Monday, December 16, 2013

The Grammar Police

Ever feel like you are a one person Grammar Police squad? I do, but it's important to monitor and self edit our writing for polished results.

Apostrophes, for example, can be problematic. Using them for contractions is a given, but there are those tricky spots we run into and I use an apostrophe....or not? Here's a peek at the cheat sheet I use:

Use an apostrophe:

  • To form a plural of a letter: I got all A's and B's.
  • To form a plural of a number or symbol: 6's or %'s
  • When a word is discussed as a word: The sentence contains too many hey's and dude's.
  • To abbreviate a year: She graduated in '03.

Special possessive situations must be handled with care. Remember that the owner is the word immediately before the apostrophe. It helps to ask, is it possessive or plural, or is it possessive and singular, or possessive and plural?

Use the apostrophe like so:

  • Singular versus plural possession: the horse's trainer, the horses' trainer
  • Compound word possessives: editor in chief's office, sister in law's birthday
  • Plural compound word possessives: brothers in law's cars (more than one brother in law)
  • For an indefinite pronoun: anyone's guess, everybody's favorite
  • Individual possession: Micah's, Allie's, and Nat's books (they each own their own book)
  • Shared possession: Tim, David, and Becky's book (they all own the same book)
And don't forget:
  • Do not use an apostrophe for possessive pronouns: its, yours, ours, his, hers, their

What techniques and resources help keep your writing in check?

I'm taking a break and will be back on January 2. Wishing you and your family a wonderful holiday season! :)

Happy writing,

Photo credit: Stock Exchange

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Do You Read?

Have you heard the story where a newbie writer told a veteran writer that they did not have the time to read books? The newbie didn't think reading was necessary for a successful writing career. The veteran disagreed, and pointed out how reading is key to expanding one's world.

What do you think? Do you think reading is an essential tool for writers?

I believe it offers exposure to genres, styles, and writing - good and bad. Reading provides a better scope and grasp of language, grammar, and usage. It offers varying perspectives, challenges us to think, and stretches the imagination. Another great perk is that it's an avenue to better communication, not just in written form, but verbal too.

Over the years I've noticed a difference reflected among my writing students who read and those who do not. No criticism intended; it's simply an observation. I encourage them all to read, telling them it is an easy way to help their writing and imagination grow.  

In short, I think we need to read to be effective writers. We shouldn't limit ourselves to favorite genres either. It's important to explore a variety, fiction and non, long and short, in books, periodicals, and online.

Consider Stephen King's words on the topic:

"...Can I be blunt on this subject? If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

Our time to read may be limited, but the benefits are worth the effort.

For more insight on the correlation between reading and writing, check out Christian Fahey's thoughts on The Upside in this post, Reading and Its Importance for Writers.

What benefits do you gain from reading? What's on your to be read pile?

Happy weekend,


Image credit: Stock Exchange


Monday, December 9, 2013

Tips for Every Writer

Just getting back into town after visiting a new nephew and his family. He's a keeper! :)  Thought it would be a good time to share a few links.

Ever visit Daily Blog Tips? It's a great site that offers posts like Seven Reasons to Keep Blogging (Even When You feel Like Quitting). Ali Luke reminds us of the perks blogging offers to keep us going during the tough stretches.

Gotten any criticism (constructive or otherwise) lately? Check out Linda Formichelli's 5 Ways to Deal With People Who Hate What You Write. Honesty, kindness, and humor help, Ms. Formichelli says, as she shares the feedback she's gotten during her writing career.

C.S. Lakin explains how to Show, Don't Tell, How Time is Passing at Live Write Thrive. Don't write fiction? No worries, this insightful bit of info sheds light on improving non fiction too. After all, our writing can have personality in any format, right?

7 Things I've Learned So Far is a regular feature at Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents. In this post, author Chuck Greaves shares his insight into the writing and publishing process. My favorite was point #3 - Write Now, Edit Later, where Mr. Greaves tells us that "when it comes to your first draft, okay is good enough".

Have you wanted to write for anthologies? Jennifer Brown Banks at Pen and Prosper discusses the ins and outs in this helpful post. From ideas about what to submit and how to increase your odds for acceptance to what to expect as a contributor, Ms. Banks covers it all.

In Other News

Congrats to author Becky Povich, whose new memoir is out! Here is a sneak peek:

In "From Pigtails to Chin Hairs: A Memoir & More," Becky Lewellen Povich takes us from her young Midwestern childhood in the 1950s to present day. Each chapter is a scene from everyday life, and/or unexpected events, written in the way only Povich can, with humor and poignancy woven into them. She relates tales of Christmases, summertime fun, selling homemade potholders and putting on parades, the kids next door, classmates, her fear of the dentist and her parents’ scheme to help, plus long car rides visiting grandparents in small town Iowa.

Check out Becky's book on Amazon, or stop by her website. FYI: Becky will stop by in 2014 for an interview and giveaway. 

What do you think is the most challenging aspect of writing? How do you work through it?

Have a great week! 

Happy writing,

Photo Credit: Stock Exchange

Monday, December 2, 2013

What's Your Outline Style?

Do you use outlines? Or are you a seat of the pants (SOTP) writer?  Or a little of both?

I hated outlining in school; my brain found it difficult to narrow the info down to key points. It's much easier now - I suppose an adult perspective offers a broader view. Breaking down the process helps, and I share these pointers in two of my teen writing classes:

The outline can help keep the writing plan organized and on track. It is like a paragraph or a story; there is a beginning, middle, and an end. The beginning is the introduction and includes the opening thoughts. The middle contains supporting facts and the end summarizes and concludes. It helps to break the topic into categories: introduction, body, and conclusion.

Outlines should not contain every little point you intend to make. Highlight the main points as a guide. Formal or informal – whatever your preference, the outline breaks the topic down into manageable and organized pieces.

For small projects, most of my writing is SOTP. I often have a mental outline or a scribbling of notes to aid the process. Larger projects get at least a rough outline. Usually. :) When revising, I often categorize the info as I review the material to make sure I covered everything.

Here are a few links that offer help with outlines:

Perdue Online Writing Lab - This site offers info on outlines, writing, research, citation, and more. It's a valuable resource for junior high through adults; my students and I use it often. 

Jeff Goins - Mr. Goins shares wisdom for writers of fiction and non fiction. One tip he shares on this page is to write a table of contents as an outline guide for a book. Hey, this is what I did with my book!

6 Secrets to Writing a Novel Without Outlining - Brian Klems confesses how when in school and required to write an outline for his story, he'd write the story first. I'm pretty sure I did that too. 

What's your outline style? Were outlines hard for you in school?  Have any tips to share?
Happy writing,


P.S. A few of you asked me to let you know when my book, Homeschool Co-ops 101, came out in paperback. It was released last week. :)  Check it out here.
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Text content copyright Karen Lange 2013. No part of the text may be used without written permission from author Karen Lange.