Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Free Programs for Writers: ClichéCleaner

Greetings all, John J. Horn here.

Thanks to fellow Word Painter Sarah Holman’s posts about free programs for writers I decided to review a free program I used during the edit rounds for all three novels in my Men of Grit series.


ClichéCleaner is a downloadable program into which you can load documents or paste text. The program runs your text against its database of nearly 7,000 clichés and common expressions and lets you scroll through the problem spots, replacing words, freshening metaphors, or ignoring recommended changes.

The program also highlights phrases that you seem to overuse, which is great if your favorite metaphor shows up nineteen times in the first four chapters.

ClichéCleaner’s aesthetic feels stuck in the early 2000s, but it does its job well. You can get a free demo that will scan 20 documents before expiring or you can purchase the software for $12.95.

Runs on Windows XP/Vista/7/8 (sorry, Mac users).

Summary: Although ClichéCleaner looks a little clunky, I found it super helpful when polishing my novels.

John J. Horn is a Christian writer from San Antonio, Texas. Learn more about John and his Men of Grit series and sign up for his newsletter at

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Creating Believable Emotion

Did you know I have given certain books five stars that didn't have much emotion? They had action, a fun plot, great historical details, etc. Therefore, because I enjoyed it, the book got five stars. However, I didn't come away with any emotional bonds to the characters whatsoever. 

Why? The characters themselves didn't have much emotion. I didn't feel like I was looking at the world from their heart. Oh, it was their POV all right. But not their heart and soul. So a main character died - whatever, he was just part of the action. I never got to look into the depths of his heart anyway.

Personally, I choose to write from the heart of my characters. And here are a few things I've learned about making their emotions well up inside both me and my readers. (Granted, I'm always trying out new techniques! Every new book is an experiment.)

  • Interview people of the same gender as your protagonist. For example, I write about male protagonists. Therefore, I've asked some younger guys and men about how they would react to certain situations. Their answers are always surprising! You'd be surprised at how guys think when it comes to emotional moments, romance, big promotions, etc. 
  • Interview people who have been in similar situations. Does your protagonist work at a cafe? Maybe he/she is struggling with a particular illness. Maybe he/she is heartbroken losing a fiancee (as in the way the word originally meant - betrothed) or spouse. Talk to 'em! Get their perspectives.
  • No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. This is a 100% true. If you aren't crying/emotional as you write an emotionally-packed scene, something is wrong. Turn on appropriate music, put yourself in the character's place, and try again. (A lot of readers have told me about the places in my books where they have cried. Interestingly, it is always the same place I cried too.)
  • Music. Yep, write the first draft listening to emotion-appropriate music. Then reread it without music to ensure you get the same effect both times.
  • Use scenarios you have personally witnessed. In From the Dark to the Dawn, I recreated scenes (especially prayer scenes) that I had been (more or less) in. It was definitely more emotional because the character was in my place.

What techniques do you use?

Alicia A. Willis is a home-school graduate, published author, and avid historian. She is a firm believer in the principle that one can accomplish anything by substantial amounts of prayer and coffee. Visit her at her blog or Facebook to view her historical-fiction novels and all the goings-on between writing!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Characters with Quirks

Hello from me, Caitlin Hedgcock. I hope you are having wonderful June so far. :) 

If you've ever sat back and watched people (in a coffee shop or waiting at a train station, for instance), you might have noticed that every person is unique beyond the set of his jaw or the shape of her eyebrows. People are all human, and made in the image of God, and yet we have so many differences that render us distinguishable from one another. The way you would react to a certain situation is probably different to the way I would, and probably friends and family would be able to predict that difference.

Now, what if we all had the same faces? How would we set about telling each other apart? Well, we would consider that each individual has his own set of quirks, tone of voice, dress code, familiar way of speaking, way of acting, and way of dealing with problems, all stemming from his past experiences and worldview.

Is it possible to do that in our writing—to develop our characters so distinctly that the reader can guess who is talking or acting or thinking? Well, yes, that's what we aim for, but the excitement of the notion can wear off when you're 70,000 words in and you can't remember whether the cowboy disliked cabbage or broccoli. That's where nifty little character sketches come in.

Now I'm sure you've heard about character sketches, the written descriptions of main characters in a story. They help keep the author consistent in portraying them. Nobody wants to make the mistake of changing the hero's eye colour or the villain's age from one page to the next, but such bloopers are surprisingly easy to make—especially when you are writing a story over a long period of time or if you have a lot of characters to juggle.

Basic Sketches

These are what I used in the Baker Family series to keep the characters as consistent as possible. Since the first two books are about a family with six members, I needed to make sure each piece of dialogue and each action had a believable motivation based on the character's personality, age, or past experiences. When I added another family (with seven members!) in the following two books, this consistency became even more important.

When writing a basic character sketch, you could include:

Name and Age

Physical Appearance: e.g. hair and eye colour, height, dress style

Main Interests/Quirks: e.g. sports, music, wildlife, reading

Personality: Is he/she predominantly funny or serious, carefree or thoughtful? What differentiates this character from the others?

Good/Bad Qualities: We all have both good and bad qualities. Here's a chance to think up some realistic flaws as well as shining virtues.

For example, here is a tiny snippet from my outline of Baker Family Adventures character Abby Baker:

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Helping Authors

Today, I want to spend some time helping other writers out... with a little publicity! So, please check these books out. I highly recommend them! Each one of the books contains God-glorifying, edifying material. Please encourage these authors by purchasing a book. They obeyed God by publishing the story He gave them. So let's encourage and help them! 

The Sparrow Found a House

Jason McIntire

Fifteen-year-old Jessie Rivera is living every teenager’s nightmare. Her widowed mom has married a man who wears his heavy Christian values like his sergeant’s stripes – on both sleeves.

Glenn Sparrow is persistent, immovable, and not afraid to be firm. Worse than that, he’s loving, kind – even fun – and he has Chris, Moe, and Katie completely won over.
But Jessie is determined that she won’t be won over, or give up her “freedom” without a fight. She knows what she wants, and it isn’t what they’ve got.
Or is it?

Family ReunionKelsey Bryant

Every word, every moment matters … 

Welcome to the Austin Family Reunion! 14-year-old Marielle Austin’s parents and grandparents are hosting family for a week in the Texas hill country, and Marielle’s five girl cousins are staying at her house. Emma and Caroline are her best friends – like her, they’re homeschooled and passionate about the Lord, the past, and books. Abby, Kailey, and Reanna are from Wisconsin and just as far away in background and interests – what’s hot in the world now is what matters to them. 

Grandpa Will Austin has devised a series of projects for the six of them to complete. There’s a shed to fix up, a missionary to interview, and a trail of clues to solve, leading to a treasure. If they finish by the end of the week and work together with love and understanding, they’ll earn a prize beyond anything they could imagine! But difficulties surface right away. Bad attitudes and work ethics seem all Abby, Kailey, and Reanna can offer. Marielle, Emma, and Caroline are at a loss – what can they do to push the projects through? And more importantly, what can they do about their cousins, who won’t welcome their friendship? How can they show love when it’s hard even to feel it? Will the mysterious prize slip away, and with it any chance of relationship? 

Psalm 23
Debbie Bonzon

"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want." is the first verse of Psalm 23 (King James Version, KJV) that is beautifully illustrated in watercolor by Debbie Bonzon. Second board book in her "A Light unto My Path" Treasury series that started with Psalm 1 (Kindle and board book available). Eleven new watercolors illustrate the six verses of Psalm 23. Released first in the Kindle version. Board book forthcoming. 5 x 6 single page formatting, or 5 x 12 double page spread. Most verses are split into two watercolor paintings. 

What books do you recommend? How do you like to help authors?

Alicia A. Willis is a home-school graduate, published author, and avid historian. She is a firm believer in the principle that one can accomplish anything by substantial amounts of prayer and coffee. Visit her at her blog or Facebook to view her historical-fiction novels and all the goings-on between writing!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Free Programs for Writers: EditMinion

Self-editing can  be very hard. Even if you are going to be published by a traditional publisher, you have to get your manuscript ready. If you are self-published, you need to spend hours making sure your book is as good as you can make it. However, sometimes you need some help. That is where today's program comes in handy.

Welcome to EditMinion

This easy to use, and free website has been a huge help to me. First off copy the text of your currant project. This is mine.

Next paste it into the EditMinon

Now click edit

The EditMinon highlights area's that might need work with different colors depending on the problem. and generates a report.

This program really helped me during my last book edit. It helped me turn out a much better book. I give it five stars

Friday, June 6, 2014

Choosing a Person: Narrative Voice and Storytelling

Each time an author begins to write a new story or article, he or she must decide which voice in which to tell the story. Some of us fall into one of the decision, not truly understanding why one voice works or doesn’t work. But the decision of what voice to use can hurt or enhance your storytelling. The first step to getting first person, second person, and third person work for you is to understand what they are and do. Today I am going to explain some of the differences between them and ways they subtly affect the tone of a story.

Image from


In first person books and stories, the main character tells the story to the audience using “I.” Since the main character is the narrator, these tend to be personal accounts from the main character’s point of view without the luxury of an external interpretation of the events.

This choice comes with limitations. The main character must always be present where the essential action takes place or hear about the events from someone else. The story comes to the audience through the filter of the narrating character. Also, the narrating character’s perceptions, prejudices, and interpretations of the events become as much of the story as the events themselves. Because of this, the main character’s reliability comes into play. Also, I have discovered, the main character needs to a descriptive/observant personality. Otherwise, the story will get dull fast.

Writing first person well can be a great challenge, but I am learning to enjoy it.


In second person, the narrator refers to the main character as “you” or uses an implied “you” like found in directions or recipes. This voice is difficult to use when writing a narrative. Personally I feel a bit like I am being lectured when I am reading second person for very long. However, second person works beautifully for articles or instructions.


In third person books and stories the narrator uses “he” and/or “she” to refer to the characters. As one of the most common voice choices for novel writing, it has become the almost universally accepted first choice. Third person allows the author to include description outside a single character’s perspective. The storytelling is not bound by the perceptions or biases of the characters.

When considering which voice to use, here are some things to consider.

Where is the action taking place?

If it is an internal conflict story, first person or third person might be best. They give the writer the ability to focus on the inner workings of the main character’s heart and mind, not the exterior description or action of the world outside of him or her. My first foray into first person was because most of my project would be focusing on the inner workings of my character’s minds.

However, if action moves the story forward, third person might be preferable to first person for descriptive and perspective reasons. Distance from the internal conflict of pain, exhaustion, and other physical and emotional turmoil of the main character will keep the story moving faster. Also, one can get away with more external description when not in only the main character’s head and worrying about how to block the next blow or plan their next move.

What is the purpose of your story?

Do you want to do an in-depth character study? Perhaps first person is best. Are you writing a historical novel and want to include tidbits of history along with the storyline? Then third person would probably be best.

Regardless of which you choose, make your choice work to enhance your storytelling.

If you want to learn more, I recommend getting a hold of a copy of Elements of Fiction Writing - Characters & Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card. He does an excellent job of explaining the differences between the voices and how to use them to improve your writing.

What is your most comfortable narrative voice?

Rachel Rossano balances her time between the chaos of raising and homeschooling her three children and the world of drama and high adventure in her head. With her faithful husband and chief consulting editor by her side, she dreams of many more adventures to come. 

She also designs book covers. For examples of her work, visit her design page at or Facebook page at

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

When Dreams Come True...

Today, we are going to talk about when dreams come true.

"If all things start and end with You
Then I can believe 
That dreams do come true..." 

Of the dreams that have come true for me, becoming a published author was one of the greatest. And getting From the Dark to the Dawn: A Tale of Ancient Rome ready for its release date is so special.

Take a moment to check out my brand new book trailer, complete with my filmed endorsement from Josiah Jost and a few words from Douglas Bond, John J. Horn, and Sarah Holman.

Have you added From the Dark to the Dawn to your Goodreads shelf yet?

What dreams of yours have come true?

Monday, June 2, 2014

Free Programs for Writers: Focus Writer

As authors, we are always looking for ways to be more productive with our time. Sometimes, we get mad at ourselves by getting distracted by Twitter, Facebook, or fiddling with our playlist. Don't you wish there was a program that cut down on distractions? Well, there is! Wanna know something else awesome? It is free!

Welcome to Focus Writer!

I know it looks pretty drab to start with but you can dress it up a bit with a photo. Like I did.

When you are in Focus Writer, you cannot minimize it. You have to quit in order to look at another tab. No longer will you be tempted to take a 'quick peek' and Facebook and remember your book or post an hour or so later. You can also set word count goals and keep track of your statistics. Wanna know something else cool?

You can have it make typewriter sounds! How awesome is that!

I five this program five stars!