The New Virtual World

mona lisa with face mask
Photo by cottonbro on

Well, haven’t things changed so much this year. It’s incredible how our lives have gone from living as social critters to sheltering from our fellow humans lest we get the plague.

It’s the same thing in the writing world. We are already solitary beings but enjoy those precious moments when we get to mingle with other authors at events. The Midwest Writers Workshop Agent Fest was canceled this spring and the summer workshop is in the stages of being converted to a virtual experience. Like MWW, International Thriller Writers and other organizations are scrambling to change their format this year as well, but what about next year? And the year after that? Have we been shoved into a new kind of reality where traveling, hotels, and face-to-face meetings will be the exception rather than the norm? How much will our world change after realizing how vulnerable we are?

This is a turning point in our history as we migrate to a virtual world. I imagine things will never quite be how they were before and one day they will talk about the great plague of 2020. What will your stories be? What changed in your life?

Midwest Writers Workshop 2019

This year’s conference was awesome as usual. Met up with my friends, made new ones, and spent three days thinking of nothing but writing! Got some great tips from Jane Friedman on author platform. SHE. IS. AMAZING!

Heather Ash (President of Mystery Writers of America, Midwest Chapter), me, Matthew Clemens, Larry Sweazy. We’re all members of MWA and got a group shot.

I’ve been away from my site because I have been working feverishly on the final, final, final draft of my novel. I think I had three final drafts before I was satisfied I couldn’t do anything more to it. I finished it a few weeks ago and it is with an agent. I’m not-so-patiently awaiting her feedback, but I should know something soon. (fingers crossed it’s good news!)  I’m hoping to share some of the book on here soon!

Second Draft


Sorry I’ve been MIA. Working on the second draft of my novel. Isn’t that such a sweet, idyllic photo? Well, no…it’s not like that at all! I finished my first draft in October, short on sleep, pounding away at the computer, giving up my social life and cooked meals, to run proudly to the new world known as Second Draft. Holy Shit! Who turned out the lights? It’s not very friendly at all! Is this the promised land? I’m hating all my characters at the moment. They say this is “normal” but why didn’t anyone warn me that the road was far worse after the first draft is done?

Midwest Writers Workshop 2017: Top 10 Things I Learned This Year

notes-macbook-study-conference.jpgMidwest Writers Workshop 2017 has come to an end all too soon but it was a very successful [and sold out] workshop. Faculty and writers come from all over the country to attend annually.

Three days of learning, networking, and eating. During downtime, the air is abuzz with laughter, pitch practices, advice, book signings, photo-taking, and excited writers talking about the new contacts they’ve made and the reviews they’ve received.

MWW has such amazing faculty each year that it’s difficult to pick which classes to attend. This year I left with a new mentor, a publisher who’s interested in my manuscript, and made a few new writer friends to boot! I always learn so much but here is a list of my top 10!

  1. Enter the scene as late as you can and get out as soon as you can. –Matthew Clemens
  2. Titles: It’s part of your sales pitch. Keep it short, three words or less. Keep it honest to content. Make it memorable. -Holly Miller
  3. Evernote: A digital media tool. It organizes your projects, lists, notes, and syncs across all your devices. It has a chat/meeting feature as well. –Jane Friedman
  4. Find your weakness in your writing and focus on it until it’s your strength. –Jessica Strawser
  5. Turn off your spell check and grammar check in your first draft so you’re not distracted by those colored lines that make you want to edit. –Mike Mullin
  6. Research: time yourself. Set a timer for 15 minutes so you get in and get out without being sucked down the rabbit hole of the internet! –Matthew Clemens
  7. Every chapter should have a title. -Holly Miller
  8. Before bed, you should work on or think about your next scene. Your subconscious will keep working on it while you sleep. –Mike Mullin
  9. Publishers are looking for books with shelf life, movie potential, and series potential. They are looking for writers with platforms. -Holly Miller
  10. Career vs Hobby. If you’re not writing every day, it’s a hobby. You have to decide what writing means to you. You must be able to produce a book a year. –Matthew Clemens

Filter Words

There’s more to bad writing than passive verbs and adverbs. There are filter words. These words put distance between the reader and your characters. Instead of being in the story watching things unfold, the reader is far away and only hearing about it. A good analogy of this is someone telling you about a movie they saw instead of you watching the movie yourself.


Like passive verbs (was, were, etc) and adverbs (generally words that end in -ly), filter words are easy to identify.

Here’s an example of common filter words: look and thought.

She looked at the man and thought he was scared.

Rather vague. What did she see?

He burst into the lobby, panting. He chose a dark corner and sank into the shadows.

Now you see him. You’re right there watching him, not watching her watching him.

Here’s a list of common filter words. Search for them in Scrivener or Word by using the “search” feature. I’ll start by naming the five senses because they’re easy to remember. If these are showing up in your draft, you’re telling, not showing.

  • look, saw, see, seen, watch, observe, notice
  • touch, feel, felt
  • hear, heard, sound
  • taste
  • smell

Here are some more and they’re mostly along the lines of your character’s thinking. These words are vague and again, the reader is on the outside.

  • seem
  • appear
  • think, thought
  • believe
  • realize
  • wonder
  • want
  • know, knew
  • understand, understood
  • remember
  • assume
  • decide
  • note

A few more to add to your list.

  • could, would
  • able
  • allow
  • had

The word could is frequently attached to a filter word. She could understand, She could remember, She could smell.

Watch for words had, to, and that. These buggers are frequently, but not always, attached to filter words. She had decided to, She decided to, She decided that. 

Filter words are traps for redundancies. She looked at him as he ran into the lobby. Again, we are watching her watching him. He ran into the lobby gives the same information in less words. It’s immediate and active even though it’s a simple sentence.

This is not a complete list of filter words. I’m not sure one exists because many words can be filter words, but these are the most common offenders. Once you become aware of filter words, you will start noticing them. It takes a bit of thinking to rewrite sentences without using them but you will see the pay off immediately.

Know of more filter words or more ways of spotting them? Add them in the comments!

#deep-pov, #filter-words, #writing-fiction


MWW 2017 ad for Writers Digest.inddMWW 2017 is in just two weeks and I’m totally stoked! If you haven’t heard of Midwest Writers Workshop, you’re in for a treat! Each July it is held on the Ball State Campus in Muncie, Indiana. This is the 44th year! It is three days PACKED with classes for all genres and topics, social activities, social media mentoring, tax info, a Scrivener class, pitch sessions, query critiques, manuscript evaluations, professional headshots. I cannot name it all but if you are a writer or know of a writer in the Midwest, this is the place to be! There will be top-notch editors, agents, and authors there- Jane Friedman (publisher and writing guru), Jessica Stawser (editor for Writer’s Digest magazine and author), and author John Gilstrap. Just to name a few! I’m proud to be a charter member of MWW. Check out the website to learn more!


#amwriting, #jane-friedman, #jessica-strawser, #mww17, #writing, #writing-conferences