Tag Archives: Verb

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 #3 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 #3

3: Use strong verbs in preference to adverbs. I won’t say avoid adverbs, period, because about once every fifty pages they’re okay! What’s not okay is to use an adverb as an excuse for failing to find the correct verb. To ‘walk slowly’ is much less effective than to ‘plod’ or ‘trudge’. To ‘connect strongly’ is much less effective than to ‘forge a connection’.

This one is a bit easier to swallow.  Everyone knows about adverbs, right?  But using them is sometimes a hard habit to break.  If you find your work laden with adverbs, here is my suggestion:

1.      Make a copy of your work and save the original “just in case”

2.      Go through a chapter and delete all the adverbs.  Resist the desire to look at the sentence at this point.  Just delete.  Using the search feature and looking for “ly” will help with this. Look for “very” while you are at it, and just delete.

3.      Done?  Good! Now go back and read your chapter.  Most likely, if you’ve written a strong scene, you will not even notice they are gone.

Here’s a one sentance example from “Optimal Red”:

His heart beat rapidly in his chest as the doors opened.

His heart pulsed as the doors opened.

Go ahead!  Give it a try?  How did it go?  Were you able to strengthen your manuscript just by deleting?  Did you need to add a little more emphasis to replace the missing word?  Where did you decide to leave an adverb for flavor?

JenniFer_EatonF

What stupid Writing Error did your Beta Reader come across this week? – Verb Confusion.

I just love verb confusion.  It’s a riot.

Unless someone points it out to me in my own work.

Okay, well it’s funny for me too, as long as I catch it in time.

The lovely Miss Dawn just pointed out to me that I have to be especially careful with my verb confusion, because in a fantasy world, it is entirely possible that furniture might come to life.

This is what I wrote:

Nurses tended to beds holding the badly infected.  Some held the patients withered hands.  Many smiled.  How could they provide comfort?  Weren’t they afraid?

I read this at least ten times on my own.  I knew what I thought I wrote… a beautiful scene of nurses tending to their patients.  But when Dawn read it, she saw nurses tending to the beds, not the people.  She saw beds holding the badly infected people.  (Like the beds were alive)  She also saw smiling beds.

When I read it back, I realized (after I stopped laughing) that she was completely right!

Thank goodness this is a very simple fix.

Nurses tended the badly infected.  Some held their patients withered hands.  Many smiled.  How could they provide comfort?  Weren’t they afraid?

The funny thing is, Dawn is a new reader for me.  She is not a fantasy writer, and she picked this up.  Three other people completely missed this.  That is why you send your manuscript out to multiple people…. To save you the embarrassment later.

Thanks, Dawn!

By Request: Lay Versus Lie

I have to admit:  this one gets me too.

I think the problem is that everyone out there who tries to explain it goes so stinking in-depth that they just make it more confusing than it needs to be.

I found articles that flung around transitive and intransitive… tenses… participles… Ugh!  Can anyone explain the English Language in ENGLISH, PLEEEEEEAAASE?  I mean, really… I am an English major.  I love words, but you need to be able to write so people can understand what you are saying!    (Sorry, that is a rant for another day.)

Anyway… in translating all these over-worded college professors… this is what I came up with:

A few common parenting faux pas have just reiterated the lay verses lie problem from the time we are children.  I have to admit I do this stuff too, but I am going to try to watch myself from now, on.

(By the way… There is no plural form of “faux pas.”  I thought it looked weird too.  I looked it up to check.)

Common child’s prayer:  “Now I lay me down to sleep”

Since this is in the present tense, it should actually be “Now I lie me down to sleep.”

What do you say to your dog?  “Go lay down.”

Nope.  Start telling them to “Go lie down.”

(I am saying dog there because I realized that I tell my kids to Lie down, but I tell my dog to Lay down.  My kids are hearing it both ways.  Yeah, I’m not screwing them up too much.

I found this spreadsheet on Grammer-Worksheets.com. I think it does a pretty good job of laying it all out (no pun intended.)

Base Form

Past Tense

Past Participle

Present Participle

lie (to stretch   out, recline) lay lain lying
lay (to place, to   put) laid laid laying

Now, do you notice what I notice?  Look at the past tense of “Lie”

Let’s not make it too confusing now!

I wrote a post yesterday saying “As I lay on the table”.  I was reading up on all this and I thought, “Crud, I didn’t lay on the table, I guess I lied on the table.—No, maybe it’s lie.”  I was all ready to go back and change it while I was researching this, until I found this chart.  You can lie down on a table, but two days ago, you lay on the table.  I was actually right the first time.

What I suggest you do if you struggle with this, is copy this chart and print it out.  Tape it to your wall.  When you run into the Lay/Lie conundrum, think:  “Am I reclining or stretching, or am I placing an object somewhere.”

If you place the salt on the table, you lay it on the table. If you are going to bed, you lie down.

Easy enough, right?  Until you switch it to past tense and screw yourself all up anyway.

Ah, the joys of the English Language!