Follow by Email

Monday, October 29, 2012

Answer to Reader's Question

QUESTION: Is there any difference between the two verbs loan and lend?

ANSWER: The Chicago Manual of Style, used by most fiction editors, makes a distinction between the two: lend is the correct term for granting the temporary use of an item, whereas loan should be used only when money is the subject of the transaction.

         I told Sam I would lend him my bike for the trip.
         I told Sam I would loan him fifty dollars for the trip.        

The Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, eleventh edition, however, says the two verbs are synonymous and gives a brief history of why.

Both resources agree that only lend should be used figuratively.

         CORRECT: My fellow countrymen, lend me your ears.
         INCORRECT: My fellow countrymen, loan me your ears.

         CORRECT: Her voice lent enchantment to the poem.
         INCORRECT: Her voice loaned enchantment to the poem.

Only loan is a noun, never lend.

         CORRECT: Thanks for the loan of your car.
         INCORRECT: Thanks for the lend of your car.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Grammar Yammer Schedule

Mondays: grammar and punctuation

Thursdays: “Tips for Sharpening Your Writing Skills”

Quarterly: Win a critique and read comments from other writers.
         August Winners:
September 6-12: Critique of first winner
         October 11-17: Critique of second winner
         November 15-21: Critique of third winner

         Next entry date to win a critique: November 1-11, 2012

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Tips for Sharpening Your Writing Skills

Don’t be Duped! 10 Commonly Confused Words
Take this quiz to determine your befuddled quotient (answers are below):

1. Allusion or Illusion "The single biggest problem in communication is the _____ that it has taken place." (George Bernard Shaw)

2. Credible or Credulous "The most imaginative people are the most _____: for them everything is possible." (Alexander Chase)

3. Dazed or Dazzled In "A Scandal in Bohemia," Sherlock Holmes is ______ by the only woman who succeeded in outfoxing him.

4. Homed or Honed Last year, scientists re-engineered E coli bacteria so that instead of swimming toward food they _____ in on substances released by dangerous pathogens.

5. Lead or Led "We can chart our future clearly and wisely only when we know the path which has _____ to the present." (Adlai E. Stevenson)

6. Official or Officious Julia Child once grabbed a pepper mill from the hands of an _____ waiter before he had a chance to spoil her carefully ordered dish.

7. Pole or Poll "A public-opinion _____ is no substitute for thought." (Warren Buffett)

8. Riffled or Rifled ”Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me.
We pillage, we plunder, we _____, and loot.” (Xavier Atencio and George Bruns, "Yo Ho")

9. Stanch or Staunch "There's an evil on these seas that even the most _____ and bloodthirsty pirates have come to fear." (Tia Dalma in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End)

10. Vale or Veil "Our own self-love draws a thick _____ between us and our faults." (Lord Chesterfield)

1. illusion (An “allusion” is an indirect reference to something, whereas an “illusion” is a false impression.)

2. credulous (“Credible” means believable or trustworthy; “credulous” means gullible, tending to believe too easily.)

3. dazzled (“Dazzled” means amazed by a spectacular display; “dazed” means shocked or stunned, as with a heavy object.)

4. homed (“To home” means to move toward a goal, while “to hone” means to sharpen.)

5. led (“Lead” [rhymes with bead} refers to an example or initiative or position at the front, and “led” is its past and past participle. “Lead” [rhymes with bed] refers to the metal.)

6. officious (“Officious” means meddlesome, excessively eager to offer help or advice. “Official” means authorized.)

7. poll (A “poll” refers to votes in an election or answers to questions in a survey. A “pole” is a long staff or the extremity of an axis of a sphere, such as the North Pole.)

8. rifled (“Rifle” means to rob, whereas “riffle” means to shuffle or leaf through something.)

9. staunch (“Staunch” is an adjective meaning strong or steadfast, whereas “stanch” is a verb meaning to check or stop the flow of something.)

10. veil (“Veil” as a noun refers to a piece of clothing; as a verb it means to cover or disguise. “Vale” is another word for valley.)

Any of these a problem for you?


Monday, October 22, 2012

Sentence Location of Adverbs

An adverb is a word that modifies (describes) a verb, adjective, or another adverb. It answers the questions where, when, how, how often, to what extent.

GRAMMAR RULE #1: Most of the time, adverbs modify VERBS. In those instances, the adverb’s location is flexible. It could be—

              a.   before or after the verb it modifies
              b.   in the middle of a verb phrase it modifies
              c.   at the beginning of the sentence, nowhere near the verb it modifies

         a. Suzy slowly walked down the aisle.
    Suzy walked slowly down the aisle.
         b. Suzy has slowly walked down the aisle now.
         c. Slowly, a lump in her throat, Suzy walked down the aisle.

GRAMMAR RULE #2: When an adverb modifies an ADJECTIVE, the adverb is located immediately before the adjective.

Suzy was glad her gown was exceptionally beautiful.
Suzy’s exceptionally beautiful gown made her glad.

GRAMMAR RULE #3: When an adverb modifies another ADVERB, it is located immediately before that adverb.

Suzy’s father very cheerfully accompanied her.
The groom smiled quite happily at the altar.

GRAMMAR CHALLENGE—Your Turn! In which sentences are the italicized adverbs correctly located?
         1. Gloriously, the sky was clear of rain clouds.
         2. Crying softly, Little Bo Peep searched for her sheep.
         3. Do your work cheerfully more, and you will find great reward.
         4. A rabid dog appeared suddenly in the street.
         5. Suddenly, a rabid dog appeared in the street.
         6. The author is remarkably talented.
(Answers are below.)


1. Incorrect--gloriously modifies an adjective (clear) and should precede it.
         2. Correct—softly modifies a verb (crying) and can be located before or after it.
         3. Incorrect—more modifies another adverb (cheerfully) and should precede it.        
4. Correct—suddenly modifies a verb (appeared) and can be located before or after it.
         5. Correct—suddenly modifies a verb (appeared) and can be located at a distance from it.
         6. Correct—remarkably modifies an adjective (talented) and precedes it.

How did you do? If you can identify what your adverb modifies, you can identify its location options.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Guest Blogger's Reality Check

Please welcome back Carrie Lewis as my guest and valued fellow critter. It just so happens that In Wolves Clothing is her WIP. An old one. She blew off the dust bunnies to take a look at how she’s grown as a writer and to share those insights with you. Thanks for being so brave, Carrie!

(Scroll down to October 11 for her sub, and back up to October 12 for my crit.)

      First of all, my thanks to Stephanie for allowing me to offer a submission to Grammar Yammer. It’s a pleasure to be featured. Eye opening, too.
      This submission has been around the writing block a few times. It’s my fourth or fifth rewrite, so it’s not exactly hot off the press.
      Even so, it illustrates the point that there is always room for improvement.
      On that note, let’s begin with a few “nit-picky things.”

      The current trend is to keep speech attributions to a minimum and to stick with the tried and true. He said. She asked. It’s unnecessary to put a speech attribution with every line of dialogue. That gets pretty tiring pretty fast.
      But personally, I prefer more colorful language (so to speak). Nothing delights me more than to have a character hiss, snarl, bark, retort, or lament. I also like attributions like “query,” “question,” and ”opine.” Part of telling a good story is telling it in an interesting manner. Each of those speech attributions says something about the person speaking AND the manner of speaking.
      But make sure you use them wisely.
      And remember the first rule. Keep all speech attributions to a minimum.
      In this submission, I used a total of 14 speech attributions. They ranged from “asked” and “said” to “stammered” and “encouraged.” “Ask” and “said” in some form were the most common. Were all those attributions necessary?

      Keeping pronouns straight can be difficult in a scene that involves several unnamed characters, as this one does. There are four characters with dialogue in this scene. Only one of them, David, is named, so there are a lot of impersonal pronouns. Since all four characters are male, that’s a lot of “he,” “his,” and “him.” Confusing.
      There are a couple spots where it’s difficult to determine who’s speaking. The confusion isn’t great, but it is enough to make me read the sentence or paragraph twice to see who’s speaking. If I, as the writer, have to read twice, there’s a good chance readers will be rereading those lines too. Anytime that happens, the reader is forced out of the story. It may be only momentary, but you don’t want to interrupt the flow of story for any reason if you can help it.
      Stephanie made some excellent suggestions on how to format the paragraphs to clear up the problem of who said what when. You can bet I’ll be following them.

      Use sentence structure to create or reinforce the action being described.
      High drama or tense scenes read better and more realistically in short sentences. No ifs, ands or buts. Literally. Remember the last time you were in a high-stress situation. Did you notice everything? Most likely not. Your characters won’t, either.
      In low stress scenes, we have more time to notice and appreciate details. That’s when you can put in all the details.
      In this submission, I tried to keep the sensory details to what I think someone who’d just been involved in a car-pedestrian near miss might notice. Are details included that most readers would say are extraneous details.? Be careful to keep those to a minimum.

      Regardless of the genre in which you write, it’s important to know your genre. When you switch genres, it’s doubly important to understand the genre.
      Most of my writing has been either mystery or mystery-suspense. Those are the genres I best love writing and most enjoy reading.
      This story has wanted to be a literary or mainstream novel from the start. Even so, it reads too much like a mystery or suspense. Some of that is due to the nature of the opening scene. It is a tense situation.
      So how do I fix that?
      The first step is to read a few novels in the literary genre. Learn how bestselling literary authors write literary novels. Contemporary novels. Look at story structure, pace, and voice. Research the turning points. How do they differ from the turning points in a mystery novel?
      Second is learning to write that type of novel. Since the opening is not as much like a literary novel as those I’ve read recently, I need to consider changing it. Give the reader a little time to acclimate to the setting and lead character before throwing the character–and the reader–into a life-and-death situation.
      In his book 38 Common Mistakes Writers Make and How to Avoid Them, Jack Bickham recommends not warming up your chapters. Start out fast and with action. That’s not as applicable with a literary novel as it is with mystery. Maybe I need to warm up the story a little bit before putting it in gear.

      The next thing I, as the author, need to do is learn how to develop a literary style character. There are differences in characterization for mystery novels, political action novels, and literary novels.
      I ordinarily do a lot of character planning, I don’t know quite enough about writing a convincing literary genre character to write a convincing lead character. David has a very good start, but have I successfully introduced him to the reader? Gut reaction is no.
      I need to delve more deeply into David’s character. As Stephanie pointed out in her crit (click here to read), I need to present a more transparent picture of David, his frame of mind, and motivations.
      For example, why didn’t he notice an oncoming car? I know what the concern is that preoccupied him, but choose to keep it to myself. I also know why he was compelled to go to the aid of the man who was hit and it goes a lot deeper than his profession. Again, there is no hint or foreshadowing of that motivation in this chapter.
      Finding ways to fold those insights into the story will be part of my homework for writing a literary genre novel. Doing so properly will forge connections between David and the reader that don’t currently exist.

      There is the foundation of a good novel lurking in this first chapter. But it needs work in the form of researching genre, developing character, and learning to write introspectively.

About Carrie
      Carrie's favorite genres are mystery, suspense, and political thriller, with manuscripts in the works in each of those categories. She also is an active crit partner for other authors, both published and unpublished.



Friday, October 12, 2012

Critique of October's Winner

Scroll down to yesterday’s post to read October’s winner, 1012CL (to preserve anonymity). Today I’m posting my critique. Since my opinion counts as only one person’s perspective, not to mention that I can’t possibly cover everything, please—BIG PLEASE!—add your comments to extend the benefits to 1012CL.

HOOK: Opening your story with a hook is crucial. If you don’t snag your reader within the first page or two, she may abandon your story without giving it a “fair” chance. You open with the effective hook of surprising the reader with the discovery that the car did not hit David Danforth but, instead, someone who saved him. This twist prompts the reader's curiosity to read on and discover who, how, and why. 

To make your worm wiggle even more, there are two strategies you could use to reel in the reader.

One is to clarify what is at stake (or at least give a hint). David appears to have been saved for some purpose he will discover as the story progresses. But what’s his problem, to begin with? Does he have one? Or is he just a pawn in the grand scheme of things? If the reader has a reason to care about David (e.g., he feels he’s a failure in his ministry, or his mother just died, or he has cancer), she will be more likely to keep reading to find out what happens to him.

A second strategy is to use a scene goal to entice the reader’s interest. David learns his life has been saved by someone who pushed him out of the way of a car but got hit himself. The reader doesn’t know David; she doesn’t know how David will respond to this news internally. Reveal this with David’s scene goal. Yes, in action he gets up and goes to the man, but why? Guilt? Curiosity? Because he’s a clergyman and therefore should help?

By clarifying David’s goal, you take the reader a step closer to caring about him. David’s goal gives a glimpse of what he is like because of what he wants. The goal also gives the reader something concrete to expect in the action that follows—what’s supposed to (but might not) happen. More importantly, the goal gives the reader a reason to root for David—to connect with and, yes, care about him!

CONFLICT: A must for a scene is conflict—obstacles that hinder the character in achieving his goal (another reason to clarify what the scene goal is!). Is David hindered in his “external” goal of getting to the man hit by the car? No. It’s a green light every step of the way. Well, is he hindered in his “internal” goal? Perhaps, but we don’t know because we don’t know what his internal goal is. All we see is a man meeting his rescuer, who dies after asking for his Bible to be delivered to his wife.

The reader will no doubt surmise that conflict will be generated by fulfilling this request … but will the reader hang in there? Has the soft journey from the first paragraph to this last one deterred her from wanting to investigate the intrigue brought up by David’s encounter with the dying man? Eeeeeek, I hope not! But don’t chance it—set up obstacles along the way to make it hard for David to achieve his goal. Win the reader into rooting for David’s success, and then spring the wonderful intrigue of the encounter.

CHARACTERIZATION: David is identified as a clergyman. He feels responsible to assist the man hit by the car. Check off one external fact and one internal. That’s about all we know, one thousand words into the story. How can the reader get to know David better?

One way is to get inside his head. You did that with “Someone was hit?” We can sense all the questions that tumble off that one biggie. We catch David’s bewilderment and the horror of what this fact implies. Give the reader more of this. As the scene progresses, give David’s internal responses and reactions to events and to people. By revealing David’s thoughts and feelings, you bring the reader closer to him, whereas limiting the reader to only David’s actions creates distance. Unless there’s a reason to coat David in Teflon, make him more engaging by opening up his head and heart to the reader.

A second way to acquaint the reader with David is to give snippets of backstory that are relevant to the scene. The key words here are “snippets” and “relevant.” Backstory should be revealed only to help the reader care about David in the context of how his past pertains to what is happening at this exact moment of time.

STORY GOAL/QUESTION: This is powerfully presented through the rescuer. In effect, he says that his purpose has been accomplished and David’s is about to begin. Definitely a curiosity-arouser!

DIALOGUE: A few times I was confused in identifying who was talking because you separated a paragraph about a person from what that person said. The two belong in the same paragraph. As an example, here’s how paragraphs four through eight should be correctly formatted:

“You okay?” an unfamiliar voice asked.
He shook his head and blinked, then started to press his left hand to his eyes. Blood smeared across his palm halted the motion and shocked him back to his senses. “What happened?”
“That man just saved your life,” the stranger replied.
David looked up to see a bear of a man kneeling beside him, concern written all over his cragged features. “What man?”
“The one who was hit.”

Your dialogue hits this problem several times in the story. Don’t make the reader stop to figure out who is saying what.

DESCRIPTION: I had no trouble visualizing the setting. Your details brought me right into every event as the story progressed. Not only did I see the big picture and its relevant details, but I felt the tactile contacts (ouch), heard the myriad street noises, and caught a few unpleasant whiffs as well. You used visceral responses—clogged throat, lump in throat—to evoke empathy. Some description could have been more effective if “shown” rather than “told,” but, overall, your description was highly successful.

LITERARY DEVICES: I fail miserably at recognizing all the figures of speech, but I love a good simile or metaphor, and I enjoyed yours: “cutting a path through the crowd like a freighter through Boston Harbor,” “arms and legs twisted like a rag doll,” “his voice a thin, frayed ribbon on a sighing breath.” Similes and metaphors add dimension and color, and they delight the intellect. Kudos to you for brightening your story with them!

GRAMMAR: A track document will be sent to 1012CL on grammar corrections. There were very few.

Your story intrigues me, 1012CL. I’d read on to find out where it is headed. However, I need David to hurry up and capture my interest before I’d commit to a long journey with him.

BLOG READERS: PLEASE ADD YOUR  INSIGHTS AND OPINIONS! I will run this post until October 17, when guest blogger Carrie L. Lewis will add her critique. So pitch in, keep coming back, and let’s give 1012CL a lot of take-away!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

October's Critique Winner

Opening one thousand words of In Wolves Clothing, a literary/contemporary (critique will be posted tomorrow):

Chapter 1

Ten seconds separated the howl of a car horn and the squeal of rubber. An instant later, David Danforth was catapulted across the street. He landed with a jolt on hands and knees on the sidewalk. The blow pitched him onto his back in a violent roll before he landed on his stomach.
 Honking horns, shouts, and screams crowded his hearing. Engine exhaust clogged his throat. A whistle pierced the din, followed by official sounding shouts and the clip-clop of horse hoofs.
Dazed, David raised himself to sit on one hip, braced by both hands until a passerby nearly stepped on his right hand. Aware he was in the precarious position of being on the ground in a stampede of people, he started to rise. Before he got to hands and knees, a hand descended on his shoulder.
“You okay?” an unfamiliar voice asked. He shook his head and blinked, then started to press his left hand to his eyes. Blood smeared across his palm halted the motion and shocked him back to his senses.
“What happened?”
“That man just saved your life,” the stranger replied and David looked up to see a bear of a man kneeling beside him, concern written all over his cragged features.
“What man?”
“The one who was hit.”
Someone was hit?
Blaring horn. Squealing tires. Sudden impact.
“Help me up.”
“Are you sure....”
David started to rise and the stranger stood, then bent to assist him and stayed beside him as he scanned the assembled crowd.
“Where is he?”
“You should let someone take a look at you, Reverend,” his companion said rather than answer the question. David looked at him again and saw a tall, broad shouldered man dressed in a business suit and tie. Just what David needed.
“Get me out there,” he said and the man held his gaze a moment. Before David could repeat his request, the man scanned the crowds, then took firm hold of David’s arm and stepped forward.
“Excuse me! Make way! Step back!”
He spoke with such authority no one questioned him. He moved in a similar fashion, cutting a path through the crowd like a freighter through Boston Harbor.
Policemen were at the center, opening an ever widening circle around the accident scene. When the nearest cop met the freighter there was only a momentary hesitation.
“Clergy,” the man said in response to the cop’s order to stand back. The cop gestured him through, then continued pushing back the crowd behind David.
Three or four horse cops milled around the cleared intersection while foot patrols ringed the perimeter.
A car was parked partly on the curb, the driver’s door open, but blocked by two officers. Between the car and David, a man lay on his back in a tangled heap, arms and legs twisted like a rag doll. A coat had been thrown over him, but did little to disguise the damages.
David knelt beside the man and leaned over, putting himself in view of pain glazed eyes. Those eyes were more alert than he expected and fastened on him immediately.
“Fa…ther,” the man said, his voice a thin, frayed ribbon on a sighing breath.
“Be still,” David encouraged around a tide of helplessness. “Help is coming.”
“An ambulance is on the way,” a policeman said, kneeling opposite David. “Were you involved?”
David looked up to meet his gaze and started to shake his head, then said only, “Yes.”
The man lying between them coughed, a wet, hacking cough that produced blood. He stiffened, drawing David’s attention again. When his hand moved against David’s knee, David took hold of it. He wasn’t surprised by the coolness of the pale skinned hand beneath his own, nor by the feeble grip.
“You … okay?” he stammered and David was so surprised at his concern that he could only nod for the lump in his throat. “Thank you, Jesus.”
“There’s no need to worry about me,” David assured him. “Focus on yourself.”
“No... need. Al... most... fin... ished.”
Sirens approached and, somewhere behind David, a man shouted for the way to be cleared. David glanced over his shoulder to see the flashing lights of an ambulance over the ring of spectators.
“Hang on. The ambulance is here. It’ll just be a minute.”
A weak smile turned into a grimace. His grip tightened briefly and his eyes closed. David urged him again to hang on and railed against his own helplessness.
“Who can I call?” he asked when the man’s eyes opened again.
“Not alone, Reverend. Surely you know that.”
“Tell me how I may be of service.”
“Bible … pocket?”
David laid a hand on the man’s body wary of causing pain and being too personal. The man neither flinched nor grimaced and when David felt the bulk of a book, he pressed his hand over it.
“There’s something here,” he said.
“Thank you, Jesus. Take it.”
David folded back the blanket enough to gain access to the man’s pocket. The Bible he found was well-worn and blood spattered. He quickly covered the man again and offered him the Bible. The man shook his head.
“Name … address inside. Wife. See she gets it?”
“I’ll do what I can.”
“Thank you…. Pray with me?”
“Yes, of course,” David answered. He took the man’s hand, cupping it between his, then bowed his head and took a breath to begin. Before he could speak, the patient began to pray.
“God in Heaven… thank You for … care and mercy. Thank You for … Your grace. Watch over … family. Comfort. Guide.”
The prayer ended with a gasp. The man’s grip tightened, prompting David to look.
The man’s eyes were bright, focused beyond David’s right shoulder. He smiled and his grip tightened for a moment.
“I see...” he said softly, then his voice dropped even lower, drawing David closer. The last words almost sighed out of him. “... the Lamb!”
There was an error in this gadget