Before You Submit: What a Character Sees

Do you have a draft of your novel or short story and are thinking of submitting to an agent, publisher or writing contest? My series called Before You Submit might help. This series contains hints and tips I’ve received from professionals in the publishing industry. Each week I’ll share a new tip.

This week I’ll write about What a Character Sees.

The advice I received is not to write that a character saw something. Just describe whatever ‘that something’ is. The reader knows you are in a character’s point of view and that the character ‘sees’ what you are describing. For example:

Kendra walked toward the office door and peeked inside. She saw her new boss throwing his phone against the wall.

The recommended change to the sentence was:

Kendra stood in the open doorway to her boss’s office. Her new boss threw his phone against the wall.

This not only shortens the sentence, thereby not wasting the reader’s time with boring details, the change gets rid of stating what the character saw.

I hope this helps improve your writing.

See Before You Submit:Likeable Characters for the first blog in this series and an introduction the benefits of submitting even if you get a rejection letter.

Thanks for reading . . .

Before You Submit: Tighten Your Sentences

Do you have a draft of your novel or short story and are thinking of submitting to an agent, publisher or writing contest? My series called Before You Submit might help. This series contains hints and tips I’ve received from professionals in the publishing industry. Each week I’ll share a new tip.

This week I’ll write about Sentence Tightening.

The sentence I’d written in my manuscript was:

A dense wooded area lined both sides of the ski run.

The editor changed the sentence to:

Dense woods lined both sides of the ski run.

The meaning is the same, but of course, uses fewer words. This type of change must be done carefully. In Before You Submit: Sentence Length I wrote about varying sentence lengths. Your change has to be made in context with the sentences around it. You want to ensure your writing still flows.

Just to illustrate at little more, the second sentence to be changed was:

The roar of the avalanche swallowed a scream that escaped from his lips.

The editor suggested the following:

The roar of the avalanche swallowed his scream.

Of course it’s his scream, and where would it come from but his lips? The first sentence didn’t even make sense, and now it uses fewer words.

See Before You Submit:Likeable Characters for the first blog in this series and an introduction the benefits of submitting even if you get a rejection letter.

I hope this helps improve your writing.

Thanks for reading . . .

 

Before You Submit: Time Qualifiers

Do you have a draft of your novel or short story and are thinking of submitting to an agent, publisher or writing contest? My series called Before You Submit might help. This series contains hints and tips I’ve received from professionals in the publishing industry. Each week I’ll share a new tip.

This week I’ll write about Time Qualifiers.

The question is: do you need a time qualifier or not? You might want to use a qualifier for style, but you might not need it for clarity. The choice is up to you. I’m only giving you something to think about.

The following sentence includes the time qualifier, At that moment.

At that moment, Kendra heard rustling in the bunk above her. A pair of bloodshot eyes appeared over the edge of the mattress and peered at her.

Of course, this is happening at the moment. When else would it be happening? The easy fix . . .

Kendra heard rustling in the bunk above her. A pair of bloodshot eyes appeared over the edge of the mattress and peered at her.

In the example, I think the writing is faster and more interesting without the qualifier, so I chose to remove the first three words. Of course, I can’t take credit for the change. The editor suggested tightening the sentence and I agreed.

I hope this helps improve your writing.

See Before You Submit:Likeable Characters for the first blog in this series and an introduction the benefits of submitting even if you get a rejection letter.

Thanks for reading . . .

 

Before You Submit: Dialogue Tags

Do you have a draft of your novel or short story and are thinking of submitting to an agent, publisher or writing contest? My series called Before You Submit might help. This series contains hints and tips I’ve received from professionals in the publishing industry. Each week I’ll share a new tip.

This week I’ll write about dialogue tags.

Are you using too many dialogue tags? Does he said/she said sound repetitive? Here’s a tip on how to reduce the number of tags you are using.

Try using a character’s action to indicate who’s speaking. The following sentence uses a dialogue tag: Kendra said.

“You dropped this,” Kendra said. She held a crumpled piece of paper in her outstretched hand.

The editor recommended I rewrite the sentence as follows:

Kendra held a crumpled piece of paper in her outstretched hand. “You dropped this.” 

By  moving the character action to the beginning of the sentence, it’s clear Kendra is speaking. There is no need for the dialogue tag. When you remove a dialogue tag, you must update the punctuation. Don’t forget to change the comma to a period inside the dialogue quotes.

I hope this helps improve your writing.

See Before You Submit:Likeable Characters for the first blog in this series and an introduction the benefits of submitting even if you get a rejection letter.

Thanks for reading . . .

Before You Submit: Hyphenated Adjectives

Do you have a draft of your novel or short story and are thinking of submitting to an agent, publisher or writing contest? My series called Before You Submit might help. This series contains hints and tips I’ve received from professionals in the publishing industry. Each week I’ll share a new tip.

This week I’ll write about Hyphenated Adjectives.

If you’ve been reading Before You Submit, you’ll know I love getting feedback from an editor. Some of the tips I’m presenting are from the  early days of my writing career, and I’m almost embarrassed to admit I made these mistakes. I say almost, because we all have to learn, and not all of us remember everything we learned in grade school.

The editor corrected the following sentence:

Young people living in a dorm type facility . . .

to:

Young people living in a dorm-type facility . . .

Instead of trying to describe the nuances around hyphenated adjectives, I’m going to refer you to Grammar Girl for an explanation. If you don’t know about Grammar Girl, it’s an excellent site to look up grammar rules. The hyphen is a tiny mark on the page, but one that will show an acquiring editor you are serious about your trade if you get it right, or you have homework to do if you get it wrong. The lack of a hyphen when you need one could throw your novel back into the slush pile, especially if it’s on the first page.

I hope this helps improve your writing.

See Before You Submit:Likeable Characters for the first blog in this series and an introduction the benefits of submitting even if you get a rejection letter.

Thanks for reading . . .

Spelling: Canadian Vs. American

I’m confused.

I’m a Canadian and spell Canadian. I’ve spent many hours proofreading my novels to make sure my spelling is consistently Canadian.

I read novels written by Americans and am used to reading American spelling. This can make writing in one or the other difficult. as both ways of spelling look correct. I have my spell checker set to Canadian spelling, but sometimes there is an option and so the spell checker won’t highlight if I’ve slipped into American spelling when both versions may be acceptable.

What I’m saying is I’ve worked hard to keep my spelling consistently Canadian.

Then – and I feel like I should play music here – I attended the Bloody Words Conference in Toronto and a Canadian editor said, “It drives me crazy when the first thing I have to do is change all the Canadian spelling to American. Taking out the ‘u’ gets annoying.”

I didn’t get a chance to talk with her about the comment, but it’s been bothering me ever since.

Do any other Canadian writers out there prefer one way of spelling to another?

Is there a standard in the Canadian publishing industry?

Have I done this the wrong way?

If you’re opinionated on the subject, I’d love to hear about it.

Thanks for reading . . .

Farley’s Friday: One Sad and Lonely Wheaten Terrier

Farley here,

I’m soooo sad. I don’t understand what’s happened. My human is gone. Where? I just don’t know.

I watched her leave. She got in a dinghy of humans I don’t know very well, left our boat, and waved goodbye.

“Wait,” I bark. “Where are you going?”

I’m very suspicious because she has a suitcase with her. That can’t be good.  And look how pathetic I look trying to get her to stay.

Farley sad

 

I howl my best howl, and she waves and tells me to be good.

Matt, my other human, whom I love, but he doesn’t baby me like Kristina does, is doing his best to keep me happy. I didn’t eat dinner the first night. I thought that might make Matt get her back, but when that didn’t work, I ate anyway. I was just too hungry. I’ll need to try something else to make Matt understand.

But where – oh – where is Kristina?

And when will she come home? Matt keeps saying soon, but what does that mean? I’m soooo sad.

Woof Woof, Boo Hoo.

Scrivener versus Word: Spellchecker

Since I’ve written about Scrivener before, I wanted to share something I discovered today.

I think Microsoft Word has a better spellchecker.

I ran the spellchecker in Scrivener and found no issues. Just out of curiosity, not sure why, I decided to compile the document as MS Word and then run the spellchecker in MS Word.

MS Word found an error: Barreling.

MS Word wanted to change this to: Barrelling.

I have my software set to Canadian English, hence the difference in spelling. Being cautious, I checked the Oxford English Dictionary, and sure enough barrelling with two r’s and two l’s is the correct form.

Now I’m going to check spelling in both types of software before submitting to my agent.

Anyone else had this problem?

Thanks for reading . . .

For another review of Scrivener, see MQAllen.com.

Do you want to improve your grammar?

Here’s one method on how to become more confident with your grammar skills.

Scientific America Mind (October 2013) has an article called What Works, What Doesn’t that discusses techniques that work or don’t work for learning. The second item in the article discusses the importance of self testing. The article makes the point that before reading a chapter the student should take a test to see how much they know on the subject. The theory is we learn by our mistakes.

Each year I read a different book on grammar in an effort to keep my skills strong. As a writer, I consider grammar knowledge an important tool for creating a novel.

Thinking I should test the theory put forward by Scientific America Mind, I set out on the search for a grammar book laid out with an introductory test, study information and an end of chapter test.

I found Sharp Grammar: Build Better Grammar Skills by Kaplan  follows this process.

I’m now working my way though the book, surprising myself by what I know and don’t know. If I only learn one new thing, I think it’s worth the effort. I also believe that continual practice will keep me at the top of my game in the sport of grammar. Can you ever practice too much?

What do you do to keep improving  your grammar and punctuation skills?

Top Ten Reasons to Blog . . .

If you are an Author, published or unpublished, here are 10 reasons to create a blog and stick with it.

  1. Build an audience for when you’re ready to sell your novel (or continue to sell an already published one).
  2. Practice writing.
  3. Practice proofreading.
  4. Develop your voice.
  5. Learn about social media.
  6. Share your knowledge with others.
  7. Connect with others world wide who have similar interests to you.
  8. Promote the work of authors whose work you admire.
  9. Get motivated to write: any kind of positive feedback encourages me to keep trying.
  10. Prove to a publisher that you can build and maintain a platform.

Why to you blog?

What motivates you to comment on other blogs?

Thanks for reading . . .