Where Else Am I? Inky Fresh Press Guest Post #4 on Formatting

This month, I’m Inky Fresh Press’s guest blogger, and I’m doing a series on editing (for post NaNoWriters and those looking to polish their non-NaNo manuscripts alike).

Last week, Inky Fresh Press posted the third in the series: Editfication: Revision Tips for Getting Your Work Read & Represented.

The final post is on formatting.  Check it out!

I hope you enjoyed the series!

The rest in the series:

Where Else Am I? Inky Fresh Press Guest Post #3 on Grammar

This month, I’m Inky Fresh Press’s guest blogger, and I’m doing a series on editing (for post NaNoWriters and those looking to polish their non-NaNo manuscripts alike).

Last week, Inky Fresh Press posted the third in the series: Editfication: Revision Tips for Getting Your Work Read & Represented.

The latest one is on grammar.  Check it out!

The Straight Dope on Lay Versus Lie

“The Straight Dope” highlights common grammatical errors—so you can stop looking dopey when you do these things incorrectly. 🙂

Please note: Unless otherwise specified, these are the proper grammar and formatting rules according to Chicago style—the style in which you should be writing if you’re writing fiction—and some nonfiction.  (So don’t give me a laundry list of reasons why some other way is correct. It *might be*, in AP style or APA style or MLA formatting . . . but that’s not what I’m talking about.)

This one gives me a lot of trouble.  Even though I try to be extra careful, I still get confused about when to use Lay vs. Lie.  So I’ll do my best to be as clear as I can . . .

I’m always deferring to my friends William Strunk, Jr., E.B. White, and Bobbie Christmas for help!

Lay

Lay is a transitive verb.  That means there must be a subject (noun) performing the action (verb)—and there must be an object (another noun) being acted upon by said action.

In English, please?

OK—that means there must be something DOING the laying and something must be BEING LAID.  (Get your heads out of the gutter!)

So:

The hen lays eggs. (Hen is the subject.  It is doing the laying.)

Q: What does it lay? (The direct object answers the question WHO or WHAT.)

A: Eggs. (So, eggs is the direct object.)

That is how we know “lays” is correct here.  It is an action being performed.

Good?  Good.

This concept is still pretty easy and not really what trips me up about lay vs. lie.  However, before we get to that, let’s take a look at some verb tense variations of lay.

Present tense: The bricklayer lays bricks right now.

Past tense: The bricklayer laid bricks yesterday.

Present perfect: The bricklayer has laid bricks since he was twenty years old.

Past perfect: The bricklayer had laid bricks until he became a goat herder.

Present progressive: The bricklayer is laying bricks right now.

Past progressive: The bricklayer was laying bricks when he got the news.

None of that seems too difficult, right?  It’s not.  However, I believe the reason I—and others—have such a hard time with lay and lie lies in (pun intended) the verb tense variations of lie.

Lie

Lie is a state of being.

  • You lie on a couch.
  • Papers lie on the floor.
  • Answers lie everywhere.

However, the past tense of lie is lay—d’oh!  And that is what causes all the trouble. (Some of these examples are modified from Bobbie Christmas’s Purge Your Prose of Problems.)

Present tense: I lie in traffic for fun.

Past tense: Yesterday, I lay in bed until noon.

Present perfect: The body has lain in state since last week.

Past perfect: The body had lain out for a week before someone discovered it.

Present progressive: The body is lying in state right now.

Past progressive: The body was lying in state last week.

Here are a few more examples that might help you:

  • The cat, lying across the windowsill, slept peacefully.
  • When I got home yesterday, the cat lay across the windowsill.  She lies there all the time! When I saw her, I laid a blanket across her back.  Whenever I come home, I lay a hand on her and stroke her silky fur.
  • I couldn’t find my socks anywhere—until opened my suitcase and found them lying inside.  They had been lying there since our last trip—which means they had lain there for a year!  I laid them there when I was unpacking, and I must have forgotten about them!

Hope this helps!

Where Else Am I? Inky Fresh Press Guest Post #2 on Editing/Revision

This month, I’m Inky Fresh Press’s guest blogger, and I’m doing a series on editing (for post NaNoWriters and those looking to polish their non-NaNo manuscripts alike).

Today, Inky Fresh Press posted the second in the series: Editfication: Revision Tips for Getting Your Work Read & Represented.

This one’s on style.  Check it out!

The rest in the series:

The Straight Dope on Plurals — *Useful for the Holidays

“The Straight Dope” highlights common grammatical errors—so you can stop looking dopey when you do these things incorrectly. 🙂

Please note: Unless otherwise specified, these are the proper grammar and formatting rules according to Chicago style—the style in which you should be writing if you’re writing fiction—and some nonfiction.  (So don’t give me a laundry list of reasons why some other way is correct. It *might be*, in AP style or APA style or MLA formatting . . . but that’s not what I’m talking about.)

I have been a bit MIA this week, as I’ve been hard at work buying and wrapping presents, labeling them, writing out holiday cards to family and friends, etc.  And I saw a grammar lesson from which many people could benefit: pluralizing names.

I decided to embrace the grammatically correct versions of labeling and addressing—even if the end result looked weird.  Hey—it doesn’t take much to amuse me! 🙂

Rule 1: Add “s” to the end of a singular noun to make it plural.

So, when I made out a Christmas card to my parents, I wrote The Geralds on the envelope, because their last name is Gerald. More than one Gerald—so you just add an S.

To use a regular ol’ noun: if you are referring to more than one dog, write dogs.

Easy peasy, right?

Rule 2: If a singular noun ends in S, X, CH*, SH, J, or Z, add ES to make it plural.**

That means, when I made my Christmas card to my in-laws, I wrote The Schultzes on the envelope, because Schultz ends in Z (duh), and the card was being addressed to more than one Schultz.

For my great aunt & uncle:  The Coxes

For some friends: The Hobbses (This one was perhaps my favorite to write out because it looks kind of bizarro.  Love it! Why write The Hobbs Family? Go for the awkward but correct way, I say!) 🙂

*I have friends with the last name Freireich, and when sending their holiday card, I did *not* follow this rule—I only added an S.  However, that is because the CH is pronounced like a CK.  If their last name were Stitch, I would have written The Stitches—because the CH in Stitch is pronounced like the CH in cheeseburger.  But since it takes on the sound of a CK, you just add an S.  Follow?

**I used to love to freak out my students by telling them that Flores would be Floreses, James would be Jameses—which is technically correct.  However you never see these because:

A)  People do it incorrectly.

B)  It looks so awkward that people assume it’s incorrect . . . and then do it incorrectly.

However, I say, dare to be awkwardly grammatically correct, people! Let the Jameses see their plural the way the grammar gods intended!

Rule 3:  When a singular noun ends in a Y, drop the Y and add IE before adding the S to make a plural.***

So, lily becomes lilies, etc.

***As far as I can tell, this does not apply with names/proper nouns.  Therefore, I didn’t write out my best friends’ family’s card to The Dougherties—rather, The Doughertys.

Rule 4:  DON’T ADD ROGUE APOSTROPHES.

Sorry I had to shout, but this is shout-worthy.  Too many people do this.

Apostrophes show possession, people—not plurals.  I’ll do another “Straight Dope” on plurals where we cover plural possessives all in good time, my dears.  🙂

Until then, Season’s Greetings!

Where Else Am I? My Guest Post Series on Editing (at Inky Fresh Press)

This month, I’m Inky Fresh Press’s guest blogger, and I’m doing a series on editing (for post NaNoWriters and those looking to polish their non-NaNo manuscripts alike).

Today, Inky Fresh Press posted the first in the series: Editfication: Revision Tips for Getting Your Work Read & Represented.

Check it out!

The rest in the series:

Pointers from the Pros: Chuck Sambuchino Talks Pitching Agents in Person

Pointers from the Pros” gives tips from authors and publishing industry professionals on everything from craft to querying to their experiences on the road to publication.*

I attended the 38th annual Society of Southwestern Authors’ Wrangling with Writing conference in Tuscon, Ariz., in September.  Although I couldn’t go to all the faboo sessions being offered, I took a ton of notes at those I was lucky enough to attend—and I’m sharing some of those tips with my lovely blog readers. (Thanks for being so fabulous, BTW!)

Here is what Guide to Literary Agents editor and Class-1 Gnome-Slayer Chuck Sambuchino had to say in “Pitching Agents in Person”:


WHAT IT IS & HOW IT WORKS

  • Essentially, you’re reading your query letter out loud—except you’re not actually reading it. Have it memorized.
  • You should be done in 60 sec. Generally, this gives them time to ask questions, etc.
  • You pitch can be anywhere from 3-10 sentences.
  • A pitch is NOT a synopsis.  He points to the backs of DVD boxes, Netflix descriptions, and book jacket flap covers as examples of short pitches yours should emulate.

DO

  • Introduce yourself and state any connections you might have to the agent right away.
  • It’s not like a query letter pitch, where they can read things again if it’s confusing, so be as clear as possible.
  • Give the logline first (a one-sentence description of your manuscript so they understand what it is right away) Then, you can go into the details.
  • State the genre, word count—especially if it’s appropriate to your genre—the title, and that it’s complete.
  • Start with your main character. He says sometimes there is a tendency for writers (especially in sci-fi/fantasy—really, anything with a lot of worldbuilding in it) to begin with setting, but he urges you to start with the main character (MC) and get to the inciting incident.  This propels your book forward—gives the conflict. What goes wrong? Every story is about something going wrong, he says.
  • Show the arc of the character in the pitch—we need to see the character changing.
  • Introduce the antagonist as well.  Show how the MC and antag clash.
  • If you are unsure of your genre, just take a stab at it. Sometimes agents will see your book in a different genre than you anyway.
  • Make sure the agent you’re pitching reps the kind of project you are pitching.
  • After the pitch, then get to the bio stuff—organizations you are part of, previous publications, awards, etc.  If you’ve ever been paid to write, say it—if you don’t have any previous publications, just don’t say anything about that.  They should be interested enough in your book without that stuff (the bio stuff), so don’t stress if you don’t have it.  The important thing is to mention whatever you have done quickly and humbly.
  • Memorize your pitch, but make it more conversational.  Agents are people.  It’s awkward if you just read something or rattle off something you’ve memorized.
  • Pitch them one project.

DON’T

  • Don’t give away the ending.  A pitch is designed to pique interest.  The agent *could* ask for the ending, after your pitch, but don’t offer it unless they’ve asked.
  • Don’t say it’s a series unless they ask.
  • Don’t be general (“highs and lows”—“twists and turns”—“circumstances out of their control”—“sequence of events”).  Give them something specific and concrete. (In his book, Save the Cat, the late screenwriter Blake Snyder talks about the “promise of the premise”when you say what the story is about, scenes pop into the audience’s head—you guess what will happen.  Chuck says, make your pitch delivers on these things.)
  • Don’t talk about your themes.  These should shine through. (Show vs. tell)
  • Don’t hand the agent anything.
  • Don’t spend time on names & quirks of secondary characters.  You don’t want to bog them down with details.
  • Don’t sing it!
  • Don’t mention movie adaptations—that it’s going to be a mega hit, NYT bestseller, etc.

NONFICTION PITCHES

  • These tend to be dry—they’re not designed to be entertaining.  So, talk about what makes the book unique or memorable.
  • You HAVE to have platform here. Who are you? What have you done? Why are you the person to write this book? Are you an expert in the field? A speaker? Do you have leadership roles with something connected to the subject matter? Previous publications?
  • When pitching memoir, try not to focus on the sad details too much.  Show how it can transcend to more than just people with that experience only.  Show it’s a story about X,  but it’s more than that. It can reach more of an audience.

QUESTIONS FROM THE CLASS

Q: Should you say it’s similar to a bestseller?

A: It’s tricky. If you do, avoid all the clichés—(Harry Potter, Twilight, The DaVinci Code, Eat Pray Love).  It’s probably better to say it’s X meets Y.  However, this can come off as kind of egotistical as well, depending on what you’re comparing it to.

Q: Should you pitch a short story collection?

A: Generally, no.  If you have those, you’re better off networking with them at conference—getting your face in their memory for when you query them with it later.  While we’re at it, don’t pitch articles or poetry collections in-person either.

Q: What tense should the query be in?

A: Third-person, present tense for the pitch sentences.

Visit Chuck at the GLA blog or follow him on Twitter.

*Click here for more “Pointers from the Pros.”

In the Blogosphere: 11/22-12/3

“In the Blogosphere” is a series, which lists links to writing-related blogs I’ve stumbled upon throughout a given week (usually).

I’m admittedly behind with my Blogosphere posts—I have about so many links saved, some dating all the way back to the summer (oh noes!)—but they are all still worth a look.  I’m getting there!

CREATING CHARACTERS

Heather Trese over at See Heather Write blogged some of her great notes from the SCBWI conference.  Here, she shares what she learned about creating characters from author Carolyn Mackler.

Over at Writer Unboxed, The Donald (Donald Maass) talks about how to write characters—ones who are on and off the page.

This fantabulicious post on creating memorable characters comes to us from author and D4EO agent Mandy Hubbard, in a guest post she did at the WriteOnCon blog.

What is Aladdin doing with Ariel! I'm telling Eric & Jasmine . . . oh wait.

RULES, OR A LACK THEREOF

Freelancer Kelly James-Enger talks about the 10% rule as applied to word count.

At There Are No Rules, Writer’s Digest and the University of Cincinnati’s Jane Friedman relays Dennis Hensley’s “12 things that matter to agents and editors when being pitched by writers.”

And while we’re on the subject of rules and percentages, Authoress Anonymous over at Miss Snark’s First Victim talks about the 25% rule, when it comes to plot.

TAKING THE BLAH OUT OF BLOGGING

Here, Paranormalcy author and popular blogger Kiersten White gives some blogging tips.

Here, author and speaker Jody Hedlund makes a case for blogging—and how it can help any kind of writer.

YOU’RE GROUNDED!

This post goes along with the one from the last “In the Blogosphere” post (about the “prime real estate” of your manuscript).  In it, the awesome Mary Kole talks about grounding the reader in all things your story—in every chapter.

Here, the Kole-ster does it again (that was supposed to be pronounced “KOLE-stur,” but, admittedly, looks like “molester.”  And kind of made me chuckle too much to fix.* Sorry, MK!) , answering questions about international writers and settings.

KID STUFF

Over at YA Highway, guest columnist Amna Mohdin says your taste in books is your own.

Here, Heather Trese gives some tips on writing for boys, of the middle-grade variety.

Mmm. Tasty

AGENT ADVICE

Tossing around the idea of submitting directly to publishers, sans agent?  YA author Hannah Moskowitz makes a case for why you want to have an agent.

Here is Greenhouse Literary agent Sarah Davies on how to find the best agent for your work.

Yes, I interview lit agents on the GLA blog, and I want to give props to this faboo interview with the aforementioned Sarah Davies (by Michelle Schusterman over at YA Highway).

JUST SO YOU KNOW . . .

In this post at Write Anything, Andrea Allison gives the straight dope on point of view, for all those who need a little refresher course.

Just can’t get away from it—voice!  Here, T.H. Mafi sheds some light on this somewhat intangible, but oh-so-important thing.

Have a newsletter? Sean D’Souza at Copyblogger tells you five reasons no one is reading it.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

In the Blogosphere: 11/15-11/19

“In the Blogosphere” is a series, which lists links to writing-related blogs I’ve stumbled upon throughout a given week (usually).

I’m admittedly behind with my Blogosphere posts—I have about 50 links saved, dating all the way back to the summer (oh noes!)—but they are all still worth a look.  I’m getting there!

CRAFTING A WINNER

At Kidlit.com, über fantastic Andrea Brown agent Mary Kole talks about “prime real estate”—and the three places she considers that to be in your manuscript.  Um—sold!

Here, Kole says, if your characters shoot glances, you should be shot!*

In her guest post on Writer Unboxed, the ZOMG-awesome Laura Espinosa (a Write-Brainiac!) tells how getting in touch with your inner actor can help you iron out those pesky, hard-to-write scenes.

Q&A

This question has come up with some international Write-Brained Network folks—yes, we are global, people!!  Here, Mary Kole (yes, again—she’s on fire!!) discusses how to handle your manuscript if you are an international writer and/or writing international settings.

Paranormalcy author, the adorable Kiersten White answers reader questions and dishes on how/when to query as well as how to make blog follower friends.

THE FUTURE

Here, the now-former agent extraordinaire, author Nathan Bransford, debunks the top 10 myths about the future of e-publishing.

In the yeeeeeeear two thousaaaaaaaaaaaaand!

“RE” STUFF (-VISION & -SOURCES)

Many folks have tackled this subject, but here is the Suzie-Townsend-repped Kristin Miller of YA Highway’s take on how to revise and resubmit.

Here, on See Heather Write, Heather Trese outlines some of her incredible takeaways from a session on revising with Gennifer Choldenko. (Really really faboo post!)

The fabulous duo at Adventures in Children’s Publishing (Martina Boone and Marissa Graff) details the seven basic plot types in this equally as fabulous post.  Where does yours fit?

If you’re looking for some awesome Web resources for writers, the good folks of EduChoices.org have compiled 50 of the best in terms of reference; fiction, nonfiction, and freelance writng; and writing in general.

ATTRACTION

Here, author Jody Hedlund suggests how to attract readers to your bloggity blog. (<—Well, she doesn’t actually call it that!)

In her guest post over at Writer Unboxed, Writer’s Digest and the University of Cincinnati’s own Jane Friedman says specificity sets apart the professionals from the amateurs.

Over at the Huffington Post , Denise Brodey gives a five-point plan on how to sell books. Having a Twitter account won’t do it alone.

WHATCHOO TALKIN’ ABOUT, WILLIS?

Write Anything’s Annie Evett did a neat little four-part series on dialogue.  Check it out: part one, part two, part three, & part four.

Over at Inky Fresh Press, the OMGiDONTknowWHATi’dDOwithoutHER Write-Brainiac Bridgid Gallagher offers five tips on how to improve that elusive thing everyone wants to grab hold of: voice.

On her blog, freelancer and YA writer Heather Trese does it again, relaying valuable info she learned about voice during a workshop with Rachel Vail.

THERE THERE

Here, the inimitable T.H. Mafi (Tahereh), delivers the best writerly pep talk evarrr.  Bookmark it, folks.  Fo’ realz.

Feeling a little bipolar about your manuscript?  Jody Hedlund says that’s normal, and she offers suggestions on how to deal.

BECAUSE IT’S AWESOME

At Querypolitan, the fabulous Kate Hart *just may* be on to something: Edward Cullen and Vanilla Ice—one and the same?

ALSO?

Please check out my new Web site. 🙂

Happy weekend!!!

*OK—she doesn’t quite put it *that* way!

Pointers from the Pros: Author Jonathan Rabb on “Place as Character”

Pointers from the Pros” gives tips from authors and publishing industry professionals on everything from craft to querying to their experiences on the road to publication.  This post is by guest columnist and Write-Brainiac J.M. Lacey.

The August 2010 Scribblers’ Retreat Writers’ Conference in St. Simons Island, Ga., featured a stellar set of professional speakers.

Author Jonathan Rabb spoke on the Friday of the retreat.

Rabb is the author of the critically acclaimed historical novels Rosa and Shadow and Light, the first two books in a trilogy set in Europe between the wars. The final installment, The Second Son, will be published by Farrar Straus & Giroux early in 2011.

Prior to the trilogy, the Yale and Columbia graduate wrote The Overseer and The Book of Q and contributed essays and reviews to Opera News and the collection I Wish I’d Been There (Doubleday). He won the international Dashiell Hammett prize at the Spanish Semana Negra Festival in 2006 for Rosa, and he teaches creative writing at both NYU and SCAD.

Rabb

Here are some key points from Jonathan’s program on “Place as Character in Historical Fiction”:

On Research—

  • In historical fiction, you have to feel you “own” what you are writing. The author must have strict authority over that world. You only have about 20 pages to capture the reader’s certainty and confidence in your knowledge. Creating this kind of authority requires a lot of research.
  • Don’t trust the Internet for your research. Reach out to academics. Read their books and ask for their help.
  • Read novels written during the time period your novel is set in (if possible). Find material written in the voice of that time.
  • Once you’ve done the research, you must let it go. You are telling a story, and the story has to have its own life.
  • In historical fiction, everyone knows the end. The writers and readers share an intimacy by knowing more than the characters.

Place as Character—

  • Make Place a character. The only way characters can be compelling is if the space surrounding them is a character. Space defines the relationship with a character.
  • Inject something of the characters in the place. Have tension and conflict exist between the person and the space.
  • While we’re careful not to write a character doing something out of character, the same rule works for place. Don’t write something out of character for the place. Don’t invent a left turn for a real street if, in reality, you can’t make that left turn.

 

J.M. Lacey is a freelance writer and marketing and PR consultant. She is working on a place-as-character-driven novel. Visit her Web site and blog.