Hope you enjoy and GROW by this great blog by C. S. Lakin on her blog, Live, Write, Thrive. It's a keeper for us novelists! --Elva
Monday, July 5, 2021
Monday, June 7, 2021
Researching my current novel in progress, The Captain's Governess, which is set in Jamaica, I came across this timely historical note for today, June 7. Here's the scoop of Port Royal's destruction one sunny summer day. Was it a judgment of God? Some thought so.
Port Royal was called the "wickedest city on earth"; a den of pirates, prostitutes, and slavers unlike any the world had ever known. ... It was a city so overrun with liquor, slavers, and prostitution that one in every four buildings was either a bar or a brothel.
Members of the Jamaica Council declared
"We are become ... an instance of God Almighty's severe judgment," therefore every future "seventh of June ... be kept and observed by all the inhabitants of this Island, as an anniversary day of fasting and humiliation, in hopes that acknowledging "manifold sins and wickednesses committed against his Divine Majesty, may "appease God's imminent wrath and prevent heavier judgments."
Tuesday, April 27, 2021
By Ramona Richards, Editor, Iron Stream Media & award-winning author
In a fair land far away (Tennessee in the ’70s), I majored in English. Twice. The first time I had a minor in Modern European Studies (multiple classes in history, politics, and foreign languages) and an emphasis in grammar and composition. I took advanced classes in both. I can diagram sentences from James Joyce (yes, that was one of the exercises). I loved it.
Repeat that. Loved it. Correct grammar became a passion. People were afraid to write me letters. I became a grammar dictator.
The second time, for my master’s degree, I had to take a foreign language. German. Which taught me even more about grammar (German and English have similar Indo-European roots). By the time those degrees were in hand, I had Harbrace, and Turabian, and the Chicago Manual of Style, and Strunk & White memorized. I had a red pen grafted to my left hand. I was ready for publishing.
Then … I actually got a job in publishing. And here is the first lesson I learned in publishing: There is no such thing as a perfect book.
Not that I absorbed this lesson easily. I still remember that first letter of correction from a reader. I was devastated, even though I’d had nothing to do with the book. It had been published long before I even graduated from college.
My boss, however, was quite nonchalant, with her “no such thing as a perfect book” lesson. “Ramona, if you get upset over every mistake in a printed book, you’re going to spend your life in a tizzy,” she said gently. “Humans make mistakes. And grammar changes.”
Wait. What? Grammar changes?
Definitely not something I heard back in that fair land far away. I was just beginning to learn how far away it was. I soon began to read publications like The Editorial Eye, which covered the ongoing changes in grammar. Now I read grammar blogs and CMOS Q&A pages. I went from being a prescriptivist (one who dictates how grammar should beused correctly) to a descriptivist (one who describes how current grammar isused correctly). And I discovered that editing content, editing story, is far more satisfying to me.
Above all, I began to truly appreciate the overwhelming beauty of this whackadoodle language we call English. It’s fluid and flexible with rules that guide yet shift. It allows for different stylebooks to flourish (Associated Press is not CMOS is not APA style, and serial commas are not universal). It allows new words to be added and old words to change or vanish. Words are allowed to evolve. Nouns become verbs, and vice versa. Googol, a noun, inspired Google, a proper noun, which became a verb.
In fiction as well as nonfiction, English allows for the development of an author’s voice through selective syntax, dialogue, and dialectal phrasings. And I’m always amused at people who desperately fight some usages until they’re added to the Oxford English Dictionary. Then they’re OK, accepted by the “authority” of the OED, which has always been a descriptivistpublication.
So what’s my point?
My point is that every book has mistakes (even if you don’t catch them) and some grammatical “mistakes” aren’t actually mistakes. When reading a book, try focusing on content, on story, not on the occasional trip-up by a copyeditor. Because if you let a few grammatical mistakes or typos upset your reading of a book, then you are going to overlook some of the most beautiful and well-written (if not well-proofed) books in our language.
Don’t get me wrong; in some ways this attitude (books must be perfect) is helpful to authors and publishers. We do take emails about mistakes seriously, and often readers find things that should be corrected. And, once upon a time, complaints about things that are not, in fact, wrong used to have little impact. (I once had a woman complain to me about the use of parentheses in the King James Version of the Bible, since nothing in God’s word is parenthetical. I had to explain to her the evolution of parentheses as punctuation and that in older versions of the KJV, they were perfectly acceptable.)
But now we have the internet, where a campaign against a mistake can cost an author a career.
Think I’m exaggerating?
A publisher I worked for was startled when they were notified that Amazon had pulled the “Buy” button from one of our books because of one reader’s complaints about the “mistakes” in the book. They sent us the list. Of all the “mistakes” on this reader’s list, one was a typo. One was a continuity error. The rest were not mistakes at all, but out-of-date grammar or the author’s voice in dialogue. So, no, these weren’t going to be changed, no matter how much one reader protested. They weren’t wrong; she was.
But even though this reader was incorrect on most of her complaints, she cost the author sales. And she has a platform to continue to complain. This was not justified nitpicking; this was just mean.
So, I beg of you, when you see mistakes in a published book, don’t grab a red pen and a platform. Don’t wail and jive in Amazon reviews about the lousy copyediting. Be biblical—go straight to the source first. Contact the author or publisher (we’re online everywhere these days), and alert them to the problem. Give them a chance to respond.
And if your grammatical knowledge is based on what you learned before 2001, please do not mention split infinitives. They’ve been acceptable since at least 1983, if not before.
Or to quote a CMOS Q&A column: “In this day and age, it seems, an injunction against splitting infinitives is one of those shibboleths whose only reason for survival is to give increased meaning to the lives of those who can both identify by name a discrete grammatical, syntactic, or orthographic entity and notice when that entity has been somehow besmirched.”
Another reason to love the CMOS folks.
It really is OK for us “to boldly go where no one has gone before.”
And other places.
(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net, Stuart Miles, and digitalart.)
Ramona Richards is a forty-year veteran of the publishing industry. She is the author of 12 books, including Tracking Changes: One Editor’s Advice to Inspirational Fiction Authors, from which this post was adapted. She is currently an editor with Iron Stream Media and is working on books 13-17.
Monday, March 22, 2021
Dialogue is a powerful, but often underutilized, tool in writing. Dialogue lets you move away from narration and it allows you to bring your story to life.
TOP TIP: Learn to write better dialogue with The Dialogue Workbook
Good dialogue does the following:
1. Dialogue Advances The Story
Dialogue forces the writer to make the characters interact. When characters interact you create events and scenarios that bring them closer or further away from achieving their story goal. Get your character off the couch by making them do stuff.
‘We’re out of milk.’ – what happens when you character goes to the store?
1. Do they run into an old acquaintance?
2. Is their card declined?
3. Do they get caught up in a robbery?
2. Dialogue Makes You Show
When we only use narrative to tell our story we give our readers a secondary version of the events. When we use dialogue the story comes to life and the readers experience the events for themselves. Dialogue is one of the easiest ways to move your story from telling to showing.
Telling: Jonathan didn’t want to enroll for a business degree.
Showing: Alison upended the third and final draw. ‘You have to know where it is. It’s your college acceptance letter. It’s your entire future.’ She rifled through the papers on the desk.
‘I really don’t know, Mom. I haven’t seen it.’ Jonathan didn’t look up. He was putting the finishing touches on his newest drawing. He held the paper up to the light. You could still see the faint outline of the logo that read Harvard Business School, but he darkened the shadow and it disappeared completely. ‘I haven’t seen the letter anywhere. Maybe Dad threw it out when threw out my sketches.’
3. Dialogue Introduces Conflict
‘You never told me about the invitation.’ He stomped to the
fridge. The bottles rattled as he yanked open the door.
Beryl took a deep breath and smoothed her skirt. ‘Yes, I did. I said that we were invited and that I accepted.’
‘Well, this is the first I’m hearing of it.’ The bottles rattled again and he slammed it once more. ‘And we’re not going.’
Beryl gathered her clutch and courage. ‘Well, then I guess this the last you’ll hear from me.’ And walked out the door.
4. Dialogue Reveals Character
How we speak reveals so much about who we are. Use your characters’ words to show who they are.
He adjusted his name tag and moved towards the customer. He
needed to close at least one deal today. Aaron stuck out his hand to the
nearest guy praying the hulk of a man wouldn’t crush it. ‘Aaron Bronson,
pleased to meet you.’
‘Impossible.’ The man loomed overhead. ‘The Aaron Bronson I knew was a sniveling little brat who tattled to the teacher.’
Aaron tried not to flinch as the bones in his hand cracked and groaned under the increasing pressure. ‘Jonty?’ he squeaked.
5. Dialogue Reveals The Setting
When you use dialogue to convey setting it will help you to avoid writing long blocks of description.
Ally followed the dim pool of light as it bounced down the
passage. ‘What is this place?’ She shone the torch into a room crowded with old
‘It used to be a psych ward. They closed it down in the sixties.’
Candice sounded so nonchalant, but Ally wasn’t fooled.
‘Why are there handcuffs attached to the beds?’
‘It was a ward for the criminally insane.’
6. Dialogue Gives Information
We need to share a lot of information with our readers. We also should vary how we present our information. Dialogue is a good tool to do that.
He heard them coming down the passage and prayed they weren’t singing for him, but the dreary rendition of ‘Happy Birthday to You’ limped closer and closer to his desk.
‘Come on,’ someone hissed, ‘light it.’
Jeff cringed. Please don’t. Please don’t let them be coming here.
‘One, two, three.’ A staged whisper. A whiff of sulphur from the matches and then it began.
‘Haaaaa-ppppp-yyyy Birthdaaaaaaaay, dear Je-ffffffff.’
They sang. He shrunk, but they kept limping closer and closer with that off-key twang.
7. Dialogue Increases The Pace
Sometimes we need to speed up our stories and sometimes we need to slow down. Dialogue speeds up the story. Use it when you need to add a bit of a punch to your scene.
The crime scene tape fluttered in the breeze. The detectives approached the crime scene with caution and dodged the press by crossing to the other side of the street. They needed to be careful and could not afford another blunder. They were on thin ice with the captain already.
Brett glared at the journalists.
‘Vultures,’ he hissed as he crossed the street.
Don held up the crime scene and he ducked under it. The wind tugged at his notebook.
‘Can’t fuck this one up. Not again.’ Brett mumbled as he knelt next to the body.
‘Captain will kill us, that’s for sure.’
The Last Word
Dialogue is an amazing tool to enhance your writing. There are many things you can do with dialogue. When you are stuck or when your scenes seem a little flat, make your characters talk.
TOP TIP: Learn to write better dialogue with The Dialogue Workbook by Mia Botha
Hope you enjoyed this guest blog by Mia!
Elva Cobb Martin is a mother and grandmother who lives in upstate South Carolina. She is the president of ACFW-SC Chapter. All her Christian romance novels have spent time on Amazon's 100 Bestseller's list for Women's Religious Fiction.