The Journal, Saturday, July 28

Hey Folks,

Today’s Journal entry is all about writing advice, the Kill Zone blog, and the “Of Interest” section of this Journal.

In my own hunt for writing advice, I seek out other professional writers who are farther along the road than I. Once I find them, I gauge whether their advice is valuable to me overall.

If a blog post is rife with misspellings and wrong word usages, awkward phrases and misplaced modifiers, or if they display a certain level of ignorance about the language (for example, ignorance of the difference between “likely” and “probably” or “if” and “whether” etc.) I’m less likely to trust their craft advice. If I’m interrupted in my reading by a comma AFTER each coordinating conjuntion (for, and, nor, but, or, yet and so) or other egregious punctuation misuses, the same general rule applies.

After all, the use of words and punctuation is at the heart of writing. Punctuation, in fact, is the most powerful tool a writer has to direct the reading of his or her work. Punctuation is to a writer what the wand is to a maestro when he directs an orchestra.

So at the outset, writers should know words, and writers should know punctuation. Everything else is craft, and it comes with practice, reading others’ fiction for pleasure, and study.

Bear in mind, though, that one or two such errors don’t put me off. (Actually, DWS falls into this category. Interestingly, Kris Rusch does not.)

And bear in mind that I’m talking about a professional writer presenting infomation to other writers in a non-fiction format. Language and even intentional punctuation anomalies are perfectly all right and sometimes even necessary in fiction, especially in the dialogue of characters.

If the writer (professional or otherwise) doesn’t understand the basics of the language, I might still scan the blog post for gems, but I do so only skeptically.

This is much the same reason I wouldn’t take carpentry advice from a professional carpenter who refers to nails as “you know, those straight round steel things with a point on one end” or advice on diesel engine mechanics from a truck mechanic who talks about replacing the spark plugs in a diesel engine.

Now to the Kill Zone blog…

Some of the professional writers who contribute to the Kill Zone blog offer a first-page critique. It’s free, but sometimes those who submit their work wait weeks or months for a response. It isn’t clear whether there’s ever a response unless the piece is used in the blog. (I’m considering offering a similar service, but with a one-day turnaround.)

That being said, I don’t often list the first-page critiques from TKZ in “Of Interest” unless I see gems and recognize them as valid information. I realize that makes me a gatekeeper.

If you want to, of course, you may subscribe to TKZ, and I recommend it. Or if you’re interested in seeing several first-page critiques, see today’s “Of Interest” section.

When a post (first-page critique or otherwise) pops up from Joe Hartlaub, Sue Coletta, James Scott Bell or John Gilstrap, I most often mention it. With the other writers, whether they make the cut to “Of Interest” depends on the content of the post. (There’s that gatekeeper thing again.)

TKZ also has another feature some of you might find valuable: the TKZ Library. There, the “best of the best” posts are grouped under specific topics. You can find the TKZ Library in “Of Interest” today as well. (I’ll be adding that one to my Writer Resources list today.)

If you visit the Library, remember to take on board the information that strikes a bell with you. Feel free to dismiss what doesn’t. Just as I recommend you do with any advice I offer in this or the weekly blog.

Finally, although professional writers who take the time to write blog posts do so to pass along information, they also do so to sell books.

I’ve read fiction by all the writers I named above. Some of it was not to my personal taste. Some of it was. I like the work of some of those authors in some genres and not in others. (Another reason to write in more than one genre, if more than one interests you as a writer.)

I would be remiss not to mention my own ongoing giveaway of books in exchange for reviews, or for that matter, just to hear your thoughts. Also, every other week now I’m highlighting another of my major works over on the big blog (complete with giveaway information).

Onward. Because this is Saturday, I’m posting this early. No telling what the day may hold, but as ol’ Wes Crowley would say, I’ve seen the sun come up, and I expect to see it go down. Whether the part in between is good is up to me. (grin)

Of Interest

See “Great Questions On Study Along Workshops” at

See Joe Hartlaub’s “First Page Critique: THE DIVINITY COMPLEX” at

See all TKZ first-page critiques at

Visit the TKZ Library of selected posts on specific topics at

Talk with you again soon.