Times Are Changing-Stay Neutral

untitled.pngSeveral years back I was doing a critique on a ladies work, and the number of times she entered his or her, he or she, was distracting and cumbersome. In my write up of suggestions, I recommended she go with the masculine pronoun to refer to either sex.

Well guess what, I was wrong. The practice of using the masculine pronoun was acceptable back in the day, but as you may know, times change.

So what’s a person to do? Writing his or her, he or she will get old really fast. I can attest to that.  You have to start looking for more gender neutral terms.

                 Sexist Term                                                             Substitution

  • chairman/chairwoman                        chair, chairperson, presiding officer
  • coed                                                          student
  • congressman/congresswoman           congressional representative, legislator
  • forefathers                                             ancestors
  • layman                                                     layperson
  • man/woman                                           person/people, individual
  • man-made                                               synthetic
  • policeman                                               police officer
  • salesman                                                 sales clerk
  • mankind                                                 humanity, humankind, human race

I think you’re getting the picture.

Other options…….

  • Change your wording to plural pronouns.                                                                                 Each teacher should greet all of his or her students by name.                                          Teachers should greet all of their students by name.
  • Substitute he or she with a noun.                                                                                                She needs to go to the back of the line.                                                                                   The doctor needs to go to the back of the line.
  • Reword your sentence to use the first or second person.                                                        If she loses her ticket, she can’t get in.                                                                                     If you lose your ticket, you can’t get in.

I’m a little older, so to be honest, using a masculine pronoun to refer to all sexes does not bother me. However, I do realize we have to change with the times.

As an author you may not have to many situations arise in your novel related to gender specificity, but if you do, this is something to think about .

-Jan R

Times Are Changing-Stay Neutral

Does That ‘But’ Really Need A Comma?

imagesZGN867X5I like to highlight my mistakes. I guess my thought is, if I’m doing it, there are plenty of newbies out there doing the same thing. I like to think I’m not alone 🙂

I noticed something during my current revision that I never saw before. I’m having a  love affair with but. That wasn’t the only problem. There were a lot of commas following that but that shouldn’t have been there. My sentences weren’t compound, but they did have compound verbs.

Compound sentences are made up of two independent clauses that could stand on there on.

We went to a restaurant, and I ordered the chicken salad.

Simple sentences with compound verbs are not compound sentences and shouldn’t be divided by a comma. (This sentence is a great example.) Don’t you want to put a comma after and?

I knew I was wrong but couldn’t help myself.

She ran through the woods and jumped over the fence.

If these simple sentences bother you that much, you can make them compound.

I knew I was wrong, but I couldn’t help myself.

She ran through the woods, and she jumped over the fence.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

Does That ‘But’ Really Need A Comma?

Avoid The Dump!

1-11Not to long ago I picked up my first completed manuscript, shook off the dust, and began the revision process yet again. I had become discouraged and didn’t want anything to do with the story.

Truth be known there is nothing wrong with my premise. As a matter of fact, I had a literary agent to tell me it was a really good one. I identified and revised the most blaring of my mistakes, but there was another issue a bigger one that I had missed.

I had made one of the biggest mistakes a new writer makes, and I couldn’t see it. In order for my story to work, I thought it was necessary for the reader to have some backstory. My first 2 chapters were nothing but set up. It was a little history lesson on my main characters to get the reader caught up and make the story easier to follow.

I didn’t want to leave my readers confused. I wanted them in the know. If my reader was familiar with certain aspects of the past, it would also make the story more suspenseful and make them want to know more. At least that’s what I thought.

One thing you need to remember, exposition and backstory can stop the action cold. This is something you can’t afford in the first scene, not when you are trying to convince a reader or editor to buy your book. This doesn’t mean that backstory or exposition isn’t important, it means you can’t drop it all at once, and you can’t start your novel with boring, although important information.

I took my advice and cut those first two chapters. I know that sounds radical, but I decided that I would only giving my reader what they needed to set the stage in the opening pages. I will weave any other pertinent information into  the story once it is underway.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

Avoid The Dump!

Rewrite-itis

images559M9THLI got tickled when I first saw this word. I have to admit, I have dealt with rewrite-itis. What is it? It’s a severe condition that effects both published and unpublished writers according to The Everything Guide To Writing A Romance Novel. It means your are unable to call a book, chapter, or even a scene finished. So what causes the condition? A fear of failure or success. For me it is definitely failure.

What are the symptoms?

  • Rewriting the same scene, chapter, or book more than ten times
  • Never finishing a book, because you keep going back to polish the first chapter
  • Constantly having others read your book with the hopes they will give you some revisions to do
  • Taking your finished manuscript to the post office to mail, only to return home with it in hand for further revision

So what do you think? Do you have a case of rewrite-itis?

Rewrite-itis has a close cousin – Research-itis. Maybe you have that one too. True research is crucial to any novel, but an author needs to know when to say “Enough is enough.”

So what is the cure? Set goals and deadlines and stick to them. Remember your manuscript is your baby, but sooner or later you have to turn it loose.

Just something to think about.

-Jan R

Rewrite-itis

Surviving The Sting

I write a lot about rejection, because it is a part of life if you are an unpublished author seeking a literary agent or publishing contract. Many would be authors allow a simple rejection to end their attempts at writing. Their thought – I must not be good enough. Well maybe that’s true, but odds are it is not.

Manuscripts are rejected for numerous reasons, and many have nothing to do with your work. So what are you suppose to do if you receive a rejection?

  • Admit it hurts
  • Allow yourself time to grieve, but never take more than a week
  • Nurture your artist. Read a good book, take a walk, eat some chocolate… TLC is a good thing, but don’t wallow in self-pity.
  • Share your news and disappointment with close friends and family who will understand and offer encouragement
  • If you must, write a rebuttal to the editor or literary agent, but don’t send it. Tear it up and throw it in the trash. Your only response should be a thank you for their time and consideration
  • Remember just because your work wasn’t right for that particular editor or agent, doesn’t mean it won’t be right for another
  • Remember just because it isn’t ready for publication, doesn’t mean you can’t make it publishable

Remember: A writer not being able to deal with rejection, is like a doctor not being able to deal with death. It’s going to happen, and like successful authors, you will have to learn to live with it.

-Jan R

Surviving The Sting