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We all, probably, know these writing tips, but if you are like me, I can always use a reminder to rid my writing of “spiderwebs,”  “dust bunnies,” and the “clutter” that can gradually accumulate in my writing.

It is time to Spring Clean our writing habits with precise, fresh language. Jessica Morrell suggests searching for these culprits that can easily sneak into our writing.

Add this checklist to your Writer’s Toolbox. 

  1. Said exclamations: Today’s readers are sophisticated and understand when characters are talking and that at times the character’s voices and emotions change. The notion is the ‘he said, she said’ parts of fiction appear invisible. Readers understand that a character might sound shrill by the circumstances and dialogue spoken so you don’t need to proclaim, Mary Ellen shrieked shrilly. Never write Jason emoted, pleaded, bantered, snarked, smirked, blasted, bleated, peeped, groused. Now occasionally in the midst of a horror story, you might want to underline how terrified a character is, but consider dabbing these attributions in only for the most terrifying or surprising moments.
  2. ClichésOh how, I hate thee. Eliminate all your I took a deep breath. Ditto for eyes widened, out of the corner of my eye, jaw dropped, raven locks, and steely blue eyes. Then there is:  Each and every, knife to my heart, piece of cake, fire in the belly, he/she took my breath away. And before you write about your characters staring into each other’s eyes, think about how often it happens in real life and how often it happens in your stories.
  3. Mind matters, especially in the first person. You don’t need to report on how the character is reviewing things in his/her mind because this distances the reader and reminds her there is a narrator instead of the reader living amid the story world. So eliminate ‘mind raced‘ ‘thoughts raced‘ ‘mind’s eye‘ (a truly lame term), and ‘searching her mind.
  4. I saw. If you’re writing in close first person you don’t need the I saw or I looked part of the sentence. Example: I saw ahead of me three leprechauns frolicking merrily in the grass. Instead: Ahead three leprechauns frolicked merrily in the grass. Why? The reader wants to pretend that he or she is spotting the leprechauns along with the character. Also describing the leprechauns implies the narrator or character is seeing or observing. No need to state it.
  5. Prepositional phrases. Prepositions are the carbohydrates of language. Of course, we need them for clarity but use with care. Instead of a book of poetry, use poetry book. Instead of a tower of flames, use towering flames.

So here’s the trick: Don’t always use the first word or phrase that pops into your head because you might be using rusty, old clichés. Or fix these dullards when you edit. Like stock still, fast asleep, choking back tears, stirred up a hornet’s nest, did a double take, under the radar, and never in her wildest dreams.

Keep writing, keep dreaming, have heart. Jessica Morrell


Jessica Page Morrell

Jessica Page Morrell


Jessica Morrell is a top-tier developmental editor and a contributor to Writer’s Digest magazine, and she teaches Master Writing Craft Classes at the Chanticleer Authors Conference that is held annually along with teaching at Chanticleer writing workshops.

Jessica will teach a Master Class and advanced writing craft sessions at CAC19

There are a few more seats available for her Master Class on Thursday, April 25.


Master Class: Revision & Editing: Secrets of The Dark Arts

Jessica P. Morrell ©

Once you’ve finished a draft of your novel it’s time to buckle down. Because writers need to learn how to revise and edit themselves. Period. Revision skills are what separate amateur writers from polished and publishable writers.

It’s not easy, and yes it can seem daunting. But then, it’s a learned skill like many others, so we’re going to dig in with a four-step program. Why four steps you ask? You cannot work effectively at all levels of a novel or memoir at the same time. You need to work first with the structure and straighten out the big problems, then move down to the next level. It’s pointless to become preoccupied with single paragraphs or sentences if the whole structure is shaky. After all, some of those paragraphs you’re obsessing over might not make it to the final draft. In fiction, you’re assuring that each of the three acts—intro or set up, adding complications, resolving the conflict, all exist in the right proportion and contain the appropriate twists and reversals. In the same way, you need to tackle each chapter, section, subsection, paragraph, and sentences.

This workshop is designed for fiction writers and memoirists to refine your first draft in thoughtful, organized steps.

Workshops and Sessions Jessica will teach at the 2019 Chanticleer Authors Conference: 

During the Conference:

Immersive Fiction in 3 Sessions:

Writing Fiction so Readers Land Amid Your Story and Don’t Want to Leave. Ever.

We live in a clattering, distracting world that pulls at readers’ attention and senses. To compete your fiction needs be immersive, as in an alternate reality that your reader can enter into. Thus your readers are experiencing it, not simply reading it. An immersive story is an intimate, sensory story. It takes place in a world that a reader can see, smell, feel, and hear and it’s based on characters readers come to know and care deeply about. With the opening pages, readers are swept into a world that is so resoundingly real and intricately constructed that they leave their ordinary lives to venture forth and live daily along with the characters.

Immersive Fiction Part 1:  Atmospherics

Readers want to feel as if they’re part of a story world interacting with viewpoint characters. Fictional worlds that are immersive are nuanced, intricate, and alive with significant details. We’ll sort through what makes details significant and necessary. Plan to delve into atmosphere and tone, often under-appreciated techniques in a writer’s toolbox, yet they can be so effective to heighten suspense, create reality, and underline emotions and key moments. We’ll highlight how to use weather, lighting, interiors, unsafe places, and what I call “surround sound.” Finally, we’ll also discuss the key elements needed of world build in realistic genre fiction such as historical, sci-fi, and fantasy, and to make your stories memorable and immersive.

Immersive Fiction Part 2: Your Sometimes Heart-breaking, Sometimes Messed-up, Sometimes Heroic Fictional Cast

For many writers, the most fun of creating a story is fleshing out characters who battle, grow, and plop into heaps of trouble. Because readers need relatable, yet irksome, yet potent story people to follow and fret over. Their flaws and mistakes drive us crazy, their choices and moral dilemmas worry us sick, their triumphs feel as sweet as our own.
Characters first need to be intriguing and readers need to meet them at a pivotal, irreversible moment. From there they’ll tread where we dare not, fall in love with losers and sometimes winners, and take on monsters when we’d be cowering. But still characters, including secondary characters, need a vivid essence and need to be bigger than life. And by story’s end they need to grow, also called an arc. This workshop will delve into the more intricate aspects of character building and creating arcs, the art of creating characters who will live in the reader’s heart and memory.

Immersive Fiction Part 3: Stakes and Motivations

One major reason that people ‘buy into’ storytelling of all types is that there are serious stakes involved. Readers need to feel as if they also have a stake in the story. Stakes create tension, but most of all dread in a story because a character’s happiness, perhaps even his life, depends on them. The stakes might mean saving a vulnerable child snatched by a creepy predator, or saving the galaxy, or defeating Voldemort and his Deatheater.

Motivations are the reason characters attempt any action in a story. You’ll learn that motivations are deeply felt, drive a story, and will require a character’s chief personality traits to fulfill. We’ll discuss how motivations reveal backstory and a character’s inner world, create goals, and will exact a cost as the story progresses. We’ll discuss a variety of stakes, motivations, and goals so that you’ll learn clear examples of how all are entwined with plot and character.

If you would like to learn more about the sessions and Master Writing Craft Workshops please click on this link that goes to