Thursday, October 22, 2015

Grammarly Deets -- An Interim Note

I apologize for making you wait, but I'm in the midst of an editing quagmire, i.e. 2nd round (reread and revise) of my WIP, Camellia's Choice. In light of that, I decided to post my checklist, a truck load of words and phrases to cull from my story. I know it will seem a tedious, overwhelming task to many, but it really does the job. The first stage of it, anyway. Ah yes, there will be more! As if that's not bad enough, I run through my manuscript one word at a time. Go ahead and count. Yep. That's ... hmm ... around sixty-some? Imagine that. Scanning through 300 or so pages sixty times? No. I confess. I don't do that many. I search each word to see how many times I've used it. If it comes in at a low number, I skip it. Otherwise, maybe one or three years from now, you'd be finding me in a padded cell, gone cuckoo with my mind stuck in editing gear, words trolling through my brain while I sputter and spout all sorts of nonsense. Talk about nonsense ... let me stop, now, and get to that list.

·        decide(d)
·        notice(d)
·        realise(d)
·        watch(ed)
·        saw
·        heard
·        thought
·        wonder(ed)
·        look(ed)
·        seem(ed)
·        knew
·        begin/began/begun to
·        start to
·        about to
·        could

·        a bit,
·        a little,
·        about,
·        actually,
·        almost,
·        almost like,
·        already,
·        appears,
·        approximately,
·        basically,
·        close to,
·        even,
·        eventually,
·        exactly,
·        fairly,

·        finally, 
·        here,
·        highly,
·        instead
·        just,
·        just then,
·        kind of,
·        mostly,
·        nearly,
·        now
·        only
·        practically,
·        pretty,
·        quite,
·        rather,
·        really,  
·        simply,
·        slightly,
·        so,
·        some of
·        somehow,
·        somewhat,
·        somewhat like,
·        sort of,
·        suddenly,
·        that
·        then,
·        there,
·        truly,
·        utterly,
·        very

        *Phrases to shorten: 

·        in front of (before, ahead)
·        at the back (behind)
·        out of (from, away, beyond)
·        off of (off)
“Throw up into your typewriter every morning. Clean up every noon.”
         -Raymond Chandler
          Authors on Revision
          Happy writing and editing!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Grammarly Deets #7

Back to school again with Grammar class 101. This time I'm going to focus on a few confusing words, which many misuse quite often. It happens more than you'd think and in situations from people you wouldn't expect. Of course, that only perpetuates the misuse. Gotta love the English language!

First up, and it's a biggie, is the misuse of the verbs to lie and to lay. In this case to lie is not referring to the meaning of telling a fib, but rather to recline. If you're familiar with the grammar term "direct object" this might be easier to understand. If not, please be patient. I will use examples to help clarify.

Present tense:

--to lie: I lie on the bed.
--to lay: I lay the book on the table. (notice the underlined words, the book; that's a direct object.) 

**Remember: Lay will always have a direct object when it means placing something or putting something.

Now, let's go on to create a chart (it helps me to refer to this and maybe it will for you, too):

To lie (meaning to recline)

present tense:    lie (I lie on the bed)                             

past tense:         lay (Yesterday, I lay in bed until noon.)
past participle: lain (I had lain in bed until noon three days last week.)

To lay (meaning to place something or put something)

present tense:     lay (I lay the book down on the table.)                   

past tense:          laid (I laid the book on the table yesterday.)
past participle:  laid (I suddenly remembered I had laid the books on the table.)

Don't be discouraged if you get lie and lay confused. Some of the greatest figures in society have done so, too. Remember Bob Dylan and his song "Lay Lady Lay"? It's wrong! Should be "Lie Lady Lie". Eric Clapton? "Lay Down, Sally"? Eh, eh. Nope. "Lie Down, Sally". 

You want more common grammar confusion? How about there, their, they're? It's really quite easy to remember this way: there has the word here in it. Therefore, it means location. Example: I left the book over there by the door. The word they're is a contraction. Remember that the apostrophe (') is the replacement for a letter. They're = they are. Example: They're (they are) going to the party together. Of course that leaves their. One trick to remember is to focus on the letter i in the word. I can prompt the idea of possession. Another trick is the word heir inside their. An heir inherits so things belong to him, i.e. possession. Example: They needed to bring their books to class.

A couple more? 

Accept/Except : I accept your apology. Everyone came except Tom. The first one is a verb.

Affect/Effect:  Lack of sleep affects your health. The effects of poor health may kill you. Again, the first one is a verb, second one a noun. 

Enough for now. Class is over. However, I'll be back with more word confusion next week!

Enjoy life and write well!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Weekly Deets - 10.8.15

Be forewarned today's post has nothing to do with writing. Not really. I just had an itch to post about this. However, there will be an appropriate quote or two made by authors to follow. That's sort of a tie-in. Sort of. So, on with it ... 

I was watching the news yesterday. The usual newsy stuff along with the not so newsy stuff, like a video of a toddler and family dog jumping up and down when Daddy comes home from work. How is that news? I can send our local network plenty of videos of my pooch doing cutesy things. Do you think the producer would include it in the show's lineup? I don't know ... I mean, they only have ... hmm ... let's see, an hour of morning news, three hours of afternoon/evening news, and one hour of nightly news to fit a tiny video into their program. Of course, most all of it is looped to repeat several times a day.

I guess at this point I should mention I'm not ranting just to, well, rant. I'm making a point. Really. We've become a society of over-saturation. News, news and more news, streaming into our lives via television, computer, tablet, and phone. Twenty-four seven to stay connected. Makes you wonder how news people managed to do it years ago in a half hour evening segment. Of course, I do realize one purpose of this is to make news available to accommodate every one's busy schedule. There's bound to be a point during the day we're free to turn on or plug in our device and be informed. Over-saturation. 

I remember learning in psychology class how watching videos with a violent theme over and over again tends to make a person immune to witnessing violence. Scary thought. Of course I cry over everything! Like those Hallmark commercials and the one showing closeups of the faces of those sad-eyed little abused puppies. You know the one  where Sarah McLachlan sings "Angel" in the background? And don't get me started on movies or books where a dear family pet dies in the story. I won't watch. (Old Yeller traumatized me forever.) Anyway, the saying "ignorance is bliss"* comes to mind. Most days or weeks, I'd rather be blissful, happily ignorant living in my own little world of fiction, thank you very much. Maybe it's my age -- years of being over-saturated with the misery going on around me. Avoiding that is quite desirable.  But then I wouldn't be very well informed, as all those news mongers would argue. Not saying it's right for everyone, but I'm okay with it. Sort of. I like to be informed. Makes me not look so stupid when I'm in a group of people discussing world views. But I can only take so much saturation. Give me small doses, thank you very much. That will do just fine. 

"There are many things of which a wise man might wish to be ignorant." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Where is the life we have lost in living? Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?" -- T.S. Eliot 

*Ignorance is bliss -- a phrase coined by Thomas Gray in his Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College. 

Have a great week, all. And happy writing!

This news broadcast is brought to you by Kathryn Long, a blissfully optimistic soul who will always appreciate the positives in life. :-) 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Grammarly Deets #6

It's class time. Writing 101: Obviously, these are tips established and emerging writers know. However, newbies take heed! Classic mistakes that will give you away as green and in need of guidance or a great editor, which cost big bucks, but a wise investment if you are the type to comment how grammar was never your thing in school.

Of course, there are many, but to keep this short? I'll list only a few:

  • POV - don't switch the point of view within a paragraph or even a scene if you can avoid it. Head hopping is what some call it. Not good. Very confusing to the reader. So, unless your character is schizophrenic, don't do it.
  • Avoid flooding your writing with ellipses (...) or dashes (--) Don't judge. I used to do this. See me frowning? Yep.
  • Avoid lengthy paragraphs. I mean, extremely long paragraphs tax a reader's patience.
  • Avoid the exclamation mark, or at least use it sparingly. Instead, try including words that imply the excitement of the dialogue.
  • Dialogue tags -- less is more. The "he said" or "she said" tags, sometimes called invisible tags, are really better to use. This doesn't mean you can't include descriptors throughout a conversation to let readers know what the characters are doing. In fact, you should include them.
  • Cliches -- these aren't original, won't show your unique style, are totally boring and imply you are a lazy writer. I'm guilty of doing this. Still do when I'm writing the first draft. I get rid of most in later edits. They are nasty little things creeping into your mind, so watch out!
  • Lack of specific knowledge and jargon -- If you plan on writing a novel set in China, you better know about the people, the geography, the culture, etc. Readers hate when they catch an author making errors this way. They cry foul and trash talk your book. Well, maybe not trash talk, but I doubt they buy anything else you write. Enough said.
  • Use a clear font like Times Roman. No flowery, fancy type to distract the eye.
All righty then. I'm out of here. Don't let moss grow under your feet (cliche); write ... (ellipse), edit, improve. Follow the rules, but stay creative! (exclamation mark, though I think this one fits).

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Weekly Deets -- 9.27.15

I was sitting here in my spot, my writerly spot, thinking about other people's writerly spots. Where do you find the best place to be inspired and productive? It's been asked many times, and I've answered many times ... it really doesn't matter. Inspiration comes from inside, where ever you may be. And in my case, so does my productivity. I'd read how Stephen King (Yes, I know. I reference him too much, but hey, he's the man!) will go to his private, quiet place and write for hours. Then, when he's satisfied, he comes up for air and rejoins society. 

I don't need a special place, even though I have a special place ... mostly to keep all my notes, files of stories, ideas for stories, etc. I will write there, or sometimes in the family room in front of the TV, sometimes outside on the deck or sometimes in bed. It depends on my mood. My special place, aka Writer's Cave, can get claustrophobic, hence the reason I navigate to other spots. One I've never used, though, is out in public, like a coffee house or library or the closest B&N or BAM store. Don't know, I might like it, maybe I will try it ... someday. I do like to people watch (NO. I am not a voyeur or some weird person that way) and that might tend to interrupt the creative flow. Or maybe it would help. *Cue eccentric old lady with her arms gathered round a stack of books on voodoo and witchcraft. She'd make a great character. I love quirky traits in my book people. Don't you? 

To sum it up, inspiration is where ever and whenever it hits you. Favorite places to write? That's up to each individual, of course. Hey, I remember as a kid I used to climb the apple tree in our backyard with a notebook and pen in hand. I'd sit on a comfortable branch, lean my back against the trunk, and write poetry. I loved that, and still enjoy the memory. 

News for the week: My agent updated certain parts of the agency website. All the author clients and their work, plus a short "elevator" pitch, sort of, to describe what they enjoy writing. It's all a work in progress, and will get better and better! Check it out: Golden Wheat Literary  You'll find me about halfway through the entries. 

Until next week ... cheers! And happy writing!  P.S. HAPPY 31st BIRTHDAY TO MY BABY GIRL!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Weekly Deets - 9.14.15

Scary is ... well ... scary. This time of year we think about scary. The scary movies are starting to flood our media, of course because of the Halloween season. So are scary stories. Stephen King and Dean Koontz have been my favorite authors of the horror genre. Or at least when I used to read horror genre. I think I had my fill somewhere back in the nineties. After years of feeding on the fright, the gore, and the eye-popping, heart-pounding moments I decided my health couldn't take it any longer. Seriously though, I just wanted to move along to reading my new fave genre, mysteries. Of course, some of those have gore and fright, too. I do love an evil-minded psychotic killer and the gruesome forensic evidence he leaves behind. Think Criminal Minds.

So, what is it about scary? According to an article I found: "Department head Magne Arve Flaten says that fear comes from the part of our brain that is specialized to express terror.

'Our fear centre sits in an area in the front of the brain near the temple and is called the amygdala. Studies that have been done on people who lack an amygdala demonstrate that they do not exhibit fear,' he says." ( Fear Reaction )

The article also states that our fear is immediate. Like in one eye blink, folks, we react in about a tenth of a second. No wonder we nearly jump out of our seats when someone sneaks up on us, or when we read about or watch that goon hiding behind the door who pops out to surprise the unsuspecting victim in the movie or novel. I'm shivering just picturing the shower scene in Psycho (Hitchcock's original). Surprising or not, it's something lots of people thrive on. Give 'em an adrenaline rush prompted by fear and it satisfies them. Well, it does for most, present company excluded. 

In another light and much smaller scale of scary, I'm thinking of an upcoming event where I'll be reading to listeners, big group or small, it doesn't matter. That adrenaline rush is already boosting my heart rate as the date draws closer. Not from fear, but more from anxiety and nerves. Heck, maybe it's triggered from the same place, that amygdala in the front brain. Whatever or wherever, I feel it. And will always feel it, every time I go before a group of people to talk, read, sing (that's not going to happen) or stand on my head (never going to happen). They do say, though, that a bit of nerves are good when performing at any level. Keeps you on your toes and brain alert, so you do a better job. At least that's their excuse! 

Fear. It's what makes the world go round and Halloween lovers thrive! 

Favorite Scary Movie: The Haunting (1963 version only ... and because there's no blood and gore. If I count those elements then it's The Exorcist.)

Favorite Scary Novel: The Dark Half by Stephen King (one of my many favorites, actually. I think this one fits because it's about an author who has a darker half, which comes alive to commit all kinds of horrific acts. bruhaha!)

Favorite Scary Song: Tubular Bells -- theme song to The Exorcist (okay, only if you've seen the movie, then you know exactly what I'm talking about, otherwise it's really a pretty song, haunting but pretty. And I have to give my honorable mention to that heart-pumping beat in the movie Jaws.)

Anyone willing to chime in and add their scary favorites, please do in the comment section below!

Well, that's my take on scary. And here's to a week of fun and fear! Watch your back, folks! 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Grammarly Deets #5

Do you write poetry? Song lyrics? Play drums or other percussion instruments? Of course, if you do any of these you know how important beat and rhythm are. What I'd bet you weren't aware of is how significant it is in writing. Yep. Beat and rhythm. Some will call it pacing. That's a loose translation at best, but it will do to explain this post on writing. It doesn't concern grammar, no. (If you were wondering.) However, it is very essential you master this skill. 

You might read books on writing that will describe the peril of monotonous dialogue, line after line of he said, she said, where no descriptive tags are interspersed. You add a "he took a sip of his coffee" here, or "she hesitated, worried he may not admit the truth" there, and suddenly the reader feels he's been transported into the story, experiencing everything. Much more interesting, right? Of course you don't want to tag every line of dialogue. That's slowing things down too much, and quite frankly it gets annoying to the reader. 

Another piece of advice will address pacing. Nothing worse than a plot bogging down with slow, arduous and painful detail. There must be variety. And it starts with sentence length. That's where I'm taking this post. The beat, rhythm and pacing of your sentence structure. 

Take a look at this paragraph: 

Mary stepped to the door. She opened it to find Jack. She froze and couldn't speak. Her eyes spoke to him instead. She waved him inside. They sat in the living room. Neither one started the conversation.

The pacing is quick, but the monotony of repeated word length and structure doesn't lend itself to originality or prose that sparks a reader's interest. So, let's mix it up a bit. Again, think beat, think rhythm.

Mary stepped to the door. When she opened it to find Jack, she gasped. There weren't any words, nothing would fall from her lips. However, the anger inside screamed a tirade of questions. Where had he been? How could he desert her like this? She stared for another minute. Finally, stepping aside she waved him in. They sat in the living room. For several awkward minutes, neither of them spoke. 

Okay, maybe not the greatest example, but I'd bet you noticed the varied sentence structure and length. Also, I included some inner thought to deepen the character's voice. The first paragraph is rather boring. Think of a drum beat thumping out tap, tap, tap, tap, all in an even rhythm. The second paragraph mixes up the beat. Now your drum is sounding great. Tap, tap, tatata, tap, tatap. Or something like that. (I apologize. I'm not a drummer!) 

Taking it further, note that pacing dictates the action of the story, whether it should be fast or slow. When a scene needs to be fast-paced, for example in a fight between two characters or during an escape from the bad guys, repeated short sentences do the trick. When the action slows down, like in a romantic scene, you can lengthen the description, draw it out with those long, complex sentences. It works. Keeps your readers engaged and wide awake, not knowing what's around the corner ... that is, the next page! 

Beat, rhythm, pacing. They are essential ingredients to great writing!

Enjoy your weekend, and as always, happy writing!