Archive for the ‘Editing’ Category

Grammatical Error Personality Type

June 18, 2012

As a follow up to last week’s wildly popular Your Punctuation Personality Type, a post Bryan Thomas Schmidt, @BryanThomasS hosted on his blog, we’ve dug through the (imaginary) research archives for similar studies.  Not only is English the most widely spoken language in the Western world, but most of us sat through torturous high school English classes that should have cured us of our grammatical errors. Yet we all have grammar issues that trip us up in writing. A recent (totally made up) study examined what your grammar weakness means about you.

someecards.com - Let's meet offline to lower the odds of me being turned off by your shoddy grammar and punctuationRun-on sentences: You don’t know when to stop. You never shut up and you never stop going. People find you and your nervous energy nerve-wracking. You tend to have trouble with moderation. You can’t eat just one.

You work well with: Comma, Hyphen, Exclamation, At Symbol

Avoid: Period

Comma splice (comma used to separate two simple sentences): You have trouble setting yourself apart from others and tend to blend into the crowd  Not assertive enough to use a period, confident enough to use a semicolon, wacky enough to use parentheses, or snobbish enough to use an em dash, you’re always looking to someone else for acceptance or permission. You have a hard time saying no to people. You may be described as a wannabe or as trying too hard.

You work well with: Comma, Question Mark, Ampersand, Hash

Avoid: Brackets

Incomplete sentences, Split infinitives, Beginning a sentence with a conjunction, Ending a sentence with a preposition: You’re a rebel and like to live on the edge. You know these aren’t really errors but that editors dislike them and they make people over 50 twitch. You like to stick it to the man. You may be a daredevil and/or a drug user.

You work well with: Slash, Apostrophe, Hyphen

Avoid: Em dash

Using an apostrophe for plural: You are the confident, laid back type. You give the orders, someone else handles the details. You can bullshit your way through most things. You have colleagues and followers more than you have friends.

You work well with: Em dash, Asterisk

Avoid: Question Mark

Missing serial or Oxford comma: You’re British.

You work well with: Semicolon, Full Stop (Period)

Avoid: Ellipses

Using adjectives in place of adverbs (“ly” words): You are very social and like to hang out. You’re too busy having fun to care how those stuck-up writing people use language. You are at every party. You have 500 contacts in your phone and don’t remember who half of them are. You may be in college.

You work well with: Hyphen, Comma, At Symbol, Parentheses

Avoid: Hash

someecards.com - It's not you, it's your grammar.

Using “suppose” for “supposed” or “of” for “have”: You need to read a real book once in a while. Facebook is not a real book, and doesn’t count.

You work well with:  Quotation Mark, At Symbol, Ellipses

Avoid: Brackets

 

Using “I” when “me” is correct (example: He gave the candy to Jane and I.): You follow the rules. You are so afraid of being wrong by using “me” when you should use “I” that you always use “I” and therefore still get it wrong half the time, just the other half. You were the teacher’s pet and are the boss’s favorite. You apologize a lot.

You work well with:  Question Mark, Period, Brackets

Avoid: Bullets

Homonyms/Homophones (you’re/your, their/they’re/there): You tend to be wrapped up in yourself or your own world. You can be casual to the point of carelessness. You’re not very observant and you’re never on time. You think the rules apply to other people. You’re the one who won’t remember the name of the person you wake up in bed with.

You work well with: Ellipses, Apostrophe

Avoid: Semicolon

Who/Whom: You’re one of the good guys. You like to have fun and you have a lot of friends. You don’t want to know when you should use “whom” because who says that anyway besides pretentious twats? You spend a lot of time on Facebook.

You work well with: At Symbol, Ampersand, Comma

Avoid: Quotation Mark

Whom/Who: (using “whom” when “who” is correct): You’re the pretentious twat.

You work well with: Em dash, Brackets

Avoid: Ellipses

Its/It’s: You are dedicated and responsible and make a lot of sacrifices. You’re the one who worked your butt off to get a C average while the nerds got A’s just by showing up to class. You let that sort of thing motivate you, though, and you get ahead by being consistent and reliable rather than because you’re particularly skilled or talented. People admire your work ethic.

You work well with: Comma, Semicolon, Period

Avoid: Em dash

Affect/Effect: You are easygoing and fun to be around. You know a lot of things, but the difference between these two words isn’t one of them. You make other people feel comfortable and like to make sure everyone is included. You were popular in school but stood up for the kids getting dumped into the trash cans after lunch.

You work well with: Comma, Parentheses, Ellipses,

Avoid: En dash

Use of ALL CAPS: You are either still trying to get a handle on this newfangled thing called the Internet, or you’re a complete moron.

You work well with: Ampersand, Exclamation

Avoid: Hash

Special thanks to Gabrielle Harbowy, @gabrielle_h for editing this for ~ahem~ grammatical errors.

Your Punctuation Personality Type: A Guest Post

June 11, 2012

I’m guest posting over on the blog of Bryan Thomas Schmidt, @BryanThomasS, with a funny called Your Punctuation Personality Type.

It’s sort of a combo of Jung and Briggs Myers and your daily horoscope that I totally pulled out of my ass.

Enjoy!

Your Punctuation Personality Type

Prose Pet Peeves

January 23, 2012

Over the past two years I’ve tried to be a good little author and read things I “should” not just the things that I’d have picked as no more than a for-pleasure reader. I’m glad I’ve done this. I’ve run across some gems I would otherwise have missed, and I’ve learned things from some absolute stinkers I really wish I had missed.

One thing I’ve learned, is that some things that I simply hate in a book aren’t necessarily wrong, they’re just not my style. (Some of them I think SHOULD be wrong, but they don’t let me make the rules.) Does this happen to you? Well reviewed books that just leave you flat for a reason you can actually pin down and say ‘this is what ruined the book for me’?

Here’s one I’ve encountered in several books lately:

Internal monologue. (Just for clarification, we’re talking about third person POV here, not the internal narration of first person POV.)

Not that I think it’s always a bad thing. Clever and very, very sparing use (as in once or twice in the entire book) works really well for me. That one, brief contradictory or sardonic thought in the middle of a scene where it’s important or enlightening to know that the POV character is thinking something you can’t get from body language or that just works so much better in a quick snippet can make a whole scene.

Ex: He said what?

versus

John couldn’t believe Jim had said such a thing.

Depending on the mood, voice, character, the internal monologue there can be exactly what you need rather than the longer explanation that carries much less of an impact.

That said:

I genuinely hate, no, despise regular internal monologue, especially when it’s used for exposition. To me, it’s the worst kind of telling. For starters, it’s unrealistic. Think about it. You’re seventeen and the love of your life, who you were convinced didn’t care about you at all, just declared his love.

Is this your internal reaction:

He loves me? OMG, he loves me! How long have I been in love with him? I’ve waited so long. But I never thought he’d ever love me back. Am I dreaming? I can’t believe this!

Or is this more like it:

Speechless, random waves of shock, elation, giddiness, disbelief. Get choked up, tear up a bit. Want to say something to him but can’t seem to form a coherent thought, much less articulate it. Then:

“You do? But I thought– Really? I’m– OMG, I can’t believe– Really?”

We don’t usually think in full sentences. Of course, now that I’ve said that, you’re thinking in complete sentences. But really, day to day, just daydreaming or musing or even in conversation, you might come out with a complete sentence in replying to someone, but you didn’t craft it in its entirety before it came out of your mouth. We think a lot faster than we talk or write. In part because we’re thinking in ideas, images, feelings. NOT completely articulated thoughts.

So reading it that way in prose just drives me up the wall. It distances me from the character because I’m not experiencing this with them, I’m being told about it in dry facts and thought-out responses.

Is this a universal truth? Heck no. In fact, one of the books I read lately that prompted this post was the latest by one of THE name writers in that genre. Clearly there are talented authors and editors who think I’m totally wrong about this. But reader-Leah is convinced that she does NOT like internal monologue.

How about you?

Karma, Solidarity, and the Bad Part of the Review I Wrote for You

October 21, 2011

This topic has been brewing in my brain for a while now. A while back Roni Loren wrote a blog post called Book Review Debate in which she explained why she didn’t write bad reviews for books and why maybe other authors should consider not doing so either. There was a great debate that followed in the comments (which unfortunately seem to have been lost in a blog conversion.)

I agreed with her points, namely:

1. The writing world is SMALL. 
The writer you one-star today may be the writer…sitting next to you at your next writers’ meeting, may one day share an agent/editor/publisher with you, may be someone you have to do a workshop with, may be someone who’s asked to blurb your book, etc.

A lot of the commenters disagreed with the stance as a whole, saying it lacked integrity not to give a negative review if you thought a book was bad. But it occurred to me that, in light of the above, posting a bad review as an author, is a bit like posting job reviews of your co-workers on the announcement board and signing your name to it. Sure, you’re owning your opinion, but you’re probably shooting yourself in the foot too. And for what? If they’re a bad employee, your one personal opinion isn’t the only thing that will clue others in to this. Let their boss, their clients, etc., be the ones to point this out, not you as a person who may have to work with them on an important project.

And yet, as my blog has evolved, I find myself writing more and more reviews. Why? Quite simply because having guest judges for 5MinuteFiction ties in so well with promoting a fellow author. But I’m not going to promote someone unless I know what I’m promoting. Which means I read their book. And we all know that reviews on the major sites where readers make their purchasing decisions (Amazon, B&N, Goodreads, etc.) is the lifeblood of new-author promotion. So if I’ve read the book, and can give it a good review, then it’d just be selfish and shortsighted of me not to do so, right?

So what’s the problem?

Well, it’s the not-so-good things about the book.

See, I review self-published books more than anything else. And I don’t care who you are, unless you were insanely lucky and snagged a great editor and the perfect crit-partners for yourself the first time around, your book will have problems. In my experience, the right editor and crit-partners are generally things you find after you’ve run through a few of the wrong ones. And that means putting yourself out there.

I found mine through the process of querying agents and small publishers. I had to expose my work to enough people over a long enough period of time, that I finally made those connections. That’s not the only path, but most people aren’t going to find the right team until they’ve survived the wrong one, which for self-published authors, often means after their first book is already out.

So I have your book and I really enjoyed it. I want to write you a good review because that’s what I’d want you to do for me and because you deserve it.

BUT

Do I ignore the weaknesses, pretend I didn’t see them, and write only about the good stuff?

I don’t think I can. For a lot of reasons.

  • I usually don’t trust reviews like that anyway, especially if they’re an unknown author self-publishing and all they have are glowing reviews. I’m pretty much going to assume that all the reviews are written by friends and family and I can’t trust them to give the whole truth.
  • Is anybody else going to tell you? If not, how will you know in order to improve the next time? Granted, this one can be handled by offering private comments, which I almost always do.

BUT

  • I’m also putting my own professional name and reputation behind your book if I give it a good review.

And, here’s where it may get selfish, but I don’t want other authors and readers thinking I can’t tell good writing from bad. I may have enjoyed your book in spite of the cringe-worthy flood of adverbs and telling, because the plot, or character development, or whatever was just that good. Another person may not have the tolerance to handle that and may throw the book away in disgust and then resent me for leading them to believe that it had no major faults.

Neal Hock wrote a great guest post on The Writing Bomb that talked about the author risking their reputation by self-publishing a book with glaring errors or weaknesses. I 100% agree with this. But I think it goes farther than this. I think it risks my reputation too if I don’t at least acknowledge that, while I recommend the read, it does have drawbacks that one reader might consider a deal-breaker even if another doesn’t care that much about them. At least I’m giving them the information, as I see it, to make an honest assessment and informed decision.

To a lesser extent, a post by Chuck Wendig, Putting the Publishing Cart Before The Storytelling Horse, made me think of this topic. In a large part because the authors who are loudly denouncing the publishing industry from experience, and claiming that anyone not self-publishing is making a terrible error, are ones who have already gotten to the point at which they have a quality editor and the industry know-how and writing chops that their self-published works won’t have this kind of problem.

Let’s be clear, I’m not talking about typos and poor grammar. Quite frankly, I won’t finish a book that’s an egregious offender in those areas to have a review to write of it.

But if on the balance sheet I think your book was a good read, and you’re a good writer who will quit making those mistakes eventually, I want to help you promote it! I want to review it and tell others to read it.

But I have a career to think about too.

Thus my conundrum. Is it important as authors to maintain your professional integrity and list the bad with the good? Is it not important enough to readers or worth it for you and you should pretend the bad isn’t there? Should you just not write reviews at all? What do you think?

For Strong Convincing Fiction, Control Your Narrative Voice – Guest Post

July 14, 2011

Today I’m on a plane flying to Readercon! So the lovely Terri Guiliano Long offered me a guest post. Ain’t she great?. Check out her very informative blog and her debut novel, In Leah’s Wake. (Good name.) 😉

When discussing stories or novels, we often talk about voice. The voice carried the story, we say. Or I loved the writer’s voice. But what exactly is the writer’s voice?

Often, by “voice” we actually mean style – the distinctive way the writer uses language. This makes sense, considering that style is the most overt, so noticeable, aspect of voice. Voice also incorporates tone, diction and narrative structure, as well as the author’s authority – or her control over the subject and writing – and values.

Like speakers, writers have multiple voices. Say, you’re discussing your new job. Conversing with your boss would be worlds away from talking to your best friend. With the boss, you might adopt a slightly deferential tone, perhaps peppering the conversation with industry lingo; you’d discuss rules, expectations, technical issues. The boss’s halitosis – the first thing you’d blurt to a friend – wouldn’t likely come up.

The same goes for writing. An effective voice is attuned to the writer’s message, purpose, story and readers. Here, because I hope to get my points across without sounding stuffy, I’m using a chatty instructional voice. If I wrote this same piece for a technical journal, I’d use formal diction and a more distant, authoritative tone.

With fiction, each genre tends to have its own conventions. For literary fiction, readers expect authors to use figurative language and organic structures. Thriller readers, on the other hand, don’t usually care about flowery prose. They expect vivid writing, of course, but it’s the taut, suspenseful plotting that draws them in.

It’s not that we can’t break rules. We can – and the best writers often do. Remember, though: rule breaking, disregard for expectations, turns certain readers off. That’s OK. To tell your story maybe you need to break rules. Or maybe yours is a hybrid – a literary thriller, for example, that by its very nature ignores convention. Go ahead, break the rules; but to avoid alienating readers, do so only if you have a good reason.

So – we should alter voice to suit our genre, story and readers. But how do we do it?

Let’s begin with style. To alter your writing style, simply change your language and the way you structure your sentences. As already mentioned, lyrical prose, which works beautifully for literary fiction, would feel out of place in a police procedural, where the language is usually simpler and the sentences tighter and more direct.

To change your tone, try pacing the story differently. To speed the pace, use simpler sentences and cut the inessential detail; do the opposite if you want to slow down. Changing diction also changes tone. Chatty language feels conversational – this style works particularly well for chick-lit – while hard or incendiary language can make the writing sound angry or edgy. Watch:

Mary wandered merrily down the street, absently dragging her jacket.

Mary drifted down the street like a bumbling idiot, dragging her jacket.

These sentences say essentially the same thing, but the tone and diction paint very different pictures. Compare the generosity of the first narrator with the critical tone of the second. Depending upon the narrative distance – how closely the writer aligns with the narrator – tone may reflect on the character-narrator or the author herself.

Structure refers to a story’s internal logic, or the relationship among the various parts. Complexly plotted stories are often linear – they progress in an easy-to-follow pattern from A to B to C. Altering structure – progressing from end to beginning, moving in circles, writing organically – can give a story a very different look and feel.

Authority refers to the writer’s confidence or control, and comes across in what he knows – or doesn’t know – about his story. Authority establishes trust in the reader. If a story’s time or locale is unfamiliar, for example, it’s important to provide enough detail to plunge readers into the time or place. Having authority means doing our homework. Yes, it’s fun to write, to be immersed in the story. To write a compelling, authoritative story, we must know what we’re talking about. Spending ample time developing our characters, location and plot gives us control over our material.

Who would you rather listen to? A wishy-washy speaker who isn’t quite sure what she’s talking about? Or a credible speaker, who lulls and takes you out of yourself?

Unlike other elements of voice, values – religious, political, philosophical beliefs – because they’re part of us – our core values make us the person we are – are much harder to change. It’s important to remember that close readers read between lines. Careful readers watch for patterns and in the search for meaning, within a story’s language and patterns, discover hidden values.

Consider the example above. Depending upon context, the sentence, “Mary drifted down the street like a bumbling idiot” may show the personality or mood of a narrative character. If the authorial and narrative voices are the same – there is no distance between author and character – it may say more about the writer. Best to be aware of this – and take pains to write clearly and say precisely what you mean.

Be aware of and get comfortable with your narrative voice. Have fun, experiment. Try changing various elements and notice what an enormous difference it makes.

—————-

Terri has taught writing at Boston College since 1996. Her debut novel, In Leah’s Wake, was released in 2010. On Tuesday, 7/17, she joins the Indie Book Collective in “Menage A Blog,” a flirt-to-the-finish blog tour. Which character from In Leah’s Wake do you most resemble? Will, the strong-willed family protector? Or Zoe, the mom who’d do anything for her kids? Or maybe you’re more like Leah, the rebellious, fiercely independent teen. Or her handsome, rule-defying boyfriend, Todd. Or are you like twelve-year-old Justine, sweet, smart, struggling to hold her family together. Or Jerry Johnson, the town cop who, above all, wants to save everyone? Visit Terri’s blog (www.tglong.com/blog) on 7/17 and find out!

Website: www.tglong.com

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