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W-H-I-P is a Four-Letter Word: Action Verbs for Fiction Writers

After my brother-in-law read the first draft of Cassidy Jones and the Secret Formula, he remarked, “She is doing an awful lot of whipping.” And sure enough, Cassidy was: whipping her head around, her body, leg, a tight fist. I hadn’t realized my enormous love for this particular action verb until I’d re-read my fight scenes. Usage was downright flagrant and utterly cringe-worthy. It was humiliating! Okay, humiliating might be a wee-bit dramatic, but to this day, I swear I have an aversion to the word “whip,” and even wince when I see it in other written works. I can barely tolerate saying it!

“Whip” is my four-letter word and a reminder to not get lazy in my writing and push myself. (Note: I still use W-H-I-P in my writing, but selectively, and with grave reservations.)

If you find that your reservoir of action verbs runs on the dry side (or you forego verbs altogether and talk like this: “I home.”), help is on the way! More action verbs than you’ll ever know what to do with, though I challenge you to select five from the following lists each day and slip them into conversation, especially you “Verbophobics.” Good heavens! There is such a thing! I kid you not! Consult Wiktionary, if you don’t believe me. 😉

Fighting Words:

Writing Tips: Choose Active, Precise Verbs:

1,000 Words To Write By:

Elise Stokes lives with her husband and four children. She was an elementary school teacher before becoming a full-time mom. With a daughter in middle school and two in high school, Elise’s understanding of the challenges facing girls in that age range inspired her to create a series that will motivate girls to value individualism, courage, integrity, and intelligence. The stories in Cassidy Jones Adventures are fun and relatable, and a bit edgy without taking the reader uncomfortably out of bounds. Cassidy Jones and the Secret Formula, Cassidy Jones and Vulcan’s Gift, Cassidy Jones and the Seventh Attendant, and Cassidy Jones and the Luminous are the first four books in the series.

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IndieReCon and the Middle Grade Author


This year IndieReCon, the online writer’s conference for the “independently minded” is focusing on the three major elements of smart publishing–the craft, the business, and sales.

Our keynote speakers are Barry Eisler and Joe Konrath–giants in the indie publishing world. We’ll also have classes from Kobo, Smashwords and Goodreads in addition to a whole lot more.

My personal feeling about indie middle grade is that it’s poised to go BIG. I think it’s been gathering traction as groups like ours make awesome MG books available more broadly and ezines like ShelfUnbound’s Middle Shelf help build that bridge between readers and authors.

But regardless of our genre, we have to be smart our publishing efforts–and IndieReCon can help us pinpoint what’s important . . . and what we can let go of when we just can’t do one more thing.

Also, this year IndieReCon is hosting two contests! IRC’s Best Indie Novel Award is a nominated-novel award, so if you read an indie novel in 2013 or earlier, give that author a shout-out and nominate their book! Or, submit the cover of your own book to be entered to win IRC’s Best Indie Cover Award. Go here to learn more.

IndieReCon is live Tuesday, February 25th-Thursday, February 27th. Hope to see you there!


What it Means to be “Tween”

I have twin boys who are almost thirteen years old. They’re counting down the days (38 days from today) until they turn thirteen.


Charlie & Xander
12 1/2 years old

When they get to call themselves teenagers. They get to play in the teen basketball league.

They get to join Facebook.

They’ve been living in this “in-between” for the last year. This almost-old-enough-for-teen-books, this have-to-have-mom-and-dad-preview-movies place and they are so done with it.

Thing is, I’m not sure they’re going to find thirteen much different from twelve.

Sure, they’ll still have that basketball league, they’ll have “teen” in their age, and they’ll have Facebook–but books and movies? Maybe not quite what they’re envisioning.

Because there’s such a wide range of young adult books and PG-13 movies. The “Middle Grade” or PG/G genres pretty much ensure a clean read–one free of explicit language and sex. Whereas there are no such assurances in YA books or PG-13 movies. Nowadays it seems like anything goes!

I’d like to see more books (and movies) like Fablehaven, Harry Potter, The Beyonders, etc. Books that have more mature language (not swear-words, but obviously written for a more mature audience) and situations, but that are still clean and “fun”. Because my tweens are still into “clean and fun”. They just need more.

I have only released one middle grade book so far (Jump Boys: SOS), and while it has more grown-up situations in it, it’s sill not very long so someone like my son Xander might not want to bother with it because it’s just not long enough to be “worth it” for him. On the other hand, my son Charlie, who gets intimidated by big books, is the perfect candidate for a shorter, more mature book. Unfortunately, he doesn’t like to read science fiction so . . . I can’t win!

This age group is picky–and rightly so. They’re trying to find themselves and I think it’s a super important time for us, as parents, authors, teachers and librarians, to provide “older” content for a variety of readers.

The world is in a hurry to make our kids grow up but . . . is there really anything wrong with holding onto childhood a little bit longer?

I for one am not in a rush to push my guys into young adult literature and movies. They’re still kids, even if they are almost thirteen, and I want to help them experience life (and stories) with the innocence of childhood for as long as I can.

This post is part of Tween the Weekends, a monthly theme here at Emblazon. To participate, visit our TTW page and join in!

alexshoesAlex Banks doesn’t live on Planet Earth. Alex lives on the Prime Colony Ship orbiting Jupiter or on a pirate ship off the Nova Scotia coast, or on a world called Insulunda where the land masses shift and move like clouds in the sky. Wherever there are dreams to be charted like stars, or fun to be had just down the street . . . that’s where you’ll find Alex Banks.
(Alex Banks is a pen name for YA/NA author, Ali Cross)
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