January 30, 2012

Buts are so annoying!

Welcome to 'Grammar Mondays'! Today's topic is the very annoying but.

I had it beat into my head as a student to NEVER, EVER begin a sentence with the word but, and I was fine with that. But it seems the times are evolving, and so must I. So, like any self-respecting, aspiring author, I hit the web to educate myself because obviously I have missed the memo that it is now okay to use but to start a sentence.                        

                                           This is what I have learned.....

You can start a sentence with but, however, you are still expected to write a complete sentence. Beginning with but does not give you an excuse to cut your sentence short, and I would save it for when you really want to make a sentence pop. Typically but is used to connect an incomplete sentence and a complete sentence with an opposite clause. But if the statement following the word but is complete, then it can stand as its own sentence. 

Exmple of when a comma is needed:
  • I'll go to the store, but not today.
  • I like those shoes, but not the other ones.
A complete sentence needs a subject, verb, and complete thought. In both of these cases the verb and subject are before the 'but'. Now, let's add a subject and verb after the word 'but'.
  • I'll go to the store. But I'd rather go to the store tomorrow.
  • I like those shoes. But I don't like those other shoes.
Granted these are horrible sentences, but I wanted to show how to use them both ways. <---And in this case the statement before the word 'but' is an incomplete thought. So even though what follows 'but' is complete, the beginning can't stand alone. I know....super confusing!!! It's okay to connect a complete sentence to an incomplete sentence with a comma and conjunction (and, but, or). When you shouldn't connect with a comma and conjunction is when they are two complete sentences.

But if your sentence is a complete sentence, then please feel free to begin with a conjunction. But I warn you to use it sparingly. But then again we are all free to make our own decisions. But I am pretty smart, so you really should listen to my advice. Okay, I'll shut up now. :)

Here are some great links to check out, plus some of what I took from each :)

The link above has some wonderful tips. This is what I took from there.-
            "In the not so distant past, an English assignment daring to begin a sentence with a conjunction would have been returned with red ink splattered all over it. But, as Bob Dylan sang, the times they are a-changin'."
             "However, it is worth bearing in mind that some readers, grounded in 20th century teaching methodology, will still recoil from such heresy. Overuse can also be downright irritating. Therefore, it is advisable to use this literary tool sparingly.
            Words such as 'nevertheless', 'however' and 'therefore' offer an alternative to 'but' as a method of opening sentences with a linking word. The grammar is more traditional, and would definitely still be the acceptable format to use in technical writing, or for formal letters."

             "There is a reason why we don't usually start sentences with "but". A sentence is supposed to be a complete thought. A partial idea makes the sentence a tail without a dog. If just the tail is what a writer wants, this is called anapodoton (I had to look it up). It's Greek for (guess what?) "leaving out the main clause". "

This site had wonderful tips!!http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/conjunctions.htm- But here's a quote I pasted from the page in case you don't want to read all of it.

           "Writers should examine such sentences with two questions in mind: (1) would the sentence and paragraph function just as well without the initial conjunction? (2) should the sentence in question be connected to the previous sentence? If the initial conjunction still seems appropriate, use it."

January 28, 2012

And this week's award goes to Jade :)

                    This week's award goes to Jade Hart for her outstanding scene.

The prompt was....

Don't you just love when a phone rings during the middle of a church service, and you start to get upset at the idiot who didn't turn their ringer off, but then realize to your horror you're that idiot?

                                                     And here's what Jade wrote-

...and then I scramble from the pew, knocking over stupid Mrs Merryweather's handbag which surprise, surprise, has a shiatsu in it. I bolt down the aisle, the back of my head burns with fire from all the glares I receive and wrench open the heavy doors. Breathing heavily I answer the phone, ''Hello?''
''It's time.'' A dark moody voice says.
I swallow hard. ''I've, eh, changed my mind.''
''Not an option. You will continue with the operation. Assassinate the priest.''
I reach behind my back, and under my frilly pink church outfit my fingers latch onto my pistol.
''Call me once it has taken care of.'' The phone goes dead.
My hand grows slick with sweat as I go back into the church, ignoring the glowering flock, I tread up the aisle.
I was about to murder someone.

  • Each week will be a new and completely different prompt. So come back next week for the 'Don't you just love _______________?'-- Friday Prompt   8-D

January 27, 2012

Don't you just love ________ ? -Friday

Yay! Welcome to my first ever, 'Don't you just love ______ ? -Friday.... Pssst-tell your friends, the more the merrier!

Here's how it goes. I write the first sentence and you get to write the paragraph that follows. You can take the sentence wherever you want, the only rule is that your first sentence has to be, word for word what I prompt you with. Each week I will pick the winning scene and present them with the outstanding writer award......Today's prompt is...

Don't you just love when a phone rings during the middle of a church service, and you start to get upset at the idiot who didn't turn their ringer off, but then realize to your horror you're that idiot?

Now, as a disclosure I feel I should say "I will not be critiquing anyone's scene, I will simply choose my favorite for the week.  I do not want any sore losers (there is nothing worst than a sore loser). This is for fun, to get our creative writing flowing. And every Friday there will be a new prompt. So everyone will get to keep trying. 

January 23, 2012

Just one of those days

It's been one of those days where I just can't seem to find any time, any words, or my sanity.  I'm pretty sure my one year old has hidden them with all of her vanishing pacifiers.  Maybe perhaps my three year old is the true mastermind, striving for mommy domination by repeating "Mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy. Hey mommy. Hey mommy. Hey look. MOMMY. MOMMY!"

Tonight  I will take a long, hot bath and envision........

One of the best things about being a writer is my wonderful imagination.  Tonight we will vacation in the Outer Banks on the beach of laughter, where no crying, complaining, fighting, arguing, or disruptive behavior of any kind is allowed.

Tomorrow I will wake and do it all over again on the amazing roller coaster ride of being a stay at home, WORKING mom.  I wouldn't trade a second...okay maybe I can think of a few seconds I would trade, but you get the picture :)

January 20, 2012

How to bring out your A game

So you want to be a writer? Well, you're in for a long ride. Here are the things I have learned along the way.

My first piece of advice is- Your first chapter is the absolute most important chapter of your book! I don't care if the ending is great, or if the middle of your story has amazing intrigue. If your first chapter has me (or the agent you are querying) falling asleep, then I will set it aside and say, "No, thank you." And so will the agent.

In fact I did exactly that. I swapped a couple of chapters with a potential cp, and after four pages, I commented, 'This might be okay as a middle chapter, when we've fallen in love with the characters. Maybe by then I would be interested in reading about them watching the stars for 800 words, but still probably not. So my suggestion is to come up with something more intriguing that will pull me in. Once you do I would love to read it.'

Well, he was upset that I stopped reading at page four- I guess he was relying on it getting better later into the story. He replied that he didn't want to continue as cp's. The truth of the matter is, I don't want to spend my time reading and critiquing a ms if I think it is hopeless.  I will gladly help with grammar and any suggestions on improvement - IF THE STORY PULLS ME IN. If I believe in your ability to weave an interesting plot and deep characters, I will gladly share my time. However, if after reading your first chapter I don't think your ms could ever get published, I'm going to tell you 'bring me something stronger because I'm not wasting my time on this'. I know that sounds horrible, BUT as cruel as that sounds, I guarantee an agent will do the exact same thing!

I believe each chapter should have its own beginning, conflict, and some form of resolution.  These should all be minor conflicts that weave through the main conflict. Such as characters not getting along, or they get lost trying to go somewhere. It can be extremely minor, but if you are writing a chapter about their meal at a diner and you end it with them wiping their mouths and leaving-and there was no conflict- then you need to study more about what goes into a solid story.

Hannah Bowman gives a perfect example below of how to start your novel.


So, now you've written your amazing first chapter.  Edit it, and when your done, do it again, and then one more time. Clean it until it gleams. If a sentence or word isn't absolutely needed, cut it.  I can write 3,000 words, and I will go back and cut at least 100 when I edit and remove all of my 'useless' fillers.

Next, get on query tracker, or any other writers chat room, and find a cp partner!!! I believe this one decision is the next most important one. (next to starting your novel)

Do not settle for just any cp!!! Start with a single chapter swap (your wonderful first chapter that shows off your talents and story) to see how well you blend. You should be looking for the ying to your yang. It does you no good to find a cp with grammar issues when that's your weakness as well. For example: I am all about movement and action, and though my grammar is strong, I lack descriptions in a lot of my chapters. I can be a little 'telly' and eager to get from point A to point B without painting any pictures. Because of that, many of my sentences became choppy, though they were grammatically correct, they didn't flow. (I HATE to go back and see where I started and how bad my story telling was. Grammar was good, story was good, the way I told it...not so much)

Well......in steps my ying :)

She graciously comments about some of my weaknesses because they popped right away to her, because she has very opposite weaknesses. Her grammar is a work in progress (and improving greatly), but her story (in the past) has lacked movement because she would linger with beautiful descriptions and flowing sentences, but didn't move. At first I was amazed by the pictures she painted with her words, but 10k words in and not much has happened, I started to get a little bored....but her writing is brilliant, and her words are creative, she just needed to know when to stop describing and to get a move on.

In a matter of just two months we have helped bring our novels to a much more enjoyable story. She tells me when I need to be more descriptive. I tell her when she's too descriptive. You see why opposites work?

Make sure they share a love for the same genre as you. (I loathe a romance novel, and the only way I enjoy non-fiction is if it is written like fiction....telling me the story as it happens, not telling me the past and why it enlightened them, blah)  If you are going to be reading their ms, it's not fair to them if you hate that genre because it will come out in your critique. I would butcher a romance and leave them crying with my comments-including the published ones-YUCK!- *sticking finger in my mouth to barf*

Also make sure their novel isn't too much like yours. I actually swapped a chapter with another 'potential' cp whose ms was a fantasy with supernatural abilities, and the main character, the person that opens the story, was named Gabe!--- I open my novel, in the first sentence with Gabriyel leaping out of bed...and my character has supernatural abilities as well....so, needless to say it was a little weird and I declined to share after that.

Lastly, don't forget to read!  I write a chapter or two, then step back and read a book, or critique some chapters for my cp. You need both sides. An athlete is worthless if they don't eat. Just think of reading/ studying as your fuel to better perform.

So to summarize,
1.) Write a dynamite first chapter
2.) Use that chapter to swap with any potential cp
3.) Go through as many 'potantial' cp's as necessary until you find your perfectly-opposite match, who writes similar genres, but isn't writing the same 'concept' you are.
4.) Don't forget to write, read, study, write, read, study...you get the picture.

January 16, 2012

NO-MAN'S LAND: All who enter here beware

Here's the scenario...

I've got an awesome idea for a book.  It has action, adventure, fantasy, and characters that anyone would love to read about.  Oh and did I mention it revolves around the greatest man who ever lived? 

I've taken those favorite bible stories and woven them into a fantasy world with fun twists.  The woman at the well... whose ability is to project false images of an alluring beauty and she uses that facade to seduce men, when underneath she is a broken woman, desperate to be loved.  The blind  woman-(in my story it's a woman), covered in scars from a childhood fire,... the forty days of temptations....angels....

I've written those stories in the first 20k words/ eight chapters, and loved every moment of developing these bible verses and characters into a fictional world that focuses on the heart of each of them. The outline is formed. The characters are solid. I've had great movement with lovable characters on this roller-coaster of trials.  Then- 'SQUISH'!!!  I step into no-man's land: the dreaded and greatly feared 'middle of the story'. Now before me stands the swamp lands I must cross to get to my ending. Eek! 

The final 20k words are formed in my head.  There will be intensity, violence, death, betrayal, love and pain.  BUT HOW DO I GET THERE?!

Many stories drop in the middle, and there have been times that I have stopped reading a book because I couldn't bare the 'no-man's land' any longer.  I don't want that for this story!  I want it to stand strong with each and every chapter holding its own adventure, not just the beginning and end.

So....recalling my childhood days of catching frogs in the marshes of Alaska, I am jumping in this swamp land and I'm going to have a blast.  Persistence pays off.  Ideas are like frogs; you can't catch them from the side lines. You've got to wade on through and be ready to pounce when they swim by.

Swamp-lands can be fun, you've just got to get messy doing a little frog chasing :)  Well, I've got my boots, a net, and a bucket with a lid.  I'm ready....here I go.  'SPLASH'

January 9, 2012

The reason I write

When I first set out on this journey of writing Christian fiction, I was plagued with many questions about what my goals were.  I pride myself on being an educated woman so I began to research published authors, how long it takes to get published, the statistics of becoming published, and just the overall....'what should I expect'?

One of the first articles I read stated that the likely-hood of ever getting a book published is slim to none. Yes, there are a bazillion books out there, but those are an extremely small percentage of books actually written. I think it was somewhere in the 5% range. So, then the question becomes, Why?  Why is it so hard to get published?  The article went on to say that many people give up.  Either they give up on their story and quit before they are finished, or they give up after a few rejections from agents.  The article then gave the best advice EVER and it is something I remind myself daily!

It said, (and I'm not quoting just summarizing) If your goal is to become a published author, then you should stop right now and find another career.  BUT... if you are writing a story because you feel the need to bring your characters to life and simply because it is something you love to do....then you are a writer and on the right path.  It is very unlikely that you will ever get paid or published to write a story, so you mustn't write for those reasons.  If you end up not getting published you will feel like you have failed and it was a waste of your time.  If you write because you love to and because you feel the need to tell your story, then it is something that you will enjoy no matter what the outcome, and if in the end you do get published, then it will be a wonderful bonus.

So, I carry that with me everyday.  This journey can never be about me making money, or becoming famous.  In truth the thought of riches and fame simply give me anxiety.  Yes, it would be nice to pay off some bills, but I would feel burdened with riches.  I know many of you think that sounds crazy. Who doesn't want to be rich?  Me!  I assure you if I ever did have riches, I would continue to live the same life I lead now, and my riches would go to missions.  I know, once again that sounds like a bowl of 'you know what', but anyone who truly knows me, knows that I want very few material things.  Life is not about the materials you possess, and greed will strip you of the joy that God has for you.

And as for fame, I most certainly do not desire it!  I will most likely use my initials for my novel, and quite possibly an alias name all together. (If it were ever published)

So it is simple...I write because I have amazing stories inside my head that I need to bring to life.  I hope these stories will be something my friends and family can enjoy as well, but my GOAL, is simply to honor Christ.  I trust him to choose for me the path that my novels take once they are completed.  Right now I simply get to enjoy the process of writing them.

Romans 12:2- "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."

January 5, 2012

He's the voice of my words

Obsession might be the correct term for my need to write, but that sounds so negative, so I'll just call it an urge. 

I was pondering today over why it has taken me so long to realize that I want to be a writer.  Heck, I started my first novel at the age of eleven, was that not enough of a sign? 

It was proving to be a boring summer, so I began to type out a story, just for the entertainment of it.  I probably worked on it for two weeks, though the sixteen years has caused a bit of a haze, but I remember it kept turning into a 'Bridge to Terabithia' wannabe, so I scrapped it after 50+ pages. 

As an adult I have tried on two separate occasions to write an autobiography, but I never could find my voice and after only a few pages I quit. 

What is different now?  Why can't I go a single day without writing?  It has become my crack, and if I go longer than twelve hours without a fix I begin to twitch. Okay, maybe not literally twitch, but you get the picture.

So why now; what's different? That's easy...I finally have a story worth telling.

Yes, I've always wanted to write, and I've always loved to write, but my stories had me walking away from the computer.  This time is different because my story is different.  Although it is complete fiction and full of fantasy, the story centers around Christ.  I derive my inspiration from the bible.  My goal is to simply tell a story that will honor Jesus.  I would love to cross that "Christian" barrier and tell a story that non-Christians and Christians alike could enjoy, with Christ at the heart of it. 

My main Character is Rhet Jussics..... do you see it.....come on.....okay, I'll help you out. It's JESUS CHRIST rearranged. My best efforts at an anagram.

Now when I write, it is because I want to tell this story, not because I want to sell millions and get rich.  I have to write this story. What God chooses to do with it once it is complete is up to him.  It is fulfilling to be writing a story with purpose and soul, though the story is pretty dark.  There is a lot of suffering, fighting, and death, because if you've ever read the bible, you know the road to righteousness is paved in blood, sweat and tears, many times ending in murder, and therefore, so is my novel. 

Anyways...time to get back to 'Impenetrable.'  I need my fix. ;-D

Stepping out on faith

I must admit, stepping out on faith was something that came easily and naturally for me.  I've never cared for the 'typical' life, and the chance to do something special was exciting.  With a 'still small voice' whispering in my ear, urging me forward, I sat down in front of my computer and began my first novel, taking my first steps on 'the road less traveled'.