Monday, October 22, 2018

Tricky and Confusing Words Part One


By Andrea Merrell

It has been said that the English language is more confusing than any other. One reason is because we have so many different words to describe the same feeling or emotion. Example: It was awesome, stupendous, wonderful, incredible, magnificent …

Get the idea?

Then we have terms like driving on the parkway and parking on the driveway. No wonder those from other cultures have a hard time understanding us.

There are many, many words that sound alike but are spelled differently and have vastly different meanings. As writers, we should get a handle on as many of these words as possible as we share our stories with the world. These words have incited numerous debates over the decades and caused many editors to go crazy with the proverbial red pen. 

Let’s look at a few of these pesky words.

Their, There, They’re

  • Their is a possessive pronoun (Bob and Susie wanted their ice cream in a waffle cone.)
  • There is a place or location (The ice cream shop was right there on the corner.)
  • They’re is a contraction for they are. (They’re going for ice cream right after lunch.)

Its vs. It’s

  • Its is a possessive pronoun. (The train was on its way to the station.)
  • It’s is a contraction for it is or it has. (It’s a good thing Meg didn’t miss the train. It's been a long wait.)

To, Too, Two

  • To means to go toward or in the direction of. (Let’s go to the circus.)
  • Too means also or to an extensive degree. (Billy wants to go to the circus too.) *
  • Two is the number after one. (Emily purchased two tickets to the circus.)

*Notice there is no comma before too at the end of the sentence. This is another common mistake.


Your vs. You’re

  • Your is a possessive pronoun. (Cindy was thrilled to be your keynote speaker.)
  • You’re is a contraction for you are. (You’re welcome to be our next keynote.)

Whose vs. Who’s
  • Whose is the possessive of who. (Whose laptop was left in the conference room?)
  • Who’s is the contraction of who is. (Who’s going to try and find the owner of the laptop?)

Lie vs. Lay
  • Lie means to tell a falsehood or to recline. (Nate told his sister a lie. I think I might lie down for a while ... not lay down.)
  • Lay mean to put something down. (Just lay the groceries on the counter.)

Cite, Site, Sight
  • Cite means to quote from or to subpoena. (Henry was asked to cite the words from Shakespeare.)
  • Site is a position or location. (They chose a great site for the conference,)
  • Sight means vision or the ability to see. (With her new glasses, Sue has excellent sight.)
Wave vs. Waive
  • Wave means to gesture (verb) or water curling and breaking on the shore (noun). (Don't forget to wave when you go by. The surfboard rode high on the crest of the wave.)
  • Waive means to refrain from or disregard. (The criminal waived his right to a trial.)

Scared vs. Scarred
  • Scared means fearful or frightened. (Elizabeth is scared of snakes.)
  • Scarred means marked with scars. (The accident left Russell scarred for life.)
Steak vs. Stake
  • Steak is a cut of meat. (Maggie likes her steak medium rare.)
  • Stake is a pole. (Carson drove the stake in the ground.)

Pair, Pare, Pear
  • Pair means two of something. (That's a lovely pair of gloves.)
  • Pare means to peel or remove. (Judy needs to pare the cucumbers for the salad.)
  • Pear is a type of fruit. (My husband loves pears.)

Lose vs. Loose
  • Lose means to misplace. It it also the opposite of win. (Did Sara lose her car keys? No one likes to lose.)
  • Loose is the opposite of tight. (The hinges on the door are loose.)

Accept vs. Except
  • Accept means to agree. (Will you accept the final decision?)
  • Except means but or other than. (Everything in the room looks great except the green chair.)

Was this helpful? Next time we'll look at more tricky and confusing words.  

Are there words you struggle with in your own writing? We would love to hear from you.

(Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and Stuart Miles.)

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Monday, October 8, 2018

Simplifying Writer Research


Be sure to check out DiAnn's new release, Burden of Proof.

By DiAnn Mills

Writing and research go hand in hand. Every topic in a novel needs an element of research. If the manuscript isn’t accurate, the reader will recognize the flaw and toss our work aside. If a writer is spot-on, she will be rewarded with good reviews and more readers. 

Sort of a no-brainer for us writers.

How do we conduct the process effectively and efficiently?

Focus: List what is needed for the writing project in chronological order. This includes plot, culture, setting, dialogue, and characterization.

Develop: What specialty people need to be contacted to ensure reliable information? Determine if an email or phone contact is sufficient or if they can accommodate a face-to-face meeting.

Map: Where does the writer need to visit for experience and sensory perception? Can the setting be visited at the same time of year as the story?

The following questions and suggestions will help the writer focus, develop, and map out a strategic plan and enhance your story for readers.



  • Visit the area’s chamber of commerce.
  • Conduct a web search of the area. Some apps will help with this: Google Maps, Google Earth, Weather Bug, or travel sites that can be found via apps or websites.
  • Take or download more pictures than will ever be needed.
  • Interview people living in the area. For a historical setting, this also means reading diaries and journals. How has history affected the community?
  • Listen to how local people talk. Do they use a distinct vocabulary?
  • What are the community’s values and expectations for life and each other?
  • What is their diet? How much of their food supply is local?
  • How is the area governed?
  • What are the local hotels? Restaurants? What’s featured on the menus? Any daily specials
  • What are the sources of entertainment?
  • How do the residents celebrate holidays?
  • Does the community have special festivals?
  • How does the area experience the seasons, and what are average temperatures?
  • What are the medical concerns? What kind of medical care is available?
  • In what kinds of homes do they live?
  • Where do they shop?
  • How do the people dress?
  • Do the arts play a vital role in the community?
  • How do the people view education, sports teams, and favorite colleges?How do they earn a living?

Other Considerations
  • If the area is near a national or state park, look for research material in the visitor's section.
  • Discover the wildlife and birds of the region.
  • Locate a map of the area.
  • Visit the local library. View newspaper archives.
  • Look for documentaries on the area.
  • Visit themed or local museums.
When a writer is cognizant of what is needed to make a manuscript zip with authenticity, readers clamor for more.

How do you conduct writing research?

(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net, Stuart Miles, and Master Isolated Images.)

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DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She is a storyteller and creates action-packed, suspense-filled novels to thrill readers. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests.

DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She is co-director of The Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference and The Mountainside Marketing Conference with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion of helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. 
Connect with DiAnn here: www.diannmills.com



Monday, October 1, 2018

Time to Slay the Giants


By Andrea Merrell

Giants come in all shapes and sizes. They’re always lurking in the shadows, tangible or intangible. Some are more obvious than others.

Who and what are these giants? Do they have a name? Pastor and author Bob Gass says:

Giants can be internal or external, real or imagined, physical or emotional. A giant could be an attitude, a habit, a belief, a philosophy, or a memory. It could be a person who stands between you and God, between who you are and who God wants you to be, between where you are and where God wants you to go, between what you believe and what God wants you to believe. Giants have one goal: to stop your progress and prevent you from reaching your destiny.

The giants in our lives are out to stop us in our tracks. To intimidate us and cause us to retreat in fear. But just like David, God sees us as giant-killers. Our “stone” is His Word, which can turn any negative into a positive.

When conflict arises—and it most certainly will—we can see it as a growth opportunity, pull out our stone, and slay the giant standing in our way. Gass also says, “giant-killers see opportunity in opposition, potential in problems, and victory in the shadow of defeat.”

What is it that’s keeping you from reaching your God-given destiny? What giants are standing in the way of your writing goals and dreams? Once you define them, face them boldly with God’s Word and cast that stone.

Writer, it’s time to slay the giants.

(Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net, Sira Anamwong, and Pazham.)


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