic stuff, Anne! And thanks so much for including Rhay's POV post from Writers In The Storm. That post taught me SO much. :-)

Happy Thanksgiving!!

November 26, 2014 at 11:02 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Jenny--I thought Rhay's post did a great job of explaining deep POV. I think prefer reading books written that way, myself.

November 26, 2014 at 11:42 AM  
Blogger Gera L. Dean said...

Some of the advice here is excellent, some I agree with, but Point 3? I will fight you on, all the way down, for one simple reason: You're attempting to dictate style instead of encouraging people to find their own style.

Dialogue tags, flat out, are a style issue, not a right or wrong issue. The advice in point 3 is just as bad as the advice it's attempting to negate. Both are wrong because they dictate style instead of encouraging the writer to experiment and take into account genre, personal preference, and personal style.

"Said" is not invisible to the reader. In fact, I find that stories that only use "said" as a dialogue tag tend to rub at me; "said" is not invisible, but boring. Other saidisms do not necessarily stick out to the reader. By demanding that other dialogue tags be eliminated, the advice giver cuts off potential language choices instead of teaching the judicious use of specific dialogue tags as a quick, yet specific indication of tone, character, environment, or dialect.

But, but, but! is the usual rejoinder to this discussion, and then followed up by "dialogue should be able to stand on its own without any dialogue tags necessary!" Which I usually respond to with "Bullshit. We're talking about prose, not screenplay writing." See, in scripts, the dialogue alone is all the actor has to interpret the intent of the script writer. That script is the only place the writer has a chance to influence the final medium.

In prose, the writer has a lot more control if they so choose. Some people choose to let the dialogue and the non-dialogue prose to carry the emotions and other cues the reader gleans from the story. And again, that's a style choice, one I have no problem reading. However, those writers who want more control over the imagery and experience the reader has, well, dialogue tags are one major way to give a lot more precision.

That precision issue leads straight into the next objection, which is, "Well, we just say things." No, there's a reason English has a whole crazed mess of words that describe the sounds coming out of our mouths. We hoot, holler, shout, scream, screech, and shriek. Yes, those words all mean loud volume. Think about them in context, and none of them sound the same to our ears. Bubble, babble, burble. All water sounds, all words that can describe tone of voice. What does it say about a character who burbles?

Here's the caveat. We say things a lot. And "said' should be the default dialogue tag. That way, when using a saidism, that word means more, has more weight in developing character or intensity.

Do people use bad dialogue tagging? Um, yah. But that's not the fault of the dialogue tags. That's just a matter of training, of experience, and should in no way make tags a target for blanket condemnation because someone doesn't want to bother with explaining how tags work.

Style. Style, style, style. Advice givers really need to differentiate between style and content, story issues vs. prose issues, and not confuse any of these for the others. Without that separation, the advice givers throw out more bogus rules for new writers to chew on, and the cycle continues.

November 27, 2014 at 7:44 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Gena--I think that generally, the best contemporary writing avoids tags altogether, by using a deep 3rd person POV. But everybody is entitled to an opinion, no matter how far out of the mainstream. Thanks for your comment.

November 27, 2014 at 8:05 PM  
Blogger Rick Taubold said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

November 27, 2014 at 8:59 PM  
Blogger Rick Taubold said...


It's great to see writers staunchly defend their principles, and I do not totally disagree with you, but I'm going to give Anne most of the support for this one, and I'll explain why.

The reason why we say that you should stick with "said" most of the time is because all too many writers use dialogue tags poorly--especially newer ones who have read too much bad published writing and follow it thinking it must be right because it was published.

Yes, "said" can be boring if it's overused (overuse of tags calls attention to the writing itself, which you don't want to do). I see too many writers feeling that they MUST put a tag with every dialogue line. Once they get into this mode, they start to see those "boring saids" and want to mix things up.

Your argument that because all of these words exist in English, we must use them is weak at best. A lot of words exist in English. Just because some seem underused, that's not a good reason to use them.

The primary purpose of a dialogue tag is to identify the speaker, not to show how the words are uttered. Good writers will use dialogue attributes ONLY when the dialogue itself can't show it or to show an unexpected exception ("Be careful!" she whispered). Or you use them for special emphasis or humor.

And while I'm a big advocate of style to express the proper mood and tone of writing, style should not be used as an excuse for weak or poor writing.

I contend that--in most cases--where writers use speech attributes other than basic said, ask, told, etc., that these writers have failed to write the actual dialogue properly. If you've crafted your characters and scenes properly, many times the reader will have no problem with knowing how the dialogue is delivered and doesn't need to be told it was said jokingly, seriously, humorously, in a warning tone, etc.

Remember another thing when using screeches and shrieks (as well as chuckle, moan, sob) and the like in dialogue tags: these are SOUNDS, not dialogue attributes. You can moan, chuckle, sob, but you can't chuckle, moan, or sob words.

The next time you feel compelled to use something other than said, see if you can write the dialogue so that you don't need that something else. I'll bet you can, and that the writing will be stronger. As I said above, if the writing calls attention to itself, that's not good.

Yes, there are exceptions when it comes to non-said tags. One of my favorites is the classic "The Phantom Tollbooth," where extensive adverb tags are done for humor. The book would not have the same charm or flavor otherwise. But this is an EXCEPTION.

We're not saying never use other attributive words, but use them wisely. And I see more unwise than wise use.

By the way, "babble" is not a tone of voice (not like burble) but a way of delivering the words. Give me a passage of dialogue with a character babbling, and I guarantee you I could SHOW the babbling without needing to tell the reader that he/she was babbling. I'd really love to see someone bubbling words. Does that mean the character takes a swig of bubble soap before he/she speaks?

We're not saying to avoid tags completely, but you CAN avoid most. My own writing is very dialogue heavy for the most part, and I use tags sparingly, mainly to avoid reader confusion or to emphasize a point:

"You have kept me waiting," she said with a soft sweetness that dissolved his caution.

November 27, 2014 at 9:10 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Rick--Thanks for the great comment. You're exactly right. Those words are great, but the place for them is not in a dialogue tag. "'You're being silly.' He chuckled under his breath."

In other words, say, then chuckle. You really can't do them at the same time.

In fact you could do your example above this way. "'You have kept me waiting.' She spoke with a soft sweetness that dissolved his caution."

Personal style needs to be in tune with contemporary readers. Somebody might find it fun write in the style of 1930s pulp fiction, or the Cavalier Poets, or even stamp it on clay tablets in cuneiform. But only certain styles are likely to sell in today's market. It depends on whether you're writing as a hobby or a profession.

November 28, 2014 at 9:44 AM  
Blogger Shari Schwarz said...

Thanks, Anne!

November 30, 2014 at 10:46 PM  
Blogger Perry McDaid said...

Well, I had written a whole spiel on this, and - as is customary with most sites - typed it out expecting it to be carried over when signed in. Yours apparently requires signing in first. You might think of putting the comment as box before the text box to indicate such. Now I'm going to have to scrap the euphemisms.

The gist: If today's readers can text and understand text acronyms and words without vowels (or just vowels) U can be sure that varying speech tags are NOT going to pose a problem. Playing to the lowest common denominator in a world with increased literacy is lazy. The use of "said" is not only Chinese water torture to some readers to the point they shut off (that's the invisibility to which you refer), but it is a journey over sharp gravel on bare feet to a lot of writers. Anything which discourages intelligent writing should be discouraged, not lauded. But this is a subjective perspective - a disclaimer which should follow all pseudo-didactic articles. However we do tend to assume that our subjectivity is a given.

"It was so cool," she bubbled, pacing back and forth. " Anne was there ... and Rick!" She looked flushed. "They said loads of stuff about writing ... and you know who else was there?" I didn't get a chance to ask. "God ... and he was handing out licences."

January 2, 2015 at 11:27 AM  
Blogger Perry McDaid said...

Oops, I didn't read the "Your Comment will be visible after approval" bit. My apologies. I'm not perfect ... who knew?

January 2, 2015 at 11:31 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Perry--Thanks so much for solving the mystery of the disappearing comments! I didn't know that you need to sign in to Google BEFORE you type the comment. Unfortunately, Blogger doesn't come with instructions and we have to find out this stuff by trial and error. I don't see what other people see commenting on my blog, because I'm always signed in. That's a huge help. Thanks a bunch!!

Successful contemporary authors generally use as few tags as possible. If you eliminate the tag and follow with an action you eliminate the problem.

January 2, 2015 at 12:04 PM  
Blogger Perry McDaid said...

Glad to be of some service, Anne. It's always a good idea to do a dry run from an alternate email address if needed.

And aha, there is the rub: the definition of "successful contemporary authors". Joey Essex and Katie Price are successful authors, and as contemporary as the national IQ plummet. ;)

January 2, 2015 at 2:47 PM  

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