Dawn of Humanity / Guest blogs and bloggers / Laws of Nature / Man vs Nature

More Writing Hacks

During my promo for my latest prehistoric fiction, Laws of Nature. one of my wonderful hosts posted this article I wrote about writing hacks. In case missed it, here’s a revisit:

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Writing is hard but satisfying, and an opportunity for the long-sought-after huzzah moment. The harder something is, the more gratifying and the greater the sense of achievement.

If you find writing unduly challenging, try some of these simple hacks:

Have a text-to-speech program read your ms aloud. It gives you a different take on your story.

Hearing your story gives you a different perspective than reading it. You hear the pacing, the bad spelling, and get a sense of the dialogue. There are many free options for this. MS Word has one that’s as good as any I’ve tried. Adobe has one that accompanies even their free PDF reader, and there are many other free ones you can use online.

Avoid qualifiers like mostly, a little, kind of, slightly. Take a stand!

These mitigate the action in your story. Do a Find for these and delete them or use a stronger word.

Be specific rather than general. It’s not a car; it’s a cherry red Ford pickup.

This is a common recommendation. Put readers in the special car that they can relate to, maybe even drove themselves.

Make sure you tell the story with all your senses–visual, smell, taste, touch, and auditory.

If you find your story is boring, even in the action parts, it may be because you aren’t telling it the way readers would experience it–with all the senses. Life requires taste, smell, sight, hearing, and touch. The best stories communicate all of them.

Highlight time-related references in your draft copy and plot them on a timeline so you’re sure they work.

It’s easy to mix up your story’s timeline, refer to an event as though it happened when it’s still in the future. These are unforgiveable and readers will abandon you quickly. Plot the events in a timeline to make sure everything happens when it should.

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What are your favorite hacks?


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular prehistoric fiction saga, Man vs. Nature which explores seminal events in man’s evolution one trilogy at a time. She is also the author of the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers and Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. Her non-fiction includes over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, reviews as an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, In the Shadows of Giants, Winter 2022.

74 thoughts on “More Writing Hacks

  1. I find hack #1 absolutely imperative, Jacqui. That step catches soooo many typos that I don’t notice when I read. The others are all excellent too. One of my challenges on fantasy world is being specific. Naming trees “oaks and cedars” sometimes gets too Earthlike. Yet too many made up names is confusing and annoying. “She walked among the tintos.” What the heck is a tinto? LOL.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I use the specific quite often. It helps me feel like I’m there in the story as I write it. As for the text to speech, yWriter, which is a free program to download, has that feature, and it has a choice of voices.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post, Jacqui. In fact, I run an editing pass (more than one, in the case of text-to-speech) for each of these categories, and it’s made my writing stronger each time.

    Hmmm…I may copy this and give it my own slant. If I do, though, I’ll reference your post. Imitation really is the most profound form of flattery. : )

    Liked by 2 people

  4. These are all great. My WIP involves a countdown, so I found writing down the day we’re on, what happens on that day, and how many days are left essential to keep myself, let alone the reader, straight! 🙂

    And thanks for the reminder about qualifiers. I should double check that.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I agree with you on reading aloud, Jacqui! Someone from the Poetry group published her book. We devoted one hour to reading her poems. When I read one of her poems, I read it in a way that flows in my mind and my voice, but I changed one word. Eventually, she said she liked my word choice the way I read it. It was unintentional, but it makes sense as the way you described reading aloud.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Hi Jacqui, like Liz, I like to read my writing aloud. I find a lot of mistakes that way. I’ve never tried having a machine read to me though. I am good with certain senses, sight, sound, and touch. Smell and taste can slip for me but I try to add them as part of my editing process.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. The best of story is in pacing the details. Jacqui’s latest book Laws of Nature has lots of detail on the five senses. Each person had a smell. Did yoy know fear has a smell? Her characters are aware of their surroundings and if they were not, they paid the price. Love the series.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Hi Jacqui – definitely hear your story … read by you, or by another somehow – if the programmes work – fine, there needs to be context … so we, as the reader, feel involved in the story. Cheers Hilary

    Liked by 3 people

  9. I have yet to successfully use the text-to-speech function in editing. So many people recommend it, but it makes me anxious. I have the same problem with audiobooks. The speech is slower than I can read, and I get antsy. I know a slower speed a good thing, and hearing the words engages a different part of my brain than seeing them does, but I haven’t adapted to it. Maybe I’ll try it again with my current WIP. I definitely see the benefits. The problem is all with me. I just haven’t been able to muster the patience for it.

    Regardless, it’s great to have so many tools in our arsenal.

    Liked by 4 people

  10. Jacqui, excellent tips / reminders for all writers. Yes, definitely let the stories communicate all the senses and such a powerful tool. Personally, I try to avoid adverbs after ‘he /she said’ and rather express the way of talking through the spoken words or actions around them.

    Liked by 3 people

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