My Passion's Pen

Helping to polish what your passion pens.

Archive for the category “Words”

“It’s Not You, It’s Me.” When You and Your Manuscript Need to Have a Talk

This is such a refreshingly honest piece. Sometimes our skills are simply not up to par with the story we’ve envisioned.  There is no shame in admitting that.

Don’t get discouraged.

Work on other things. Read. Learn. Write. Grow. One day your ability will exceed your vision and that perfect piece will flow uninhibited.

Don’t give up.

“It’s Not You, It’s Me.” When You and Your Manuscript Need to Have a Talk.


Exclude Us From Novels

Print this and post it at your workstation as a self-editing guide.

A list of what shouldn’t be included in novels, including words and common fiction elements. Use this list to safely exclude unnecessary elements from fiction.

via Exclude Us From Novels.

Commas with Subordinate Clauses—A Reader’s Question

What are the rules for dependent clauses and commas when the dependent clause comes before, in the middle of, or after the independent clause.

via Commas with Subordinate Clauses—A Reader’s Question.

50 Words That Sound Rude But Actually Aren’t

Just English

To paraphrase Krusty the Clown, comedy isn’t dirty words—it’s words that sound dirty, like mukluk. He’s right, of course. Some words really do sound like they mean something quite different from their otherwise entirely innocent definition (a mukluk is an Inuit sealskin boot, in case you were wondering), and no matter how clean-minded you might be, it’s hard not to raise an eyebrow or a wry smile whenever someone says something like cockchafer or sexangle. Here are 50 words that might sound rude, but really aren’t. Honest.


If you read that as “a-hole,” then think again. Aholehole is pronounced “ah-holy-holy,” and is the name of a species of Hawaiian flagtail fish native to the central Pacific.


Aktashite is a rare mineral used commercially as an ore of arsenic, copper, and mercury. It takes its name from the village of Aktash in…

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Novel Boot Camp – Lecture #1: The First Page Promise

Ellen Brock


So here we are at our very first lecture for Novel Boot Camp! It only makes sense to start at the beginning – the very beginning – the first page of your novel.

If you follow my blog, then you know that I put a lot of stock in first pages. I provide free first page critiques every week in my blog series First Page Friday. I’ve probably written more about first pages and first chapters than anything else. And for a very good reason!

If your first page sucks, you’ve got nothing. Harsh? Maybe. But writing is a tough business. And because I’m an editor and love analogies, I’m going to compare it to another harsh business: the movie business.

Your Submission Package (An Analogy)

Most aspiring writers think of their first page as the setup, the part of the novel that just gets things going, the calm…

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Review: The Goldfinch

The Goldfinch
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What do I think?

I don’t even know…

The book is herky-jerky, beginning when Theo is a man, then he’s a boy, and the reader follows his misadventures until he’s a man again. The opening of the end was like a punch to the gut. Journals? Letters to his dead mother? Incomplete recollections?

I see why this book is renowned, the imagery is breathtaking. However, I felt woefully under-educated and inexperienced as I read. I would probably flunk out of this book club.

‘The Goldfinch’ is an education in art history, antiquities, high society and those middling others who slink about feasting on the scraps of the wealthy and trying to blend in with fanciful histories and equally fancy attire. ‘The Goldfinch’ offers lessons in wealth, ill gotten gains, addiction, abandonment, self preservation, (homoerotic) love, and obsession.

But I can’t say I enjoyed this book…

Once I made it through chapter one, the plot became more engaging. I felt deeply for the poor orphaned Theo. I hoped he would turn out okay, but he won’t based on the beginning of chapter one (an unhappy fact that stayed with me as I read the 780+pages). I continued to read because I needed to know how he ended up in such a state.

There was no escaping the sense of being told a story. The language and tone of the narration, the word choice all felt deliberate. A boy of 13 would not speak in such a way, despite acknowledging he was gifted in words from a young age.

What truly kept me turning the page was the colorful supporting cast. Boris, Hobie, Pippa, the doormen, the Barbours, even Welty and Mrs. Decker were much more interesting than Theo. Perhaps because Theo himself believed them to be more alive than he was.

But I can’t say I liked this book.

Clearly, there is a master at work in these pages. Tartt paints vivid pictures that only come alive in the presence of others. Theo is a drugged out, paranoid antiques dealer who suffers from PTSD.

The book was ridiculously long for a simple premise which repeated itself. Theo the accidental art thief coveted his treasure. The painting was then stolen from him, and he was never aware until one of his antiques customers confronts him about being swindled. Why Hobie made replica furniture was lost on me… Boris, the loveable scamp, showed up to confess that he’d taken the painting some years earlier and had amassed a fortune from it, but he will get it back for his beloved ‘Potter.’

All the best parts had Boris in it.

But I still don’t know if I liked this book.

All the highbrow talk became tiresome, although Hobie remained likeable. I too would have enjoyed spending time with him in his workshop. Theo’s constant performing became exhausting. However, for a first person POV, I appreciated the visceral connection to Theo’s experiences and the narration. I usually don’t care for first person POV because so much of what else is happening around the narrator is omitted and the reader is stuck inside one person’s head. Theo’s head is effed up. He’s paranoid, so he saw everything and had a detailed opinion about it. He was most himself with Boris, I think. At first I thought the author was a bit inconsistent with the two boys’ voices, but perhaps Tartt is just that skilled to show the nuances in Theo’s development. That he would speak, and maybe even think, with the same cadence of the company he kept.

That ending… I never believed this would be a happily ever after, but there’s no real end. Theo kinda sorta celebrated that he was a part of immorality while he watched Boris shoot up.

For character development, Tartt gets top marks. Plot. The story is layered and engaging. Delivery. It’s a bit too long, yet I’m not sure what could be trimmed, perhaps cutting back on the descriptions would help move things along. After a painfully slow start, the story picked up (at about 30%) and never really slowed down until about 95% complete.

Read it, but start maybe in chapter 2, part 3.

View all my reviews

Four Sentence Types

The title of this article could switch out ‘remember’ for ‘avoid’. Four common sentence structure flaws are explained with tips on how to correct them.

Sentence clauses and where to put the comma. With gratuitous nudity.

Eric the Gray

Warning: The naked monster in this picture has nothing to do with the content below and is therefore gratuitous. Warning: The naked monster in this picture has nothing to do with the content below and is therefore gratuitous.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to think up an enticing blog post title when your topic is sentence clauses? That’s about as unsexy a thing as can be discussed. My other options were Full Frontal Commas and When Punctuation Marks Hook Up, but I ultimately decided “sentences clauses” and “comma” both belonged because the union of those two language elements is what we’re talking about today.

I’m willing to bet that when writers express worry about their punctuation skills, their chief grief is commas. Like, when to use one and where to put it (by the way, if you block out the rest of this post, you have to admit what I just wrote could be sexy). Today I shall discuss one aspect of comma…

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13 of Maya Angelou’s best quotes

Thank you, Dr. Angelou, for exemplifying wisdom and the benefits of quietude and the passion a few well worded lines can evoke. May you rest in peace.


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Important Infrequently Used Words To Know

Hey! One of my favorite words is on this list. Perhaps it’s a sign that I should finish my story “Lagniappe”.

Just English

Paul V. Hartman

(The Capitalized syllable gets the emphasis)


alacrity       a-LACK-ra-tee      cheerful willingness and promptness
anathema       a-NATH-a-ma      a thing or person cursed, banned, or reviled
anodyne       AN-a-dine      not likely to cause offence or disagreement and somewhat dull//anything that sooths or comforts
aphorism      AFF-oar-ism      a short, witty saying or concise principle
apostate       ah-POSS-tate       (also:  apostasy)      person who has left the fold or deserted the faith.
arrogate      ARROW-gate      to make an unreasonable claim
atavistic     at-a-VIS-tic      reverting to a primitive type
avuncular      a-VUNC-you-lar      “like an uncle”; benevolent

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