Friday, July 31, 2015

Appearing in issue 30, July 27, 2015

Title:  Ball and Chain

By Author:  John M. Floyd

Tag line:    Joyce Cole said she was telling nothing but the truth about her ex-husband.  Angela Potts wasn’t so sure…

Police characters:   Sheriff Jones, amateur sleuth Angela Potts

The gist:    Angela’s cousin, Joyce Cole, according to Angela, is a compulsive liar and she hates Benny, her ex-husband. (1) This story starts with about two columns of Sheriff Jones going to get Angela, where’s she fishing, to come with him because the victim of a crime (Cole)  would only let Angela interview her.  Twenty minutes later in Cole’s living room, Cole was glaring at Angela.  (Don’t know why, because she asked for Angela.) Cole tells them that her ex-husband, who is out on parole, entered her house last night while she was asleep and stole $1000 out of her cookie jar. She said she locked the house up tight last night, latching every window, locking and chaining every door, put the garage door down, and then she went and checked everything twice. She said she keeps a key under a loose brick on the patio that her ex knew about. She said, “This will send him back to jail, right?  And it has nothing to do with the fact that he left me.”  (2)  Cole pointed to a wire stripper tool lying on the carpet, saying her ex must have dropped it.  Angela tells the sheriff he better check it for prints.  When she said that Cole’s eyes got wide and she said, “He’s an electrician of course it’s his, and it’s too small for prints, right?” (3)  When Jessica Fletcher … oh sorry, I meant Angela Potts said the tool looked new and yes there would be prints on it (by the way where’s the sheriff?  Playing games on his iPhone?)  Cole said “There won’t be any prints because he was wearing gloves.”  (4)  When Angela said she thought Cole told her she was sleeping, Cole’s face went pale and she started sweating. (5)   Angela accused Cole of lying and trying to frame her ex-husband.  Cole broke down crying and admitted her act.

Now, here’s the best part.  Crackhead Sheriff Jones asked Angela, “How’d you know?”   How did she know?  HOW DID SHE KNOW?!   (My head just exploded.  Give me a moment to go get a paper towel to clean up the mess.)

Crime scene:   The real crime is that somehow Sheriff Jones not only made it through the police academy, but got a JOB in law enforcement.

Clues:    See the BIG 5 above.  Plus the fact that the door was chained from the inside so even a key wouldn't get him in.

Suspects:   I think Sheriff Jones is sleeping with the victim.  Hey, it’s just as dumb as everything else in this story.

Red herrings:    The red herring is the fact that Jones is a cop.

Solution:   Duh.

My two cents:   The sheriff gets Angela to interview the victim.  WTF.  Angela tells the sheriff he better check the tool for prints.  I guess they didn’t teach him that at the academy.  Good thing she was there. 

Clue:   Yes, there was sure a bunch. Very blatant. Talk about spelling it out.

Motive:  Yeah, she had one.  Hate is a motive.

Police Work:  Don’t get me started.

Writing:  Overdone.  The ‘victim’ went pale, started sweating, questioned the fact that fingerprints could be gotten off the tool… ad nauseum. She might as well have been wearing a sign that said “I did it”.

Characters:  Getting dumber with each story.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Sell Yourself Short. Option #5 - Let's talk kids...

Magazine name: CICADA
Country:  USA
Publishing details: 6 issues in 12 months.
Circulation:  10,000
Types of stories wanted:   CICADA is a YA lit/comics magazine fascinated with the lyric and strange and committed to work that speaks to teens' truths. They publish poetry, realistic and genre fiction, essay, and comics by adults and teens. (They are also inordinately fond of Viking jokes.) Their readers are smart and curious; submissions are invited but not required to engage young adult themes. The magazine is aimed at ages 14+.
They offer high-quality fiction (and poetry) dealing with the issues of growing up, leaving the joys and pains of childhood behind, and becoming an adult. It is filled with enough different ideas, styles, and subjects to please any intelligent reader.
Fiction. Realism, SF/fantasy, historical fiction.
They are currently calling for submissions on the theme of “Witches.”  The deadline is September 9th, 2015.
According to their website: “Cicada is looking for poetry, fic, nonfic, satire, and comics on WITCHES. We’re on the lookout for folk and fairy tale retellings, investigations of the witch in history, works on the everyday spell craft of fashion, beauty, makeup, and the domestic (the hearth, the cauldron, the kitchen) as well as the spell cast by the arts. Also of interest: the witch in nature: the garden, the dark wood, the night. Feminist and above all intersectionally feminist, works: especially welcome!”
Page length and payment: 
They pay well, up to $0.25 per word of prose. They accept fiction pieces up to 9,000 words. (Prefers up to 5,000 words.) That means the cap on payments is $2,250, though the payment rate does seem to vary. Most writers should not expect to get paid at the top end of the pay range. With most publications, new contributors usually start at the low end of the pay range, which was not articulated.
What I like:  They’re run by the established Cricket Magazine group, Carus Publishing. They’re a great publication that any YA writer should be proud to be published by. Cricket Magazine Group will consider all manuscripts sent on speculation.
What I don’t like:  Cicada does not distribute theme lists for upcoming issues, so you can’t get prepared.
Submission guidelines: Before submitting, be sure to familiarize yourself with the magazine. Check out issue excerpts at You can purchase additional sample issues online, by emailing, or by calling 1-800-821-0115. Issues are also available at many local libraries.
  • Please submit a complete manuscript. We do not accept queries.
  • Fiction and nonfiction manuscripts should include an exact word count; poetry manuscripts should include an exact line count.
  • Include full contact information: phone, email, and mailing address.
  • Manuscript should be submitted as a .doc, .docx, .txt., or .rtf file.
    Response time: Please allow up to 3-6 months response time.
    How to submit:  The only place we accept online submissions is  No other forms of emails or attachments or regular mail will be accepted.
    More info:       The Manuscript Review Process
  • After they are received, manuscripts are reviewed by first readers. First readers consider each submission’s literary potential and whether it might be a good fit for one of our magazines.
  • Promising submissions are then carefully reviewed by at least three editors: an assistant editor, the magazine’s editor, and the editor-in-chief.
  • The editor-in-chief, in conversation with the magazine’s editor, makes a final decision on whether to reject or accept the manuscript. For manuscripts that show some promise but need further development, the editor may write the author to request revisions on speculation.
After Acceptance
  • If we accept your manuscript, we will send you an acceptance letter detailing payment and rights information and any revisions we would like you to make.
  • Once we’ve received your revisions, we carefully line edit the manuscript. The manuscript is then returned for your review. We work closely with our writers to bring out the best in each story, essay, and poem.
  • Once the manuscript is edited, it will be kept on file until it is assigned to an issue. Because we work 6-8 months ahead of each issue, it can be a year or more before a manuscript is placed.
  • Stories and poems previously unpublished: Rights vary.
  • Stories and poems previously published: CICADA purchases second publication rights. Fees vary, but are generally less than fees for first publication rights.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Appearing in issue #29, June 20, 2015

Title:  Photo finish

By Author:  Wendy Hobday Haugh


Tag line:    As the sheriff examined the scene of the crime, she realized the break-in was a pretty bungled affair!

Police characters:   This story never reveals the names of the cops.  Is that a bad thing?  I don’t know.  It didn’t seem to hurt the story.  But on the other hand the reader has no one to fall in love with and want to see again.

The gist:    The victim was a 70-year-old woman who lived in a tidy cottage.  When she returned from grocery shopping she discovered her back door wide open and several items missing; TV, digital camera, CD player, and an heirloom silver teapot.  The teapot had sat atop of a chest full of antique sterling silver, yet only the pot was taken.

The sheriff noticed the jimmied back door and stoop littered with splinters.  She thought to herself that breaking a window would have been quicker.

The victim told the sheriff that she had a habit of going shopping Wednesday mornings by 10:30 the latest and she usually took about 90 minutes, being home by noon.  She said her friends, neighbors, cashiers, and relatives would know her routine.  The sheriff had her deputy call to see if any grocery store employee was out that morning.  Then she followed the victim around to see where items had been stolen from.  Everything was on the first floor.  The jewelry on the second floor was untouched.

The sheriff became suspicious by the clumsy yet perfectly timed break-in, the fact that the robber didn’t go upstairs, and the odd choice of loot (low tech stuff) yet the computer and jewelry and silver weren’t touched. Anyone who knew the victim knew she lived modestly and there wasn’t much there to steal.  The sheriff also wondered if the odd assortment of loot was designed to hide one particular stolen item. 

The victim had recently been to a family reunion. She said she was glad she had downloaded all the photos from her new camera onto her computer.  The sheriff asked to have a look.  When they looked through the photos they found a shot of the victim’s nephew in the arms of another woman… his brother’s wife.

Crime scene:   The victim’s cottage.

Clues:    There were none.  This was all spelled out for you.

Suspects:   The cheating guy.

Red herrings:    Gawd, I wish there were a few.

Solution:   The solution was a column long and went on and on about how the cheating guy was going to just take the memory card but he didn’t want the theft to be pointed at the family in the reunion, and yada-yada-yada.  He broke in and took a couple of things to hide the fact that he really wanted the camera.  He didn’t know she had downloaded it already.

My two cents:   So where’s the mystery?  This was a good story, but it was also an odd little ditty.  There’s nothing to solve in this solve-it-yourself mystery. This is more of a piece you’d find in an Alfred Hitchcock or an Ellery Queen magazine.

We never heard back from the deputy if there were any missing employees in the grocery store that morning.  Might as well just throw away the words used for that part.  They were useless.

“Anyone who knew the victim knew she lived modestly and there wasn’t much there to steal.” I’m going to disagree with that thought process.  A bag of crack is only $10.  A crackhead only wants to smash and grab and get his fix.  Doesn’t matter how modest someone lives… she had a TV and a camera for him to pawn or sell fast. 

The title and the tag line fit well and didn’t give anything away.   WW seems to LOVE silver teapots.  Anyone else notice that?

Clue:  There was none.  Can’t give a star for ‘clue’ when there is none.

Motive:  A cheating husband. 

Police Work:  No problems or errors in the police work. 

Writing:  The author had the sheriff thinking to herself.  That’s not something we see too often.  I kind of liked it. And the author didn’t make the police out to be bumbling idiots.  They came in, looked around, and asked the right questions.  Although I do differ on the definition of ‘jimmied’.  This guy forced the lock by prying it open and splintering the door frame.  When you jimmy a lock you stick something into the tumblers, like a pick, and try to manipulate it and you don’t damage the wood.  But … whatever.  The term is used loosely.  Potato/potahto.

Characters:  They seemed genuine.

I’m going to go with 3 stars but this submission doesn’t fit the mold.  I wonder if WW is breaking new ground here with this story. I’ve never heard of WW accepting a story what had no clue; that just flat-out told you who did it before the solution. I’m scratching my head this week.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Write yourself short. Option #4.

Magazine name: Tin House


Country:  USA

Publishing details: Four times per year: the first week of December, March, June, and September.

Circulation:  Greater than 10,000

Types of stories wanted:  They accept unsolicited submissions September 1 through May 31, and, as always, their summer and winter issues are not themed.  They consider each submission for all upcoming issues regardless of theme. If you wish to be considered for a particular theme, please make a note in your cover letter.  See the website for their themes, and suggested deadlines for each theme issue.  Be aware that these fill up fast, so get your theme-issue submissions in as soon as possible.

Page length and payment: Short story: 1000 – 7500.  Stories/essays: up 10,000-word limit.  Over 10K will not be read. $200.00 minimum for fiction.  Pay can be up to $800 for fiction.
What I like: 

Number of Debut Authors per Issue: 2-3

Tin House is a haven for authors at the peak of their powers and also a jumping-off point for unpublished writers and anyone taking risks, pushing form and language. They are a magazine not identified with any one region but international, drawing writers and contributing editors from all over the globe. Each issue seeks to be tantamount to an invitation to the greatest literary house party ever. 

From editor: Rob Spillman

 Do you encourage general submissions at all?

“Absolutely. Every single issue I publish a poet and fiction writer who has not been published before. We're actively looking for unpublished people. It's a thrill to be able to call someone up and say 'I'd love to publish your story' and be able to root for them throughout their career. It requires a fair amount of labor to commit to that but we're absolutely dedicated to it.”
 How many manuscripts do you get on average per edition?

“Between 1500 and 2000 a month, so per issue between 4500-6000. “

 Who reads my submissions?

“We have a volunteer crew of about twenty-five readers. All of our readers have an extensive background in the literary arts and most have advanced degrees in English or writing or both. They are put through a grueling gauntlet before being offered a position. Submissions are also read by our editorial interns, who hold an equally competitive position and are extensively vetted. Finally, most of the magazine’s editorial staff read submissions on an ongoing basis, as well.”

 Whom do you see as your typical reader?

“A mix of students, writers and the publishing industry. Other book publishers and agents all read it. We're increasingly adopted by MFA classes.”

 What I don’t like:  Can’t think of anything.

 Submission guidelines: 

They accept simultaneous submissions.  In the event that the work is accepted for publication elsewhere, please do them the courtesy of informing them promptly.
Only previously unpublished works will be considered for publication.

Wait 90 days before e-mailing to check the status of your submission.

Response time: They say they try their best to respond within six months but, in some cases, this period may be longer. If you have not received a response from them within six months, they be happy to receive e-mail inquiries and will do their best to respond.

 How to submit:  Submit here:

 They prefer electronic submissions, but submissions can be mailed to: Tin House, PO Box 10500, Portland, OR 97210. Please enclose an SASE (include an IRC with international submissions), or they cannot guarantee a response or the return of your work. Typed manuscripts should be double-spaced on

8 1/2 x 11 inch white paper, one side only. Submission must contain your name, address, e-mail address, and a telephone number where you can be reached.  They ask that you please wait until you hear back from before submitting new work for consideration.

More info:   Tin House began in May 1999.  The main office is in northwest Portland, Oregon. The magazine is actually named after the office building in Portland, which is an old Victorian with corrugated zinc siding and is known in the neighborhood as “the tin house.” The East Coast office is in Brooklyn.  Tin House is consistently honored by major American literary awards and anthologies, particularly for its fiction.

 Notes:  Questions not addressed on this page may be directed to

 Curious to see what else is going on at Tin House? Find out by visiting them at their blog, The Open Bar.   They also have a Facebook page.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Appearing in issue #28, July 13, 2015

Title:  The stick-up

By Author:  Aimee Deschaine

MINUS 5 STARS. What was WW thinking?

Tag line:  When the reporter Cora Willoughby heard about the bank robbery in town, she got right to work!

Police characters:   Officer Mason.  Officer Francisco.
The gist:  Getting a tip that the bank was being robbed, reporter Cora ran over to the scene and started talking to the employees and customers.  (I almost cannot go on… this is so absurd.)  Customer 1 said: one robber took Todd, the security guard, and hauled him in back.  She figures Todd was locked away. Then the back door opens and they let in another bad guy. 

Bethany, a teller, said the alarm didn’t work when she pushed it.
Another customer said there were three of them, all wearing jumpsuits, gloves, and full rubber masks. He couldn’t see any skin color.

The bad guys robbed the bank and the customers.
Annie, a customer, said she walked in on the robbery and that there were five customers, three robbers, and one teller.  (And a partridge in a pear tree.)  She said that they stole her diamond bracelet she had borrowed from her aunt and she pleaded with him (she said his voice was male) to not take it, but he did anyway.  She didn’t see the bank manager or Todd the security guy.  Bethany told her, and anyone else that was within hearing, that the manager wasn’t there because he leaves at 11:30 for lunch, and Todd was being held in the back.  WAY TO SCREW UP TESTIMONY THAT NOW CAN’T BE USED IN COURT.  DUH.

Cora saw the police come from the back with Todd, the security guy.  The officer nodded at Cora.  THE POLICE WERE THERE!  IN THE BACK.  NO COPS OUT FRONT MAKING SURE NOBODY LEFT OR CAME IN.  ARRRRRRGGGGHHH.  (I’m starting to yell, aren’t I?)
This dumbass cop talks to another dumbass cop and tells him, in front of God and everyone, that Todd was in the back bound by his own handcuffs.  He said he interviewed him back there where it was a little less hectic.  (My right eye is starting to twitch.)  IT’S LESS HECTIC BECAUSE YOU DIDN’T SECURE THE *&^%^ SCENE!  (Now look what you made me do.   L  An exclamation point.  Tsk-tsk.)

The bank manager rushes back from lunch.   Chaos breaks out as everyone starts talking.  (Banging my head on the keyboard now.)
Annie, the lady who got her diamond bracelet snatched, asks if she could leave now. They let her go. Before she left, she touched Todd on the arm and said, “I’m really glad you weren’t hurt, Todd.”  Todd smiled back at her and said, “Yes, you should go, your aunt is going to be worried.” Cora tells Todd to give up the names of his two accomplices.  (Well, it should be three.  Let’s not forget Annie, the piece of crap that she is, who stole from her elderly aunt.  Which, by the way, will get her and Todd an enhanced sentence.)

Gawd, I’m glad that’s over.  (Going to get some aspirin now.  Be right back.)
Crime scene:    The real crime scene is the solve-it-yourself mystery in this issue.

Clues:    Todd knew Annie’s aunt might be worried.  How would he know that if he wasn’t out front when the robbery took place? 
That was the big clue, folks. 

He was in the back when she talked to EVERYONE.  Of course, EVERYONE was talking, excited and probably loudly, and he could have heard that from any single person in that room because the police let them all get together and kibitz.   Also once he got back in the front, according to the story, chaos broke out again as everyone started talking.  Another chance to hear her story. 
Suspects:  I think the author did it.

Red herrings:  I guess having the Keystone Cops on scene could have been a red herring. Maybe the cops did it.  It would have been more interesting than this drivel.
Solution:  The solution was one column long.  A long, boring ramble about deactivating the alarm, pretending to struggle with the robber, him then putting on a jumpsuit so people would think the one bad guy let in another bad guy but it was really Todd.  Then he went in the back and undressed and redressed and they put handcuffs on him.  (Are you asleep yet?)

My two cents:  Well, thank goodness we have reporters like Cora to handle situations like bank robberies.  That frees up the police for other more important crimes.  There’s not one, NOT ONE, statement that could be used in court.  This is a defense attorney’s wet dream.
First of all if the bank just got robbed, there’s no way a civilian, even a reporter, can just enter and hang around and talk to people.  The cops show up fast, within minutes, and separate everyone.  People can’t be allowed to hang around swapping stories.  Cora’s lucky she didn’t get arrested for obstruction. 

Why did Todd have to pretend to be a robber?  Isn’t two robbers enough?  He could have sat in the back handcuffed while the other two guys grabbed the loot.  But, of course, that was his downfall, as, according to this ridiculous story he was out front “robbing” Annie while she “pleaded” with him to not take her aunt’s bracelet.  I guess a whole vault full of money wasn’t enough.  They had to take everyone’s money and jewelry too.  Morons.
Clue:  That was the weakest clue I’ve ever seen.  And it’s sad but true that it would have worked if the cops had separated everyone.  Also, it’s the kind of clue where only the bad guy knows a detail.  Yawn. How original.

Motive:  Who cares? 
Police Work:   Pretty much the worst I’ve ever seen.

Writing :  Don’t get me started.  How much aspirin do you want me to take, anyway?
Characters:  I’m speechless.  And that doesn’t happen often. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Sell yourself short. Option #3.

Name:   Modern Love.  
A weekly column in the Sunday Styles Section of the New York Times.

A series of weekly reader-submitted essays that explore the joys and tribulations of love.

Country:  USA

Publishing details: The New York Times (NYT) is an American daily newspaper, founded and continuously published in New York City since September 18, 1851, by the New York Times Company. It has won 117 Pulitzer Prizes, more than any other news organization.  Their slogan is “All the news that’s fit to print.”  The Modern Love column has been in existence since 2004.

Circulation:  The NYT Sunday circulation is 2.3 million, print and online, and Modern Love has more than 100K followers on its Facebook page. 

Types of stories wanted:   The editors of Modern Love are interested in receiving deeply personal essays about contemporary relationships, marriage, dating, parenthood ... any subject that might reasonably fit under the heading “Modern Love.” Ideally, essays should spring from some central dilemma the writer has faced in his or her life. It helps if the situation has a contemporary edge, though this is not essential. Most important is that the writing be emotionally honest and the story be freshly and compellingly told.  

The best way to see the range of styles and subjects they’d like to publish is to go to Modern Love page.

They are five times more likely to publish women than men—not because they’d rather publish women but because they receive five times more submissions from women.

 Page length and payment:  1500-1700 words. The Modern Love column runs in the paper at pretty close to 1500 words but about 1700 words is a good ballpark because they like to have the option to trim out material they feel isn't as strong or relevant.

 Modern Love pays its authors $300.  (I did see one site that said $500 but the February Writer’s Digest lists the figure as $300.)

What I like:  Editor Daniel Jones is one of the few editors in the country who explicitly doesn’t want famous writers.  He’s been compared to Carrie Bradshaw on Sex and the City as he compiles some of these stories into books. 

Writing credits don't matter.  Mr. Jones says he pays little attention to someone's writing background when he reads an essay. Don't feel like you are being pre-judged if you submit without writing credits. A perfectly suitable cover note will say nothing more than: "I wrote this essay with your column in mind. I hope you enjoy it." So don't worry about credits or lengthy cover notes. If your essay is rejected, it's not because you didn't have a connection or credits. If your essay is accepted, it's not because you have a book coming out. It's because you wrote an essay that made him stop drinking his coffee.

Modern Love receives about 100 viable essays a week (meaning essays that are reasonably well written and targeted to the column). Which means, of course, that the odds of getting chosen are roughly 1 in a 100.  Of roughly 100 submissions, one will get published, about 10 will be seriously considered and reread, another 30-40 will be interesting enough to read to the end, and another 30-40 will get partial reads.

Some of the essays that don't find a place in Modern Love used to get published at a quirky site called Modern Love Rejects. The site is no longer running but you can see the archives and read the rejected stories at*/

There is also a Facebook page for these rejects that has some interesting info about other places to submit to.

More than 40 book deals have resulted from writers appearing in Modern Love.

What I don’t like:  Can’t find a thing.

Submission guidelines:

-Please attach your essay as an MS-Word compatible doc AND paste the text into the body of the e-mail.
-Send ONE e-mail with all elements of your submission, not multiple e-mails with various pieces and/or versions.

-No pseudonyms (including the author), composite characters, or invented situations may be used.

-Essays must be previously unpublished. Work that has appeared online, on blogs, etc., is considered to be previously published.

 -The story at least should be set in relatively recent times, even if it might occasionally reach into the past for back story and context.

For the basics of how to submit and for the archive of columns, visit the Modern Love index page at:

Response time: They attempt to respond to every submission within four weeks, though response times may vary due to the volume of submissions.

As per Mr. Jones:  “We will notify you if you have a sale. And that's just the beginning. We will speak on the phone. You will answer all manner of questions, both editorial and personal. You will sign a contract. You will participate in an editorial exchange that might be easy or difficult and can involve two drafts or five drafts or seven (or more). Most of this process will involve cutting and clarifying, but sometimes it also will involve asking you to add new material. If I have fallen behind schedule, your piece might appear in two or three weeks. More typically, though, it will run in four to six weeks. Just before it runs your essay will get another going-over by a copy editor and the copy chief. They might also have questions for you, either by phone or email. In the end, you will have dealt directly with at least two editors and the essay will have been subjected to the editorial eye of at least four.”

How to submit: Send submissions to:

More info:   For submission tips and regular commentary from the column editor, follow Modern Love on Facebook.   


Tips from Daniel Jones.

There are several tip-offs to me that an essay might be turned down before I’ve finished reading it: if it begins with tone of blame, if it feels shallow in terms of what it promises to explore, if it’s about the love of animals or cities instead of other human beings (though you never know…anything can be done well, but this is quite a hurdle), or if it takes place a long time ago (both Styles and Modern Love imply recent trends or happenings).

In terms of what subjects I’m sick of…I can’t say that there’s any one subject or set of subjects that I receive constantly in a way that would make me advise a writer to steer clear. The better advice in this area is that we’re not likely to run a piece about dealing with a father who has Alzheimer’s when we just ran one. Avoid subjects that have been covered in the last few months.

- How many times can you remove "that"? (I'll bet a lot.)

- How many adverbs can you do without? (Try cutting half of them, at least.)

- Use "all right," not "alright."

- Change any words or phrases that are in ALL CAPS or italics to some other means of emphasis. (Only rarely will either be used in the body of an article in the paper.)

- Did you use profanity? (You'll have to remove or replace.)

- Don't agonize over a title. (In almost every case it will be written by the copy desk.)

- How many exclamation points do you really need? (Not many.)

- How many spaces do you have after a period at the end of a sentence? (Should be one, not two.)

- You can probably find better adjectives than "amazing," "incredible," "fantastic," "terrible," "horrible," or "very bad" (even if you're having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day).

Avoid These

In the many essays I read every month, certain words, phrases, or stylistic tics appear again and again. Inevitably (and maybe unfairly), some start to annoy or signal trouble with the writing to come. Here are 20 your essay is probably better off without. (This is good advice for all of your mss.)

1. I’ll never forget

2. I’ll always remember

3. It/he/she was electrifying

4. If I had to do it all over again

5. Literally
6. A. Sentence. With. A. Period. After. Every. Word.
7. Reader, I married him/her
8. Smitten
9. I felt like Carrie in Sex and the City
10. My heart melted
11. Flash forward
12. I curled up in a fetal position
13. I curled up with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s
14. We were alike in every way
15. We were opposites in every way
16. Truth be told
17. Amazing
18. There was no spark
19. Out of the blue
20. And I’ll never be the same again