My Plunder Playlist

**Disclaimer–Yes, I’m a total romantic version of pirates fan. It was probably inevitable that I’d write a pirate novel. I’m going to mention the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. If you haven’t seen them, see Curse of the Black Pearl and skip the rest unless you absolutely feel the need. I will say, though, that Mick Jagger as Jack Sparrow’s father was an inspired bit of casting.**

Music is as instrumental to me as breathing (pun intended). So when I’m writing, I usually have a playlist going in the background, and not just to block out Sofia the First or Teen Titans Go. When I wrote the short story version of Plunder, I didn’t have a song or a playlist in mind. However, when it came time to write the novel, I decided one was necessary.

I was wasting time on Youtube, as one does, when my recommendations came up with this…

 

I had no idea that my life was missing this, but it was. I then spent several hours watching Peter Hollens videos.He has an amazing catalog, including any number of gorgeous duets with his equally talented wife Evynne.

Not only was the Pirates medley awesome, but it made something click for me about Plunder.

My heart is pierced by Cupid

I disdain all glittering gold

There is nothing can console me

But my jolly sailor bold.

–My Jolly Sailor

The thing about Plunder is that both Bree and William are sailors, and they’re both crazy in love, despite their constant banter/fighting. So the lyric work both ways…Bree about William, William about Bree.

I immediately bought the song, and it is the cornerstone of my playlist. Because they did such a great job, I went over to the Pirate of the Caribbean soundtracks. I have the entire Curse of the Black Pearl soundtrack, and from the World’s End soundtrack I added “Drink Up Me Hearties Yo Ho” and “Hoist the Colours.”

Interestingly enough, My Jolly Sailor Bold isn’t on the soundtrack of Stranger Tides, despite it being the song the mermaids sing to enchant sailors so they can turn vampire, drag them into the water and eat them. However, you can find countless covers on YouTube.

 

Disney, however, didn’t write this song. It seems to be based off an 18th or 19th century shanty, depending on which version of My Jolly Sailor Bold you believe to be the origin song. To read more, go here.

So, my playlist (all of which can be bought on Amazon or iTunes, depending on your preference) is The Peter Hollens Pirates Medley, Hoist the Colours, Drink Up Me Hearties Yo Ho, and the full Curse of the Black Pearl soundtrack.

Happy Pirating! I should be finishing my edited version in the next few days and sending it off to betas. Once that happens, my playlist will look a lot more like this…

Sidenote–Check out Todrick Hall’s videos, too. He’s so incredibly talented.

First drafts suck and the process of writing a novel

first draft suck

Last week I finished the first draft of the novel version of my short story, Plunder. I wanted a minimum length of 50k and ended up at 42k. There’s so much that needs to be cut or repurposed, like the chapter of exposition. There are secondary characters whose names I lost track of, and ones who need to be fleshed out. There is a lull about two-thirds of the way through after I break up my couple  that needs a lot of work. Tertiary characters flip between being alive and dead because I lost track. It is a jumbled, disorganized mess. But that’s okay.

edit without mercy

The biggest challenge I’ve faced with the novel is the sheer scale of the story.

Where Capturing the Moment had two main characters and two secondary characters, Plunder has two main characters, and tons of secondary characters. The nature of life on a ship means that I had to flesh out some portion of the crew, and with something like seven named secondary characters on two ships, it’s easy to lose track of who is who and what their personalities are.

Plunder is told from Bree’s perspective, unlike Capturing the Moment which showed both Meg and RJ’s points of view. It is very challenging to not tip my hand or give things away before their time. William is an alphahole, but I need my readers to still root for he and Meg to figure things out.

I have realized that in order to effectively edit the novel I need to create

  • a master document wherein I list all the characters and details about each of them
  • a chronological timeline.
  • chapter by chapter summaries–some of the exposition in a later chapter was dealt with in casual conversation earlier.
  • a sexual summary–style, position, allegories I use for orgasm. I don’t want to get repetitive, or miss out on something.

editing

I’m not going to start editing yet. I’m still too close to the story. My plan is to take a few days off, write a short story or two, and start the edits in June. I’ve shared the document in all it’s disastrous glory with my husband, but I will spend a month (or more) polishing it to the best product I can create.

When I wrote Capturing the Moment, I knew that my setting was accurate because I based it on my own visit. As I said in my guest post with F dot Leonora, I’m a photographer like Meg. I had to look up some details about art and the proper name of an instrument, but I was on solid ground. With Plunder, I’m dealing with a foreign time period and selective historical accuracy. The closest I’ve come to being a sailor is working as a costumed guide on the Boston Tea Party Ship and Museum in college. I know nothing about rigging or the other jobs on a ship in the 17th. Research is only going to get me so far. I’ll need to consult with someone who knows their stuff as Bree is supposed to be a skilled sailor and fix the details I’m bullshitting today.

Once I’m done with edits, my husband will give it one last look. When both of us have signed off on it, I’ll send Plunder to my betas. They’ll need time to read and provide their comments.

During that lull, I’ll work on other projects.

When I have beta feedback, I’ll digest their thoughts and then revise Plunder further. I may send it to one more round of beta support or editorial support. A story is never really “done”–it just reaches the point where you are going to send it in or futz with it forever. I also call this the I keep editing, but now I’m making it worse instead of better. That’s the point where I’ll submit it for publication, and cross my fingers.

pirate 1

What does first draft, unedited hot mess look like? Here’s an example…

She was just about to head back to William’s cabin when it happened. A wave rose up and slapped the Ghost, tippping it starboard. She thought she heard a scream, and looked up in time to see the man from the foretop falling. He hit the gunwhale and slipped off into the sea.

“Man overboard!” Bree screamed, but her words were drowned out by the shrieking wind.

The starboard side of the foresail was unmanned, and began to flap. Bree might not be a pirate, but she was a skilled sailor who knew her rigging. She took a deep breath and dashed over to the ratlines and began to climb. The ropes were slick with rain, and she fought to keep her footing. Once at the crossbar over the foresail, she grabbed a piece of rope and knotted it about her stomach as the missing sailor should have. That would hopefully keep her alive if she fell, and she retied the knots that had gone slack.

The storm was like a living predator, snarling as it attacked its prey. Lighting slashed across the sky. She was soaked to the skin by the drowning rain. Waves tossed the Ghost, water sometimes crashing over the deck. Bree clung to the mast, keeping a close eye on the sail, listening for orders.

Bree prayed that the Maya was safely moored somewhere far from this storm. The thought of losing Marcus and James was unbearable. She looked for William, worried that he, too, might have fallen victim to the storm, but he wasn’t near her, and she couldn’t see the aft of the ship. Her heart twisted, but she remained focused.

The storm quieted, but she knew it was just the eye, and that the eerie calm wouldn’t last.

“Lass!” The pirate above her at the fore topsail called down.

She looked up. “Yes?”

“Can’t decide if you’re brave or dumb as a rock, but good work.”

My thoughts

  • “just” is one the worst offenders when it comes to filler/unnecessary words in my writing
  • Living predator? As opposed to a dead one?
  • I really know nothing about rigging, although I looked up proper names for things online
  • “the man from the foretop falling” what?
  • Would tying a rope around her waist save her if she fell? Really?
  • The storm needs more description. Do more than those few sentences.
  • She cares about Archie, the ship’s boy she befriended as well as Marcus and James

It’s not a bad passage, but it’s a really important one in the story. It needs expansion, more details (including support from someone who knows something about ships and sailing), and other editing support.

Here’s the thing, though. You can’t edit what you haven’t written. I wrote this, so now I have something to edit. In a month or so.

WIP–Forbidden Territory

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There are few places in the world more beautiful than New Zealand. In fact, it is so heartbreakingly beautiful, you’ll pinch yourself to see if it’s real, or if you’ve just drifted off while staring at a screen saver.

For me, though, the highlight of visiting New Zealand  wasn’t the scenery, although it is stunning. The best part of the trip was that I got to meet an internet friend for the first time (actually, two, but only one is relevant for this entry). After living in Singapore for three years I was ready to let loose, and “Bex” and I did so in a spectacular fashion.

Forbidden Territory, the story I’m about to share an excerpt from, is one of the least embellished stories I’ve ever written.

We passed by a shop called the Guardhouse.

“Oh, Tom’s on. I need to talk to him. Do you mind going in for a few minutes?” Bex asked, grabbing my hand to lead me inside.

As she chatted with Tom, I wandered the store, idly contemplating whether or not I needed another flogger.

Then I saw it. A thin, lucite cane covered in black rubber. The heat and humidity of equatorial Singapore had warped our rattan canes. We hadn’t replaced them, but this little baby was perfect for the tropics. I tapped it against my leg hard enough to get a frisson of pleasure and pain.

“Laur, what did you find?” Bex called to me.

I held up the cane. Her eyes glittered with delight.

As I paid, Bex mentioned “Guardhouse is the place I was telling you about with the cruise room in the back for gay men.”

“Too bad there’s no equivalent for queer women,” I commented as I signed the slip.

Tom shrugged, “It’s Wednesday. Totally dead. You’re the first people I’ve seen in hours.Take a look around if you like, but if anyone comes in, you need to leave. If you’re hooking up in there, you better be okay with stopping.”

At the words hooking up our eyes met and I felt my panties grow damp.

We spoke in unison. “Deal!”

 

We did take the opportunity to explore a gay cruise club on a night when it was dead. However, the sex is the fictitious element–“Bex” is a sexy, wonderful woman, but I have not had the privilege of being her lover.

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In other news, Capturing the Moment is on sale tomorrow at Totally Bound, and is now available for pre-order from Google Books, Kobo, and iBooks (release date April 26). It is not yet available for pre-order on Amazon or Nook at this time. Capturing the Moment also has a page on Goodreads

Writing Schedules, Pantsing vs Plotting, and a Sneak Peek

I recently spent a week fully immersed in what I hope will be my first full length-novel, Plunder (based on the short story soon to appear in Rogues). I had an absurdly productive week unlike any other writing experience, except the one I had when I wrote the first draft of the Plunder short story, am now roughly halfway done with the first draft.

pirate 5

However, I am a pantser, not a plotter. So what I have is an incredibly rough half of a book that will require extensive editing.

Does this mean I don’t know what’s going to happen next? For me, it means I have the complete arc of the story in my head, and am filling in all the empty spaces.

It’s easy to say that I’ll refine the first half and then write the second half, but if I learned anything from the ghost novel, which holds the record for most starts and zero finishes of any story I’ve ever written, ever, it’s that you suck it up and keep going.  My goal is to write the entire first draft and then fix it.

It’s only apt that I pepper this post with pirate memes not only because Plunder is a pirate story, but because even when I have plotted a story, my characters have committed mutiny and gone off to do whatever they want despite my outline. I have learned that I write more effectively by pantsing than plotting.

pirate 4

When will the first draft be done? Damned if I know. People talk about daily word counts and schedules, but as Jade A Waters said in her post called “The Process,” I kept fooling myself into believing I have a systemized process, and it’s become abundantly clear I’m full of shit. I laughed with delight when I read that line, because I find it to be so true for myself as well.

I’ll write in the mornings, when the kids are at school–Oh crap, I have to grocery shop. I don’t want to grocery shop with my four and seven year old, do I?

I’ll write in the afternoons, while the kids are absorbed in tv–Assuming I can block out Sofia the First or whatever other inane tv show is on/am not on Ms 7’s case about homework.

I’ll write in the evenings, after the kids are in bed–Well, sure, once I’ve done the other at home things, and if I’m still conscious enough to not fall asleep at the laptop/have enough energy to do anything other than watch tv listlessly. Or if I don’t have a freelance article due.

I’ll write on the weekends, when Mr. Night is around to run interference with the kids–Sometimes. Sometimes we actually want to do stuff as a family.

I don’t have a hard and fast policy because my life isn’t regimented enough to have one at this point (and probably never will be as I’m just not that organized). I have hopes that I’ll finish it before Capturing the Moment comes out on March 29 (pre-order will start March 14), but have accepted that it may not be.

pirate 2

I think that Plunder came along as well as it did during my intensive writing week was due to the fact that I love this story. This is a story I am happy to give up my free time to, and characters I absolutely adore. William is an alphahole (a term I only just learned thanks to Ilona Andrews post on that trope–btw, I loved her book, Clean Sweep). Brianna is an equally alpha heroine who has no desire to bow to the whim of any man. All she wants is to be a sailor, and eventually the captain of her father’s ship, the Maya. Both William and Bree are strong personalities with lots of opinions about everything, and throwing them together is often delightful.

If anything, I think the reason that things have slowed down is that they are currently apart because William was, well, an alphahole. Entirely his fault. I’m finding it hard to keep the story moving until they meet up again. Which is not to say that the middle bit is bad (although it’s a draft so it probably does suck–all first drafts suck), but rather than I have more fun and thus write faster when they’re butting heads.

pirate 3

Speaking of William and Bree, here’s another glimpse into their story

“What are you doing?”

“Darling, clearly it’s your nature to argue over everything, but it’s a blanket. It’s warm. You sleep under it.”

“I didn’t say I was ready to sleep.” Bree plucked the blanket from his hand and tossed it back to the floor. “I’ve yet to fully explore your territory with my tongue.”

“If you must. I suppose I can close my eyes and think of my duty to cartography.”

Bree’s hand had been trailing through his chest hair. At his comment she grabbed a fistful and yanked.

“Vicious little vixen.”

“Damned pirate. Turn over.”

“Aye aye, wench.”

All mine.

Her hands roamed his body. Freckles were scattered over his back, and Bree pressed a kiss to each. She had never considered a pirate would have such a banal thing as a freckle.

“Where did you get this?” An odd scar marred the perfection of his buttocks.

“Slight disagreement with a shark.”

She dug her nails into the cheek.

William sighed deeply. “Slight disagreement with a fishing hook. Rum was involved.”

Bree laughed with delight. “Turn over, and let me see what other wounds have been inflicted upon you. I wish to catalog them all.”

He turned onto his back. “What of the wound you gave me, minx?”

“A memory I shall always cherish.” Her tone was tart, but her eyes were soft as they made a study of his form

A Pirate’s Life For Me…

Siem Reap has been submitted. Everyone send good thoughts–if accepted, it will be my first solo publication, and I’m so excited by the prospect.

So what’s next?

princess bride 2

I’ve decided to take my pirate story, Plunder (not currently published) and extend it.  Brianna (Bree) and William are one of my favorite couples, and I think you guys would enjoy seeing more of them than a 5k story.

Here is a draft of our introduction to Brianna, who is being picked up from finishing school to go back to her beloved ship, the Maya. The Headmistress of the school speaks first.  (Keep in mind that this is a very rough draft that I wrote two days ago–there has been no editing, and the final opening will likely look very different.)

 

The woman sniffed. “I have a letter for her father. You should know, Miss Northerly, that I take no credit for how you’ve turned out. You arrived a hoyden, and much to my dismay, you are leaving one. You are my great failure.”

Bree grinned widely. “I take that as the very greatest of compliments, Mrs. Lingstrom.” She swept into a deep curtsey. Once upright again, she lifted her skirts and did a little sailor’s jig. “Fair weather to you, and may I never darken your doorstep again. Let’s go, Marcus.”

With that, Brianna Northerly turned her back on a dismal four years of enforced femininity and strode out to the waiting carriage.

Marcus shook his head at her behavior. “So much for turnin’ ye into a lady.”

“A lady will do you no good on the ship. A solid deckhand, on the other hand, will,” Bree retorted as she climbed into the carriage.

Marcus spoke to the driver before climbing in after her. “Lass,” he began.

She interrupted him. “I’m so glad Father changed his mind! Was it you? Was it all my letters? What convinced him?”

Her companion swallowed hard. “Ye don’t know, do ye?”

A feeling of foreboding settled like a storm cloud in the pit of Bree’s stomach. “What don’t I know, Marcus?”

“I’m taking you to be wed.”

What?”

 

Peek at a WIP

Apparently having fearless hair has bled over into my professional life. Or at least the positive mindset that came about because of dyeing my hair. I’m well into the edits for the Siem Reap novella.  Here’s the set up for and a flashback scene from early in Meg and RJ’s relationship while they’re having sex in the present day.

batman mask

“Do you remember the first time you came on my tits?” Meg’s voice was husky.

RJ could barely manage words. “After the costume party. Your first year. You wore a Little Red Riding Hood costume.”

***

The sexy costume was so different from the quiet Meg he usually knew. He’d felt like the big, bad wolf as he’d fantasized about pushing her into a dark corner and doing all sorts of wicked deeds to her. When they were dancing, she’d rubbed herself against his rod, adding fuel to the fire. The second her bedroom door was shut, she was on her knees, dress pushed down to her waist, eager to free him from the black jeans. She’d sucked him so well, RJ had forgotten that he was still wearing the Batman mask when he started to come. She’d popped off at just the right moment for him to shoot his load all over her breasts.

***

Healing

I haven’t updated in a few months because I haven’t known what to say, which is difficult for someone who makes their living as a writer.

I got out of the hospital in late April and spent the next chunk of time just trying to cope with what had happened, and what the illness had done to my body. Weeks in a hospital bed had stolen away muscle tone. Medication that helped save my life also made me brutally ill with nausea and vomiting. Coming to terms with my own mortality left my psyche in tatters. I began to fall back into a pattern of disordered eating as a way to feel like I had some small bit of control over a life that felt wildly out of control.

Sex? What’s sex?

About a month ago I began writing again. Not erotica, but small things here and there. Some of it was very private; self therapy to go along with the counseling I’d sought out. Then I moved on to non-fiction freelancing that didn’t require the kind of emotional investment that fiction does.

Last week I stumbled across an itemized list with all the anthologies I was thinking of contributing to. For obvious reasons I’d missed every deadline between April first and July first, and I felt defeated. Going from 2014 during which I’d done a lot of writing and had some publication successes to 2015 which had started out so promisingly with the Siem Reap novella had ground to a dead end. There was one last anthology on the list, and I decided I had to submit something. Even if it were to get rejected, submitting would mean I’d gotten back on the proverbial horse.

Santas reindeer

I had a rough draft from several years ago–if you read my story “New on the Naughty List,” (published in Coming Together: For the Holidays) you’ll remember that it’s Blitzen who gives Lucy the Elf a ride to Boston. While we know what Lucy was doing (pun intended), I had always intended to write a story that showed what kept Blitzen occupied so late into the evening as well. I pulled out my rough draft and polished/tweaked it until I was as happy as I could be without fresh eyes (my husband and I having both read it countless times by then). A final draft will definitely be ready for the submission date.

I’m not better, exactly. The physical side of things is going to be measured in months. The emotional side of things will ebb and flow–we dealt with serious medical trauma with Ms 6 as a baby so I know that it’s easy to go months without thinking about what happened and then be blindsided by something and have all of the trauma come roaring back. I’m relieved to say that with the support of my husband, some close friends, and my therapists I’m no longer engaging in dangerous behavior surrounding food. The rest is a work in progress.

As I’ve been coping with this, I’ve stayed away from Twitter. On one hand, this was not exactly a rational choice–I’m very lucky to have a community of friends/fellow writers who have reached out to me to check how things have been going. On the other hand, given that my creative side was a blank page, being Delilah Night publicly felt fraudulent. Yesterday, given that I was ready to share the story with beta readers and thanks to the gentle nudge from a few friends I started posting again.

After such a long absence, I’ve the lost the habit of tweeting and blogging, so please do continue to poke me if you think I’ve been too quiet. I’m not up to date of who’s had what published, so please share your triumphs with me in comments (and let me know if I can review something for you).

To celebrate returning to writing, I’m briefly sharing “New on the Naughty List,” which served as the inspiration for my new story “A Reindeer By Any Other Name,” here.

Siem Reap: Let the Edits Begin

When I first started writing erotica, my writing process went like this—

I would sit down and write a story. I would re-read it and do some light editing. I would spell-check it. Then I would submit it for publication on literotica. Within a few days, the story would be published. Email feedback would roll in. I would bask in my awesomeness. Fin

literotica

The thing about writing for literotica or any of the fan fiction hubs is that there is an audience for everyone. As a new writer, that sort of positive community support and feedback can be so valuable for building confidence, especially if you have a fragile ego.

My most productive period on literotica was when I was a graduate student in New York City. The program was a terrible fit for me. I came to the realization that I didn’t want the career I’d been focused on for years. I was new to the city, shy, broke, and miserable. There were weeks when getting a positive review email from a literotica reader was the only good thing that happened to me.

Looking back at that work, while there are stories that show promise—a scene, a character, an idea—the reality is that they are largely crap. The first reason for that is that I was a baby erotica author–those first steps were full of falls and bruises. I was new to the genre and rusty as a fiction author and it showed. The second reason–and if I’m honest–the bigger reason that those stories suck is that they lacked editing.

editing

After I finished the first draft of Siem Reap, I went over my story page by page, line by line and I worked on it until my eyes were ready to bleed. I tweaked it until I thought I had the best piece of writing I could come up with. Then I sent it out to beta readers, and steeled myself to have those readers point out all the faults I’d become blind to.

The difference between amateur Delilah and professional Delilah is that (a) I believe in editing and (b) I know that “my best” is a starting point far from the finish line.

My”best work” is full of flaws that I can’t see because I live in my character’s heads. I write with an ear for English instead of an in-depth knowledge of grammar, which means my writing suffers from grammar errors I don’t know I’m making. Something I think of as clever may be clever, or it may miss the mark entirely.

edit without mercy

I’ve been very lucky to get feedback from several readers. Some of it has been positive, other bits have been critical.  All of it is useful.

I took a break from Siem Reap largely because of health issues. If you follow me on twitter, you probably know that I was hospitalized twice in March due to back and pain management issues.  It’s why I’ve been so absent from the blog–it’s hard to write when the painkillers have you seeing double.

Now that I’m no longer in the hospital, and I’ve begun to rehabilitate my back, I’m ready to dive back into Siem Reap.  I’m trying to look at the forced absence as a positive. The story is not so fresh in my mind, so I have a bit of emotional distance from my characters.  I have valuable feedback to help me revise the story and make it stronger. I’m not so sick of the story that I want to burn it (a real hazard at times).  I’m eager to revisit Meg and RJ and begin the next phase of editing.

april 15

Literotica Delilah would likely have hit publish back in February after the first draft was done. Today’s Delilah is hoping that I will be ready to submit the story by mid-April. Siem Reap is an okay story today.  Thanks to my beta team’s feedback, I think the editing I’m about to do has the potential to make it a great one.

 

Troublesome words

I’ve begun the edits on the Siem Reap Story.

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Every author falls prey to words and phrases that pop up a little too frequently in their work.  You may have noticed one of mine in my excerpt posted on Jan 18.

“And you decided to just gate crash my dream vacation as a way to catch up? If you wanted to get in touch with me to warn me you’d be at the wedding, you could’ve just used Facebook like a normal person.”

I utilized the find tool and found 69 uses of the word “just” in my first draft.

Here’s the edited version of the same paragraph.  You’ll notice that “just” has been omitted.

Exasperated, she threw the soda into the trash and turned to face him. “If you wanted to warn me you’d be at the wedding, you could’ve used Facebook or email like a normal person. Or Rachel could’ve told me that you would be there. What made you think crashing my dream vacation would be fun?”

“Just” is a word that becomes far to easy to rely upon, and is most often unnecessary filler.  Other words that fall into that category are “actually” (5x) , “very” (45x), “really” (21x), trying (12x), “some” (63x) and “almost” (10x). I’ve learned about some of these weaknesses on my own, others were pointed out by beta readers.

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The other thing I do a find search on before I begin to edit a piece in earnest is “began” (53x).

RJ took possession of her mouth. The taste of him, the feel of him was overwhelming and another orgasm began to build. His tongue seduced hers as he began to move within her. Her hands fisted in his hair, keeping their mouths fused. She needed him more than oxygen. The kisses grew hungrier as if they could make up for every missed kiss over the past six years. RJ’s hips caught the same frenzied pace as their kisses.

Everything began to spin out of control, and the orgasm hit her like a monsoon

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve gotten was from Lynn Townsend, who told me that characters should only begin to do something if the action is about to be interrupted “He began to walk across the room, but tripped over his cat.”

He took possession of her mouth. The taste of him, the feel of him, was overwhelming. His tongue seduced hers. Her hands fisted in his hair, keeping their mouths fused. The kisses grew hungrier, as if they could make up for every missed opportunity over the past six years. RJ’s hips caught the same frenzied pace as their mating tongues.

The orgasm was a monsoon.

Dropping “began” makes for a stronger story. In the example above, you’ll find I didn’t replace began with a different word. If there is a “began,” (or any of the other go-to words) it’s a hint that the entire sentence should probably get an edit.

Now that I’ve shared some of my most troublesome words–what are yours?