Designing the World With Words – Editing Workshops


Click on the pic to learn more about the workshops.

Don’t miss Stop the Head Hop on Saturday, June 27th, 2015.


The 2015 Hustle Begins

A lot is going on for me lately. In January, I set up a MEET THE ILLUSTRATORS! Night for a couple of local writers’ groups. We enjoyed learning the information they shared.

In March, I have called together a panel of five area publishers who will answer questions at a MEET THE PUBLISHERS! Night in Tulsa. That event will be at Martin Regional Library (in the auditorium) on Monday, March 9th, 6:30 PM. If you come, bring questions.

On Saturday, March 21st, I will be offering a workshop in Broken Arrow, OK, called EDITING YOUR FICTION STORY. Writers will learn fun, easy editing tricks to expose the real story behind the words. Find more information at

THE ADVENTURES OF DAYTON BARNES – A middle grade fiction anthology to entertain ages 9-12. The submission deadline has been extended to the end of March. A lot of wonderful stories have been submitted. Some have been accepted, some have been rejected. Find more information about submitting, visit

ANYTHING GOES, VOLUME 2 is a multi-genre, unthemed anthology that promises to be just as good as Volume 1 from last year. The authors are working hard to bring you an exciting collection of stories this summer. Yes, I am editing this volume, too.

I have a few writing conferences to attend this year. Will you be attending any? Which ones? Good luck with any contests you enter and at all the conferences. Learn as much as you can and share!

I am editing a very interesting story for 4RV Publishing that will be coming out in just a few months. I’ll let you know when it is published.

Don’t forget to write notes on the back of people’s business cards that you collect, to help you remember special discussions, etc.. It makes them feel special when you recall conversations and know where you met them.

Dayton Barnes Anthology

The Adventures of Dayton Barnes anthology is taking short story submissions to entertain ages 9-12. Multiple stories may be accepted per author. If you’re interested in writing middle grade stories / chapters for this anthology, check out the website at 

Deadline for submissions is February 28, 2015.



Muskogee Author Fair

Find me in Muskogee, on December 20th!



There’s More To It!


“Eyes wide…” What does that mean, exactly? Does it indicate someone is scared? Shocked? Excited? In a mood transition?


Without realizing it, many writers use vague descriptions of emotions that leave a reader clueless. In fact, “eyes wide” is probably the one cliché that irritates me the most. Why? Writers use it all the time, but they often forget to explain WHY the eyes are wide. They assume the phrase says it for them. How does the reader interpret those words?


Being a writer means having the ability to shape new worlds, new situations, new people. With that power comes the responsibility to give the reader enough information to draw clear and correct perceptions into the story.


Writers sometimes forget we use our whole bodies to communicate in person. Subsequently, they use vague descriptions. Sometimes, multiple meanings are possible. Here is an example:


——Johnny climbed the steps to the porch. His sweaty palms slipped off the doorknob as he tried turning it.


Sweaty palms frequently mean someone is nervous, possibly even scared. What if someone has sweaty palms because he is overheated? It does happen, you know.


——Johnny could barely lift his legs to climb the steps to the porch. Beads of moisture covered his face and neck after a hard day’s work in the sun. His sweaty palms slipped off the doorknob as he tried turning it.


That small amount of information helps the reader understand the guy is not nervous. He’s about to collapse from exhaustion. Even if the reader had previously told us Johnny was going home from work, without more information, we don’t know if the sweaty palms are from fear or the heat and hard work.


On a somewhat related note, is the discussion of clichés. Why do authors use them and why aren’t they okay to use?

What is a cliché? It is a phrase that is commonly used in speech and often in writing.

——She was sick and tired of being sick and tired.

——He looked like he’d stuck his fingers in an electrical socket.


It would be easy to write a whole story using clichés. Readers want to read something fresh and new. They expect writers to be creative enough to design a story without using someone else’s words. Make your own clichés.


Recently, I had only two spare hours to sleep before a very busy day. My mind chose those two hours to haunt me with the one emotion cliché I cannot stand. I finally reached for the pencil and paper beside my bed and wrote every line my brain insisted I preserve, before I snagged the last few minutes for sleep. Later, I organized those lines into the terrible “poem” below. Look closely and you will see there is not enough description to define the emotion intended by “eyes wide.” I suppose the reason for sharing the poem is to encourage authors to always make their descriptions clear without being redundant or annoying.


Please pass this around and help more writers understand the importance of showing the emotions, because “tell without show” is very weak writing and clichés are so unnecessary.



By Renee’ La Viness

7 Mar 2014


(This meaningless story is dedicated to all my special author friends

involved in the creation of the Anything Goes, Volume I Anthology.

Always use descriptions that define.)


EYES WIDE, she entered the world

And heard the words, “You’ve got a girl!”


EYES WIDE, she held her new dolly

Until she and Mommy got off the trolley.


EYES WIDE, she told her brother

That, if he took it, she’d get another.


EYES WIDE, as her boyfriend chased her,

But the romance died when the author erased her.


EYES WIDE, her dress was a sight,

The splash of colors made her look just right.


EYES WIDE, she held his hand.

She said, “I do,” for the small piece of land.


EYES WIDE, she drank the last drop,

Then traded the cup for a bucket and mop.


EYES WIDE, she got on the bus

And sat by a child who was making a fuss.


EYES WIDE, she watched for the car

That would take her uptown to the 5th Street bar.


EYES WIDE, she walked through the park

Under the street light that lit up the dark.


EYES WIDE, she blew out the candle

And stared at the clock that sat on the mantle.


EYES WIDE, she opened the door

And entered the room she’d not been to before.


EYES WIDE, she sat in the chair

And watched all the people ignoring her there.


EYES WIDE, she had the miscarriage

And decided they didn’t need kids in their marriage.


EYES WIDE, she looked in the mirror

And spoke to her husband, who still didn’t hear her.


EYES WIDE, she walked in the cabin

Where all the drama supposedly happened.


EYES WIDE, She ran to the river.

The water was so cold it made her shiver.


EYES WIDE, she stared at the flames

That flickered and faltered and died in the rain.


EYES WIDE, she farted out loud

And said, “Pardon me!” as she fled through the crowd.


EYES WIDE, she lay on the bed,

But sleep didn’t take her, because she was dead.


EYES WIDE, dumb words on a page,

Have no real meaning and send Renee’ into rage.

My NaNo-Notes

Getting ready to tackle the 2013 NaNoWriMo Challenge? So am I. I wrote my first 50,000+ word novel last year. I was shocked, but thrilled at my own success. I had so much fun I’m doing it again.

Here is a list of ideas I wrote for myself in February. I hope it will also help you. Please share a link to this page if you know someone else who could use a little help. 


Whatever you can do in advance to get a better idea who and what you will be writing about will be very helpful to you when you begin writing your novel.

1. Make a list of things you know a good deal about. Your list might consist of any of these or more:

  •  cooking
  • cleaning house
  • sewing / knitting / crocheting / crafts
  • family history / genealogy
  • swimming
  • travelling
  • reading, writing
  • teaching, learning
  • raising animals – what kind?
  • working on cars, boats, furnaces, pools
  • tornadoes / earthquakes / storms / tsunamis
  • murder investigation techniques
  • making __________
  • using __________
  • finding __________
  • motorcycling, bicycling, walking
  • driving a truck, train, plane, trolly, bus, race car…
  • photography, videography
  • illnesses, vitamins, medicines, medical procedures, etc.
  • wars / military / peacemaking

The ideas above will help you form story lines (sub-plots) you can use in your novels.

2. Make a list of things you want to know more about. Use ideas from the list above or others you can think of. These will be the things you want to study about before it is time to write your novel, so you can easily use them.

3. Make a list of ideas the main story line in your book might be about…

  •  the adventures of a neighborhood gang
  • a couple of buddies who accidentally fall into unsolved mysteries
  • a photographer who falls in love
  • the life of an animal in the zoo
  • a journal of someone’s travels
  • life of a drug dealer
  • a Christian who is looking for love
  • a singer who makes it big and dives hard
  • someone who wants to start their own business
  • a series of murders in a circus company

4. Make a list of the main characters your story will be about. Give each person:

  •  name
  • age
  • color of hair
  • color of eyes
  • body type
  • height
  • health – frequent issues, super-healthy, occasional issues, cancer, etc.
  • personal history – neglected, spoiled, bullied, the bully, etc.
  • results of personal history – needy, easily intimidated, pushy, etc.
  • quirks
  • things they love
  • things they hate
  • habits – bites fingernails, leaves everything unlocked, etc.

5. Determine some other items, locations and other detailed info you will need for your main characters –

  •  car details
  • neighborhood type – safe, dangerous,
  • everyone knows everyone, nobody knows their neighbors,
  • houses on a block, an apt. bldg., farms in the country
  • job or school background
  • favorite places to go

6. Make a list of your supporting cast.

  •  brothers and sisters
  • parents
  • partners – spouses, live-ins, same sex, opposite sex, etc.
  • children
  • classmates
  • best friend(s)
  • co-workers
  • someone they have to see often – banker, store clerk, pawn shop owner, etc.
  • Who are the good guys?
  • Who are the bad guys?

If any of these people need a little more detail about who they are, what they do, etc., go ahead and make a list for them, too.

Basically, you want to get to know your main characters and begin to think of things that might happen in your story line. You will need a main plot — the overall problem and solution the book will be about, and many sub-plots — the smaller challenges or “chapters” that daily life offers us all, once in a while. Lists #1, #2 and #3 will help you design and organize those plots.

When you actually start writing, some of the things you have already decided will change. Don’t let this bother you, but be sure to make the changes in your notes, so you will still have a good reference when your book is almost finished and you need to refer to the info, again. Also, keep a copy of your notes on paper or on a thumb drive as well as on your computer. If your computer crashes, you want to have a backup copy.

Now that you’ve got your story background designed, let your mind wander along the story line you would like to follow until it is time to write. Feel free to make guideline notes (about what will happen when) to keep your story on track when you write it.

You will only need to write about 1,667 words per day to finish your novel in time. If you start doing some daily writing now, you will be conditioned to working in a specific time and place and your family will be used to accommodating your needs. By writing something almost every day, you should have little problem meeting your daily quota during the challenge month.

Don’t know what to write about on a daily basis until it is time to write your novel? Start a journal and write about how your day went. Or, write a fictional story every day. I try to write a factual journal entry most days and a fictional journal entry most days. I sometimes miss a whole week at a time, but I write as often as I can.

Keep yourself focused on private time when you write. No Facebook, no texting, no phone calls or company.

Here is a good place for more NaNoWriMo suggestions: Nano Prep: The NaNo Jar  


Writers Need Critique Groups

I love and appreciate my critique groups. The fellowship and support they offer are necessary parts of good writing. Even so, there are times it would be too easy to convince myself to stay home and finish that story I’ve been working on. Here is a mix of serious and lighthearted reasons to attend regular critique meetings:

  1. I’m a good writer.
  2. I need the exercise.
  3. I want my work to shine.
  4. This job can be a lonely one.
  5. My writing isn’t always perfect.
  6. Sometimes, I need encouragement.
  7. I don’t feel like doing the dishes, tonight.
  8. The reader changes and so must my writing.
  9. My peers also need my discerning ears and eyes.
  10. The fuel in my car will turn to varnish if I don’t use it.
  11. I need to see if the world outside my front door still exists.
  12. I need a chance to show off the new clothes I bought last year.
  13. I wrote the word “sleep” four times in three consecutive sentences.

As a writer, I am often my own worst critic. Hearing how others respond to my work can be very encouraging as long as I remember they are not telling me how bad it is. They are helping me see how to make it even better. What group is more qualified to do that than serious writers with their combined knowledge and experience?

Here are some suggestions on how to get more out of your critique meetings. . .

  • Bring at least five or six copies for others to read along when it is your turn. Ask them to make notes for you to refer to, later.
  • If you don’t bring copies, have someone else read your work out loud. Hearing someone else’s interpretation of your work can help identify problem areas.

If you are a writer, check with your library or look online to find more information about critique groups near you.