Lingo is Just as Important as Location in Your Writing

harvard yard lingo

Source: Google Images/spreadshirt.com

Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of references for Boston, MA (not unusual since I’m planning to move home soon and it’s always on my mind) and it got me thinking about the lingo (aka slang) in our American English and how it differs depending on where one lives. In a previous post I discussed the importance of weather to set scenes and overall stories; for characters, it’s vital for writers to research the local vernacular where scenes will be set. Just as important is the time period in which the story or scene takes place and research in this area is integral to getting the right feel for both the character dialogue and setting.

For Example…

In Massachusetts, those tiny candy sprinkles you put on cones are not sprinkles, they’re ‘jimmies.’ A ‘packie’ is a liquor store and anything you like is ‘wicked’ (very, really) good. ‘Dungarees’ are blue jeans and I called them that through the 70s. Having lived out here in the western part of the U.S. for so long I have finally replaced ‘grinder’ (pronounced ‘grindah’) with ‘sub’ (which I will stop as soon as I get home). A remote control is a ‘clicker’ (pronounced “click-ah”). But I refuse to refer to soda as ‘pop’ as it’s just plain silly. 

In Chicago, they eat ‘haht dahgs’ not hot dogs; ‘frunchroom’ is the front room or a room used for entertaining. They call soda ‘pop’ and ‘the’ becomes ‘da’ as in ‘Da Bears’ (football). In Texas and other parts of the south, ‘dad gum it’ and ‘ya’ll’ are popular. Smaller towns will have their own slang words, different from bigger cities. When possible, it’s a good idea to travel to these places to meet some of the people who live there to get an idea of what life is like for them.

No Time Like the Present… or Past…

Time periods are representative of language current to that time. In the ‘roaring 20s’ words like ‘copper’ (police), ‘bee’s knees’ (extraordinary person, thing or idea) and ‘behind the eight ball’ are just a few slangs made popular by 20s-era gangs, flappers and prohibitionists. A good international example is Shanghai. At one time, in the early-mid 20th century, Shanghai was so dangerous that the slang ‘shanghai’ meant to kidnap (and still does).

Writing this post helped me realize that the dialogue in my fiction stories is not location-centric. This means I need to research the local lingo based on where my stories are set. Funny how that happens – one minute I have an idea for a blog post and next thing you know I’m thinking about what I missed in my own writing. Sometimes we learn as we go, I guess.

Isn’t that a ‘wicked pissah.’wink #authorsoninstagram #writers #languages #englishlanguage #fictionwriters #mysterywriters #boston #slangwords #writersoninstagram #saturdaystories #amwriting #bookworm #grammarnazi #blogger #creativity #writerslife

Update-Upgrade-Uproot-Upshot-Upbeat

PhotoFunia-1647029531

It’s that time again, when I take a closer look at my website and SM accounts and make some UPDATES. I tweaked this site a bit; I altered of some of the fonts and colors because I got bored with the way it looked. An updated site can help improve traffic flow as well as make it more aesthetic. That’s smart marketing.

I’m going to UPDATE my Twitter and Instagram user profiles over the next week from writer.mestengo to writeratmestengobooks (if it’s not too long for a username). I feel the new moniker speaks more clearly to who I am (writer) and where I’m located (mestengo books). Often it can take time to see when something as simple as a username needs to be updated for better results. More smart marketing.

I’m looking to UPGRADE Mestengo Books to a different layout, something more modern and up-to-date. I can’t seem to find a workable layout I like with both photos and text for my posts in WordPress, so I will consider the option of moving the site. Again, that’s smart marketing for writers if it brings in more readership and increases the readability of pages and posts.

At the end of this month, I will once again UPROOT myself. My current living situation has run its course. Due mainly to COVID, the cost of living on one’s own has become exorbitant and places to find are more scarce. Many of us are forced to share our living spaces to make life more cost-effective but not necessarily less stressful. I find that, as I get older (senior status now), living alone provides more satisfaction and peaceful solitude. I thoroughly love having a private space away from the rest of the world where I can do as I please, when I please, without explaining to anyone why or for how long. I paint more, I write more, I create more when I have that space to call my own.

Writers are solitary by nature. Do you find that living with others affects your writing? Positively or negatively? The UPSHOT for me is that I’m far more creative in my own space. Being cramped into a room in someone else’s house can be difficult, for a number of reasons. Perhaps that other person’s energy is not compatible and the feel of the house is stifling (like my current situation that I’m finally escaping). That can affect anyone’s creativity.

I remain UPBEAT, however, in my quest for that personal space that allows me to FLOURISH.

#fridayfunfacts #writingfiction #writingnonfiction #writersdigest #sololiving #amwriting #writerslife #fridayreads #followfriday #lovetowrite #lovetoread #writersofinstagram #writersontwitter #mustread #selfpublishing #bloggerlife #bookworm #bloggersgetsocial #instagram #twitter #goodreads

The Scraps of a Writing Life

writing scraps

Source: Google Images/annkroeker.com

End of Year Cleanup

I’ve spent the better part of today cleaning up the multitude of computer files I’ve hung on to for years. As I cleaned up the so-far-unused information, I wondered what to do with the scraps of my writing life. I have unfinished works in various folders: a new book on the Chinese Medicated Diet, a humorous Chinese Pediatrics e-Book on using natural remedies for growth spurts, an anthology of an alt-med newsletter I wrote and published for many years, and research for a variety of articles yet to be written.

A part of me can’t stand unfinished business; another part misses writing about natural health and wellness (Covid created some financial difficulties and I was unable to renew my medical license this year). That’s a lot of saved information for future articles I won’t be writing. 😦

Yet I can’t quite let go.

Decide What to Keep

I’ve deleted some information and kept other bits. I think part of the reason I can’t let go is there’s a tiny flame of hope I’ll get around to putting something together with all the scraps. Like using a bunch of leftovers to create a new meal. Maybe all I have to do is think more creatively, as writers tend to do. I have some vague ideas but nothing concrete. Can’t quite pull it all together – not yet, anyway. If I hang on to some of the scraps long enough, I’ll come up with that whole new “meal” – perhaps a book or lengthy journal article.

Or, perhaps, I need to change direction and focus on some new topics. Perhaps.

The point of this post? Don’t give up, don’t throw away all your writing scraps. Keep the good scraps and maybe you, too, can create something new and wonderful.

#thewritinglife #fiction #nonfiction #smj4w #bookworm #holidays #xmasgift #amazonsmile

Watch Your Tense and Don’t Be Passive or Reactionary in Your Writing

passive voice

Source: Google Images/yoast.com

This week’s post topic came about after (once again) reading grammatically-challenged articles online. I automatically proofread everything these days – every article, book or online missive. I can’t help myself (thanks a lot, Catholic grammar school nuns). What I find all too often are: 1) multiple tenses in one sentence (make up your mind); 2) passive voice (MS Word or Ginger Software can help with this); and 3) a reactionary style of writing, where the protagonist is responding to something or someone instead of taking action.

your tense must make sense!

No matter what you’re writing (blog, book, article, etc.), it’s important to maintain the correct tense in each sentence and avoid the passive voice. FYI – each tense has its own passive voice, created by using a form of the auxiliary verb, to be (am, is, was, are, were, will be, etc.).

In a recent blog post from The Book Designer, I found this very mistake at the top of the article:

“One way to do this is by learning what passive voice is, how to find it, and eradicating it from your writing.”

I discovered the errors the first time I read it. Do you see them? Read it again, with a bit of change:

One way to do this is by learning to learn what passive voice is, how to find it, and how to eradicate eradicating it from your writing.

The author also began the sentence with “one way” and proceeded to list three ways (in reference to grabbing the reader’s attention). This is how I would write the sentence, with correct tense and active subject/verb:

“It’s important to learn what passive voice is so you can find it in your writing and eradicate it.”

Boom.

Don’t Be Passive, Be Active!

Passive voice in sentences is when the subjects (protagonist, antagonist, etc.) are acted upon by the verbs instead of the other way around. Active writing is when the subjects are proactive, not reactive. Active writing makes for stronger, more interesting characters and an entertaining read.

One example of passive vs. active writing:

Passive: My laptop was stolen.

Active: Someone stole my laptop.

Once you learn the difference between active and passive writing, you’ll find it easy to maintain active sentences (unless passive is necessary in a character’s dialogue). Ginger software, for example, can teach you how to avoid the passive voice and in the process you’ll become a better writer.

Better for you, better for your readers.

#writing #fiction #nonfiction #grammar #gingersoftware 

Expert Advice

expert advice

Source: Google Images/amazon.com

Listen to The Expert

My professional Inbox contained an interesting article this morning from The Book Designer blog. Written by author and former marketing consultant Brandon Cornett, his article made some good points. While I’ve read most of his how-to advice in other articles, one in particular stuck with me:

“Blog about your genre or niche. If you want to attract the kinds of readers who will buy your books, you should be blogging about those topics.”

Hmmm….

When I started this blog, I figured the focus had to be on writing (genre, research, editing, books, etc.), from an author’s perspective. It didn’t occur to me that I could write posts on a topic in my expertise (which is not necessarily writing). For example, posts regarding my nonfiction book on Chinese nutrition therapy, which I have reserved for my professional FB page (that I’ve ignored much in the past two years). I feel Mestengo Books is not the place to post alternative medicine articles but I certainly can provide some information on where Chinese nutrition therapy is now and where it’s going in the future. After all, I’m an expert (of sorts), right?

“In either scenario, fiction or nonfiction, you’re basically funneling your passion and knowledge into website content that will attract like-minded readers.” 

“But the bulk of your posts should be related to the genre or topic you write about. This will help you boost your book sales over time.” – Brandon Cornett

Some “Experts” are Clueless

In another article, author Anne R. Allen, a satirical writer, posted a vent about “clueless advice givers” – you know, the folks who think they’re experts but aren’t – and who talk like they know when they don’t (and scoff at you when you try to clue them in) . This has always been one of my pet peeves (I’m up against it far too often in any discussion about herbal medicines). I refer to those people as “armchair experts.” It’s a lack of knowledge in a particular area (but a desire to have that knowledge) combined with ignorance, giving the person a false sense of power. There’s actually a name for this: The Dunning-Kruger Effect (1999). (You can look it up but I think it’s ironic that it took so long for two college kids to name a behavior that’s been around for as long as we humans have, probably.)

How Do Others See You?

My business coach routinely refers to me as an expert (in Chinese medicine) though I am hesitant to wear that moniker. A point in my favor is that I have climbed that mountain (five years of didactic and clinical training plus years of clinical work) to reach the top, to become the expert. Many folks dream about being at the top of the mountain without having to first climb, an obviously impossible feat (and looks spectacularly similar to that Dunning-Kruger Effect).

So now I’m thinking about posting an article from time to time that has more to do with nutrition therapy itself and/or the writing of a nonfiction book. Maybe I can write about the research process and how to put it together in a chapter or book. Brandon’s expert advice on blogging about my genre or niche opened my eyes.

Every now and then, everyone needs an expert to do just that.

Are You a Copycat or Trailblazer?

trailblazer1

Source: pixabay.com

Which One Are You?

The topic for this blog hit me as I perused the same ol’ same ol’ of “how to” articles/posts: how to make an infographic for your website, how to not suck at marketing, how to earn more with CPC (click to pay ads) on FB or Amazon, etc. There’s a proliferation of knowledgeable (and not-so-much-so) bloggers and authors out there in digital space eager to share what they’ve learned from their successes and mistakes.

But at what point can I/you turn away from all the “do-this-if-you-want-this-result” advice and blaze my/your own trail in the world of writing/self-publishing? Looking back over the last thirteen years (I self-published my first book in ’07), I have learned more on my own.

Considering that one of my books (published in ’16) still sells monthly, I’d say that makes me a trailblazer

In reading some of these articles/posts, it struck me that one writer’s path to success is not necessarily another’s. Just because Joe Author found a way to get a gazillion hits on his website and Jane Writer discovered the “secret” to successfully marketing her book doesn’t mean we have to follow in their paths (copycat).

Yet there is validity in much of the shared successes by authors online. It’s always been a good idea to learn from others’ experiences, both successes and mistakes. What’s vital is knowing when that information will benefit you and your writing business.

Good But Not How-to Advice

Take, for example, George R. R. Martin, famous for his Game of Thrones series/movies. Instead of providing a bunch of ‘how-to’s’ he offers up his personal approach to writing/telling stories. This personalizes the writing experience. Many writers can identify with what George experiences when he writes. This kind of ‘experiential’ advice seems more powerful, more useful, to me. And perhaps to you, as well.  These are some of my faves, as I can identify with what he’s talking about: 

“I end each chapter with a cliffhanger, resolution, a turn, a reveal, a new wrinkle … something that will make you want to read the next chapter of that character.”


“I want a story to take me to a place that I’ve never been to before and make it come vividly alive for me.”


“It doesn’t matter what the scene is. You can see it and you can hear it, but you’re still staring at a blank screen. That’s the nuts and bolts of writing.”


“I’ve never been a fast writer, and I’ve never been good with deadlines.”


“One of the big things that distinguishes the strongest fiction from writing that’s perhaps without depth is a real understanding of what real human beings are like.”

In the end, what it comes down to is doing what’s best for you and your stories. Follow someone else’s lead if it will bring you somewhere you need to go. Otherwise, blazing your own trail in the writing/publishing world, while it may prove daunting, will most certainly bring you to triumph albeit via a bumpier road. The bumps and bruises I gained along the way are mine and mine alone; better for me to trip up myself than for someone else to do it. That’s what makes me a trailblazer.

#GeorgeRRMartin #GameofThrones #howtobeabetterwriter #writing #storytelling #fictionwriting #marketingyourbooks #authorblog #mestengobooks 

Writers, What Do You Read?

books and coffee

Source: pexels.com

It’s known in the world of writing that all good writers make time to read. Some voraciously, some in between their own works or when taking a break from their writing. Do you read in the same genre as what you write? Or do you step outside of your knowledge or comfort zone to expand your mind and imagination?

Find Your Faves

Late last year I got hooked on novels by bestselling author Daniel Silva (along with David Baldacci & Carlos Ruiz Zafón). To sum it up, he’s absolutely brilliant. Doesn’t hurt that he has a background in journalism and international relations (talk about ‘write what you know’). He writes the most powerful spy/action novels; better than any Tom Clancy novel, in my opinion (and not the least bit dry as John Le Carré). Last year, I picked up a copy of The English Girl in the “New” section of the local library; ironically, I didn’t feel strongly about the protagonist or the story line. Yet something drew me back. I read a few more of his novels and now I’m hooked.

I just finished Prince of Fire and will request another of his books soon. Luckily, there are still at least a half dozen of his books to read. I also just finished the latest by Craig Johnson (famous for the former Netflix show Longmire), Land of Wolves, another can’t-put-it-down kind of book. I’m about to read (again) The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón; you simply MUST read it, as it’s unlike any book I’ve read before (and don’t forget to read the other three books in this series!).

Gaining Perspective

Reading these books are mainly for my entertainment (and escape) but somewhere along the way I began looking at them from a writer’s perspective. Then an editor’s. And back to a writer’s. This process has melded with my love of reading and helped me to better understand how to build scenes, create dialogue, and craft suspense in a way that keeps one turning the pages (compelling). I make mental notes of words I’d like to use in my writing, including some I have to look up because either I haven’t used them in a long time or I don’t know what they mean.

Yet all this reading has not affected what I write. What I mean by that is I haven’t changed style or genre simply because I enjoy reading mostly crime novels. I enjoy a variety in my reading; the same goes for my writing. Which probably explains my affinity for both fiction and nonfiction writing, even though I do not tend toward more than the very occasional nonfiction read (I think it’s because I’m reminded of much-despised homework assignments.)

Does what you read affect what or how you write? Have you thought about the relationship between the two, if there is one? Does reading for entertainment enlighten you as a storyteller? Does writing open your reading options? As writers, we can appreciate a good book – whether we’ve written it or read it. So for the sake of  good stories, let’s keep writing and reading.

Fall Into Your Writing

 

autumn2

Source: Google Images/ townandcountrymag.com

T’is the Season

Last week came the first tease, the first hint that autumn was on its way. I love the word autumn more than fall; to me, it connotes a subtle changing of the guards, so to speak; that those hot summer days are mostly behind us and crispy, breezy, sweet-smelling days lay ahead. We even had to wear jackets for a few days last week, with the morning and evening temps getting pretty low. Some leaves have already begun to change, thanks to those cooler-than-usual nights. I can’t yet smell autumn in the air as the warmer summer weather is upon us once again. Autumn officially arrived yesterday and I wait with baited breath for the scent of those brilliant autumn colors.

Days become shorter this time of year and an indoor activity like writing (plus the PR and marketing) is a great way to stay busy without burning up too much energy. I love to write later in the evening, from around 9pm to 1am, this time of year; it seems everyone gets home and settles in earlier than usual so my corner of the world goes a bit quieter. Does yours?

Ready for the Holidays?

This is also a good time of year to gear up your PR and marketing for the holidays. I’ve published a nutrition book, so it’s a good time of year to get on an anthology list for holiday purchases to help people eat better during and after the holiday binges.

Alli – Alliance of Indpendent Authors – has some great tips for DIY PR for us Indie authors in a post written by Helen Baggott. She posts some sensible advice on pre- and post-publication PR (even though she’s in Great Britain, I’m sure much of this applies here in the U.S. as well). Try contacting magazines related to your book’s topic (hers was genealogy and hand-written postcards); check out trade journals as well, as they are often a good source for some free (or affordable) advertising/PR.

If you utilize Ingram Spark, it’s a good time to check whether your book is getting into libraries (locally and nationwide).  She recommends contacting Resource Managers at the library’s headquarters (or main branch here in the states). Have a 60-second pitch ready in case they don’t yet have your book on their shelves. Another option (which is a bit more costly) is to donate some of your books to your local branches. I did that with my first book and it turned out to be pretty popular, especially with high school kids doing book reports.

Hemingway – A Funky New App

And if you haven’t tried it yet, check out the Hemingway app. Dr. Judith Briles, The Book Shephard, highly recommends it as a way to ferret out bad verbiage, grammar issues, etc. It’s free and easy to use and it provides you with a readability index, meaning at what grade level you’re writing. She suggests hovering around a sixth grade level; sadly, this is the average literacy level in the U.S.  There are color-coded phrases that pop up and suggest fixes.

When I popped in the first chapter of my in-the-works novel, it came up with good readability … but at a grade 3 level. Sigh. Evidently I used a few too many adverbs but only three of the sentences were judged as hard to read (by who, I wonder, if I’m writing at a 3rd grade level). I think I will spend some more time with this app to see where I can improve my writing and the story. I’d even like to get a little above grade 6, in the hopes that some readers are more literate than that.

As I said, now is the time to ‘fall’ into your writing. NaNoWriMo is just around the corner, so sharpen your editing pencils, your writing mindset and get your desk in order – it’s time to write!