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Win a copy of Nobody and Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (ends 2/20)

Monday, November 8, 2010

T2T Tour: Leila Sales and Giveaway

Welcome to Day 6 of Leila Sales's Mostly Good Girls tour! Check out the Traveling to Teens homepage to find earlier days or which blogs are next for the tour! (You can also find out who's also giving away some MGG copies!)


Thus far on my blog tour, I’ve shared with you four tips for humor writing: agreement, using gifts, the rule of three, and callbacks. Today I’m going to give you some cautionary words:


A brief and well-placed digression can be hilarious. A poorly used digression is out-of-control boring.

For example: Mostly Good Girls opens with the following paragraph:

Poor Mr. Thompson. Mr. Thompson is my precalc teacher, and he is also the only male at the Westfield School. Unless you count Mr. Roebeck, the bio teacher, which I don’t because he is approximately two million years old and the only man-like thing about him is that he wears neckties.

In my first draft, this paragraph went on for SO MANY SENTENCES longer. Something about how Annie Lennox also wore neckties, so maybe this isn’t even that masculine a characteristic anyway, etc.

I cut these lines because they were a digression. They were boring. The joke was already there, and the added stuff about Annie Lennox or whatever I was on about was serving only to make the joke less punchy. Once you’ve hit a joke, it’s time to move right along.

It can be hard to know when you’re on a worthwhile digression, and when you’re just babbling. Sometimes the only way to know is after you’ve written it all, and then you read it through with fresh eyes. If your laugh line comes three sentences into a paragraph, then the sentences after that can be cut.

A good question to ask yourself about digressions is: Is this really what my character is thinking about at this moment in time, or is this me, the writer, trying to get in there and insert my own funniness? Readers almost never want to hear the author talking to them, no matter how clever he thinks he is. They want to hear the characters!

I’m saving one final humor writing tip for my next blog tour post. Get psyched for it.

And thanks to Simon and Schuster, Books by Their Cover has a giveaway for the hilarious Mostly Good Girls!


  1. Good tip. I have a bit I was wondering about, this helps me to know it's okay to keep it. (It's the character not me. Without it you wouldn't realise what a strange sense of humor my mc has ( at least not upfront)

    Sorry about the ramble. have you checked out lethal Inheritance yet. Ch 1 is on my blogsite

  2. Interesting tip
    Diane Baum

  3. Excellent advice! I must admit, I have an easier time writing jokes when I'm not trying to be funny. I just write a funny line and move on. When I'm trying . . . it tends to fizzle. Maybe I'm adding too much to the joke.