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Breaking the Fourth Wall: The Irresistible Novel

Before I started seriously engaging in the authoring world I lacked knowledge about breaking the fourth wall. Not to say I used it all the time, but if I’m being honest I included such practice in some of my writing. This is one dramatic way in which blogging and writing fiction differ. One is indisputably okay and somewhat encourages the breaking down of the wall, while the other medium has a more arguable stance on whether it is appropriate to write in such a way for the genre. Please join me as I delve into the thoughts of Jeff Gerke according to the sixteenth chapter of his handbook, The Irresistible Novel.


Breaking the Fourth Wall

To break the fourth wall means to allow your characters to speak directly to your reader. This term is a theater allusion referring to the setup of a stage. Breaking the fourth wall in theater occurs when the actors speak directly to the audience.

Although the breaking of the fourth wall does occur in fiction over time it has come to be an accepted rule in the writing industry that an author should not breach this imaginary boundary by which a character speaks to the reader.

Those who disagree with the statement above believe that by forsaking the rule they are allowing deep engagement between characters and readers to occur. After all, who isn’t captivated by a character who speaks directly to you? They also may believe that by including the breaking of the fourth wall that their story is given an element of excitement as this is not often done in contemporary writing.

If an author prescribes to the rule in question they often believe that a good novel is one where a reader forgets that they are reading a story and feel as though they are living it. The reason they feel this way is often because when the fourth wall is broken it shakes the reader and reminds them that they are simply a bystander in a story.

Gerke believes that this rule is and always will be experimental. In his opinion, it depends on your story and the effect that breaking the fourth wall has on it.

In my opinion, it’s all about the point of view in your story. Certain perspectives lend themselves better to breaking this rule than others. Before deciding to use such disputable writing in your novel consider the effect it may have on the pace and overall effectiveness of moving your plot along. I would not say to never use it, but I would advise to do so sparingly.

My Current Project…

I’ve chosen not to break this wall in my first book. The reason I have decided this is based on my multiple perspective POV. According to my genre and POV it doesn’t fit and would really destroy the pace and effectiveness of my novel.


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Various Grammar Rules: The Irresistible Novel

Okay, the title to chapter fifteen of The Irresistible Novel is actually– Gerunds, Participial Phrases, Sentence Fragments, Beginning with Conjunctions, Ending with Prepositions, and Passive Voice. A bit of a long title so I’ve shortened for my post title this week to Various Grammar Rules.

Now that I’ve got your brain all mangled with grammar terms let’s jump in and see what Jeff Gerke has to say about using any of these in the writing of your novel. (Disclaimer: As always remember there is not one perfect way to write. We each have a unique voice so please take everything below as helpful information not prescriptive absolutes! The author would agree!)


You may need a quick refresher on some of these grammatical terms:


Participial Phrases

Sentence Fragments

Beginning with Conjunctions

Ending with Prepositions

Passive Voice

Take a minute and remind yourself what each of these are if necessary. The one thing that each of the members of the lengthy list have in common is that many teachers, writers, and editors will tell you to avoiding their use in your writing.

Those who are opposed to cutting out the use of all of the above from their writing do so because fiction writing and academic writing are two different animals. Formal writing is best left to schooling and academic journals of educational purposes. Fiction is a form of writing with the purpose of entertaining and expressing oneself. Many people believe fiction is not to be bound by silly rules that readers don’t notice. The average reader (like many authors as well) won’t even know some of the rules from above. And if done correctly the readers won’t even notice when an author uses any of them.

“Fiction is not the place for grammatical purity” (Gerke 98)

Others believe that the use of the terms from above in your writing weakens it; therefore, they should all be avoided in the construction of fiction.

When it comes to how you should write do what is natural for you. If you are distracted by sentences beginning with a conjunction, then leave them out of your writing. But if you are anything like me you see that their use can be helpful in fictional or informal writing.

The Ameri Brit Mom

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Floating Body Parts: The Irresistible Novel

Welcome to week fourteen of my quest through the many writing debates covered in Jeff Gerke’s book, The Irresistible Novel. As always, this week I will summarize a major principle as outlined in Gerke’s book. The major purpose of this book is to help writers to craft an irresistible novel by first locating their precise writing voice.

At very few points throughout his book does Gerke assert an absolute rule, but rather he examines multiple opinions and challenges you to determine your own preferences. So far, this book has really pushed me to write with authority. It’s been very helpful in the editing process of several pieces I’ve worked on or am currently working on. I recommend an in-depth read for any newer writers out there struggling with finding their niche or veteran writers with a need to return to the basics.


Floating Body Parts

Floating body parts refer to instances in fiction where body parts do something or go somewhere out of their real function or ability. (Examples: Her heart fell from her chest and dropped to the floor; Tired feet took him all the way across town-page 91)

This type of writing is most prevalent in romance and young adult genres, and is less acceptable in the literary and adult fiction industries.

Those who are in favor of using floating body part images within their writing usually believe that this type of writing is no different than any other case of figurative language. Floating body parts are examples of hyperbole (and sometimes idioms.) From the fourth grade onward we are taught that one way to strengthen our writing is to include strong examples of figurative language. Using hyperboles are a great way to execute a good show of the plot.

Those opposed to the use of floating body parts tend to see their inclusion as a way of weakening one’s writing, although some truly don’t naturally write in such a manner.

But in the end it really comes down to your genre of writing and your personal preferences. Gerke asserts often throughout his book that you should write as it comes naturally. If you find yourself drawn to using these types of descriptions then chances are that most publishers aren’t going to turn you down because of your use of floating body parts. Do what suits you and your style. If you find yourself distracted by such writing then simply don’t include them. However, be prepared to edit a bit if you are specifically writing romance or young adult fiction.

My Current Project…

As I looked back over my manuscript I had a really hard time spotting any use of floating body parts. I’m sure that somewhere within my 60,000 word document I’ve used a floating body part or two, but I’ve done so sparingly. They are so sparse that in twenty minutes of searching I located zero examples. There you have it folks: I’m apparently not a fan of floating body parts. However, I’m not opposed to reading them. It’s just not conducive to my style of writing.

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Switching Between Storylines: The Irresistible Novel

The thirteenth chapter in The Irresistible Novel by Jeff Gerke was succinct and to-the-point. As always, Gerke wrote about a “rule” and examined that rule from multiple perspectives.

**Disclaimer: The usual preferences he explores pertain to those opposed to the “rule”, those in favor of the “rule”, and The Gatekeepers, or publishers. All of this is done not to create prescriptive writing for his readers, but rather to help writers develop their own unique voice.

So here is a look at the very short chapter written about switching between storylines and viewpoint characters:


Switching Between Storylines

The “rule”- You shouldn’t introduce a lot of viewpoint characters and storylines very early on in a novel.

Before diving into this rule it is important to clarify that a viewpoint character is one through whose eyes or voice a story is told. It is expected in the writing industry that multiple characters will be introduced early in a novel, but the jumping from perspectives is the idea held in question. A storyline refers to the problems or situations unique to the viewpoint character.

Those who disagree with the “rule” generally argue that introducing multiple viewpoint characters within the first fifty pages of a novel builds reader engagement. Starting a story is oftentimes the hardest part  of the whole writing process. Engagement is the goal. And each author reaches the point of engagement in a different way. That’s what makes each book and author unique. If every book started the same way it would get pretty dull. If you ask me, whatever avenue you use to engage your reader (if done effectively) is never bound to any rule. Show off your unique voice and engage, engage, engage!

However, there is something to be said about the “rule” above. Part of engaging your reader involves forging connections to your main character. If jumping around viewpoints creates an unclear view of who the protagonist is in your story then it is definitely hindering your reader’s engagement. It should be clear from the first several pages who your reader should support as the main character. You want them to feel like part of your character’s team. Readers need to know who to root for and what they want them to accomplish in order to feel like part of the story.

I would be extremely cautious with switching between storylines or viewpoint characters in the first quarter of your novel. It can be done, but it’s difficult. Be sure to align your reader with the protagonist and build that relationship before giving them a new vantage point.

My Current Project…

My book (which I hope to name very soon) is written with two viewpoint characters who happen to also be father and son. I alternate chapter perspectives, but in the beginning I make it clear the protagonist is the father by giving him longer chapters and more of a transparent voice. The son’s story is told in broken pieces and short chapters. From chapter one the reader is left rooting for the father despite his bad luck and poor judgment.

**Side note: My recent trip to Chicago was not only a trip planned for vacation purposes, but also served in furthering research for my novel. The novel is set in downtown Chicago in 2015. I spent much of my trip traveling to locations mentioned in the novel to create more vivid details and verifying other portions of the plot. I’m really excited to add to my original manuscript and to continue my progress of making my baby a real, published book. Stay tuned for more details in future!

The Ameri Brit Mom



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That: The Irresistible Novel

Today’s simple principle comes from Chapter 12 of The Irresistible Novel by Jeff Gerke. There are writers and editors out there who believe you should ban the word that from your fiction if you hope to ever score a publishing deal. Before I jump into an analysis of this chapter please remember that Gerke’s book is not a cure-all for fiction writing. He isn’t prescribing the only way to write a novel, but rather is investigating several arguments when it comes to writing in order to strengthen the writing voice of his readers.



Those who continue to allow the appearance of the term in question into their manuscripts do so because it is a natural part of the English language. Like previously discussed terms of controversy (-ly adverbs, asked and said, “to be” verbs) those who choose to incorporate these terms do so because of their reflection of natural language. To those who choose not to omit such terms they oftentimes point to the silliness of targeting certain words in order to strengthen whole manuscripts and also feel that the use of one or two arguable words is not enough to deserve a rejection letter.

Still others out there feel very strongly that the term in question should be removed in all instances from a fiction manuscript. They believe deletion of that from writing creates a stronger voice.  (It is worth noting that those who fall into this second group of writers do often feel the use of the term is acceptable when used in dialogue.)

My Current Project…

I chose not to omit that from my manuscript. In the writing of my book I was not out to create the next literary classic so much of my writing is instinctual. That isn’t to say that when it came to certain scenes in the book that I didn’t omit the term if I felt it was overused or weakening a particular moment. I’m never going to refer to myself as a stickler when it comes to the use of certain words. I understand as both a writer and a reader that depending on the text or plot that some words will bless or hinder the flow. When it comes to the term that I keep it in my writing unless it causes me to stumble around.

**A great way to catch words that weaken sentences is to read your writing out loud. Almost every piece I write goes through this editing process. It’s easier to catch the awkward wording when you hear the words as they appear on the page. Something an eye can glance right over may be a huge stumbling block to some readers.

Your Turn

Which of the following sentences do you think is stronger?

“I didn’t know that you had come home already.”

“I didn’t know you had come home already.”

Did you even notice the subtle difference that can have on a sentence?

(Gerke 83)

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Begin With Action: The Irresistible Novel

It’s unreal to me how quickly life can become unbalanced. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve focused more of my time in preparation for the quarter marathon I ran last Saturday. With excessive energy spent on running (which is time consuming) I’ve felt like I’ve allotted less time to writing. All of this has been unintentional of course, but I’m ready to get back into some of my current projects. I’ve even found a contest that I may submit to this week. With the end of the school year in view I’m bound to be busy over the next few weeks, but I’m promising myself to make time for my books and writing.

Today is my eighth week reading from The Irresistible Novel by Jeff Gerke. This has been a great journey which has inspired me to think critically about my own writing. Jeff is helping me find my passions and voice in writing as I read through each chapter. Today the focus is on action and its placement within a story.


Begin With Action

According to Jeff Gerke, “Your novel has about ten seconds to hook [the reader] and maybe two minutes to set the hook. If it doesn’t happen yet you may lose her [the reader.]” (Gerke 62)

In order for a reader to feel engaged enough to buy into your story they must be drawn in from the earliest moments of the book. Not all writers or publishers agree on how this is to be done correctly, but they do agree that your story should begin with action or something interesting. It doesn’t have to be the main action of your book found in the opening paragraphs, but you should consider passing on the information dump at the beginning of the story and instead introduce your character through a series of actions.

Some people who are opposed to mandating action in the beginning of a story root their argument in evidence from best sellers both young and old. If you pull out some of the classics like Moby Dick, Anna Karenina, A Tale of Two Cities, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Pride and Prejudice you will find that they all share a common opening. All of these famous stories are void of action in the first several pages. They all begin with a unique voice of a protagonist informing the reader of all they need to know before jumping into the action. Those who favor the classics deem this as evidence enough to forget about the requirement of beginning with action.

Others believe that those books are classics and not contemporary for a reason.  Today’s reader differs greatly from the readers of the last century due to all of the media that competes for their attention. If you can’t hook a reader in the first paragraph of your book they are likely to turn their attention elsewhere. Movies, video games, and television have truly changed the writing world whether we like to admit it or not. In order to gain a reader’ investment into our story we have to give them a reason to read from the very beginning by engaging them in action or something intriguing. If they don’t feel engaged in your story they will turn to something else that vies for their attention.

Find Your Voice…

When it comes to how you should write take a moment to consider some of your favorite books. Grab them off your shelf or look them up on Amazon. Read through the first paragraphs and see how many of your favorites begin with immediate action. Based on your results, determine what type of writing you prefer and write that way. It would be useless for you to choose to write in a way that you don’t like. We are the best writers we can be when we write according to our tastes.

My Current Project

If I’m being honest I’ve re-written my first few pages of my novel half a dozen times. My earlier drafts lacked action. At that point I didn’t know my character and so I used those pages to hash out who he was and what he wanted to accomplish. However, now that I’ve finished my story I’ve been able to tweak and change the opening to make it more appealing to the reader. I still have a lot of work to do on my manuscript, but here is a sneak peek into my first book.

He pulled the last of his change from his squalid pocket. Laying the coins on the wood slab in front of him, Kurt leaned over the bar and glanced at the tap offerings. In the mass of change heaped before him he spotted a silver coin larger than the rest. His dirt-lined fingernails picked up the large coin turning it over repeatedly in his hands. The “12 months” engraved on its face had not yet begun to wear. Remembering the newness of his coin and then recognizing his current position caused Kurt to recognize a moment of irony.

“What’ll it be?” The young bartender asked.

“Pint of the cheapest thing you got.” Kurt’s hands pushed the pile of coins toward the man behind the bar. Except for the sobriety coin which he concealed and stuffed back into his pocket.

It was noon on this mid-May day, but the bar was nearly full. Men lined the stools on either side of Kurt as they sipped away at pints of lager. The lights were dim and a flat screen television behind the bar showed coverage from a professional basketball game.  It had been a while since Kurt found himself behind an old wooden bar placing a drink order. Thirteen months to be exact.

In these opening sentences there is action. Not car-chase or explosive action, but it doesn’t open with Kurt spilling his entire life story in the first chapter (which happened in my first draft! What was I thinking?) To me, beginning with action doesn’t mean that you always have to start with the major plot line, although in my story Kurt’s sobriety is a huge factor into the plot. When I think of beginning with action I tend to favor seeing a character doing something out of the ordinary for themselves which will eventually become a larger part of the story down the road.

Just curious, how many of you would keep reading my story if I did indeed choose to begin it as it appears above? Any suggestions?

The Ameri Brit Mom


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Show Versus Tell: The Irresistible Novel

I’m seven weeks into my journey through the book The Irresistible Novel by Jeff Gerke. Thus far, we have examined some major principles of writing under the microscope of what works with your individual writing voice and what publishers and agents look for in a manuscript. Today’s topic seems like a no brainer for many writers, but is actually a hot topic debated in many settings by writers across all genres. I’m just here to present the arguments according to Gerke and in the section below entitled, “My Current Project” you can see my personal opinions based on my writing (but not prescriptive for all writers.)


Show Versus Tell

Let us begin with defining what it means to show versus what it means to tell.

Telling: “Jim was a jerk.”

Showing: “Jim came home, kicked the dog, stiff armed the toddler, dropped his muddy boots on the couch, put his feet up on the coffee table and shouted, ‘Woman, where’s my beer?'” (Gerke 51)

The rule that Gerke is attempting to illustrate in this chapter is that: “Telling is bad, and showing is better; telling will prevent your novel from being published.” (Gerke 51)

Most of our lives we communicate through the mode of telling. We use exposition, summary and direction to get our points across and for the most part (if we are word conscious) we are successful in this form of communication. Some authors also choose to write in this manner. It is reflective of the way we think and speak in our lives and so seems more natural when it comes to penning a story.

However, many writers are against the use of the previous technique in writing. In the first example above about Jim we first have the telling of Jim as a jerk. It gets the point across, but requires very little of the reader. In the second example instead of just giving a detail away the author requires reader engagement to establish that Jim is a jerk. The reader is able to visualize and feel what it is like to know that character and is able to jump to the conclusion that he is a jerk on their own. Most writers tend to be on the side of the argument that values showing in writing over telling because it creates an attachment to the story for the reader that may otherwise not be formed if the novel is simply written as though it was being narrated.

There are success stories out there, though. Occasionally scenes of telling may become necessary in the writing of a novel. Gerke offers a few instances when those scenes are likely to be overlooked based on reader engagement with the plot and the desire to know something quickly.

My Current Project…

I realize as I read through early drafts of my novel that I used quite a bit of the telling technique. From what I’ve gathered from this book and authors that isn’t unusual. The first time you sit down to craft a story is like an information dump. You know what you want to say as far as the what, but you aren’t completely sold on the how. So you sit down and you write. The editing process is where you catch all of these pockets of telling in the narrative. And trust me, my pockets pop up everywhere.

I understand the value of showing in my writing and part of my editing process means taking those information dumps and making them more illustrative. It prolongs the process and requires creativity and flexibility, but in the end it will be worth it. You will have built a world full of characters that your readers feel close and connected to. It’s all about those connections when it comes to publishers and agents as well.

It is with great effort that I’m trying to dispel all telling from my manuscripts.


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“To-Be” Verbs: The Irresistible Novel

I’m in a really great place with my writing. Book number one is pretty much written. I’ve dedicated my upcoming summer to sending out query letters to agents and publishing companies. I’ve also begun working on a second book (sneak peek to come soon!) In addition to my novel writing I’ve been working with my church to write and edit the quarterly magazine which highlights things God is doing in the lives of our members. It’s all really exciting stuff that I thoroughly enjoy.

Lately I’ve been doing some reading of the book The Irresistible Novel by Jeff Gerke in order to sharpen my writing skills. Most Saturdays I’ve taken time to highlight one chapter from the book. Each chapter is about a controversial subject in the writing world. Within the chapters Gerke gives opposing viewpoints about that principle and ultimately leaves it up to the writer to make an informed decision about what to include or exclude from their writing. Today’s topic is the ever-debated “to-be” verbs.


“To-Be” Verbs

Most of us had that teacher who refused to give credit to any paper containing “to-be” verbs. Some feel strongly that these verbs should not be found in any formal writing. Many people think this way because these verbs weaken writing and should be replaced by stronger verbiage. The “to-be” verbs are is, am, are, were, was, be, being, been.

This age old argument roots itself in the state-of-being rule. “To-be” verbs fall under the umbrella of state-of-being which means that technically they represent a permanent condition. The sentence “I am hungry” actually carries the denotation that you are hungry at all times. Although current language rules and connotations go beyond the understanding of permanent state-of-being that is the root of the argument.

Throughout time writers have grown to notice how the use of “to-be” verbs weakens sentences and scenes. Oftentimes when a writer uses a “to-be” verb it holds back the text from something better (ex: “Spain is great” can be replaced with “I love the food and culture of Spain.”)

The other school of thought is that “to-be” verbs are such a part of our natural language that it destroys the authenticity of writing to eliminate it completely.

My Current Project…

If you can’t tell from this post or other writings I’ve done I tend to agree with the second argument rather than the first. While I recognize the legitimacy of the “to-be” argument I also realize that the type of writing I typically do contains the occasional “to-be” verb. When I notice that a sentence or scene weakens the text I can almost always trace the weakness back to the “to-be” verb. However, there are other instances when I leave well enough alone. As long as the verb doesn’t impede on reader interaction with my characters and plot I tend to leave them.

Some people will not agree with me. Some writers completely oppose the use of these verbs and can’t stand to read them. We all have our own preferences when it comes to reading and writing. I like to keep my “to-be” verbs as long as they aren’t taking too much away from my story. But, to each his own. The more I write the more I’m learning that rules don’t really exist. There are plenty of issues out there that a writer must be educated on in order to find their voice, but there are plenty of successful authors who disregard rules or follow them to a “T”. It’s all about preferences and style.





The Immediate Inciting Incident: The Irresistible Novel

As I dive into the week five topic from The Irresistible Novel by Jeff Gerke I want to refocus on a few ideas that I tried to make clear earlier in the book study. Throughout this series on my blog I am simply reading and summarizing the ideas presented by the Writer’s Digest author, Jeff Gerke. At no point in time do I mean to come across as saying his thoughts are absolutes for all writers. To be honest, I’ve disagreed with him more times than I’ve agreed. However, as a writer I see the value in dissecting some controversial arguments in order to better my writing.

Through this study I am being forced to look at things I may not otherwise have thought about (-ly adverbs, purple prose, prologues, description, etc.) As some one with little formal training in the art of creative writing I am finding it refreshing and learning a lot.

In each chapter Gerke discusses the topic from two viewpoints (those opposed and those in favor.) After the dichotomy of the subject he does offer his opinion. On my blog, I have skipped over this portion and instead I explain my current book and where I stand on this topic for that work. Again, not all writing is the same. What I choose to include in a novel is completely different to a poem or short story. To be honest, I am not a fan at all of any writing rules becoming absolutes. Writing is a creative work which I feel should not be limited by a set of dos and don’ts.  I don’t like to feel claustrophobic when I write. I want the limits to be endless and the liberty to write in whatever way comes naturally.

I say all of this because over the past couple of weeks I’ve had some interesting conversations, emails, and comments where the purpose behind this series I fear has become lost. I’m examining one chapter a week from this book as a long book review. At no point do I feel that any book on writing is 100% prescriptive. The purpose of books on writing (in my opinion) is to give writers things to think about to help them develop their own voice. I have never agreed wholeheartedly with any author. That’s because I have my own voice (as do all writers.) So please, take this for what it is. A short discussion on writing viewpoints. Now, enough of my rambling. Let’s dive in to today’s thoughts about the immediate inciting incident.


The Immediate Inciting Incident

“The inciting incident is the thing that gets the story moving.” (Gerke 41)

In order for a reader to fully engage with characters in your story action needs to be a big part of the opening scene(s). The argument lies in whereabouts the action should begin.

Some believe that the inciting incident should be visible on the first page of your novel. Those in favor of placing the event right at the start see the inciting incident as the necessary hook to get reader to continue your book. I can think of a handful of books that I’ve enjoyed where this was the case. There’s no time to question whether or not to keep reading or abandon the book when you are sucked into the action on page one. You thought you were giving the book a quick try and before you know it you are emotionally and physically tied into the plot. A sample read becomes a fifty page reading and once you’ve made it that far there’s no turning back. Speaking from experiences this tactic works. However, it doesn’t always work for everyone every time. There’s an art to using the inciting incident on page one and if it seems too forced or hard to follow without background knowledge it can cause a book to crash and burn.

Others argue that a connection to the characters must first be present before the inciting incident occurs. That debate is rooted in the fact that the inciting incident may lack the intended reader response if the reader does not already have reason to care about a character. Those who write primarily in this camp find it beneficial to show a character in their usual element before throwing a wrench in their predictability.

“Establish normal before violating normal.” (Gerke 45)

It is important to your writing that no matter where you decide to place your inciting incident that you begin your book in an engaging way. You may choose to do that through action, inciting incidence, or another powerful hook technique. The introduction should draw your readers in and introduce them to the conflict of the story in a quick manner no matter which side of the above argument you favor.

My Current Project…

I’m not going to lie I’ve re-written my first chapter about six times.

My first draft like all other authors’ first drafts was a word vomit to put it illustratively. I had all these ideas I wanted to get down on paper, and so I did. And it was poorly written. Edits round 2 led me to readjust my first chapter. With a clearer vision of where the story was headed I was able to polish it and make it better reflect the rest of the story. However, it took several tries for me to get beyond simple character and setting descriptions to bringing conflict from the get-go.

My inciting incident is present in my first chapter.

It isn’t completely unraveled until later chapters, but it is present. My current draft of chapter one shows my character doing something uncharacteristic for himself and his own internal conflict in the event is how I’ve chosen to describe my main character. (I know that breaks many rules. It’s still a work in progress.) From that internal conflict he is thrust into a situation which reveals the inciting incident.

So, that being said, I’m currently looking for some qualified readers and editors to help me with my first chapter. If you are interested please comment with your email or email me directly.

I had a chance to sit down with a best selling author this week and I became a sponge which soaked up her wisdom. Those discussions are going to really help me as I move forward with my book and it was so encouraging to hear that it took years for her first book to be written and published. Mindy McGinnis is amazing. You should read her books and meet her in person. She’s a walking resource for how to be successful in the field. (More on this meeting next week on the blog.)

The Ameri Brit Mom

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-LY Adverbs: The Irresistible Novel

Saturday mornings are the linchpin of my weekly schedule. All week I anticipate the extra sleep, warm coffee in a mug (not a to-go cup), and my chance to work on some current writing projects. On Saturdays, I plan to complete writing activities for two hours. I wake up slowly, eat a healthy breakfast, brew a cup’o’joe and then head up to my writing space in our upstairs office. I am only ever guaranteed those two hours of writing each week so I count on that time being productive. It is a wonderful creative time for me and sets the tone for the weekend ahead.

This morning I am beginning my Saturday morning routine with a quick read through the next chapter in The Irresistible Novel by Jeff Gerke.


-LY Adverbs

According to Gerke, “-ly adverbs are the redheaded stepchildren of the fiction craftsmanship world.”(page 31)

Those who dislike the use of the -ly adverb do so with a passion. They are the writers who go overboard replacing any and all of the uses from a manuscript. These are the rule-abiding authors who feel that every -ly adverb can be replaced by a stronger verb. (example from the book: “walked stiffly” can be changed to “lurched”)

Those in favor of allowing authors to include -ly adverbs in their writing argue that those words make up a substantial portion of the English language. In some cases it is true that overuse of the -ly adverb can water-down fiction writing, but there are times where no suitable replacement can be found. Authors have to be careful that while trying to avoid overusing the -ly adverb that they are also not taking their writing to a strange place. There are times when using words like quickly, gravely, curiously...etc. really are the best expressions of an action.

Approach Cautiously 

As a writer when you find yourself at a crossroads where you are  forced to choose between using an -ly adverb over another verb always weigh your options with caution. Write out some other ways to describe the action in your sentence and choose whichever wording seems most natural to you. Always follow your natural instincts. If writing without -ly adverbs is second nature to you then go for it, but if in doing so it hurts the quality or focus in your writing then don’t get hung up on the do’s and dont’s. You can’t follow every rule to a T, and no one will blame you for not doing so.

My Current Project…

As you can probably tell from the angle I took in this post I am not against the use of -ly adverbs in a sense of moderation. If you scan up and down the pages of this blog you will get a sense of my natural style and I do oftentimes lean on those adverbs. My writing is a natural style. -Ly adverbs are naturally ingrained in dialogue so it comes out every now and again in my writing. I agree with Gerke that oftentimes there is a stronger verb replacement for each -ly adverb. As I work to edit my book I am contentiously making myself aware of my use of the taboo adverbs and working to not overuse while also not avoiding.

On a side note, I’ve sent the first ninety-three pages of my book to someone other than my husband to help with editing. Although it’s someone I love and trust I’m still a bit antsy about the whole thing. I look forward to the critique and advice, but I am nervous about their thoughts. As always, I’ll keep you updated!

The Ameri Brit Mom