Is Just Justified in Writing?

The little word just often gets a bad rap. Writers are warned to get rid of it. Like any overused word, writers need to manage the frequency of just in manuscripts. It tends to get used frequently. Let’s take a closer look at the uses of just.

Definitions of Just (The Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

1. exactly; very recently; barely; directly; only; quite; possibly

Very recently: Danny’s still warm coffee mug proved he’d just left the house.

Without just the meaning would drastically change. If I’d written, Danny’s still warm coffee mug proved he’d very recently left the house, I’d be dinged for using very. But recently is too vague; it could represent minutes to hours ago. Why not replace the two words with one – just.

Barely: When the car careened toward him, it just missed hitting his right bumper.

Taking just out changes the meaning. Then, we wouldn’t know how close he came to being part of a car accident. His car could have been missed by an inch or twelve feet. Just is vague, but it puts the space closer to the inch.

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Directly: “Honey, look just right of the tree trunk on that tiny branch and you’ll see the owl.”

Again just is vague, but it’s less wordy than: very close to the left of the tree trunk …

2. reasonable; correct or proper; morally or legally right; deserved or merited

His partner could argue all he wanted, but helping the victim was a just cause.

I think uses of just under these second definitions are … justified. Using synonyms, such as upright, honorable, conscientious, and honest will help if just becomes overused.

When Just Becomes a Weasel Word

When you enter the hunt to kill occurrences of just, start with cases similar to the examples below. They supply no benefit, unless the character would use the word in dialogue. Like weasels suck the egg from egg shells, just in the examples steals the power of the words adjacent to them.

I just hated going to crowded theaters.

He always just had to have his way.

Couldn’t he just see that I was sorry?

“There’s just no reason you should go.”

Careful. Don’t blindly remove the “just” occurrences from your manuscripts.  Click to tweet.

What do you consider before removing words like just?

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How Do Readers Find Books They Want to Read? – Survey Results

 

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Authors, where will you spend your time and resources to reach readers?

The chart below shows the results from my survey, How Do Readers Find Books They Want to Read? The analysis below gives you methods represented by the bars and the percent of forty-three participants who chose the methods.

I don’t claim the results to be statistically sound but the patterns are interesting. They may give authors some thoughts about where they want to put their time and money in promoting their books.

 

 

Analysis

 

1. What readers participating DON’T do.

         –  2. Attend book fairs (0%)

         – 11. Click on Facebook ads (0%)

         – 12. Click on Twitter ads (0%)

         – 13. Click on Goodreads ads (0%)

         – 25. Subscribe to blogs that review books (0%)

We know people do use these, but not these forty-three participants. My personal experience from an author’s perspective agrees with these results.

2. The two most popular methods readers use are the old staples.

         –  4. Act on word of mouth (56%)

         – 22. Look for books by their favorite authors (58%)

Probably, nobody is surprised. So, we authors probably should put more of our time and resources into becoming better writers and writing more great stories in well-edited books. Create the buzz.

3. Readers still like to peruse bookstores – brick and mortar and online.

         –  1. Peruse bookstores (26%)

 – 15. Peruse reviews & star ratings on online bookstore sites (Amazon,   CBD, B&N) (26%)

4. What some participants do may be the up and coming.

         – 8. Read mainly series and get the next book in the series (16%)

         – 9. Click on “Customers who bought this book, also bought …” (Amazon) (19%)

         – 18. Belong to book sites that report deals in your genre (BookBub, Libroso, Inspired Reads, BookGorilla) (19%)

Writing series and getting our books on sites where readers subscribe may be time well spent

5. The rest of the story.

         –  3. Find recommendations in newspapers or other publications (16%*)

         –  5. Investigate books announced through emails from authors about new books, or deals on old ones (9%)

         –  7. Investigate books mentioned in authors’ sidebars on their blogs or websites (9%)

         – 14. Look at reviews and recommendations on Goodreads (9%)

         – 24. Investigate books promoted on Facebook (9%)

         – 10. Click on “Sponsored products related to this item …” (Amazon ads) (5%)

         – 21. Look for books on certain publishers’ sites (5%)

         – 16. Attended Facebook parties to receive free giveaways (5%)

         –  6. Subscribe and use suggestions from authors’ newsletters (2%)

         – 17. Comment on blogs with giveaways to receive free books (2%)

         – 19. Belong to KindleUnlimited or a similar program (2%)

         – 20. Go to Online Libraries (2%)

         – 23. Investigate books promoted on Twitter (2%)

         – 26. Belong to a site where I choose free books to review (Authors Cross-Promotion) (2%)

         – 27. Purchase box sets looking for new authors (2%)

*Some of these participants said they only read nonfiction.

Two results surprised me. I expected more participants to belong to KindleUnlimited and fewer to peruse bookstores.

Again, the survey only shows patterns among forty-three participants that I polled through blog comments, Facebook, Twitter, and emails.

Survey results: how readers find books they want to read.  Click to tweet.

What did or didn’t surprise you from the above patterns?

COOKING UP KISSES  – the $0.99 deal for all five books ends July 18.

Five scrumptious e-book romance novellas, all for $0.99 or free on KindleUnlimited. Here’s the link.  Here are the blurbs:

 

 

 

5 Tips for Including Humor in Your Story

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You want to write humor into your story, but it’s funny only in your head. Keep trying, because all genres benefit from some humor.

Sometimes humor isn’t well done and poor reviews are valid. But other times, the problem is some readers don’t have funny bones. Ignore their reviews. However, we must continue to hone our humor. I’ll share what I’ve observed.

Humor: What Works and What Drags

1. Every moment doesn’t have to be funny. While reading my favorite humorous author aloud to my husband, I noticed the funny character was beginning to repeat the same types of humorous actions, dialogue, and internal thoughts. I no longer found them as funny as I did at first. I stopped experiencing the element of surprise. Her techniques are good, but she overused them in the first half of the book to the harm of the second half.

2. Forced humor never works well. If the humor is too much like slapstick, fewer readers will like it. If you’re determined to make a situation funny, it probably won’t be.

3. Try subtle humor. Subtle humor goes a long way for many readers. For example, take an introverted hero overburdened with responsibilities. Use small actions that he does while alone that produce smiles and are endearing. He’s determined to meet his obligations. What he says and does in public aren’t strange to him but are to the heroine and others. Then occasionally, he unwittingly becomes the straight man for a family member to exhibit her dry humor.

image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images

4. Keep humorous activities original with all the elements of a serious scene. The humorous scenes should have conflict and engaging dialogue. For example, in my novel, Gift of the Magpie, Amanda’s fingers and toes become almost frostbitten while she and Cam build an igloo. He makes her come to his house where he searches the Internet on his phone for how to thaw appendages. To Amanda’s chagrin, the exercises require large leg-swinging and arm-revolving exercises to force blood to her fingers and toes. She demands to see his phone to make sure he’s not having her perform unnecessary, embarrassing motions. Her running commentary on the exercises not working and her preference to put her frozen feet and hands on Cam’s bare back and sides flips the situation to Cam’s discomfort and his voiced opinions.

5. Banter must be lively but not inane. Go for clever remarks and zingers. Don’t do this:

Brad pinched Gilda’s arm. “Behave.

“Ouch, that hurts.” She rubbed her arm.

“I meant it to.”

“Maybe I’ll pinch you.”

“Better not.”

Here’s banter from my Book Calculated Risk, after Cisney has shown actuary Nick how far up the tub of popcorn he should stop eating and give the bucket to her. We start with Nick’s comment.

“The movie hasn’t started yet, you don’t have to whisper.”

“In movies, my family never talked above a whisper, if at all, or Daddy wouldn’t bring us again for a long time.” Her beautiful eyes widened. “You don’t talk during the movie, do you?”

“No.” He held up the popcorn container, glad they agreed on one thing. “You do know the bucket is somewhat cone-shaped and half the popcorn is about here.” He moved his finger up the bucket from where she’d drawn her line.

“Shame on you, Risk Man. You didn’t take into consideration that they were chintzy on popcorn. The kernels reach a half-inch short of the top. And you didn’t take into account that I’m smaller than you and don’t eat as much.”

He chuckled. Risk Man?

She put her finger to her puckered lips. “Shh.”

Humor in novels – what works and what drags. Click to tweet.

What tip can you add in writing humor?

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Amanda Larrowe’s lack of trust sabotages her relationships. The English teacher and award-winning author of middle-grade adventure books for boys has shut off communication with friends and family to meet her January 2 book deadline. Now, in the deepest snow accumulation Richmond, Virginia has experienced in years, Camden Lancaster moves in across the street. After ten years, her heart still smarts from the humiliating aftermath of their perfect high school Valentine’s Day date. He may have transformed into a handsome, amiable man, but his likeability doesn’t instill trust in Amanda’s heart. When Cam doesn’t recognize her on their first two encounters, she thinks it’s safe to be his fair-weather neighbor. Boy is she wrong.