Wednesday, August 2, 2017

August 2017 - Common English Simplified?

In general, fiction is divided into 'literary fiction' and 'commercial fiction.' Nobody can definitively say what separates one from the other, but that doesn't stop everybody (including me) from trying. Your book probably will be perceived as one or the other, and that will affect how it is read, packaged and marketed. Nancy Kress

Do you know the reading level of the average person?

Do you know the reading level of those you expect to read your fiction or nonfiction?

Do you even care?

Well, you should care.

You see, too many writers forget that using simple language helps a reader enjoy what they read. The exception, of course, is dialogue. In that case, the words must be in the voice of the speaker.

I believe every writer should, now and then, run their work through the F-K test. F-K stands for the Flesch-Kincaid. The F-K calculates how difficult a passage in English is to understand. The test includes not only the words but also their meaning and the overall meaning of a sentence or a paragraph.

The F-K includes two tests. One is the Flesch Reading Ease. The other is the Flesch–Kincaid Grade Level. Both use word length and sentence length. However, the two weigh different factors. The result is that text with a high score on Reading Ease nets a low score on the Grade Level test. And that's a good thing to keep in mind.

The F-K scale is so useful it comes with word processing programs like WordPerfect and WordPro. For Microsoft Word users, you'll have to check: http://casemed.case.edu/cpcpold/students/module4/Word_Readability.pdf

When I began writing genre fiction, I was told to strive for a 6th grade level and not exceed 8th-9th grade level. That was wise advice. After all, it's the job of a writer to put words on a page so that the reader instantly grasps imagery, ideas, and meanings.

How about taking the time to test a section of your work? Where does it fall on the F-K scale? Feel free to share your findings with a comment to this blog.

P.S.— For the curious, I use WordPerfect as a word processing program. Here's what this post netted on the Flesch-Kincaid score➡





***Next topic:   September - To Trope or Not To Trope

 # # #

Saturday, July 1, 2017

July - The Greatest Pronoun Reference Error






Writing is an act of faith, not a trick of grammar. — E. B. White






It is what it is or is it?

Let's get one thing straight about the use of pronouns when writing fiction:  A pronoun refers back to the LAST USED NOUN.

Pronouns are valuable because they substitute for repeating a noun or name over and over again, but you don't have to go overboard using pronouns. Too many he, she, or it pronouns can pepper pages and at some point, and on a subconscious level, those repetitions will turn a good story into a not-so-good story for the reader.

In your revision process (you do have one, right?), make a special pass to check the pronouns you've put on your pages. What do they actually refer to? Remember, clarity trumps all rules and, therefore, you can repeat a noun-name. Again, it's better to rewrite for clarity then adhere to the strict rules of grammar.

As to the pronoun that causes the greatest problems? That would be the word it. Here are examples where it needs more clarity:


    A)  He saw it hesitate when it turned its head. Although it looked exactly like a bird of paradise, it was not.


There are 5 repetitions of it. If you've been following this blog, you also know there are a couple of other problems with the sentences. I won't elaborate because this post is about pronouns. You can, however, leave a comment if you know what else went wrong in these sentences.

    B) The wound still bleeds. Should I put it out of its misery?

I'd like to see someone put a wound out of its misery, wouldn't you?

    C)     The wind ruffled his hair as it blew in from the ocean.
   
Personally, I've never seen hair blow in from an ocean. 


As you can see, it is not about what a writer means, it's about using the correct words to clarify and help a reader form an image in their mind. 


***The topic for August is Common English Simplified?



 

Thursday, June 1, 2017

June 2017 - Don't Start Where You Started






Like many writers, I started by writing short stories. I needed to learn how to write and stories are the most practical way to do this, and less soul-destroying than working your way through a lengthy novel and then discovering it's rubbish. — Kate Atkinson
 
Where does a story really start? 


You've likely heard that the first three chapters or the first 100 pages of what you initially wrote of a story should be cut because that isn't where the story really started.

Ahem—I disagree with that thinking. You see, those words and pages were actually where the story started FOR YOU—you needed that information in order to write the rest of the story.
   
Much of that foundation was likely world building information and characterizational skits or vignettes so you, the writer, get to know the lay of the land and the characters. It's like an iceberg, 10% is seen above water, but it's the 90% below the waterline that support it. In essence, only 10% of what the writer learns about all the aspects of their tale will make it into the story because the reader doesn't need all that information.

The real problem comes in trying to decide where the story actually begins. The answer is that a story begins with an interesting character, in an interesting setting, facing an interesting problem or dilemma. Of course, that interesting character is the protagonist. After all, a story depends on one person's struggle with a problem.
   
The start of a story is also the point where the protagonist's ordinary life takes a nose dive into the abyss of an uncertain future of trials and tribulations, even a face-off with an antagonist that seems overwhelming.

Here's a secret in decoding the start of a story—ask: Where does life for the protagonist change and they can no longer go on as they had been before? This will be the scene where they are confronted by the story problem (or get an inkling of the problem) and must decide to (or be forced to) tackle the problem.

Even the protagonist that decides to shun the problem eventually finds they have to step in because the consequence are too great to ignore.


********July's topic will be  - The Greatest Pronoun Reference Error





............................................................................................





Monday, May 1, 2017

2017 - May - Nightmares for Authors— Freudian Slips, Miscommunications, or Worse

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT! 
 Revision is a Process - How to take the frustration out of self-editing is now available at Amazon.com. This paperback guidebook contains the 12-steps from the 2015 Writers Cheat Sheet Blog entries as well as more information, examples, secrets, tips, and practical advice on self-editing that can revise and polish a manuscript with less angst.  Details can be found HERE


Onward to this month's blog post —


He that has eyes to see and ears to hear may convince himself that no mortal can keep a secret. If his lips are silent, he chatters with his fingertips, betrayal oozes out of him at every pore. —Sigmund Freud



The can't-see-the-forest-for-the-trees syndrome strikes authors all the time. We are so close to our work and the creation of our fiction and fantastic stories that we are not aware of minor miscommunication between our conscious and subconscious brains that result in problems, like Freudian slips.

A Freudian slip is an involuntary word substitution that supposedly reveals something you're repressing, hiding, or simply trying not to talk about. On the plus side, such faux pas are the tools a writer can use to mangle a character's speech and add levity to the story, or at least at that point in the story.

Technically a Freudian slip is a parapraxis, which is 'big word' but it really is a minor, inadvertent memory mistake, one linked to the unconscious mind.

Such slips are even said to reveal the unconscious's secret thoughts, beliefs, wishes, and feelings. A great many Freudian slips seem to have a basis in sex drives or sexual repression. For instance, someone calls his or her spouse by an ex's name. A character, too, can do that and so that's something worth keeping in the draft if your intent is levity, or realism.

Of course, many Freudian slips lead to laughter, after all, laughter breaks the tension of the shock and embarrassment of what you realize you wrote (or said) or how you let your mind wander.

Such slips of the keyboard or pen include writing a scientific explanation between a hero who's smitten by the heroine and explaining, "The orgasm multiplies exponentially." instead of "The organisms . . . "

And while drafting a scene to a medieval romance, I once described the castle's giant fireplace as being sex men wide (instead of six men wide). I'm still trying to live that one down with my critique group.

Have you made any Freudian slips in your writing or stories? Have you found one in print? Please share one in the comments because I would love to collect a few more for my files.

*****June's topic will be Don't Start Where You Started— Start Where the Story Really Begins


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

Saturday, April 1, 2017

2017 - April - Break the rules?

     Spelling, grammar, and punctuation are a kind of magic; their purpose is to be invisible. If the sleight of hand works, we will not notice a comma or a quotation mark but will translate each instantly into a pause or an awareness of voice . . .  Janet Burroway (Writing Fiction)

 
Do You Really Need to Know What's 
Behind 'The Rule' Before You Break or Tweak It?





 
This is the cardinal rule:  When writing fiction, nothing must stop the reader and take them out of the enjoyment of the story. 

That's also what creates the magic in reading something written by a storyteller.

Interestingly enough, the fastest way to break the magic spell and jerk a reader out of a story is to use semicolons, colons, brackets, and adhere to the use of proper and formal grammar and punctuation.

Most of the newly self-published or independently-published writers don't realize the rules for grammar and punctuation, the rules for sentence structures, and all the other "rules" for writing they were taught do not necessarily apply to writing fiction.

Why is that?

It's because of the narrative voice coming off the page
. Be that voice one of the omniscient storyteller or an actual character, that voice will have a distinct vocabulary, diction, and syntax. More importantly, that narrative voice will be highly opinionated. To impose strict rules of grammar and punctuation stilts that voice so it sound unnatural. In other words, the narrative voice has to sound true for not only spoken dialogue but also for internalizations and telepathic conversations.

This tweaking and breaking of the rules particularly applies to the deep third person POV-Viewpoint and the I-persona of the first person POV-Viewpoint. These two are where one specific voice narrates everything for the duration of the story or a scene.


I'm all for creating the magic that keeps a reader engrossed in the story, are you?

*********Next month's topic will be Nightmares for Authors— Freudian Slips, Miscommunications, or Worse

NOW OFFERING - One on one fiction writing courses like these -  
 

http://www.rimstoneconceptsllc.com/Workshops-Courses_c3.htm
  
http://www.rimstoneconceptsllc.com/Workshops-Courses_c3.htm
 
http://www.rimstoneconceptsllc.com/Workshops-Courses_c3.htm

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