Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Grammar Guru Speaks

In dialogue, common usage (as distinct from actual bad grammar) is fine. But in narrative, it doesn’t matter whether “everyone says that”, if it’s wrong, authors shouldn’t be using it. The author needs to obey the rules of grammar.

“To boldly go” may be a catchy line in a movie, but split infinitives are incorrect.

Never say “different than”. It’s “different from”.

If you have two daughters you have an older daughter and a younger daughter. You don’t have an oldest (or eldest) daughter until there are three or more of them.

Fewer is if you can count them. Otherwise use less. Fewer chocolates in the box, but less coffee in the pot.

There is no such thing as a half a sudden, so you can’t have “all of a sudden”. The word is “suddenly”.

Facebook may say “invite” as a noun but in real life it’s a verb. The noun is invitation.

Outside of/inside of “She licked the inside of her lips” is correct. But she didn’t go “inside of” the house. She simply went “inside the house”.

Subject and verb must agree. A group noun takes a singular verb. “The flock of sheep is grazing”, “the crowd was waiting”.

These are rules. Don’t yell at me if you don’t like them. Look them up yourself in the Chicago Manual of Style: then obey them.

Helen Woodall
Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

79 Words You’ve Been Saying Wrong The Whole Time

We have an Australian Rules Football team named Essendon (a suburb of Melbourne). Unfortunately a lot of people say “Essadon” which drives me (and many other people) crazy.

Mental Floss has produced a fun video of 79 commonly mispronounced words. Several of the ones they feature make my teeth grate as well (Hermione and Les Miserables just for starters.), although Australians do say a few of the words differently. The color mauve for example. We say the au as if it were an o as in open. Unlike the name Doris, where we pronounce the o as in orange unlike Americans who appear to say the name as Dooris.

Anyway, here’s the link.

Helen Woodall


Saturday, October 15, 2016

Have fun!

When I send edits to authors I have always signed off my emails saying, “Have fun”. No, I’m not being sarcastic or unkind, even if the edits may be rather demanding of the author. I’m stating a fact. If you aren’t getting enjoyment from what you’re doing, something is wrong.

Yes, sure, some days will be better than others. Sometimes life will be hitting you over the head with stuff that is most definitely not fun. But overall, an author needs to believe in herself and what she’s doing. Apart from the very few, an author is not going to become rich and famous, even if her book is better than some who have achieved that honor and glory. So if you aren’t having fun, at least some of the time, why not?

Relax, take a big breath, and think. You want to write, or you can’t help but write. And you are writing, so that’s all good. Now, have fun!

Helen Woodall
Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Ending Well

There are two main mistakes authors make with the ending of their book. And they’re complete opposites.

First we have the author who has been warned about leaving loose threads, so she goes through her book very carefully and in the final chapter she makes reference to every single character, however minor, and what happens to them, their house, their gun, their cat… The book is tied up so tightly with so many pretty pink bows that there is no possible way of ever writing a sequel, or even another book in that world.

Loose threads are bad. The reader left wondering what happened to the main characters is bad. The reader left feeling saddened that there’ll never be another book in this world because there’s nothing left to say is also bad.

The second type of mistake is the author who introduced a ghost in chapter four and forgets to mention him again, has the hero’s three best friends standing on the edge of a crumbling cliff in chapter ten, and never mentions them again, and generally has so many unfinished story threads the reader is left wondering how the heroine could ever be happy in that world.

It is fine to leave an overarching plot thread hanging. It’s not fine to have a character the reader cares about in deadly peril unless book two is edited and scheduled for release a month after book one. Even then the author’s email account may well be filled with anguished emails from readers for the next few weeks.

Helen Woodall

Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

The sagging middle

No, not yours, the book’s.

Many authors spend huge amounts of time getting the beginning of their books just right. Everyone knows an author must attract the attention of the reader/editor/publisher/agent with the opening page or they won’t keep reading. Also many writing competitions use the first few chapters as their test, so authors polish, polish, polish the start to get it perfect.

Then authors work hard on the ending to tie up all the plot threads, make sure there’s no loose ends, nothing unfinished, and satisfy the reader with the Happily Ever After. Again, they check and recheck, polishing the ending to make it fulfilling for the reader.

But the middle? Ah, that’s another story.

The author has worked so hard on the start of the book they’re relaxed by the time they reach the middle and relaxing into the story is good. But it’s not so good if the dialogue waffles, the plot meanders off here and there, and the action slows to a crawl. The entire book doesn’t have to be fast paced, but it does need to keep progressing steadily toward the denouement.

Authors, don’t forget the middle. Polish it too. Tighten up saggy storytelling. Delete unnecessary dialogue and description, keep the book moving and you’ll keep your reader happy.

Helen Woodall
Need help? Helen is available to critique and edit your book. Rates on application.