bogwitch64: (Krohe)
Commas--the bane of many a-writer's existence--were the hot topic at writing group last week. The when and the why and the how of commas is so difficult, I think, because even though there are rules, the rules change. The rules are also often ignored by those who don't agree with them. And though they are often invoked, there really is no such thing as the grammar police. More's the pity! Though, I have to admit to being far less prescriptive about it all than I've been in the past. There is always room for language and grammar to evolve--but when it's a matter of clarity, I don't see the reason to ignore a the serial (or Oxford) comma.

I went to the beach with Dinah my best friend and a hairdresser.

Without the commas, that sentence can mean my best friend is Dinah, that Dinah is a hairdresser, or that all three listed there are separate people.

I went to the beach with Dinah, my best friend and a hairdresser. = Dinah is my best friend. She is also a hairdresser.

I went to the beach with Dinah, my best friend, and a hairdresser. = I went to the beach with three separate and distinct people. Dinah. My best friend. A hairdresser.

So if it clarifies things, why not use it? The only argument I've seen or heard that makes any sense to me is that it's a space-saver. Journalists and newspapers seem to be the biggest proponents of leaving out this clarifying little bit curviness, though others have made less practical arguments:it is redundant, and most people are going to get the proper meaning without it. True. If one writes: I would like to invite my parents, Ron and Howard, if those you're addressing know that Ron and Howard aren't your parents, but two of your friends, then they'll probably get it. But what if they don't know?

I would like to invite my parents, Ron, and Howard. = inviting four people
I would like to invite my parents, Ron and Howard. = inviting two.

And sure, you can rearrange it so that the serial comma is NOT confusing (I would like to invite Ron, Howard and my parents.) but isn't remembering to do it that way every time squeezing your brain a bit hard to avoid that little punctuation?

As always, I am open to argument. Do you know of any reason not to use a serial comma? Do you use it? Does it give you explodey-brain trying to remember how it works? Talk to me--I'm listening.
bogwitch64: (Krohe)
I am totally off-time this week, and I have no idea why. I labored under the assumption it was Tuesday yesterday, and only realized it was Wednesday when my daughter asked, "Are we going to watch American Idol tonight?" D'oh.

Anyway, here's what I would have written yesterday, if I'd remembered it was Wednesday:

Rescuing Jinna~A story of how motivation can make or break a character
Editor-Kim, and my most trusted pair of eyes (TPoE from here out) who will not call herself an editor, both had a problem with one of my characters: Jinna. At her most basic, she is the wild best friend to my heroine, Linhare. The problem my editor had with her and some of the things she did were not the same things my TPoE cited. While I could have looked at this as a matter of differing opinions, I saw both their points, and agreed with them despite the fact that they conflicted. How could they both be right?

They each had a vision of who Jinna is, and both those visions were as wrong as they were right--because I did a terrible job of giving her character the right motivation. Her character, what she does and how she would go about doing them, maintained only the barest thread pulling her through the story. All the times I "fixed" her in the past tangled that thread. After getting feedback from TPoE about Jinna--which I will not go into for spoilery purposes--I wrote her a note: Jinna isn't NICE. She's selfish and mean and vindictive. Don't expect good things from Jinna, because if she DOES something nice, she's benefiting in some way.

But the fact is, though this is the persona I've had of Jinna in my head all along, it's not who she is. On the outside she is all those things to anyone not looking closely, but the things Jinna does proves otherwise. It's an act that she's not even aware of performing. She is wild, she is selfish, she can be mean and vindictive, but Jinna is also loyal and good-hearted and quite a lot smarter than she gives herself credit for. She's one of those people who makes as formidable a friend as she does an enemy.

Ok, so it means redrawing her character, right? Wrong! Because what I realized yesterday as I edited is that pretty much everything, all the things both editor-Kim and TPoE found wrong with her character aren't going to change. The motivation behind some of the things she does must change, because, you see--Jinna doesn't do what she does because she's selfish and mean; Jinna does what she does because she is angry. Very, very angry. 

A little backstory--no spoilery!--if you're interested. )
Jinna is angry, not only with Linhare, but with herself. She is more than she presents to the world. Why can no one see this? That is her arc, learning to see where she made her own bed, and how she can get herself untangled from those sheets to be who SHE is, and not who people perceive her to be.

This  is the true motivation behind Jinna's character. It is why she does the things that seem conflicting in the story. It is the evolution of her character that these conflicting events must now show.

And now, off I go to do just that.

Sneak Peek

Jan. 9th, 2013 08:00 am
bogwitch64: (Krohe)
Want to see the preliminary cover sketch for the Siren's Curse in Beyond The Gate?


The Siren's Curse is a ship that has been sailing the seas since the first sea filled. It has elements of several eras in seafaring history. I am in love.

It's got a ways to go yet--like the Curse actually sails ABOVE the sea on a nefarious sort of mist. The mast head is a wise old mermaid (my tattoo, below) not a dolphin. We're going back and forth right now, and it's soooooo exciting.

The Siren's Curse
bogwitch64: (Krohe)
Words on a Wednesday this week is devoted to Dave Matthews and his extraordinary bandmates. Musicians. Artists. THIS is what music is. If you have never heard the band in concert, you've never heard the band. I thought I was a devoted Dave fan all these years. Right now I will tell you, I had NO idea what I was talking about.

First and best, I got to see Julie Compton, author of Tell No Lies and Rescuing Olivia, and my sister from another mother. We met in Virginia Beach a few years ago--she a friend of a friend filling in an abandoned spot. It was love at first sight. The sameness between us was uncanny, right down to putting ice cubes in our milk. We only get to see one another once a year, so when she asked if I was interested in seeing Dave Matthews with her up at Mohegan Sun, I leapt!

Her husband, Rick, works for Scholastic, and had business to attend in NYC--hence the convenient trip to CT. We hung out at my place a bit, got to know Rick (the  man is a pisser that had us in stitches all night) and headed out for Mohegan Sun, Before we left, Julie had a surprise for me.

She got us floor tickets. FLOOR!!! I couldn't believe it. I'd never been on the floor for a concert before. I was so close to the stage, I could see Dave sweat! The music was insane. Those men can PLAY. Words cannot do justice in this instance. Hearing that violin burn, those horns scream, the guitars growl and those drumps blaze was like nothing I have ever heard, or will ever hear again. Though I've seen Dave Matthews Band in concert before, this was the FIRST floor experience, and there is never going to be anything to compare.


And this is the final number from the concert I attended--Mohegan Sun, December 8th, 2012. In-freaking-sane. It's a crappy cell-phone recording, but still...

Though it was a two-hour drive, Frank and I decided to go home. I hated saying good-bye to Julie and Rick, but I'll see Julie in May. I'm still riding the Dave high, several days later, and it has nothing to do with the copious amounts of second-hand pot smoke I inhaled.
bogwitch64: (Krohe)
I am, as you know, in editor mode. Mark Nelson and I are nearing the end of the last big edit on his new novel, and, as it happened with his first novel for HRB, we're finally in our groove. It usually takes a draft or two before editor and writer feel their way around one another, no matter how many books they do together. When working with artists, it's key in a good relationship.

With NaNo just finished, I was thinking how many books are being handed to beta readers at this point. I've seen quite a few posts about this. Getting someone to read and critique your work is daunting--for you and for your reader! Because just as the writer is plagued with insecurity, so is the reader. I thought maybe sharing my editorly process with you might help both sides of that particular story, because it's essentially the same, if slightly less involved.

The process goes something like this; Mark will be my guinea pig:
First edit:
editor: Fantastic! I love this story. I love the characters. However...there are some problems we need to address. Let's get going on it.
(author gets back a manuscript with more red text than black, copious notes picking out every single flaw that makes author feel like there was nothing right in the whole damn book.)
author: Shit. I thought you loved it. My baby. My beautiful baby!

And then, a couple of weeks after the news has settled, author gets to work on notes, sees the editor's points, argues with editor on a few of them, and a second draft is born.

Second edit:
editor: Great work! You did a bang-up job. I'm really happy with it. Here are additional, finer notes for you to address.
(author gets back another manuscript with more red text than black.)
author: But you said...I thought...what the fu...What is all this red? Is it blood? Because it sure looks like blood. DAMMIT!

And then, a few days after the news has settled, author gets to work, sees the editor's points, argues on a bunch of them, and a third draft is born.

Third edit:
editor: You are still having a few problems with plot X. We need to get that under control or plot Y won't work right. This is what you need to do.
(author gets back manuscript with lots of changes, alterations, and equal amounts of red and black text.)
author: I know there is still a problem with plot X that affects plot Y; your solution isn't what I was going for. But I do see what you mean, and I'll fix it MY way.

And then, within a few hours, author has fixed the problems perfectly, sent editor the revisions, and the fourth, ready-to-be-copyedited-draft is born.

By the time we get to that third edit, Mark is comfortable coming back at me, and I'm happy for him to do so. By then, I know his manuscript almost as well as he does, I know his writing, and if I'm still reading it wrong, then there's a disconnect he's not addressing. If I try to "fix" things that turn out not to be what he was going for, it makes him think, it makes him come at it from a different angle. Arguing with me helps him to see it clearly; he can make it his point, done his way.

My philosophy as an editor is that the author always has final say. If I really, really don't like something, I'll keep fighting for the change--but if an author keeps fighting back, I concede--not because I don't want to argue it anymore, but because arguing these things always results in a compromise that inevitably works out better than either the original, or my suggestion. THAT is the whole point of editing--to create the best book possible.

There are three key things to take out of this process for anyone at any stage of writing. For authors, they are:
1.  Your manuscript is not perfect. It isn't in first draft or tenth. There is no such thing. Separate from it, or feel every cut and change in your core.
2. Constructive criticism is good! Don't be afraid of it. It makes your already fabulous story better, and tightens skills in ways you might not have anticipated.
3. Arguing is helpful if it gets you somewhere. Arguing because your ego has been cuffed in the chin is not.
For betas:
1. Be honest. Softening the blow for the writer often sends mixed signals, no matter how carefully you tread. If a writer has the story's best interests at heart, they will be able to process that you loved the story, even if there were plot/character problems.
2. Constructive criticism is good! Don't be afraid of it. Even if the writer doesn't agree, it WILL make them think--as long as egos don't get in the way! Leading to...
3. Be prepared to argue. The story belongs to the author, and their vision needs to come first. In the end, even if you don't agree, you will have made the author see something about their work that they hadn't before, even if the ego does get in the way.

Sometimes a book needs more than three edits. Sometimes it needs less. Right now, Mark and I are working on a 2.5 sort of thing because of time constraints--but we are in that groove. We work really well together because of mutual respect, a level of comfort maintained by genuine affection, and true love for the story at hand. You can't always get that with a random critiquer, but you should have that with your beta readers. You need opinions you can trust, from people with your best interests in mind. THAT is what will make your story the best it can be.
bogwitch64: (Default)
Words, words, words. How we love them. How they thrill us. Not just words, but story. We are writers. We find story in everything, and find words for those stories. Good words, bad words, in-between words. We dash them down, cut them out, rearrange them and set them right. We hand them off to others to read, to praise, to criticize. We write them again. Over and over, until they are right. Or as right as we can make them.

We fall in love with our own words--sometimes to our story's detriment. But we can't help ourselves; it's not just our own words we fall in love with, but the words of others. We copy them down, press them into scrap-books, tattoo them on our skin. Sometimes we use our own words to retell a story we've loved and loved--like a fairy tale, or Shakespeare.

We are writers, and our medium is words. We create images, feeding them directly into a reader's brain to interpret into images of their own. What wonder! To know the way we've set them down, twirled them about one another, creates an image in someone else's brain! It's not like a painting where the image is there and up for the interpreting. It's not like music in our ears. It's more nebulous than that. It's an idea fed to someone else via paper and ink. It's--magic.

And now they are leaving me, as today rushes out of my hands. Time to get lunch, to get in the car, to drive. Later, more words will come, because that's what words do. They come to me when I call them, and always will.
bogwitch64: (Default)
It is Wednesday, isn't it? That sort of crept up on me. Tomorrow being Thanksgiving, I'm feeling more like it's Friday, what with everyone going to be home and the lot of us heading to New Jersey. Frankie is determined to participate in Midnight Madness down at the mall. Last year, I bowed out. This year, I'll be a sport. Shopping ain't my thing! But it is his, and after all, he came to Word Fantasy and Conquest with me. It's the least I can do, right?

But it is Wednesday and I should be giving you words--writerly ones; and yet I have none. My brain is a-crazed with editing--both Mark's book and my own Beyond the Gate. Mark's comes first in the schedule, but tell that to my brain that won't turn off BTG. I manage to focus, but the moment my focus lifts from Mark's pages--Shazam!--BTG infiltrates and consumes.

And, on top of that, I have to start cooking for tomorrow.
And on top of THAT, I have to get to the gym.
And on top of THAT, I have an appointment at 6:30 this evening.

It's now 2:44. Something's got to give. Can it be the gym? Please let it be the gym! No?? Dammit!

I'll get it all done, but what I can't do is manage to settle my brain on a topic for Wednesday Words. Let me see...what to write about...what to write about...

(Hmmm...maybe I can distract them with you think? Will it work?)

Glitter Text Maker

(Did it?? Excellent...)

bogwitch64: (Default)
Threads. I talk about them a lot. I'm pretty sure my authors want to tie me up with those threads and leave me in a closet someplace where they can't hear me blather. But all stories need threads. It's how we get from beginning to end. Without threads, you have scenes with nothing holding them together. But what I talk about most are those threads some will only notice subconsciously. Let me 'splain.

Look at this tapestry (Click for a bigger image.)

It's part of The Unicorn Tapestries on display at the Cloisters in NYC--The Unicorn Leaps Out of the Stream. I've seen the panels. They're gorgeous whether you stand back to get the full scope, or get up as close as the velvet rope and motion sensors will allow. A unicorn, hunters, dogs, the flora and fauna of the forest. It's a brutal, beautiful depiction and one of the finest examples we have of tapestry art. Gazing upon it is a joy, however...

If you know that the unicorn is symbolic of the Christ, the pierced side of the unicorn takes on new meaning, as does the fact that there are thirteen dogs depicted, one with a skewered side, symbolizing the twelve apostles and Christ. And if you know that a unicorn's horn was believed to have healing and purification properties, the depiction is no longer that the unicorn is piercing the dog's side, but that he--Christ--is healing it (symbolizing the Ressurection.) Look at the dog's face--almost smiling. See? And to top it all off, dogs symbolize fidelity.

All that flora isn't there to be pretty. Hawthorne symbolized the crown Christ wore during the crucifixion. Hazelnut stood for union, regeneration, and immortality. Holly symbolized Christ's suffering, and was a protection against evil. Pomegranate seeds were viewed as a symbol of the chastity of the Virgin Mary as well as the medieval Church. It was also a symbol of plenitude and fertility. The red juice symbolized the blood of Jesus Christ.

The number of birds, the stream, the plentitude of flora, the placement of the hunters, the knots tied in several of the trees, and the A you can barely see dead center all meant something. Depending upon how up one is on one's symbolism, these things changed the way one viewed the tapestry as a whole. See where I'm going?

Not everyone is going to see all your threads. Not consciously. But the scope gains more depth for having them there. For example: I wrote Beyond the Gate before either Finder or A Time Never Lived, even if it comes third in the cycle. In BTG, one of the characters acquires something called the King's Eye. It's a magical sort of talisman and had nothing to do with either Finder or ATNL, until I came to The Shadows One Walks and realized that the King's Eye is actually connected to Zihariel and Sully's keys.

Here's a little insider information for those of you who have read both books-- )

I did not purposely write these connections. These threads only came together now, as I write TSOW. And the whole story of this thread isn't going to actually make it into the book itself. It's background information that I need, but the story itself doesn't. If I went off on all  the tangents, the cool little details I've built into my books, they would ramble on forever. But it's all there, threaded in for anyone who notices--like the real meaning of a character's name, revealed at the end of Beyond the Gate, that makes an appearance in Finder to click firmly into place. Some of my readers will make the connection. Some won't. The point is that such threads give a story depth that infodumps detract from. Eliminating those threads flatten the story out. They need to be there, even if most will never consciously acknowledge them.

It's like looking at that tapestry. You can gaze upon all the color and detail and beauty and be satisfied, or you can look at it with all the symbolism in your arsenal, ready to dive deep. Whichever experience you have, it is what it is because of all those threads whether you can interpret them or not. Without them, it might as well be a unicorn on black velvet galloping through the surf.

bogwitch64: (Default)
With the election only hours over, I have no writerly words for you today, only words of relief, of disbelief, and of hope.

First words of relief. Whew! President Obama got the four more years he asked for during the FIRST time he ran for President. He told us then he needed two terms to even make a dent in the things necessary to heal the country after so many years of bad politics. Thank you, America, for proving that though we might have a lot of crazies spouting the loudest, they don't speak for all of us. The margin was way too narrow for comfort! But, honestly, it sent a message. There are a lot of unhappy people in this country.Their voices need to be heard too. And that brings me to the words of disbelief...

Most of my flist on Facebook are likeminded artists. I do have some family in there who are steadfast Republicans, a few friends. I noticed that almost every disgruntled Republican post said the same thing: Now that Obama won, corporate America is going to start the layoffs. I normally don't say anything, because I'm with Jefferson--there's nothing about differing in politics or religion that will make me turn away from a friend or family. But when nearly every one of the posts this morning is warning that now Corporate America is going to start the layoffs, I can only think: A temper tantrum because they didn't get their way? Is this what you believe in? Is this what you back? Instead of grossly impacting thousands and thousands of YOUR workers, would it not be better to FINALLY start working together?

This is just sad. So sad. I hope that the disappointment wears off quickly and that this country can mend instead of constantly batting heads. The far right and the far left are NOT this country, but they do all the speaking for us. This election was, supposedly, about the MIDDLE CLASS. So how about we now make the result of this election be about all of us in the middle, leaning either right or left instead of firmly over the line, flags waving?

Now the hope--the hope that those doing all the shouting shut the hell up and allow moderate Republicans to be "real" Republicans. It was a shame what the party did to John McCain, and I think they did the same to Mitt Romney. Obama is NOT a far left radical. He's proven he's willing to give and take. Let's let him do it now.

And while I'm not really sure how I feel about legalizing marajuana (Colorado), it made me weep to see that by the time I went to bed last night, Maryland and Maine had legalized same sex marriage, and Minnesota voted down the Constitutional Ammendment that would define marriage as solely between a  man and a woman. More is coming. Soon, my friends, but not soon enough for me. Like "giving" women the vote, it should never have been necessary to VOTE on such a thing. This too shall pass, and we'll bear the scars for a while, but sometimes, scars are good. They mean: "I have survived!"

I go forward from this election with hope, renewed patriotism, and pride.
bogwitch64: (Default)
There were so many fabulous words on the calendar this week, I decided to put them all in one place for this week's Words on a Wednesday. I love finding these new/old words, and I love using them in my writing when I can. They lend flavor, and often a little humor. Best of all, it does just a little bit to keep the word alive--or bring it back to life.

Once, many years ago, I came across the word moonglade. For those of you who've never seen it before, a moonglade is that path of light the moon makes on water. I love that word. An old writer-friend and I made a pact: Use it in every novel we write, as a nod to one another.

This week's fabulous words:
mutchkin: a liquid measure equal to an English pint.
digamy: a second marriage after the death of a first wife, as opposed to bigamy having two wives at the same time. Also--trigamist and quadrigramist.
tucket: a flourish of music, typically from a trumpet or drum.
palliardise: fornicating, whoring, lechery, lewdness (derived from the French word paillardise.)
chuffy: haughty, proud, puffed up; fat and fleshy. In some areas, clownish.
chessiker: an unpleasant surprise.
catlings: the strings of a violin or lute, having once been made of cat intestines (cat-gut.)

Of those words, we still have one used fairly commonly even on this side of the pond--chuffy. When someone's chuffed they're excited, proud. It still means about the same thing, though seems to have lost a bit of the negative connotation. I save all these words that tickle my fancy, because even if I can't use them as they are, I can use them to create my own words that pull out the same feel.

Many of the words I used in Finder and A Time Never Lived were derived from old Arabic words. Cassia is a very old word for cinnamon, and the spice most forbidden in Finder. Before coffee was coffee, it was qawah. While I might have used cinnamon and coffee without many batting an eye, it wasn't authentic for me. I ended up using those words as they were, but came up with my own for others. The drinking/gathering establishment in my desert world--doovah--is losely based on an old Arabic word for a traveler's billet sort of place. And then there are the doughy, sugary treats that, in my mind are pizzelles*--popovehs. This one was all my own, but I took the sounds of the desert, and the words more familiar to me--pizzelle and popovers--to create one that I felt gave it the right sound to get across what they are. 

Taking great old words that are not immediately recognizable is a great way to come up with words that will give your fantasy world a lot of flavor. Too many, and you've over-weirded the pudding**, but a few sprinkled in, borrowing from whatever culture you base your world in, works as well to build a word as creating idiom does.

*pizzelles, (pronounced pete-zeal) in my southern Italian heritage, are more like zeppoli. If you look up what a pizzelle is,you'll find a lacy, flat, crispy sort of cookie made in a special mold. It wasn't until I was in my thirties that I discovered the disparity.

**A Cory Doctorowism. Though he might have gakked it from someone else, he's the one I heard it from first. Over-weirding the pudding means you've put in too many strange elements that make your story go from cool to eye-roll-worthy.
bogwitch64: (Default)
I've never been one to write to a prompt. Having never lacked for ideas, impetus, or the determination to take what time I have available to write, it came as a surprise to me just how much I enjoyed writing to prompts last month at my writer's group.

We did two different prompts. The first one came out of two shoeboxes. In one box were pictures of people cut from magazines, and in the other were places. We each randomly selected a person and a place, then had five minutes to write whatever came into our heads. I pulled out a pic of a smiling little boy, and a night sky just as the stars came out. This is what I wrote:

Up there, daddy says, is where heaven is. I don't see anything like angels. Maybe there's cloudmen, like in James and the Giant Peach. I like cloudmen. I wonder if mom is a cloudman now. She was nice too. I feel kinda bad, because I wasn't really nice to her all the time. Sometimes I was bad, but she was always nice.

I wonder what cloudmen do at night when it gets all dark and scary. maybe the stars are bigger, and it's not so dark. Mom told me there wasn't anything in the dark that wasn't there in the daytime. I didn't believe her. That's one of the times I was bad. She said there wasn't anything in my closet, but I pulled everything out anyway, then I wouldn't clean it up. I don't like to clean up.

That's as far as I got before time was called. Can't say I'm crazy about it. The voice isn't convincing as a child's. There's really nothing in there to pull a reader in. It's not a story I want to write. But it was fun. It got my writerly muscles warmed up. And sometimes it just feels good to write something I haven't otherwise been working on for months on end.

The second prompt was a suggestion: What do you do when someone else gets the thing you wanted more than anything? Again, we had five minutes. This is what I wrote:

Why her? Why that? I know I'm not supposed to be jealous...envious? Which is it? I never remember which is the right word in any given situation. Envious! That's it. She has it. I want it. Envy, in all it's green glory.

If only it had been Johanna, or Grace. I wouldn't mind so much. Who am I kidding? Yes I would! But out of the four of us, that Janine got it bothers me most. Why? I'll tell you why: She's a bitch. A nasty, ignorant, gum-chewing bitch. Ok, so I never actually saw her chew gum in any obvious way. I
imagine her chewing gum now, smacking it, blowing bubbles that snap. She wears too-short cut-offs too. And a belly shirt with poofy sleeves...

Shit. When did my sister turn into Daisy Duke? I'll tell you when--the day mom gave her grandma's locket. The one grandma promised to
me every time I sat on her lap and pressed it to my cheek. Janine says grandma promised it to her, too, and she's the oldest. Gram was dotty as a Lucille Ball day dress for as long as I can remember. But she did  promise it to me. I don't care if she made the same promise to Johanna and Grace and--fine!--Janine. They don't really care. They say to let it go. but I can't, and none of them understand.

There's a wish in that locket, and come hell or high water, that wish is

This one I LOVE. There's a very definite voice. There is a conflict, characters and a hook. The references to Daisy Duke and Lucille Ball set the age of this woman determined to get the wish. And because it's in first person, even the cliche adages (in any given situation, come hell or high water) don't even bother me...too much! It was dashed off in five minutes of inspiration--what you see is what I just copied out of my notedbook--and I'm really diggin' it. THIS is a story I want to write.

Writing to a prompt is a good way to stir those creative juices, whether one is currently lacking the necessary heat, or just for a change of pace. The first one fizzled for me, but the second one took on a life of it's own. I didn't plan it. I just wrote it as it came to me. And sometimes, that's exactly what we need to free up our brains sometimes overly-concerned about setting things up, consciously creating voice and character and hook.

How do you feel about writing prompts? Do you do them? Have you, like me, never done them before?

You want to do one here? I'd love to see what you come up with! Put five minutes on your clock. For any who wish to play, here's your prompt:

Tree Housewoodsman
bogwitch64: (Default)

Grammar is necessary. It clarifies. Every comma gives direction. The placement of verbs can state, or question. But language is not static, and neither is grammar. While it takes a whole lot longer for the latter to evolve, the former makes it impossible not to.

I'm not talking about slang; slang actually has its own grammar. What I’m talking about are those rules we learned in grade school and more often than not break on a daily basis. But are we really breaking them? It seems I just did. Oh, look--the sky didn't fall down.

There are a lot of "rules" in flux; most of them have to do with verbal usage vs. written. The rule is present and valid--even necessary, but often doesn't make it out of our mouths correctly. Some of these are making their way from the verbal into the written.

For instance—

Never start a sentence with but, or and. English teachers all over the country drilled that into our young minds. Surprise! It has never been a rule. Using a coordinating conjunction is informal style; it sounds conversational. The conjunction at the start of a sentence gives it an extra bit of emphasis. The rule, actually, is against sentence fragments—a common mistake made when using and, or but as a sentence opener.

Who and whom. Who is a subject, whom is an object. Most of us know the "tricks" of figuring out when to use which: look for the preposition. To whom, above whom, beside whom. The other trick is even simpler: Whom and him are both objects that end in M. If you'd use HIM in a sentence, use WHOM. Those tricks don't work in all cases, but in most. That, however, isn't the point of this post.

The point is--whom is becoming obsolete. We very rarely hear whom mentioned in conversation. The super-correctness of it keeps a good many of us who actually know how and when to use it from actually doing so. Like: He runs faster than she vs. He runs faster than her (more on that in a moment) whom is and has been dying a slow death out of speech. Now, it is dying out in the written word as well. There are editors who don't make such corrections anymore. I'm one of them.

And that leads me to one I cannot abide in the written word, yet apply it in conversation. Than she vs. than her. Ugh. Why does using the more conversational than her irk me when dropping whom does not? Grammatically, like who/whom, than she/than her is a matter of subject vs. object. And again, it's the difference between super-correctness to the point of awkwardness vs. the more conversational. "I am stronger than she," is correct, yet no one actually says that. They say, "I'm stronger than her." Add the missing is and things change drastically. I am stronger than she is vs I am stronger than her is. Yeah, you see my point. But the thing is, the misusage is not only acceptable, it's actually more entrenched in American English than dropping the m in whom. Some staunch grammarians will gasp and say, "No, nevah!" Some editors do not make this correction. I am not one of them! But I'll never correct it in conversation.

Now for one I cannot accept, will not use, foam at the mouth if I read it--which when you need that. ARGH! Ask my poor authors. I am unbudgeable on this one. I've discussed this here before: that is used in a restrictive clause (necessary to make the sentence clear,) and which is used in a non-restrictive clause (something not necessary to make the sentence clear.)

If you want the big explanation, go here.

There are sentences which look just fine using the incorrect word. Like that last one. It's grammatically wrong! There are sentences that look just fine using the incorrect word. If you take that restrictive clause out of the sentence, it makes NO SENSE!!! It grates on my ears and eyes the way few other "broken but acceptable" rules do. But it is commonly used, and thus is evolving the same way whom, and than she/than her are evolving.

All of the above are rules for a reason. Sometimes, the reason just doesn't matter. They become those exceptions every rule seems to have. It's the difference between prescriptive and descriptive grammar. Prescriptive doesn't bend. Descriptive sways with the wind.

As always, I find myself in the middle. There are some I accept as archaic, even if the rule itself is solid. There are others I will deny until I draw my last breath. The key is consistency. If you are going to use :::shudder::: which, use it. If whom doesn't exist in your in your work, don't carelessly slip one in. If you want to say, "It's me!" rather than "It is I!" out loud, but write, The boy on the stair cries louder than she, do it. Stick to your guns, then whatever the argument, yours is valid.

What are rules you will break? What are rules you cannot? Let the argument...erm...debate begin!

bogwitch64: (Default)

We’ve all heard it, said it. First draft crap. You can’t revise what you haven’t written. Sound advice. But is it always helpful?

Characters can wobble a little. Grammar can gag on itself. Purple prose can wax poetic. Adverbs can abound. The first draft does not, indeed, have to be perfect. I believe that is what the above advice is talking about. What it doesn’t mean is: write anything as long as there are words that start with Once Upon A Time and finish with The End. As an editor, I’ve seen the result of this in too many manuscripts to believe it’s not a case of good advice gone bad.

Handwavery—it is a death knell for manuscripts. It might get the story done, but it doesn’t get the story done right. What is handwavery? Plotholes. Characters who wibble whichever way a particular scene needs them to wobble. Threads that drop off, or appear out of nowhere. A little of this in first draft is a natural part of the process. A lot leaves many writers in holes too deep to climb out of. Some writers will never realize they’ve actually handwaved at all (stage 1.) Others will know the plot isn’t working, but have no idea how to fix it (stage 2.) Either way this results in a trunked manuscript. Finished! But trunked. Because handwavery doesn’t make for a publishable novel, or even an enjoyable one.

The above advice really isn’t for those who won’t see, or will see and not know what to do about it and they, unfortunately, are most often the ones who misinterpret what first draft crap actually means. The advice is aimed at the writers who will see and know and rewrite accordingly (stage 3,) or those who either know how to avoid handwavery or use it to their advantage (stage 4.)  

We can, and often do, bog down in revising as a form of catwaxing no matter what stage we are in as writers. Perfecting the words that make up a scene that might end up cut completely is a waste of time. Getting the details right is not. Leaving pivotal gaps in the hopes that they will right themselves in revision, or altering a character’s character to a fit a scene instead of making the scene work to the character might save you the hair-pulling now, but it’s going to bite you in the ass in a big way once there are so many holes, often contradicting one another, after you’ve typed The End.

So what do you do? How do you learn? How much revision is too much? Too little? Everyone’s process is going to be different; I’ll share the one I’ve found that really helped me learn to realize, then to see, and finally, to avoid:

Print up daily pages and set them aside. Before you move on the next time you sit to write, line-edit those pages.

WHAT? Line-edit first draft?

Yes. Once. It gives a head start into the writing session. It reminds us of where our story has been, who it has been with, and why. As we line edit away the snatches of purple prose or clip the LY off an adverb, the repetition allows writers in stages 1 and 2 the opportunity to begin to recognize, and eventually, how to fix the sort of handwavery that can trunk a novel. For those in stage 3 and 4, it allows the writer to catch the handwavery before it gets out of control.

I write several hours every day, but some writers only get an hour here or there. Sometimes there can be days, even weeks between writing sessions. Refreshing our memories of what has already happened, how a character reacts to this or that, of a piece of a thread we mean to pull through the manuscript will go a long way to keeping focus. And—yes, yes—line editing gives that need to polish a little leeway. Got to throw ourselves a bone once in a while, eh?


bogwitch64: (Default)

January 2013

  1 23 45
6 78 910 1112
13 141516 17 1819
20 2122 2324 2526


RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Sep. 19th, 2017 06:57 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios