Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The passive voice should never be used.

On more after this one. (But next week will be a special treat, a guest post from a writer with a brand new book!)

photo from Dreamstime

In general yes, you should use active voice. (See what I did there?) But there are exceptions.

(1) You don’t want to give away who the subject, or the action taker, is. Like, maybe:
When I returned, the entire house had been painted.

(2) You want to write it so as to not mention the subject at all. Maybe you don’t know. Say you’re not religious, but spiritual. You might say:
I was given the gift of second sight.

(3) You want to emphasize the subject by putting it at the end of the sentence.
The bomb was set by the person I least expected, my old enemy.

(4) Backloading. This is my favorite use of passive voice. (It’s really the same as #3, but used in specific places.) I always check to see if I need to use it at the end of a scene or chapter. Example:
Coming through the door was a complete stranger.
In her hand was a gun.
At the bottom of the well was a twisted body.

Stuff like that. Any other uses you can think of?

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Do not put statements in the negative form.

This is William Safire’s third rule of grammar. Two more to go.

Here’s the late, great Ella, telling us about it. 

Using the advice, the title, above, would be: Put statements in the positive form.

Right? Okay, but don’t we have to use negative statements sometimes? I honestly don’t know what this one is about.

But I did some research on negation and found some esoteric things.
Like, the subtle difference between these two statements:
      (1) I don't think [that he came] (I don't know what he did)
          (2) I think [that he didn't come] (I think that he stayed away)

And these not-so-subtly different statements:
      (1) I didn't say [that he lied] (I said nothing)
          (2) I said [that he didn't lie] (I said that he told the truth)

The above are taken from:

Any more thoughts on this?

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Verbs has to agree with their subjects

This is William Safire’s fourth rule of grammar. (I have three left, then I’ll have to start thinking up new blog topics.)

What do you think? Does this drive you crazy? It does me!

Easy examples:
wrong:  The girls has talked to me.
right: The girls have talked to me.

wrong: We talks to the girls.
right: We talk to the girls.

The slightly obscure, to some people, examples are the problems.

wrong: Neither of them have talked to me.
right: Neither of them has talked to me.
Neither is singular and it’s the subject.

wrong: Janet and Kaye has both talked to me.
right: Janet and Kaye have both talked to me.
Both talked, so plural.

wrong: Janet or Kaye have talked to me.
right: Janet or Kaye has talked to me.
Only one talked, so singular.

Which one here is wrong or right?
The girls talked to me.
The girl talked to me.
AHA, doesn’t matter here.

I took some of this from here:

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Proofread carefully to see if you words out.

This one is important!

A fellow performer (I’m a classical violinist) once told me, after a concert, that there is no such thing as a perfect performance. I keep that in mind every time I play, give a talk, or write a book.

My opinion is that no one has ever published a perfect book. No matter how many proofreaders you employ, editors you hire, times you go over your deathless prose, a mistake can slip through—and often does.

I have my own methods for trying to catch as many as I can. I’m a fast, careless typist, so there are quite a few to catch. Beta readers are a must for me, as are critique groups when I have time.

Here’s my best tool. I open my document in one screen, and have my computer read it on another one. ReadPlease software used to be free and that’s what I still use. I can paste several pages of text into it at a time, then follow along on the other screen while it reads to me. When I catch something, I pause it, correct, and resume the reading.

I think reading aloud might serve the same purpose, but I think my voice would wear out if I were doing a novel.

Do you have good methods for proofreading? Something others could use?

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Repeat, repeat, then do it again

When my husband first learned to preach, his mantra was, “Tell them what you’re going to say, say it, then tell them what you said.” Actually, he used that in business, too. As a writer with word counts to accomplish, it’s a great temptation to repeat things a lot.

I think that, if I do it right, it works. If I do it wrong, it sounds dumb!

Here’s Safire’s “rule”:

If you reread your work, you can find on rereading a great deal of repetition can be by rereading and editing.

I do think that certain main points of a story bear repeating, maybe by different individuals and in different ways. And when a character comes onto the page after a 50-page absence, I need to remind the reader who this is. I try to do this by bringing up a trait that I hope I made memorable the first time he popped up.

The one thing I do NOT want to do repeat the same word 1187 times in a manuscript. I remember my first manuscript exchange with the Guppies. Jim Jackson read a very early version of what is now EINE KLEINE MURDER  and remarked about how everything was “little”—all over the place. Sometimes 2 or 3 in a sentence.  

I eventually got used to nipping certain favorites in the bud: really, very, just, stuff like that. But repeats still cropped up. As soon as I eliminated an offender, a new one would take its place. I learned to put my work through (about 35K words at a time) to catch ones that I’ve begun to repeat, that I’m not aware of yet. I’ve accepted that I’ll always have this problem, but—AHA—I do have a cure!

photos from

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

A writer must not shift your point of view.

I’m a big fan of this one! I know there are popular (VERY popular) writers who shift POV within scenes, within paragraph, sometimes within sentences. For the life of me, though, I can’t figure out how to read those writers.

I have to use clean POV for my own sanity. If I’m in Mary’s head, there has to be a break before I hop over to Jane’s head. It can be a new scene. Or it can be the same scene repeated from an alternate POV. I kind of like to do those when I can manage them.    

first photo from lauramusikanski
second photo from kconner

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Beginnings and Endings

And don't start a sentence with a conjunction. (Remember, too, a preposition is a terrible word to end a sentence with.)

What do you think? Are these so terrible? And if so, why?

Okay, I’ll admit to doing this a whole lot in some first drafts. And in subsequent drafts, to, if I’m honest with you. But sometimes you have to start with the conjunction. That’s all there is to it.

As for ending with a preposition? There’s the ironic definition of a preposition is "A word you mustn't end a sentence with." Besides, this is actually a bogus rule. Another example of trying to equate English to Latin. You can’t do it in Latin, but you sure can in English. And there’s nothing wrong with it. Just like there’s nothing wrong with splitting infinitives.

The preposition prohibition began in the 1600s and has been continued, incredibly, ever since then. Here are thoughts on it.

 photos from