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ARE CRITIQUE GROUPS VALUABLE?

Some members of the Susquehanna Valley Writers Group, Selinsgrove, PA

 

Absolutely, undeniably yes. My local critique group has helped make me the writer I am.

One of the most valuable tools you’ll ever have in your writing career is a local critique group comprised of other writers.

Some groups meet once a week; others meet once a month. The choice is for the group to make. Some groups meet in the members’ homes; others meet at libraries, bookstores, or cafes with quiet corners. Again, the choice is the group’s.

If you don’t belong to a local critique group, make it a priority to join one. If you aren’t sure there even is one, then determine to start one yourself.

So, how do you get the word out that you are interested in a critique group, either joining or starting?
1. Ask for information at your library or bookstore. If they know of no critique group, prepare an 8 1/2 x 11 poster and ask if you can post it. Put your name, phone number, and email address on the poster.
2. Mount posters in your local grocery stores and mini-marts.
3. Place a free ad in your local “service” newspaper, the one that allows you to buy and sell without paying for an ad.
4. Call other local authors you know and ask about a critique group. If they aren’t members of any, encourage them to help you start one. You really only need three or four other writers to start, and not all need to represent the same genre. Six to eight members are ideal if you plan to meet for two or three hours at a time.

So, there you have it. Get busy with that critique group. If you become accountable to someone for your writing on a regular basis, you will write more often, and you’ll write better!

(Next time: The Guidelines for a Successful Critique Group)

*****************T*********************************************************

MY LATEST BOOK IS NOW AVAILABLE!

TOMMI POCKETS

A TWEEN HISTORICAL FICTION TAKING PLACE IN THE 1950s

Tommi Leland wishes she was a boy. But why?

 

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Let’s Talk Grammar and Punctuation for a While

(Post Number Ten)

“The Quirky Quotation Marks”

“What can I say about quotation marks?” Marsha says. “If you are a fiction writer, you need to master the technique of using quotation marks. However, over the last few years, many publishing companies of nonfiction works have asked authors to incorporate ‘fiction’ techniques in their manuscript. That entails using quotation marks, mostly in dialogue, correctly.”

Of the many times I’ve seen quotation marks used incorrectly, the following example is the most misuse I’ve noticed:

Bad Example: Bert yelled to his son Raymond in the back yard, “Throw the ball, son”.

Folks tend to want to put that period AFTER the quotation marks at the end, but it is incorrect. The proper usage is as such:

Good Example One: Bert yelled to his son Raymond in the back yard, “Throw the ball, son.”

The same goes for the use of quotation marks with question marks and exclamation points:

Good Example Two: After lunch Eva asked her friend Bonnie, “Would you like to go shopping?”

Good Example Three: When Bobby saw his puppy fall off the sofa, he yelled, “Watch out, Scruffy!”

Another frequent abuse of quotation marks occurs in a series when words that need the marks are listed. The following example shows how the list should be correctly written:

Good Example Four: Last year, our writers’ conference featured workshops entitled “Write an Irresistible Query,” “Kiddie Lit for Toddlers,” and “It’s Time for an Agent.”

But what about double quotes in the same sentence? You might be thinking, How do I write them? Well, here’s how the CMOS says to use double quotes:

Good Example Five: Barney said to his cousin Elmo, “You must have heard cousin Heathcliffe say, ‘We’re going to the shore on Friday.’ ” (Note the period, the single quote, a space, and a double quote.)

I’m sure it is no surprise to you that there are exceptions to using quotation marks with other punctuation marks. The English language is one big exception, if you ask me!

Anyway, here are some examples of when the quotation marks go INSIDE the ending punctuation mark:

Example One: Harry subscribed to “The Pennsylvania Magazine”; he loves the pictures. (A work that needs quotes around its title)

Example Two: The sergeant asked Private Botting to state his “name and serial number”; he forgot his serial number and got in big trouble. (A phrase that is a direct quote)

Example Three: Which of Shakespeare’s characters said, “All the world’s a stage”? (A question asked with a quoted statement within it)

Example Four: Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matt. 5:3).  (The period follows the Bible reference.)

Example Five: I can’t believe Pauline said, “I’m leaving tomorrow at five in the morning”! (The exclamatory statement was made by “I” not “Pauline.” Therefore, the exclamation point comes AFTER Pauline’s quote.)

Example Six: How can teachers motivate students to learn who constantly say, “I hate school”? (The entire sentence is a question; therefore the question mark comes AFTER the quotation mark at the end.)

There are other uses of quotation marks and exceptions, but I’m thinking this blog is enough to confuse even the best writers in the land. If you have doubts, go online to the CMOS and check out your quotation mark question firsthand.

Next time we’ll look at perky parentheses and bold brackets, which will just about wrap up our series of blogs offering punctuation advice for writers. Then we’ll move on to another venue in the fascinating world of writing and publishing.

Happy writing!

Marsha

More shameless promotion:

KEYSTONE STABLES SERIES BOOK 2

ON THE VICTORY TRAIL

Book2.On.Victory.Trail.Cover

Foster kid Skye Nicholson faces the greatest test of her young Christian life when her

best friend, Sooze, develops a brain tumor.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002U8KW7G/ref=series_rw_dp_sw

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Let’s Talk Grammar and Punctuation for a While

(Post Number Nine)

The Excitable Exclamation Point!

 

Today we’re looking at a “quicky” punctuation mark because its uses are quite limited.

Most writers agree that the exclamation point is not in much danger of being used incorrectly. But I would venture to say that its greatest misuse is OVERUSE!!!!!! (Case in point: Never use more than one exclamation point consecutively, no matter how emphatic or dramatic you’re trying to be!!! The second and third exclamation points in a row actually negate the effect or mood you’re trying to portray, so take it easy. Use just one!)

So, when do we use the exclamation point and how often? Well, the obvious use of the exclamation point is to inflect fear, panic, surprise, irony, pain, anger, or a command. To use more than one every several pages of your writing is also OVERUSE! So watch that excitable little mark well! (I’ve already used nine in this blog [ho hum]; are you getting the point?)

Since this mark’s use is limited, we’ll just cite some popular examples for this little guy:

Example One (Fear): “Watch out,” Susie cried. “The tiger got out of his cage!” (Note that the exclamation point is inside the quotation marks.)

Example Two (Panic): Mabel forgot to turn off the stove, and the house is burning down!

Example Three (Surprise): I can’t believe I just won that car!

Example Four (Irony): Bill boarded one plane, and his wife boarded another!

Example Five (Pain): Ow!

Example Six (Anger): “Stop kicking the door!” Jane screamed to the top of her lungs at Herman.

Example Seven (A command): Stand up and shut up!

Let’s mention one more example, which is perfectly legal, even though many “English pros” might call it into question, since it IS a question:

Example Eight (At the end of a question that is essentially an exclamation):

How could Barry possibly have lifted that!

“When will you ever learn!” Carrie’s anger with her puppy was obvious.

So there you have the eight most common uses of the exclamation point. Use it sparingly and wisely, and your writing will have an extra spark that will impress even the editors!

Next time we’ll have a look at quirky quotation marks. These can be quite confusing, especially when you have a quote within a quote, so until next time happy writing!

Marsha

More shameless promotion:

KEYSTONE STABLES SERIES BOOK 1

A HORSE TO LOVE

Foster kid Skye Nicholson hates everyone and everything, including herself

until she meets Christian foster parents and a beautiful Quarter Horse named Champ.

 keystone-stables-book-1

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002U80FZK/ref=series_rw_dp_sw

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On Writing: Let’s Talk Grammar and Punctuation for a While

(Post Number Six)

The Punctual Period

Kissy.Smiley.Face

Are you kidding me? We’re going to talk about periods? That little miniscule dot at the end of a declarative sentence that everyone knows belongs there to complete the thought? “Why waste the time?” you’re probably asking. “Let’s move on. I know everything there is to know about periods.”

Well, let’s see if you do. I’m going to list some of the most frequent uses (besides its obvious use at the end of every declarative sentence) and some of its misuses. You’ll either yawn your way through this blog post or you’ll raise your eyebrows in wow-I-didn’t-know-that surprise.

Let’s play “Which one is correct?” Below are samples of different uses of periods. In each set, one use is correct; the other is not. Choose one from each set that you think is the right one. The correct answers are listed at the end of the blog. If you’re a period genius, and you get 100%, let me know, and we’ll brag about you on Facebook. (Today you’re getting a taste of what it’s like to be an editor):

Sample One:

A.) When John wrote, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1), he was referring to Jesus Christ.

B.)   When John wrote, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1), he was referring to Jesus Christ.

Sample Two:

A.)   When God asked Adam where he was after the fall, Adam said, “I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” (Genesis 3:10 KJV)

B.)     When God asked Adam where he was after the fall, Adam said, “I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself” (Genesis 3:10 KJV).

Sample Three: (A block quotation)

A.)     Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).

B.)     Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Sample Four – a postscript after the salutation in a letter:

A.)   P.S. Tell Susie I’ll be at the game on Friday.

B.)     PS  Tell Susie I’ll be at the game on Friday. (No periods after the “P” and “S.”

Sample Five – abbreviation of the state of North Carolina:

A.)   N.C.

B.)   NC

Sample Six:

A.)     The Smithsonian Institute is in Washington, D.C., for many years.

B.)     The Smithsonian Institute is in Washington, DC, for many years.

Sample Seven:

A.)   Brian’s new third grade teacher is Ms Batdorf. (No period after Ms)

B.)   Brian’s new third grade teacher is Ms. Batdorf.

Sample Eight:

A.)   Margie just moved to 678 N.W. Lane Street in Albany.

B.)     Margie just moved to 678 NW Lane Street in Albany. (No periods with the abbreviation for North West)

Sample Nine:

A.)     The time period “Before Christ” is represented with the letters B.C. on legal documents.

B.)     The time period “Before Christ” is represented with the letters BC on legal documents. ( No periods with BC)

Sample Ten:

A.)   Herbie’s appointment at the dentist was for 11:00 am, but he forgot all about it. (No periods with the abbreviation for ante meridiem)

B.)   Herbie’s appointment at the dentist was for 11:00 a.m., but he forgot all about it.

Answers:

Letter B is correct for all samples except for samples five and six; both answers are correct for samples five and six.

So, do we have any period geniuses in the crowd? If you think any of my answers are wrong, then you’ll have to argue with 15th edition of The Chicago Manual of Style, over which I labored for over an hour, studying these period options. There are many other period issues addressed in the CMOS, of which I have not the time nor the space to mention. So if you’re into mastering the Period Technique, get your CMOS out of the closet and start studying!

Hopefully, this little bit of information I’ve shared will help you handle the little speck of ink we call a “period” more skillfully the next time you tackle one of your writing projects. If you’re brave enough, go to the Writers of Any Genre group on Facebook, and let us know how you did.

Next time, we’re going to look at the flippant ellipsis.

Happy writing!

Marsha

Watch for updates concerning next July’s Montrose Christian Writers Conference. We have a dynamite faculty lined up, including film actor Torry Martin, Jim Hart from Hartline, four editors/authors from publishing companies plus eleven other best-selling authors and the music specialists, Donna and Conrad Krieger.

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

www.marshahubler.com

P.S. If you haven’t been receiving my periodic Montrose Christian Writers Conference newsletter and you’d like to be on the mailing list, please contact me. A tremendous faculty has committed and promises to present dynamite classes for all aspects of writing.

More shameless promotion:

KEYSTONE STABLES SERIES BOOK 8

THE LONG RIDE HOME

Skye finally finds out what happened

to her real parents.

 book-8-keystone-stables

http://www.amazon.com/Long-Ride-Home-Keystone-Stables-ebook/dp/B003QP3XEQ/ref=pd_sim_351_4?ie=UTF8&dpID=51JzncnOpKL&dpSrc=sims&preST=_OU01_AC_UL320_SR206%2C320_&refRID=0WD7GM9G0BRSCZKCKZFM

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Let’s Talk Grammar for a While

(Post Number Five)

The Elusive Colon

 

What can we writers say about the elusive little colon that some people abuse so much, they should have a “colon-oscopy!” Colons should be used infrequently, but when used properly, they can be a very effective little tool to get your point across. Let’s take a look at the little punctuation mark that looks like one period stacked on top of another. Here are its main uses and examples of each:

The colon is used to introduce a list or a series: (case in point!)

 

Example 1 – Our seasonal calendar is divided into four main time periods: winter, spring, summer, and fall.

Example 2 – Freddie said his best friends were also his brothers: Bill, Mike, and Ed.

*Notice that the only time you cap the word after a list or series is if the first word is a proper noun.

The colon is used to introduce a speaker or dialogue in a skit or play.

Example –

Ben:  When my birthday comes around, I’m going to go on a skiing trip.

Susie: When my birthday comes around, I’m going to be forty!

*Notice the dialogue starts with a capital letter but has NO quotation marks in a play script.

The colon is used to introduce two or more sentences in close sequence.

Example –

Bud had two job choices: Should he work at the mini-mart? Or should he work at the hamburger joint?

*Notice that the word “Should” is capped after the colon because it’s a full sentence.

The colon is used in the greeting of a business letter or in the introduction to a speech.

Example 1 – Dear Senator Huey: (Letter)

Example 2 – To Whom It May Concern: (Letter)

Example 3 – Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury: (Beginning of a speech)

The colon is used when writing scripture references.

Example – One of my favorite verses is 1 Corinthians 15:10.

So there you have a quick review of the most important uses of the little colon. Use them sparingly, but use them correctly, and your writing will move to a higher level.

Next time, we’ll look at periods. “Periods?” you’re probably thinking. “Everybody knows how to use periods. Well, check in next time. You might be surprised to learn a few new things about this little dot that adds meaning to everything we write.

Keep on writing!

Marsha

Watch for updates concerning next July’s Montrose Christian Writers Conference. We have a dynamite faculty lined up including film actor Torry Martin, Jim Hart from Hartline, four editors/authors representing publishing companies plus eleven other best-selling authors and the music specialists, Donna and Conrad Krieger.

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

www.marshahubler.com

P.S. If you haven’t been receiving my periodic Montrose Christian Writers Conference newsletter and you’d like to be on the mailing list, please contact me. A tremendous faculty has committed and promises to present dynamite classes for all aspects of writing.

More shameless promotion:

KEYSTONE STABLES SERIES BOOK 5

LEADING THE WAY

Keystone Stables Book 5

Skye and Champ befriend Katie, a blind foster girl, who wants to learn to barrel race a horse. Can she?

http://www.amazon.com/Leading-Way-Keystone-Stables-Book-ebook/dp/B003SE75ZI/ref=pd_sim_351_6?ie=UTF8&dpID=511o8hwVNXL&dpSrc=sims&preST=_OU01_AC_UL320_SR206%2C320_&refRID=0WD7GM9G0BRSCZKCKZFM

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Nov. 2, 2015

Fiction That Wows Your Reader (Part 4)

Don’t Preach!

If you’ve gone to your share of writers’ conferences, you’ve heard that little ditty a zillion times. Don’t preach!

Okay, don’t preach. Butwhat does that mean? Don’t preach!

As writers with opinions, and I’ve never met a writer who didn’t have one (or “agendas,”) we all have “messages” we’d like to share with our readers. But how does a skillful writer share his message, his beliefs, his ideals, with the reader without offending him or turning him off on page one? How do you impart your underlying theme in the story without coming right out and saying something like, “God is love”?

Is it wrong to try to win your reader over to your side by sharing your beliefs? Absolutely not. That very goal is the reason most people write. They want to share something they feel is vitally important to the survival of the human race. Wars have been won, and lost, by the printed page.

So how does a writer share his beliefs without preaching? A skillful writer weaves the message into the story so that the characters portray the ideals, or lack of them. The reader, watching the action of the main character, then observes the author’s beliefs in action as the character either exemplifies or struggles with the underlying theme.

Let’s look at some examples of “preaching” versus clever weaving of the message into the context of the story. The first examples of preaching are lousy writing on my part. The second examples are taken from some of my published work:

Preaching:

“Children need to work around the house, not only because their parents need the help, but also because when the children are older, they’ll know how to take care of their own homes,” Bimbo told Heathcliff.

Weaving the Message into the Story:

“Chores, including the house and the barn – washing clothes … mucking stalls are important. But you’re not a lonely island out there by yourself,” Mr. Chambers reminded Skye. “It takes all of us to run this place. It’s just part of maintaining a home. You’ll be glad when you’re older that you learned how to do these things.”

Yeah. I’m the luckiest girl in the world! Skye stewed inside.

 

(from A HORSE TO LOVE, KEYSTONE STABLES BOOK ONE)

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

Preaching:

“God is love, and He is ready to forgive anyone who will believe in Him, no matter how bad they’ve been,” Bimbo told Heathcliff.

Weaving the Message into the Story:

Skye turned back to the altar, and her eyes focused on the cross, the symbol of God’s love that meant absolutely nothing to her. This God, whom she didn’t even know existed, loved her? As rotten as she was?

She stumbled to the altar and knelt at the cross, sobbing out her pain and despair.

(from A HORSE TO LOVE)

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

So there you have two simple examples of how to rid your writing style of that pesky preaching.

Take a good look at the book you are reading at the moment and see how the author has handled his theme or underlying message. It might become clearer to you now than ever before.

Remember, weave the message into your story; have your characters experience the thrill, or the pain, of living with your ideals or beliefs. The reader will observe the action and reaction of your characters, and from your book, he just might decide to embrace the ideals you hold so dear.  You don’t need to preach to get your message into your reader’s heart and mind. Just write from your heart in a clever way, and your message will come through loud and clear.

Next time, we’ll discuss writing plots that are “outside the box.”

 

Marsha (Web) www.marshahubler.com

(Writers Tips) www.marshahubler.wordpress.com

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

(Horse Facts Blog) www.horsefactsbymarshahubler.wordpress.com

 

(More Shameless Promotion)

 

A HORSE TO LOVE

Keystone Stables Book 1

 (Book 1 in the Keystone Stables Series)

Nasty foster kid Skye Nicholson meets her match when she goes to live at Keystone Stables. There she meets Mr. and Mrs. Chambers, her new foster parents, and a gorgeous show horse, Champ, all who help Skye face her greatest fears.

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