The Last Page – Home
One of my inspirations, author Patricia C. Wrede, writes a blog, keeping all her rabid fans (myself included) up to speed on her life, her books, and her closets. She also answers questions posed to her by her fans and other writers.
This past week, she wrote in regards to the question “…what is the dividing line between editing and meddling?”
She answered quite well that an editor doesn’t meddle, at least an editor should not meddle. She wrote that the question is “…based on a fundamental misconception about the publishing process: the idea that editors and publishers commonly make changes to an author’s work for which the author has no input and no recourse.”
Ms. Wrede certainly does an excellent job defining the editing process, and I wanted to bring her blog post to the attention of you, my readers, as well.
No editor should go behind an author’s back to make changes, small or large. Everything an editor suggests is just that, a suggestion. While it might be incorrect grammar to end a sentence with a prepositions, I, as an editor, can only suggest to the author to change the sentence. Whether the author takes those suggestions or not is the author’s business and not mine.
Never should an editor make a change to an author’s work without the author’s feedback. In fact, as an editor, I tend to make the suggestions and changes in parentheses next to the problem, giving the author the opportunity to see their original work right next to how I would suggest they change their work.
While you’re at it, check out Ms. Wrede’s blog and her books! She is one of my most favorite authors and my writing inspiration!
“I turned on the television to a ghost show while reading the comics that scared me horribly.”
This sentence contains what is known as a dangling modifier. What I meant was maybe not obvious, but could be inferred eventually. I wanted to tell the reader the ghost show scared me, but instead I said that the comics scared me. By merely moving “…that scared me horribly,” closer to “…ghost show…” it makes more sense.
“While reading the comics, I turned on the television to a ghost show that scared me horribly.”
Now it makes more sense.
Modifiers are wonderful and impart more reality to the reader, but always be aware of where you are placing them!
As I was considering what to write about this week, I realized that we all deal with grammar on a daily basis, whether we’re writers, editors, astronauts, archaeologists, or artists. There are quite a few people who preach the necessity of the proper use of grammar and lament the improper use of grammar.
But what is grammar?
a: the study of the classes of words, their inflections, and their functions and relations in the sentence
b: a study of what is to be preferred and what avoided in inflection and syntax
a: the characteristic system of inflections and syntax of a language
b: a system of rules that defines the grammatical structure of a language
a: a grammar textbook
b: speech or writing evaluated according to its conformity to grammatical rules
: the principles or rules of an art, science, or technique <a grammar of the theater>; also: a set of such principles or rules
So, what do they mean by “inflection and syntax”?
Inflection deals with the changes in the forms of words. These changes are used to illustrate further meaning to a single word. For example, a word can be made plural, to show there is more than one of that specific thing, it can be made possessive to show that it owns something else, it can be past tense, present tense, even, in certain languages, future tense. In other languages, inflection can also be used to designate the gender of the word. There are so many variations to be had in the “inflection” of a word.
Syntax is how certain elements, such as words and punctuation, are put together in order to form sentences. Merriam-Webster uses the phrase “harmonious arrangement of parts or elements” as part of the definition of “syntax.” This “harmonious arrangement” is what those known as Grammar Nazis or Grammar Gods/Goddesses are striving for in their incessant protestations.
In short, then, grammar is the study of and the rules of harmoniously arranging words and different inflections of those words to produce sentences in order to thoroughly communicate thoughts from one person to another. It might pain some of my fellow Grammar Gods/Goddesses to hear that I do not strictly adhere to all grammatical rules, but that is my choice as an editor and an author. I will not change someone’s voice in order to achieve perfect grammar. No one should. I admit, my grammar isn’t perfect, either, but neither was Shakespeare’s.
So, yes, grammar is highly important, and communication would cease if we ignored it completely, but no, it doesn’t and shouldn’t rule our entire lives.
I have many rules when it comes to both writing and editing. One of my biggest rules is “Write Now, Edit Later.”
What do I mean by editing? Does that mean I ignore every squiggly red line under every misspelled word? No, I’ll correct those (they’ll drive me nuts, otherwise!), and I’ll take a cursory glance at the green squiggles to see if it’s an obvious mistake on my part.
Does that mean I don’t keep a dictionary and thesaurus close when I’m writing? No again. I definitely consult both books throughout my writing process. As I write, I hear the words as though I’m speaking them, so if a word doesn’t sound quite right, I’ll certainly futz with a sentence until it has the cadence I want.
Does this work for everyone? Again, the answer is no. There are writers that adhere to the “Write Now, Edit Later” rule so ardently they refuse to even look for misspellings as they type. And that’s fine. Every writer is different, even when they’re editing.
I believe the story should just flow out of me, that I shouldn’t concern myself with editing the storyline until I’m completely finished with a story and the punch line has been reached. It’s a little disconcerting for me, as I’m currently working on a rather epically sized story. I know there are missteps I took with my characters in the earliest chapters, but I refuse to go back and edit those chapters, even when I know the specific line in the chapter where I’ve made a mistake.
My reasoning? I don’t know for sure how the ending is going to work. I’ve got a general idea, but I want my characters to grow into that ending, and I want to grow with them. So, if I need to tweak the beginning chapters later, I want to be sure I know precisely who my characters are and how they are to get to the end before I change from where they came.
I broke the one rule I swore I would never break. I was rereading the chapters I’ve written since I started graduate school and to my shame and chagrin, they didn’t live up to my expectations. I read backwards, the most recent chapter I’d written first, then the previous one, and the one before that, looking for where I went awry, and there it was, and right around the time I lost the time and energy to write for myself (all that energy went into graduate papers and books), my personal writing took a turn for the worse.
I scrapped nine whole chapters.
When is it permissible to break a rule of writing and editing? Unfortunately, I don’t believe there is a single answer to that question. If something feels off about your writing, then fix it. I felt I couldn’t continue with such poor personal writing as I’d exhibited when I was focused on making my graduate papers the best they could be.
My advice, then, is to go with what feels right. If it feels right to scrap nine chapters and start over, then scrap nine chapters. It might hurt your writing more to struggle through poor writing than it would if you just start over.
As a side note, it took me two years to write those nine chapters. In a matter of one week, I have already written two replacement chapters.
It has come to my attention that I have been writing an awful lot of blog posts about, well, writing. While this isn’t a bad thing, it is a mite overdone. I have noticed an overabundance of blogs dedicated to the art of writing, and while I find myself drawn to that subject myself more times than not, The Last Page isn’t just about writing.
Writing is and will always be a major part of The Last Page, but that is not the only step in getting to your last page. There are other steps that are just as important as writing.
And so, I feel duty bound to apologize to you, and if I could, I would apologize to each and every one of you by name. I have been remiss. I have focused on that crucial first step: writing. In my dogged ferocity, I have pursued that subject blind to what was truly important to The Last Page and, more importantly, to you, my dear readers.
And so, I would like to inform you that, while I will, every once in a while, return to give some insight into the practice of writing, I will from now on focus on the later steps to getting to your last page: editing, proofreading, and even publishing.
As always, I hope you enjoy the blogs I write! Do feel free to write to me with questions or comments! The comments section is always open, as is my Facebook Page.
Oh, and I would like to invite you to check back to The Last Page’s website from time to time. It will be undergoing some changes that might interest each of you!
As a writer, you should be well read. This isn’t to sound snooty or uppity or what-have-you, it’s merely a fact. How can you write and know how to write well if you’ve not read anything?
There’s the old adage: write what you know. So, as a reader, you should, theoretically, know how to write.
Looking at this list from The Telegraph, I’m horribly under-read. Having only read a grand total of twelve out of the one hundred books on that list. Of the twelve books that I have read on the list, there are only six I can say I truly enjoyed. Looking at some of the titles on that list, I can’t say any of them jumped out at me as ones I would pick up at the local library let alone buy.
I bristle when someone tells me I ought to read something, especially when it’s labeled a “Classic.” Most of the “Classics” I have read, I’ve found rather dull. The ones I do enjoy are often well respected, but are usually followed up with a “heavier” book. Don Quixote was one of my favorites to read, but when I tell people about it, I often get the, “Yes, definitely a wonderful book, but have you read Ulysses/Wuthering Heights/War and Peace?” And that’s when I give them the look of, “you are kidding me, right?”
A “Classic” seems to be the intellectually heavy book that has somehow made it onto high school reading lists across the country. To make Classics even more difficult, we are taught to pick them apart with questions like “What was the deeper meaning when Charles Dickens chose to expose his main character, Scrooge, to the ghost of his dead partner, Marley? Is Marley a metaphor for something? If so, what?”
How I longed to answer those types of questions with: “Did Charles Dickens care what we, his future audience, think he meant? Maybe, just maybe, he wanted to tell a good story instead of litter the future with metaphors.”
Not that I’m throwing the Classics out the window. There are a number of Classics I have read that I truly love and will reread if I ever get the chance: The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn come to mind. There are other Classics that I hope someday to read, such as Pride and Prejudice, and Les Miserables.
But, putting Classics and Classics-bashing aside, what do I really mean when I say that we should be well read?
Always read voraciously, and voraciously read that which you ultimately enjoy. If you truly enjoy difficult to read Classics like War and Peace, then, by all means, read War and Peace. If you want to read books written for grade-schoolers, then go ahead and read those books. I, for one, have my set of favorites that are what I call Page-Classics; the books I will go back to time and time again for inspiration and to escape the realm of reality.
The Enchanted Forest Chronicles – Patricia C. Wrede
The Outlander series – Diana Gabaldon
Inkheart – Cornelia Funke
The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien
The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien
Harry Potter – J.K. Rowling
Watership Down – Richard Addams
The Lost Years of Merlin – T.A. Barron
Game of Thrones – George R. R. Martin
So, I’m curious: What are your “Classics?” Let me know in the comments box or on the Facebook page! Maybe you’ll introduce me to something new!
I love the movie Under the Tuscan Sun. Absolutely love it. It’s about a writer, it’s about finding a new life, a new home, new and old friends, and discovering what life should be about: hats and ice cream.
One of my favorite scenes is the very beginning. The main character, Frances is walking around a book signing with a plate of brownies, lapping up the attention the delectable chocolates are bringing her. One of her friends, Patti, is making rather pointed remarks about how the brownies are Frances’ form of procrastination.
I love that scene because it is my mirror. It’s not only brownies, but truffles, candies, bread, pasta… I love to bake and cook, usually with the Andrews Sisters singing in the background. I put on my favorite “Chocolate is cheaper than therapy” apron and off I go.
It’s the first horrible sign of procrastination. The second stage is rampant cleaning and organizing. Then there’s the utter depression, and then I write like a fiend.
It’s my process.
It’s a process I’m going to try to stop. There are a few things I’m going to do to keep myself from falling completely into the black hole of procrastination. The apartment will be cleaner from now on (I hope!), I will keep easy-bake brownies on hand, so I can have a few minutes of break time without making the things from scratch every time, and I will always have ways to snap myself out of my procrastination.
Like this little gem I found in The Pocket Muse: Endless Inspiration:
“Three Words: A Bowl of Chips. One sentence, one chip.”
In other words, keep a bowl of chips (or in my case, M&Ms) on hand, then allow myself only to have one M&M per sentence I write.
Do you have any techniques for avoiding the worst bouts of procrastination? The comments section is open or you can let me know on my Facebook page!
I call myself a writer, but how did I get to this point?
I am a writer, which means, simply, I write. I have written since I was a little girl playing on my mom’s typewriter.
Writing has always been something I just do. I can’t imagine not writing. I did try once. I was trying to think of ways to free up more of my time and I thought that maybe if I stopped writing, that would help me out.
I started crying.
I haven’t tried to stop writing since.
I didn’t go to school to be a writer. I took one creative writing class in college, and it felt like it was too much fun and too easy for a career. I was going to be an archaeologist! I was going to travel to Egypt and be like Evelyn Carnahan O’Connell from The Mummy. I had my life planned out and I would always be writing. Maybe, I thought, maybe I will publish a book someday. Maybe a book of poems. Maybe a fantasy novel.
Archaeology was amazing, yes. It filled my mind with wonder and I loved it, but I couldn’t wait to get back in from hiking in the forest looking for artifacts so I could start writing again. Sometimes I just couldn’t wait. My field notebooks are testament to that, as there are poems and short stories scattered through the artifact identification notes and notes pertaining to archaeological sites.
I could not NOT write.
Archaeology’s luster began to dim as I saw my prospects dwindling. I needed a Master’s Degree to further my career, and even then, it was less likely at that point I would be out in the field discovering things. I thought Egyptology was my answer. It was my dream, to go into Egypt, to dig and discover. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I never thought it would be like it really was. It was more books and research than digging in Egypt. Not that research is a bad thing; I quite enjoyed it, but it was not what I had imagined, and I was less enthused than I had been going into my Master’s Degree.
I graduated, though. It was the hardest two years of my life. I was not entirely happy. I was so burnt out I could barely remember what I had done the day before, let alone all the information on which I was being tested. I even wrote a poem during that time that I found later, only to wonder who had written it. I have no recollection of writing that poem.
In addition, my time in graduate school limited my time I could write for myself. I wrote paper after paper, researched large papers, cranked out small papers… I couldn’t write what I wanted to write. Between that and a few other extenuating circumstances, I was depressed.
Now that I’m out of the graduate program, my memory has improved, I’m calmer even though life is still very difficult, and I now have time to write for myself. I am now happier. I am a writer. I have decided to pursue that which I find fun as a career instead of the reality of the dream I had once believed existed in archaeology.
I am a writer.
I recently discovered a pixie in one of my stories. Being partial to writing about pompous, but ultimately helpful dragons, I was surprised to find this little creature flitting about my main character’s chocolate shop. I rather expected the flighty creature to pop in, then leave as quickly as she had come, but she decided she wanted to stay and play for a bit.
I was curious because I had no idea why a notoriously capricious creature would stay in one place for so long. Then her story came pouring out.
The entire episode shocked me to no end. I was not used to writing such an intense and fast character.
So, this month’s challenge: write a character who speaks and thinks incredibly fast and is someone or something you’re not used to writing.
As always, let me know how it’s going! The comments box and the Facebook page are always open!
Excerpt from Help Wanted – Warlocks Need Not Apply
“But would you love-potion your dinner guests to get back at them?”
The pixie was leaning against the frog statue Rosetta kept on her counter that held a sign that said, “This could be your child if you don’t control him, her, or it…” The pixie looked up at the doe-eyes of the frog then quickly back at Rosetta, her short silver hair tickling her nose before falling back in place. Her wings, quite akin to dragonfly wings, flittered for a second, then stilled.
“Ooooh, stars, no!” The pixie giggled then, almost doubling up on herself in her mirth. “I’d turn them into toads!” She stuck a diminutive thumb in the direction of the statue.
“That’s supposed to be my job,” Rosetta said with a grin.
“Ah, you are a witch, then! I hoped as much.”
“Oh, I need a job!” the pixie said quickly, as though just remembering it.
“Do you really?”
“Yep! I’m Nia. Well, really my name is Maximiliania Sonora Melody Adalynnia, but everyone calls me Nia.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Nia,” Rosetta said, bowing slightly towards the pixie. She could tell from the length of the name she was of some importance to the fairy community. Having four distinct names was quite an honor considering most of the fae had only the shortest of memories. The most names Rosetta had heard from a fairy of any type was six, and even that fairy, who was a Bhansidhe, if she recalled correctly, had a hard time remembering all his names. That this little pixie could remember all four flawlessly was intriguing. “I’m Rosetta. I’m the owner. What position were you interested in?”
“Oh! There’s more than one?”
“Chocolatier, spell caster, or bookkeeper, take your pick. I can give you a trial run for a week and see how you do.”
“Ooooh! Can I be the bookkeeper? Please?”
For the second time that day, Rosetta was shocked. A pixie wanted a studious position. “Not spellcaster?”
Nia’s hands swung behind her back, her wings drooped and her head hung down as she scuffed a bare foot across the counter. “I mess up spells,” she muttered.
That surprised Rosetta. Suddenly there was an outburst from Nia, who now looked as though she were about to cry.
“Actually, I can’t do magic at all. I tried, I really, really did! I did try! But I kept messing up and I set Madama Luciata’s bed on fire and then I made it snow at the Midsummer Dance, and all I wanted was to make fireworks, and then my spellbook ate itself and Madama Luciata didn’t believe me, and I can’t do magic and that’s why I’m here because they don’t want me messing up any more and I don’t have a home or anything. I just want a feather pillow! And no one will hire me because I’m a pixie, and they all know I’m flighty and forgetful, and I just want a job so I can have a feather pillow, so can I do bookkeeping instead of magic because I really don’t want to do magic because I keep messing up, and I don’t want to mess up anymore and I tried to buy a feather pillow and the man laughed at me and said honey and cobwebs won’t pay the bills and I know that, but it’ll help heal, but he wouldn’t have any of it and said I needed to leave, and when I tried to beg him to let me pay him back, he grabbed me and threw me out of his store and I ran into a leaf and the sparrows laughed at me and I was really embarrassed, but I really just want a job so I don’t have to go home because they’re scared of me, so, please can I be a bookkeeper?”
This was all said with an intense speed and a passion Rosetta had never experience from any fae. Upon finishing her speech, Nia’s bottom lip quivered once, then she burst into tears, sobbing so hard, her entire tiny body shook with each wail.
When I began reading The Write Practice: 14 Prompts by Joe Bunting, I initially wondered how only 14 writing prompts could fill sixty pages worth of book. Within the first few pages, I began to understand.
I had to stop and think on page 8. “If your eyes see the world dripping with wonder… your writing will show it. If your eyes see corruption and deceit behind every closed door, you will read like a conspiracy novel.” It really gave me pause. Not only do your eyes see what you want to see and how you want to see it, but your perception is influenced by the people with whom you are viewing the world. Recently I walked down a street I’d been down countless times before, but this time was different. I was with some people who were from out of town. They were unused to the area, unused to the people around them, and nervous about the entire experience. I found myself looking nervously over my shoulder as I walked, something I have never done before.
Each of the fourteen prompts gives you an example from Mr. Bunting’s own experiences, his own perceptions. Each one shows you a way you can grow your writing abilities. There were a few I recognized having done myself, not so much as exercises, but as part of my normal writing routine. Other prompts I can’t wait to try and implement.
My favorite prompt was the one about writer’s block. I was so shocked to have my own fears so blatantly struck in black and white before my eyes on page 30. Writer’s block stems from your own fears and your own lack of confidence. On page 30, Mr. Bunting writes, “It’s true, I thought. I’m a terrible writer. I have no taste. I’m immature. Everyone can read my blog now and see how much I suck. Yada yada yada. Shame shame shame.” The cure? Strive to write the worst sentence in the world, it’ll free you from the “irrational desire to write the best sentence in the world.” It is this prompt I am most excited to try. I will have to wait to try to write the worst sentence ever until I am at my lowest point as a writer. Now I am looking forward to that horrible, depressing moment when nothing I do is perfect. I can’t wait to tell myself to write the worst sentence in the world. Then, I want to reread it and laugh at its ridiculousness.
The workbook is supposed to be used in a group setting. I have never been much of a group writer, but reading through these prompts, I almost want to get some of my writing friends (Kelly Fuller, I’m definitely looking at you!) together to play with some of these prompts. For once I’m actually wishing I were part of a large group of writers. This book has certainly inspired me, and I would certainly recommend it to all writers.
Perhaps I’ll see you online when I participate in prompts on Mr. Bunting’s website, TheWritePractice.com!