Friday, July 31, 2009

Grammar and Proofreading

When my company asked if I wanted to attend a "Mistake-Free Grammar and Proofreading" course, I jumped at the chance. You see those two things are not my strong suit. I either suffer from commanitis or a lack of commas. Sometimes my verbs don't agree with my nouns and I'm not sure when or where to use a semi-colon.

I learned a lot at this course, but it will be a matter of being able to retain it and use it.

A few things I found interesting.
(Reminder this was for technical writing but I think it can apply to fiction)

There are 3 phases of writing and what percentage of time they should take:

1. Pre-write (25%) - what is the goal of your document, consider your audience, research, outline
2. Write (25%)- Let it rip, turn off spell and grammar check (so you don't interrupt yourself but that green line that shows up) It was also suggested that if you do get interrupted by the phone or children that you indicate that in your document so you can make a special effort to proofread that part.
3. Proofreading and Editing (50%) - print off a copy, put it in a bigger font, read out loud and read backwards. It was also suggested that you block off text so you're not tempted to read ahead. Finally she said to spend more time than you think it will take.

Another interesting fact:

Sentence Length
8 words = 100% comprehension rate
15 words = 90% comprehension rate
19 words = 80% comprehension rate
28 words = 50% comprehension rate

Finally a story regarding punctuation.

An English professor wrote the words, "A woman without her man is nothing" on the chalkboard. He asked his students to add punctuation.

All the boys wrote, "A woman, without her man, is nothing."

All the girls wrote, "A woman: without her, man is nothing."

Definitely some things to think about. Have a good weekend everybody.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

When obstacles get put in your way, build around them…

We just got home from vacation and I’m still knee deep in laundry and cleaning. We had a relaxing time in the mountains with good weather surrounded by a river, lake and a pool. What more could someone ask for.


On our last day there we decided that we should go find a creek to swim in. That might sound weird to you but my husband kayaks so going to rivers and creeks has been a regular part of our marriage. So my hubby got out his kayak guidebook and looked up a creek that was nearby that had a waterfall and what he assumed would be a pool at the bottom that we could swim in.

Kind of like this one that we swam in earlier in the week, only bigger.

So we followed the directions and drove across a bridge, over the river and around the lake, which took us up on a forestry trunk road where mostly loggers go to cut down trees. After 30 minutes we ended up here.

It was nice but still no waterfall. While hubby studied the book the kids I had to bid our time by throwing sticks on one side of the bridge and seeing whose came out first.

Finally we decided that we had come too far so we back tracked a kilometer or two (about a mile) and found a trail in the forest. So while hubby went to check it out we stood by the car and covered ourselves in deet so we wouldn’t get bitten in mosquitoes. Sound fun yet?

By the time he came back we could see dark clouds and hear thunder in the distance. He urged us to follow him to the waterfall he found. I have to say it was gorgeous and probably not seen by many. Here it is.

But as you can see it was too high up to get down to the pool at the bottom. Besides it was now starting to rain. We quickly took our photos and began running back to our van. When we cleared the forest, the skies opened up and we made a mad dash up the gravel road and hopped in. All the while the kids were laughing while they were complaining about being wet. (We all had our swimsuits on)

Although we weren’t able to swim we did get to see a great and wondrous waterfall. Now this isn’t the end of my tale.

We drove out of the storm and came around a road only to find something that wasn’t there when we drove up. A tree. Lightening had struck a tree and it had fallen across the road. What are the chances of that happening? Having only a van and not a 4x4 we did what we had to do. We walked into the bushes and found logs to build up around the tree trunk and then placed rocks in between so we could drive over the tree. By now the storm had caught up to us and we are doing it in the rain. I ducked into the vehicle to take this photo.Finally when we were satisfied that it was going to be okay. We reversed the van and drove over the tree. Even though we heard some serious scraping sounds, there was no damage but we had a great story to tell.

In fact when we got home and the grandparents asked how our trip went, all three kids said, “Tell them about the tree in the road.”

So like I said when an obstacle gets put in your way, just build around it.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Mind Reading

This week at work I’ve been training someone new. I’ve had to show her how to do my job since we’ll be sharing it. I’ve had to work longer hours and spend my whole day explaining things. Before she started I wrote down what I thought she would need to know as a reference guide.

We went through the manual and then I’d show her how to do it. A few times she’d say well what about that or what about this. With a little bit of a red face, I admitted that I had forgotten to write that step down. In my mind I knew how to do that and didn’t even think about writing it down because I thought it would be obvious.

A few years ago while my husband was reading a rough draft of my book he asked me a question about the world I had attempted to build. After I answered he said, “Well you know that but your readers won’t”

Sometimes it’s so hard to convey what you have in your mind onto the paper. I understand what I’ve written and how I’ve described something but I have the whole picture in my head. I know everything.

So that’s the ultimate challenge trying to get even a portion of what you see and known in your head into a reader’s head.

What do you think?

Monday, July 13, 2009

What I learned last week…

I learned that a writer (or at least me) cannot survive in edit mode alone for very long.

For the past nine months or longer (I seem to have lost track), all I’ve been doing is reading and editing then re-reading and doing more editing. It’s been draining and a little bit depressing. It’s been easy to get down on myself, thinking maybe I don’t have what it takes to be a writer. I started second guessing what I wrote. Wondering about character development, world building, and pacing. Have I done any of it well or is just okay. All of my insecurities have come rushing to the surface.

So last week I put book one aside and went full force into a couple of new projects. It was amazing, almost thrilling. I was back in the creative side of writing. Where you’re flushing out the story and just putting words to paper without thinking about commas and semi-colons. I wrote 5000 words for the second book in my series and 2000 on another project. Now a lot of it may be crap and I’ll have to spend months re-writing but it was nice to remember why I wanted to be a writer in the first place.

To tell stories.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

What do you mean you don't know who Charles Dickens is….

Last week me and my kids were looking for a movie to watch. We had just gone to see Transformers on the week, watched Hot Rod (I know but I have boys) and sat through Star Dust (one of my favorite movies). So I took out Nicholas Nickleby. I had bought it a couple of years ago but never watched it due to the fact that I have two boys and a little girl.

All three kids looked at the movie and scrunched up their faces “What’s that?”

“It’s a movie based on a Charles Dickens novel.”

“Whose that?”

After I pulled myself off the ground and got my breath back, I proceeded to tell them who he was. Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities, A Christmas Carol. They still shook their heads. So I forced them to watch the movie. I sold it on the fact that Anne Hathaway was in the movie but low and behold they sat, watched it and actually liked it. (the boys did, girl disappeared outside half way through, maybe 7 is too young)

Now with them being off school and me working my husband has them reading for 30 minutes a day, which I find funny because he doesn’t read at all. Anyway my daughter reads her books and younger son is reading Artemis Fowl. Older son had a harder time choosing a book because like his dad, he doesn’t like to read. So my hubby chose The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings to read.

The first night at dinner we asked each child to tell us what they read about. Older son had a hard time telling us what was going on. He said that it would be like me writing down what I did all day and then a hundred years from now someone reading it. But the next day when I got home from work, he told me he’d just read two more chapters and was actually finding it interesting.

Maybe there is hope yet to teach my children some things about literature and remind myself at the same time why I love to read and write.

PS: On the writing front, I decided to plug ahead and not look back. I’m now on Chapter 4 and wrote 3000 words this week.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Just do it…

Yes it was a popular marketing slogan a few years back but very few days pass where I don’t try to use it as motivation. Every time I sit on the couch and think I need to go for a run or walk. Every time I need to clean my kitchen. Every time I need to fold all of the socks in my laundry basket that have been sitting in my room for a week. Every time I look at my sewing basket where clothes sit until my daughter has out grown them. Sometimes I get up and do what I’m thinking about. Unfortunately there are lots of times where I don’t.

Last week I realized I’ve been avoiding, forgetting about the Just do it slogan. I had written a chapter and a half for my next book about a year ago. Instead of progressing further I would go back and edit chapter one or do some research or just do nothing.

Finally I put the pedal to the medal and finished chapter 2. In the end it wasn’t that hard. Sure I’m going to have to go back and edit but at least now I have some words on the paper.


This brings me to my question or dilemma for the day.

Is it better to a) write a chapter then go back and edit, making it the best you can before moving on to the next chapter or b) finish the book before you begin to edit.

I have to say I’m torn. Knowing how much editing I had to do for book one, part of me what’s to make the chapter the best I can before moving on but I also realize that just getting words on paper is half the battle.

What do you think?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Someone get me a pencil…

I know you’ve all done this. You’ve been half asleep or driving your car in traffic, or doing the dishes or making dinner or grocery shopping and an idea has come to you. Whether it was a fresh and new inspiration for a book, a way to make your story stronger or a specific sentence for a certain scene.

How many times have you gone looking for a pen, pencil, marker or even a crayon to try and write the idea down before it dissipates? I tried keeping a notebook and pencil by my bed but usually I can’t read my writing the next morning. I usually keep a notebook in my purse but of course the few times that I actually wanted to write something down I’ve forgotten it.

Once when I was driving home from work a sentence came to me. It was the prologue for a new project. It was clear, it was brilliant and it was awesome. I focused on it for the whole ride home. I ran in the front door, raced to my computer and wrote it down. I read it out loud. The sentence was not clear, or brilliant nor awesome. It was awkward and didn’t really make sense.

It’s funny how that happens. I guess it just goes to show that I’m obviously a better writer in my head than I am on paper. One day the brilliant sentences and story ideas that are in my head will more easily transfer to the real world.

For all the Canadians out there.

Happy Canada Day.