Tuesday Tip: 91 Weedy Weak Words to YANK from Your Story

weedyweakwords (1)

91 Weedy Weak Words to
YANK from Your Story

We’ve all heard the advice to SHOW not TELL with our writing.  BUT… How can you do it? What do you look for? Why does it really matter?

I like to use the example of  SHOWING to that of GARDENING.


Have you ever started gardening. You stake out a space and prepare the earth. You make sure everything is just so. We do this with our writing too. We have our laptops/notepads handy. We have read books, taken classes, attended conferences, joined critique groups… everything to get our space ready to write.

Then we plant. But do you stop there? NO. You water. You fertilize. You talk to your budding little sprouts. Same for our writing. We continue to learn and write and grow. And yes, I talk to my characters too. :p

Do you stop there though? I hope not. The grass will grow up. Weeds will also pop through the soil. If you’re not careful, it will begin to choke out the plants you have so tenderly grown. With our writing we can become lazy too. We can fall on words that say what mean, but don’t convey what we want to our readers. These are our weedy, weak words. They will choke out our story line, making our reader’s minds wander and potentially leave the story.

We do all this to have a beautiful flower bed. Or delicious fruits and veggies. OR to have a great story that one day will be published.

weed.02WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR?weed.02

Weeds can be tricky. Vines will creep and wind around a plant. Stickers will blend in with a plant’s leaf shape. SHOOT! Some weeds are actually pretty. You have to keep a sharp eye out, move some leaves around, and look in between spaces. With our writing those weedy words can be tricky too. They can hide behind well thought out sentences and characters. They can act like they are helping a verb, but they are really dragging down the text, giving your readers a vague description of what is really happening.

HINT:   A lot of weedy words end in “-ly”. You know… quickly, softly, hardly.   😉

weed.04HOW CAN YOU DO IT?weed.04

So what to do? What to do? If you have a garden, mow the grass. Get on your hands and knees and pull those dang weeds. Yes, get down in the dirt. Get dirty. Get sweaty. Yank and pull those over-grown nuisances out! Same with our writing. Really dissect your story, every paragraph, each sentence. Once again, we have to get down and dirty. Really dig into our writing and wrestle those buggers out!

But never fear. You CAN do this! Think of really wanting your reader to see how your character is acting. Here’s a great example:

He slowly walked to the door.
He trudged to the door.
He crept to the door.

He quickly ran to the door.
He zipped to the door.
He flew to the door.

See? The bottom two sentences give clear, crisp details of what your character is doing. Whereas the first sentences… well, who knows? To help you out, I’m attaching a word doc you can download that has 91 weedy words/phrases that you can almost always eliminate from your story and make it more vibrant for your readers minds.


Here’s to no more weedy words!

What do you do to help improve your writing?
Do you know of any more weedy words to add to the list?

Until next time…

Happy Writing!

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Marketing Monday – Marketing takes time

MarketingTakesTimeMarketing Takes Time

Here we are well into January. I’m sure some of you have been creating a marketing plan for this year. I know I have.  I don’t care if you are an Indie Author or a Traditional Author, marketing falls primarily into the author’s lap. Marketing can be overwhelming and confusing. You need to post about your book(s), services, and other various things, but you don’t want to conk people over their head. The last thing I want people to do is skim over my name (along with my post) and quickly go to the next one. This can happen when you constantly post about only you.

Marketing can also seem like a lonely thing to do in the beginning. You have to build up an audience, network, make friends who will tweet/post/share/comment about what you are saying. This takes time. In the society we live in today many people have an instant need to see instant results. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.

Marketing is a lot like the publishing world…

Anyone who is involved in the industry knows that it moves at a snail’s pace.

We get an idea…   We write…   We research…   We revise…   We gather critiques…   We revise…   We submit…   We wait days/weeks/months…   We get a pass…   We revise…   We gather critiques…   We submit…   We receive an acceptance… We revise from edits…   We wait…   We get assigned an illustrator…   We wait…   We receive our galley…   We revise…   We wait… WE HAVE A RELEASE!

Now this may not be EXACTLY how your journey goes. I usually have a lot more revising and critiquing going on.  😀   But you can see how long and drawn out it can be. It can take months, if not years

Marketing can take as long. You have to build up all your connections through networking, making friends, getting to know those in your field. Then you need to come up with…

A Plan…

  • What avenues are you going to approach? Social media? <- Which one(s)?  Newsletters? Newspapers, TV, Radio? Blog?
    With each different avenue, there will be a different way to approach. Social media is easy and usually free. Local newspapers, TV stations, and radio are great to reach a different audience, but normally you can’t do this consistently enough unless you get a normal gig to fill a niche. Blogging can be great. You can host your own blog or guest blog on others. Either way, you need to be consistent with postings.
  • When will you post or approach?
    Each of these will determine how much you can make contact. I try not to over do my marketing. I have one post a day scheduled Twitter and Facebook. Only one. BUT I may talk about my books or services more often when it comes up organically in a conversations. I blog here twice a week. I have found (and read) that by blogging at least twice a week will help your SEO. It also creates consistency when you have a schedule and stick to it. For instance one week I post Monday (marketing) and Wednesday (website). The next week I post Tuesday (tips) and Thursday (thoughts). Does this change from time to time… yes, BUT for the most part it stays the same. Newsletters can be done differently. I’ve seen people post weekly, bi-monthly, monthly, and quarterly.
  • How will you generate interest?
    Ask questions. Challenge people to do something. Create a normal circumstance for conversation to happen (either on the blog or else where). Remind people to RT, share, and comment. Give them easy access buttons on your blog/newsletter to spread across social media. Comment and share other peoples blogs, posts, successes, and so on. When you help get the word out about people, people tend to want to do the same for you. A lot of my posts and tweets are about other people and articles that I like. It not only help promote others, but it can inform people about your interests and if they line up with what they want to know.
  • Be consistent. No matter what, do this. Create a look and use it across everything you do. I revised my look for 2016. Did you notice? Anything that I’m working with on my marketing will have the same look… blog, twitter, newsletter…

There is a lot to do. Like I was talking about on my time management post, make a plan and stick to it. It will take time, but little by little you can build up a following, make friends, and network with those in your industry. This doesn’t happen overnight. I started in 2014 with the sole purpose of building my platform and separating myself from someone else with my name (who is also on best selling lists). It was a challenge, but within six months I saw a difference when I searched for myself.  Depending on what (or who) you are against, you may see a difference a lot quicker than me.

The thing is, you have got to get out there and get to doing it!


How do you market?
Do you have a plan to go by?
How do you reach out to others?

Until next time,

Happy Writing!

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Thinking Thursday: Storyboarding

BLOG- StoryboardingStoryboarding

When I write a picture book the one thing I make sure of is page breaks. Are there enough? Page breaks can be scene changes or a climatic pause in the story. Think page turners. What will make the reader excited about turning to the next spread?

One way to make sure I’m covering the basics is I will map out a story. Or STORYBOARD it. This is where I will take chunks of text and begin to pace the story over pages.  Here are several ways I storyboard.

  1. I usually start on a piece of paper.

    Picture A

    I will create small thumbnails of my story as I go along. Each time I come to a break I’ll go to the next block. It doesn’t matter if you can’t draw a lick, this technique will help you visualize your story.
    I usually use this piece of paper once. When I have another story ready, I will follow the same format as Picture A.

  2. I also work a presentation board.

    Picture B

    Think of this as thumbnails on steroids. I create a bigger version of my thumbnail and I will also cut up my manuscript and put the words with the pictures they belong to. This will help me see if my pictures match the pacing of my story.
    I mark up the board with the same format as Picture A. Then I use post-it notes for my pictures and words. By doing this, I can reuse this board over and over again.

  3. I have made a small book too.
    Picture C

    Picture C

    Once I have my story where I like it I do the ultimate storyboarding. I create a book! What better way to experience your story??? This is the best test to page turns, story climaxes, and scenery changes. You will see the flow and pacing as a read will.

Now it’s your turn.

Pick up your current ms that is ready to go. Begin to storyboard. See where your breaks fall.

I know for me, I usually have a revision of two to do to make sure the pacing matches the page turns.

Happy Writing!

Until next time,


What do you think of this post?
Do you storyboard?
Do you use these techniques? Have any different ones you would like to share?
Post your storyboard on Twitter or Facebook and tag me in it! I would love to see what you are doing.


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Tuesday Tips: Are You Looking for a Publisher

BLOG- Looking for a publisherAre You Looking for a Publisher?

This is the goal line:


To have an editor in a publishing house say, “YES! This is what we’ve been wanting!

So how do we as writers and illustrators find a publishing house? I use several steps:

  1. Do they publish my genre?
    Make sure they publish the genre you are wanting to submit. If Publisher X produces Young Adult books, don’t send them a Picture Book manuscript.
  2. Do they publish my sub-genre / category?
    Make sure your category is listed. You have a Rhyming Picture Book ms. You look on Publisher Y’s website and see TONS of picture books. (yes) Check out their guidelines. Do they list or specify they take on ‘rhyming’ picture books?
  3. Are they open to unsolicited ms?
    Even when a publishing house publishes your genre AND category, they may be closed to submissions. If they are not open, do not send your ms. It’s like breaking into a house. Just don’t.
  4. Are they traditional publishers, self-publishing publishers, hybrid publishers?
    Traditional publishers take on all expenses. They pay the illustrator, copy editor, formatting, printing… etc.
    Self-Publishing publishers take on nothing. You are responsible for all costs.
    Hybrid publishers are a mixture of both. Both you and the company take on costs.
  5. Are they well known?
    This can be major. Less known or new publishers may go out of business. While the more known a publishing house is, the more submissions you will be competing with.
  6. Do they offer a marketing plan?
    Some small houses offer this! Large publishing houses are cutting back on what they offer too. Honestly, be prepare to either be your own pr person or hire someone to do it for you. You have to know how -and be willing- to toot your own horn.
  7. How active are they on social media?
    You would be surprise how little or how much publishing companies are on different outlets. See how they promote other books and their authors/illustrators.

By doing the above steps, I’ve narrowed down who I have sent my submissions too. You can use the same principles with agents too. You have to do your homework and know who and what each house represents.

Good luck on your submissions and may the odds be forever in your favor!

Until next time,


How do you determine which house to send your ms too?
Do you send your stories to small houses? Mid-size houses? ???
Do you have any success stories you would like to share with my audience?

Let me know.

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#SummerSparks Day 9 – Writing Tips from the Big Bad Writer by Pat Miller

by Pat Miller

One day, Little Red Writing Hood realized she needed some writing tips. She heard that Granny W was a prolific writer, so Little Red packed a basket of treats and decided to visit her.

When Little Red Writing Hood knocked on Granny W’s door, a gruff voice invited her in. Little Red was shocked to learn that Granny W was a wolf!

She started to say, “Hi Granny W, I need some writing advice…” But her train of thought was derailed by Granny’s appearance, and she blurted, “What big ears you have!”

“Yes my dear,” said Granny W. “And those big ears help me get a lot of my ideas. Keep your ears open—some of my best ideas came from overhearing the TV or a conversation at the Critter Café. But don’t forget about your internal ears. Those are the ones that pick up ideas that flit through your dreams or your imagination. I have a notebook with me at all times, in my pocket, by my bed, even one in the shower! Listen to me: you will not remember unless you WRITE IT DOWN!”

girl with notepad“Good point,” said Little Red Writing Hood. “May I borrow some paper to jot this down?” Granny W motioned her to the desk, which was covered with notebooks.

“Grab a notebook,” said Granny W, “I’m just getting started.”

Little Red wanted to ask Granny how to fix a story once she had the first draft. Instead, she said, “What big eyes you have!”

“I do,” said Granny W, “The better to do my rewrites. First, I read my draft looking for ways to punch up the details. You gotta show—use your eyes—instead of tell! Do that by painting a word picture. What would the reader see? Hear? Get my drift?”

“Right,” said Little Red Writing Hood. “First, you make sure you create visuals.”

“Next you have to squint your eyes up and get tough with that story. That’s when you look over every sentence, every word. Is it doing its job? Does it add to the story? Can I cut it out without hurting the story? Then you gotta slice out the lazy words! Scratch off the dull sentences!” Granny punctuated each sentence with a swipe of her claws.

Little Red’s pencil flew over the paper. She wanted to ask how Granny got the gumption to write every day. “What’s your secret for writing every…” before she finished, she was startled by the proximity of Granny’s pearly whites. She couldn’t help herself. “Granny, what big teeth you have!”

“Big teeth, maybe. But I also have tenacity. Know what that means? It’s the ability to bite into my story every day and not let go until it’s finished!” said Granny W.

“But how? I try to write every day, but it gets overwhelming and then I resist even going to my desk,” said Little Red.

“Small and steady is the secret,” revealed Granny. “Tell yourself you only have to write for 10 minutes a day. Just ten! Now how can you resist sitting down for that little dab of time? After 10 minutes, you can quit for the day. Celebrate. Give yourself a gold star for accomplishing your goal. Of course, you might find yourself writing for more than 10, but that’s not a must.”

“I can write for 10 minutes,” said Little Red Writing Hood. “That’s not scary at all.”

“Do it every day—it adds up quickly. Plus, you feel good about yourself for meeting your goals. Small is better than nothing. Tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going to show you my Star Chart.” Granny W pointed to a cabinet. Open that door and see what’s taped inside.”

“Wow, that’s a lot of stars! What are the two faces for? They aren’t happy or sad,” said Little Red.

“Well, I learned that no matter how big my teeth, how determined my intention, life gets away from me sometimes and I can’t even make my small goal. But I don’t beat myself up. I just draw a face that means try again tomorrow.”

“Got it,” said Little Red. “Take a Bite Daily.”

Little Red started to say something else when BING! a story idea popped into her head. Quickly, she jotted it down. “Granny, here are some goodies for you. But I’ve got an idea burning a hole in my brain. Gotta run!”

As Little Red Writing Hood ran out the door, she heard Granny W say, “What good instincts you have!”


1. Fiction Prompt The best question to ask is “What if?” Choose a folk or fairy tale and turn it on its head.

  • What if Cinderella didn’t want to let the prince try on the glass slipper because she had such ugly feet?

  • What if the three Billy Goats Gruff had the little one go last, and she bested the troll because she was very good at tickling?

  • What if instead of a gingerbread boy it was a mischievous three-year old running from his mother, his babysitter, his preschool teacher, etc.

Make a list of five tales. Next, figure out not one, but three different ways you could twist the story. This is an excellent way to free your imagination from its confines. Then choose one of your 15 ideas to write about.

2. Nonfiction prompt: Your inciting questions are the 5 w’s and how. Go to Important Dates in American History: or Origins of Everyday Things. Make a list of several events or people, and come up with questions for each.

For example:

1886 Geronimo surrenders – Why did he surrender? Who did he surrender to? What happened to him?

Next, choose one you know least about from your list. Do ten minutes of Internet research. Based on what you learned, what hook could you use to tell children about it? One possibility, Geronimo was an American prisoner of war for 23 years. How does that compare with how America treated its prisoners of war in the Civil War, or in one of the World Wars? Another hook: In Geronimo’s formative years, the Mexican government offered $25 for an Apache child’s scalp. How did that affect Geronimo’s outlook on life?


  • Big Teeth: Use this Star Chart to keep track of your own ten-minute tenacity. Choose your favorite color each day you write for 10 minutes. Use the non-judgmental face if you don’t. Just don’t give up! [Ten Minute Tenacity Chart]
  • Big Eyes: Go here  to see the first version of Pat’s first book, Substitute Groundhog, and the final version (written after 32 rejections). You can see that very little remained the same.


Pat Miller photoPat Miller has been writing since she was a kid, but started getting paid when she began writing on the side as an adult. At the time, she was the mother of three young kids and worked full time as an elementary teacher and school librarian. SO MANY BOOKS!

She now works full time writing children’s books and teaching adults about writing. She is also a certified Master Gardener, and gets some of her ideas while pulling weeds or watering her gardens.

As a freelance writer and contributing editor for LibrarySparks, Pat has published more than 200 professional articles, 20 books for school librarians, and a number of books for children. Three of them are Substitute Groundhog (Junior Library Guild book), Squirrel’s New Year’s Resolution, and her upcoming nonfiction book, The Hole Story of the Doughnut (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, May 2016)

She and her husband have twin sons, a daughter, and six preschool grandkids, including twins. Reading to them and buying them books are two of the joys of being a grandmother. She lives in the Houston area and has an illiterate Jack Russell terrier that lies by her feet when she writes.

NF 4 NF: Children’s Nonfiction Writing Conference


Let me know, are you participating  in this years #SummerSparks writing challenge?
Do you have any interesting places or people in your area?

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2015 Summer Sparks post:

  1. Family Celebration by Tracey M. Cox
  2. Back Where I Come From by Tracey M. Cox
  3. The Benefits of Playdough: Molding your PB Idea Into A Story by Donna L. Martin
  4. Go Jump In a Lake by Tracey M. Cox
  5. Take a Vacay! by Tracey M. Cox
  6. How to Rhyme Right in a Picture Book Manuscript by Nancy Raines Day
  7. Don’t You Know that You Are a Shooting Star? by Tracey M. Cox
  8. Sun Burst by Tracey M. Cox
  9. Writing Tips from the Big Bad Writer by Pat Miller
  10. Get Out! by Tracey M. Cox
  11. Pieces by Tracey M. Cox
  12. Make Your Non-Fiction Leap Off the Page! by Jennifer Swanson
  13. Do the Twist by Tracey M. Cox
  14. Celebrate! by Tracey M. Cox

www . Wednesday – nerdychicksrule.com


www. Wednesday – nerdychicksrule.com

I discovered this site last year and have become a follower. Why? it’s about a few nerdy chics who are empowering other nerdy chics in the writing field.  🙂   Honestly, what’s not to love there???

Kami and Sudipta (and now Mary) share their collected coolness and pass on some great information. They also offer classes to help others further in their career!

Here’s a little peck about them:

“Nerdy Chicks Rule is a blog celebrating the accomplishments of females who aren’t afraid to use brain power. We feature interviews with cool nerdy chicks, and quotes from cool nerdy chicks.  (Cool nerdy  is not an oxymoron. Nerdy IS cool here at Nerdy Chicks Rule.)  Every now and then in between you’ll get a few words from we bloggers.”

Go check out their website and get to scratching around. You’ll find all kinds of feed and juicy tidbits!

Let me know what you think about Nerdy Chicks!
Do you know of any other blogs or websites you would like seen featured on my blog?


Summer SparksSUMMER SPARKS will be starting this month on June 21st! READ THIS POST and let me know if you will be taking the challenge. Let’s get those ideas sparking!

Until next time…

Happy Writing!

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Tuesday Tips – Why Critique Groups Are Important

Why Critique Groups Are ImportantWhy Critique Groups Are Important

You’ve spent hours, days, and years (yes, I said years – even with picture books) on a manuscript.

You’ve gone over it a gazillion times. You finally push yourself back from the computer and declare it ready.

But is it?

You’ve grown accustomed to your characters, their subtle and outlandish flaws, their quirks that make them – them! You have mapped out your setting and know every stone and corner in your story’s world. You know the conflict everything is a part of and everyone one is going through. So can you really “see” your story now???

Chances are, No.

This is where a second (or third or fourth or ???…) set of eyes can come into play. BUT do not get your best friend or your mother or someone close to read it and tell  you what they think. Although there is nothing wrong with them reading it.   😉   Get a group of your peers to look over it.

A critique group is just that… a group of your peers who are willing to give feedback. You, in return, give your opinion on their story too. They are also someone who is pursuing a career in writing and will be able to look at your material more critically than someone who isn’t in the field.

Some people are leery of doing this. They have heard of ideas being stolen. Harsh criticism on work to where the writer is left in tears. There are hurt feelings and deeper scars when it comes to trust.

BUT, BUT, BUT!!! There are people out there (AMAZING people) who are willing and lovely, and who will send out positivity into you and your work. It may take a few tries to find the right people in which you click with. You may have to weed out and resow with new people when a few don’t work. That is part of the process though. When you do find the right people, something will click! You will see that there are brilliant people who will push you further than you thought you could go. They will help your skills improve and the end result will be your career will begin to take shape.

What Should You Look For?

  • Look for someone who is like-minded.
    You want someone who has goals similar to yours. Are you wanting to get published? Find an agent? Just get some words down? Find people who will push you (and you push them) to the next level.
  • Genre.
    A lot of people think if you write a book, you can critique anything. Nope, nope, nope. I tell people it’s like dogs…
    A Chihuahua is a dog, a Lab is a dog, and a St. Bernard is a dog. (yes)
    Would you give them the same food? (no)
    Would you give them the same amount of medicine? (no)
    Do they take up the same amount of room? (no)
    The same amount of upkeep? (no)
    The same is true with your writing. Sure board books, picture books, early readers, chapter books, mid grade, young adult, and new adult are ALL children’s writing. BUT they are different writing styles, how you approach the subject matter, IF you approach the subject matter, word count, and on and on.
  • Rhyming and non-rhyming
    Oh how I love rhyming, but my own critique group will tell you it’s not my strong point. (hahaha, I try.) Rhyming is very tough to do, to keep it within certain parameters, to not force the issue, to not do something just to make it fit, to not write it badly. There are some wonderful people out there that can do this though. Study their work if you choose to do this. Make sure your critique group is on board with you on the rhyming bit too.
  • Time commitment.
    Are you wanting someone who is only going to put 10-15 minutes of thought into a critique or are you wanting more in depth feedback? Line by line or overall thoughts? Nitpick or over-easy remarks? The more in depth someone goes, the more time they will need to spend on your work. (Which they hope you will do the same with theirs.) Make sure it is something you are comfortable with and are able to do.

How To Get Started?

Put a call out or scan around and see if someone else is already looking.

Set up guidelines: What you expect from each other. Turn around time. What needs to be said when sending work. HOW to send work.  etc. The more specific you get, the better your expectations will be.


Honestly, I’ve been in a few critique groups. Some have been better than others. I have made some great, great, GREAT friends along the way too. I hope this helps ease your mind about critique groups and helps show how to get the ball rolling too.

Let me know what you think about critique groups?
Are you in one or more?
What have been the benefits/set backs?

Until next time…

Happy Writing!

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