Friday, April 24, 2009

Mistakes in Writing

Pat Holt wrote an article on her blog, Ten Mistakes Writers Don’t See (But Can Easily Fix When They Do). This is a VERY good article and explains some of the pitfalls writers face.

Since Holt explained the definition of each pitfall, I'm not going to repeat her words. I highly recommend you read her blog. My post is to see how many of these traps I fall into.

1. Repeats
There is probably a few crutch words or sentence structures I rely on. I have a feeling these are "smile", "shrug", "look", or "gaze". I could do a word search to see how many times these words pop up in my writing. I'd rather bury my head in the sand. I'm not good at showing human reactions in text.

2. Flat Writing
I don't think I do this. I read each chapter twice, send it to my critique partner, then read it again. I scour the darn thing looking for extra words that don't add to the story.

3. Empty Adverbs
Guilty. I use ironically, unfortunately, actually, and hopefully. Not a lot, but they do make their way into sentences. I suppose even then these words aren't necessary. I'll check later today if the sentences are stronger without them.

4. Phony Dialogue
Okay, yes, I have been using a few trendy words and modern phrasing because I'm writing a young adult. I wanted the characters to sound real. It's possible that could be considered phony. I do struggle to give my characters different voices. I have one character that is sarcastic, one that speaks in short sentences, one that is talkative and curious, and another that speaks with hidden anger. It's not that easy to do, and I wonder if the reader can identify the differences in character dialgoue.

5. No-Good Suffixes
I don't think I do this. I don't add "ness" or "ing" where it doesn't fit. I believe my critique partners beat that out of me a long time ago.

6. The To-Be Words
Big time guilty. I love me some "was", "were", "is", and "am". I'd also add "would" and "could" here. I know this is a weakness, yet I can't seem to fix it. I guess I have to work on it harder now.

7. Lists
I don't remember doing this. I usually keep the visuals in separate sentences. That way, the reader adds one visual at a time to create the picture in their head.

8. Show, Don't Tell
I think my ratio is sitting at 75% show and 25% tell. It's just so darn easy to say "he's handsome" than to explain what is unique about his features that make him handsome. And I ALWAYS forget to include smell in my writing. That's the #1 thing I go back and add after a chapter is done. Even then, it's such a small part of the story.

9. Awkward Phrasing
Uh, I don't think so? I read over my sentences carefully. I don't read them out loud, which probably helps to catch awkward phrasing, but I do mimic reading them by moving my lips and picturing the scenario in my head. If I don't catch the awkwardness, I hope my critique partner does.

I feel pretty good about my comma usage. They are wonderful when you need to pace the words.

I must send my thanks to Holt. That was a great article and made me think more about my writing mistakes. Off to fix it now!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Guest Blogger

Tabs is guest blogging today at Rose Marie Wolf's blog. If you leave a comment, your name will be entered to win a signed copy of one of Tab's printed books. Check tonight at 8:00 CST to see if you won!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Learning English

I saw a post on Craigslist from the local library. They need to find volunteers to become adult literacy tutors. There's a waiting list of 200 students, and no foreign language skills are needed. Tutors work one-on-one or in small groups to teach others to read and write English.

My first reaction was what a noble thing to do. Help other people educate themselves so they can have a better life. What could be more rewarding than that?

My next reaction was what a hard thing to do. The English language is not easy. Most of it is memorization. There are a few rules, but every rule has at least one word that breaks it.

When my dad taught me, we started with the sounds the letters make.
(ay, bee, see, dee, ee, ef, jee, aich, eye, jay, kay, el, em, en, o, pee, kew, ar, es, tee, yu, vee, double u, eks, why, zee.)

Then those sounds grew into three letter words.
(van, man, bed, bud)

From there, we learned common syllables.
(th, er, ed, re, sh, ch)

After that came spelling and learning the phonetic rules. I suppose having ONLY heard English growing up, and reading along with the story as my dad read it, I learned fairly quickly. Now that I think about it, English has to be pretty hard to learn.

How exactly does "tion" sound like "shun"?

What's up with C? Sometimes it's sounds like an S, sometimes a K.
(catch, ceiling, cold, cilia)

Then there's PH that sounds like an F.
(phone, Philadelphia)

The inevitable confusion between V and F.
(leaf, leave, proof, prove, roof, rooves, hoof, hooves)

Words that are spelled the same but pronounced differently according to context.
(Did you read that?, I read it. The bandage was wound around the wound. The farm was used to produce produce.)

"I before E except after C or when sounding like A as in NEIGHBOR or WEIGH."
Right, so where does PROTEIN fit in?

CH can sound differently word to word.
(church, checkers, cholesterol, chords)

Don't forget our love with the silent G.
(gnat, strength, eighth)

And our favorite homophones.
(dear, deer, bare, bear, band, banned)

If someone questioned me why these things are the way they are, my answer would be "I don't know, just memorize it." That's a pretty poor excuse for a teacher.

In fact, that's why I hated chemistry. Why was the ethanol compound composed of 2 carbon, 6 hydrogen, and 1 oxygen? Why did it have to be drawn that way? The answer was always "it just is. Do it like this or you'll get it wrong." That whole science never made sense to me because it was founded on memorization.

Because I don't know why some words break the rules, why they are spelled differently yet pronounced the same, or why some syllables have different sounds depending on the word...means I probably shouldn't be teaching.

Friday, April 10, 2009

First Person Narrative

I sometimes have trouble with past and present tense. Yeah, I know. It's one of the easiest things to master. If it happened already, it's in the past. If it's happening now, present tense.

Except it's not that simple. You have to consider what Point of View your story is written in. Are you telling a story that's already happened or happening now? And who's telling it?

First person narrative is when the story is told through a single person. The story is happening or had happened to the narrator. You can usually spot this POV by the use of "I" or "we" as the common pronouns. This is NOT the voice of the author. The story is being told in the character's voice and with his or her personality.

This is the POV I'm currently using for my young adult novel. First person narrative gives the writer a chance to delve into the character's head. Write their innermost reactions and feelings to the world around them. So if a story is being told in the past tense, it's strange to relay reactions that are also in the past tense.

Completely made-up example having nothing to do with my work:
Character 1: "Come on, let's go watch TV."
Narrator: So that's what people did here. They watch TV and eat chips all night. Well, I wasn't into that. "How about a movie?"

The first time you read it, it looks correct, right? It's not.
"That's" a contraction for "that is" which is present tense.
"Watch" is also in present tense. Should be "watched".
"Eat" is in present tense. Should be "ate".

That's the biggest thing messing me up. When I go back to an earlier point in the story to check a fact, I usually find at least one tense error. I've scrubbed the entire piece, make sure to check the work at the end of the day, and still these things slip by. I just don't have an ear for it. I like First Person Narrative and find it a lot easier than Third Person Narrative; if I could get a handle on these reactionary sentences, life would be perfect in the writing world.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

You Can't Write

I'm amazed by the lack of writing skills some people possess. The last time I was in Potbelly, I noticed their menu said "We've got wheat bread." (lower right of the picture). Really? You have got wheat bread? Have you got edumacation too?

I received a few emails from someone who wanted to know more information on Colby...such as where did I get him and what his temperament is like. I don't mind corresponding with someone, but it absolutely drives me insane when I have to read their email several times before I can understand it. The more I converse with this person, the longer their emails get, too. I should've ignored it when the first email had all exclamation points. I figured the person was either a child or a cheerleader.

The second email was so frustrating, I originally deleted it. Then I felt bad because the person honestly wanted to know more about vizslas. I don't believe in depriving people of knowledge, not when they make the attempt to learn. So I dug it out of the trash, deciphered the abbreviations, placed punctuation where I thought it would go, and deleted some extra words that made no sense belonging in a sentence. Luckily nothing was misspelled at least.

Which earned me another email. Awesome. This time we had ZERO punctuation, including apostrophes on contractions, and absolutely no capitalization whatsoever. The person tried to tell me a story, but it was so poorly written it only generated confusion, not clarity. I'm going to employ a new strategy. I'm not going to answer any questions, purposely misinterpret their email, and ask questions that shows I cannot understand what they wrote. I'm sure I will be seen as too stupid to get it rather than "hey there must be something wrong with my communication". That's okay, the end result will be the same. The email traffic will stop, and I won't be the person to cut ties.

You want a business idea? How about starting a website people can link to whenever they get an email like this. The next time I get a frustrating email, my only reply will be The person will click on the link, and the header will say, "You've been directed here because you sent an email no one can comprehend. Congratulations, you cannot write."

Indications you cannot write: Do you...
  • end sentences with an exclamation point?
  • write in all caps?
  • write with no caps?
  • avoid punctuation at all costs?
  • use abbreviations or chatspeak?
  • fail to proofread emails before sending?
  • avoid spellchecker because you're too smart for that?
  • write as you speak? using vernacular and poor grammar?
  • like to use buzz words?
  • use 10 words when only 2 are needed? Can you even spot the extra words?
  • compose sentences lacking either a subject, verb, or object?
  • know what a noun is? How about a pronoun?
  • know what a thesis statement is?
  • understand that poor writing skills can and will cost you a job?

    The rest of this website is dedicated to providing simple and clear instruction for the writing illiterate. It should also include Hall Of Fame Bad Writing Examples to show people exactly what they sound like.
  • Tuesday, April 7, 2009

    Review for No Holds Barred

    Dark Diva Reviews just posted this for No Holds Barred:
    Summary: Professional horse trainer Kaycee Spencer decides to relocate when she becomes the target of an insane stalker. She chooses remote Rimrock, Montana where no one can find her.

    Jace Remington, co-owner of the Dancing Star Ranch, refuses to allow women around his thoroughbreds—females are nothing but trouble with a capital `T'—that is, until he meets Kaycee Spencer, a woman who crashes into his peaceful life with trouble close on her heels.

    Set against the backdrop of the rugged mountains of Montana, Kaycee and Jace discover that if they are going to survive the vicious serial killer stalking Kaycee, they will have to learn to trust each other. No Holds Barred, a roller-coaster ride of murder, romance, and the discovery that love just might conquer all.

    My Review: This is the second book in the Montana Men Series.

    Kaycee finds that before she gave up her virginity, she agreed to marry a hunk of a cowboy. She knows that this was a hasty decision but the loan shark would not give up! Shocked to discover her job interview happened to be with the hunk she married, Kaycee negotiated a job with Jace at his ranch in Montana. Jace had no idea Kaycee was the Spencer that trained world wide, known for cutting horses until his brother filled him in. Kaycee could contribute alot to his ranch. Together with their families Jace and Kaycee live through sex, lies, murder, mayhem, romance, humor and love. Jaydyn Chelcee writes a mesmerizing story of suspence and love. I couldn't put this book down once I started.

    Rated 5 Delightful Divas and a Recommended Read by Roxann!

    Congratulations Jaydyn Chelcee!