Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Cheat Sheet - Fragments, Splices, and Run-Ons, Oh My.

Today I am covering three different items from my "Cheat Sheet" that I use: Sentence fragments, run-on sentences, and comma splices. 

In high school, as well as college, my instructors informed the class that one would get an automatic 'F' on any report, term paper, or other papers if any of these three items appeared in the work.

Today, I will cover their definitions (at least the ones I use) and give an example of each sentence type.  In future posts, I intend to expand on them a bit.

Sentence fragment: Is a sentence that is not complete independent clause.  In a sense, it is a phrase. 

1. Not a good idea.
2. Covering three different items.
3. If any of these three appear.
Run-On Sentences: This is where one places two or more independent clauses together with out proper connection.  One way is to make one long sentence using a connector (and, or, but, yet) but not using the proper punctuation with it.  Another way is to have them spliced together with a comma without the connector (The comma denotes a spot where one is to take a breath if reading aloud.).

1. Martin's agent made all the arrangements for the jig from New York yet he felt discouraged when treated as if he walked in off the streets of Berlin for this audition.
2. Joseph did not care for the humidity that accompanied the southern heat but he preferred the heat over the cold weather of the north.
In both cases, there should be a comma behind the word that appears before the connector (York, yet; heat, but)

Comma Splices: This is where one connects two or more independent clauses with just a comma. 


1. She did not believe she was capable of writing the story when she sat down, the words flowed onto the screen as her fingers dashed across the keyboard.
2. Bertha belted out the three songs that she knew from heart, everyone in the vicinity covered their ears to filter the woman's screeching voice.
 In this case, a connector is needed after the comma (, {yet, but}; , {and, but, yet)

There is more to come later.  I hope to have some simple exercises ready for this Friday.

When I "free write," I will find some of these problems, but more often, I find more commas that there should be when I check my work. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Cheat Sheet - Was/Were

Another item that shows up quite regularly when I judge/critique others' works is the passive voice using 'was' and 'were.'

Again, there will be times that one should use these words when writing but I recommend eliminating them if possible.  When 'was/were' appear in a sentence, the story is being told and not shown.

Thus, Passive voice is telling and we need to show.

In most cases, one needs to rewrite the sentence in order to change it from passive to active.

     Passive: All patrons were enchanted when he played
     Active: He enchanted all those listening when his fingers tickled the ivory keys.

     P: He was now leaning on a car casually.
     A: He leaned against the car.

     P: … an airman was escorting her best friend to the dance floor.
     A: … an airman escorted her best friend to the dance floor.

Granted, these may not be the best examples. I will look for better examples to post in the future.

If you have any examples, please post them in the comments.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Cheatsheet - Had

Last week I referenced my "cheatsheet" that I used when I critique and judge manuscripts. Today, I will cover the over use of the word "had" and its contraction "'d" in manuscripts.

This is a problem I deal with in my writing as well.  My first draft will have them dotted throughout the manuscript.  On one count, I found over 12 of them on a single page.

When I freestyle write, I can easily place 10 to 15 of them on a page before I know it.  But in freestyle writing, anything goes. I come back later and remove most of them. (It is the first thing that sticks out when I check my work.)

When used in the construction of "had" and another verb, one produces passive voice sentences.  Passive voice is telling.  Active voice is showing. Active is better

Passive: He had shared a couple burritos and a soft drink with the hungry boy.
Active: He shared a couple burritos and a soft drink with the hungry boy.

P: A single squeeze of the trigger had erased the life of the man who came to kill her.
A: A single squeeze of the trigger erased the life of the man who came to kill her.

(The same is true with the contraction form of "had")

P: For months, she'd scoured the contents of her father's files until she stumbled across his magic watch.
A: For months, she scoured the contents of her father's files until she stumbled across his magic watch.

In many cases, one can correct the problem by eliminating the word "had" from the sentence.  One can find out that this does not change the meaning of the sentence and even makes it stronger.

In some cases, there may be a need to rewrite of the sentence to get rid of "had."

P:  … he'd thrown the game for the other team.  To even think he'd thrown the game in the first place, he …
A:  … he threw the game for the other team.  To even think he threw the game in the first place, he …

Monday, December 2, 2013

Monday Madness

Welcome to my Maddening Monday.  Actually, the whole weekend came to be a bit maddening for me. 

For one thing, I planned to write this blog for Sunday and now I am writing it for Monday.  My usual deadline for uploading my post is 7:00 in the morning.  Today, I will be doing good to finish this missive by noon.  So, please forgive the mistakes in grammar and other areas.

My problem: Allowing the task at hand to overwhelm me.  When writing, this can happen quite easily.  This is because I start thinking about other aspects of my story while working on one.  Before I know it, I'm seeking the refuge of Spider Solitaire – which is a major time suck in my mind.

Prevention of this sounds simple, but, in reality, it can be hard.  My method of prevention requires me to relax and focus. 

To relax, I sit back, take a few deep breaths and relax. When I sit back, I close my eyes and take five to ten deep breaths.  With each exhale, I allow the tension in my muscles to float away.  This tends to quell the anxiety that builds up when I feel overwhelmed.

Another way to relax is to get away from the project and walk or do some other activity for a short period.  I just make sure that I return after 15 minutes.

Toward the focusing aspect, I narrow my thoughts onto the material at hand.  Then, I will set a timer for 30 to 45 minutes or set a word goal of 400 to 650 words.  When I start the timer or begin writing, I just free write until the timer goes off or I reach my word count.

At this point, I can sit back and meditate for a few minutes while executing deep breathing exercises.  Then again, I may go for a short walk outside and look at nature t\o help clear my mind.  When I return, I am usually ready for another round. 

One other problem I tend to do is having too many documents open at once.  I only need the documents that pertain to the project at hand.  All others should be closed.  That way, I am not tempted to look into those files.

Now, my good news for today is that I reached my goal of the 50K+ words on my NaNoWriMo project.  Now, to keep working on the project to get it completed.

My question of the day: what do you do to relax and keep from being overwhelmed by the work at hand?