Thursday, August 12th, 2010
Thirteen (random) mistakes to avoid as an author:
- Misuse of colons. In fiction colons are used before a list of items (e.g. There were many things he hated about her mother: her voice, her red hair and her talons, just to start. Don’t use colons instead of semi-colons, em-dashes or just plain periods.
- Peppering your manuscript with exclamation points. This is especially true for stacks of exclamation points or exclamation points and question marks together. Remember you are writing a story, not a blog post or instant message.
- Using parentheses to create an aside. There may be a few places this would work but, in general, people don’t think or speak using parentheses.
- Expressing a character’s thoughts in a way no person would think about themselves. Most people do not go around describing their own personality in clinical terms or telling themselves something they know. Always question how you are expressing a character’s thoughts and why.
- Using an en-dash where you want an em-dash. It pays to look up the use and be sure of the one you want.
- Failing to ground your readers in the first few pages so they start to know and care for your characters and their situation. If the reader is lost, they’ll toss the book aside.
- Not using all the senses possible to enrich the story. How does the air smell? What texture does a fabric have? All these serve to draw the reader in and make the story seem more “real” to them.
- Giving too much time and space to unimportant things. If you spend a lot of time and attention on something, the reader feels it must be important to the story. If that is not the case, the reader will be confused and annoyed. Only give significant time and words to things that matter to the story progression.
- Failing to grow a character. If the same character makes the same mistakes over and over, they are quickly dubbed “too stupid to live.” Even the densest character should learn and grow over time.
- Breaking the “fourth wall.” Unless you are writing a story with a narrator, your characters should not speak directly to the reader. In theater, this is called “breaking the fourth wall.” Readers are watching and experiencing the characters but the characters are not aware of the reader.
- Using ellipses in narrative. Ellipses are used for trailing off thoughts or words. They usually have little place in pure narrative.
- Overusing accents or foreign words. While it’s great to pepper the dialogue with them, too much ends up like your character is trying to speak in LOLCat and makes it really hard to read.
- Failing to do research. Lack of research can break the belief of the readers so quickly that they won’t finish the book. If you are going to include details, make sure they are correct if at all possible.
Thursday, August 5th, 2010
Thirteen ways you know you’re an author:
- Your desk file drawer contains files and multiple kinds of chocolate.
- You get distracted during a romantic dinner listening to a fight at a nearby table and your date merely asks if you want a pen to take notes with.
- You arrive at work and don’t remember the drive there – but you have figured a way to solve your plot problem.
- You talk to your characters – and sometimes they talk back.
- You accidentally put the peanut butter in the refrigerator and the jelly in the pantry – and it’s not the first time.
- You could open an office supply store with the contents of your office.
- You choose music according to the story you are writing.
- You know every research site on the web that has anything to do with what you are writing – and visit them all far too frequently “just to check a quick fact.”
- You obsesses about wordcount – even when you’ve declared you have a day off.
- You try to blame your muse for all bad jokes, puns and suggestive comments that escape your lips (or fingers).
- You cannot help but shudder at bad grammar or punctuation and think “they’re editor will kill them.”
- Your friends constantly follow up their news and tales of woe with “promise me you won’t use that in a story.”
- You do use your friends in stories and can lie about it with an almost straight face.
Thursday, July 29th, 2010
Thirteen things I decided were essential when putting together my new home office:
- Two desks – one for the desktop computer and one for laptops and/or papers, notes, etc.
- A cool overhead light fixture – it needed to set the mood for the room with a bit of whimsy.
- Soothing colors on the walls – I’m not fond of beige but knew I didn’t want a dark color. I went with sage instead.
- Task lighting – the overhead fixture will kill you if you are on the computer a lot. It’s easier to have lamps for task lighting and keep the overhead on low.
- Interesting furniture – I fell in love with the Christopher Lowell shore collection. It’s not heirloom quality but it’s pretty nice with antiqued white bodies and cherry veneer tops. I could afford it, too.
- Enough bookcase space for writing books and supplies – I really wanted to put things AWAY. But I also didn’t want to line the whole room with them and crowd myself out.
- Comfortable desk chair – I sit a lot of the day and comfort/ergonomics are key.
- iPod Dock – I love having music but don’t like computer speakers. I want the computer sound OFF. For me, my lovely iPod dock with remote control is just the ticket. It’s a bonus that it drowns out the cats who are Most Displeased that I won’t let them into the office and yowl outside the door in protest.
- Extension cords – too many times I’m stuck with the outlet behind some piece of heavy furniture. I put extension cords in all the outlets before putting together the furniture this time.
- Remote switches for lamps – I didn’t want to put the task lighting lamps on a timer because i don’t want them on if I’m not using them. Instead I found nifty (though bulky) remote controls for them. Lamp plugs into the fancy socket, socket plugs into the extension cord and there’s a little remote to turn them on and off. Lazy but I love it.
- Artwork – I have a stockpile of lovely artwork that is framed and ready for this office. I’ve collected it and stored it and can’t wait to put it up.
- Scissors – I bought six – yes SIX – pairs of scissors for the office. Apparently, at least at my house, the men who need to “borrow” a pair of scissors look for them in my drawer and then fail to return them. I plan to hide a few of these, mind you. This way maybe I’ll actually be able to find a pair of scissors when I need one.
- A reading nook – I bought a lovely rattan chair and stool to tuck into the corner to relax in and read when I need time away from the rest of the family or just want a cozy quiet place. I even have a warm throw for it (though not out right now, too hot).
Thursday, July 22nd, 2010
Yes, I know there are substitutes available but somehow they just aren’t the same.
- Soy Sauce
- Saltine Crackers
- Malted Milk Balls
- Thai Food
- Thick-crust pizza
Thursday, July 15th, 2010
- Mule deer.
- Great Horned Owls
- Bald Eagles.
- Red-Tailed Hawks.
- Pileated Woodpeckers.
- Blue Herons.