Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Jessica Bell talks Adverbs and Cliches and I talk about a Bank of America foreclosure

The Insecure Writer's Support Group can be joined by anyone. You can find the sign up sheet HERE.

April 2013 finds me being less an insecure writer and more a "writer" who just happens to have some insecurities. The difference this time is I'm meeting the biggest challenge head-on instead of running away from it.

What is this challenge? Well, I'm looking to buy my very first home. This is not a new thing but has been an ongoing drama for about eight months now. When I first started looking, I had no clue what I was doing (if you watch the show "Property Virgins" the people buying homes are a lot like me). So I downloaded the real estate apps for Zillow and onto my iPad and started paging through online photos. I saved some that I liked, tracked them for a while, and then I started to get more serious. I got a Realtor and started going through homes. I've found a few that I've liked and I've made offers on two. The first was on a short sale that I loved. The second was on a really run-down home in a completely awesome neighborhood. Think sycamore tree-covered lanes. Yeah...that house was beautiful on the outside, but a dump on the inside. However, I was willing to live in a dump because I figured I could fix it up over time and then I'd be in this amazing neighborhood. But that house went to a house flipper who paid cash for it and had more money than I did. As for the short sale, well it got "sold" in March.
This show is so about me and my struggles.
Well one day in the first part of April, I noticed that the short sale I loved (the one mentioned above) hadn't actually been sold to a homeowner or investor (which is what I assumed had happened since it went off the market). I discovered it had been foreclosed upon, i.e. "sold to the bank."

My Realtor said, "Oh those are such a pain in the ass...let's just keep looking." He had no idea who to contact and really no energy to track down this title. He wanted it easy. You know...the kind where I pick out a regular home, we make an offer, and then I move in. Easy peasy. But he has no idea that I'm historically the person that never does anything easy.  To his credit, he tried to dissuade me by saying things like, "Foreclosures are terrible to deal with, and I've had them go sour over a year later." But I was not deterred. I gotta say this again...I really liked this house. And if it was foreclosed, then that means the bank owns it but doesn't want it, and I'm sure they'd like to unload it. Why not unload it on me? Why can't I be that person? Again, the Realtor just made a sour face, made a call, and said the title was owned by Bank of America. That's where he stopped by saying, "I left a voice mail with Bank of America but they never returned my call."

Okay...I get it dude. I'm going to have to take it from here. So I did. I researched Bank of America foreclosures, didn't find an email address, but I found a physical address. I'm a writer, and I write things, so I penned a snail mail letter and sent it off to Bank of America with a self addressed stamped envelope. Well after a few weeks of stalking and phone calling and even skulking around said property snapping pictures, the trail finally led to a law office. I called them on a Monday morning to inquire about said property and they said they were indeed the ones that represented Bank of America and that it would be put up sometime in May. Because of Freddie Mac standards, they said that it needed some TLC and they were fixing some carpet and doing some roof work. They were not specific in what "work" was to be done. However they were quite clear with my Realtor (when I told him to call them) that when it does go for sale, it will be more expensive than the short sale price.

Ugh. My bubble was burst. I thought foreclosures were supposed to be a deal and not cost more than the original listing. But it looks like Mike will not be getting a "deal." Ah well. I still don't have any clue what price they are going to want, but I've got my ducks in a row finance-wise and am ready to pounce on this foreclosure the minute it hits the market with as aggressive an offer as I can manage. I just hope that "the fixes" they did on the property won't drive the price up to a level I can't afford because the "short sale" price was totally within my budget.

Sure the lawn is essentially weeds, and there's no garage. But it has enough land that I can put in an over-sized two car garage at some point. As for the lawn, I'll get to that as well. I plan to put in a sprinkling system, a new fence, and maybe even a fountain and a deck. I dream of reading in the shade during summer. Did I mention it's near a huge park with really wonderful towering old trees and close to downtown? Oh and plant flowers out front...that is a must during spring/summer.

I'm just really insecure about getting this property. I wonder how many people are also interested in it or even know about it. I wonder how much the actual price is going to be. If I could get it for the price I want to pay (close to the short sale price) I would be in fat city for the rest of my life as far as my monthly payment goes. But I do have a plan if I fail. I'm going to find a lower rent apartment to move into and wait out another year to see if something I like pops its head up and screams "buy buy buy!"

>>>>> Please Welcome Jessica Bell <<<<<

Too many adverbs and clichés in your writing? I've got just the fix for you.
by Jessica Bell

Writers constantly have rules thrown at them left, right, and center. Show, don’t tell! Stop using so many dialogue tags! More sensory detail! More tension! Speed up the pace! Yada yada yada ... it can become overwhelming, yes? I used to feel overwhelmed by it all too. In fact, I still do sometimes. It’s hard enough to get the words on the page, let alone consider how to put them there.

In Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, she says that in order not to be overwhelmed, a writer needs to focus on short assignments. She refers to the one-inch picture frame on her desk and how that little picture frame reminds her to focus on bite-sized pieces of the whole story. Basically, if you focus on one small thing at a time, the story will eventually come together to create a whole. I believe the same applies to learning the craft of writing. If writers focus on one aspect of the craft at a time, the process will seem less daunting and piece by piece it will come together.

My name’s Jessica Bell, and my own struggles with feeling overwhelmed inspired me to write the Writing in a Nutshell Series of pocket-sized writing guides. So you can learn to hone your craft in bite-sized, manageable pieces. In the first book of the series, I focused on demonstrating how to transition “telling” into “showing.” In Adverbs & Clichés in a Nutshell: Demonstrated Subversions of Adverbs & Clichés into Gourmet Imagery, I deal with another of the most common criticisms aspiring writers face: to absolutely avoid adverbs and clichés like the plague. But see, right now, I just used one of each. I also used a couple in the first two paragraphs of this post because they come naturally, and we utilize them frequently in everyday speech. But in fiction, too many adverbs and clichés weaken your prose. It’s considered “lazy writing,” because it means we don’t have to show what’s happening.

If your manuscript has too many adverbs and clichés, it most likely means that the emotion you felt while writing it is not going to translate to the reader in the same way. So how exactly can we approach the subversion of adverbs and clichés? For starters, play around with simile and metaphor when you’re trying to convey emotion, and for action, use strong verbs to show it happening in real time.

The key? Think smaller details rather than the bigger picture.

Need some help and inspiration?

In Adverbs & Clichés in a Nutshell: Demonstrated Subversions of Adverbs & Clichés into Gourmet Imagery, you will find thirty-four examples of prose which clearly demonstrate how to turn those pesky adverbs and clichés into vivid and unique imagery. Dispersed throughout are blank pages to craft your own unique examples. Extra writing prompts are also provided at the back of the book.
“Jessica Bell's latest pocket guide, Adverbs & Clichés in a Nutshell, will inspire you to leave bland behind and pursue your creative best. With force and clarity, she demonstrates how adverbs and clichés hobble vibrant writing. She then marks a course toward unique expression and provides workouts that will help writers at every level develop a distinctive voice.” ~Laurel Garver, freelance editor, author of Never Gone and Muddy-Fingered Midnights
Purchase links:
Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon Ca | Kobo

Bio: The Australian-native contemporary fiction author and poet, Jessica Bell, also makes a living as an editor and writer for global ELT publishers (English Language Teaching), such as Pearson Education, HarperCollins, Macmillan Education, Education First and Cengage Learning.

She is the co-publishing editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal, and the director of the Homeric Writers’ Retreat & Workshop on the Greek island of Ithaca.

For more information about Jessica please visit:
Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook


  1. good luck my man!!! i hope you get the house of your dreams...the one down the street from me!! yes!! hahahaha...

  2. Everyone's looking for a bargain right now so waiting may well be the way to go.


  3. Never dealt with a foreclosure house. You went to a lot of trouble just to get that far. Hopefully it works out.

  4. Keep us posted about the dream property. Banks always get the better end of the deal. Good luck!

  5. Only grammar snobs give a damn about adverbs and cliches. The average reader couldn't care less. I mean just go count all the adverbs and cliches in 50 Shades of Grey or the da Vinci Code or anything by Nick Sparks.

    Anyway, I never really wanted to buy a house because especially in Michigan if you need to unload it it's nigh on impossible without taking a huge loss.

    And if you get a fix-er-upper just try not to spend too much money on it. I was reading this Tolstoy novella last night and it largely concerns a guy who pretty much bankrupted himself fixing up a house. Plus he dies after he hurts himself trying to rearrange some curtains because it was the early 20th Century and they were still pretty much using leeches and hacksaws.

    And if you do fix it up, watch your property tax bill go up. I remember Laura Diamond complaining because her property tax on her fix-er-upper mansion went up like $20000 after she made a bunch of improvements on the place.

    And it seems realtors are kind of lazy. I never wanted to BUY a house but I was looking to rent one, so I contacted this realtor and he wanted to meet at either noon on a Wednesday or 1pm on a Thursday, which is pretty much the worst time ever to want to meet on my work schedule. Could he come up with something accommodate me? Nope. So I guess he must be doing well enough that he can turn away potential clients because he's too lazy to meet them.

  6. House insecurities is where I've been the last two months as well. We finally closed on ours this week though. It was a for sale by owner and we needed to do a lot of research to make sure all of our bases were covered.

    Then the closing costs kept fluctuating over a couple thousand dollars. We ended up with enough cash at the end to buy, but now it's going to be super tight for a while. I keep telling myself it's worth it, but I'm ready for a good nights sleep.

    I really hope you can get this house if its the one you love. I think being able to do what you want design wise to your house is a good trade off for the homeowner headaches.

  7. YAY for Jessica!

    Man, i'm sorry the house hunting has been such a pain in the ass. I'm really crossing my fingers for you on this foreclosure. Also, your realtor, no offense, seems kind of dickish.

  8. I had always been a renter until buying this place here. Big cities, a lot of moves...but it feels good to settle down. Been here 13 years now.

    You can get your own doesn't have to be the one whose name is on the sign. That's what I did. Somehow they work together and get it done. But with your own realtor, at least you know somebody is looking out for you.

  9. Good luck in your house hunt. The Husband and I bought and fixed up a foreclosure as our first home together. It was a giant pain in the ass but when we were done we were able to flip it and make some money.

    I tend to make all of those writerly mistakes- I use too many clichés, I tell instead of show, and so on. Thanks for the book recommendation. I could really use it!!

  10. Hi Michael .. good luck with the house buying .. it's a 'nightmare' til the deal is done and you're actually in the house ... very good luck and here's to your new home.

    I'm sure Jessica's book is very good - she seems to have the knack of writing articulately and I'm certain she's well informed ..

    Good to highlight Jess - and relax re the house, at least you have a plan B up your sleeve .. cheers Hilary

  11. Thanks so much for posting about my book today! I wish you all the best house hunting too :-)

  12. Michael - wishing you the very best of luck on that house. Your plans for it sound wonderful. I need some ducks in a row and a deck! And a fountain. That sounds so cool! :-)

  13. I remember house hunting...I was getting so discouraged! Everything was out of my price range, and what I could afford was a shanty like in shape. Then one day, a house came up for sale...a light shined down on it from above and I got it! I'm still in it. I loved it from day one and I love it still!

  14. Good agents are hard to find as most of them get into it because they think it's easy money.

    Here's something to consider, though. When a bank forecloses, they almost never do work on the house. The put them up for sale "as is." If BoA is actually doing work on this one, it must have had some things that -really- needed works, so you're probably better off.

    Foreclosed properties are usually cheaper than the appraised price, but neither of those things have to do with a short sale price. A homeowner can list the price on a short sale as anything they want it to be, but, once they get an offer, they have to get their mortgage holder to actually agree to the price they set, so the bank (or whoever) can always say "Are you crazy? We're not letting that go at that price." Or there ends up being tons and tons of negotiations to settle on a price. Contrary to how they sound, short sales generally take 2-3 times as long to go through as normal home purchase.

  15. I doubt anybody's put the work into researching this house that you have, Michael. If it's in your price range, I'm sure you'll be the first to pounce :)

  16. I know how intimidating the home buying process can be. Honestly I wish I had done more research, so I admire how much you have done here. Good luck!

    And congrats to Jessica, looks like a very helpful book.

  17. Mike, you've put a lot of thought into visualizing this home as yours. Best of all, you've made the steps forward to make it a reality. Kudos to you!

    Jessica, I like your thoughts, ma'am. And you're right. You do need to paint the emotion with words. I like your advice on using a strong verb to denote action in the now and similes and metaphors to capture the emotion of the moment.


  18. I've owned a few properties over the years and I'm not sure houses are such a good investment anymore---the one I'm in now has depreciated $150,000 since we bought it. But you have the right idea about buying the worst house in a nice area. That's the best way to make money, and you get to live in a nice location. Good luck with your house hunting.

  19. It's funny how you get attached to a house so quickly. I've lost a few I wanted to buy so badly but someone out bid me. I hope you get the house you want. But sometimes, too, it's important to listen to the message the universe is sending. Sometimes things are hard because we're supposed to fight, sometimes they're hard because we're supposed to live without it. Wish I knew which was which though.

  20. Best on getting what you want, Michael. Maybe you'll end up with something better. ?

    Wow, Jessica has been busy getting work out. Good for her!

  21. I love this post because I can picture that house and the Realtor who kept putting you off because short sales are so difficult and they are never what they sound like in the first place. I loved hearing it from the customer's viewpoint. Your viewpoint. I'm married to a Realtor and I've heard the same thing about short-sales. Too difficult, etc. The one I'm currently in love with would never sell for the asking price. The bank apparently advertises a price but doesn't check it against reality until someone is on the hook and is willing to pay the actual price that the market is calling for....I hope they can make an exception in your case Michael. You deserve the tree-lined street. Good luck.

  22. Congrats on the new house! I wish you the very best as you continue to navigate home ownership. Thank you so much for your very supportive comment, I really appreciated that from the bottom of my heart. High five on writing erotica, what sites do you write for? I'd love to read your work.

  23. Sounds like a good plan if this dream house doesn't end up working out - but you seem to be in a good, proactive position so maybe it will.

    I see reading in the shade in your own backyard in your future. :)

  24. Sounds like a challenge, but a really good one. You can do it! And great post by Jessica. She always has lots of wonderful advice.

  25. I really hope you get a wonderful house soon, Michael, but please be careful about that bank-owned one. Personally I don't trust banks, and BoA has earned a rotten reputation during the foreclosure crisis. But if the place does go on the market PLEASE check out the stuff that matters, meaning structure, plumbing, the nuts and bolts. Cosmetic changes are easy and fairly cheap to make, and no doubt that's what the bank is going for. What worries me is if they're doing as much to cover up a bigger problem.

    Whatever happens with this one, I hope you get a wonderful house soon and it's a perfect fit for you and the price is reasonable.

    Oh, and I like the sound of Jessica's book so I'll check it out.

  26. Take a picture of the house and pin it somewhere where you can see it. Then, when you look at the picture, believe that it is yours. No stress. No worries. Just belief.

    And then go focus on something else.

  27. Congratulations on completing A to Z!

    Good luck with the house. Yeah, stuff like that can lead to some very specific, but temporary insecurities.

    Yay, Jessica!

    An A to Z Co-Host
    Tossing It Out

  28. Good luck with the house.

  29. Hope it all works out Mike. I'm discovering some of the same issues about foreclosures you are- they are a pain in the ass to attempt to own.

    The book sounds awesome Jessica. A lot of work went into it.


  30. Best of luck to ya! Jessica's book sound wonderful. Thanks for sharing with us. :)

  31. Hope things go your way. I'd think it would be easy to get these properties, but I guess not when big business takes hold of them.

    Here's hoping Jessica's book does well.

  32. Good luck with the house! I'll keep my fingers crossed for you!

  33. Sorry I've been too self involved to stop by lately. Good luck on the home. I've decided that I hate fixing things up. It took me a year or so to figure that out. Next buy will have things already fixed or I will have enough money to pay others to do it.