Before You Begin Your Masterpiece!

 

pen_paperA Common Grammar Rule You Think You Know!

Grammatically Correct, 2nd Edition by Anne Stilman

THE ADVERB-ADJECTIVE DISTINCTION

Much could be written on adverbs, but the most needful point to make about them is simply. USE THE DARN THINGS WHEN THEY’RE CALLED FOR!   (Primers on e-mail etiquette advise that all-caps text can be interpreted as shouting. Yes, this text is shouting). Far too many people use an adjective when an adverb is the correct choice.

What is wrong with the following sentences?

I was shaking so bad I could hardly make out what the letter said.

I can’t walk as quick as you—please slow down.

It was real nice of you to come.

The roads are slippery, so do drive careful.

The kids are being awful quiet—should we check on them?

Adverbs are not a difficult concept, you may think but like adjectives, they are modifiers, but while adjectives modify nouns, adverbs modify verbs and adjectives. Most (though not all) adverbs are formed by adding “ly” to an adjective.  Answers: In the sentences above, shakingwalk, and drive are verbs. Nice and quiet are adjectives. Accordingly, their modifiers are NOT the adjectives bad, quickrealcareful, and awful, but the adverbs badlyquicklyreallycarefully, and awfully.

 

 

A Few Words Your Editors Will Delete!

words-to-eraseWords your editor will delete from your writing as posted on the Writer’s Circle.com 2015

“And then the meeting was suddenly interrupted by a very loud noise that startled the board members.” If the previous sentence isn’t a train wreck to you, it’s perhaps time to analyze your own writing. The sentence should hopefully drive in this useful point: the best writing out there isn’t determined by what happens, but rather by word choice. Nothing takes readers out of the moment like one poorly worded sentence. To help your writing, we compiled a brief list of words to avoid along with our reasons and a few suggestions to help you get around some messy phrasing. Oh, and if you were wondering, a decent way to rephrase the starting sentence would be “A deafening noise crashed through the otherwise quiet meeting, agitating the typically lethargic board members.”

1. “Very” or “Really”

Mark Twain said it best: “Substitute ‘damn every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be’. The words “very” or “really” (or truthfully any intensifier) are just another way of increasing the value of a word without adding anything descriptive. You’re also using two words when one would suffice, and unless you’re getting paid by the word, it’s best to avoid. Instead of saying “very loud” like in the first sentence of this article, use “deafening,” “thunderous,” or “piercing.” Not only do they roughly mean the same as “very loud” but they are much more descriptive. Here’s a great, if brief, list of words you can use in replace of “very”.

2. Suddenly

“Sudden” or “Suddenly” is another practically useless word. Anton Chekhov once said “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” The word “suddenly” tells the reader the moon is shining. It’s telling the reader what to feel instead of forcing them to feel it. Let the sentence or the action itself jar the reader into feeling the suddenness of the action. “Suddenly” ironically slows down the action and delays the actual suddenness of the sentence. There’s no actual replacement for the word, either. Just don’t use it. Let the silence speak for itself to convey your message.

3. “Amazing” or “Awesome”

Both of these words are meant to convey very specific feelings. “Amazing” means “causing great wonder or surprise” while “awesome” means “extremely impressive or daunting; inspiring great admiration, apprehension, or fear.” There are two great reasons to not use these words. First, it falls into “telling and not showing,” that is: telling the reader how they should feel or how the character feels instead of actually describing it in a way in order to convey that emotion.

The second reason to avoid these words is simple: they are over used. Everything, these days, is either awesome or amazing. Seriously, ask yourself the last time you’ve used either of those words to describe something innocuous like a hamburger or a delightful chocolate dessert. To quote Louis CK, “As humans, we waste the [expletive] out of our words. It’s sad. We use words like ‘awesome’ and ‘wonderful’ like they’re candy. It was awesome? Really? It inspired you to awe? It was wonderful? Are you serious? It was full of word. You use the word ‘amazing’ to describe a [expletive] sandwich at Wendy’s. What’s going to happen on your wedding day, or when your first child is born? How will you describe it? You already wasted ‘amazing’ on a [expletive] sandwich.”

If you intend to use these words, it’s worth asking if what you’re describing really is ‘amazing’ or ‘awesome’ in its true sense. If it is, find a way of letting the audience feel that. If you aren’t using the true sense of the words, there are alternatives like “neat,” “delicious,” “outstanding,” or <insert other words that will fit better without entering into the realm of cliche hyperbole>.

4. That

“That” is a handy word and isn’t always useless, however it’s also commonly a crutch without a purpose. Whenever you’re about to use the word, ask yourself if there is a better way to avoid it. Consider this sentence: “I saw the grail that shined brightly.” The sentence is weak, right? Change the sentence entirely by avoiding the pitfall of the word “that” by rewriting it to “I saw the brightly shining grail.” The sentence sounds much cleaner now, right? Also consider “I think that all puppies are adorable.” Just remove the word from the sentence to make it cleaner once more: “I think all puppies are adorable.” Any time you’re about to use the word, ask yourself it there’s a cleaner way of phrasing your sentence, or if the sentence makes sense without it. If it does, just ditch the word entirely.

5. Started

“He started running.” “She started dancing.” “The dog started jumping.” All of these sentences are passive and slow. “Started” serves to slow down the sentence and little more. Instead, remove the word from your vocabulary. “He ran.” “She danced.” “The dog jumped.” Any action performed is one started. If you want to signal that the action is a continuing one, add descriptors after. “He ran tirelessly past the starting line.” “She danced all night long.” “The dog jumped repeatedly.” Each sentence provides a better scope of time than using the word “started”.

Started isn’t a word to avoid without exception, however, but it’s pretty close. The car didn’t “start”, it “roared to life,” for example. One time you can use the word “start”, though, is when there’s something that has a definite starting time. “I started writing in the 8th grade.” These opportunities occur rarely, and it’s much better to try to avoid the word as best you can. There are much stronger ways to communicate your point.

 

 

 

Foreshadowing – how much is too much?

ForeShadowing 3

I was working on my second edition of a middle grade novel when my editor told me that I should be careful about using foreshadowing to liberally.  It was my writing technique to include foreshadowing at the end of each chapter, if needed. In fact, she eliminated, in each chapter, all but one of my foreshadowing lovelies.  It was hard to take. So, in a state of rebellion I put several of the best, in my opinion, back where they belonged. I kept those rebellious foreshadowing evils in my revision.  The following is an example:

With Foreshadowing:

After supper, Laura cleared the table and put the dishes in the sink to wash them. The summer storm had passed and in its wake was a beautiful evening.  It helped Laura to forget about the nightmare that still haunted her.  At the kitchen window above the sink, Laura watched as the first star of twilight became visible. It was the Dog Star, Sirius; the star that guided wayfaring sailors home from turbulent seas. “I wish, I wish” said Laura, that I could fly up to the planets and discover the world my parents knew, my home, somewhere up there. Laura had no way of knowing how prophetic her words would become and the danger therein.

Without Foreshadowing:

After supper, Laura cleared the table and put the dishes in the sink to wash them. The summer storm had passed and in its wake was a beautiful evening.  It helped Laura to forget about the nightmare that still haunted her.  At the kitchen window above the sink, Laura watched as the first star of twilight became visible. It was the Dog Star, Sirius; the star that guided wayfaring sailors home from turbulent seas. “I wish, I wish” said Laura, that I could fly up to the planets and discover the world my parents knew, my home, somewhere up there.

Come what may, I will live with this decision. Of course, if anyone out there has  some sage words of instruction, I would love to know how other writers have handled this perplexing problem!