Randy Landenberger: Writing Tips and Tools


Attention Sierra authors and aspiring writers.

One of the significant effects of the Internet is the availability of a large number of educational tools and materials. For writers, apps like Grammarly and ProWritingAid are a godsend for correcting spelling, style, and grammar. There are sites to help you outline, write great first chapters, nail your ending, and tips on finding an agent, how to self-publish, how to market, and turn your writing into a business.

All of this information can be overwhelming. I’m the author of a series of three novels, I’m currently working on a new psychological thriller, and I’m always looking to improve my craft. This year I came across a fantastic site with a treasure trove of tools to improve my storytelling and writing skills. I wish I had found that when composing my first series.

I’ve learned that you can have a great story, but if you don’t compose a sentence, a paragraph, or a chapter well, no one will enjoy reading it. You can describe characters and scenes like a pro, but if your story really isn’t told well enough to capture a reader’s interest…

The tool that I use the most in my writings is the thesaurus, especially when I have already used a word or a term several times already. I used to keep a paper thesaurus on my desk. It is now much more efficient to type a word into an online thesaurus and find a plethora of alternatives for adjectives, nouns and verbs.

I want more when I try to show a character’s actions, reactions and emotions. Fortunately, I found the sister websites: Writers Helping Writers (writerhelpingwriters.net) and One Stop for Writers (onestopforwriters.com). To be clear; I have no business or financial affiliation with them. They offer, among their writing advice, blogs and software tools to help writers build their novel, a series of targeted thesaurus. A common thesaurus will guide you in substituting a word like “happy” for; happy, joyful, exuberant or delighted.

“Show, don’t tell,” is a principle of good writing. Easier said than done for some of us. This is where the Writers Helping Writers website and their books come in to save the day.

The first targeted thesaurus that won me over is: “The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Expression”. Rather than saying; Joe felt happy when he heard the news. A writer “should” use body language to communicate Joe’s feelings of joy, for example: Joe took a deep breath. He smiled and threw his arms around his mother in a grateful embrace.

Or, rather than saying; Joe felt angry when he heard the news. A writer can say: Joe’s eyes have narrowed. He frowned and crossed his arms over his chest as he contemplated revenge.

“Writers Helping Writers” has 10 of these targeted thesauri covering the following topics: emotional wounds, rural and urban settings, positive and negative traits, and more. Last month, I had the opportunity to review their latest addition, which will be released on September 6: “The Conflict Thesaurus, Volume 2”.

Stories, chapters, even scenes don’t move, or interest readers if there’s no conflict, or the underlying hint of roadblocks or conflict. Consider a scene where Joe receives a bit of news from his mother – but it doesn’t change his thoughts or actions. He has lunch, goes to school, comes home and does his homework. This scene is rather boring.

Now consider that Joe is happy about an award he won – but it made him a classmate’s enemy. Or, Joe has to rush to school because he’s hanging around when his mom comments on his price. Now Joe has to take the shortcut to school, and he worries about the scary house he has to walk through with the disheveled old man still sitting on the porch. Now you have the reader’s interest.

In the few weeks I’ve had the Advanced Reader Copy (ARC), it’s already elevated my story keeping the tension going. The conflict keeps readers from turning the page. They need to know if there will be a resolution, or is it a series of obstacles to their object of desire?

These “Writers Helping Writers” thesauri are available in large paperback, e-book, and pdf versions. Usually I like to hold books in my hand. I love my library full of novels and resources. But when writing, I prefer the pdf version kept open with my word processor. The pdf is easy to search and reference.

Check out their free thesaurus sample pack, which will give you a few pages from each of their books.

Randy Landenberger lives in Grass Valley


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