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We’ve all been in this situation: you write a first draft, or the beginning of one, and it seems like nothing is going well. All you want to do is give up and throw everything away. It can be extremely tempting, and while it’s okay to give up on projects sometimes, you should never throw anything away.
Some time ago, we published a post on italicization in album and song titles. And then Joe sent me a screengrab of a Google search with general italicization questions, so we’re going whole-hog and attempting to write an all-inclusive complete guide to italicization: when you do and when you don’t. We’ve covered italicization in song titles and album titles already, so we’re moving on from there.
Occasionally, we grammar enthusiasts need to take a step back and lighten up a little bit. While there are some grammar rules that are hard and fast (I’m looking at you, comma splice), sometimes there is wiggle room (like the controversial claim that you can split infinitives). Today, we’re tackling another wiggly rule: is ending a sentence with a preposition okay?
Well, guess what? I’m here to liberate your pens and tell you that it’s okay for your protagonist to ask her cheating boyfriend who he was just with.
What’s the difference between grammar vs punctuation? Why do they matter, or do they matter at all?
And how can you get better at them, even if all the grammar and punctuation rules are a struggle to remember?
At this point, everyone’s seen the Buzzfeed list of books that are going to come out as movies this year, right? Because if you haven’t, you probably should. I went through the list and added anything that sounded interesting to my ever-growing library waitlist, and as luck would have it, I got four of them this week. One of them was Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, and oh my gosh, it is amazing. I devoured it in about three days.
Before Flynn takes you to the actual text of the novel, however, you’re greeted by a quote from Tony Kushner’s The Illusion, which references love and murder and how the two intertwine. That’s not exactly it, but from reading that one sentence, you instantly have an idea of what you’re getting yourself into. This technique of using a quote from another author to introduce a novel’s tone, content, or summary is called an epigraph.
Point of view is the vehicle that drives a story. Get it right, and your novel hums along smoothly and your reader never notices.
Get it wrong, however, and your book becomes an unbearable clunker rife with confusion.
Shawn Coyne, author of The Story Grid, has read a lot of critically acclaimed and successful books, and noticed something about their point of view. All of these books used a specific style of narration, and you can use it too.
Surprise! Okay, that probably wasn’t very surprising. How do you surprise your readers? And how do you create the slow burn of suspense, keeping them on the edge of their seats as they tear through your story? Let’s talk about how to make a story suspenseful.
English is full of words that seem the same, but have subtle differences in their spelling and usage. These tricky words seem designed specifically to trip you up. Recently, we tackled ensure vs. insure. Today, let’s take on another vocabulary conundrum: upwards or upward? Toward or towards?
Or does it even matter?
A few months ago, I posted an article about avoiding clichés here on The Write Practice. The (bland) title I proposed was “How to Avoid Clichés.” The published title read: “How to Avoid Clichés (Like the Plague).” I grinned when I read it and said another thank you to a quiet hero of the publishing world: our editor.
She amped up the title with a clever twist that sounded just like me with my penchant for parentheses. Editors are invisible heroes in the publishing world, and knowing what they do can help you through every stage of your journey.
We’re on the verge of summer, and that means I’m attending graduations (including my oldest son’s). Whether you are attending one for a friend or family member or yourself, commencement ceremonies are a great place for inspiration and one other thing: cliché-hunting.
Clichés are overused phrases or metaphors that weaken our writing. As writers, we want to hunt down, drag out, and kill clichés in our writing. (I know, the killing metaphor is also probably cliché. I’m still working on it.) Here are some ideas for how to avoid clichés in our writing.
A few weeks ago, our group of friends was planning a potluck. One of the girls said she was planning on making vegetarian chili, cornbread, or baking cookies. I cringed internally because the flow of the sentence was wrong and hurt me on the inside. The issue: mismatched parallelism.
You know what’s really fun to edit? Dangling participles. What’s a participle? Glad you asked.
A participle is an adjective form of a verb, usually formed by adding the suffix –ing to the verb. For example, you might go for a light 15k in your running shoes. Or your sister might be screaming because she burned herself with her curling iron. Make sense?
Let’s take a closer look and find out where these participles go wrong.
Foreshadowing is a task writers have to approach with the same careful precision they use when threading a needle. It’s not always easy, but when done right, you’re in business. Hinting at a future revelation is necessary for authors of mystery novels, for example, but it’s useful for all writers looking to include a killer twist—no pun intended.
Here’s a secret: I’ve never been explicitly taught not to split infinitives (or to not split infinitives?). Surprise!
If that statement’s a shocking pronouncement, or if it makes no sense at all, never fear. Let’s take a step back and look at the long, illustrious history of split infinitives.
We’ve covered when to use quotation marks. But when you throw question marks and exclamation points into the mix, things can get a little tricky. Let’s demystify this quotation mark conundrum, shall we?
Buckle up. We may experience some turbulence.
A few years ago, I rented a car. Normally this wouldn’t be a memorable event. But an appalling misuse of grammar burned it into my mind, and years later, I haven’t forgotten.
You see, when I went to the airport to return the rental, I saw this wonderfully instructive sign:
Please… LEAVE “KEYS” IN CAR!
And this brings me to today’s grammar lesson: how and when to use quotation marks.
For most of us, our 2018 writing goals probably involve rewriting a work in progress. It’s a draft, roughly complete or unfinished, that never seems to be “done,” no matter how much we tinker with it.
There’s a reason we get stuck in these perpetual works in progress. And if we don’t figure out how to overcome it, we might find ourselves in the same sticky mess 365 days from now.