I just came back from a writer’s conference. So if I’m a regular visitor to your blog and you’ve missed me this weekend, it’s because I’ve been in Nashville. If you ever get the chance to go to Killer Nashville, it’s worth every penny. I met with editors, agents, fellow writers, law enforcement officials, and mystery fans. Peter Straub was just one of  three guest speakers. The cost is reasonable, and it’s a midsized conference, so you will NOT get lost in the crowd.

That said, I’m exhausted, and not just physically. I just tried to sleep for an hour and got out of bed to type, because all of the voices and emotions of the weekend are roiling over me. I operate on the ‘hermit’ model of writing, so getting out to the big city like this is a bit like the moment when Dorothy walks out of her house in Oz and holy shit it’s all in COLOR. I have never understood why Judy Garland didn’t just lie down flat on the stage and stare at the ceiling. (Don’t answer that. I know perfectly well that they did all that in the editing room, and also, I want to note that when I was a kid, our first TV was this old black and white thing. So I saw the movie all in black and white. My Mom watched it every year, and she had this antique chamber pot upstairs because there was no toilet and when she was pregnant with my sister she didn’t always have enough time to get downstairs to the potty. Anyway, I was sitting on that thing getting ready to go pee the first year we had the color TV turned on, and when things went from B&W to vibrant color, I missed the pot because I forgot to take off the porcelain lid. I was THAT blown away.)

Anyway, I got excellent critique on two novels I’ve got going right now, and a publisher willing to look at both. (No, that does NOT mean that they have been accepted. It means they’ve been solicited. Which is fucking huge.)

I did pick up one thing that’s annoying me tonight, and so I’ll pass it along to you, my readers. I don’t think of myself as small-time. I consider myself a professional writer. SO when I realize I’m making an amateur mistake in something I consider polished, then I get bugged. In the publishing world, there are buzzwords, things you don’t put in your novel because they are out of favor with the publishing elite. I am aware of this .The list changes. It typically grows. Exclamation points, right now, are out of favor. (I happen to disagree with this one in particular- I think it’s just stupid to prejudice against a bit of punctuation which is perfectly appropriate to add emphasis to a statement, but I digress.) “He said” and “She said” go in and out. Some years, they are fine, others they are oh-so-wrong. This year, it seems to depend on who you talk to.

Anyway, this editor pointed out that I overuse a particular buzzword. The word ‘just’. And I went, “Holy shit she’s right, and that’s based on a two page sample.” So on the way home, I was editing my most polished novel (well, except for Divorce) which is 258 pages long.





instances of the word ‘just’.


That’s like massive overuse of a word, even if it’s not a buzzword. I left in I think five. (There were 268 total.)  And I’m so vexed that I didn’t SEE that, didn’t feel it when I was reading out loud.  I used that word more than an average of once per page. And I didn’t even fucking see it. Fucking annoys me. And I can’t sleep, because I overused a word. Which is outrageously dumb and not anything to stress out about at ALL, and yet here I am, flipping my wig when all my body wants is for me to curl up in a ball and conk out.

Here. I’ll overuse my favorite word to make myself feel better. Fuck. Fuck Fuck. Fuckity fuck fuck. Fuck fuckity fuck fuck fuck fuck.








About jesterqueen:
Jessie Powell is the Jester Queen. She likes to tell you about her dog, her kids, her fiction, and her blog, but not necessarily in that order.


Conferences — 30 Comments

  1. Oh Jessie—I hear you! (Note my appropriate use of the exclamation mark.) I sent a first chapter to a new critique partner, and she pointed out that I had used the word ‘small’ five times on a single page. She was polite enough to suggest where it may have been ‘deliberate repetition’, and recommended other words such as ‘tiny’ and ‘little’. You’re most ‘just’ified your ‘deliberate repetition’ of ‘fuck’ 😀

    I’m impressed that you’re so fastidious, but before you’re so hard on yourself, remember that professional writers have professional editors, and it’s their job to pick up our little dodgy habits like overuse of the word ‘just’ (or ‘small’).

    More importantly, congratulations on the progress with the novel manuscripts. That is huge—and from the quality of the writing I have read on your blog, well deserved.
    Hop over and visit Tamyka Bell’s recent post Before My TimeMy Profile

  2. Hey, that’s great news though! Not about the just, but about being solicited. That IS fucking huge! I’m jealous, openly so, about you attending. Feel free to share more. . .SHARE. . .SHARE. 🙂

    Also, I hate exclamations with a fucking vengeance. I think they cheapen writing. I think they instruct the reader in a way that should be left to the words themselves. That being said, I used two in the paragraph up above.

    Hop over and visit Seeking Elevation’s recent post I write about sharks a lot.My Profile

    • Thanks Lisa! I don’t think anybody minds them in blogs or comments. In fiction … I think they get overused. And when overused, that’s exactly the effect they have (kind of like ‘just’). But I’m fond of them used in moderation. They are as functional as question marks, and for me, to leave an exclamation mark off of an emphatic statement is as inappropriate as leaving off a question mark at the end of a sentence. The whole buzzword thing annoys me, but I do get it about the exclamation point thing.

    • You’re so sweet! And I do NOT criticize blog comment grammar. Madame Syntax has to shut the fuck up, because she would otherwise be a COMPLETE HYPOCRITE. And by COMPLETE HYPOCRITE, I mean that I sometimes type these RAMBLING monologues into people’s blog comments and then think “what an IDIOT I looked like”. So no worries.

  3. Jessie, you are among the most gifted writers I read, and I am over the moon for you that two of your works garnered interest at a conference like Killer Nashville. If you need an objective reader, I’d be happy to do it when the time comes.

    I’m headed to Colorado next week for a writing retreat. Twelve writers. Six industry professionals. Living in the same house for three days. Lucky for me, there will be an open bar……… I haven’t talked about it on my blog, but if you’re interested and I think it was worthwhile, I will be happy to send you information on it. (Just in case you need it — and I hope you will not! Maybe not an appropriate use of an exclamation point, but it was the only way I could find to underscore my serious hopes that your writing will find major publication.)
    Hop over and visit Andra Watkins’s recent post The Eye of the BeholderMy Profile

    • Thanks Andra,

      I would LOVE to do the Denver Writer’s retreat…. I waaant to say one of the publisher’s (Peter something from Kensington press) who was at Killer Nashville will be in Denver? I know what you mean about not bringing it up on the blog, too. It’s like jinxing yourself. Get those connections going. Foster friendships with those people, because even if one of them doesn’t take your novel (they should – from what I’ve seen, it’s got wings), they won’t be snobby, and if your name keeps blipping their radar, they are going to listen. And I’d love to trade objective readings – that would wrock!

  4. I’m attending my first ever writers conference in October. I’m excited and terrified. I kind of wish I had something worthy to bring but my novels are all either half finished or in such a mess organizationally there is no way I’m showing them to a pro.

    I do have a question session with a children’s book author because I do have a few children’s stories that are okay for publishing so who knows, maybe I’ll become the next Robert Munsch :p

    Congrats on the solicitation…damn, that makes it sound so dirty. Anyway, that is JUST awesome 😉
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    • Hurray for your first conference. Which one are you headed to? Do this for me. Take the pages. The grown up ones. The half finished fucked up ones. Show them to a pro. These people are not assholes. Blunt? Yes .But not jerks. They ALL remember being new, and all of them were new once. They don’t expect you to be perfect, and they will give you killer feedback. It won’t all be what you want to hear, but it will all help you.

        • Cobble. Do it. It’s worthwhile. Use it as impetus to get something done, and gather your courage into your throat and take it with you. You will be overwhelmed, fatigued, and completely shocked, but you will not be sorry.

  5. First visit to your blog. I just love it (exclamation point). Thanks for the writing tip. My novel, Fraidy Hole, has so many things wrong with it, I sometimes hate to claim it. The problem was, and maybe still is, that I didn’t have enough confidence in the story to hire a professional editor. Big mistake. The Writer’s Conference sounds interesting but I’m not on that level yet. Keep those blogs coming.

    • Thanks for visiting! You don’t have to go to a conference where you meet with editors and agents, though I would say that doing so just for the networking experience is wonderful even if you’re scared to death. (I was. Oh GOD I was. I broke down in tears before my very last meeting because I was so stressed out, and I was sitting in the middle of this woman’s panel, and it was humiliating, and then it was OK, because I’d done it, and it was over, and it was one of the most worthwhile experiences of my life.) Anyway, there are lots of levels even at conferences where you have the opportunity to meet other pros. Often, there are craft workshops (not like arts-and but writing-craft) where you can develop your ideas without holding yourself out there. You’ll be shocked to find how many others are exactly on your level. I’d encourage you to take your courage in hand and do it if at all possible.

  6. Yeah! for you – exclamation point and all. It fits here. Besides that, I’m impressed you’re working on two novels at once. Thanks for the word tip and for sharing your experience.

  7. Well. Isn’t that JUST fuckin’ peachy? I love the exclamation point! And shudder when a word is overused. Right now my utter shudder word is “had”. I want to scream when writers use it 2-3 times in one single sentence.
    Hop over and visit Marie’s recent post Ladies NightMy Profile

  8. First, I’m so glad that publisher wants to look at your novels. Great news!

    And now, my love/hate for the word “just” — I’ve been trying to get words down lately without quite so much immediate editing on that first pass. But I’ve noticed for a while now how much I use ‘just.’ A few months ago, I began to crack down on it and only keep it in conversation and places where I think I need it as a modifier to clarify an amount or degree. I’d hate to be judged solely on that word, though. This whole writing thing just gets harder and harder, doesn’t it?

  9. I always thought that fuck meant Forced Unlawful Carnal Knowledge…. Big Grin. I’m glad that you found a good sounding board.
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    • Close — it’s “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge”. It was one of those things like the rosy A that the pilgrims liked to brand you with if you got caught with your pants down.

  10. And now I’m going to die of envy because I haven’t the resources to attend these things. Denver or Nashville might well be the Moon for all I can get there in the current trajectory.

    I love when I find the word that’s overused. Cleaning it out has the same satisfaction/pain ratio as picking a scab.

    Or not. I don’t know. I do love cleaning house, so to speak.

    Hands and eyes. They are my just and fuck. Wait, what?
    Good luck with the solicited stuff. So excited for you.
    Hop over and visit Cameron’s recent post One Cake to Rule Them AllMy Profile

    • It’s so frustrating when you’re stuck like that. Keep an eye on the east coast conferences, though. Some of them offer scholarships and you might could squeeze in that way!

  11. Congrats on the solicitation! (Heh.)

    I used to be terrible about “quite” and “rather,” both of which are COMPLETELY useless words. I still have to go through and look for them now.
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