Archive for the 'It’s All About Writing' Category
May 4, 2012
To Comma, or not to Comma? That is the Question
Webster defines a comma as a punctuation mark, used especially as a mark of separation within a sentence. Doesn’t that definition just clear it all up for you? If so, you’re lucky because it never did for me. Back to my Writer’s Bible, “The Elements of Style”.
Here’s the skinny; there are seven comma rules. We’ll take them out of order for simplicity.
1 – Dates are written as;
• Jan. 24, 2006.
• 24 Jan. 2006.
In the second example no comma is used.
2 – In a series of three or more terms with a single conjunction, the commas are placed as follows;
• I enjoy tennis, skiing, and books.
• Jason, Fred, and Esther went to the farm.
You can’t drop the last comma. I don’t know, maybe the Punctuation Police force you to repeat English 101 for eternity if you do.
The exception is if you’re writing a business name. The last comma is omitted.
• Jefferson, Clemmons, Blake and Company
3 – Use a comma before and/or after a proper name or place;
• “Hi, John.”
• “Hey, John, did you see the dog?”
• Munich, Germany
4 – A comma is inserted before a conjunction introducing an independent clause;
• She was in a situation which should have scared the hell out of her, but didn’t.
• In no time the airplane landed, and the passengers clapped with joy.
5 – Don’t use a comma to join independent clauses. If the clauses are grammatically complete and not joined by a conjunction, it’s the semicolon’s time to come out and play.
• It is nearly half past five; we cannot reach town before dark.
6 – Don’t break sentences in two. Meaning, don’t use periods when you should use a comma. “The Elements of Style” have the best examples;
• I met them on a Cunard liner many years ago. Coming home from Liverpool.
• She was an interesting talker. A woman who had traveled all over the world and lived in half a dozen countries.
The sentences don’t make sense as written. In both examples a comma should replace the first period.
If you want more dramatic effect in your sentence do the following;
• He yanked the cell phone from his pocket and punched in the number. The phone range. No one answered.
Don’t use the above example often in your story, it has a choppy effect and the editor won’t like it, let alone the reader. Clipped sentences, as the above example, are more often used in dialogue.
7 – Enclose parenthetic expressions between commas. A parenthetic expression is a word, phrase, or sentence inserted in a passage to explain or modify the thought. Again from “The Elements of Style”;
• The best way to see the country, unless you are pressed for time, is to travel on foot.
In a nutshell here’s how it works for the author;
• The eight rules are standard and must be followed so you look like a professional writer.
• My guru Beth Anderson taught me to listen to the flow of the words. Use the commas when you need the reader to pause and give them a little time to prepare for what’s next.
• Use common sense. As you apply the rules they will become second nature.
Have a terrific weekend. I’ll be back Monday with Cornell DeVille, author of chilling young adult books. Be sure to stop in. Until then…
April 27, 2012
Emphasize Your Written Words
“The Elements of Style” written by Wm. Strunk Jr. and E.B. White is a must for any writer. I don’t get royalties on it, but without it I won’t get royalties. I strongly suggest you buy a copy.
We all know a period is the mark at the end of a declarative sentence or an abbreviation and a question mark is used at the end of a sentence to indicate a direct question or inquiry.
But there are other punctuation marks which may be a bit confusing. Today we’ll try to clear it up.
The common usage of QUOTATION MARKS is in dialogue;
“Martin can you swim to the other side?” asked Leslie.
If the quotation is the direct object of a verb it’s preceded by a comma and enclosed in quotations marks;
“Mark Twain said, “A classic is something that everyone wants to have read and nobody wants to read.”
The EXCLAMATION POINT is a punctuation used after an interjection or exclamation. Be sure to use it sparingly in your writing. It’s very jarring to see a multitude of ! on a page.
Not too long ago I had to review a category romance by an established author. The story was excellent, but the exclamation points drove me crazy. Every page in the first chapter had a minimum of fifteen irritating !. I was not a happy reader. Over-usage of exclamation points loses their effect and really piss off a reviewer, let alone a reader.
APOSTROPHES show possession no matter what the final consonant;
Hers, its, theirs, yours, and ours do not need an apostrophe. But you do need the punctuation for;
somebody else’s dish
Be careful when writing its the possessive or it’s the contraction;
Its author is well-known.
It’s the hottest new book on the shelf.
PARENTHESES are used around a word, phrase, or sentence inserted in a passage to explain or modify a thought. The following examples are taken from my bible “The Elements of Style”;
I went to her house yesterday (my third attempt to see her), but she had left town.
He declares (and why should we doubt his good faith?) that he is now certain of success.
In my writing I avoid all use of parentheses for two reasons.
• I don’t like the look of the completed sentence.
• I don’t really understand why a comma wouldn’t be used in example one.
To work around my dilemma, I rewrite the sentences to work with the punctuations I know and love.
A DASH is a stronger punctuation mark than the comma and should also be used with discretion. It does give your reader a longer pause to gather their thoughts before you impart a pertinent phrase.
Again, from “The Elements of Style”;
Violence – the kind you see on television – is not honestly violent – there in lies its harm.
Using commas or writing as separate sentences doesn’t give the same dramatic effect as the dash. You must use it sparingly or the effect is lost.
Webster’s definition of the SEMICOLON was about as good as the horrid chop suey I made for dinner last Saturday. So it was back to “The Elements of Style” for a clearer understanding;
If two or more clauses grammatically complete, and not joined by a conjunction, are to form a single compound sentence, the proper mark of punctuation is a semicolon.
Mary Shelley’s works are entertaining; they are full of engaging ideas.
It is nearly half past five; we cannot reach town before dark.
Both examples could be written as two separate sentences.
You can also use a comma in place of a semicolon if a conjunction is used;
Mary Shelley’s works are entertaining, for they are full of engaging ideas.
It is nearly half past five, and we cannot reach town before dark.
Romance writing is mood type writing. We are creating a world of love and beauty as it pertains to our hero and heroine. Therefore semicolons seem stark and/or jarring on the page.
Next up is the COLON. Sorry not the organ, which I understand much better. This colon thing is another form of punctuation I avoid as much as a drunk at a bar.
According to “The Elements of Style”;
A colon tells the reader that what follows is closely related to the preceding clause. The colon has more effect than the comma, less power to separate than the semicolon, and more formality than the dash. It usually follows an independent clause and should not separate a verb from its complement or a preposition from its object.
Your dedicated whittler requires: a knife, a piece of wood, and a back porch.
Your dedicated whittler requires three props: a knife, a piece of wood, and a back porch.
For me a colon means rewrite.
The last punctuation mark is the COMMA. In my humble opinion this much used symbol deserves its own lecture. Another day we’ll uncover the mystery; To comma, or not to comma, that is the question.
Have a wonderful weekend. I’ll be back Monday with thigh squeezing author Raine Delight. Until then…
April 20, 2012
Time IS on Your Side
Time Management is an important element every writer must conquer. It doesn’t matter if you have plotted the best novel mankind will ever read, because if you can’t get the damned thing finished – who cares?
So what if your day job takes all your extra time, or the kids are whining, and your husband is just being a shit. Here’s a cyber phone card. Go call someone who cares because, obviously, you don’t.
No one has ever procrastinated more than me. I am the Queen of Procrastination and have ruled my domain with an iron broom. That was until I figured out I would be a wannabe for the rest of my life. Do you?
So as you sneer and grab for the mouse to click off what you can’t bear to read, let me tell you STOP! Baby, unless you pull yourself together, you’re never going to make it in this tough industry.
The solution is so damned easy it’ll make you wonder why you never figured it out.
Set a daily writing goal. Sounds good, right? It is.
1 – Make a to-do list every morning, i.e. Today I will write 100 words on chapter five.
Don’t be stupid, list out what is feasible for your life pattern. So you only have ten minutes before work or dropping the kids at school, think about your manuscript while you’re driving. Well, not so in-depth you wrack up the car but enough to keep your mind flowing. Every moment you spend thinking, plotting, doing a characterization, is time spent on writing.
2 – You can’t write and drive, you snidely say. Correct, and remember, you can’t text either. Buy a pocket tape recorder and talk your story. How tough is that?
3 – Carve out a specific time in the day or night to write. I don’t believe in getting up an hour before the family to work. My mind isn’t ready, my body is too tired, and my meager attempts suck, but it just might work for you. You’re the only one who knows the best time for you to pull it all together and write your hundred words.
4 – Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t meet your schedule because you have to attend Aunt Bertha’s funeral. Do feel guilty if you blow off the day by watching TV or napping. The longer you stay away from writing the harder it is to go back again. Trust me, I know this for a fact.
Learning the art of writing is an on going process. Please email me firstname.lastname@example.org with any suggestions or favorite websites you want to share.
Speaking of great websites, here’s one you should check out The Black Phoenix Band. Award winning, romantic suspense author Sarah Grimm, yes she’s related to the Brothers, built this site to promote her new series of novels. Ingenious and has proven successful. We’ll discuss promotion in the near future.
Have a good weekend. I’ll be back Monday with paranormal author Lauren Hunter and her latest release The Coffee Shop, a book you need to read. Until then…
April 13, 2012
THE SHOW AND TELL GAME
Show don’t tell is a confusing phrase that has many new writers yanking their hair out. What does it mean? How do I do it? Leave those Clairol locks in place because the explanation is simple.
Showing is action. It is what your character is doing at that moment. Telling is passive writing, a weak way to explain what your character is doing. It can also be considered author intrusion, a big no-no to editors.
Here are a few examples;
Telling – Liz had on a red suit with a white rose in the lapel and a white linen blouse.
Showing – Liz plucked a white rose from the bouquet on the coffee table. Carefully, she slipped the thorny stem into her lapel. She glanced in the mirror and smiled at how perfect the flower’s creamy color looked against the red jacket. With a tug on her blouse cuff, gently so as not to wrinkle the linen, Liz headed for the door.
Telling – There was shouting from the balcony.
Showing – Shouts echoed from the balcony.
Telling – The dog show was judged by Frank.
Showing – Frank judged the dog show.
Telling – Mary was sad.
Showing – Mary turned toward Joel. His heart broke when he saw her lips tremble and the pain in her eyes.
In many cases, showing requires more words to paint the right picture and that’s a good thing if they enhance the scene.
To easily locate the places where you “tell”, hold down the Control key while you press the letter F key. It will bring up a Find and Replace panel. Type in a word not used in your book, then click ‘Find Next’. Read each sentence and/or section that appears. Should it or could it be more active? You may be surprised at how your novel will improve by this simple exercise.
Have a wonderful weekend. I’ll be back Monday with Mary Palmer and her new book TIME WILL TELL. Until then…
October 18, 2011
Life is Good
I am very happy to tell you all that yesterday’s mail brought me a most welcomed gift. Aspen Mountain Press owner Sandra Hicks has returned all rights to my ten books once published with them and for this I am grateful.
Sweet as Honey…Hotter than Hell
October 16, 2011
Into Every Life a Little Rain Must Fall
But this has turned into a tsunami. I’m talking about Aspen Mountain Press and its problems. As most of you know, AMP has struggled for a long time. Their difficulties include no royalties paid, no statements, website taken down for questionable reasons and the evacuation of key personnel.
My last royalty came in April of this year and no statements since the fall of 2010. There are many other contractual breaches suffered by most of the AMP authors. If you check their websites and blogs, you’ll learn all about their grievances. Mine specifically are books being sold by AMP that are out of contract which equates to pirating. I cannot abide such a practice. Writing is not a hobby for me, I rely on my royalties to pay my bills.
I have ten books with AMP. I reclaimed my rights on them all October 8, 2011, but have yet to receive the official letter or email from the AMP owner Sandra Hicks. And it doesn’t look like it will come any time soon. Before I sent my email to Sandra, I removed all the AMP books from my website and contacted all third party vendors to remove those same books from their sites as they were being sold illegally. All but Fictionwise and Mobipockets were happy to comply.
Today Sandra Hicks posted on the AMP authors loop that we should check the site and if our books were removed we would receive the much needed rights reversal letter. I checked and found no one can buy my books, but the covers are still posted. This means I am still in limbo with ten books that took a great deal of energy to write, perfect and promote and unable to move forward with a professional publisher.
Thank you for reading my little story.
Sweet as Honey…Hotter than Hell
November 21, 2008
For All Writers
Want to read a sure fire blog for aspiring writers? Or one for you authors who are a bit jaded and need a reality check? I’m happy to tell you, your search is over.
Author Tabitha Shay’s blog is hosting Lauren Gilbert, Senior Editor at Eternal Press, who has written a humourous and effective post The Importance of Being Earnest. Check it out, you’ll be glad you did.
Lauren Gilbert lives in Adelaide, Australia. To read more of her writing, you can visit her at Pavlova Parade. She is also a freelance editor. To learn more about her affordable editing services click here.
I’ll be back next week. Until then…
Sweet as Honey…Hotter than Hell
August 15, 2008
Novel Sisterhood Presents
Mary’s Sunday Evening Discussion
August 17, 2008 at 9:00 pm–10:00 pm EDT
On Novel Sisterhood—
Please join: Novel Sisterhood Discussion group
Discussion on Writing a good synopsis:
You have your manuscript done and need to catch an editor/agent’s eye. How are earth do you condense a 100,000 word manuscript into 3 to 5 pages?
Sloane Taylor, multi-published author of Contemporary Erotica—all set in Europe. Sloane has three books and a fourth coming in the fall from Eternal Press along with two books and a third coming in the fall from Aspen Mountain Press. She will lend her expertise of how she writes a synopsis that sells!
Please visit her web site: www.sloanetaylor.com
Check out our website Novel Sisterhood
Hope to see you all there!
April 1, 2008
Time to Sizzle
Check out our Eternal Press blog today at http://eternalpressauthors.blogspot.com/. B.E.A.U.T.I.F.U.L. covers and yummy blurbs!
Sweet as Honey…Hotter than Hell
French Delights www.EternalPress.ca
Francine On Fire www.aspenmountainpress.com
March 31, 2008
The Pressure is on
Today is the last day of March and FRENCH TWIST is due to the ever patient Deborah Nemeth, Head Editor for Eternal Press. GULP!
FRENCH TWIST is the third book in the Naughty Ladies of Nice series. Claudette D’Laquois and Don Hobbs meet in Nice at her uncle’s chateau. Our couple flees to Paris when the Russian mob, drug trafficking and murder invade their lives.
This book is a new concept of my over active imagination. It’s been a challenge not to be obvious with the conclusion, but me thinks you all will be the judge of that.
Look for its release in June from Eternal Press, www.EternalPress.ca.
Now it’s back to writing that last chapter and a final proof read before FRENCH TWIST wings its way to Deb.
I’ll be back later this week with info on my next project. Until then…