One of the great things about attending writers conferences—or any conference in your given industry—is the ability to meet with experts who know more than you and learn from them. At this year’s Florida Christian Writers Conference, I enrolled in a four-day fiction workshop taught by Ramona Richards of Abingdon Press.
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One of the intitial things we worked on were our first pages. One attendee had a first page that started halfway down the paper, so her “first page” contained only about one hundred words or so. If you’ve followed this site for a while, you know I’ve advised starting one-third of the way down the page. That’s because the Writer’s Digest publication Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript contains that age-old advice.
But that age-old advice dates from a time when editors received submissions on paper. Continue reading
Style is one of those words that has too many meanings to keep track of. I once narrowly avoided attending a conference workshop on “personal style” when I found out that it was actually about clothing and makeup and such. Style as part of your appearance and branding.
I had thought it would be about developing one’s personal writing style, which we often refer to as voice.
Yet another type of style—and this is what I actually want to cover today—is the kind of style we are talking about when we refer to The Chicago Manual of Style, The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style, or the Associated Press Stylebook. Continue reading
You may write the most brilliant story with the most sympathetic characters, but if your manuscript is full of spelling errors and typos, you will struggle to find readers.
☐ Spelling is correct.
English spelling is notoriously difficult. It is rarely phonetic, as Spanish is, and is not consistent, as French is. Honestly, the only way those kids who win the spelling bees do it is by memorizing. If you’re not entering a spelling bee, just use a good dictionary. The folks at The Chicago Manual of Style recommend Merriam-Webster’s. The abridged version is free, and will serve most of your needs. An unabridged version is available by subscription if you think it necessary.
A less authoritative but still fun source is OneLook, which searches over a thousand dictionaries. It’s useful for highly specialized terms and slang that hasn’t made it into traditional dictionaries yet. Continue reading
Last time I noted that there are lots of misconceptions about what constitutes “grammar.” There are also lots of misconceptions about what constitutes “rules” of writing.
Adverbs modify verbs is a rule. Don’t use adverbs is a nonrule. You may use adverbs, as long as you do so judiciously.
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Most writers are, by nature, very good about their grammar. But there are lots of misconceptions.
☐ Grammatical errors have been eliminated.
Grammar, contrary to popular belief, does not include punctuation or spelling, as we often see on lists of “common grammatical errors,” which usually contain things like misplaced commas (punctuation) the confusion of affect for effect (usage) or misuse of apostrophes, such as it’s for its (spelling*).
Grammar concerns only the parts of speech (such as nouns, verbs, and adjectives) and how they combine to form sentences. Continue reading
When editors speak of language usage, we’re not talking about potentially offensive terms. At least, not exclusively. We’re talking about taking care with the words you choose and avoiding those Vizzini moments.
☐ Usage is in accordance with convention. Continue reading
Editing for manuscript mechanics involves examining your manuscript closely for minuscule details like these:
☐ Punctuation is properly applied.
The most common punctuation errors I see have to do with commas, which is why I created the Comma Cheat Sheet.
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Few people have trouble with periods. They go at the end of sentences. Period errors are usually ones of omission, such as when they’re missing from run-on sentences:
She worked hard all day, there was a lot to do. (Comma should be a period.)