Showing posts with label Editing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Editing. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

National Grammar Day, Or: Do You Know Why I Pulled You Over?

It's National Grammar Day! The one day you're allowed to be the grammar police without fear of backlash. We've all been deputized, right? For today's Grammar Day PSA, I'd like to share some of my biggest grammar and spelling pet peeves and faux pas. I promise, I speak in love. We'll start with the grammatical equivalent of nails on a chalkboard:

1. Your/You're
Do I really need to say more? Winner of the "Most likely to annoy you on Facebook" award.

2. Alot
This one is for my husband. He's a very laid back guy, but I can't tell you how many times I've heard him say, "A LOT IS TWO WORDS!" One of the many reasons I love him. (Side note: He read this over my shoulder, saw the word "alot" and was this close to yelling at me when he read the rest of the paragraph and started laughing.)

3. Thru
Should only be used when accompanied by a side of fries. The fact that the dictionary actually allows this as an "informal spelling of through" makes me want to cry. NO. Just NO.

4. Lack of Punctuation
If reading your words aloud causes you to pass out due to lack of oxygen, you might want to consider some periods. Or at least a comma or two.

5. Autocorrect's Obsession with Contractions
I love my iPhone, but can someone please explain to me why autocorrect always insists on changing "were" to "we're" and "well" to "we'll"?

Of course, it wouldn't be fair of me to pick on everyone else without admitting to my own shortcomings. So here are some confessions of my own:

1. It's/Its
Yes, I passed the second grade. My only excuse for this one is that my pinky finger has a mind of its own. One of my very first assignments for the Institute of Children's Literature came back from my instructor with a whole lot of red-inked edits because I had misspelled every single its. How's that for embarrassing?

2. Lead/Led
Halfway through editing my last novel, it was brought to my attention that I have some sort of heavy metals obsession. I ended up having to do a search of my entire manuscript for the word "lead" so I could change them all to the proper word. Apparently, if I'm going to misspell something I go all in. At least I'm consistent, right?

3. Alright
Did you know this word isn't technically even a word? Because I didn't, until about nine months ago. Turns out it should be written as two words: all right. Except maybe when quoting Matthew McConaughey.

4. Necessary 
This word is my nemesis. Does the c or the s come first? Should there be one? Two? Forget it, I'll just right click and let spell check fix it!

5. Lay/Laid/Lie
If you automatically know which one to use without having to look it up, you're my hero.

On today of all days, I would be remiss if I didn't give a shoutout and a giant THANK YOU to my amazing friend Laurie, who is the most grammatically correct person I know. My book would be a hot mess if it wasn't for her eagle-eye error detection and correction skills. I owe her BIG TIME.

So what did I miss? What are the errors that annoy you most? Any confessions of your own? Share in the comments!

Now to cross my fingers and hope this post is error free...

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Crazy Train

There's nothing like preparing to query an agent to make you question everything you thought you knew.

Grammar, punctuation, genres: suddenly every time you look at your manuscript, it feels like that moment when you write a word and you say to yourself, "Is that how that's spelled? It looks weird." And then you google it and it turns out it was right all along, but you still can't shake that feeling that it's totally wrong.

This is why there are so many jokes about all writers being slightly insane.

So I'm spending every spare moment editing and polishing and triple checking every punctuation rule and trying to find an official statement on the difference between a chapter book and a novel, and suddenly I realize tomorrow is Friday and I should publish a blog post. And then I feel guilty for not having something amazing prepared because after all, you've got to have a platform. How else will you reach your potential readers? And then I think about the average number of readers my posts get, and I start think, "Who are you fooling? What readers?" And then I tell myself to shut up.

See what I mean about being crazy?

My emotions are a constant seesaw of I-can-do-this to I'm-not-good-enough. Everything I read about publishing is filled with encouraging words that upon closer inspection sound more like code for "prepare yourself for rejection." And if I can't remember when to use a semi-colon instead of a comma, can I really call myself a writer?

Where am I going with all this?

I don't know.

The fact is, I could turn this into a disgustingly positive, ultra inspirational post that goes on and on about how you've got to just go for it, the learning never stops, battle the monsters of fear and doubt...etc, etc, etc. And those posts are great. Sometimes we need those posts. But sometimes, we need to hear about someone else's struggles so we can say OH MY GOSH, I'VE SO BEEN THERE. It's instant relief to know it's not just you and maybe you're not as crazy as you thought. And for the whole twenty people who will read this post, I hope that's what it will be.

Did I just end my sentence with a preposition?

Danggit.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Scrivener (Or How to Make Your Life Easier)

This week I completed the final (for now) draft of my first children's novel and sent it off to some beta-readers for feedback. Though the idea and inspiration for this book came to me over three years ago, it was only six months ago that I actually sat down and began writing it. I was able to get a first draft finished in only 30 days, thanks to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month - which I will wax eloquent about later in the year as November draws closer. For now, click the link to learn more). But one of the biggest things that has made my writing and editing life so much easier, and helped me to keep up the pace without getting burned out and frustrated with the 50,000+ words sitting in front of me, is this amazing writing software called Scrivener, by the folks over at Literature and Latte.

I'm not kidding. It's amazing. It's phenomenal. I ask every single writer I come into contact with what software they use, and if they're not using Scrivener, I tell them all about how amazing and phenomenal it is.

If I were to detail all the great things you can do in Scrivener, the sheer size of this post would have you discreetly backing away without making eye contact. So I'll do my best to keep it short and sweet and focus on the top reasons why I love it, and how it has changed the way I write.

3 Things I love about Scrivener: Index Cards, Folders and Pages.

You see that? There on the left sidebar? Those are all the things you can get to IN ONE SCREEN. Gone are the days of having a million windows open in order to look at all your research photos, character profiles, chapters, scenes, and all the other stuff you have to constantly refer to as you're writing.

The Index Cards: There is a handy little index card attached to each folder. I used these to jot down the plot points I wanted to hit in each chapter. Not only can you add text to these, but you can label them (Idea, Character Notes, Chapter, etc.) and mark their status (First Draft, Revised Draft, Final Draft, or a custom status for those who need to note they're on the Eleventy-First Draft). If you're like me and need an outline in order to make sensible progress, but hate having to create said outline, these provide the perfect middle ground between pantsing and planning.

Folders & Pages: Each folder is a chapter. Contained in those folders are your pages for that chapter. Why is this awesome? You can keep multiple drafts of one chapter--on their own separate pages--inside the folder. You can keep your scenes separate--especially nice when you're changing POV's. But the best part about this: No more scrolling through a manuscript that is page after page after page of text! I want to edit chapter 16? Click on chapter 16's folder. BAM! (Let me tell you, it is so much easier to edit when your manuscript is cut up into nice bite-sized chunks and you can face 2,000 words at a time instead of having the whole 50,000 in your face, laughing maniacally over how long it's going to take you to fix everything you did wrong in the first draft.)

These are just the top three things I love about Scrivener. I haven't even begun to scratch the surface of the wonders contained therein. There's the compiling settings, which make it super easy to make your manuscript submission ready. The trash can, which removes the files and folders you select for deletion, but keeps them in the little can in case you realize, in a moment of panic, that what you thought was rubbish was actually brilliant. And oh, the wonders of full-screen mode.

And you don't have to be a novel writer to love this program. It has templates for scripts, research papers, short stories--you name it, if it needs to be written, it can be done in Scrivener.

At $40 for the Windows version and $45 for the Mac, this software will make your life easier without being hard on your wallet. You can even download a free trial before you commit. So pry yourself away from my totally awesome blog and go here to check it out.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Self-Doubt Monster

The last few days have been filled with less sleep for me and more cartoons for the kids (hey, don't judge me!). Why? Because I'm in the midst of editing my novel (I have a novel! Saying that will never get old.).

Overall, I'm enjoying the editing process. It's exciting and exhausting and scary. You have to take an honest look at your work. You have to be willing to make changes (like cutting a lot of words that seemed brilliant while you were writing them, but turn out to be less than stellar in the light of day). You have to put yourself out there and start sharing your edits with trusted people who can point out what still needs work. But the scariest part of editing?

The self-doubt monster.

My monster's mantra goes something like this: Sure, you might have had one or two great moments, but is that really enough? Do you really think anyone is going to want to read this? Do you really think you could actually get a publishing deal?

If you're a creative person, chances are you've met this monster, too. It's the one that--just when you start to think, "Wow, this is actually really good!"--sneaks up behind you and whispers, "But is it good enough?"

This monster tries to convince you your talents are lacking, your chances of success are miniscule, and you're setting yourself up for disappointment.

What's the key to turning this Bigfoot into a dust bunny, easily swept away in the wake of your awesomeness?

Strike the word "impossible" from your vocabulary.

If you can grasp hold of the idea that anything is possible and really, truly believe it, it changes everything. Because if anything is possible, you'll stop at nothing to learn more and do better and your talent will grow. If anything is possible, you'll persevere, even in the midst of disappointment. If anything is possible, you'll try again and again and again, because you've got just as much of a chance as anyone. 

Remove the word impossible from your creative vocabulary and your dream becomes very possible. And if you believe your dream is possible, there's no more room under the bed for that monster of doubt.