Sudden Weight Loss: Put your prose on a diet with this free tool

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Is your manuscript weighing in far over your word count? Has your willpower to cut words weakened? Are you bothered by bloated scenes?

Try this: put your prose on a diet.

WritersDiet is an online tool to evaluate your writing on a scale from 'lean' all the way to 'heart attack territory'. Simply paste a block of writing in the box and click 'run the test'.

In seconds, the site analyzes your sample with an algorithm, grading different areas of efficiency. You'll see an overall grade, then an analysis of your use of five different categories: verbs, nouns, prepositions, adjectives & adverbs, plus those pesky words like it, this, that, and there.

The score indicates areas you could consider tightening. Here's an example of a score chart. Click the red 'see full diagnosis' for a printable pdf file of your sample, score, and suggestions for changes.

Below the ratings, the site shows your sample passage with individual words highlighted in each of the colors. I was surprised to see that I used the word 'up' three times. I'll definitely make some changes.

If you find you need to cut words, here are two tips to try:

Fantasy author Carol Berg challenges herself by looking at the end of a paragraph. Mine (above) has a 'tail' of four words at the bottom. Carol, who admits to wordy first drafts,  would find enough words to cut in the paragraph to eliminate that tail.

Agent Rachelle Gardner compiled a list of words to watch for. Use the 'find' feature on your word processor to locate and then eliminate excess verbiage.

Keep in mind that the WritersDiet site warns,
The WritersDiet Test is a blunt instrument, not a magic bullet. A stylish passage may score badly on the test, and a dull passage may score well. It is up to you to make intelligent use of the targeted feedback that the test provides.

What kinds of words add inches to your manuscript? Any additional tips for tightening?

Try Your Hand at Flash Fiction

photo credit: mine
Everyone needs a little escape. Lately, I've been stopping at beautiful spots for five to fifteen minutes, and soaking in the scenery. It's amazing what something a little out of the ordinary can do for your outlook--and your creativity.

Flash fiction is one way to enjoy an escape without leaving your desk. You may be in the middle of NaNoWriMo, and unable to invest time in a novel. Maybe small children in your life suck up the hours you used to spend reading. Or your job demands even your off hours.

Flash fiction is the perfect way to step out of your ordinary world for just a few minutes. And if you're a writer, it's the perfect vehicle to express your creativity when your time is limited.

Many online magazines offer homes for flash fiction. Duotrope is one place to search for likely sites. Be sure to check the word count specified, and stick with it. Though it can be challenging, cutting your words is actually a great skill for writers in any genre. And you'll find yourself collecting clips for your writing resume.

I recently submitted a piece of flash fiction to Flatirons Literary Review [read Circus Dreams here]. It's a great magazine for readers and writers. If you're interested in submitting (they also accept essays and poetry), go to their submission site for details.

Where do you find inspiration for flash fiction? One way is to take a few minutes to write based on a writing prompt. Circus Dreams came from a Writer's Digest prompt. They have hundreds gathered on their site.

Another is to take one of your existing stories and cut it to its bare bones (after saving a copy of the original, of course!). Or just free write based on something you observed or felt today.

Whether your piece gets published or not, you'll have exercised your writing muscle. And we can all use an escape like that.

What is the shortest piece you've written?

Book Review: Pride, Prejudice and Cheese Grits, by Mary Jane Hathaway

Jane Austen fans everywhere can look forward to a new series featuring intrepid Southern heroines. Volume one, Pride, Prejudice and Cheese Grits, features rising history professor Shelby Roswell as she struggles with her trouble-inducing habit of opening her mouth and inserting her foot. This happens often in the presence of the handsome Ransom Fielding, the man whose book review is currently tanking her attempts at pursuing tenure.

Author Mary Jane Hathaway stays true to the elements readers love in Austen's books, while weaving in a hefty dose of humor, all set against a well-drawn backdrop of a small Southern college. With squeaky clean shades of Bridget Jones' Diary, Hathaway will draw many fans.

The fireworks between Shelby and Ransom are enough to keep the reader turning pages--and snorting a time or two--until the eminently satisfying conclusion.

I really loved the Q&A with the author at the end of the book. Hathaway (the author's pen name) writes novels despite homeschooling six children--a huge feat in itself! The book also contains a book club discussion guide and several 'enhance your book club'
Author Mary Jane Hathaway

For more information on the series, Jane Austen Takes the South, visit the publisher's website or Mary Jane Hathaway's Facebook page.

Are you an Austen fan? Would you enjoy a retelling set in a location other than England? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

I received a free copy of this book from Howard Books, for my honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Smackdown With Your Inner Editor

Do you have trouble keeping your analytical side quiet when it's time to write? Do you struggle to silence your creative side when it's time to edit?

Check out the tips I've gathered. I'm writing over at the Pikes Peak Writers blog today. And check out the spot where I'm actually sitting right now. I'm visiting an old ghost town in Arizona.



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