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

Writing Voice

writing voice WDI really like to read. Not only fiction, but all things on writing. Ask anyone, especially fellow writer, Delilah Jones Brown. I have nearly every book on writing! I’m a junkie! Some books are okay, some basic, some are outstanding. I just read one of the latter ones. Writing Voice: The Complete Guide to Creating a Presence on the Page and Engaging Readers (Creative Writing Essentials) by Writer’s Digest. I read another book in the series, Creating Characters: The Complete Guide to Populating Your Fiction (Creative Writing Essentials), and have previously posted on it. I thought that book was a winner as well. The thing I really like about both these books is that the chapters are written by different authors. Everyone learns differently and having all these writers explain writing voice is enjoyable! Some chapters are good, some are amazing! As mentioned several times in this book, understanding voice is elusive. This book really helps you to understand what it is that you are trying to achieve. It’s not as hard as it seems!

It’s more than just voice though, the book also covers POV, tone, style and genres. It explains narrator voice thoroughly. It covers your character’s inner voice: what he thinks is different than what he says. We all have a public face and a private face. So do your characters. There are so many facets to writing effectively. There are plenty of exercises in this book to let you practice what you’re learning too! I have highlighted nearly the whole book and have notes in the margins as I see how these tips relate to certain characters in my own novel.

So you tell me, did you like this post more than prior ones? Did you feel like you knew me as an author a little bit better for it? I followed one of the repeated rules in the book: write fast so your inner voice comes through, not the sterilized, overwritten draft! This book needs to be on your to-read list!

#amwriting, #delilah-jones-brown, #writers-digest, #writing-voice

A Review of the New Scrivener iOS Software

I have a Mac so I was thrilled when Literature & Latte came out with software for the iPad. Being able to keep my novel in my purse all the time makes it easy to write wherever I am.

I’ve had the software for a couple of months. There is a learning curve, after all, it’s set up for a tablet and it needs to be different in order to be legible and friendly on the smaller screen. You can basically do all the same things on the iOS version but the overall look is different.

The binder is still on the left side and is a pop-up screen. You can color the chapters, add icons, labels, and see your notes. You can still drag and drop to rearrange your chapters. The binder disappears when you start writing so the editor is full screen. You can work in portrait view or landscape view.

[Image borrowed from Literature and Latte website]
The inspector is no longer on the right hand side but pops up in the center of the screen when you choose the inspector icon from the header. It is actually the same pop-up screen you get in the binder when you hold your finger down on a chapter. There you can see your synopsis, notes, and the things mentioned above.

This next image gives you a direct comparison between the desktop software and the iPad and iPhone. I have not tried the iPhone software but seems like it would be difficult to write on a phone unless you were voice texting and I need that nano-second between my brain and fingertips to figure out what I want to say.

[Image borrowed from Literature and Latte website]

I have a bluetooth keyboard for my iPad but Scrivener has a convenient toolbar on the pop-up keyboard which includes handy things including strikethrough and comments.

One thing I couldn’t find was the total word count. You can get that by clicking on Inspector and choosing Compile. It will give you a total count that way. There may be other ways of going about it. You still can see the word count at the bottom of the page for individual chapters.

I sync my project with Dropbox and that’s a love/hate relationship. I find it a pain to set up and this is not my first time using Dropbox. The most important thing is to get in the habit of closing your projects after you sync or you’ll end up with conflicts. Unfortunately, you can’t see the two versions side by side to know which one to save. Whether you use Dropbox or another product, you do need your novel saved somewhere besides your computer.

I had the regular version of Scrivener on a Windows tablet once but it was just too difficult to see. It needed to be different for tablet size and L&L did a great job with this software. I give the new iOS software a solid 5 stars.


Scrivener iOS is on sale right now for $11.99! Use this link to get your copy!


If you want to share your thoughts on the iOS software, have tips, tricks, or want to share information on Dropbox or other programs, please leave your comments!

#dropbox, #how-to-use-scrivener, #scrivener, #scrivener-for-ipad, #scrivener-ios, #writing-software, #writing-software-review

Finding Your Novel’s Point of View

The point of view of a story can change the tone entirely. First person is intimate. The reader is reading the story as if it was written to them but it is limited to that character’s POV only. Third person is not as intimate and can offer multiple POVs. But for sake of argument and to keep this article on target, let’s say we are just writing from a single POV.


I’m going to use this big cat to demonstrate the importance of POV. A tale told from his POV would likely be one of cunning, stealth, wisdom, and strength. He is king of his domain. The same story told from the POV of his prey, say a rabbit, would be one perhaps of alertness, fear, and camouflage. The rabbit would always be wary of the big cat, always on the run. The leopard basks in the sun without worry. Where you are on the food chain influences how you see the world.

There’s yet another POV: The bird that sits in the tree day in and day out, observing the dance between the two animals. That POV offers yet a different tone. The bird obviously doesn’t know what the leopard or the rabbit are thinking and can only surmise. That POV takes us further away from the thoughts of the two characters. We become spectators instead of participants in the cat and rabbit game.

There may be challenges the big cat is facing- starvation, injury, exile from his pride. The rabbit could be suffering the same. Each may have something they need to prove to themselves or others. Every character in your book has goals, problems, and challenges. Everything is not as it appears.

Are you telling your story from the right POV? Are you getting the most bang? Are you close enough to the key issues in your story and able to unlock the intimacy of the plot to keep your reader on the edge of the chair? If you’re not sure, try writing it from another character’s POV to see how it changes the tone of your story and your message to your reader. Exercising your authorial right to put certain characters center stage and in the reader’s mind and heart is key to good storytelling. You may find pleasant surprises when you explore all characters for your lead.

For more information on choosing the right POV for your story, check out K.M. Weiland’s blog post How to Choose the Right POV.

Increasing Your Productivity with an Internet Blocking App

The problem with writing on a computer is that it’s become our access to the rest of the world. It’s so easy to get distracted by social media sites. I am guilty of working on my novel and then going to the internet to look up a fact for historical accuracy, only to get side-lined. Before I know it, I’m reading all kinds of interesting historical things from that time period. Then I’ll check up on my Facebook friends, check my email, maybe look on Allrecipes for a fresh idea for that chuck roast in the fridge, and before long, an hour has passed and I’ve lost touch with my novel. I’ve wasted precious time and now I have other things I must do. Writing over.

An internet blocking app keeps you focused. You set it for the period of time you want to write, say an hour or two, and for that period, you CANNOT access the internet. Even if you restart your computer. These programs are designed to be rather resilient for the writer who wants to cheat.


I used to use Freedom. It was a flat fee of $10. It was very popular, but their flat fee is now $119.  I talked with someone at Freedom and he said they have made a lot of improvements, hence the new price. The older version will not work on my newer iOS. Personally, I don’t need a lot of bells and whistles. I just want a basic blocker. I found a great free app! SelfControl. Oxymoron, eh? But it’s for Mac users only. For Windows, try Cold Turkey. There’s a free version and a paid version with more features for just $19.

The internet blocking app is very successful for me. I tend to race the clock. If I only set it for an hour, I’m uber-focused for that hour. I mentally disconnect from text messages and other external interference. It’s a brain game, I guess, but it works for me. If you’re not using an internet blocker, you should give it a try.