The Comma Coma – a deadly disease

Do you go into a coma when someone starts talking about commas?

Don’t get bit by the deadly comma coma bug! Figure out how to make the comma work for you, not against you!

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The purpose of all punctuation is to clarify your thoughts and ideas so readers can enjoy and understand the book!

Did you have a teacher that told you, “whenever you feel the need to pause, insert a comma”?

WORST ADVICE EVER!

When we are writing, we naturally pause to think. That is not necessarily where a legal-grammar-rules-keep-calm-and-use-commas-e1490740001283comma needs to be.

Commas have a number of rules. My favorite site to use – and to introduce to my students – is the Owl at Purdue. Their comma usage explanations are clear and detailed.

One of my editor-friends believes the comma used for introductory words, phrases, and clauses is “going the way of the dinosaur.” While I agree that some people and publications seem to think so, I think it’s still a valid and needed use. [I’ve used introductory commas in this blog – one was in the previous sentence, “While I agree…]

The Fanboys rules is the easiest to remember; however, because of the number of teachers giving the pause advice, I get sentences that look like this:

The Rams won but, not everyone was happy.

We sometimes punctuate our speech this way for emphasis, but you can’t hear tone in these words, and it’s just wrong.  < this sentence contains correct use of the fanboys rule.

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My students often ask me to explain the whole “Oxford Comma” disagreement. Well, it goes like this: There are people who use the oxford comma and then there are monsters!

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Commas are confusing, but they’re not impossible to learn. Any editor is going to appreciate the correct use of commas regardless of how much they appreciate or introductory comma. 🙂

 

 

Writing Exercise

malcolm-gladwell.jpgI’m a big fan of Malcom Gladwell, writer for the New Yorker and author of The Turning Point, Outliers, and many others.

A writing exercise from Malcom Gladwell:

Begin a correspondence with another writer. Each of you take turns sending and responding – and respond immediately with something interesting or intriguing.

It’s a good way to practice intelligent conversations so you can learn to chat with just about anyone.

 

A Habit of Success

66 days –

That is what a new study says it takes to form new habits.  The study participants reported a range from 2 to 254, with 66 being an average.

writing+ritual+It depends on the person. With me, it takes 3 to 4 weeks for me to stick to my commitment. And every year my teaching schedule changes, so there’s two to three months a year for me to recommit.

The holidays, however, throws many people off.

However, once the commitment is made and the habit is in place, it’s much easier to get back into the mind space. The secret is to jump right back into the habit after a holiday or change.  writing

Also, I think you have to make an effort to guard that commitment. Don’t be tempted to make lunch plans on a writing hour, make it for later or for a different day.

Life too easily distracts us and, without habits firmly in place, we are easily swayed.

The Journey…..

journey.jpgWriting a novel is not a destination; it’s a journey. It’s the hardest journey you will take with unclear signs, narrow paths, tricky u-turns, treacherous cliffs, an occasional dead end, and a steep road toward the end.

You will come out of this ragged, weary, exhausted, and wondering what it was all for. But then, your newborn book materializes before your eyes and you see it was all worth it.

Professionalism

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Some people do not understand the basic rules of professionalism. Speaking to, writing, or responding to an editor or publisher should be undertaken with care. These people are our colleagues in the best sense of the word.

I’ve worked with a few literary journals and have talked to editors at others. The things authors say and do completely surprised me.

I’ve only had a single editor be so completely unprofessional I became embarrassed for her (and forwarded her email to her boss). On the other hand, I’ve dealt with a number of writers who have taken pride in their unprofessional behaviors.

One writer posted a snarky response (he supposedly emailed) to an editor. Whether he actually wrote that to an editor is one thing, it’s quite another message to post it on social media for all to see. He may have felt he had won the battle, so to speak, but what he actually did was show how unprofessional he behaved with a colleague, and what a risk other editors or publishers might find him to work with.

We can disagree with editors, publishers, other writers, but there’s no reason to verbally attack or otherwise be rude to anyone in the industry. Taking your private issues with public companies to social media is a mistake on any number of levels. Just like employers look at social media sites, so do publishers.

I had one publisher ask me for all my Promote-Your-Brand-On-Social-Media.jpgsocial media links. While some writers told me not to hand it over, I felt it was part of my job to have these available to people in the industry. I maintain social media sites for this reason. Publishers don’t want to just know if writers have a following, but how they’re interacting with readers, writers, and others on those social media sites.

Being rude in an email, speaking arrogantly on a call, and posting disagreements publicly will not further a career.

I do understand it’s quite popular in our society of late to act like an arse and expect to be treated like a king/queen; however, it gives a poor impression and people will not want to work with a person who acts like a spoiled child.

Is Writing Still Fun?

children_writingWe started writing because writing was fun. We have the power to create worlds out of words. We create people and have them fall in love, face their fears, win, lose, and try again. We live many lives!

How can we do that better? Edit.

Oh, no, there she goes again, talking about work.

Writing is the fun part. Editing is the work and will take more time than creation.

One top complaint from editors is a lack of basic editing. How many times have you sent a text message or email containing some sort of mistake only spotted after? We are forgiven because we all make mistakes; however, editors expect near perfection.

I submitted a story (Bowie and the Basket Case, to be published by ID Press this month); It was accepted on the condition that I listen to suggestions from the editor.

I’d read the story easily 100 times. My friend read it. Another friend critiqued it. 02_bowiec2a9g_evans.jpg – all before I submitted it!

I said yes, the whole time wondering what might be questioned.

The editor responded something akin to, “Page 10, paragraph 3: I think you meant than, yet it reads that.”

There were a few other things; however, I was shocked at this tiny error!

Spell check and grammar check never found it, of course. My friends, my editor, and myself didn’t catch it. Mistakes are easy to make, harder to see. (as in life, right?!)

Have fun writing.

Then get to work: Edit. Edit. Edit.

Say Yes to the ReDress

Editor Definition in English Dictionary.In some writers’ groups, when I’ve mentioned that I’d been contacted by an editor who requested changes, there came about a rise of instantaneous resistance.

  • You didn’t say yes, did you?
  • Why are you letting them change your work?
  • You’re not going to let them change your words, are you?
  • Sounds like you’re selling out!

So far, whenever an editor has contacted me about changes, the changes were minor: a comma here, a synonym there, once a nick-name which they ended up leaving in.

One of the these editors worked for The Chicago Tribune’s Printers Row Journal ($1.00 Stories). I believe him to be more experienced editoand credentialed in the requirements of publishable writing.

I willingly listened.

So before your writer hackles rise – listen, consider, then decide. Be polite and professional.