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Monday Classroom: Dangling Participles . . . dang I’ma gonna ‘splain it like this:

DSC_0174In my Monday Classroom Series, I rarely explain “grammar stuff” by explaining it too technically—you know why? Because I cannot be too technical since for me it’s mostly become the instinctual. Oh, I had horrid grammar for many years, and the comma drove me to distraction. But when I became an editor for Rose & Thorn years ago, I learned on the job what it meant to be a better editor. I not only noticed things in the structure and tone and cadence of the story, but also by how grammar was used as a tool either to ignore the rule or to enhance by breaking the rule. In the process, the story shone brighter. It’s all about CONTROL. Know what is right, apply it where necessary, and then break those rules when creativity asks for it: with CONTROL.

Grammar may be one of those things you “get” or one of those things that makes you want to pull out your hair and run screaming into the streets. For me, things began to click when I related them to my writing (or the writer’s story I edited) in a tangible way. What I will try to do here is to explain things in a way with the hope my explanations will make it easier for you to apply the rules, or break them effectively, in your writing, even if you don’t exactly know the whys or deep grammatical explanations.

If you want a more technical explanation, there’s always Grammar Girl

We know what Dangling means; that’s easy. But what in tarnation is a Dangling Participle? A Dangling Participle will have an “ING” word in a phrase that usually precedes a sentence, which modifies the wrong noun/subject.

ING words are sneaky! I often do a “find/search” of my first draft for ING words just to see how I’ve slipped up. First off, many times I find that instead of an ING word, I could/should use ED (or some sister/brother of ED)—go into your manuscript/story and look at some ING words. Now, change ING to ED (and you may or may not need to fiddle-dee-dee with the sentence a bit) and then read it aloud. Huh? Huh? Yeah? See? The more I am instinctually aware, the less I worry I’ll miss something; however, when I do a search, I’m always surprised at what I miss.

Today, let’s look at those ING words as Dangling Participles—dangling ING words in phrases.

Dangling Participles “attach themselves” to the wrong subject, and make the sentence, the scene, sound a bit ridiculous or implausible.

Example:

10305604_10152463711914176_2993508658427162551_n Drinking her coffee, Mary told John to stop drumming his fingers on the table.

Now, imagine that scene above—don’t just nod your head about it, really picture that scene as if it’s a movie scene or happening right in front of you:

Mary is drinking her coffee, so how can she talk to John with a mouthful of coffee?

Sure, we all know what the sentence means; but if you picture that scene, it does not work. I could explain things in a “Grammarish” kind of way about modifiers and nouns and who or what is carrying out the action and blah blah blah, but if the whys confuse you, I want you to see the results to strengthen your scene and not necessarily the grammar whys.

And in the case of the Dangling Participle, I am not so much worried about you remembering the Term, but instead remembering that ING word there in the beginning phrase that knocks the scene all wonkity.  And you can do that by imagining the scene you are writing as if it is happening in front of you or in a movie scene—yeah, I stuck lots-o ING words right there in this paragraph, didn’t I? Ha! But they ain’t a-danglin.

So, in my example: Mary can’t talk and drink her coffee at the same time. Something doesn’t jive here. Let Mary finish her gulp of coffee and then she can tell John to stop his drumming before she goes mad mad MAD with it! (For me, it’s whistling – dang if I don’t hate whistling!)

Running to her car, Debbie revved the motor and raced away.

I’m still imagining Debbie in a full-out run to the car, and then whammalammadingdong I have to adjust my thinking. No, wait! She’s in the car and driving away! This scene is awkward.

Because grammar is so AWESOME in this way, sometimes those ING words can work as beginning phrases.

well, sheee'it

well, sheee’it

Standing in the doorway, George was knocked to the floor by a large angry ape.

Do you see the difference? George is standing in the doorway when BA-BAM! A big ole ape slams into him. George is the focus here—George standing in the doorway is the focus. The ape comes out of nowhere and knocks George down. I can see the scene even if it could be rewritten to be more efficient.

I’m being simplistic here, and my examples aren’t meant to be perfect. What I want here is for you to picture the scene and in picturing the scene understand the effect on your manuscript/scene.

Typing her examples, Kathryn hoped everyone would understand.

Works for me! Kathryn is typing her examples with the hope that you all will understand. Is the sentence strong and lovely? I dunno. But I can picture the scene just fine. Kathryn typed examples. Kathryn hoped everyone understood. She did and can do both at the same time. Now if Kathryn did this:

Typing her examples, Kathryn ate her scone.

Nope, I’m typing so it would be hard to eat my delicious cranberry orange scone (dang! Wish I had one right now!). Unless I jammed my face on my plate and ate like a dawg—and I probably have done just that, haw!

There are great beautiful perfect grammatical explanations for all this, and any google of “dangling participles” and “participles” will give you clear instruction (like Grammar Girl link above).

Find a way to internalize the explanations so that they become clear to you in a tangible way. If you can relate something to your own experience, it’s easier to understand. If you can imagine your scenes as if watching a movie or as if it is happening right in front of you, then perhaps applying correct grammar, or breaking the rule, will give you much more control. So think about your scenes in another way, and in the process, gain an understanding of sentence structure and how it can make your work weaker or stronger.

Now, go WRITE!

 

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Touty Plug of the day: I don’t feel like being touty. I will only say that if you want a new book to read, then perhaps consider one of mine. You can pick out all my grammatical mistakes–particularly in the first books–and sneeringly sneerificate at me *laugh!* I have a website kathrynmagendie.com and an Amazon Page and my books are available wherever books are sold–and if they aren’t there, then they can be ordered. As always, your support is needed and appreciated and never forgotten. It’s all for you, this crazy writing life: You–dear Readers.

Monday Classroom: Just a few little thoughts on punctuation; I’m spring forward sleepy

201I love “Springing Forward” in the evenings. Oh, but I do! It’s lighter outside longer. It means spring is on the way soon soon soon. However, it takes me a few days, week, weeks, to adjust to the earlier mornings. Lawdy. My brain ain’t quite absorbed the strong black coffee I’m slurping down. Today’s Monday Classroom is short and quickly to the point.

In dialogue, punctuation goes inside the quote marks.

Sample:

“This is how you do it,” Kathryn said. She put the punctuation inside the quote mark. Then, she said, “But, also this is a way. And since she didn’t have a tagline (said/asked), she put the period, again, before the quote mark.

download You do not always have to have a tagline, “he said/she said” — there can be action to indicate who is speaking.

Sample:

“I am typing some things to remember for my class.” Kathryn looked up at the screen to make sure her words looked right.

See? I did not write a tagline, a “said,” but you know it is Kathryn speaking because I have an action right after the dialogue. The period is inside the quote mark.

Comma talk was last Monday Classroom, see post below.

Semi-colons “separate” but yet “connect” two sentences that are independent—meaning, they could stand alone as two different sentences but you want the two sentences to be together, sort of a partnership of ideas or thoughts.

Kathryn was hungry; her dinner awaited her in the fridge.

Kathryn needed another example; she wanted to impress her students.

See how both of those could be independent sentences? But also see how I wanted them together because I just did and why do you question my genius? Why? Why? Why I ask you?

Kathryn was hungry. Her dinner awaited her in the fridge.

Kathryn needed another example. She wanted to impress her students.

And, remember, my beauties! One space after your end punctuation. Period, exclamation point, question mark . . . only one space!

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This photo has nothing to do with anything on this post, but I just like how I grabbed a shot of this pelican right as it opened its mouth to try to capture and eat a rather large turtle! I miss my camera!

This photo has nothing to do with anything on this post, but I just like how I grabbed a shot of this pelican right as it opened its mouth to try to capture and eat a rather large turtle! I miss my camera!

Touty Plug of the Day: Kat’s Amazon Page. There’s stuff there. But I rarely visit it. You know why? Because I do not read reviews; I do not look at reviews; I do not look at my star rating if I can help it–although, oft-times it cannot be helped if I’m grabbing a link to one of my books; however, since my star-ratings are quite nice for most if not all my books, it’s not so bad to see it. So, if you’uns have a notion to, stroll by and give it a visit.

Monday Classroom: Picky part two, but I am right because I say so

10398086_10152474576124176_3232207411175342070_nSome things bother me that do not bother other people at all. But I am right. (*laughing*)

These things stick in my craw and I have to dislodge them. I only wish I could go back to my previously published works, before I knew better, to eradicate the picky sh*t I am now picky over. Sometimes things do still sneak in, because they are so ingrained into our speech. Such as:

She found herself in the bedroom. She did? That sounds like some sci-fi novel/movie or something. You mean she went into the bedroom and there was another version of her? A clone? How fascinating that she could actually, literally, find herself in her bedroom! That would freak me out. I don’t want any more Me’s running around. Huhn. One of me is enough–just ask those who put up with me.

And speaking of “literally.” If I say, “I literally typed my fingers to the bones!” Then one would expect to see my wittle hands sprouting nubs with skeletal protrusions. No, I figuratively typed my fingers to bones, perhaps, but never literally—though sometimes I do worry this nub-state shall occur.

He woke that morning with a smile on his face. Well, where else would a smile be? On his butt? The only place we have a smile is on our face, so we can strike out three words from our manuscript (or anywhere else) by writing/saying: He woke that morning with a smile. We can also wonder what he’s smiling about. If he’s your partner/spouse, then maybe you should worry, hmmm. Just what, or who, was he dreaming of? Hmmmmm. Of course he was dreaming of you–of course.

She thought to herself, why is Steven smiling this morning? Is he thinking of that redhead in the coffee shop? Why, I oughta . . . . Who else would she think to? She can only think to herself, unless you are writing about mind-readers. Thinking to oneself is understood. If you are writing in third person limited (and of course in first person), then the narrative is understood to be her inner thoughts. If you strike out the “she thought to herself” or if you don’t want to strike out the entire thing, then at least strike out “to herself” then you’d be rid of a few more words to allow yourself to write in good ole words! Booyah!

I like my ellipses to have three spaces . . . like that. Notice as well that there is a space before and after . . . see? If there aren’t spaces…then I feel things are too crowded…stop, I need space . . . thank you. At first, when my editor corrected a previous manuscript for one of my novels, I did not like the extra ‘dot’ at the end of a sentence with ellipses. I fought it, if only in my pea-headed brain. Until one day it made perfect sense. When you consider that the ellipses are meant to stand in for a word or phrase, the rest of the sentence implying whatever or trailing off or etc etc, then at the end of that sentence there is always punctuation. So . . . .

Long Live The Oxford Comma! The serial comma. You won’t take it away from me! I love boots, kittens, and cheesecake. Why would I ever write: I love boots, kittens and cheesecake. Unless I do like kitten cheesecake, or there is some other reason to “group” the kittens and cheesecake as one entity or one grouping. Try it by saying it with a pause: I love boots (comma/pause) kittens (comma/pause) and cheesecake. Now the other way: I love boots (comma/pause) kittens and cheesecake. Ungh! Second way bugs me. Ungh!

Go to town and buy a hat and scarf, a car and truck, and a wrench and screwdriver. See how I grouped things that related and then separated them by the serial comma? Or: I like dolphins, cars and trucks–I grouped the cars and trucks because they can be grouped together as vehicles, but the dolphin remains its own thang. Or: I dislike cauliflower, perfume, and green-tea–all three separate things, but I could write: I dislike cauliflower and broccoli, perfume, and green-tea.

Clear as smudged up glass on a frosty morning? Just think of it like this: I see commas as two things: pauses and grouper-togetherers.

I think I will wait and write up a post just on The Comma. It seems this is a passionate debate, but as I wrote above: I am right. *haw!*

A final thought: things never flood my mind. I understand the concept, but for some reason it plucks at my nerve-strings. Perhaps because it’s used so much? I dunno. I don’t try to understand all my pickyisms; I only go with my flow, y’all.

What bothers you in your manuscript that you must try to eradicate? 

(pardon my repost from a few years ago – dang me)

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Secret%20Graces%202012%20-%20screenTouty plug of the day: Secret Graces, the second book in the Virginia Kate Sages of The Graces trilogy. This is my most forgotten book of the five (and one novella) I have had published through Bell Bridge books. It was completed back when my stepdad and my brother were both in the hospital having had heart attacks within a week or two of each other. A difficult time to finish and then talk about a novel! I always wanted to step back in time and look at it again, but I have a rule: never look back; it is what it is. There was always the joke about the “Log Girl” cover- many people, me included, did not like “Log Girl” because she didn’t really fit.  And we had a big debate for a while there as to whether that was a cat or a possum *laughing!* The cover was slightly altered from an earlier version (the earlier is in the video below), to better match the other two covers, but Log Girl remained, and always will I reckon.

Readers met the incredible Carey women in Tender Graces – Now the story continues . . .

“Vee” is idealistic and naïve despite the witness she has served to the fractured heritage of her parents’ and grandmother’s dreams. Vee continues her journey toward wisdom, building small bridges over the chasms of hurt and longing. The inspiration of hope lingers in her. Tender Graces and now, Secret Graces, explores three women’s lives: Daughter, Mother, Grandmother, and passes through the fulcrum of Virginia Kate’s emerging life as a lover and mother and storyteller, chronicling the heart ache and hope of her family and herself.

In Tender Graces, readers laughed and cried as they watched Virginia Kate Carey grow up with her West Virginia family, as loving as it was dysfunctional. Now author Kathryn Magendie explores the adult years of Virginia Kate’s life in the sequel, SECRET GRACES, revealing more of her relationship with her fascinating but flawed parents; her quirky friends, Jade and Miss Darla; her beloved stepmother, Rebekha, her unpredictable brothers, Micah, Andy, and Bobby; and, most of all, Virginia Kate’s journey into romance and marriage. Along the way, the old familiar ghosts follow Virginia Kate offering advice, and warning. In Secret Graces, we left an undecided Virginia Kate in the beautiful but haunted Appalachian holler of her childhood—will Virginia Kate stay, or will she go back to Louisiana? Find out in the next “The Graces” Saga: Family Graces.

Monday Classroom: To be or to not be! – aw now.

There are writing “Rules” that have attached themselves to me—as leeches will do, some may quip – haw! And I have become rather picky when it comes to these particulars.

You don’t write books? No matter! For your letters, business documents, and may I dare say texts and emails?, and other areas where you communicate, can become stronger and smoother.

Or perhaps you will say my “tips” are actually “tics.” You decide. Meanwhile, I can drive myself crazy reading/listening . . . ungh . . . but I won’t! I won’t, I say!

When I see my own mistakes in my own earlier writing—earlier even could mean my last novel—ungh! Or a recent blog post when I was in a hurry and/or distracted—oh dear! I am shamed, shaaaaaaaamed! *kat hangs head*

Yet, many times I throw rules right out the window and simply go by the rhythm of the phrase/sentence. I want my work to be rhythmic but in a natural way, so breaking the rules is sometimes necessary to create a mood or feeling or a sentence that Fits. And of course, when I write in a character’s voice/pov, I must be true to that voice/pov—not all characters will be as picky as: is it picky as me or picky as I?—it is I (am)—see below! Virginia Kate has her VK’isms and I stand true to them; Melissa is the storyteller in Sweetie and she’s a bit more “formal” in her speech.

 So tip or tic?

There are times you can “finish the thought/sentence” or re-arrange it and this can help you to find the “correct” grammar or sentence structure. As in the following:

I and Me.

 “You and I” is often used for everything because people are afraid of saying/writing it incorrectly, but sometimes “you and me” is correct.

Harry and me had a great time eating kumquats. No.

Harry and I had a great time eating kumquats. Correct.

 Harry had a great time eating kumquats. I had a great time eating kumquats.

Water is good for you and I. No.

Water is good for you and me. Correct

Water is good for you. Water is good for I – sounds funny, right? Water is good for me.

Not everyone is as picky as me. No.

Not everyone is as picky as I (am). Correct.

I am picky. Me is picky.

She is better than I (am) to craft these examples.

She is better than me to craft these examples.

She is better than I am.  She is better than me am.

Between you and me, this can be really confusing

Between you and I, this can be really confusing.

Guess which one is it? It’s the first one!

Between you, and between me, this is really confusing. Between you, and between I, this is really confusing.

See? Clear as the mud you just threw in my face, right? Haw!

The Split Infinitive:

To be or not to be is not to be or to not be. Haha! To be or to not be just doesn’t have the same rhythm does it?

I split many an infinitive in my life, and sometimes it does make the sentence read smoother. However, most times I unsplit my infinitives and lean back with an ahhhh. Am I never to do it again? Or am I to never do it again—ha! I am never to do it again! To and do go together, not to be split by never.

I am never to speak of it again! I am to never speak of it again! The first one: to speak! Not: to never.

Aw, now, I think those are great examples. *kat sniffs a bit sardonically at those who are poo-pooing her and yes I know I spelled poo poo incorrectly in this instance – huh.*

Take to/bring back.

This one is in honor of my father, who drummed it into my head over and over. I can hear him so clearly:

“It’s take to, bring back. Say it, Kathy, take to, bring back.” (My family called/calls me Kathy—no one else is allowed! Dang you!).

 We take something to and then we bring back from. Take me to the grocery for cookies, or bring me back some cookies. Although I don’t like “bring me back some cookies;” I like “If you show up from the grocery without any cookies, you’ll regret it! By gawd!”

I’ve got. Pull out the sentence and see how it reads/sounds:

“I’ve got a cup of coffee by my side.”

“I have got a cup of coffee by my side.” Awkward!

Perhaps try: “I have a cup of coffee by my side,” or “I’ve a cup of coffee in my stomach.” (well, now I do!)

You’ve rid yourself of an extra word, to boot! Now doesn’t that feel zippity do dah day! Come on, doesn’t it? *kat is starting to (see below)—no—kat is feeling a bit discombobulated*

“Got” tends to drive me batty, for it is oft-times used excessively, and once I “notice” a word—as in: got, or had, or suddenly, then my brain BUMPS on it.

Further/Farther

Farther is a physical distance. I am farther from the kitchen than you are.

Further is not a physical distance.  “You are further along in your chef career than I am.”

The farther she walked down that long dusty road, the further her thoughts spiraled into bing bang bongs dang-a-lang-a-ding-dongs.

Snuck/Sneaked

Snuck is a colloquialism. Yes, I recognize that “snuck” is universally accepted. But . . . still . . . sneaked is correct! “I sneaked to the kitchen to steal cookies” instead of “I snuck to the kitchen to steal cookies.” The only time I use “snuck” is in dialogue, because some of my characters do say “snuck” just as many (most) people do.

Sneak/Sneaked.

Started to

We all say or have said “started to.” I wrote “started to” quite frequently until it “started to” blare out at me as extra words that are not required. Can “started to” be changed to a more direct action?

It started to rain: It rained. I started to cry. I cried. I starting running or I started to run. I ran. I started to pull out my hair. I pulled out my hair. You started to pull out Kathryn’s hair for all these tic/tips. You pulled out Kathryn’s hair and watched her cry—oh wait . . . ungh.

We are not perfect writing machines, but the more we do instinctively and naturally, the less time spent on “fixing” what we write, or even how we speak; though I admit my “Speak” is much more casual than my “Write.” Our editors, bosses, Aunt Pitty Mae Joeleen who was an English teacher long long long ago, and whomever else cares about this stuff (hey, I do and I bet they do, too!) will notice and love you for it. And even if they do not know why they love you for it, you will know why and be the stronger for it.

What do you think? And do you have any tics/tips you are strict about in your language?

As always, if I ferckled up anything, feel free to point er out!

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Touty Plug of the Day:

walter bald and kat author photo shots 109

My lil ole kathrynmagendie.com author/editor website that the wonderful and beautiful Kim of TechBelle created. She did a lovely job and I often forget to go by there and update it; shame on me! There’s links and pics and info and bio and etc etc etc . . . .

Monday Classroom: More Grammar Tidbitters (ain’t you gladeravated?)

10305604_10152463711914176_2993508658427162551_nMorning, all y’allses! What? You think all y’allses isn’t correct? Well, it ain’t. It ain’t even correct in many southern towns. Nope. But it’s correct in my pea-head, so there y’allses goes’ses.

Our manuscripts will never be perfect. Yeah, I know! It’s difficult to imagine, isn’t it? That we aren’t or will never be perfect? Nor will our books/essays/short stories, and so on. Lawd and Dang. However, we can do our best to strengthen our work by learning The Rules and applying them when we “should.” Then, we can break those rules with a firm and knowledgeable hand. Right? Riighhht!

downloadDo you own a Strunk & White? No? *Gasp!* Go ye and purchase one. I don’t care if you’ve heard it’s all stuffy-fied. I’ll wait whilst you do. *Jeopardy music here* You back? All right then (and notice, yes sir and yes m’am, that all right is two words—two!).

Now, let us begin.

As I wrote above, all right should be two words. Not alright. Because I say so. So does “Grammar Girl,” who I do agree with (and yes I know what I just did with that sentence and how I ended it!). And I don’t care if people are beginning to “accept things that are used all the time.” Nope. All right?

Do you feel badly? Well, what’s wrong with your hands? Yep. Feeling badly, or feel badly: think about it. Roll that around on your tongue-brain. It is: I feel bad. I feel bad that you think I’m being a grammar bitch (I really don’t feel bad – haha!).

Another of those pesky “ly” words: Most always when we write “hopefully” we mean “I hope or with hope.” Yup. It is with hope that I write this tip prompting you to stop saying “Hopefully, I will understand all this mess.” Well, dang me but “hope” looks like it’s spelled all wrong and I know it is not. Ain’t that funny when a word does that in our heads? One we’ve written many times will all of a sudden be all wrong in said heads?

Of course there are many “ly” words that are perfectly acceptable. Those adverbs — ly words — flummox people right and left and up and down. Another day with the ly-ers.

well, sheee'it

well, sheee’it

Who that? I often see/hear “that” used instead of “who—” if you are writing/speaking of a person, then it is who. She is a woman who likes strawberries right off the vine; not, she is a woman that likes strawberries right off the vine.

Commas before which’s. The dog wanted his walk, which was most inconvenient for the woman who wasn’t yet ready. What? I don’t care! It’s correct! Because Strunk & White say so! And I do, too. Humph. If you hate commas, “that” can be used instead of “which” in many sentences. But if you are going to use “which” then use the comma, which is proper grammar that can be used today and tomorrow and so on and so forth and la tee dah tee dah.

We Southern/Mountain folk often add words and such all and all that stuff and a little bit of this and that the t’other. I often use colloquialism in my work, since my settings are usually in the Appalachian/Deep South. So if you read my work, you will see grammar discombobulations when I am in the character’s voice. However:

Off of is incorrect, and plain old “off” is correct. The woman jumped off of the couch and ran to the porch to yell, “Git off’n my land!” should be The woman jumped off the couch and ran to the porch to yell “Git off’n my land!”

As well, instead of “Could of” we should write/say “could have” – I could of had a V8 is incorrect! Don’t you watch commercials to learn yer grammarfications? It’s I could have had a V8! Or “I could’ve had . . . .” That said, I it may sound as if I am saying the “could of” because I’m southern and charming and oh so mysteriously colloquial. Tee hee.

you nauseate me - just say'n

you nauseate me – just say’n

Nauseous versus Nauseated. If you feel it, it is nauseated. If you or someone or something else is causing the nausea, well then, that is nauseous.  I am nauseated because you vomited on my just-mopped floor, you nauseous pile of vomitus!

Y’allses gots any grammerfications and other writin bloooperdoops you wanna tawlk about?And, as always, if I have an error, which does happen because I’m imperfectly perfect, point ‘er out and I’ll fix it (if I agree).

Now, go do the day!

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Touty Plug of the day: Family Graces, the 3rd book in the Graces Trilogy. This explores Momma’s and Rebekha’s lives more, and we finally learn what happens with Virginia Kate and Gary.

family_graces_-_screen

Monday Classroom: grammar tidbits

Just Do It

Grammar really isn’t difficult. Yes, I laughed a little when I wrote that. I can remember the days when certain “grammar rules” made little sense to me. I struggled and stumbled and cursed the comma. But then, for whatever reason in the universe, my pea-headed brain had some kind of Oh! AHA! moment and the grammar rules began to make (im)perfect sense to me (though I break them many times, but I do it with purpose). I’m sure it was an insidious inky thing spreading out and snapping through the mysterious regions of my brain–helped by my work as an editor (and then Publishing Editor with Angie Ledbetter) at the Rose & Thorn Journal (a fine fine literary journal that we both grieved shutting down–the archives are still there, should you wish to peruse and enjoy!). I had to find ways to help my brain make sense of it all by using my own little “memory tics;” or, just accept what is, is, and forever more may be.

So, my fine beautiful lovelies: some tidbits for your grammar angstesess:

Less/Fewer

An apple a day may be a cliche, but it is solid advice--it just may keep the doc away, uh huh

Simply put: think of fewer as “counting things” and less as “time and space and things you don’t count.”

I ate fewer apples (three) today because I had less time (about an hour) to chew.

There are fewer dogs (twelve) in the dog park so there’s way less barking (who knows how many dogs are barking; I just hear noise).

Take fewer cookies (three) so you’ll spend less time on the treadmill (get on that treadmill anyway – no matter how many cookies you’ve eaten, or not eaten!).

Fewer coins (ten) means less money (you are probably broke if you are a writer) to spend.

Most Important/Most Importantly

It’s important. Period. Most important, it’s important not importantly. Because I said so. Because I consulted the Most High Poombahs of Grammar and they said so. Most important, I said so.

But wait! There’s more! There is quite a controversy on the “important/importantly” debate. I will stick to my “most important” and continue to correct people in my head – hahahaha!

Your/You’re

Do we really need to discuss this? Yes. Because even people I dearly love still use “your” as “you’re.” Your is possessive: Your (possessive – you own the pants) pants are falling down so you’re (you are) going to trip on them. You’re is the contraction of “You are.”

You’re (you are) so cute when your (possessive) pants fall down. You can only use “you’re” as You Are and nothing else–if you write “you’re” you are saying “you are” and if you write “your” you are saying that person owns the thing that it is attached to it.

Your (the person the lips are attached to) lips are kissable; you’re (you are) sexy.

It’s/Its

010-001Often, writers write the it’s/its incorrectly by accident. I scour my manuscript with a fine-toothed eye to catch any it’s/its -ses I may have missed just by a slip of the finger — or! Word sometimes plays tricks that I must watch out for.

It’s: contraction of it is.  Note that “it’s” can be a contraction for “it has” as well: It’s been nice but I gotta go –it has been nice but I gotta go. That’s it. That’s the use of it’s: it is or it has. Nothing else.

Its: a possessor that is neutral. Consider that his and her is a “possessor” – his legs are strong but her thighs can crack a walnut.  Think of its replacing his or her as in the case of the example below: the dog and the dog’s house.

It’s (it is) chilly outside and the dog shivers in its (possessor) dog house. (So I let the dog in my house–okay, I had to add this because I kept feeling sorry for this imaginary dog. Haw!)

The swan knows it’s beautiful in its watery kingdom at the lake.

Starbucks is a huge corporation and its coffees are over-priced. See that Starbucks “owns” the coffees but we don’t call Starbucks a “his or her” – still, it “possesses” the coffees it sells, so: It’s (it is) my opinion that Starbucks and its (neutral possessor) coffees are sometimes delicious and sometimes burnt-tasting.

Now, I hope I didn’t create any typos or make an embarrassing grammatical mistake while typing this out. If so, call me on it and I’ll fix ‘er up.

That’s it for today. Take those in your mouth until you’re sure you can swallow them down in your tummy. Most important, it’s widely known that grammar is its own worst enemy but dang if it’s not beautiful in its complexity. You’re going to muddle over this until your head explodes. You’ll have fewer brain cells and less synaptic activity once you have considered all of the above. Teehee.

DSC_0174Later, y’all (spelled “Y’all and not Ya’ll” – you all – y’all, y’all!) Go Write!

1461250_496657083765127_1387255473_nThe Lightning Charmer coverTouty plug of the day: The Lightning Charmer – wish my publishers (and I suppose me to some extent) luck, for TLC’s cover is a finalist in the EPIC Ariana Awards for book cover art. Winners announced in March.

Work-out Writer: After the big cussin’ hissy fit, we may see a truth we tried to deny

He was an ass . . . but . . . . was I, too?

Jerkface, sumbitch! Huhn!

Workout: Saturday while on the treadmill doing a new, and particularly high energy part of my workout, some jerkface came over, waved his hand in my face, and then bitched me out for stomping on the treadmill. I couldn’t even respond—I was so furious, a sailor would blush at what caught in my throat and I had to swallow down.  All the rest of the weekend, I was pissed off, and within that anger came a little depression and anxiety: what would I do? That newer part of the aerobic workout kicked my ass but good and was something different, made me sweat, helped control my stress and take down my jitteriness a notch. I kept seeing his face; kept seeing his hand waving in my face; kept seeing me punching his face until it was a bloody-ass pulp (um, yeah, not proud of that thought, lawd!)

I didn’t even look forward to my next workout, for I thought, “It’s all ruined. My joy is ruined. My workout is ruined. Woe is me.”

*woe is wittle me*

*woe is wittle me*

Meanwhile, I’d conveniently forgotten how many people said I inspire them, how they enjoy my joy. I’d forgotten that the addition of this stomping was fairly new, and in a quiet little dark corner of myself, I knew I shouldn’t have been doing it—it just felt so good I ignored everything and everyone else. I was being stubborn. I wanted want I wanted. I didn’t want to give it up cause it was just so cool.

omg - I was being an asshole, too!

omg – I was being an asshole, too!

But, when I allowed my rage to subside. When I stopped thinking, “That sonuvabitch jackass mo-fo, rude asshole!” I heard what he said, not how he said it. And folks, yeah, I sure was being disrespectful to others and the equipment at that particular addition of my high-energy workout. Admitting that made me pull up my big girl panties and acknowledge I was being an asshole, too. I don’t excuse his delivery system, for he had no call for the way he treated me, but hidden in his Big Ass Stupid Face Assholedom was some truth.

This morning, as I stepped on the treadmill, someone said something so positive, reminding me that I wasn’t a bad person, I hadn’t always been so out of control, and I felt my joy slipping back in. Instead of stomping like an over-crazed idiot, I found something else to do that kicked my ass even better and more efficiently, and without worrying about hurting myself, and just as wonderful, I was still respectful of the machines and others.

WHUPOW!

Writer: Sometimes when we’re given critique/edit suggestions from our editors or beta reader, or whomever, that we don’t like, we may be tempted to say “Oh, they just don’t get it; they don’t understand what I’m trying to do; they SUCK! I ain’t listening. If I change this, it ruins everything! If I take that out/put that in/alter that, then what?  Waaaaaaah! Sumbitches!”  We push any rational thought aside, cuss, holler to the four winds of the universe how unfair they are, and how they just don’t get us and our work. Want to smack them three sides to Tuesday. We may want to give up, give in, be depressed and defeated. Put aside the work and walk away.

Well, shit . . . huh. I guess I see what you're saying . . ..

Well, shit . . . huh. I guess I see what you’re saying . . ..

However, if we still our minds and think of the bigger message, even if it’s embedded in a delivery we don’t appreciate, we may just find some truth in that critique/edit. We can pull on our big girl panties, or big boy undies, and acknowledge how we are being intractable, childish. We can pull back and look at their suggestions/comments, see if really they do have something to add to our manuscript, after all. Then, we find a way to work the manuscript into something that still gives us joy, makes us excited, and works ever so much better to make the work kick-ass.

images (1)

I actually do have a can of this!

WHUPOW! Open up a can of whoopass and get going!

Work-out writer: A leaner you; a leaner manuscript

from SHAPE magazine site

from SHAPE magazine site

Work-out: Want an efficient work out? Try interval training. The easy answer to “what is interval training” is, for example, say you usually walk on the treadmill at a steady pace — even if it’s a fast pace — for thirty minutes to an hour. Try adding in short bursts of speed or intensity. You want to raise your heart rate; to go fast/hard enough that you think, “Omg! I can’t go much farther!” then you slow it back down and catch your breath. Do this several times during your workout–get that heart rate going and then slowing it down, up and down, up and down, until you are sweating and feeling kick-ass, and as if your ass was kicked! It’s efficient and effective. Though I do high-energy intervals for an hour, actually you do not have to go that long. It’s all about making it efficient — I’m just insane *laugh*

For a better, more comprehensive explanation, here’s an article in Shape Magazine: Interval Training: Short Workouts That Really Pay Off 

(As I always tell you: please see your doctor before beginning an exercise, or new exercise, routine.)

logoWriter: Want a more efficient manuscript? If we want our manuscripts to be “lean” and tight, sometimes we have to delete. Find those areas that are flabby and develop their muscles. Our manuscripts can become bloated after writing up those first drafts. We’re developing characters, setting, scene, etc. We’re trying to find our way, and the character’s way. One of the “easier” ways to develop a leaner manuscript is to find and delete  “internal monologue” or internal thoughts the character has. I finally figured out that the only “purpose” or reason for these internal monologues in our drafts is to figure out something at the same time the character is – sort of like when we yap to a friend about a problem because we are trying to sound it out, hear it out, figure it out. Most of this can GO. Delete. Get rid of it. Instead of writing along at this steady pace, punch it up! Instead of a long paragraph, or *gasp* page(s), of internal monologue, use action, or dialogue, or cut it down to a sentence or two. Do this throughout the manuscript and you’ve deleted thousands of bloaty words that weighed down your manuscript.

For a better, more comprehensive, explanation of internal monologue, see: The Do’s and Don’ts of Internal Monologue by K.M. Weiland

Don't be afraid to stretch yourself a little in life.

Don’t be afraid to stretch yourself a little in life.

A fit you; a fit manuscript.

Wednesday Classroom: Do your research to gain trust with your reader, yawwwwl

Morning Y’allses! Guess where I am while you are reading this? In Oregon! Lawdy but I’m far away from my little log house. GMR and the dawgs and the ghost dawg have the house and cove all to themselves and I bet they miss my pea-headed s’ef.  So, for this post, I’m a’trying to post ahead of time. Just think, as I’m typing this I’m in the little log house, but as you read it, I’m in Oregon. Wheeee ain’t technology grand?

Folkses, as you all may be able to tell from reading my posts on writing, I can be strict about some thangs. I try to have things Right. I want to convince my audience, and you should, too!

With fiction, bring in truths to ground the reader—and whatever those truths are will be  up to the writer to convey them. The amount of danged old research we do will have much to do with the place/time we create. My worlds have been and are in South Louisiana, West Virginia, and here in these western North Carolina mountains. My time has been from the 50’s to the present. My research will deal with that time and place.

If I’m writing about a real town, I need to be accurate about that town to honor its people and sense of Place–I wouldn’t have New Orleans as the capital of Louisiana–lawd!–because it is Baton Rouge; I wouldn’t have Maggie Valley with a McDonald’s because we do not have fast food joints in Maggie (except for one lonely Subway, and who knows how it managed to find its way here). If I’m writing about a fictional town based on a real town, I have a little more flexibility, but I still need to be mindful. Most of my books do not mention specific towns, but my readers can often guess where I am talking about, or place my characters in a specific area that they can relate to.

If you’ses have yourse’f a world that’s all made up, like “Madeupland,” you still must ground the reader in some reality, yawwwl, right? riigghhht! So there will be some research even if it’s minor. Mainly, if you have a “Madeupland” you best be consistent–I tell you what!

All you’ses wunnerfuls out there have seen me write this before: Convince your audience and you’ve done your job, no matter how, what, where, when, who you write. Throw all the danged ole rules out the window for all I care—just convince me, or you lose me as your reader.

Sometimes you may think you have something correct, but you do not! oopsies! It doesn’t hurt to double-check those things you “remember” or “think you know.” I had Tang in a Tender Graces scene–later, it began to bug me, when was Tang invented? I looked it up and Lawd!, it wasn’t released to the general public until sometime after my scene–the astronauts had it first.

Whenever I mentioned a movie or a television show or a football game, I made sure I had it Right. Folkses, you don’t EVEN want to go messing with South Louisiana and have their LSU Tigers game days, or anything else, wrong–lawd! I can’t have my South Louisiana town’s team playing  Old Miss in September when they didn’t play until later in the season, or have them playing in town when it was an out of town game. I can’t have the movie Rocky coming out in March of 1976 (in Secret Graces), because it didn’t release until December 1976. Look It Up and double check–our memories are wankity.

You can play around with research to enhance your books. Was there a significant weather event that would change something with my characters or their Place? Or make something fun/interesting? (Like the South Louisiana Hurricane mention in TG when Mee Maw comes to visit—category five Grandmother.) Or, if in the holler in West Virginia there was a bad snow storm, Katie Ivene wouldn’t be flying to town in her Rambler with the windows open yelling “wheeee!” I found sites that show historical weather. I love those little details even if only I know that on April 13, 1976, it really was 82 degrees and foggy in a town in South Louisiana (I use weather more as a mood or as Place or whatever, not that I go around quoting weather).

Little details help the reader to “Be There” with the character, to ground them in a place or time or mood, maybe even to have them say, “I know that place/event/area!” “Hey, I remember that!”

Don’t rely on only one source. I do the best I can to make sure I have everything as accurate as possible—because you are worth my time and care, you being the reader. Often, I double and triple check my sources.

Will someone find an error if they go through my books with a fine-toothed eye? I don’t know, but it won’t be for lack of me working hard and doing my job best I can. I don’t respect lazy writing and I know it when I read it.

When and how you do your research is up to you. Do what works.

Don’t cheat. Don’t be lazy. It’s worth it to build trust with your readers. Do you want your reader to stop and say, “Hey, wait a minute! This ain’t right . . .” and bump them from your world, your story? Naw! And more important to me: I want my reader to trust me and to forget about me and only focus on the narrator and the story.

Do you make sure you have things Right and build trust? Does your work require extensive research, or just a bit?

See all y’allses wunnerfuls later!

Don’t forget: I changed my blog posting schedule for my Classroom series & I am your Personal Trainer series, etc, to the first and third Wednesdays of the month, with Friday open to photos/art/video: no words. So there will only be posts twice a month, and on most Fridays, photos/video/art with no words.

Monday Classroom: See-Saw/Watch(ed)/Look(ed) – cleaning up our manuscripts, y’all (and no whining allowed!)

Morning all y’allses out there, wherever you are. I first want to say how much I appreciate you. Many of you come by here for every post, and there are those of you who leave comments regularly. Thank you.

I have not been able to return the favor as I used to, but I am subscribed to many of your blogs if you have that capability, and I do read your posts in my email. I know many of you are in the same ole boat–so much to do, so many blogs, so much social networking–Lawd!

I am behind on writing The Lightning Charmer because I whined too much instead of trusting my process.  “I caaaaaan’t write this boooooook. Cause it suuuuuuucccckkkks and I suuuucccck!” I have a deadline; I have already received my advance; I have people depending on me, readers waiting. There should be No Whining Allowed! But whine I did. I felt stuck.

After four published novels and a novella, you’d think I’d Have This. But we can always create some angst, can’t we? Lawdy be in a bucket – yes. Folks, sometimes just switching a scene around (making something happen earlier–as I did to TLC) or turning the manuscript on its head in some other way does the trick–Hey! Why, there it is! There’s the thang I was looking for hiding in plain ole sight–haw! And then the “flutter” of excitement begins in my/our belly and off I/we go! Give that sucker (your manuscript) a shake and see what falls out. Do whatever it takes to make it seem fresh  and alive. No Whining Allowed! (Okay, you can give yourself “whine time” as long as you do not give in to it for longer than two shakes of a hippo’s tail.)

Sometimes it is appropriate for a character to see-saw/watch(ed)/look(ed). But oft-times we write the character seeing looking watching when the direct action would work better. Right? Riiighhht!

For example, let’s say there’s a scene in Tender Graces where Virginia Kate and Micah are on the porch in the Looseeaner house after she’s left West Virginia.

Oh look! A rock. I am looking at the rock. You are looking at the rock. GMR is watching me look at the rock. I saw the rock. I see the rock and saw it and looked at it

Scene:

I looked over at Micah as we rocked on the porch. I saw him grin at me. I watched him run down the steps, pick up a pretty rock, and bring it back to me. He looked at me looking at the rock. I saw him look at me. We looked at each other and smiled. I watched him sit down. He looked at me as I rocked. I watched as he rocked. Then we looked at the sky because we were danged ole sick of looking at each other, sheesh.

Okay, folkses, I know that’s a little extreme, *teehee,* but you get the idea. Obviously sometimes we use looked/watched/saw, etc, because it fits the scene. Sometimes Virginia Kate uses the “I’m a looking fool” because that’s what she does–her thang; in those cases, I actually use it as a device, On Purpose, and I know it is On Purpose and the audience knows it is On Purpose–if they do not, then I ain’t done my job. This is what I mean about breaking rules or manipulating the language—if you are aware of what you are doing, if you are doing it On Purpose, it is fun to play with the language and it can be quite effective/affective.

If the sneakity sneaker thangs make their way into the work, then being aware of those sneakies will help tighten the manuscript.

Don’t stress yourself striving for perfection, especially in the first draft or two. I like to slam that story down first. However, the more you know instinctively, the less mess you have to clean up, right? RIIIIGHHHT!

Simplistically:
I saw the ball hit the wall. – The ball hit the wall.

I watched Marie jump rope. – Marie jumped rope.

I looked at Jennifer eating her pie. – Jennifer ate her pie. I want pie–this has nothing to do with this post, I just want pie now.

The audience will know the narrator is doing the watching/looking without us bomping them upside the head with it.

Playing with language and words is the most wonderful danged old thang in the world. If you tend to “over-do” or “over-use” certain words or phrases, etc, find ways to recast your sentences/phrases to create a tighter work. A swollen manuscript will become, well, not swolled up.

So, pull up your manuscript in your editing phases and do a search/find and see how many “look/see-saw/watch” you have hiding in there. You may be surprised.

Now–go Do This Day with Gratitude. And write.

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