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What’s that comma for?

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Although I’m not certain what the source was, I created this handy-dandy little checklist for comma usage early on in my writing career. I still use it from time to time, although more a gentle reminder than as a check_list. I hope you will find it useful too.

Comma usage blog

As an aid in using this checklist, I’m also including definitions of some of the terms used above. No offense implied should you already be familiar.

Restrictive and non-restrictive clauses: An adjective clause is restrictive when it limits the thing it refers to and is therefore essential to the sentence. Example: The store accepted returns that were less than sixty days old. If an adjective clause adds non-essential or extra information it is non-restrictive and should use a comma followed by which to introduce it. Example: Julia’s scarf, which was purchased three months ago, was not accepted as a return.

Introductory dependent clause: A group of words including a verb and a subject but does not express a complete thought and cannot stand alone, which introduces a sentence. Example: When I worry, I eat.

Example of non-restrictive clause in the middle of a sentence: The book, which was on the table, was on fire.

Appositive: A noun or noun phrase that renames another noun right beside it. Example: His hat, a billycock, was askew. His girlfriend, a short girl with flaming red hair, sat down beside him.

Parentheticals: A parenthetical is a statement or reference that is incidental and could be properly enclosed within parentheses (hence the name). Example: Parentheticals, for example, require commas.

Transitionals: Words and phrases used to connect one idea with the next. Example: The fingertips contain numerous nerve endings. To illustrate, pick up that branding iron.

Conjunction: A word used to connect clauses or sentences or to coordinate words in the same clause. Example: In his pocket he had a coin, a ring, and a piece of twine.

Independent clause: A clause (group of words consisting of at least a noun and a verb) that can stand alone as a simple sentence. Example: His car started smoothly and he took off for home.

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My evolution in outlining…

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Because I am not the most methodical of creatures, I often struggle with organization when writing a novel. I’ve used outlines, pictographs, spreadsheets, and mind maps. None of these has been completely satisfactory to me. So, I thought I would offer up to anyone interested in writing, some of the ways I’ve combined the usage of a few of these methods.
First off, I like an outline. It helps me understand the order of things including where they are and where they should be. Here is an example of my first outline for “Sherlock Holmes and the Whitechapel Vampire”

WV Outline Ver 5 0 (2)

Obviously this is a Word document and as such has its limitations, particularly when the structure of the story changes to any degree. When I started to write “Sherlock Holmes and the Body Snatchers” I decided I needed something a bit more dynamic, and so I attempted to use a spreadsheet form of outline

SprdshtOutline

But this two was overly cumbersome when scenes or chapters needed to be rearranged. Then I discovered an inexpensive program that helps deal with these details. Again, I have to thank Jane Friedman for introducing me to it. It’s called Scribner, and here is a screen shot of it that shows some of the features.

Scribner

What I like best about it is that I can take entire scenes or chapters and move them around at will. Also, if you are using it to actually write your work, its intended use, you can capture references, web sites, pictures, other files, etc., and have instant access to them from within the program. This is a colossal time saver, especially in the beginning when you are doing a lot of research.
So, across three novels, I’ve gone from a Word outline document, to an excel file outline to a specialized software application, all because my mind is less organized than a bowl of soup. I’m not promoting any of these methods, but each does have its advantages and disadvantages. I expect in my next novel, I will adapt the way I use these today into something different for the next book. Someday, perhaps, I’ll hit upon the perfect solution. I wonder if I’ll share it with the world, or keep it to myself. Hmmmmm…

WHODUNIT?: THE UNIVERSE IS DYING (SPOILER ALERT: DARK MATTER)

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Recently I read an article saying scientists last year published data that the universe is dying. Don’t panic, apparently it’s been dying for the last 10 billion years and will continue to die for trillions more. So this isn’t the news that grabbed my attention.

DarkMatterMap

What I found more fascinating than a dying universe was the postulation that dark energy was causing the expansion of this dying universe to speed up. And that dark matter is a substance that keeps our own galaxy from flying apart. These ideas seem to me to be counter-intuitive, but then they were predicted by no less an Einstein than Einstein, so who am I to doubt?
Anyway, this got me thinking about how in almost every culture, every genre, every folk tale, darkness is equated with evil. And then to find out that dark energy is speeding up the demise of the universe is to me, quite shocking and a bit revelatory. I mean, it tends to imply that we have an innate sense of the universe and the place of darkness within it. So, rather than saying that evil is negative energy, perhaps it’s more accurate to say that evil is possessed of dark energy.

dracula_ap_328Darth-Vader_6bda9114Frankenstein-article1

This gives thought perhaps to having an evil genius or race of aliens who use dark energy in ways we use (should we call it) light energy, with the theme of Good vs Evil becoming an actual battle between darkness and light for the very life of the universe.

It was just a thought.

Paths to Publishing…

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When I decided to re-boot this blog, one of the things I wanted to accomplish is to bring together some of the articles and blogs that I’ve found especially useful. But I didn’t want to just post other bloggers’ stuff. Even though I would naturally give credit where credit was due, I felt that would be plagiarizing, so I’ve decided that if I use another blogger’s graphics or articles, I would request permission to do so as well as link to the original article in their blog. I feel in doing this I’m being as ethical as I can possibly be.
And I’m thrilled that this first graphic is from a blogger I have the utmost respect for, Jane Friedman. I’ve been a fan of Jane’s blog since I started down this road and one of the most interesting graphics I’ve seen was one Jane developed that shows where on the publishing continuum a writer exists. I was actually surprised to find that I was to the left, graphically speaking, of the self-published authors.

Jane graciously has granted me permission to reprint her graphic, showing the Key Book Publishing Paths, in my blog. You can find the original article on Jane’s blog, here. I had planned to have the graphic only, but it apparently is not of high enough resolution to read as a jpeg, so I’ve decided to show the low-res graphic and provide the PDF of the graphic. I found it to be very interesting.

The Key Book Publishing Paths by Jane Friedman

 KeyPathsPublishing

Also, you may find Jane’s book, Publishing 101, an interesting read. I know I did.

 Next week I plan to post the first chapter of “SHERLOCK HOLMES and the WHITECHAPEL VAMPIRE” with commentary. Don’t miss it!! Tell your friends!!! Buy the book!!!!

Story Structure video

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Here is a very informative video on story structure and plot points I found. Even though it concerns screenplays, the concepts are applicable to novels as well.

More can be found at http://www.scriptlab.com/

Another short story (or part of one)…

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Here is a short story for Christmas; yeah, it’s a little corny, but sweet. I hope you enjoy it.

The Pageant

The snow crunched beneath his feet as the old man walked from his garage to his front door. Winters had always been hard, but they seemed a bit colder and a bit grayer since Evelyn had passed. They’d been married 42 years when she discovered a lump in her breast. By then, it was too late – within six months she was gone.

Their last Christmas together had been incredibly tough. She was in her last stages and though they’d tried everything the doctors could suggest, nothing helped. In fact, it seemed to Paul it may have hastened her death. That’s why near the end he’d refused the latest round of treatments, even when their son tried to convince otherwise. They had a bitter argument, resulting in a split between father and son, a split so deep that they were unable to give one another any solace when Evelyn passed. The last time they saw each other was at the funeral.

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My Review of “The Elements of Eloquence” by Mark Forsyth

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I recently reviewed Mark Forsyth’s wonderful new book at Goodreads. I decided to post it here as well.

The Elements of Eloquence

Eloquence
I read a good deal of books about writing, grammar, syntax, and the like, and was surprised that this book was not only informative, but cleverly put together and a delight to read. I don’t think it can be classified as an authoritative  text, and don’t believe the author meant it to be, but it was extremely informative concerning rhetorical elements of the English language as well as being quite funny. There were rhetorical elements with which we are all familiar, such as alliteration, but there were so many more that I’d never heard of but had a sense of, so much so that as I read I thought, ‘so, that’s what you call that’ particular structure. Mr. Forsyth has done an excellent job of taking a topic that by all rights should be abominably boring and made it not only interesting, but humorous as well. But beyond that, I believe it will become a reference book for my own writing, when I want to lend a certain amount of eloquence to a character.

https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/7532641-dean-turnbloom

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