CLT Writers Recommend

CLTWG RecommendationsIn our July meeting, Charlotte Writers Group members shared some of the resources that help us most in our respective writing processes. Our members brought some great suggestions ranging from editing tips to websites, to screenwriting books that can help writers of any kind of story. Since not everyone can attend each meeting, our goal is to share what we learn here so all of our members, prospective members, and fellow writers can benefit. Each of these items has been vouched for by a group member. If you have a question about a specific recommendation, check in on our Facebook group and ask about it!

The list is broken down into books, websites, tips, Cons and local events. There’s something for everyone!



All books are listed with ISBN numbers to help you find them through your favorite digital or physical retailer.

  • Angela Ackerman’s Thesaurus Series: The Emotion Thesaurus, The Positive Trait Thesaurus, The Negative Trait Thesaurus, The Urban Setting Thesaurus etc) – Get help finding the word you need without using the same one over and over.
  • Bird by Bird (ISBN-13: 978-0385480017) by Anne Lamott – part writing advice, part guru-level advice on unleashing your creativity. A favorite for many writers.
  • Chicago Manual of Style (current year) by University of Chicago Press – Everything you’ll ever need to reference about style and process in one volume. Used by writers, editors and publishers, this manual updates approximately annually. Corresponding website below.
  • Eats, Shoots & Leaves (ISBN-13: 978-1592402038) by Lynne Truss – Punctuation with a sense of humor.
  • Elements of Style (ISBN-13:978-0205309023) by Strunk and White  – Essential grammar without the fluff.
  • The Emotion Amplifier (digital only) by Amanda Ackerman – A companion book to The Emotional Thesaurus
  • English Composition and Grammar: Complete Course (ISBN-13:978-0153117367) by John E Warriner  – Basic English grammar text book with more explanation and clear examples.
  • Forensics: A Guide for Writers (ISBN-13:003-5313643828) by D.P. Lyle, MD – Part of the Howdunit Series with everything you ever wanted to ask about forensics, but were afraid to Google.
  • Gotham Writers’ Workshop – Writing Fiction: The Practical Guide from New York’s Acclaimed Creative Writing School (ISBN-13: 978-1582343303) – A writing workshop in a book.
  • Grammar Girl book series by Minion Fogarty ( – Smart, sassy grammar for anyone in bite-size tidbits. Corresponding website below.
  • The Hero with A Thousand Faces (ISBN-13: 858-0001046747) by Joseph Campbell – Breaks down the hero’s journey throughout mythology to point out what resonates with readers and why. A good foundational understanding of story mechanics.
  • Howdunit Series – a series of books covering everything a writer might need to know about forensics, poison, police procedurals, crime scene investigation, weapons and more.)
  • Immediate Fiction: A Complete Writer’s Course (ISBN-13: 978-0312302764) by Jerry Cleaver – A step by step guide through the writing process.
  • Karen’s Conundrums: A Compendium (a what?) of Grammatical Imponderables by Karen T. Newman – A CLT Writers Group member’s personal contribution to all the grammatical obstacles.
  • The Kick-Ass Writer: 1,000 Ways to Write Great Fiction, Get Published, and Earn Your Audience (ISBN-13: 978-1599637716) by Chuck Wendig – An in-your-face, irreverent, and funny presentations of the hard lessons of the writing life.
  • Police Procedural: A Guide for Writers (ISBN-13: 978-1582974552) by Lee Lofland – Part of the Howdunit Series – like having an expert in your pocket.
  • Right Word, Wrong Word: Words and Structures confused and misused by learners of English (ISBN-13: 978-0582246461) by L. G. Alexander – Are you using these commonly confused words correctly? Are you sure?
  • Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need (ISBN-13: 978-0060391683) by Blake Snyder – A guide on how to structure your story. One of a great series of books including worksheets to outline your story.
  • Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting (ISBN-13: 978-0060391683) by Syd Field – Though this focuses on screenwriting, the principles of storytelling can be related to any kind of writing.
  • The Screenwriter’s Bible (current edition – ISBN-13: 978-1935247104) by David Trottier (periodic update) – Written for screenwriters, however, provides solid information about character creation, story concept, plot points, etc.
  • Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting (ISBN-13: 978-0060391683) by Robert McKee – insight into story construction and how character and structure are interrelated. Screenwriting focus, but principles can be applied to any story writing.
  • The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles (ISBN-13: 978-0060391683) by Steven Pressman – We all encounter resistance in many forms and this is an art warrior’s guide to fighting through it.
  • The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers (ISBN-13: 978-1932907360) by Christopher Vogler – Takes Campbell’s mythic structure and provides practical advice for applying it to the craft of storytelling.
  • Writing Down the Bones (ISBN-13: 978-1611803082) by Natalie Goldberg – A blend of wisdom, advice, and encouragement for becoming the writer you want to be.
  • Writing Screenplays that Sell (ISBN-13: 978-0060391683) by Michael Hauge – Insight into developing character and story structure will help any writer, not just a scriptwriter.
  • Writing the Breakout Novel (ISBN-13:978-1582971827) by Donald Maass – A guide to producing commercially successful novels.
  • Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook (ISBN-13: 978-1582972633) by Donald Maass – The companion workbook to Maass’s book.



  • Chicago Manual of Style (
  • Christopher M. Park’s Manuscript Analyzer ( – Discover your repeated words before your readers/critique partners do
  • Charlotte Writers Group ( – Our home base
  • Drew’s Script-o-Rama ( – a resource for finding scripts to see how they are constructed, study dialogue, etc.
  • Duotrope ( – Writer’s resource for market listings and submission tracking for paid subscribers.
  • Goodreads ( – Social media site for book lovers.
  • Grammar Girl’s website ( – Quick answers to grammar questions and top tips.
  • Grammar the Easy Way ( Website and free PDF download
  • Jake Bible’s “Writing in Suburbia” Podcast  – An uncensored, unedited podcast that Jake puts out about being a human who also happens to be a professional writer. It’s a realistic discussion about the business of being a professional writer presented with a sense of humor and a little tough love. (NSFW)
  • John G. Hartness’s “Writing Rants” Podcast – If you’ve ever seen John on a panel at a con, you know exactly what you’re getting. If not, check this out. John rants about all things related to the writing business – and beyond – in typical John style. (NSFW)
  • Magical Words ( – Writing advice and insight from local fantasy/sci-fi authors. While the contributors may be genre-specific, most of the advice can be applied to any genre.
  • NewPages ( – A multifunctional resource for writers.
  • Purdue Owl ( : Online writing lab, primarily for citing resources, however, it does contain a section on the Chicago Manual of Style 16th
  • Ralan ( – Spec Fic market listings
  • Sixfold Short Stories and Poetry – The Completely Writer-Voted Journal (
  • Submission Grinder ( – Market listings and submission tracking – currently free.
  • Text to Speech ( – A free service that converts your text to mp3 with relatively natural sounding voices.
  • Writing World ( – A sprawling multifunctional resource for writers.


  • AdBlock – an extension for Chrome and Firefox that blocks ads in websites, YouTube, etc.
  • Evernote – A multi-platform notetaking app.
  • Excel – easily track expenses, word count, and/or create your own submission tracker.
  • OneNote – a multi-platform Microsoft product for creating “binders” of notes/resources.
  • Scrivener – robust writing software that stores resources and writing all in one location for easy access. Steep learning curve, but reportedly worth the effort.
  • Windows Narrator – A Windows “Ease of Access” app that “reads” on-screen information. This can be used to read your work back to you.


  • Read your work out loud, or use a program to read it out loud to you. This will help you find mistakes (like missing words), hear awkward phrasing, and test your writing for how well it flows. (Besides, the more you practice reading your work aloud, the better you’ll be when it comes time for a reading!)
  • Keep a list of your -isms and use them for editing each manuscript – verbal tics and crutches, words you habitually overuse, feedback you’ve received repeatedly, etc
  • List of commonly overused words/stutter verbs (began, turned)
  • Do a Find/Replace in your document for your -isms, results from the manuscript analyzer, commonly overused words/stutter verbs and change them to CAPS before editing. This will make them stand out and make your text easier to edit.

Regular Events:



We all know that finding the right con can be a great help to writers – from strong writing tracks to learning about the industry and, possibly most importantly, networking and pitching. The italicized cons are events our members have attended.

Writers Conferences 2017


4/20-22/17 Las Vegas Writers Conference – Las Vegas, NV

4/27-4/30/17 – World Horror Convention – The Queen Mary, Long Beach, CA

5/5-7/17 DFW Writer’s Conference – Dallas, TX

6/2-4/17 ConCarolinas – Concord, NC

6/30 – 7/2/17 Writers League of Texas Conference – Austin, TX

7/15-17/16 ConGregate – High Point, NC

7/26-29/17 Romance Writers of America Annual Conference – Orlando, FL

7/22/17 2017 Tennessee Writing Workshop, Nashville, TN

8/18-120/17 Writer’s Digest Con East – New York, NY

9/1-4/17 DragonCon – Atlanta, GA

9/1-3/17 Decatur Book Festival – Decatur, GA

10/4-8/17 Novelists, Inc (NINC) Conference – St. Petersburg Beach, FL

9/22-24/17 Baltimore Book Fesival – Baltimore, MD

9/15-16/17 Chattahoochee Valley Writers Conference – Columbus, GA

10/19-22/17 Florida Writer’s Conference – Alamonte Springs, FL

11/3-5/17 North Carolina Writers Network Conference – Wilmington, NC

Writer’s Conferences 2018

1/11-14/18 Key West Literary Seminar – Key West, FL

2/15-17/18 Amelia Island Book Festival – Amelia Island, FL

2/23-25/18 – ConNooga – Chattanooga, TN

2/23-25/18 MystiCon – Roanoke, VA

TBD Unicorn Writers Conference – Purchase, NY


Karen’s Conundrum – That Highfalutin Hyphen

At a recent CWG critique session, one of the members asked me about hyphenation and if there were any pearls of wisdom I could impart about identifying when phrasal adjectives are hyphenated, and when they are one or two words. At first blush I thought this was a moderately simple question. I answered the query with a promise of a well-detailed, low-maintenance, all-inclusive blog post dedicated to the seemingly innocent, childlike hyphen.

With that bald assertion made, I hightailed it to my office, ready to attack this self-imposed project with quasi ease. And that’s when the truth hit me—bull’s-eye—

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Karen’s Conundrum – The Apostrophe Catastrophe

The Apostrophe Catastrophe

Such a deceiving little character the apostrophe is. It’s light and floats above the line. It flits between letters allowing us to add dialect to our dialogue, condense words, and show possession. At first blush, it looks like a harmless, helpful elf that wins our trust with a wink. And then, just like a light breeze in cahoots with puffy white clouds can turn a beautiful afternoon into a severe weather event, that innocent-appearing mark of punctuation has the uncanny ability to wreak havoc in the mind of the writer, causing the flow of words to come to a screeching halt, and for one to suffer an acute case of monkey brain.

I have been jonesing to attack the rules of the apostrophe and today I begin that challenge. I invite you to accompany me on this journey, but I must warn you, the odds of us sinking to the depths of Davy Jones’s locker are extremely high. In fact, it’s pretty much a sure bet. If you’re still game, let’s dive into the deep, apostrophe-infested waters and tackle …

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Karen’s Conundrum – Quotation Marks and Parentheses: The Copious Incurvatures

Recently a request was made for me to address the conundrum of the copious incurvatures—quotation marks and parentheses—and their circuitous relationship with various punctuation marks.
I welcomed the challenge with open arms. And as I attempted to wrap my brain around the task at hand, I flipped the pages of my Chicago Manual of Style (CMoS) to Chapter 6, and dove in. In an effort to make the cited rules more embraceable, I have incorporated in my examples quotes (some verbatim, some paraphrased) of George Carlin.
(Disclaimer: All italicized examples contain George Carlin’s words, in one form or another.)

Now, here we go.

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Karen’s Conundrum – The Illusively Elusive Ellipsis

“One fine winter’s day when Piglet was brushing away the snow in front of his house, he happened to look up, and there was Winnie-the-Pooh. Pooh was walking round and round in a circle, thinking of something else, and when Piglet called to him, he just went on walking.

‘Hallo!’ said Piglet, ‘what are you doing?’

‘Hunting,’ said Pooh.

‘Hunting what?’

‘Tracking something,’ said Winnie-the-Pooh very mysteriously.

‘Tracking what?’ said Piglet, coming closer.

‘That’s just what I ask myself. I ask myself, What?’        

‘What do you think you’ll answer?’

‘I shall have to wait until I catch up with it,’ said Winnie-the-Pooh.”

~A.A. Milne – Winnie-the-Pooh

As I was walking round and round in a circle in my office, thinking about which of the many conundrums that fill my head I was going to share with you in this post, it struck me that there was no time like the present to address the proper usage and appearance of the almighty ellipsis. Continue reading “Karen’s Conundrum – The Illusively Elusive Ellipsis”

Karen’s Conundrum – OK or okay

“Curiouser and curiouser!” ~ Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Welcome to the debut of CWG’s blog, Karen’s Conundrum. Often it’s interesting to trace an event, an idea, or a word back to its origin. I thought it only fitting to start this inaugural post with a brief recounting of this blog’s genesis.

KarenConSMNot long ago at one of our Saturday critique meetings, when there was a rare window of time available between critiques, I seized the opportunity to put a question out on the floor to my fellow members pertaining to the word “OK/okay.” As a copyeditor, I am constantly plagued by pesky, annoying imponderables, and that particular day OK/okay was my conundrum du jour. My question was simple: Which word/spelling is correct? OK or okay? I was pleasantly surprised at the lengthy, insightful, and humorous discourse that ensued. But in the end, it was agreed that no answer was conclusive. Continue reading “Karen’s Conundrum – OK or okay”

Creating Characters

Writing Installation Art image
Creating characters doesn’t have to be messy… unless you want it to be.

There are as many ways to tell fictional tales as there are people writing them, and every writer uses different methods to tell their stories. Creating a believable character is particularly challenging to some because it’s far too easy to slip up and express stereotypes without really intending to. For instance, someone writing a work of fantasy set in the Civil War might unintentionally create a Colonel Sanders (late owner of Kentucky Fried Chicken) type of character which, while possibly humorous, might not be what they wanted. Worse yet, relying on stereotypes could catch a writer by surprise, should they unintentionally offend a portion of their readership. Ideally, should a writer like to include a character with a different background from that of the writer, they should do a certain amount of research on the subject – be it through anthropological and historical studies, or talking and paying attention to people who might fit the bill.  Continue reading “Creating Characters”