Writers Tools Of The Trade

All posts in the Writers Tools Of The Trade category

It’s National Reading Day!

Published January 23, 2014 by M E McMahon


Pick up a book and read! Better yet, pick up a book and read it to someone else! Share the love and share the words!




Reading Like A Writer

Published October 21, 2013 by M E McMahon

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I once read, I can’t remember where (although I want to say it was Stephen King) that writers should read a book twice.  The first time as a reader…the second time as a writer.

I have found that advice invaluable (whoever said it) and I use that technique with everything I read.  I will read a book and see if I like it.  If I do, I then reread it and find out what the writer did to lure me into their world so effectively.  Most of the time, I’ve enjoyed a book or story because of the characters…I love a good hero or a despicable villain.  The plot is important, of course, but if you don’t have great characters with lots of depth and layers, I find it hard to get into the story.

So, if the writer got my attention, I reread it to find out how they did it!  I have learned a lot from seeing how they develop the back-stories for their characters, and how they show their character’s strength and weaknesses…and most important…when they reveal them.  I also pay more attention to the rhythm of the piece…how do they keep the plot from dragging and losing my interest.

If I don’t like the book or the story, I still go back and reread it anyway.  Why? Because, I look for how the writer wandered off and went astray.  If their characters were shallow, dull or lacked the ability to make me love or hate them, I sit down and think about what I would do to fix the problems.

Sometimes, I go as far as to redevelop them on paper.  If the plot seemed to drag on, was predictable and boring or totally unbelievable, I again go back and briefly write down some things that I would have done to fix the problem.

Whether I loved the book or yawned through the whole thing, I use the writers successes and failures and learn..learn..learn from them.

So if you find a book that you love…go back and find out why!  If you don’t think the writer captured the reader’s attention, look for the reasons and think about what you would have done differently!  It’s a great exercise in writing.

But, one thing you must do if you ever hope to be successful in your writing is to read…read…read.  And, if you find yourself saying, “I could do better than that” then sit down and prove it.  I’m not recommending you rewrite the book or story (that’s plagiarism and most definitely frowned upon) but I am encouraging you to learn from other writers…both the good and the not so good.

Don’t just read the bestsellers.  Read some of the less successful books or stories and think about how the writer might have done this or added that to make it a better work. You’ll find it’s a great writing exercise and you’ll be able to develop your own plots or characters without falling into the same pitfalls as the unsuccessful writers.

So, when you pick up that  book, read it like a reader to see if it works for you.  Then, read it like a writer to find out why it does…or doesn’t!  But, whatever you do…READ!

Yours In Writing,


Paying It Forward Wednesday – 10/16/13

Published October 16, 2013 by M E McMahon


It is with great pleasure that I shine a spotlight on one of the most wonderful sites I’ve found on WordPress.  This site has helped me out with numerous characters and plots for my short stories and I’ve leaned heavily on the expertise the authors of this site give in a easy to use format.

Yes, people, I’m talking about The Bookshelf Muse.  Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi are writers who met on the Internet and decided to create a site to help writers like us by providing tools that were sure to help make our stories Pop!  The first book I found by these authors, The Emotion Thesaurus,  is a writing resource that I downloaded to my Kindle and access over and over as I write.

To my delight, they have now released two additional books for writers who can’t seem to pin down their characters personalities or need a push to find the right characteristics for their heroes and villains.  The Positive Trait Thesaurus and The Negative Trait Thesaurus are now available and I have already downloaded these valuable writing tools.  I know I will use them as often as I use The Emotion Thesaurus.

Their site also has a sidebar, where you can click to get a mini lesson on describing the weather, giving your character some physical attributes or hints on describing colors and textures in an interesting way.  There seems to be no end to their generosity in sharing their research and expertise with new and emerging writers!

And, Breaking News!  They have created a new site, called “Writers Helping Writers” that offers a expanded library of tools for writers to access.  This new site is beautifully tailored to meet every writer’s needs.  Please drop by both sites and take a peek.  I found both of their books on Amazon and they were available in paperback and Kindle editions at a very reasonable price.  Buy now before others discover these gems and the price goes up! 🙂

So, Amanda and Becca, I thank you for your wonderful sites and for being there when this struggling writer was searching for the right words.  I’m a huge fan and I wish you both great success with your books and with both of your websites.

Thanks for being there for us!

Yours In Writing,


Show It With A Look

Published August 29, 2013 by M E McMahon


How many of you writers out there have heard the expression “Show…don’t tell”…most of you, I bet.  We writers often fall into the “She was angry…she was very happy…she was embarrassed” lines in which you try to tell what the characters feelings are at the time.

These sentences usually appear in my first draft of my story.  I then have to go back and start “Showing” what my character does when he/she is angry, happy or embarrassed. Because I have learned that letting my readers see what my character is feeling and the effect it has on them physically makes my character more real…more alive.

Sometimes, when I’m trying to write about the “look” my character has for a specific emotion, I need a little help.  Luckily, I found a great book titled “The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writers Guide to Character Expression” by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. This book is always by my side during the second or third draft of my story…when I’m trying to give my characters more life.

It’s laid out in a very easy to understand format and almost does the work for me. The authors have taken each emotion and broken it down into the definition, the physical signals, the internal sensations a character might have, mental responses and much more.  I have yet to find an emotion that isn’t covered in the book and I find it an invaluable resource when I’m trying to “Show” my character’s feelings.

I’m sure there are many excellent books out there that cover the same subject, but I haven’t had the need to look for them since The Emotion Thesaurus does the job so well for my characters.

So, if you are trying to “Show it with a look” I recommend you give The Emotion Thesaurus a try to make your readers see what your character is feeling. I found it on Amazon and I believe it was very, very cheap.

To me, it’s worth it’s weight in gold and I can’t imagine writing without it!

Yours in Writing,


Paying It Forward – 8/7/2013

Published August 7, 2013 by M E McMahon


First I have to apologize for posting this so late today.  I got caught up in a new story I’m writing and time just slipped away.  But, better late than never and I will reblog this tomorrow so more readers will see it.

This week’s post is dedicated to a group of people who I hold near and dear.  Being a child of the sixties, I only had to be invited once to join Bloggers For Peace before I jumped in with both feet.

This site has one purpose: to promote peace…whether it be in the world, in your neighborhood or in your family.  They ask members for one post a month with the theme “Peace” in the story.  I love being a part of this band of peaceniks and always enjoy reading the posts that they come up with.

Kozo Hattori’s blog site Everyday Gurus tracks the posts and it’s members and she does a fine job of it.  Her site is always a good place to get a warm hug when you need one.

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“We can make a difference right here, right now.”

Being a member of this lovable lot inspires me to think of posts aimed at spreading the love and sharing my hopes for peace with others.  If you want to join, just click on the badge above and Kozo gives you all the details you’ll need.

So, thanks, my fellow peaceniks for spreading the peace in a world that needs it so much!

Cooking Up A BlogRoll!

Published July 3, 2013 by M E McMahon


When I first started “Grandma Says” on WordPress, I dived in head first.  I followed the most excellent prompts that WordPress used to guide me along and get my blog up and rolling.  Easy Breezy!  I was off and running in no time.

Well, I’ve since discovered while creating this new blog site, that I have missed out on many of the great features that WordPress supplies to make our blogs Pop!  I’ve been guilty of the same thing that drives me nuts when Danny (my S.O.) assembles anything.  He pulls out the pieces, grabs a few tools, and starts to assemble while the instructions are still in the box.  When the attempt to assemble the piece proves frustrating, then, and only then, will he pull out the instructions and read them.

I wanted to create a way for my readers to find certain sites that have either helped me along on my journey to being a published author or provide them with a writers resource such as Prompt Challenges.  Trying to find the most effective way to do this, I discovered the BLOGROLL feature.  I took the time to finally read what a Blogroll could add to my site and to my delight, it was the answer to my prayers!

Blogrolls give you the ability to provide your readers with links to point your readers to your favorite sites, your Writer Resource Sites (Such as Daily Post or Prompt Challenges), or other links you find you want your readers to check out!

Now, I found a couple of great features you can use while you cook up the blogroll.  The first was that you are able to name your Blogroll anything you like, such as “Awesome Sites” or indicate the type of sites included in the list, such as “Prompt Sites.”

The second feature I loved, loved, loved was that you can have more than one Blogroll! So, I’m designing one for Writers Resource links that include publishers who are nuts enough to publish my work or sites that are aimed at helping new and emerging writers.  My next one is going to be sites that offer Prompt Challenges for those readers looking for an ideas when their muse has left the building.

I’m having a lot of fun cooking up my blogrolls and if you haven’t looked into this wonderful feature, check it out!

Yours in Writing,


Looking For Prompts!

Published July 2, 2013 by M E McMahon

daffyHi there!  Does your site sponsor Prompt Challenges?  If it does, I’m looking for you!

Hey, sometimes we all do it.  We stare at the blank screen and we freeze.  Our muse has left the building, stranding us and leaving us with absolutely no ideas to write about.

“We must have something to inspire us!” We cry out!  We are writers, poets, bloggers and shutterbugs that feel empty unless we are writing or snapping those inspirational pictures.  What can we do?

The Daily Post offers one or two writing Prompts a day to help motivate us to get out those written words or take that perfect picture.  But, sometimes, the prompt still leaves us empty…we don’t relate to it…we need more inspiration.  Where else can we look for that one sentence or idea that sparks our imagination and reignites the challenge of writing or photography.

I have found that there are bloggers out there, and perhaps you’re one of them, who are gracious enough to provide prompt challenges and I love them for it.  Those prompts have supplied the inspiration for some of my best stories and some of my most viewed posts on my personal site.   They are gold to me and I want to include these sites and a link to them on a new page I’m developing for this blog site.

If you have a site that does have daily, weekly, or any regular posting of Prompt Challenges…please let me know so I can put in the site and the link on the new page.  I will also reblog the posts with the Prompt Challenge from my personal site (over 600 followers and growing daily) so that your posts will get more views and responses to the challenge!

Just leave me a message in the comment section here and I’ll include your site.  Please be sure to give me the frequency the prompts are posted and if there is a deadline or if they are open response times.

You provide a valuable tool to us here on WordPress and I just want to spread the word about these Prompt Challenges.  So, let me know as soon as possible since I hope to have the Prompt Page up and running in the next week or so.

Yours In Writing,


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