Tag Archives: english language

Pronouns. Tricky Little Suckers — Rule #30 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever


I’m dissecting the article Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie, using it as a cattle prod to search for little nasties in my manuscript.  Yep, you can join in the fun, too.  Let’s take a looksee at topic #30

30: Pronouns are big trouble for such little words. The most useful piece of information I ever encountered on the little blighters was this: pronouns refer to the nearest matching noun backwards. For example: John took the knife out of its sheath and stabbed Paul with it. Well, that’s good news for Paul. If you travel backwards from ‘it’, you’ll see that John has stabbed Paul with the sheath! Observing this rule leads to much clearer writing.

Wow… This is a rule I’ve never heard before.  Yes, I’ve corrected manuscripts where they’ve made an error like this, and I’ve had similar errors corrected in my own work… but counting backwards lie that… I never even thought of this trick.

This is great advice!  Many times I’ve written something and wondered if it was confusing.  This like trick may help a lot!

Try this in your own manuscript and see if it catches any errors.



Cut it out with those full sentances! — Rule #23 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever


I’m dissecting the article Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie, using it as a cattle prod to search for little nasties in my manuscript.  Yep, you can join in the fun, too.  Let’s take a looksee at topic #23

23: Don’t allow your fictional characters to speak in sentences. Unless you want them to sound fictional.

Time for all the English teachers to cringe! But it’s true, right?  Do we speak in sentences?  Well, sometimes.  But there should be a good mix of full sentences and fragments.  Heck, even an incomplete thought here and there will help make the dialog seem more real.

And if you are not sure if it sounds real or not, read it out loud.  Even better… have someone else read it to you.  If it sounds weird with a voice attached, then you need a little re-write.


Rule #4 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever


I’m dissecting the article Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie, using it as a cattle prod to search for little nasties in my manuscript.  Yep, you can join in the fun, too.  Let’s take a looksee at topic #4

4: Cut adjectives where possible. See rule 3 (for ‘verb’ read ‘noun’).

Ha!  Since I posed it last week, let me do a little cut and paste for you.

3: Use strong nouns in preference to adjectives. I won’t say avoid adjectives, period, because about once every fifty pages they’re okay! What’s not okay is to use an adjectives as an excuse for failing to find the correct noun.

swish swivel squiggle 2

Hmmm.  No adjectives?  As in NONE?  I’m not sure I agree with this, although I have caught myself using TOO MANY from time to time.  I mean, you need to describe stuff, right?

Strong nouns?  I think maybe he should have re-thought that.  I can understand not saying: “The angry dog barked”

What should be said is “The dog lowered his head, baring teeth.  His bark echoed through the room”

The second angry dog is much more menacing, and I didn’t use any adjectives.  I think he may just be talking about the whole show verses tell issue, because you’re gonna have to describe a few things sooner or later, right?

Open discussion time!  What have you found with your writing and adjectives?  What do you think Allen Gutrie’s point is? Where do you think adjectives are necessary?


I need some help with something. Got a minute?

I’ve run into a conundrum.  It’s kind of a good conundrum – betas are loving Fire in the Woods… until they get to one point.

I partly expected the responses:

“This is confusing, but if no one else says anything, ignore me.” And “This is distracting.  Is there another way to do this?”

So, this is my problem.  Fire in the Woods is told in “First Person” (the “I” Point of view)

There is a large sequence where people around my main character are speaking another language, and she can’t understand them.  To keep the continuity of the story, I wrote the whole sequence in English.  Then I went back and translated it.

I figured there would be some people who wanted to know what they were saying, so I subtitled it.  I also figured people who wanted to stay in Jess’s confused POV would not even glance at the subtitles.  So far, this seems to be backfiring.

So, this is my question:  How should I handle this scene? I don’t want to keep saying over and over “they spoke in their weird language” or something like that, but I obviously can’t leave in all the foreign dialect.

Have you ever seen something like this done well in a published work?  Have you read a passage where characters are speaking another language, and the POV character doesn’t understand them?

I have an idea what to do, but before I do a lot of work and screw things up, I’d like to see an example of someone doing it WELL.

Any suggestions?


Updating the Dictionary. A Good thing? Yes, and No.

Dictionary.com just made a bunch of updates and new additions.  That’s great, right?

I will be the first to agree that our language is evolving.  Especially now, when our kids are living in a world that is so much different from when many of us grew up.

I remember the first time my five-year-old said the word “modem” or “keyboard”.  It sounded so odd.  Last night my six year old and eight year old were fighting because one of them threatened to “delete” the other’s “file”.  If you think about it, 30 years ago that would sound like Star-Trek like stuff.  Right?

So yes, I agree with updating the dictionary… to an extent.

Pixelate, aggregator, and cyberbully…yes, I would agree to adding these words to the dictionary.  They are new, and a part of our lives now.

Anyhoo????  Please, come on, say it isn’t so.  This one makes me cringe as much as when they added “ain’t.”

Yes, they are saying it is “informal” and a “humorous alteration” but what will they add next? BFF?  a’cause?

I love the English Language.  I hate when people abuse it in their laziness, or when something silly someone says catches on to the point of annoyance.  I used to hear “anywhoo” and not blink, because someone was being derogatory or making a joke… but now to add it to the dictionary?

I hope I don’t wake up in five years and find I can’t read the dictionary because every word is either ‘new made up lingo’ or has been replaced with shortened versions that are easier for texting.

IMO, Anyhoo and I will never be BFFs.  LOL.  Fureal.  Gedit??

And, by the way… my spell checker flags “anywhoo” as mis-spelled.

My spell-checker and I are buds 🙂

(But that doesn’t mean I want “bud” added to the dictionary as “slang, abbreviation of buddy”)  Erggh.

Jon Gibbs’s Ten things I wish I knew… Final Thoughts – Thanks Jon!

Here are a few quotes from Jon Gibbs that I thought were good little snippets everyone could use.

Thank you again, Jon, for your words of wisdom, and for going out of your way to help aspiring authors to Learn from your Mistakes

1.        Dealing with shyness – He is shy.  He is afraid of public appearances.  To get through it, he imagines his grandmother saying “Okay go home – you will disgrace all your ancestors but that’s fine.”  It helps him to trudge on.

2.       Figure out what works best for you and then do that a lot

3.       Write what you like, even if it seems out of date.  If you enjoy it, someone else will, too.

4.       Winning a contest (small) and putting it in your query letter makes you look like a newbie.  Major awards are okay, though.

5.       Writer’s digest may seem good, but you have to pay to submit.  Don’t pay to submit.

6.       Slush readers trash “Dark and stormy night” openers and don’t read to the next line.

7.       Jon learns more about writing listening to others critique his writing.

8.       Young Adult needs a romantic element to be marketable*

*This is what a publisher told Jon when he was selling Fur Face as YA.  However, a friend of mine was just asked by a publisher to remove the romantic element because it made them uncomfortable.  You never know.

Jon Gibbs is the author of one of my son’s favorite books:  FUR-FACE, which was nominated for a Crystal Kite Award.

Jon is an Englishman transplanted to New Jersey, USA, where he is an ‘author in residence’ at Lakehurst Elementary School.  Jon is the founding member of The New Jersey Author’s Network and FindAWritingGroup.com.

Jon blogs at jongibbs.livejournal.com

Website: www.acatofninetales.com

The Big Announcement! Writing to a Deadline AGAIN #4 The Big Announcement!

I am so excited to announce that I’ve just signed a contract with Still Moments Publishing to have my story Connect the Dots included in their 2012 Christmas Anthology.

This is totally unbelievable.  In January, I posted a big boisterous banner proclaiming that I WOULD BE PUBLISHED by the end of 2012.  It was quite a lofty goal for me, and now I will have two stories coming out this year.

I’m giddy with glee.

Hey, Canada.  Look South.  See that big bright light down in the USA?  That’s me smiling!

Oh, guys.  This is just so dern cool.  You have no idea.

Click here to see my query blurb and promo page for Connect the Dots.  Yeah, No explosions.  I was a good girl for Christmas.

The Road to Publication #3: The Bad News – More Editing?

Wait a minute… I just spent two months writing to a deadline.  Now I have more deadlines?  Yikes!

Wow, the day after the contract was signed, all the “stuff” came flooding in.  Tons of emails, and tons of information.  I knew that there would be a lot to do, but I must admit, when I saw it spelled out, I was a little daunted.

One of the emails contained a very long list of things that need to be done before the target release date.  Thank goodness, many of the things on the list are dates when the publisher needs to do things.  But there are things that I need to do.


Ugh.  Editing.  I figured I would need to do a little work on it, but I was a little surprised when they asked me to go through LAST WINTER RED and look for about 50 possible things that the editors will flag, so it will be as clean as possible before they have to review it.
I am using a computer program to analyses my manuscript, and it’s surprising when a computer highlights possible problems how many things pop up that you don’t see when you read.  As always, I don’t agree with everything the computer says.  A computer does not, or instance, understand that you are looking for an emotional reaction when you purposely repeat a word five times in a paragraph, and that it was intentional…but in the instances where it was not intentional, I was able to make the changes, and the sentences are much stronger.

That is where I am now.  There are about six different reports to run like this.  Some of them overlap, but it is a lot to look at, and a lot to consider (see that… duplication of “a lot” for an emotional response… are ya feeling emotional?)

Anyway…tons to do, and now there is a new deadline, and five other authors in the same boat counting on me to finish in time.

No Pressure.

Writing to a Deadline Part 10: Rewrite and Beta Blast

If you’re just hopping into the insanity that is my writing life, check out my previous “Writing to a Deadline” posts or this won’t make sense.

Okay… fixed that climax.  Yeah!  I did it.  Oh no!  Now I am at 10,280 words!

That’s a whole page over!  Ugh!

Edit madness:  Extra word here, extra word there.  Unnecessary clause?  Can I tighten that dialog a little?  Does this person need to smile?  Is that dialog tag necessary?

Okay, I’m done.  Right?  Am I?   ARRRHGHHHH!

Beta Blast!  Call in the two people who the story really seemed to resonate with (Don’t bother with the person who didn’t seem to get it from the beginning)

Sorry, guys… I know it’s a lot to ask… but I need it back in two days.

Wait….  Wait….  Wait….  Tear a fingernail off.  Wait….  Water the plants… again.  Groom the dog… again (not that she’s complaining.)

Then the panic moment happens.  Through a writer’s group, I find out that someone submitted, and got a positive response.  Not an acceptance, but a request to make changes and re-submit through private channels.

Oh No!  There is a possibility that they will close for submissions if they fill all five slots.

It’s okay… take a deep breath.  I decided that I need to submit NOW, even though there are two weeks left until the deadline.

My two betas came back with minor changes.  Of course, while I was waiting I made changes of my own, so I pleaded for one more read.  Yeah, I can be annoying that way.

My worst writing nightmare is that all of these people call in the favor at the same time while I am up against a deadline of my own ***gack***

Okay… their responses come back.

Remove that comma, change that word…

Easy fixes.

Slow and steady.

By request: Who’s verses Whose

It never occurred to me to do an article on Who’s verses whose, because I don’t think I’ve ever had a problem with it.  I can see how this could be confusing, however.

I will try to make this as simple as possible.

Who’s” is kind of like “it’s”.   It is a contraction of two words.

Who is going to the store?

Who’s going to the store?

Whose is the possessive form of “Who”.

Who does this book belong to?

Whose book is this?

I believe the problem that may cause confusion is that sneaky little apostrophe.  In most cases apostrophe with an “S” denotes a possessive.  That is not true for “who”, or for “it”.

It’s just another one of those wonderful little rules that make the English language so much fun!

Hope this helps!