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May 25, 2015

On Writing: Those Pesky Possessives

Plastic.Ducks.on.Paper

Awhile back, I helped the ladies of our church proof  a cookbook before sending it to the printer. One of the questionable terms that came up in a few of the recipes was “confectioner’s sugar.” Did it have an apostrophe or not?

I checked out a bag of the little white powder at the grocery store, and the manufacturing company had it spelled “confectioners sugar” on the label.

One of the gals in the church took the time to look up possessives in an English book and found that, at least, in her resource, confectioner DOES use an apostrophe in this phrase: confectioner’s sugar.

Publisher’s choice? This is often the case with punctuation, and, unfortunately, the rules always seem to be changing.

So, FYI, I’ve included just a few of those pesky possessive rules for you to ponder. But don’t bet your life on any of these; in a year or two, some could be different, or the editor with whom you work might have her own idea.

Just try to understand the pesky possessive’s point of view.

Generally, a possessive is formed by adding an apostrophe and an s to a word that does not end in s, and only an apostrophe to a word that does end in s. An apostrophe is not added to plurals.
Some Singulars: child, lunch, sheep, lady, man, passerby:

Singular Possessive: child’s, lunch’s, sheep’s, lady’s, man’s, passerby’s

Plural:  children, lunches, sheep, ladies, men, passersby

Plural Possessive:  children’s, lunches’, sheep’s, ladies’, men’s , passersbys’

Add an apostrophe to a word that ends in an s sound: for old times’ sake for conscience’ sake for appearance’ sake

Add an apostrophe and an s to a foreign name ending in a silent sibilant. Descartes’s invention Des Moines’s schools faux pas’s

Add an apostrophe and an s to the last word of a singular compound noun. the Governor of Maine’s the attorney general’s

Indicate common possession by making only the last item in a series possessive. Teddy, Peggy, and Nancy’s home

Indicate individual possession by making each item in a series possessive. Teddy’s, Peggy’s, and Nancy’s homes

The following types of possessives should be written as singulars. artist’s paintbrush baker’s yeast farmer’s market confectioner’s sugar florist’s wire printer’s ink writer’s cramp painter’s tape

So there you have some help for these pesky possessives that you sometimes see rarely and might use barely at all. Yet, when one pops up in your manuscript, maybe this little blog will help you use the correct form.

On another note, make plans to join the Odd Duck Society and attend the Montrose Christian Writers Conference this July 19th-24th. The faculty of 16 includes award-winning authors, editors, and an agent, all eager to sit down with you and discuss your projects. You might go home with a contract!

http://www.montrosebible.org/OurEvents/tabid/113/page_550/1/eventid_550/58/Default.aspx

Westcotts.+BigDuck

May 16, 2015

On Writing: Christian Horror

Have you noticed there’s a new genre out there for us writers AND readers to try to absorb: Christian horror. If you recall, the popularity of the “darker” genre seemed to start gaining popularity with Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness in 1986, and since then has branched out into a few other subgenres.

I’m trying to wrap my heart around the concept of this new genre, but I’m having trouble accepting it. The whole idea of “Christian horror” seems like such an oxymoron, a genre filled with opposites that cannot coexist on the same page. Can two be together unless they agree?

Ever since Harry Potter appeared on the scene, and then Twilight (plus dozens of other similars), these spooky fiction subgenres are running wild in the market at the moment, so everyone with a pen in his hand is jumping on the bandwagon to write a best-seller thriller, Christian or not.

At present I know of at least three different publishing companies (I’m sure there are lots more) that are now releasing Christian horror or paranormal novels. A few years ago, at my request, an editor at one of those companies had sent me a manuscript of the creepy genre to read so I could get a grip on what the Christian market is trying to present to its readers with this seemingly contradictory new type of book.

I’ve been told the main difference with a secular and Christian horror is this: the Christian book exposes the occult, witchcraft, demonic activity, or “whatever wicked this way comes” for what it is: evil. The book then presents the gospel of Jesus Christ with hope for the future to be delivered from such evil.

Anticipating that promised vision of hope in the resolution, I read that manuscript and just recently finished reading another paranormal novel with an open mind to see if I could accept the new genre as part of American literature that is not only a good read, but also presents the truth based on biblical principles and hope beyond the gory grave.

I must admit both reads encroached way too much into my comfort zone so that I put the books down and walked away often. When I reached the last page, I concluded that this new genre is not for me. It certainly won’t be for me to write, and I doubt I’ll ever pick up a horror or paranormal book of any kind again, whether it has the Christian label on it or not.

I’m not condemning this genre and its offshoots. If the books proclaim salvation through Jesus and deliverance from evil of any kind, then more power to them. I’m just saying it’s not for me.

Now a Word about the Montrose Christian Writers Conference

Please join us from July 19th to the 26th and meet one of our faculty members teaching blogging and social media

Catlett.Don.Photo.2015MCWC.

Don Catlett: media expert and advisor to multiple startups, has spent more than 14 years working at the crossroads of web design, photography, marketing, and social media. Since launching Clearly See Media in 2008, he continues to hone his skills as a digital advertising specialist for companies including Amazon Publishing, Lamplighter Publishing, QVC, The Shopping Channel, The Learning Parent, Child Evangelism Fellowship, Home Educating Family Magazine, Christian Homeschool Magazine, and AHEAD National Conferences. He also provides marketing direction and advice for building a presence with social media.

Please check out the week’s schedule at http://www.montrosebible.org/OurEvents/tabid/113/page_550/1/eventid_550/58/Default.aspx

Conferees.Anniv.Celebration.No.1

April 20, 2015

Get That Novel Written!

Patti.Enjoys.Jeanette's.MM.Class.7.20.14

 One of the workshops at MCWC (2014)

Of course, it’s the dream of every writer to have a best-selling novel on the shelves of every book store in the country sometime in their writing career. And most writers have great ideas that would make super novels. But the reality is that most of us don’t have three to six months to lock ourselves up in a bedroom with our computer or get that brilliant idea down on paper in a form of the English language that can be read without an interpreter.

Here are a few suggestions for you would-be novelists to help get motivated to start and finish a manuscript that just might land you a contract with a leading publishing company. These simple steps worked for me not once, but 10 times, enabling me to publish that many juvenile fiction novels at an average of three-months writing time a piece:

  1. Analyze your time and budget it. Prioritize so that you have time to write “regularly.” Yes, I know it’s impossible to write every day, but if you have this at the top of your priority list, you’ll get it done more often than if you just haphazardly decide, “Oh, it’s Monday. I have two extra hours today. I think I’ll write.” Your novel will never happen this way.
  2. Write a short outline or synopsis of where you’re going with your story and characters. I know of authors who have written their same novel over and over, sometimes hundreds and hundreds of pages in length, and to this day they still haven’t finished it because they’ve never resolved the ending. Their characters seem to be lost forever in some kind of word time warp, never to “live happily ever after.”
  3. Don’t worry about perfect English the first time you write. Just get your brilliant idea down on paper. Worry about the PUGS (punctuation, usage, grammar, spelling) later.
  4. Let your finished manuscript sit a few weeks then get back to it. You’ll read parts of it and wonder who in the world wrote that junk? This is a great time to start revising. Go through each scene with a fine-toothed comb, making sure your characters move the plot and/or subplot forward.
  5. When you finish revising your manuscript, print the entire thing on paper, read it aloud, and get it into the hands of a critique group or other writers who will tell you the truth. Aunt Susie or Brother Bill will only tell you how wonderful you are, but that won’t get your manuscript ready for a trip to the editor’s desk at the publishing house.
  6. While you’re revising again and perfecting your work, send out your queries, at least five at a time. It might take up to three or four months for you to get a response from the editors (if at all). In that framework of time, you can hone your manuscript and shape it into something that any editor would want.

So there you have it. Get the computer turned on, get your brain tuned in, and get going. You just might be the next great American novelist!

*************************************************************************

Want a professional opinion of your work-in-progress (WIP)?

Come to the Montrose Christian Writers Conference and meet editors and an agent

who just might want your manuscript!

July 19th-24th

Beth, Tim, and Ed (Regulars at MCWC) with faculty member, Cindy Sproles (2013)

Beth, Tim, and Ed (Regulars at MCWC) with faculty member, Cindy Sproles (2013)

April 13, 2015

Working with an Editor

 

When it finally happens, you know, the phone call or e-mail that says, “Congratulations! You’ve got a contract with our company,” prepare yourself for the exciting adventure of seeing your name in print. There’s nothing quite like it after you’ve been trying for years to do so. Have a party or go to McDonald’s for a latte or buy your dog a big box of treats. Celebrate somehow. Then prepare yourself for the next step in your writing life.

As you enter this new phase of writing/publishing, determine in your heart to do the best job you can with the editor to whom you are assigned. The editor is your friend, not your arch enemy who is set on destroying every clever phrase you’ve ever penned.

Here are a few tips that I learned along the way that might help you in your “strange encounter of the first kind” with the person who has been hired to make you look real good:

  1. Before you ever submit your first draft to your editor, revise, revise, revise your manuscript. Have a critique group edit it; have another writer friend or two critique it, and send the best possible manuscript to the editor after you’ve rewritten it at least seven or eight times. Your editor is NOT your high school English teacher. He/she expects you to know how to use commas, quotation marks, and colons.
  2. Be on time with assignments; editors are on a very tight schedule. Don’t give them deadline headaches. If you have excuses for not meeting those deadlines, you won’t be invited back for another contract.
  3. Divorce yourself from your manuscript and analyze it objectively. Your editor is going to suggest changes you won’t like. The words you wrote are not written in stone, and, as much as you think your manuscript is your newborn baby, it is not. Accept with a learning spirit the changes the editor wants.
  4. If you are set on keeping your words, discuss the matter with your editor. Explain your reasoning but be willing to listen to his/her explanation. Your editor is a hired professional who knows the ins and outs of publishing. He/she KNOWS what will work 99% of the time.
  5. Thank your editor often. When the project is done, send him/her a card of gratitude, at least. (A small gift as a token of your appreciation would be well received.) When my Keystone Stables Series had been finished, I sent my editor a Breyers horse model with a heartfelt thank you. If you follow through with a note of appreciation, your editor just might remember you the next time the publishing company is looking for an author in your genre specialty.

So, there you have the basics of working with that editor, who wants you to succeed as much as you do. Remember, you’re on the same team. Just let the editor be the quarterback.

Speaking of editors, make plans to come to the Montrose Christian Writers Conference this July 19th -24th. We have editors and an agent on faculty, all who are eager to sit down with you and discuss your projects.

http://www.montrosebible.org/OurEvents/tabid/113/page_550/1/eventid_550/58/Default.aspx

Conferees.on.Porch

 

April 6, 2015

 THE EDITOR CONNECTION

 

As a beginner about 20 years ago, I didn’t have a clue about connecting with editors. I thought all I had to do was look up a publishing company’s address in the Writers’ Market Guide, send off my manuscript (after I wrote it and revised it once), and then wait for the check to arrive in the mail.

Boy, did I have a lot to learn! Over the years, I’ve accumulated some wisdom I’d like to pass on to you. Each of these “talking points” could be developed into an essay of sorts, but for convenience’s sake, we’ll just make a quickie list for you to ponder and then, in turn, to analyze your own progress in becoming a published author:

  1. Study the market and make sure your manuscript matches what the publishing company is looking for. This is the number one reason that writers are rejected. A story about your favorite pet cow won’t make it in a horse magazine!
  2. Follow the submission guidelines to the “T” if you even want to be considered. If the editor wants a proposal or a query letter first, then learn how to do those two “writing projects” well and submit them first.
  3. Have your manuscript critiqued several times by other writers you know (like in a critique group). If you have the financial means, hire a freelance editor to refine your copy. If you don’t do this, the editor at the publishing company might read only one or two paragraphs of your submission and go no farther because of poor writing. “Duh, shure eye kin spel; did eye miss sumpthun?”
  4. If you have an editor who is interested in your work, send it to him/her immediately. The longer you wait, the fuzzier his/her mind will become about your query or proposal.
  5. Be patient. These days it can take anywhere from three months to six months, maybe longer, to hear from an editor. The sad thing of late is that some publishing companies are not responding to writers’ queries or manuscripts unless they’ve been accepted. This can become a frustrating waiting game with no end. Therefore, find companies that accept multiple submissions, and send five or six out at a time. If you’ve heard nothing after six months, I suggest emailing or calling the editor (if an elusive phone number is available), but not before.
  6. The best way to “connect” with editors is to attend writers’ conferences. Yes, you have to dig deep into your starving author pocket to pay the conferees’ fee and other expenses, but in this business, it takes money to earn money. Meeting an editor face-to-face can change your writing life for the better. Believe me. Of the four book contracts I’ve acquired, three of them came from meeting editors at writers conferences. I’ve also had poetry, children’s short stories, and articles published in magazines by meeting the editors at conferences. Editors love to “connect” writers’ names with their faces. It’s a big plus for you and them alike.

So there you have a few tips to help you get started on the road to publication. Next time, I’ll address the topic of working with an editor once you get that acceptance letter or phone call.

I remember my very first phone conversation with an editor who wanted to do my Keystone Stables series (14 years ago already), and it was a thrill which I shall never forget.

P.S. Please make plans to attend the Montrose Christian Writers Conference this July. We have about a half dozen editors and an agent on faculty, who will be eager to meet one-on-one with conferees and their works-in-progress. (WIP)

http://www.montrosebible.org/OurEvents/tabid/113/page_550/1/eventid_550/58/Default.aspx

Marshas.Class.Wk.in.Progress.2013

March 30, 2015

Let’s Go for the Book First! Huh?

Don't.Stop.Believing

In my twenty-some years of trying to get a book published and then finally doing so, I’ve met dozens of other writers who have had the ultimate goal of having a book published. And they’ve thought that’s the way to start and jump in with all fours into this fickle business.

However, I’ve often found that the vast majority of those folks who’ve had that worthy goal of being a published book author had never been published at all.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with striving to have your book published. I remember when I first started out, that was my goal, too. But, alas, in my file cabinet here next to me rest (in peace) three complete book manuscripts that never made it beyond the editor’s slush pile at numerous companies. I’ve allowed those three manuscripts to stay snuggled in their little file folders all these years to remind me of how stupid I was to think, “I’m going to write a book and get it published.” My heavens, is there a LOT to learn about writing before ever trying to write a book!

Now, over two decades later I realize that I “knew nuttin'” about the writing/publishing business when I launched those first three book projects. It was only after I started attending writers conferences that I discovered writing a book and having it published would come AFTER I learned how to write a good short story or article and would have those genres published first.

Critique.Group.No.Two.8.7.14So, writer friends, if you’re just launching out on the Good Ship Publish Me, then do your homework. Learn the craft by doing two of the most important activities you could ever do in this business:MCWC.Duck.Welcome.Sign.on.Porch.7.22.14

  1. Join or start a local critique group or one online
  2. Attend writers conferences

Then to improve your skills, study a high school English textbook and start trying to be published by writing Letters to the Editor for your local newspaper, dabble in some poetry, and write some short stories and articles from 1200 to 5000 words. After you’ve mastered those works, then you’ll be ready to sail off into the Ocean of Published Book Authors.

P.S. Make plans to attend the Montrose Christian Writers Conference July 19th to the 24th and you’ll learn exactly what you need to do to be published, whether it’s for an article, a short story, or a book. Guaranteed!

The Porch

http://www.montrosebible.org/OurEvents/tabid/113/page_550/1/eventid_550/58/Default.aspx

March 23, 2015

Science Fiction, Anyone?

These days, fantasy, horror, and science fiction novels are flooding the market, and they’re flying off the book shelves.

Science fiction or fantasy is always a good bet for an experienced writer to try because the versatility of the genre affords the writer the opportunity to create new worlds far beyond our wildest imaginations and go “where man has never gone before.”

But to write good science fiction, a genre which I have not tackled yet except in a few short stories, you need to know five basic rules that will help you create a winner that your readers will love.

Is SF all rockets and ray guns? Far from it. Here are some ideas that you need to incorporate into your manuscript to write a best-selling thriller:

1. Pick contemporary themes and/or take off for the future: readers are always interested in what might happen next year, next decade, next century. Show them what might just happen a hundred years from now, good or bad.
2. Read, read, read: consume all the science fiction you can and learn the lingo. Words like “dilithium crystals” and “flux matrices” will captivate your audience far beyond a vocabulary that uses words like “salt” or “swinging doors,” a vocabulary that comes from the 18th Century.
3. Study the subgenres: there isn’t just one SF genre. You’ll discover that when you go to the library and start your research. You’ll find space travel, genies in magic worlds, time travel, and the like, and ALL of them are interwoven with scientific facts that make the story plausible.
4. Add the “what if” factor to your plot: do you want your readers on the edge of their seat and turning the next page at the end of each chapter? Then use the “what if” factor. What if the sun would stop shining? What if San Francisco would disappear? What if clocks started ticking backwards? It’s your call to develop a wild plot with impossible situations that your characters must face, and they’ll not always be on a spaceship!
5. Study and write scientifically: of course, you don’t need a degree in astronomy, but you should know basic facts about your subject matter. To make your story believable and keep your reader with you, you must have cause-and-effect connections between actions and relationships. Things happen for a reason, even if your new world rotates vertically and snowflakes are blue. You’ve got to have a reason why and be convincing about it.

So, there you have it. Get your wild idea on paper and take off for the other end of the universe!

 

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