Common Grammatical Errors

imagess8l2gvi6I recently started a revision on what I thought was a very good first draft of my novel. I was totally flabbergasted at what I found. While I guess I should have been grateful that the errors were leaping off of the page at me, I was very disappointed and frustrated at the number  I was finding. How could I have made so many mistakes?

When we think of grammatical errors, we think of the obvious : missing or overused punctuation, the wrong tense of a verb, mixing singular and plural, run-on-sentences or simple misspelling. All of these are grammatical errors that have to be corrected before your manuscript is submitted for publishing, but what about the other common mistakes that we make everyday?

‘Who’ or ‘Whom’Who is used for the subject of a sentence and whom for the object. If you can substitute “he”, “she”, or another noun, ‘Who’ should be used. If instead you would use “her” or “him” then ‘Whom’ should be used.

‘Lay’ or ‘Lie’– This is a common error because the past tense of “lie” is “lay”. In the present tense, “Lie” is something the subject of the sentence does, and it does not require an object.  “Lay” in the present tense is a transitive verb, however, and this is used to describe an action done to someone or something. I lie on my back. I lay my purse on the table.

‘Like’ or ‘As though’– These two are not interchangeable, but ‘like‘ is often used in place of ‘as though’. Like can only be followed by a noun or pronoun. ‘As though’ only precedes a verbal clause, because ‘as though’ creates the expectation of an action based event.  She looks like my mother. I cried as though I had lost my bestfriend.

‘I’ or ‘Me’– Use ‘I’ only when it is the subject of the sentence, not the object. ‘I’ is the doer of the action.  I went to the store. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  ‘Me’ is the object of the sentence. It is the receiver of the action.  She handed me the purse.  The doctor gave the medication to me.

‘Who’ or ‘That’- Use ‘who’ for people and ‘that’ for thingsShe is the one ‘who’ gave me the purse. This is the purse ‘that’ I wanted.

Dangling modifiers-The clause that begins a sentence has to have the same subject as the sentence itself. ie Walking down the street, the trees were battered by last night’s storm. Wow, I didn’t know trees could walk. It could be corrected to read: Walking down the street, I noticed the trees had been battered by last night’s storm.

I’m not sure if this is my top 10 grammar peeves list, but I am familiar with and have observed most of these in my writing as well as the writing of people I critique.  Thought I would share them. There are just so many. It would be impossible to cover them all in one blog.


What do you think?  What are some of the common mistakes that you  make or have observed?

-Jan R

Common Grammatical Errors

Critiques! Should I Be Completely Honest? (revised)

imageshu6grmxrIf you want to be an author, you had better develop a thick skin or at least pretend to. You will be rejected, and you will receive critiques that can be discouraging, but this is part of the process. Being a novice to writing, I probably got a double portion of both. I’m glad people were honest with me. I am a much better writer because my critique partners told me the truth.

I did a critique a while back and struggled with submitting my remarks. The person that I completed the critique for was proud of her work, and I didn’t want to be the one to pop her balloon.  She had great writing skills. Her descriptives, imagery, and grammar were better than mine. She could string a perfect sentence together, but that seemed to be were it ended. I read her premise which was a good one, but way overused.

The entire segment of 2600 words, which followed another segment of the same length, covered her main character’s flight on a plane to Italy. Now if the story was taking place in that plane or for some reason all of the characters in that plane and what they did was important, I wouldn’t be writing this particular blog. But they were not, the plane was just getting her to Italy so she could find the love of her life. Again it was very well written, and I could picture myself and all of those different people on the plane.

I am what I call a skipper, I have no problem skipping over complete paragraphs of exposition to get to the good stuff. I would have skipped most of what she had written, even though it was written beautifully. I didn’t for the sake of the critique.

While I tried to be nice in my summary and point out all of the things great about her work and there were many, I felt as if I wouldn’t be doing her justice by letting it end at that. So I told her what I would want someone to tell me.

Your writing is great but the pace is nonexistent. I feel like I’m stuck on that plane and want to get off. You’re providing too much detail and putting too much time and energy into characters that we will never see again. You do not need to give us a step by step account of everything that happens from the minute she gets on the plane to the minute she gets off , and while your back story is great, it’s too much at one time.

I will continue to be honest with writers about their work in what I hope is a constructive manner. I don’t want to discourage anybody, but I won’t ignore major flaws that will set them up for failure, to avoid hurt feelings either.

What do you think?  Would you want someone to tell you everything is great in your novel when it’s not, or would you want the truth, even if it hurt?

-Jan R

Critiques! Should I Be Completely Honest? (revised)

Choose Your Words Wisely!

seo-content-writing3-1024x458I have been accused and rightly so of on-the-nose-writing, over writing, redundancies, and throat-clearing. I’ve also had a close relationship with the words “that” and “had”. I blame it on inexperience and just not knowing any better.

Novelist and editor Sol Stein says the power of your words is diminished by not picking just the better one. “He proved a scrappy, active fighter,” is more powerful if you settle on the stronger of those two adjectives. Less is more. Which would you choose?

When editing your draft, remember that every word counts. Every word should have a reason for being and not just added fluff. “It sounds good,” won’t cut it.

  • Avoid throat-clearing- This is a literary term used to describe a story or chapter that finally begins after two or three pages of scene setting or backstory. You may write beautifully but nobody wants to get bogged down in description. I could care less the dutchess wore a gown with six gold buttons encrusted with diamond dust running down the back, unless it was found at a crime scene. Get on with the story.
  • Choose normal words– When you’re tempted to show off your vocabulary, think reader-first. Get out of the way of your message.
  • Avoid subtle redundancies– “She nodded her head in agreement.” Those last four words could be deleted. When you nod, it’s your head and if you nod, you are agreeing. You don’t have to tell your reader this. “He clapped his hands.” What else would he clap? “She shrugged her shoulders.” What else would she shrug?
  • Avoid the words Up and Down-unless they are really needed.
  • Usually delete the words ‘that’ and ‘had’. Read the sentence with them in it and then without. Are they really necessary? You will be amazed how many times these words are used incorrectly.
  • Give the reader credit- Once you’ve established something, you don’t need to repeat it. Another one I’m guilty of 🙂
  • Avoid telling what’s not happening. “He didn’t respond.” “She didn’t say anything.” If you don’t say things happened, we’ll assume they didn’t.
  • Avoid being an adjectival maniac.- Good writing is a thing of strong nouns and verbs, not adjectives. Use them sparingly.
  • Avoid Hedging verbs-…smiled lightly, almost laughed.
  • Avoid the word literally-when you mean figuratively. I was literally climbing the walls, My eyes literally fell out of my head–really?
  • Avoid on-the-nose-writing.-You don’t need to tell every action of every character in each scene, what they’re doing with each hand, etc.

I hope this information helps you to be more aware of the words you use. Choose your words wisely, they do matter.

I would like to end this blog by giving credit to Jerry Jenkins for the information I’ve shared. He has a great blog for writers and provides not only invaluable information, but free tools to assist writers on their journey. If you haven’t visited his site, I would encourage you to do so 🙂

-Jan R



Choose Your Words Wisely!

Why Do Publishers Reject Your Manuscript?

1e7cba28f25210164154825f3d16c176After I completed the first very rough draft of my manuscript, I couldn’t wait to send it out to literary agents. It was a great story and I was soooo excited. What if I got more than one offer. I am a realist but a very positive one and I new that story was great.

When I started getting rejections, I was dumbfounded. I couldn’t believe it. Well as I like to say-you don’t know what you don’t know-and I didn’t know much of anything about writing and publishing.

All I knew, was I had a great story and maybe it wasn’t perfectly written, but publishing companies have editors-right? The answer of course is yes, but that editor is there to clean up a mostly polished manuscript. Publishing companies don’t have the time or money to put in to tearing your story apart and rewriting it for you.

If you’ve ever submitted to a literary agent or publisher, you know they don’t want your entire manuscript. They want a small segment of your writing/story. A professional editor can determine if your work is worth their time within the first two to three pages.

So what are they gleaning from such a small segment?

  • Editors can tell within the first two to three pages how much editing would be required to make a manuscript publishable.
  • Are you grabbing the readers attention from the beginning?
  • Have too many characters been introduced to quickly?
  • Are you head hopping (remember only one POV character per scene)?
  • Is the setting and tone interesting?
  • Is there too much throat clearing (skip the description and backstory and get this thing moving )?

An editor can answer all of these questions within the first two to three pages. If you find yourself saying, “but they didn’t get to the good stuff,” then you need to put the good stuff at the beginning.

One of my rejections did come with notes. A gracious literary agent praised my premise stating that in fact it was a very good one, but the novel was not ready. The list of shortcomings included: grammatical and structural errors, head hopping (something I had never heard before), on-the-nose-writing(another term I had never heard), and the dreaded dragging dialogue.

She ended the list by encouraging me to not give up, learn my craft, and apply it to what I had written. I would like to encourage anyone else who has received the dreaded rejection letter likewise. Literary agents and publishers are not our enemy. They want us to succeed. When we succeed, they succeed. Give them something to work with.

-Jan R

Why Do Publishers Reject Your Manuscript?

Don’t Forget Your Minor Characters!

quote-respect-your-characters-even-the-minor-ones-in-art-as-in-life-everyone-is-the-hero-of-sarah-waters-43-27-03I’m in the revision process with my novel and one of the areas I am focusing on is character development. When you hear character development, you usually think of main characters or supporting characters. Well my main characters do need some work, but for this particular blog I was talking about those ‘fly by’ characters that step into your novel, do what you want them to do, and then disappear never to be heard of again.

I received a critique a while back in regards to four minor characters in my novel. “A lot of new characters have been introduced, and they all run together in my mind. I think more time needs to be spent developing these characters as individuals rather than some generic group of friends.

The lady that provided the critique was right. I didn’t provide any description of these characters. Except for the fact that they had names, you would have had no idea which one I was using in the scene. I didn’t think descriptions were necessary. They served one purpose and one purpose only. They did their job and disappeared.

Well shortly after receiving the critique,  I bumped into an article on Minor Characters in the Writers Digest I was reading. Maybe somebody was trying to tell me something.

According to Elizabeth Sims, who wrote the article, if the person is important enough to exist in the world of your story, let your readers picture that existence.

When you introduce minor characters, you should have one or better two details.  He was as wide as he was tall, and talked with a lisp.

Even characters who exist in passing should exist in the readers eye. For a literally glancing description, make it visual. The freckle faced boy stuck his tongue out at us, then turned to go inside.

If you have a group-Pan the crowd and then zoom in. Give one or two details describing them all, and then move in to one person as the representative.  The demonstrators walked down Main street waving their signs and shouting obscenities.  “Where is  Mayor Blackman? ” shouted a tall, gray haired man at the front of the line.

So there you have it. One of the things I will be looking at during my revision is those minor characters.  I guess I need to go back and give them some life 🙂

-Jan R

Don’t Forget Your Minor Characters!

The Anatomy Of A Scene(Repost)

imagesnnsea472Anybody that has read my work, knows that most of my blogs spin off of my own weaknesses. And there are many. I figure if I’m having problems with a certain aspect of writing, there are probably many others who are too.

So today I thought I would focus on writing scenes. As you may have guessed, I was shredded to pieces  in a recent critique, and rightfully so.

I presented a 3000 word excerpt from my novel for review, I did say 3000 words, and a friendly critique (she really was nice), pointed out that I had managed to squeeze 10 different locations/scenes into those 3000 words. It was overwhelming and the scenes were like flybys.

I have a very complicated novel, with many twists and turns, which could be a good thing. But, in my haste to get through them all, I’m not providing a cohesive story, and many of my scenes are lacking.

So how do I correct my mistakes? I put together a scene and a sequel. They work together to form one cohesive scene. A scene leads naturally to a sequel. At some point, you will end the cycle. The POV character will either succeed or fail. I would opt for succeed:-)

Scenes are as follows:

  1. Goal- What the POV person wants at the beginning of the scene. It must be specific and clearly definable.
  2. Conflict- The series of obstacles your POV character faces on the way to reaching their Goal.  There has to be conflict or your reader will be bored.
  3. Disaster- Is a failure of you POV person to reach his goal. This is a good thing in writing. Hold off on success until the very end. If you allow your POV to reach his goal to early, then your reader has no reason to go on.

***All three of these are critical to make the scene successful.***

Sequels are as follows:

  1. Reactions- Is the emotional follow through to a disaster. Show your POV acting viscerally to his disaster, but remember he can’t stay there. He has to get a grip.
  2. Dilemma- A situation with no good options. A real dilemma gives your reader a chance to worry. That’s good, you want them emotionally involved. At the end let your POV choose the least of the bad options.
  3. Decision- Your POV has to make a choice. This lets your POV become proactive again. People who never make decisions are boring.

imagesHope this helped. I pulled most of my information off of the ‘advancedfictionwriting’ web site. That’s hosted by Randy Ingermanson-“the snowflake Guy”.  He provides some great information for writers of all levels. You should check him out.

If you have any comments, I would love to hear from you. Happy Writing!

-Jan R

The Anatomy Of A Scene(Repost)

What Makes A Blog Post Great?

scratch-headWhat makes a blog post great? I wish I had the answer. I know some of the recommendations that professional writers and bloggers give. I try to abide by those rules and will share them with you today, but that still doesn’t cover why some blog posts do so much better than others.

Just recently I wrote a blog titled ‘Edit, Edit or Edit’. I thought it was a good post and offered some information that I didn’t know and never really thought about during the revision process, but there were some issues with the formatting.

When you pulled it up, the first paragraph was missing. Once I realized it, I tried to fix the issue but just couldn’t figure out what was going on. Where is a teenager when you need one 🙂

At any rate it has been my best blog so far. I totally don’t understand why. I’m happy that it got so much attention and attracted people to my site, I’m just puzzled. Because of the missing paragraph, it’s confusing at first. There are no visuals, as I deleted them trying to correct the formatting. It was embarrassing really-not up to my usual standard, but I didn’t have time to replace it.

The body of the blog itself was a copy and paste from an old blog-from back when I was writing to the air. I made some revisions but didn’t really put a lot of time into it. What was the draw this time? I still haven’t figured it out.

I have posted other blogs that I took my time and did a lot of research before writing, and I thought were great. They offered a lot of useful information, especially for beginner writers, but they were all but passed on. What’s the deal?

Some rules that I try to follow when writing blogs:

  • Be consistent-I post every Tuesday and Thursday no exceptions.
  • Keep my blogs short and concise-Usually between 300-400 words.
  • Offer useful information that I hope helps my readers.
  • Add graphics or a picture or two-more so for the appearance.
  • Make sure my posts are grammatically and structurally sound.
  • Try to be myself and not sound like a do-it-yourself manual.-One I’m working on :-).
  • I use the tags feature on my blog site to attract readers.

Do you have tips or tricks? I would love to hear from you 🙂

-Jan R


What Makes A Blog Post Great?

So You Thought You Were Finished?

208-6I read a quote the other day and thought I would share it on my blog. I don’t know who wrote it, as a name wasn’t provided. It reads as follows:

A lot of times that first manuscript needs to sashay out stage left in order for the real blockbuster to break into the spotlight.

If you’ve been working on your novel for a while, you know exactly what this writer was saying. My current manuscript is so different from the original, and while it’s not ready for submission, it is sooooo much better than it was after the first very rough draft.

As a newbie, I had no idea the work involved in creating a masterpiece worthy of publishing. I wrote my book and sent it out. It wasn’t until I started receiving the rejections and the one response explaining why it wasn’t ready for prime time that the truth sunk in.

I did have a completed manuscript, a great story, but it was missing the bells and whistles, that something that would make it stand out. Of course, the fact that it was full of grammatical and structural errors didn’t help my case either.

I read another quote years ago that has remained with me and I’ve used in several of my blogs.

Get it done and then get it good.

Don’t expect your first draft to be the final, finished, ready to go version. It won’t be. Once it is completed, the fun begins. At least I hope you enjoy it, since you will be working on that manuscript for quite some time.

If you are new to the writing scene, I would recommend a lot of reading. Not just books in your preferred genre, but also how to books from credible authors. I’ve found some excellent blogs, and of course, the internet is invaluable.

I would also recommend courses on creative writing and writing fiction. I’ve purchased classes through ‘Great Courses’ that were excellent and inexpensive. I’ve watched webinars and also signed up for a workshop through Holly Lisle on ‘How to revise your novel’.

You don’t know what you don’t know until it’s to late. Know this, your first draft is not ready, and it’s up to you to research, learn your craft and get it done.

-Jan R

So You Thought You Were Finished?

How Do You Eat an Elephant?

how-to-eat-elephant_thumb1I hope you all had a great New Year and are preparing yourselves for what awaits you in the upcoming year. Like many of you, I have a book I hope to have completely finished and submitted this year, but keep in mind it will take more than hope to get that book published.

I sat with my husband this past week and reviewed our goals and plans for the upcoming year, and what we needed to do for him to retire early. He’s an engineer who specializes in capital projects. He knows the importance of not just having a plan, but implementing it and moving forward to the ultimate goal preferably ahead of schedule.

He’s great at what he does, and as many of us do, brings his work home with him.  This can be a challenge at times because I for one am not as rigid and disciplined as he is. He is very detailed and motivated. He is results oriented.

I should be more like him. I’ve written several blogs on motivation and having an accountability partner. I’ve also written blogs on setting goals for yourself and working towards them.

One of the main things I have learned from my husband and from living life itself, is you have to set goals! You have too!!!! Put your dreams down on paper and break them down into steps. You can’t jump from point A to point Z, for most of us that thought would be overwhelming and stop us in our tracks.

You can move from point A to point B and then to point C and so forth. You will get there but take it one day at a time, working toward the objective you have set for that day.

I spent the majority of my professional career working with people who had profound developmental disabilities. They couldn’t even perform basic care skills like washing their hands. So what did me and my team do? We set objectives in place to lead to the ultimate goal. Just like I’m talking about in this blog. We broke the task down in to steps and worked toward the big picture. e.g.  Turn on water, place your hands under water, get soap, rub your hands together, rinse hands, turn water off, dry hands. Very basic but I think it gets the message across.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. I know I read this somewhere. I’m not that creative. Not sure where though. If you’re like me that unfinished novel is definitely the elephant in the room.

-Jan R

How Do You Eat an Elephant?