Amy Sue Nathan’s Women’s Fiction Writers: no heroes. no zombies. no high heels. well, maybe high heels.
Kristen Lamb’s Blog: WANA-We Are Not Alone
Amy Sue Nathan’s Women’s Fiction Writers: no heroes. no zombies. no high heels. well, maybe high heels.
Kristen Lamb’s Blog: WANA-We Are Not Alone
I’ve taken up hitting the boxing bag. Not only is it an excellent cardio workout, but works/strengthens/tones the entire upper body—arms, chest, back, core. I “knee” it, too, thus adding some strengthening to my lower body. I often think of my father—he boxed while he was in the Air-Force, and while I’d never hop into the ring, it brings a connection all the same. But what I want to talk about here today is perceived weakness that keeps us from realizing our potential, because we often don’t recognize potential when we give up too easily, especially when we feel weak and ineffective in an area.
While boxing a couple of days ago, I’d punch the hell out of the bag with my right, but the left was weak and puny. I flailed away a few times and when my left arm just wouldn’t cooperate, I gave in and punched only with my right, every so often smacking unremarkably with my left just to give the right a rest—and, because I figured I had to do it, even if it didn’t feel right.
It frustrated me, this weakness, but the more I concentrated on the way my left fist felt when it connected to the bag— the weakness of that punch—the more I hated punching with that fist, and the weaker it felt. My workout wasn’t near as effective as it could have been, and I soon tired of it, finally moving on to something else. I came up with excuses as to why my left jab was pathetic: I’m right-hand dominate; I use my right hand much more often and it’s stronger; maybe there’s a pinched nerve on that side causing weakness, etc. and blah blah blah!
Two days later, I headed down to my workout room early, put in my earbuds to loud techno music, and slid on the gloves. Without thinking about what I was doing or how I was doing it, or why, or when, where, what, I just began punching the bejeebus out of that bag—right right right left left left right left right left right right left left left LEFT LEFT LEFT LEFT—POW BIFF BAM!
When I at last stopped, sweat pouring, I looked down in surprise at my left gloved fist, amazed at its strength and endurance. It was tingling and burning but it felt great! It felt powerful! I felt powerful and strong, and capable. I’d hit the hell out of that bag with what I thought was a useless left punch but instead was just as powerful as my right. I slid off my gloves and noted the redness and coming bruising of my knuckles and inside the soft portion between my pinky and “ring finger” and all that did was make me feel more powerful—it was visual tangible evidence of the power of my punch.
Did my arm/fist grow that much stronger over the two days since I’d last boxed? Nope. What I’d done was stepped up to the bag and without thinking about it I just began pummeling it. I didn’t think about weakness; I didn’t think about what I was doing at all. I allowed myself the freedom to find my inner strength. For whatever reason, I’d blocked myself from recognizing my potential by that perceived weakness.
Isn’t it fascinating what our minds can do? The tricks it can play on us? Sometimes, we must outsmart our own Self.
This is often how it is with the writing. When we approach our work with our fears and wants and needs and with conditions and scads of willy nilly jumbled up over-thinking-it thoughts, we encounter perceived weakness—the words stall, the language comes stilted, the characters blink at us from the page with perplexed expressions. The writing day seems flaccid and weak—just like that perceived weak left appendage of mine. We want to give up and give in, and we at last grow frustrated and/or bored and move on to do something else.
Yet, for many of us, when we just sit down, put our fingers to the keyboard, and let fly whatever pours out of the black hole in our brain, something seemingly magical happens. We become stronger writers almost overnight—well, dang! Because imagine if we wrote without those conditions, without over-thinking, without all the “What if this isn’t right?” “What if it doesn’t sell?” “What if no one likes it?” “What if a meteor falls on top my stupid head and smushes me to kingdom come and I never finish this and someone sees it before it is finished and it sucks and that’s the legacy I leave behind—a stupid half-finished work that sucks so bad everyone laughs and taunts and points their fingers at it?” What if we instead allow our beautiful subconscious minds, those deep instinctual strengths, to rise up from a place we cannot mine by peeking in the opening—we instead sometimes must amble, explore, stumble upon. Go for it. There’s a reason the clichéd advertising phrase Just do it makes sense—because it does work.
As I box, I will gain in confidence. I will become even stronger, yes, but I will also become better at the control of my body and what it can do. And as I grow stronger and better and more confident, I’ll start critiquing my form, how I’m hitting that bag, how my stance is—I’ll be “editing” my workout. So it is with the writing. I lift up my head and there will be a completed terrible (or not so terrible!) first draft—then the work of editing begins where I critique my form, check my stance, work on fine-tuning. I’ve done it with novels and other works that have gone on to be published—five, six, or more, times. What’s stopping me now? Perceived weakness, over-thinking, fear, conditions.
Stride into your writing room just as you will the workout room and instead of letting the world in, instead of telling yourself you are weak and can’t do it right, march in and just start punching (tippity tapping on the keys) away until you feel strong and confident and know nothing can stop you now.
If you all haven’t gone on over and checked out kat magendie novels that are on Kindle sale, and haven’t read any or some of my books, I hope you’ll go on over and give them a try. I as always am appreciative and grateful for my readers—thank you all for your support. It’s all for you. The link above should take you to a page that should list all my books and stories, and you can see the ones on sale. As well, I’m going to soon have a promo on my short stories, offering a few for free—since I rarely mention them and often forget them, they kind of sit there like little lost waywards, and I’m so proud of the artwork!
Now get to work(out)!
Touty mention of the day:
Head over to the Word Shark – Karen R. Sanderson’s Blog– Right now she has a guest there who does some amazing metal art
Karen R. Sanderson was raised by a mother who wanted to be an English teacher and who worked for Merriam-Webster as a proofreader and an aunt who could complete the Sunday New York Times crossword in a day. Their favorite expression was, “Look it up!” Karen reads punctuation and grammar manuals for fun.
Karen is an editor and proofreader, blogger, and writer. She edits fiction and non-fiction including: sci-fi, fantasy, children’s, mystery, paranormal, western, horror, historical, literary, and journalism. Karen completed her writing coursework through UCLA, the University of New Mexico, and Santa Fe Community College. She was the winner of the SouthWest Writers 2009 Writing Contest – The Best Hook. Her short stories have been featured in The Rose & Thorn Journal, Every Child is Entitled to Innocence anthology, Valley Living Magazine, BewilderingStories.com, and WritingRaw.com. She is currently working on collections of short stories and poetry.
My posts lately have been rawly honest. Opening up my pea-head and displaying not just the cray-cray but the insecurities I have as a novelist is not easy. I’ve always displayed a more positive outlook because I recognize how lucky I am to do this. I’m extremely grateful for what success I’ve had, and for how I am able to write beautiful words and interesting unique characters—how easily the words (not plots) come to me. But sometimes I over-think things—it’s a character flaw. And I’ve been over-thinking this new book—and my entire career as a novelist.
At different points in a novelist’s career there are decisions to be made that affect the novelist. Consider that it takes months or more to complete a novel all the way through from first draft to final-ready-to-be-published. No one wants to spend that much time on any project only to have to scrap it, or to have it fail. Who would like those odds? Not I, said the Kat.
There arrives the “what next?” question. What seems an innocuous query is fraught with complication. (Now, following here, excuse me for mentioning my books and linking to them and their sales on Kindle – indulge me, since I don’t do it often but I should!).
Last night I picked up my copy of “Tender Graces” and began to read it as if I didn’t write it (I recently also read “Sweetie”, and such a warm and tender feeling overcame me. The words were rich and full and lush. The character apparent. The work isn’t perfect—in fact, I can see things I’d change about TG; it was my very first novel, after all. But I felt the novelist’s love for her work, the language, the setting, place, tone, characters. It all came rushing back to me just how much I love what I do. And how lucky I am to be able to do it. The “Virginia Kate Sagas” (TG, Secret Graces & Family Graces – SG & FG are on sale for under $5 on Kindle, y’all, Sweetie for under $6) and Sweetie are examples of a writer who created out of nothing but love for this writing life—it shows, and the readers felt it, too—I receive more mail on the Virginia Kate books & Sweetie than any other–I think they get the better reviews, too. Not perfection, but sincerity and truth. I believe in this author. I trust this author. The characters come alive and appear as apparitions in the room.
With the exception of one of my novels—The Lighting Charmer (and to some extent even that book), which is on sale for .99 cents on Kindle! and sorry for the touting — my published books were written in one way: I sat down and followed my character to see what she, or he, would do. I didn’t think about plots or outlines or “what I should do;” I just wrote. With abandon. Without fear. With love. With hope. These images of my book covers you see here?: I did this. I wrote these books. *Takes a moment to be filled with happy gratitude*
Then the “novelist’s dilemma” smacked me stupid – should I write what I love; how it comes naturally to me? Or should I write what I hope will be more popular? Before you say “don’t fix what ain’t broke—write what you love!” Understand that the novelist profession is not only from the guts of us as artists, but it is also a business. This is not a hobby for me. I count on this as income. I count on this to help pay bills. And that’s where the rubber skids crazily on the road. Because what I love to write, what comes naturally to me, is not “Popular Fiction” that consistently time and again tears up Amazon rankings in the top 100 (though Tender Graces, Sweetie, and yes, even The Lightning Charmer were Amazon Best-Sellers. TG & Sweetie made it to top 100. TG was number 1 on Amazon paid list – The Help was number 2: haw! Yeah, I’ve had my moments!)
I fiercely love Virginia Kate and those cast of characters; I adore Sweetie & Melissa. I love Ayron & Laura in Lightning Charmer and I still think that’s my best attempt at a romancy-supernatural-mountain people kind of novel—I think that book would have been even better had I let myself “go” and wrote with the same abandon as I did with my previous novels, warts and all; imperfection and all. Those characters interested me, and still do. They captured my attention and my imagination. Still do.
I was in love. I was so very grateful. What happened to that? I can bet many novelists/authors out there can answer that question with a wry twist to their mouths.
So, the novelist’s dilemma: write what you love and let the money chips fall where they may, or, try to write something “Popular” and . . . and . . . be an unhappy novelist! One who isn’t writing very much. One who writes sad discombobulated blog posts about how she is not writing and feels uninspired.
If a novelist isn’t writing, then what’s the point? If the novelist is unhappy and discombobulated, then she must find out why and remedy it. If the novelist wants to be loved by the masses, then she best not be a novelist. And if Ego is involved—oh, Ego is a terrible snarling drool-faced monster! Kick Ego out the writing room door, y’all—kick it HARD until it never returns.
The answer is clearing the cobwebs in my wonky brain. The path I choose from the paths before me that fork off in fifty-galleven directions is—drum roll, please—the one that makes me happy. Duh. The one that may (or may not!) mean failure in my bank account, but always success in my heart account. As for some “popular” attention and sales? Well, there’s always a chance that will again come. Right? Yes! I’m still alive! I’m still a gifted writer! I can still write write write as much as and as long as I want to.
I’m a woman in her 50s. I’ve paid my life dues. I can bloody well do what the hell I want to. *Fist Pump*
When I am on my “deathbed,” believe me, I won’t be sorry that I didn’t write a huge spectacular best-seller, I will be sorry that I gave up the writing just because I couldn’t write a huge spectacular best seller. Huh. Well now.
Consider: when we are not true to ourselves. When we do not do what we know in our hearts and gizzards is the Right Thing (for us). When we look outward to other novelists’ successes. When we keep checking our bank account to see how much money we have. These things change us, changes the way we think about the writing.
And the writing will suffer right along with the novelist. The heart is not pierced with love. Something is missing—and it will be apparent to the reader. Oh yes, it will.
So what if I just take this new book and turn it over on its end and shake out its pockets and take a look at what falls out? The lint along with the pocket change and interesting rocks and bones and a leaf and something magical and a supernatural glowy thing and interesting odds and ends and whatnotalls. What if I followed the character around to see what she’s up to, and she’s up to something believe you me. What if I followed to see what her magic is? How it is affecting the town? Why some of the town is suspicious of her? What about that man in the shop: what’s he up to, or is he only in love with her? What are those “Memory Vases?” What is she doing with the vial of blood or the strand of hair—why is she mixing that into her magic paints? What’s she up to? What’s her story? Let me follow her around until I find out! “Black Moon Cove” . . . why is that bomping me upside my head as a “working title” . . . ?
What if I wrote how I did when I was happy with love and excitement?
What if the novelist’s dilemma is really not a dilemma at all? What if we are in control of our own writing lives? Well, dang me!
Yeah. What if?
Touty shout out of the day (and in the future, I’ll be shouting out lots of people here—not just writers):
Writer Unboxed. A place where writers, editors, agents, and all things writing and writing related are discussed. Go visit. See for yourself. They’re amazingly awesome.
In 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.
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.
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!
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.
I 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.
“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.
“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!
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.
Commas, those squiggly little cuties, cause more torn out hair and gnashed teeth. I’m not the perfect Comma Momma (teeheehee), so I do invite you to use the links below to learn allllllllll about those tiny little trouble-makers–particularly The Comma Splice, for which I do not talk about here, but if I did I would, have an example right here–see what I did? I put a comma between would and have that does not belong because it breaks up the sentence when it should not: the heinous comma splice. Really, there is simply too much information about that little teeny bitty itty squiggle than I can place here in one post without tearing out my own hair. In fact, that teeny bitty itty squiggle’s size is deceiving, for it makes Big Arse Trouble for so many out there, and not only writers.
Thing is, folks, it really is not so difficult once you Pay Attention to what you are writing and how the sentence “flows” and the rhythm of your words/sentence. I’ve written those two words before: Pay Attention. Because when you do, you learn. As I write this post, I am using commas without thinking about it. If I this were my novel, I may go in and remove some of my commas, just to make sure everything sings along musically to where there are not a lot of choppy sentences that leave the reader’s brain squeezing. Ungh. Squeezed brains hurrrrt. When you Pay Attention, you begin to see how the comma interacts with your work. How the comma sets things off. How the comma groups things together and separates them. How it considers the natural pause—where you take that bit of a hitch of a breath after an introductory phrase.
Once you have a basic idea/knowledge of comma use, feel free to play around with it.
Sometimes I leave them out because I want to keep the sentence moving along without any pauses as if one is talking all at once and does not pause even to take a breath because they are in OMG OMG OMG mode *gasp for air* . . . folks, use this sparingly or else your readers’ eyes may fall out and follow someone to the door, and in fact, their eyes may not return for many a week because you simply exhausted them and they needed a long long vacation and I think I am doing it again, oh dear! *Eyes falling out of my head and traveling to the door, suitcase in hand (hands? Do eyes have hands? Well, if we’re giving them a suitcase, guess they best. Yes, I am talking about when people write “his/her eyes followed him/her” etc etc – the disembodied body parts – a post for another day).*
Consider the sentence below as an example of a pause.
Introduction: Once you have a basic idea/knowledge of comma use (a natural pause) feel free to play around it.
Now read that sentence aloud with and without the comma and decide for yourself what happens:
Once you have a basic idea/knowledge of comma use feel free to play around it—does saying this aloud without a pause make you feel rushed or a bit breathless?
Once you have a basic idea/knowledge of comma use, feel free to play around it—does the natural pause here give you a chance to hitch in a breath?
If you think, “Well I like both ways.” Fine, go ye to write it how it works for you! In fact, when I’m reading something that doesn’t have commas where I like them to be, I insert them myself. Yeah! I do! Ha! You can’t escape my Comma-ndo!
Though, again, there are times I leave out commas because I want the sentence to move along without a pause. I don’t want the sentence to be broken up or choppy. But when I catch myself pausing after that “introduction,” I add a comma. Because. “Because whyyyyy, Kat?” Because I said so, that’s why.
The comma separates incomplete sentences—another form of a “pause” – like a parentheses.
Kathryn has, and always has had, a tiny pea-head. Kathryn has (pause to say/qualify: and always will have) a tiny pea-head.
Kathryn has—that’s an incomplete sentence that is separated by “and always has had” and then another incomplete sentence “a tiny pea-head” – I paused in the middle of those two phrases to tell you something else. I used commas to pause. Bless my wittle tiny pea-headed brain.
What you don’t want to do is to stick commas everywhere willy nilly. Those commas, small as they may be, will chop up your sentence and make them read stoooopid. Do you want choppy stoooopid sentences? Of course not! I’d rather see fewer commas than a litter of them crawling around all over the page mewling and making a mess all over creation. Listen to the rhythm of your words/the language. Listen for those pauses. Those parenthetical pauses. Those introductory phrases that then lead to a little hitch of breath before going on to the next part of the sentence. That’s where the comma goes.
Commas as lists or grouper-togetherers:
I like cornbread, cookies, beans and ice cream. But I do not like this sentence—ewwww! (Intro)If you want beans in your ice-cream, (pause/hitch breath) go right ahead.
But I do like the serial—not cereal—comma. Although wouldn’t that be cute? A bowlful of punctuation-shaped cereal for grammarians/writers? Haw! *Kat considers giving up novel-writing to create a Punctuation Cereal and becoming a millionaire* Anyway, *back to reality, Kat* the serial comma makes sense in the world of grouper-togetherers.
I like cornbread, cookies, beans, and ice cream.
See how each list of food has its own place in the sentence world?
I like cornbread. I like cookies. I like beans. I like ice cream.
I like cornbread. I like cookies. I like beans and ice cream. Ewwwwww!
I can also do a grouping, thusly,
I like cornbread and beans, cookies and ice cream, and serial commas. Teehee.
Notice above how each little family of words has their own little neat home to live in. Their own little grouping. The items that go together are placed together. Those that do not go together are separated by commas.
Clear as the mud on the bottom of your boot, ain’t it? Or maybe you are beginning to understand. Maybe I am a Geeeeenius at explaining the teeny tiny wittle squiggly and suddenly the clouds are clearing and you shout EUREKA! and you name your dog after me or something. *Kat has dreamy expression thinking of puppies running around named “Kat” because that sounds contradictory and funny haw haw haw—at least to her pea-headed brain—stop judging me!*
Look folks, here’s the thing: commas are irritating little shitters and they always will be. I mean, geeeezzzz, I have a headache just trying to explain them. And even as I type these words, I know I will miss one, or I’ll place one in the wrong spot. I’ll be in a hurry and someone out there will gloat and scream how I messed up. Ungh! I’ll go back and read this and think, “This could be better.” But isn’t that the Thang about writing? How we always should be growing and learning. How we should think: “This could be better,” and then we make it better—until it is Done, for at some point we must be Done, right?
Below are some grammar sites that talk about the comma and may be a better help to you than my pea-headed self. I invite you to visit and then study them. Pay Attention. When your AHA! moment comes, you may then begin to manipulate the language with Knowledge, and folks, that’s when the real fun begins.
This first one has whole-lotto comma madness—lawd!
(this is a repost!)
Touty Plug of the day: The Lightning Charmer
The spell was cast when they were children. That bond cannot be broken. In the deep hollows and high ridges of the ancient Appalachian Mountains, a legacy of stunning magic will change their lives forever.
Laura is caught between the modern and the mystical, struggling to lead a normal life in New York despite a powerful psychic connection to her childhood home in North Carolina—and to the mysterious stranger who calls her name. She’s a synesthete—someone who mentally “sees” and “tastes” splashes of color connected to people, emotions, and things. She’s struggled against the distracting ability all her life; now the effects have grown stronger. She returns home to the mountains, desperate to resolve the obsessive pull of their mysteries.
But life in her mountain community is far from peaceful. An arsonist has the town on edge, and she discovers Ayron, scarred and tormented, an irresistible recluse who rarely leaves the forest. As her childhood memories of him surface, the façade of her ordinary world begins to fade. The knots she’s tied around her heart and her beliefs start unraveling. Ayron has never forgotten her or the meaning of their astonishing bond. If his kind is to survive in modern times, he and Laura must face the consequences of falling in love.
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)
Touty 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.
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.
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 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.
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!
Touty Plug of the Day:
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 . . . .
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!
Do 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.
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.
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!
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.
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:
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!
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.
Often, 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.
Touty 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.