Using Adjectives

60 Second Advice by Anne Brees

Description adds layers to your story. Without description, your plot is just stick figures wandering in a white background. One main component to great description is using the correct adjectives.

Specific is always the best choice. Vague words will only make the blurry background blurrier. Instead of blue, say cobalt. Instead of dark, say inky. Don’t worry too much about this for your first draft. Just work on getting the words down on the page. However, once you are doing your edits, refine your word choice.

Research and consider connotation. Connotation is the emotion connected to each word. Consider the words aroma and stench. Both are essentially the same thing. They both describe a scent. However the meaning and emotional response to each one is very different.

Be aware of when too much is simply too much. Yes, you want to be descriptive. Yes, you want to catch your reader. But spending too much time describing will take away from the plot. Your reader is intelligent. Don’t spend five pages describing your character’s eye color with multiple adjectives. Pick one specific adjective, and stick with it. 

What’s your favorite adjective? 


5 Tips for Breaking Your Writer’s Block

5 Tips by Anne Brees

Writer’s block is a strange thing. Sometimes you can feel it coming as you struggle to finish a scene and other times your writing is fine until suddenly it’s not. Writer’s block is a tricky problem, but nothing you can’t fix.

  1. Work on a different project. Sometimes you are stuck on a current project and you’ve just lost inspiration or motivation. If you switch to another project of yours, the drive for your original project might return.
  2. Write something without any commitment. Sometimes the pressure of writing something perfect and intelligent and funny and interesting and complex and all the expectations you might have for you writing can become too much. Take a step away from your project and just start writing. You don’t have to finish the story if you don’t like it. You don’t have to perfect it. It can be as long or as short as you want. Just write a story. (If you have no idea what to write about, look up story inspiration pictures on Pinterest. You can find my board here.)
  3. Read your old writing. Sometimes looking at your past projects can remind you of how much you’ve grown, and how far you can grow in the future. Seeing all the work you’ve put into writing before can remind you how much you love it. It can also give you some inspiration to incorporate some of your old ideas in with the new.
  4. Take a short break. Sometimes all you need to do is step away for your writing in order for a new idea to come. However, be careful, because a short break can easily stretch into a long one. It’s very easy to find excuses to not write. When planning a break, make sure to also plan when that break ends.
  5. Study your favorite authors. Maybe all you need is inspiration from the greats. Try to write like them. Try writing some fanfiction. In their style of writing, write a new scene with their characters and story world. If that doesn’t work for you, trying changing it up. Write in their style with your current project. Write in your style for their novel. Experiment with your writing.

How do you get out of your writer’s block?

5 Tips for Choosing Your Title

60 Second Advice by Anne Brees

Choosing your title can be a nerve-wracking process. It is supposed to represent everything that your novel is in just a few words. How could you possibly know the right words to choose?

  1. Look at the titles within your genre. Sometimes looking at similar books can give you inspiration for ways to name your book. For example, a lot of dystopian books have the trend of having one word names. This will also help in the marketing of your book.
  2. Search for synonyms. Sometimes you have the right idea for your title, but it just doesn’t flow smoothly. If you simply google ‘[your word] define’, a list of synonyms will appear below the definition. These can help you find the perfect words for your perfect title.
  3. Experiment with different forms of speech. Once you get the right words, sometimes they still don’t flow. Sometimes you simple need to change the form of speech. Say you wanted your title to be something like “The Honesty Search”. That doesn’t flow very well. Change “search” from a noun into a verb. Now you have “Searching for Honesty”. You could change “honesty” from a noun into an adverb. “Honestly Searching” or “Searching Honestly”. You can get a variety of different titles by simply changing the form of speech.
  4. Define what is most important for your character. Your title should represent your book. Find what is at the heart of your book and try to turn that into the title. If you use this strategy, your readers will have one of those ‘a-ha moments’ when they see how your title fits perfectly into your book.
  5. Make sure there are no similarly titled books. It’s horrible for marketing to have a similarly titled book. People will constantly be confused about which book is the correct one if they don’t know your name.

Remember: If you are getting your book traditionally published, you don’t always get to chose your title. Sometimes the publishers change it. However, your title is generally the first thing that agent see when you query to them. Your title is important, even if it isn’t the final one chosen.

How do you choose your titles?

Active vs. Passive Voice

60 Second Advice by Anne Brees

Any writing blog you go to will tell you to eliminate passive voice to improve your writing. However, a lot of them fail to tell you how to identify  and eliminate passive sentences.

A passive sentence has a subject that isn’t doing the action of the verb. The verb is ‘acting upon’ the subject. Here’s an example below.

The grass was eaten by the horse.

See how the grass isn’t doing the action? The horse is eating, not the grass. So to change it into active, simply make it so that noun doing the action is the subject of the sentence.

The horse ate the grass.

See how much smoother and simpler that sentence is? In most cases, switching the nouns in the sentence and changing the verb to match the new subject will give you an active sentence. Let’s try another one.

The ball was kicked by Timothy. 

Timothy is doing the action, not the ball, so let’s switch the nouns.

Timothy  kicked the ball.

You don’t have to worry too much about writing in active voice on your first draft, but be sure to catch it in your edits.  Writing in active voice will make your prose smoother, more concise, and more professional.


Do you tend to use passive or active voice in your writing?


Using Dialogue Tags

60 Second Advice by Anne Brees

Dialogue tags are the short sentences you put before dialogue to identify who the speaker is. Many people will encourage you to use a variety of words for dialogue tags. (Think yelled, exclaimed, questioned, etc.) However, those types of dialogue tags can mess up flow of writing. 

In all honesty, most people don’t truly read the dialogue tags. They skim them to get the speaker and move on. It’s best just to use the words ‘say’ or ‘ask’, rather than use a variety of different words. Better yet, describe an action that the speaker does as a dialogue tag instead. 

Dialogue tags should be simple, identify the speaker and let the reader move on to what they really care about: the dialogue.

What’s your favorite dialogue tag you’ve written?

Using Adverbs

60 Second Advice by Anne Brees

Adverbs are words that modify your verbs. A good clue whether a word is an adverb is if it ends in -ly. (Think quickly, loudly, happily, etc.) While a few adverbs in your writing is fine, you should avoid using them frequently. Adverbs tend to bog down your sentences. Every word you use is precious.

Generally if you have to use an adverb in your prose, it means that your verb is weak. Replace your sets of weak verbs and adverbs with a stronger word. (Replace “The man ran quickly. ” with “The man sprinted.”) You may also be using adverbs frequently if you are over explaining. (Over explaining: ‘shouted loudly’, ‘whispered quietly’, ‘snuck carefully’.) Don’t insult your readers. They don’t need you to dumb it down. 

You don’t have to remove every adverb from your writing, just try to avoid when possible.

What strategies do you have to stop using adverbs?