Peg Herring's Blog – April 2008 Archive (20)

I'm Not Asking for Your Pity...

I came home from a week away to find that I had no Internet. Now I can quote HD Thoreau, "Simplify, simplify, simplify," and I know it's pathetic to be so connected to being connected that one freaks when unable to surf. But you don't know what it's like until you face that little balloon that says, " or no connectivity" for three days straight.

I had bills to pay, blogs to write, contacts to make, and sites to research. It seems that every time I thought of something I… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on April 29, 2008 at 10:15pm — No Comments

The Grammar Nazis

There's been some discussion of late on a certain chat group about grammar/writing rules. I don't argue on chat groups because someone always takes up the argument at much greater length than I would think is necessary or even desireable. Still, it made me think of speaking (or in this case writing) my piece on grammar and writing "rules."

In defense of Grammar Nazis: it's difficult to make rules for English, which is a mongrel language in the first place, for which we can blame the… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on April 25, 2008 at 9:42pm — No Comments

Time Management

I'm scheduled to be The Author at a high school career day. They sent along a list of possible questions, and one caught my interest: What is an average day in your job like?

Let's see. I get up, eat breakfast and read for a while. (You have to know what the competition is producing.) Then I read email and blog. After that, if things go well, I write for a few hours. That is, of course, in addition to doing housework, answering phone calls, and maintaining the people and animals in… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on April 24, 2008 at 10:29pm — No Comments

What Makes You Care?

I'm reading WATER FOR ELEPHANTS, and I love it.

Why? I don't know. I have no interest in the circus. When I heard about the book I thought, "Not for me." But I picked it up in a bookstore and read the first two pages. Then I bought it, and now I don't want to put it down.

It's that combination thing: good characters, people I can cheer for and identify with. It's description that makes everything crystal clear, sometimes evoking things I've experienced, other times… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on April 24, 2008 at 12:09am — No Comments

Plot-Knots: What's a Writer to Do?

You start writing, and things go well for a while. You establish characters, and the story begins to unfold nicely. Then suddenly you hit a knot. An action that has to happen doesn't make sense for a character, or an event that has to occur isn't likely in the scenario you've created. What do you do?

Some writers outline their stories carefully before they begin writing, and I suppose that eliminates a lot of plot-knots. I can't do it. I never liked connect-the-dots; I'm a pantser… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on April 22, 2008 at 11:15pm — No Comments

Everybody's Talkin' at Me

The writing world is full of advice: agents, editors, fans, authors, and wanna-be authors all have advice on everything from plot to query letters to marketing. It becomes daunting just to read it, much less act on it.

You need to know what people are saying. Some of them know what they're talking about. Some don't, but they'd never admit that. I once heard a speaker proclaim to a roomful of hopefuls that one should NEVER send a query by email. He insisted that a snail-mail letter… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on April 21, 2008 at 10:30pm — No Comments

The Hilarious World of Copyediting

You've edited for content, checked your characterization, made sure the timelines work, and read your dialogue to the cat, who nodded agreement. There's one more thing that can shoot a good manscript out of the sky, and that's copyediting. We've all seen instances where that one wasn't done quite well enough, but one must try.

I've heard the arguments. "I can't find my own mistakes." "They pay people to do that." "I'm not a grammar expert/great speller/word Nazi." While these may be… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on April 18, 2008 at 11:35pm — 1 Comment

Revealing Character

When editing for character, think about how you get to know real people. What traits do they reveal that repeat and serve as "tells" for mood or thought? I once had a boss who closed his eyes when he was about to lie or when he was patronizing me. "Now Peggy," he would say, and his eyes would droop closed. "You know we can't afford to do something like you're proposing." At first I didn't get it (I'm slow). But after while it was a clear signal, one he couldn't seem to control. What a great… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on April 17, 2008 at 10:47pm — No Comments

Editing, As in Slicing?

I think the natural tendency of most writers is to write too much the first time through. This conclusion comes from thirty years of reading student essays and crossing out countless parenthetical expressions, prepositional phrases, and wordy descriptions. Somebody has to make your project say what it has to say and no more, and that somebody should be you.

Sometimes it's whole passages. A friend who edits for me is good at locating sections that don't need to be there. "Why do we… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on April 16, 2008 at 10:30pm — No Comments

Talking Dialogue

Editing, your favorite thing, right? Actually, I don't mind it, but as I wrote yesterday, I like to do only one thing at a time when I edit. It takes a lot of trips through, but that's good in terms of making the work better.

Readers expect a lot of talking between characters, but that conversation has to do several jobs. For one thing, dialogue reveals character, both the character of the person discussed and the character of the speaker. If Jeannette says, "Robert has always been a… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on April 15, 2008 at 11:45pm — No Comments

It's Finished, but Can It Be Better?

I thought this week I'd offer some editing encouragement. As an English teacher, I found that most students had trouble with editing, first because they didn't want to and second because they couldn't see how to make their work better. Writers older than sixteen often have the same problems. Editing isn't easy, and sitting there staring at the words on paper or screen doesn't help. We need concrete goals to shoot for, so that "making it better" is the effect, not the starting point. A good… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on April 14, 2008 at 11:26pm — No Comments

Identity Reft

Believe it or not, there are two Peggy J. Herrings who are writers of romance. I knew this when I started looking for a publisher because the other woman's name showed up on Internet searches. (Actually there's a third Peggy Herring who's a college professor/science writer.) I chose to write under Peg Herring, having always been called Peg anyway, and figured that would differentiate us.

Wrong. My publisher got an email from the Library of Congress when they applied for an ISBN#,… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on April 11, 2008 at 9:46pm — 2 Comments


I think I made up that word, but if Shakespeare can do it, so can I. The idea is that a writer sets out to evoke a mood or a time, and the success she has is what raises an ordinary story to an experience for the reader.

I mentioned a while back that Margaret Atwood is a master at it. I'm also lucky enough right now to be involved in two other books that are great "evokers." It's great fun, because in the morning at breakfast I'm in Atwood's post-WWI miasma; while my husband watches… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on April 10, 2008 at 10:39pm — No Comments

What's in a Name?

I chose my first protagonist's name because when I imagined her she looked like a student I'd once had. Other characters' names must come from the air, because I couldn't tell you why I chose them. Sometimes when I'm done there are two that are too much alike, like Leo and Lee, so I go back and change one of them. I've mentioned before here that a character's name can turn a reader off. I've had people tell me a story bothered them because they didn't like or couldn't pronounce a character's… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on April 9, 2008 at 10:31pm — No Comments

Writing the Sequel

If you're lucky enough to have a book published, two questions arise: will you write a sequel and if so, how should you go about it?

The first question is fairly easy to answer. Most of us know that publishers like series, and if you have a decent idea, you probably should start on the sequel the day after you sign that contract, even if you have a hangover from the celebration.

But how do you segue from the original story, which publishers usually want to be able to stand… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on April 8, 2008 at 10:47pm — No Comments

It's Not You, It's Me ... Or Maybe Not

What is the difference between picking up a book and picking up an experience? I read a lot, and sometimes it's just going through the motions. I read the book because I've met the author or because it's lying there on my bedside table and I'm not willing to get up and go look for something else. The plot doesn't grab me, the characters are bland or even objectionable, and the writing style makes me skip ahead at times to find something happening.

What's strange is that people, often… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on April 7, 2008 at 11:02pm — No Comments

What Edison Said: the Sweating Thing

You know, 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. What is lacking in the masses of wannabe writers is willingness to work on their work. You can't write it and say you're done. You can't edit it once and say it's ready. You can't publish it and wait for fame and fortune to drop into your lap. And that's sometimes hard to comprehend, even off-putting.

Writing is becoming tougher as it becomes easier. The computer facilitates writing, and any goof with spellcheck can play author, so it's… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on April 4, 2008 at 10:51pm — No Comments

Specific Praise

I was stopped last night as I left choir practice by a woman who was jogging by. She wanted to tell me she'd read my book and liked it. That's very nice.

I live in a small town, and everyone knows I've written a book. Many ask about it, many say they read it and liked it. The reason this experience was different is because the woman took a minute to say exactly what she liked. That does two things: it lets me know she isn't just being polite, and it gives me specific information… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on April 3, 2008 at 10:16pm — No Comments

Doubting Yourself

Do you ever have this experience? You're driving in your car, walking, doing something outside your workspace, and you start thinking about your WIP. "There isn't enough indication of character," your brain says. "You have to go back and add more about motiviation." It's so obvious at that moment. Yup, that's exactly what the project lacks.

Then you get back to the computer and start reading, and you find that your brain was wrong. There's plenty of motivation, and aside from a word… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on April 2, 2008 at 10:59pm — No Comments


I got word this morning that a short story I wrote for the March/April issue of CRIME AND SUSPENSE ezine( was chosen by readers as excellent. So imagine a nosy reporter sticking a microphone in my face and asking, "How does it feel, Ms. Herring, to be chosen for this award?" They always ask dumb questions like that.

Of course it feels great. Somebody, and I don't really care who, likes my work. A lot of Somebodies liked it enough to read to the end,… Continue

Added by Peg Herring on April 1, 2008 at 10:59pm — No Comments

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