Posts by Shay

Divas Rec: Creating a Setting by Taylor Lindstrom

Posted by on Feb 12, 2015 in Divas Recommend | 0 comments

Divas Rec: Creating a Setting by Taylor Lindstrom

Diva Recommend Creating a Setting by Taylor Lindstrom I may not be a guy but I am a fan of the Men with Pens blog. And today’s rec is a great straightforward article about how to craft a story setting. It’s by the lone gal over at the unabashed good ol’ boy writing network. Are you struggling with using an existing city in your book or even getting started on creating an original city? Start here. Taylor gives you some great advice on how to craft it right. Without further ado, I offer you Creating a Setting by Taylor Lindstrom for this week’s...

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Steps to Revising Your Manuscript

Posted by on Feb 2, 2015 in Divas on Writing | 0 comments

Steps to Revising Your Manuscript

Divas on Writing: Steps to Revising your Manuscript   So you have had your manuscript edited. What was returned to you looked like a mix between Greek and hieroglyphics. Where in the world do you begin? Do you just jump in? Do you handle the small stuff first? Do you clear the underbrush so you can see the big picture? Well, there are a lot of ways to revise and I’m sure everyone has a favorite way, but I’m going to share mine with you. I don’t know about you, but I hate doing work needlessly. For this reason and this reason alone I recommend that you sweat the big stuff first. There is no need to waste time making revisions to a section of your manuscript that is going to be deleted or rewritten. Spending time on such a thing is just frustrating in the end. I recommend instead that you read through the comments on your manuscript and identify those large areas that need revision (if you editor hasn’t marked them out for you). Then focus your edits in those areas. Once you are done it’s time to move on to the smaller stuff. To help you, I’ve listed the areas you should edit first from most important to least. Have fun! Step One: If you editor is recommending deleting chunks of the manuscript. Make a decision on what you will keep and what you will delete first. Note on deletion: I recommend that you create a document to hold all content that you delete. You never know where it can be reincorporated into the story. Extraneous backstory Info-dumps Unnecessary flashbacks Unnecessary content: chapters, scenes, prologues, epilogues, etc. Over-description Extraneous characters Step Two: If your editor is recommending that chunks of manuscript be moved to another place in the manuscript, do this next. Elements that are introduced too soon or late Scenes that are in the wrong place Elements that are in the wrong place: chapters, scenes, etc. Step Three: If your editor is recommending that chunks of the manuscript be rewritten, added to or revised in some other manner, this will be your next step. Issues with narrative Issues with tone Issues with pacing Issues with characterization Issues with plot Showing when you should tell Telling when you should show Expansion of scenes, plot, etc. Issues with lack of description Timeline Thesis statement writing Step Four: Finally, making any small changes that are left. Word choice Syntax Phrasing Wordiness Redundancy Grammar Punctuation Flow: sentences, paragraphs, etc.   Step Five: After you have finished making revisions, read your manuscript. When making heavy revisions, you must read the manuscript again. You must, you must, you must! Sweeping revisions can cause issues with grammar, punctuation, spelling, formatting, characterization, plot consistency, rough scene transitions, tone of the writing, timeline, continuity of the scenes, and the like. These are issues that can be inserted into the story unintentionally during the revision process. The only way to catch these issues is to read your manuscript after you have finished revising. This step is especially important if you are only having a proofread after your main edit. The purpose of a proofread is to catch errors with punctuation and formatting—not substantive issues.   If your manuscript is full of issues that necessitate major rewriting throughout the entirety of the story, we recommend that instead of piecemeal revision that you just redraft your story. Yes, I realize that the suggestion above is full of suck, but mull it over a bit. Redrafting might just be less work than trying to fit rewritten sections into your story like puzzle pieces. Revision takes work. If you think it doesn’t, you might want to find a different career. Sometimes, your editor is going to ask you to make revisions on a scale that will leave you in tears. But if you believe in the story, if you care about your characters and your readers, you are going to do whatever it takes and it’s that simple. Really, it is. Okay, back to writing, or revising if that...

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Where the Error Is: Antecedents

Posted by on Jan 28, 2015 in Featured Articles | 0 comments

Where the Error Is: Antecedents

Where the Error Is: Antecedents Antecedents. Yes, I just heard a collective head-scratching mutter of: ante-what?   an·te·ced·ent  noun \ˌan-tə-ˈsē-dənt\ a substantive word, phrase, or clause referred to by a pronoun, typically by a following pronoun1 Still confused? There’s no need to be. It’s fairly straightforward. But do know you will not be able to use “their” and various other pronouns properly without having an understanding of what they are and how they affect your sentences. Sometimes the antecedent is the subject of the sentence and sometimes it isn’t. A pronoun that refers to the antecedent does not have to be in the same sentence as the antecedent. Here’s a refresher. An antecedent is the word a pronoun references or replaces. Antecedents can be singular or plural. Singular antecedents are represented by singular pronouns and plural antecedents by plural pronouns. And this is all you have to remember (well, except for those tricky antecedents that appear to be plural but are actually singular). (Antecedents are in blue, pronouns in bold) Charlene wonders if Thomas likes her. [Singular] Sally stubbed her toe. She shouted loudly and hopped around on one foot. [Singular] But the problems with antecedents and the use of “their” do not end with non-gender specific indefinite antecedents. There are several areas where an author can get into trouble. The first is with the use of correlative conjunctions. (If you need a refresher course on conjunctions, please check out our article here.) When using a correlative conjunction, the plural nature of the pronoun is dependent upon the second antecedent. If the second antecedent is singular, so must be the pronoun and vice versa. WRONG: Not only the Millers but also the little boy were looking forward to their meeting with Santa. The second antecedent is singular not plural, which means the plural pronoun “their” is incorrect. CORRECT: Not only the Millers but also the little boy were looking forward to his meeting with Santa. [Singular] (I am of the opinion that switching the places of the antecedents in the sentence will make it read better and remove any issues with clarity. As written, it reads as though the Millers’ reaction is based on the little boy’s meeting instead of their own.) BETTER: Not only the little boy but also the Millers were looking forward to their meeting with Santa. [Plural] The second problematic area deals with the words “each” and “every”. These words make an antecedent singular, regardless how many antecedents there are. WRONG: Each plate and glass was set in their place with care CORRECT: Each plate and glass was set in its place with care. WRONG:  Every house on the block had their own style. CORRECT: Every house on the block had its own style. Third, compound antecedents. This when you have more than one antecedent joined by “and.” These are treated as plural (unless used with “each” or “every” as in the example above). WRONG: The momma cat and her kitten loved to be rubbed under her chin. CORRECT: The momma cat and her kitten love to be rubbed under their chins. Which brings us back around to indefinite antecedents. Even when referring to a group (everybody, everyone, everything, etc.) or an ambiguous collective or individual (somebody, anyone, someone, etc.), indefinite antecedents are treated as though they are singular. It may seem illogical, but that’s just the way it is. WRONG: Each woman rushed the store, hoping to find the wedding dress of their dreams. CORRECT: Each woman rushed the store, hoping to find the wedding dress of her dreams. GRAY AREA: Anyone shopping after midnight in that area must be out of their mind. BETTER: Anyone shopping after midnight in that area must be out of his or her mind. The last area with antecedents is as collective nouns and businesses and organizations, and it’s an oh-so-common error. These types of antecedents are treated as singular instead of plural. Collective Nouns: WRONG: The horde approached their camp victoriously. CORRECT: The horde approached its camp victoriously. WRONG: My team cannot wait until their homecoming game....

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Diva Rec: Do You Really Know Your Old School English

Posted by on Jan 15, 2015 in Divas Recommend | 1 comment

Diva Rec: Do You Really Know Your Old School English

Diva Recommend: Do You Really Know Your Old School English? Today’s rec is something on the light side—a fun test of your knowledge of archaic English. Go ahead and try it, and see if you can beat me. (I came  in at 70%. Barely passing, but I’ll take it.) Guess I’m still not ready to write the great American Middle Ages men as knights novel. Sigh. If you’ve never stopped by the Early Modern England blog, you are really missing out. There is always something there to soothe and entertain the history geek that sometimes masquerades as an editor. So if you were ever wondering about medieval hygiene, the history of lingerie or just want to know just what Middle Age Europeans passed off as fine dining, this is your site. So, test your knowledge (I dare ya!), get your inner historian on, and let us know how you did!...

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Serve me up a Side of Description; Hold the Chunks

Posted by on Jan 5, 2015 in Divas on Writing | 2 comments

Serve me up a Side of Description; Hold the Chunks

Give me a Side of Description; Hold the Chunks It’s tempting to over-describe, isn’t it? It’s a must to give your readers insight into your characters’ pasts and relationships with one another, the setting of your story, and to set up coming events. Isn’t it just easier to do it all in one big chunk? After all, that room your characters are standing in isn’t going to describe itself. The problem with chunks of over-description is that it makes your story read like a lecture, checklist, or an infomercial. People hate infomercials for a reason, checklists belong on a chores list and lectures belong in the classroom, not your book. Remember that teacher in the Peanut’s cartoons? She would stand before the class and lecture and all of her words turned into “waahnt-wa-wah, wa-waaa…” Yes, this is what your lovingly crafted words become when you litter your manuscript with filler. But before you spend paragraph after paragraph describing that room, you need to ask yourself three questions. Is the description necessary/important to the scene or merely distracting filler? By default readers give importance to information the author relates, but when an author distracts the reader with loads of information that isn’t important, it frustrates them. You want your readers to participate in your story, to make inferences, to imagine possible future scenarios. But when that reader is given information about characters and scenes and events that have no bearing on the plot, it inhibits their ability to connect with the story. Instead of wasting precious space in your story describing every last detail and character, keep the focus on those things that are truly important. Give basic descriptions and give your readers descriptions that they can relate to so they can fill in any blank spots. Don’t describe or even introduce the reader to characters who are unimportant to the plot. Yes, this means the woman your character smiles at every day on his way into work doesn’t have a part in the story—unless she’s a murderous assassin sent by your antagonist or his future love interest. You’ll make room in your word count for those things that really matter and save your readers a lot of frustration. Does this bit of description undermine the action taking place? My son is a fan of fantasy author Terry Goodkind. Once on a trip to Florida he convinced us to listen to an unabridged version of the book Wizard’s First Rule. An hour into the book the hubs and I were dying. Why? Because despite the need for a fantasy author to expend words on world building, this author was murdering our patience with ill-timed, unnecessary and repetitive descriptions which slowed the action in the story to the point of tediousness. The moment the author interrupted an action scene with a superfluous description of a chair, complete with backstory and (if I remember correctly) a flashback, I turned off the audiobook with a frustrated exclamation of, “I’m done!” And I was. SO done. I didn’t care that we were “almost to the good part” as my son put it. What is the lesson that I took away from this experience? Timing matters. It’s hard to build suspense in a scene when you focus on setting instead of action. Especially when you describe that setting in huge chunks that slow down the scene or bring it to a complete standstill. Did that chair in the book Wizard’s First Rule matter to the plot? Perhaps it did, but I didn’t stick around long enough to find out because of the way the author related description to me, which brings me to my last point. Can I relate this information to the reader in a different, more palatable way? Imagine for a moment, you need to describe a table to a reader. It’s an important part of the setting that will appear again and again in the story. Do you really need a paragraph on the style of the table (including length and width), the magnificent pattern of grain, comparisons between the stain and the...

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