Grammar Rulez

ruler

Okay. Raise your hand if you’ve ever taken a writing side job. Don’t worry, I’ll wait…

Facebook posts? Twitter? Editing the master’s thesis?  If you haven’t, once your friends find out you write, you will. So read up.

This past week, one of my projects was a high school research paper. After I reviewed the insightful text, I wept for the death of grammar.

I’m as guilty as most teenagers. I thoroughly mess with grammar and spelling just to keep things interesting—whether it is in this blog, my texts, whatever. But for the love of all that is holy, please know the difference between “where” and “were” by the time you’re a senior in high school. That “h” means something, dearie. I can accept the silent “h,” but the missing “h” is not a grammar rule. It’s a flippin’ typo.

Breathe…

When you’re proofreading, there are some common errors quick minds and quicker fingers make all the time. Your spell checker can pick up misspelled words if you use it. And PLEASE, use it. But it can’t pick up homophones. Because I’m feeling generous this morning, here is a list of commonly misspelled homophones. Things like:  yore, you’re, and your; peak, peek, and pique; and my personal favorites there, their, there’re, and they’re.

Then there is the ginormous list of commonly misused words. This is when I turn to my betters for advice (not advise which isn’t on this list and should be). Grammar Girl is a goddess—just sayin’. Bookmark her. Love her. My lifelong nemesis has been lay vs. lie. To this day, I will do anything to avoid using those two hussies in a sentence. But when there is no other option, I will consult the rules and pray my editor will catch any errors.

We all screw up. That’s why we have beta readers, editors, and spell check. But do yourself a favor and learn a few of these, so when those Track Changes come back from your beta, you aren’t cringing from 47 misuses of “its vs. it’s”.

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What to do when an Agent says No

No

Attention Writers! I am interrupting this blog for an important public service announcement.

Believe me, I am passionate about my writing. And the search for an agent can be horribly frustrating. But it is NEVER EVER acceptable to hunt down a rejecting agent or thrash the crap out of them.

For those of you who didn’t check out Twitter this weekend, I’m not being hypothetical here. I can’t make this stuff up. Well, I could, but I didn’t.

According to reports, on Thursday, September 13, 2012, a literary agent  was attacked by a disgruntled author. Fortunately for her, her Jack Russell terrier bit the guy and she was able to get away. Yay Jackie! The Huffington Post has an article about the incident here, but the agent wants to put this behind her. Check out her blog.

Twitter was alight with outraged reactions to this senseless act of violence, and advice for the careful agent. It seems to me authors need a little reminder, too. So here are some dos and don’ts when you’re rejected by an agent. And if you query 10 agents, your odds are pretty good that you WILL get rejected by someone. Get over it.

Do:

  1. Commiserate with your girlfriends/boyfriends/family members/pets.
  2. Partake in your favorite beverage.
  3. Review your query and/or manuscript for possible flaws.
  4. Query other agents using their posted guidelines.
  5. Repeat as necessary.

Don’t:

  1. Write a caustic rejoinder pointing out the agent’s huge blunder in not representing you and your manuscript. Do you really think that will make them see the error of their ways? Like they’ll have a sudden epiphany that sends them rushing to their email to dash off a letter of apology and an offer? Has that tactic worked for anyone? Ever?
  2. Stalk agents in any way, shape, or form. Stalking in the context of any relationship is just a bad idea—plain and simple. That’s why there are laws against it in jurisdictions all across the U.S.
  3. Commit any violence or threaten violence. Gads, I can’t believe I even have to write this as a reminder.

Folks, the Author/Agent relationship is a partnership. And like all partnerships, there are a number of factors that go into a good match. You may have a great book, but you haven’t found the right agent. Or you may need to work on your own stuff before finding the right guy/girl. And you want a good match because you want a partner who is just as passionate about your work as you are. After all, that agent has to go out and pitch your book to publishers. And they get nos, too.

Be nice and stay safe!

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Finding a Critique Partner

martini glasses

There is a host of writing advice sites on the Net. They counsel you on topics such as revising and rewriting. Almost all of them also suggest finding good critique partners. Not just one—several—like a Woodstock Love Fest. And then they move on to other topics.

Hold on! How do you find critique partners? This is worse than dating! I can’t just go to the local watering hole, sit around the bar, and look available. Come to think of it, that didn’t work so well for dating either. But it doubly sucks for finding crit partners. Okay, I’m logical. I’ll try a Google search. Yeah, go ahead. Try it now. Put in “critique partner” and you’ll get about 26,300,000 hits, although your results may vary. At this point, it’s probably occurred to you that your odds were better in the bar.

Never fear. I’m here to help you find a crit partner, not push you into a panic attack. No, I don’t run a crit partner dating service, although if anyone wants to use my Comment section to hook-up, be my guest. Here is my 6 step method for finding that special someone to eviscerate your beloved novel:

  1. I hate to sound like your mother, but you’ve got to get out there. Join groups that specialize in your genre. There are thousands of them. Check out Yahoo Groups, Meetup.com, or let Google be your guide. Just be prepared to sift and sift and sift.
  2. Never forget the power of houses of worship. Join a Writer’s Guild, Writer’s Market, QueryTracker, or some other place where writers go seeking divine inspiration. They usually have a forum devoted to finding the right partner.
  3. Visit the local bars. Yeah, I know I dissed them for dating, but check out your public library, bookstores, and local writing clubs. You never know. A gem may show up for double shot night.
  4. Now that you’re out there and in a place to meet up with other partners, introduce yourself like it’s your first week on campus. “Hi, my name is Sally. I write YA paranormal science fiction romance memoirs.” Okay, maybe that was overkill, but you get the gist. Give a one sentence blurb about your project and say what you’re looking for. And then start speed dating.
  5. Remember your etiquette. If a match doesn’t work, politely say thanks and move on. Don’t critique the critique to your date.  But if you like the way they move through your manuscript and the two of you click—COMMIT—because critiquing is a quid pro quo situation. For every chapter you submit, you critique a chapter in return. This is a partnership, not a paid-for service.
  6. And then turn everything into a ménage à trois!

Happy partnering!

 

 

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What I did on my summer vacation

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School’s back in session, so here’s what I did on my summer vacation: I took a fabulous trip to Europe and called it “Book Research.” Oh, I’m not going to write it off as a business expense. I enjoyed too much Radler for that. But, I learned a few things during my travels that every writer should know.

First: Pack only the essentials. One journal capable of holding all kinds of stray papers, two writing pens for when one mysteriously disappears, and an electronic copy of your manuscript for that long plane ride. Oh, and a few changes of clothes and all that other junk experienced travelers tell you to pack.

Second: You’re the only one who will be journalling at breakfast. Just sip your coffee and pretend indifference. Or better yet, don a scarf and find a nice sidewalk cafe. You’ll blend in with the locals.

Third: Gaze out the window and enjoy the plane/train/gondola ride. Even if you’re terrified of heights. Some day, your MC will appreciate the view, even if it leaves you a little nauseous.

Fourth: iPads are better for editing than pens. Especially when the person next to you prefers to take up half of your seat in addition to his own. I recommend Pages.

And Fifth: The internet is a fine way to travel, especially on a budget like mine. But it’s a poor substitute for experience. Travel when you can and drink in the world around you. And by drink, I don’t necessarily mean the Radler. Although, it’s pretty darn tasty if you get the chance. Your MC may enjoy it.

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