Tag Archives: editing

Feedback Friday – 9/9/16

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Welcome to the first installment of Feedback Friday, where I’ll answer your writing-related questions. If you want your question featured here, just leave a comment anywhere on this blog with the words “Feedback Friday” somewhere in your question or you can shoot me an email at thirdaxe at gmail dot com. Please, make sure you put “Feedback Friday” as the subject line.

Our first question comes from Heather in South Carolina, who wants to know the primary differences between a comma, a full colon, and a semicolon so that she knows when to use each one correctly.

In the written language, commas are intended to create a brief pause, mostly in order to separate ideas in the reader’s mind. For instance, if you have a series of three or more items such as a pen, a piece of paper, and an idea, use commas to separate out each of the items so they don’t run together and create confusion. You do not need a comma to separate two items joined by a conjunction, like Jack and Jill, because there is no need for a pause. The conjunction takes care of that.

You should also use commas to set off any kind of an introductory clause. For example, this is one type of introductory clause that needs to be set off with a comma. Because commas are the most misused piece of punctuation, I will eventually have a video in the lecture series dedicated just to their usage. Notice how at the end of the “because” statement, we need a slight pause to show that the introductory element is ending and the main sentence is beginning. Using commas after introductory statements increases clarity and decreases the chance of misunderstanding.

You also need commas to separate two full sentences joined by a conjunction. For instance, I want to make sure that you understand the basic fundamentals of when to use a comma, but I also don’t want to insult your intelligence by making it too simple. To that end, I’ll provide examples embedded throughout this post to illustrate when you should use them, so you can absorb for yourself the rhythm of when you need that pause.

There are many more rules for when you should or should not use a comma, but for now, let’s just focus on those three as the most important fundamentals.

To understand the semicolon, you must understand not only the comma but also the period. If the comma creates a pause, the period represents a full stop. You use periods to indicate to the audience that that thought has concluded and are now transitioning to a new thought. The semicolon is somewhere between a full stop and a pause. Typically, there are two primary instances when you should use a semicolon:

1) If you have two complete sentences that you want to link together, BUT you do not want to use a conjunction because you want to show a connection between those two thoughts, the semicolon links them together. Friendship is the most valuable gift in life; it can heal almost any wound and makes each day a little brighter. Notice how the semicolon joins those two complete thoughts. A period or a conjunction would slow down the reader too much and lose the connection between the sentiments. A comma is too weak of a pause, so the semicolon is the perfect happy median between the two.

2) If you have a complex series, you need to set off the main elements with semicolons to make it clear where each one begins and ends. For instance, in this blog entry we are covering commas, which create a pause in written language; periods, which create a full stop; and semicolons, which fall somewhere in between a full stop and a pause. If we only used commas to separate those three main elements, that phrase would be nearly unreadable because it would be too cluttered. The semicolon shows perfectly where the major breaks should occur.

Finally, we have the full colon. Typically, the colon is used to introduce a series/list or further clarify some thought. If you noticed earlier, before my series of two points about semicolons, I used a colon to introduce that a list was to follow. We can do that in a sentence, too. For instance, a good sentence contains several key elements: a clear subject, a strong verb, and proper punctuation for starters.

You can also use the  colon to further clarify. This falls under two primary subcategories: 1) introducing a concluding explanation and 2) introducing an appositive (if you’re unsure of what an appositive is, that could be the next Feedback Friday segment). For the concluding explanation, consider the following example. A homemade meal nourishes the soul: it involves time, preparation, and attention to detail. While you could argue that a semicolon would serve here just as well, in this particular example, the colon more definitively shows that the second sentence more clearly explains the first. For introducing an appositive, think about this example. Homemade meals taste better for one simple reason: love. In both of these examples, the colon is used to set off an element that provides more explanation or clarification for what preceded it.

So there’s your explanation of the primary differences between a comma, a semicolon, and a colon. Hope to see you back here next week for our next Friday Feedback.

Creative Writing Ramblings

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This is the only creative writing manual you’ll ever need.

Chapter One – Prewriting

Come up with the seed of an idea. Ponder on it; think about it; dream about it. Get to know your characters and listen to them. They’ll tell you the story. Do some research to learn about the subjects you’ll need to know to build your world. If you need an explanation as to why that’s important, you have no business trying to write fiction. Also, read. A lot.

Build as much of an outline as you need to get started. Do what works for you. If you don’t know yet, do something and see how it goes. If that doesn’t work, scrap it and try something else. Keep all your notes; bookmark internet pages; scribble on napkins; text yourself. Have some kind of plan before you start writing.

Chapter Two – Writing

Find the self-discipline to write every day, at least four or five days a week. Set realistic weekly page goals and meet them. Always remember, if you create one page a day every day five days a week, at the end of the year, you’ll have a complete rough draft. So stop making excuses and go write. Don’t wait for next November. Start today. Try to write at the same time and place if you can. If that doesn’t work for you, write when and where you can.

Don’t worry about mistakes. You’re going to make them. Lots of them. If you worry about mistakes you’ll never finish anything. Just write. Allow yourself to take chances and fail. Write stupid crap; write incoherent nonsense; write long-winded, poetic sentences full of symbolism; write short, declarative sentences; write awful dialogue. Just write and don’t think about it.

Listen to your characters and write what they tell you. Don’t interrupt them; damn sure, don’t contradict them; listen to them. They know the story better than you ever will. Trust them.

Chapter Three – Rewriting

Let someone read your rough draft and rip it to pieces. Some people prefer working one-on-one; others prefer writing groups. Do what works for you. Let them bleed all over it and put your ego in check. Your ego is stupid and selfish and doesn’t care about your story. Look closely at the feedback; ponder it; weigh it. Fix what you agree with. Keep what you don’t believe needs changing as long as it’s not your stupid ego talking.

Find all of that crap and nonsense and terrible dialogue you let yourself write and fix it. Make it sound like you’re telling the story to your best friend. Polish. Polish some more. Put it away for a few weeks and then polish even more. Care about the quality of what you created. Have some pride and passion about your work. Love it like a child.

Chapter Four – Publishing

Good luck. Don’t get discouraged.

Chapter Five – Promoting

Pester the hell out of everyone you know to read your book. Repeat often. Be proud of what you’ve done. Make others want to read it. Or tell them it’s not for them. Sometimes that works, too.

Chapter Six – Repeating

Repeat chapters one through five until your brain deteriorates too much to continue. Then, retire.

Epilogue

This is all you need to know. Don’t waste $70,000 on graduate school. Read some good books instead. Especially nonfiction. Nonfiction will feed your brain better than fiction sometimes. If anyone tries to sell you a creative writing manual, ask them why they have to make a living selling creative writing manuals. If anyone tries to tell you they know the one correct way to write, slap the shit out of them and never listen to anything they say again. That person is either really stupid or a cult leader. Don’t waste time on either. If your ego ever tells you you’ve learned all you need to know about writing, tell it to go to hell. Your ego is stupid.

Reader Interview Ramblings

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As part of the Worlds of Wonder blog hop, today’s post is an interview with an avid reader. Lily of Bookluvrs Haven was gracious enough to join the Ramblings and answer a few questions about being a reader:

What is your favorite genre?  What about that genre appeals to you the most?

This is such a difficult question because I am a really diverse reader. I enjoy so many genres it is hard to pin point a single favorite. However, after reading ‘The Hunger Games’ series, which I really enjoyed, I began to search for more dystopian novels that are similar to read.

And for some reason, I can’t stop myself from reading anything and everything that has zombies and/or apocalyptic situations. Not sure why, because the idea of either completely freaks me out. Maybe I enjoy reading a good scary story. That would certainly explain my teen obsession with Christopher Pike and R.L. Stine books!

What is your favorite book or series?

So much to choose from, but I will have to hand the title of favorite to ‘The Game of Thrones’ series, by George R. R. Martin. I went through a reading phase of just fantasy novels at one point, I couldn’t get enough.

A co-worker of mine was also a big reader, and we started exchanging books, and he lent me the first book of the series, ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’. Once I got through the first chapter, I was a goner. Everyone ceased to exist around me whenever I had one of those novels in my hand. I will never forget when I walked over to a park during my work lunch hour to do some reading.  I burst out into tears on a park bench when I read that one of my favorite characters was killed, and having to explain that to a couple of people that were concerned and asked if I was alright.

I was incredibly excited when I heard that a tv series adaptation was being produced, and love every episode so far.

If you could have lunch with one author still alive today, who would you pick and why?

Being a blogger you get to meet and communicate with many independent authors, published authors and publishing house representatives via the Internet. It has been one of the best and interesting aspects of blogging, to actually interact so much with the people that bring you those stories.

I really can’t choose only one. But the first picks that come to mind are Kenya Wright, author of ‘Fire Baptized’, the Habitat Series and Alicia Wright Brewster, author of ‘Echo’ and ‘Don’t Call Me Angel’. Every interaction with them has been filled with laughter and fun, and I would LOVE to have lunch with them one day and just chat.

How do you feel about movie or TV adaptations of your favorite works?

I get ridiculously excited, but then very nervous. For the most part, there have been very few adaptations that I have found worthy of the novels that inspired them.  Once important sequences of events are changed, I become an outraged, ranting beast. When I went to watch “Queen of the Damned’ in the theatres, a movie adaptation of the same titled book by Anne Rice, I almost got up and walked out, because so much had been changed from the book. And I was not happy about it at all.

On the other hand, if you ask me how I like ‘The Game of Thrones’ series, I won’t shut up about how awesome they are. Because so far, they remain true to the books, and to me that is important.

If you as a reader could give advice to young authors, what would you tell them?

Please edit, edit, edit. Don’t be too anxious to publish or cocky with your draft that you don’t put it through the editing cycles. For me, poor editing is distracting and it becomes challenging to connect with the story when you are distracted by editing issues. For others, it is an outright pet peeve that can earn you a really negative reaction. Take the time to edit. You deserve to publish, and we deserve to read your very best final draft.

How often do you write reviews for the books you read?  If often, are you more likely to review books you love or hate?

Since starting Bookluvrs Haven with my friend, Erin, in April 2012, I review 99% of the books I read. Whether I liked the book, or hated it, I will review it.  I always try to be gracious and sometimes comedic with my thoughts.  Writing reviews for books that I ended up not liking is always tough, because you want to be respectful but at the same time express your feelings on the book.

Reading to me is my mental break and brings me enjoyment. Therefore, I ALWAYS choose to read a book that I think will entertain me and that I will really enjoy. Most of the time, I choose well. Sometimes, not so much.

Worlds of Wonder