Newsletter of North State Writers (NSW), a Branch of the California Writers Club

NSW promotes the art and craft of writing across genres, connecting writers, editors, illustrators, publishers, reviewers, agents, and others interested in the continual renewal of creative thought and the written word.
President's Message
The pandemic has created both chaos and creativity. Many people are learning to work at home and have realized they can work from anywhere they have an internet connection.

The month of October I stayed at an Airbnb on the coast with my daughter and her family. We initially had some Wifi issues but we got that straightened out so my daughter and son in law were able to both get some work done and enjoy the beach. The kiddos did some distance learning between surf lessons and I managed to get some writing done.

Beautiful sunsets walks on the beach and time with family is priceless.
Since October, I've been working on house renovations, moving, and holiday celebrations. Hopefully, the new year will be a bit calmer.

I apologize for the lack of newsletters and meetings; something had to be cut out of my schedule. I hope that you are taking advantage of the Zoom meetings available with the other CWC branches, and I appreciate your patience.

Linda Sue Forrister
North State Writers
NSW News

Board elections are coming soon, and NSW will need volunteers. Our club is in danger of losing its charter and will not be able to continue without your help. Many of our board members have served for several years and could use some time off their responsibilities.

All positions will be open for election, including President, Vice-President, Treasurer, Secretary, and Membership Chair. The membership votes on these positions and some may have the current officer running for re-election along with anyone who would like to run for those positions.

Additional assistance is needed in positions appointed by the board, including Event Coordinator, Publicity and social media, Website, and Newsletter.

Positions are two-year terms and are your opportunity to guide the direction of the club.

if you are interested in serving or would like additional information, please email the club at northstatewriters@gmail.com.

NSW member Joan Goodreau's story about a hero of the Paradise Camp Fire, "Redwood Giant," appeared in the 2020 California Writers Review. A digital copy is available to download on the CWC webpage.
Joan also had a story accepted and published in "Survival Tales of Pandemic" which was published by the High Desert Branch of the CWC and is available on Amazon
NSW author Perry Lake announces a new edition of his book which features nineteen short stories about everyone's favorite King-Vampire. Plenty of thrills and chills for all. His book is available on Amazon.
Do you have a milestone you would like to share? Send it to northstatewriters@gmail.com using "Newsletter" in the subject line.
CWC News
CWC Bulletin Help Wanted
The CWC is appealing to our statewide membership for a volunteer to help in the production of this Bulletin. Here is what that person would do:

Branch submissions of Bulletin articles and photos would be sent to this volunteer.
The volunteer would acknowledge receipt of these submissions.
The volunteer would accumulate all the articles in a folder for Rusty.
The volunteer would track what branches have submitted news, and report that status to Bob Isbill.
On a preappointed date, the volunteer would transfer the files to Rusty.
Follow-up conversations between the volunteer and Editor Rusty would occur.

Total time is estimated to be four to eight hours per edition, which is three times per year.
Anyone willing and able to help us in this position should contact Bob Isbill risbill@aol.com with CWC Job Volunteer in the subject line or, if you have any questions, you can phone him at 760.221.6367.
We’re looking for your best work. Submissions are open to current CWC members and will be accepted from December 15, 2020, through March 15, 2021. Works will be reviewed and selected for possible publication by acquisition editors through a blind judging process; that is, they will not see any information about the author or the author’s branch. Feedback is offered on your submissions this year, but you may opt-out of receiving it.

We’re looking for excellent writing. Light themes and humor are always welcome.

Submission guidelines are available on the CWC website.
Member Spotlight - Cara Gubbins, PhD
NSW member Cara Gubbins, PhD has just released her newest book, Launch Your Kindle Bestseller

Dr. Cara Gubbins is the Amazon Bestselling author of "Words of Wisdom: What the Elephant Knows" and "Divine Beings - The Spiritual Lives and Lessons of Animals."
Would you like to be featured in our author spotlight? Send your bio, photo, and book cover image to northstatewriters@gmail.com using "Newsletter" in the subject line.
Tip of the Quill
This month's tip is from Self-Publishing School.com
If you yourself wouldn’t pick up the book or story you’re writing and read it with joy; then you shouldn’t’ be writing it.

“But what if I think other people will like it even if I don’t?”

This is a very common argument against this writing tip, but it’s not sound. And the reason for that is because you’ll lack the passion.

When you create a story that you love yourself, it comes through in the writing. It’ll read as if the words and your protagonist and characters as a whole pop off the page instead of lying flat.

It will also be much easier to write, and you’ll want to write it more than if you didn’t enjoy the story or topic as much.
Contests and Conferences
January 11-March 18, 2021
Virtual event

February 19-21, 2021
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators
Hosted on Zoom with video recordings available

March 19-21, 2021
Online annual conference for writers and fans of mysteries, thrillers and crime fiction.

May 14-15, 2021
An online workshop on "How to Get Published"

August 19-22, 2021
15th Annual Writers' Conference
Franklin, TN
Book Recommendations

A Good Read

By Brian Marshall
When people start discussing the novels they love, you will often hear the word ‘voice.’ And if you want an illustration of what exactly that term means, pick up a copy of Room.

As the book opens, Jack has just turned five years old. But unlike most children, Jack has spent his entire life as a prisoner inside a 10x12 storage shed. His sole companion, his mother, was abducted off the streets years earlier, and then sexually abused by her captor, only to eventually give birth to a healthy baby boy. As a result, Jack’s life is segregated into two distinctive worlds. One is Room and the items that fill it; Rug, and Table, and Chair. While everything else, including the flickering images on a TV screen, belongs to Outside instead. A mythical land he’s never yet seen, lying beyond a locked metal door.

As readers we slowly accept this schism. Experience it through his rambling thoughts. Are forced to consider how we might, as children, navigate our way through the very same maze. Every moment, every glimpse, every warped perception, we encounter first through Jack, and it’s within this perception, his singular presence, that we’re forced to play out our days. Trying to comprehend a world of adults—their language, their motives, their lies—through the eyes of a five-year-old.

Chances are you weren’t raised in a storage shed. Didn’t live inside a cage. But all of us were prisoners once, held captive by our own ignorance. We eventually learned to unlock the door. To meet the world halfway. Through Room, we can journey back to those days, rediscover their joy and their anguish.

by Emma Donoghue

This month's recommended article is from Alexis Grand with The Write Life. You can check her website for other helpful articles.

Gary Carter
Membership Chair
From Alexis Grant with The Write Life

1. Cut long sentences in two
I’m not talking about run-on sentences. Many long sentences are grammatically correct. But long sentences often contain several ideas, so they can easily lose the reader’s focus because they don’t provide a break, leading readers to get stuck or lose interest, and perhaps the reader might get bored and go watch TV instead.
See what I mean? If you spot a comma-heavy sentence, try to give each idea its own sentence.

2. Axe the adverbs (a.k.a. -ly words)
Adverbs weaken your copy because these excess words are not truly descriptive. Rather than saying the girl runs quickly, say she sprints. Instead of describing the cat as walking slowly, say he creeps or tiptoes. The screen door didn’t shut noisily, it banged shut.

Find a more powerful verb to replace the weak verb + weak -ly adverb combo.

3. Stick to one voice
Sometimes it’s necessary to use both first and second person, but that can be jarring for readers. For example, you might start your introduction talking about yourself, then switch halfway through the piece and start addressing the reader. Try to stick to “I” voice or “you” voice throughout one piece of writing.

And if you must switch, start with one and finish with the other. Don’t move back and forth between the two. Your readers will get lost.

4. Remove extra punctuation
A powerful hyphen here and a thought-provoking semicolon there can be effective. But a piece of writing littered with all sorts of punctuation — parentheses, colons, ellipses, etc. — doesn’t flow well.

Oftentimes, you can eliminate these extra pieces of punctuation with commas or by ending a sentence and starting a new one. And that makes your writing that much stronger.

5. Replace negative with positive
Instead of saying what something isn’t, say what it is. “You don’t want to make these mistakes in your writing” could be better stated as, “You want to avoid these mistakes in your writing.” It’s more straightforward.

If you find negative statements in your writing that contain don’t, shouldn’t, can’t or another such word, find a way to rewrite them without the “not.” That will probably mean you need to find a more powerful verb.

6. Replace stuffy words with simple ones
Some people think jargon makes their writing sound smart, but you know better. Good writing does not confuse readers. If they need to grab a dictionary to finish a sentence, your writing has room for improvement.

To get your point across, use words people are familiar with. The English language has thousands of words. You can certainly find a shorter or more common word in your thesaurus than a jargony one.

7. Remove redundancies
You don’t need to say the exact same thing with two words. Did you catch the redundant words in that sentence? Here’s a better version: you don’t need to say the same thing with two words.

Brand new, advance planning, basic necessities… the list of these common phrases is longer than this blog post. Check out About.com’s 200 Common Redundancies and then start snipping!

Sometimes sneaky redundancies are separated by an “and.” If you say your sentences are straightforward and to-the-point, they are neither. You don’t need both words. Your sentences are straightforward. Or, your sentences are to-the-point.

8. Reduce prepositions
Though prepositions (of, in, to, for, etc.) are helpful little words, they make sentences more lengthy because they cannot stand alone. Prepositions need lots of friends. By cutting the preposition and the words that follow, you can cut three, four or even five words. Sometimes a prepositional phrase can be replaced with just one more direct word, or cut completely.

An easy way to cut prepositions is to look for opportunities to make something possessive. The car of your neighbor is really just your neighbor’s car.

9. Cut “in order to”
You never need it. If you’re going to the kitchen in order to make a sandwich… Your sentence could be tighter. Because you’re really going to the kitchen to make a sandwich.

That “in order to” makes it take a millisecond longer to arrive at the meaty part of the sentence, which means your story is dragging more than it needs to.

10. Don’t use “start to”
Did you start to walk the dog, or did you walk the dog? Is the car starting to roll down the hill, or is it rolling down the hill?

“Start to” is a more difficult phrase to deal with than “in order to,” because sometimes you do need it. But more likely than not, you don’t.

Rather than making “start” the active verb, use the verb that’s actually more active — like walking or rolling — to tell your story.

11. Nix “that”
In about five percent of your sentences (total guess from the grammar police), “that” makes your idea easier to understand. In the other 95 percent, get rid of it!
“I decided that journalism was a good career for me” reads better as “I decided journalism was a good career for me.”

12. Replace “thing” with a better word
Usually when we write “thing” or “things,” it’s because we were too lazy to think of a better word. In every day life, we may ask for “that thing over there,” but in your writing, calling anything a “thing” does not help your reader.

Try to replace all “thing” or “things” with a more descriptive word.

13. Try really hard to spot instances of “very” and “really”
This is a very difficult one to remember. I almost never get it right, until I go back through my copy, and the word jumps out at me, and then I change the sentence to “This is a difficult one to remember.” Because really, how much is that “very” helping you get your point across?

It doesn’t make the task sound more difficult. Same thing with “really.” It’s not a “really” difficult tip to remember. It’s simply a difficult tip to remember. Got it?

14. Make your verbs stronger
“Make” is sometimes used in the same way as “start to,” in place of what could be a stronger verb.

For example, I first titled this post, I wrote “25 ways to make your copy stronger.” When I re-read it, I realized the verb wasn’t strong.

I’d used “make” as the verb, when it doesn’t tell the reader much at all. So I changed the title to “25 ways to strengthen your copy.” Eventually I realized “tighten” was an even better verb.
15. Ditch the passive voice
Passive voice sticks out to editors, but it can be difficult to notice in your own writing. Learning how to identify it and fixing these instances will make your writing stronger.

Here’s an example of passive voice: “The door was left open.”

To change that sentence to active voice, it would look like this: “Someone left the door open” or “He left the door open.” The idea is to be clear about who or what is executing the action.

If you want to get good at this, Reedsy has a solid post explaining passive voice.

16. Refer to people as “who” not “that”
John is the guy who always forgets his shoes, not the guy that always forgets his shoes.

It’s easy to make this mistake because “that” has become acceptable in everyday conversations. But it’s more noticeable when it’s written down.

17. Avoid “currently”
Pro copywriting tip: “Currently” is always redundant.

Don’t write: “Tom Jones is currently a communications director.” Tom Jones is a communications director at that moment. You don’t need “currently” to clarify. Just get rid of it.

18. Eliminate “there is” or “there are” at the beginning of sentences
This is often a symptom of lazy writing. There are lots of better, more interesting ways to start sentences.

See how easy it is to make this mistake? Instead of starting a sentence with “there is,” try turning the phrase around to include a verb or start with you.

For example, replace the sentence above with “Start your sentences in a more interesting way.” If your copy includes a lot of phrases that begin with “there is” or “there are,” put some time into rewriting most of them.

19. Match up your bullet points
Bullet points are a popular and effective way to organize complex ideas. Just make sure your bullets correspond to one another.

Too often, writers mix and match mistakes with what you should do or transition to shoulds halfway through the post — which only confuses the reader.

If your piece is called 3 Career Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make, here’s a bullet point that works:

Forgetting to tailor your resume each time you apply for a job

Here’s one that doesn’t work (because it’s not actually a mistake — the writer accidentally switched to what you should do):

Make sure you tailor your resume

You can turn most any idea into a tip by adding a verb. For example: “Remember that sitting on your head helps you write better.” Make your bullet points consistent and your writing will read more smoothly.

20. Use contractions
Which sounds more personable: I am heading to the market that is close to my house, or I’m heading to the market that’s close to my house?

Contractions make your writing sound friendlier, like you’re (not you are) a real person. And that makes it easier to connect with readers.

Contractions can also make your post easier to read and comprehend. So go out of your way to include them in your posts! Your editor will thank you.

21. Steer clear of the “ing” trap
“We were starting to …” or “She was skiing toward …” Whenever you see an “ing” in your copy, think twice about whether you need it — because you probably don’t.
Instead, get rid of “were” or “was,” then eliminate that “ing” and replace it with past tense: “We started to …” or “She skied toward …” Pruning excessive “ings” makes your writing clearer and easier to read.

22. Check your commas with “that” and “which”
When used as a descriptor, the word “which” takes a comma. But the word “that” doesn’t.

For example: “We went to the house that collapsed yesterday” or “We went to the house, which collapsed yesterday.”

Confused about when to use “that” vs. “which?” Grammar Girl offers a great explanation.

23. Replace “over” with “more than” for numbers
Over 200 people did not like your Facebook page — more than 200 people did.
Of course, everyone will know what you mean if you use “over.” In fact, the AP Styleguide, which many journalists follow as the bible of style, announced a few years ago that “over” is now acceptable in place of “more than.”

But if we’re being really nit-picky, using “more than” instead is still one a little detail that will help your writing shine.

24. Hyphenate modifiers
Whenever you modify a noun with more than one word, you need a hyphen. Lots of people don’t follow this rule, so it’s a great way to show you actually walk the walk.

That means you need a hyphen if you’re writing about full-time work. But you don’t need one if you’re working full time.

Got it? The exception: No need to hyphenate modifiers that end in “ly.” Those are OK on their own. So your newly hired employee doesn’t need that hyphen.

25. Identify your tells
No matter how good of a writer you are, when you sit down to write a first draft, you have a tendency to spit out sentences in a certain way or use certain words. The more familiar you become with editing your own copy, the more quickly you should be able to pick up on your tells. And, the more ruthless you can be to eliminate them from your writing.

“Start to” plagued me while writing my book; I made the “start to” mistake again and again. But once I knew to look for it during revisions, I was able to correct it.
(Hint: If this is a problem for you, try using Word’s or Google Doc’s search function to look for “start.” You’ll catch each one, so you can evaluate them individually.)

For a downloadable check list please visit The Write Life
The Lighter Side

Do you have something funny you would like to share? Send it to northstatewriters@gmail.com using "Newsletter" in the subject line.
Officers & Board Members
President:  Linda Sue Forrister 
Vice-President: Brian Marshall  
Secretary: Joan Goodreau      
Treasurer: Nick Hanson
Director of Membership: Gary Carter
Newsletter Editor: Linda Sue Forrister
Central Board Rep: Linda Sue Forrister
NorCal Group Rep: Linda Sue Forrister
Events Coordinator: Brian Marshall 
Social Media: Aislinn Hanson
Publicity: Kathi Hiatt
Critique Group: Cathy Chase