Tag Archives: Grammar

Rule #11 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever

Writing_A_Great_Novel

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 #11

11: Avoid sounding ‘writerly’. Better to dirty up your prose. When you sound like a writer, your voice has crept in and authorial intrusion is always unwelcome. In the best writing, the author is invisible.

My take on this, is to not always be perfect.

I have to admit… I’ve started sentences with “and” and “but”.  Correct?  No, of course not.  So why do it?

VOICE.

Voice is very important, especially in first person. Your character is narrating the entire story.  Do YOU think in complete sentences?  No, of course not.

We need to write how it is believable.

I recently had an editor try to “correct” this paragraph of dialog:

“You’re pretty, and have nice legs, and beautiful brown eyes, and an amazing smile if you’d ever use it, but you can’t see all these great things because you’re always too hung up on wishing you had what everyone else does.”

They wanted me to change it to be grammatically correct.  Their suggested edit:

“You’re pretty, have nice legs, beautiful brown eyes, and an amazing smile if you’d ever use it…”

The reason I pushed back on this is because the character is very emotional and upset.  He is rattling off a list of things popping into his head (and not thinking at all what he is saying)  The editor’s suggested change made it sound like he was dictating a letter with no emotion at all.

Luckily, despite not being ‘correct’ – my dialog stayed.  It is more believable this way, and conveys ten times the emotion.

Have you ever had to defend your choice of “bad” grammar/style?

Click here to tweet: Write bad to write good. Rule #11 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever from @jennifermeaton

_JenniFer____EatoN

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Rule #6 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever

Writing_A_Great_Novel

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 #6

6: Keep speeches short. Any speech of more than three sentences should be broken up. Force your character to do something. Make him take note of his surroundings. Ground the reader. Create a sense of place.

Ha! This made me think of the Total Transformation program.  I like the “no speeches at all” rule better, but there are times when one of our characters tends to get chatty, right?

Always always always break up a long amount of dialog with action, setting, or emotion.  Think of it.  If you are listening to someone for a long time, you shift your weight, right?  The speaker paces the floor, uses hand gestures.  The curtains blow around a window. Tons of things are happening all around your speaker.

Don’t count on your reader to make these things up themselves.  Show them. It will make your scene more real, and you won’t lose your reader and have them miss something important.

Oh, and while you’re at it… try to curb that speech down a little.  Less is more, I always say!

Try it!  Can you feel how much cleaner your speech reads just by adding a little action?

JenniFer_EatonF

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

Writing_A_Great_Novel

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?

JenniFer_EatonF

Rule #1 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever

One of the on-line writing groups I belong to has devoted several chat sessions to the article Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie. Unfortunately, my schedule has not allowed me to participate in any of the discussion thus far, but I did take the opportunity to read the article—and I’m so glad I did.

For the next several weeks, I’m going to dissect this article/essay and really think over each section.  Since I remember things better when I write them down, I figured I might as well post them up here as a series and discussion topic.  This way we can all chat, and maybe learn from each other as well.

I can’t stress strongly enough that writing is subjective. We all strive for different goals. Consequently, we all need our own set of rules—and some of us don’t need rules at all! Personally, I like rules. If nothing else, it’s fun breaking them.  [Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie]

So let’s chat about number one, which defines that wacky word I’ve never heard of before…

1: Avoid pleonasms. A pleonasm is a word or phrase that can be removed from a sentence without changing its meaning. For example, in “Hunting Down The Pleonasm”, ‘down’ is pleonastic. Cut it and the meaning of the sentence does not alter. Many words are used pleonastically: ‘just’, ‘that’ and ‘actually’ are three frequently-seen culprits (I actually just know that he’s the killer can be trimmed to I know he’s the killer), and phrases like ‘more or less’ and ‘in any shape or form’ are redundant [Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie]

Now, I KNOW I don’t use “more or less” or “in any shape or form” because they would both set off my cliché alarm.  I have caught myself using “just” once in a while… but I’m not sure about the other two.  I’m going to go run a search on my nearly completed manuscript FIRE IN THE WOODS for these words.  You go take a look at yours, and let’s meet back here.

swish skid mark

Okay… Here’s the scoop.

There are 203 cases of “just” in my novel.  Probably too many for 270 pages, don’t you think?  It seems that most of them are in dialog, but let’s take a look at a few that aren’t:

Staying in the house was just too much to ask. This was the story of a lifetime. I just couldn’t let it slip by without getting something on film.

Okay, taken out of context the two “justs” next to each other scream at me. The second one will definitely go.  Now the first one… does the sentence sound fine without it?  Yes, of course it does, but I think the “just” in this case, is part of the teenage voice in the novel.  For now, I think the first one will stay—but knowing me it will start annoying me now, and get deleted eventually.

Here’s a “that” instance…

You promised that you wouldn’t let anything happen to me

Each switch up to “You promised you wouldn’t let anything happen to me”

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Here are my total counts:

Original appearances of “Just” = 203 (85% in dialog)

# After search/edit = 114 (mostly dialog)

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Original appearances of “Actually” = 22 (only 5 outside dialog)

# After search/edit = 21 (only 4 outside dialog)

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Original appearances of “That” = 448 (Yikes!)

# after search/edit = 395 – most in dialog, but only 63 could be removed without messing up the sentence. I will look at this again in the final read-through.

How’d you do?  What other words have you come across that can be deleted without changing the meaning of your sentence?

JenniFer_EatonF

By Request: Passed verses Past

Yay!  A fun grammar test!

I found a great test on Grammar Monster where it gives you a paragraph (there are three different paragraphs, so you can do this three times if you like)  and you need to choose the correct form of “passed or past” 4-5 times in each paragraph.  Check it out.

http://www.grammar-monster.com/easily_confused/past_passed.htm

I am happy to say that even though I thought I was confused, I found that taking this test three times, I didn’t make a single mistake following three simple rules.

Well, of course I am going to tell you…

1.        Passed—Almost always means to “go by” something.  “I passed the bookstore on my way to school.” It can also mean “I passed an exam” (I got by with a passing grade)

2.       Past—Almost always refers to time.  “Don’t hate me for past mistakes.”

3.       Here’s the tricky one…  pay attention.  If you have already used a verb that signifies motion, then the second action will be “Past” even if it does not refer to time.  “I ran past the bookstore on my way to school.”

Take a look at those side by side to make sure you understand:

“I passed the bookstore on my way to school.”

“I ran past the bookstore on my way to school.”

Ahhhhh.  It’s those little subtleties in life that just drive you crazy, don’t they?

I hope this helps!