Last Day to Enter!

This is it: D-day, your last chance to enter. Huge prizes in the offering and one of them could be yours!

Here's a recap of what's on the table:
1 macro critique of your novel (up to 85K)
1 writer's gift box
1 copy of Catching Fire
2 first chapter critiques

And all you have to do to enter is two tiny things--be a follower, and leave a comment. Seriously easy on the gift to you this holiday/nano season. Just go here.

Good Luck!!

Help a fellow Twitterer?

*shuffles feet*

So, I signed up for Twitter an eternity ago but have never actually used my account. I know--unforgivable, right? So today I decided it was definitely time for me to get it together and now I'm TWEETING!

I'm utterly clueless of course, a total newb. So any help, tips, friending, etc would be hugely appreciated!

You can find me HERE!

Shape Thesaurus Entry: Heart


Bleeding Heart blooms
clover leaves
Galešnjak, a heart-shaped island in Croatia
Calla Lily
Barn owl's face
Anthurium flower
Lime tree leaf
Chicken breast


Valentine's chocolates
Paper valentines
Heart locket
decorative waffles
Cookie cutter
Cake pan
Carved tree hearts
Doodle hearts
Friendship necklaces
hand hearts
candy hearts
Card suit: Hearts



Describing a shape is best done in as few words as possible. Think of the shape as a camera snap shot--you want to capture the gist of what you mean as soon as possible so you can get on with other related (and more important) detail, and the action happening in the scene

A weak example:

Lola's bright green eyes and flawless ivory completion suited her chicken breast-shaped face and drew attention wherever we went.

What's wrong with this example?

Nothing says pretty like a jiggly raw chicken breast! C-l-a-s-s-i-c bad comparison here.

A strong example:

Lola's bright green eyes and flawless ivory completion suited her heart-shaped face and drew attention wherever we went.

Why does this work?

I chose this one on purpose to illustrate that sometimes you will run into a circumstance where the best description means using using the actual shape. Had I been describing her lips, a pair of earrings, the way Lola held her hands together, thumbs across knuckles, I could have used something as a comparison. But with her face, there's really nothing on the list that would work. I should also add that 'heart-shaped' skirts overused territory, so consider carefully when using it.

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Massive Followers Contest!

I am awestruck. Wow, what an incredible milestone!

Thanks for using the Bookshelf Muse as a resource for your writing & teaching! It is such an honor to serve so many great bloggers and to have such a wonderful & supportive following. I hope you continue to enjoy the thesaurus collections as I roll them out as well as the other posts on various aspects of writing.

I can't think of any better way to celebrate this huge number than by holding a contest for my followers with some MASSIVE prizes!

Here's what you can win:

-- A FULL NOVEL Critique (WC Max 85,000) I will read your complete novel and offer wide-angle feedback that will help you build a stronger product, including a focus on Characters, Description, Character Arc, Plot, Dialogue, Proportion, Style, Stakes, Resolution & Voice. You'll get 100% honesty from me on how to strengthen your book. Please note that this prize is not for first draft novels. Your work must be at the point where Grammar/Spelling/structure issues do not detract from the read. The more polished it is, the more you will benefit from my critique. All genres welcome except for Erotica.

--A Copy of Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins.

-- A Writer's Gift Box Enjoy a fun box of goodies just in time for the holidays, filled with things a writer will enjoy!

-- A First Chapter Inline Critique A line edit of your first chapter, with emphasis on your hook and building a strong compelling start to your book. All genres welcome except for Erotica. (I'll give out 2 of these)

Interested in entering? Here's how:

1 entry for commenting that you are a follower (if you aren't yet, please join today!)
1 entry for linking to this contest on a blog
1 entry for linking to this contest through your twitter or facebook


Musers have reminded me I've not included sidebar linking and Livejournal! Yikes!

Mention the contest on your Livejournal (1 entry)
Link to The Bookshelf Muse in your sidebar (3 entries!)
(Big bonus points here!)

So that's a total of 7 possible entries per Muser! Contest runs until December 1st, so let's start seeing those comments!

Texture Thesaurus Entry: Squishy


Wet clay
Ripe bananas/pears/peaches/grapes
Wet snow
Rare/raw meat
Sea onions
Raw fish
Fresh sap beads
Egg yolk
Raisins, dates, prunes


Bread Dough
Play dough/Plasticine
Pottery clay
Cookie dough
Stress balls
Rubber ducky
Teddy bears
Dog chew toys
Breast implants
Soft cat/dog food
Cream cheese bricks
Gummy bears
Memory foam
Tube of toothpaste
Cooked noodles
Hot water Bottle
Pillsbury Dough Boy


malleable, pliant, flexible, bendable, yielding, rubbery

Describing texture in a story creates intimacy between reader and character, and can even cause an emotional trigger for both. To anchor the reader in the scene, make sure comparisons and contrasts are clear and relatable, and within the scope of the narrator's life knowledge and experience.

A weak example:

I hated Halloween parties. Every one pulled the same gag--a box with an opening just big enough to fit your hand into that had a sign on it that said "Rat intestines" or "Fish eyeballs." You stick your hand in and feel up a bunch of oiled up gummy bears or perogies. For once someone should be a little realistic and visit the offal bin at a Butcher's shop.

What's wrong with this example?

While greased gummy bears and perogies are pliant, I've never seen them used in these type of boxes, have you? The whole idea with describing a texture is to choose something that the reader will recognise and to trigger memory if possible.

A strong example:

I hated Halloween parties. Every one pulled the same gag--a box with an opening just big enough to fit your hand into that had a sign on it that said "Rat intestines" or "Fish eyeballs." You stick your hand in and knead a pile of cold, slick noodles and peeled grapes. For once someone should be a little realistic and visit the offal bin at a Butcher's shop.

Why does this example work?

Noodles and peeled grapes are much more common and the shapes are better suited for what the signs indicate.

A similar entry: Spongy/Foamy

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An Apocalypse At Hand...

I thought we'd do something just for giggles. A little game of WHAT IF.

What if the Apocalypse was at hand? Take your pick--poles shifting, solar flares, zombies...the point is, you have exactly 5 minutes to get out of your house and to safety. The kids, spouse, pets...all the other things you care about are taken care of. This 5 minutes is for saving one of your manuscripts.

Yes, you heard me...just ONE. No flashy thumb drive or laptop for you!

Okay, so this is a little like Sophie's Choice. But there's a point to it beyond causing heart palpitations, I promise. I want you to really think hard on what MS you would save if you had to choose. Which novel or story is closest to your heart and why?

For me, it isn't a book that I'm currently shopping with my agent or even working on right now. It's a book I wrote a long time ago--my first real novel. A YA fantasy called Orb Master.

Now this baby is riddled with cliches and purple prose, I kid you not. It is one scary-looking novel and is appropriately hiding on my hard drive somewhere. But still I would save it, and why? Because there is also something very special about it. It brims with imagination, largely because I wrote it before understanding a lick about 'good writing'. So in other words, the internal editor didn't hold sway over this one and someday I'd really like to dig it out again and see if it can be saved. There is power to the story of it...bad writing maybe, but power.

I'm pretty sure I could rewrite most of my books if I had to. But Orb Master...I don't think so. I wouldn't want to risk losing it, and the magic with it.

So what would you save--a polished, publishable draft? An old picture book you wrote more for yourself or your family than the market? Maybe a book where you experimented with the POV, chose a risky topic or character? Please tell me about it!

Setting Thesaurus Entry: Teen Bedroom Closet


Clothing on hangers, laundry hamper, pile of rumpled clothing, orphaned socks, shoes lined up in a row or thrown together in a jumble, shelving, coats, books, board games, stuffed animals, keepsakes from childhood, boxes of Cd's, old electronics, scarves, ties, bathrobe hanging off the door, mirror on the inside of the door, folded sweaters, box of photos, dirt/lint on the carpet or floor, school books, belts, gym strip, sports equipment (tennis racket, football, padding, sports shoes, swim goggles, basketball, volleyball, etc), duffel bags, back packs, purses, folded or scrunched notes falling out of pockets, loose hangers on the floor, coins, balled up socks, loose leaf paper, study notes, old marked tests and quizzes crinkled or folded, bobby pins or hair accessories, hidden alcohol/drug/cigarette stash, candy or gum wrappers, a hidden ash tray, stray buttons, loose threads


Music from the bedroom, squeaky door hinges, a shift in the clutter that leads to an avalanche when the door is opened, silence, clinking of metal hangers, rustling fabric as you sort through clothing options


Dirty laundry, dust, shoes, gym socks, a mouldering lunch forgotten in a backpack, fabric softener, lingering perfume/body spray




Turning or pulling on a knob, sliding hangers along the bar, sorting through clothing, feeling the different cloth textures (wool, polyester, cotton, silk, chenille, denim, etc), sliding hand down along the sleeve of a shirt and holding onto the cuff as you decide whether to choose it or move on, plucking a ball of lint or hair from a piece of clothing, holding jeans up to waist to guess if they will still fit, fingering a loose button, scooping scattered dirty laundry int a basket, flinging aside clothing on the floor to find a matching pair of shoes or lost bit of homework, shifting through shoe boxes of treasures to look for something, pulling a rumpled pair of jeans and shaking them out to decide if they can be worn again, snagging sports equipment and shoving it inside a duffel bag, kneeling down to paw through a blob of clothing and books and shoes to find something, throwing something inside the closet and closing the door, leaning against a folding door to force it shut, cold metal hangers under the fingertips, taking down something old and meaningful from the shelf to remember it, like a stuffed animal or old sports trophy, tapping finger against the lip in indecision, biting lip, nudging foot at a messy floor to see what all is there, sliding shoes on to see how they look with a clothing choice, eyeing the contents of a messy closet to determine if a parent has snooped

Helpful hints:

--The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood.

Example 1:

Betty Ann knew there was nothing in her closet, nothing but her folded up sweaters and jeans lying neat in their drawers and her old collection of teddy bears sitting on the shelf now that she was too old to display them out in the open. No, there was nothing in her closet...but after watching The Ring, she decided to get out of bed and close the half inch shadowy gap of the door anyway.

Example 2:

Rocky took a deep breath and yanked the closet door open. Only an old dress shirt that barely fit him still hung on a hanger; the rest of his clothing made a multi-colored heap on the floor. The ominous smell made his visits short and he'd become a master at spotting and grabbing what he needed as fast as possible. Right now it was his ball glove, and with a quick dart of his hand, he snagged it out from beneath a pair of mud-encrusted sneakers. Once the door was shut, Rocky let his breath go and headed out to the park.

--Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.

Example 1: (Simile)

Inside Bobby's closet the overflowing laundry hamper had tipped over like a drunken teen experiencing his first keg party.

Example 2: (Metaphor)

Gini pulled the door open a few inches, wincing, and then peeked into the shadowy crack. When it appeared that an avalanche of clothing was not about to mow her down, she flung the closet door open and began flipping through the hangers for something to wear.

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Links from the Nano Frontlines

As most of you know, I'm all in for nano this year, working to get several partially finished manuscripts into the 'finished' category. During my time over at the Nano boards, I try to keep an eye out for links that I think would be a great help for writers. Today I'm going to focus on 'adoptable stuff'.

Over at the Nano site, people have gathered orphaned snippets and ideas to be adopted by other writers into threads on their forum. This is a treasure trove of ways to enrich your character, add to your setting or help you get creative through a plot snag you've run into. Here are just a few of the items up for adoption:

* Adopt a Plot
* Adopt a Plot (Part 2)
* Adopt a Subplot
* Adopt a Title
* Adopt an Opening Line
* Adopt a Villain Catchphrase
* Adopt an Ending
* Adopt a Line
* Adopt a Name
* Adopt a Character
* Adopt a Motive
* Adopt Some Dialogue
* Adopt a Quirk
* Adopt a Death
* Adopt a 'What If'
* Adopt a Romantic Line
* Adopt a Hobby
* Adopt a Plot Twist
* Adopt a Hero Catch Phrase
* Adopt a Weakness
* Adopt a Secret
* Adopt a Text Message
* Adopt a Place
* Adopt a Murder
* Adopt a Scene
* Adopt a Sensation
* Adopt an Explicative
* Adopt an IM
* Adopt an Ordeal
* Adopt a Job

There are others as well if you search through the Plot Doctoring forum, but this link will take you to the bulk of adoptables. There are also many other great discussions, resources and links at the nano site--I strongly recommend taking some time to have a look, even if you aren't doing Nanowrimo this year.

So, adopt away and happy writing!

Writing Totems

I was on the Nanowrimo site the other day and found a thread about writing totems. I hadn't really thought about it much, but I think all writers probably have something that they like to keep within view to help them write, both as inspiration and a reminder of why we chose this path.

This here is Mr. Socky. He's been with me throughout this whole writing adventure. My son made him for me when he was 3 or 4 years old...he went to my craft area, next to the computer in the basement, which was unfinished and full of shadows and creaking noises. There he glued a mouth, eyes and hair onto a sock pilfered from the laundry room and gave it to me as I worked on my very first story, a PB called A Frog Named Flamingo. He told me it was to keep me company and so I wouldn't be scared, writing alone down in a dark corner of the basement.

I was so touched that I promised him right there and then that Socky would stay with me by my computer until I became an author. He lost his eyes somewhere along the way but I still have him, sitting here on a shelf in my office. Whenever I get frustrated I look over at him and remind myself why I'm doing this. Mr. Socky is a constant reminder that others believe in me and seeing him nearby lends me strength when I feel worn out.

So, do you have a writing totem--something special that you keep nearby that symbolizes your journey? What creative things do you surround yourself with in your writing space?

Color Thesaurus Entry: Transparent

Real World Comparisons:

Clean rivers, streams, lakes
Dew drops
Rain drops
Melted snow
Dragonfly/fly/bee wings
Frog's eggs
Liquid honey
Amber, diamonds and other similar gemstones

Man Made:

Glass lenses
Pool water
Suran wrap
Ziplock bags
Plastic slip covers
Fish bowl
Peephole in door
Coffee Urn
Fishing line
Glass of water
Plastic packaging
Bubble wrap
Crazy glue
Sprite/7up/club soda/tonic water
Vodka/Gin/White rum/Tequila/etc
Wedding Veil

Synonyms of Clear:

Clear, unclouded, translucent, sheer, crystalline, gossamer, vaporous, gauzy, see-through

Make every detail count

Colors are powerful descriptors, not fillers. Make sure that if you use a comparison or contrast to highlight a color, you choose the right one. Look at the setting and atmosphere you are working to create, then draw from the viewpoint character or narrator's history, education and past experiences to find the right fit.

A poor example:

A light mist clung to the graveyard like a dead man's breath.

What's wrong with this example?

At first look, this seems nice and creepy, perfect for a graveyard description. But then you have to think, Um...dead men don't breathe, so in actuality the mist would be invisible, which we all know is not the case.

A strong example:

A light mist clung to the graveyard like smoke huddled above a funeral pyre.

Why is this example better?

This one lines up logically and still provides atmosphere by creating a comparison to death.

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A Tiny Bump in the Road

Hi Musers! I just wanted to let you know that I'm participating in Nanowrimo this year and so the usual Thesaurus posts may not be as regular for the month of November.

As you probably can imagine, these type entries can get quite labor intensive and Nano is all about finding time to write. I'll do my best to get in a few new entries this month, and then the rest of my posts will be on other writing related topics that I hope you'll enjoy. Once December hits, it'll be business as usual, I promise!

One thing to keep an eye out as you visit is the climbing visitor counter at the bottom at the blog. I can't help but notice how close it's getting to 100,000 visits...sounds like a pretty special number that we might want to celebrate, doesn't it? Stay tuned!


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