Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Now What?

So, first draft of WIP is finished. Yay! Celebration! Get some champagne!

...but as I stare at my computer, all I can ask myself is...

Now what?

Now? Now it's time for...

The Massive Revision Plan

Here's the thing: I killed my last manuscript with over-editing. I listened to too many other people, tried to make a book for everyone else, and ended up with a voiceless mess. Then, I was approaching everyone and throwing my manuscript at them, screaming READ THIS! BE MERCILESS! CRITIQUE MEEEEEE! I scared puppies and small children with my shouting, but it worked: I got readers. Lots of them. And then I took ALL their comments and revised...and cut...and made that manuscript bleed so much red ink that it bled out. So, I'm being a bit more strategic this time.

My Theory: It's better to revise in stages than all at once.

My Logic: How many times have you submitted a "perfect" piece of work and started waiting? In the meantime, you revisit that work, realize it's crap, revise, and wish you could resend the better stuff, but it's too late? That's happened to me SO MANY TIMES. I've noticed that after I send my manuscript out and get rejections, I realize why it's being rejected and can revise...but it's too late for those who've already rejected me.

So, here's the plan.

  1. Initial Reading: Robyn. Robyn's my real-life critique person (in that I meet her in real life, not that my other critique partners are robots. Although, I've always wondered....) Since I meet her in real life, I've been giving her first drafts pages of the WIP for our meetings. Actually, she started reading Chapter 1 before I'd finished half of the novel, which was a scary thing and kept me on track writing, let me tell you! But the great thing was, Robyn could point out plot holes, pacing problems, and character weaknesses early on. Some of her suggestions shaped the course of the novel. Hey, Robyn, did you know that Harley was originally only supposed to show up in one chapter, then disappear? Since you liked him so much, I developed him into a full supporting character!
  2. First Draft Reading: Heather and Christy. I've worked with both these ladies in the past, and what I love about them is that they get big picture ideas. My problem with my last work is that I fixed all the little stuff--word choice, grammar, etc.--before I tackled the big stuff. So here I was, ten-plus hours invested in a revision, and now there's all this big stuff that needs to be fixed, making the little stuff worthless (as it was cut). So, I've enlisted these ladies to take a look at the whole thing. I asked them specifically because I knew how good they were at the big picture thing--and how they're not afraid to tell me what they really think!
  3. My Own Revision Notes: While the first draft is being read, I'm going to go through the manuscript once more and take notes on what I think needs changing. I've already got some ideas, especially as pertains to the motivations of one of my main characters, and I'm going to go ahead and re-write some chapters dealing with him. Then, I'm going to add comments in my own text (the way many critiquers do, by addding that little side-comment thing in the margins). I'm sure I'll fix some as I go, but during this read-through, my real intent is going to be to focus on taking notes of things to change later. Because....
  4. Compare Notes: On of my fatal flaws in past critiques of my work was that I forgot about what I thought. I listened to others--and didn't compare what they had to say with my own ideas. So, once I've got my own notes done, I'll take a look at what Robyn, Christy, and Heather have said, and compare. If I'm worried about one thing and no one else has noticed it, then clearly I'm being obsessive. If I think one thing is fine, but everyone else doesn't, then clearly I need to revisit that thing.
  5. Rewrite: Here's where I'm going to fix all the big picture things. Plot holes tied up, loose ends met, character motivations clear. My rough idea of a plan for this is to use notecards where I sum up key things (character motivation, clues for the mystery, plot progression) that happen in each chapter, then lay out the notecards and evaluate the pace, plot holes, and continuity weaknesses. And then rewrite the manuscript tightening the aresa on the notecards.
  6. Bringing in the Pros, Part One: Genre Lovers: Through this blog, I've found some amazing fellow writers out there who are not only clearly good writers (as evidenced by their blogs), but also love the same kinds of books I do, and my genre. I'm going to beg them ask nicely if they'll pleaseplesaeplease be willing to read a more polished draft.
  7. Bringing in the Pros, Part Two: Writers: I'm also fortunate enough to be in touch with a trio of professional writers who have been published. They know who they are (but I'm not sure if they want a mention on here). :) And once I've got a good-as-I-can-make-it draft, I'm going to be begging them asking them nicely if they'll pleasepleaseplease be willing to read that draft, too.
  8. Why Wait? I'm spacing out beta reads this way because I think it'll help me get more bang for my (proverbial) buck. If one of the early readers suggests something and I fix it, and then a later reader reads it and it doesn't work, then I've still got a chance to fix it. As opposed to everyone reading at the same time--which led to conflicting ideas and no real chance for follow ups after revisions. Also, I'm staging it so that I can play up my friends' strengths. The ones I know do good at big picture are the ones I'm asking first. The ones I know will do better with final ideas and polishing, I'm calling on them last.
  9. Family Draft: After this, the husband and the mother get a copy. Yeah, I'm saving them for last. Here's why: they're not writers. But they are both readers. They won't point out much of anything--but if they do have a question or problem with anything, then I know it's not something that will work in the real world. They're my test market.
  10. Final Read-Through: Now I'm going to do one last read through of the novel. I'll highlight and change over-used words and sentence structures. I'll print out a copy (the first copy printed! In the past, printing was the first thing I did.) and bring out my red pen. I'll correct and revise and... be done?
Projected Timeline:
  1. Complete Rewrite after First Draft reviewers get back to me by the end of July.
  2. Have Rewritten Draft in hands of "pros" by August.
  3. Complete Final Read-Through and submit draft to agents by September.
I look at that projected timeline and cringe. Three months before I send this baby out? It's the best thing I've ever written, I'm more in love with it than many people, and I'm not going to share with the world for three whole months?!

I'm not. And here's why. Too often, I submit too early. I think the manuscript is done, but it never is. Smarter people than me have written more eloquently on the subject.

And besides, look at the timeline more closely. I began writing in January, finished in June. That's six months. If it takes me six months to write it, and then three months to revise and rewrite it, that's not unreasonable. It actually makes sense, in my weird, numbers-never-make-sense-to-me kind of brain: however long it took you to write the book, it will take at least half as long again to rewrite it.

Besides, I am also not forgetting the give-and-take set-up of this: I'm not just throwing my manuscript at people and demanding they read it--I'm also offering to read theirs in return.

So that's the plan. And now I've got to go start up some revision notes!

Mini Linkspam!

I'm still going through my nearly 800 posts from vacation (which are now at nearly 900 posts...I feel "mark all as read" coming on soon...). I plan on skimming, marking highlights, making a linkspam, and moving on.

But meanwhile, I've found some great recent stuff that I thought I'd share! Just a few links to whet the appetite...

Writing is a weird Jekyll-and-Hyde sort of career. There’s just YOU and THE PAGE for a great deal of it. Then there’s the other bit, where you have to get along with agents and editors, not to mention readers at conventions and signings.
“The first draft of anything is shit”
Richard Ford had to wait two years after Colson Whitehead's negative New York Times review of 2002 novel "A Multitude of Sins" to spit on the him at a Poets & Writers party. But that's peanuts compared to what happened to another of Ford's critics. After a less than stellar write-up of his 1986 novel "The Sportswriter" appeared in the New York Times, Ford's wife took a pistol to a book the reviewer had written and blew a hole right through it. Ford later did the same honors with another copy of the same book.

Chilling though the message was, it didn't stop the critic from continuing to dole out opinions. Her name? Alice Hoffman.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Let This Be a Lesson to You

Hey, you. Yeah, I mean YOU.

Right now, go back up your computer.

Right NOW.

Because my laptop died while I was on vacay.


With no warning.

One minute, everything's fine. Next, DEATH.

The hard drive makes tiny bleating noises, like a lamb to slaughter.

The screen flashes and fades, like the light from a dying man's eyes.

It's gone.

Luckily, I'd backed up my recently finished book--because I'm obsessive about backing up my writing work. But the five years of lesson plans, worksheets, and presentations? Yeah, not quite so obsessive about that.

I've read a gazillion times to back up work.

Or else.

So now I'm telling YOU, yes, YOU to go back up your work RIGHT NOW.

Consider yourself warned.

Cause this? This sucks.

I'm Baaaaaaack! With a Prize!

Hi all! I'm back--with a sunburn from the Floridian sun to prove it :) I'd show you pics, but it's gross, trust me. I keep telling people that Florida is eating my flesh, but the husband tells me that it's weird and I should quit saying that.


So, I popped open my Google Reader today, and I was really surprised at the result! I actually expected almost twice as many posts to read than what I really got...

That's right--a total of 739 blog posts to read! And, unless I looked at the comments wrong, this means that Lois guessed closest with her guess of 823, which is only 84 off!

And what's her prize? Well, Lois is going to be the first Writing Blog of the Month feature on this blog! On July 1st, I'll be featuring a link to her blog in my sidebar, giving her a special blog award, doing a review of her blog, and (if she'd like) doing an interview with her! July is officially being renamed Lois Month!

Congratulations, Lois!!

Saturday, June 20, 2009


1st: Winners of past contests.
2nd: Announcement of a new contest! (so stick around for the whole post)
3rd: Make sure you don't miss my stockpiled Linkspam or the reason for the blog vacation.

The winner of the Silver Phoenix Bookmark is...

[NOTE: Cindy Pon, who is made of awesome, has offered to send ANYONE else who would like one a few bookmark and signed bookplate--so email her and you can ALL get a prize!--pon.cindy@gmail.com]

The winner of the hardcover, first edition of Sarah Prineas's novel The Magic Thief is...

Gaby and Crystal, please email me your address at bethrevis (at) gmail (dot) com, and I'll get your prizes mailed out to ya!


YAY! I've finished my wip! In a mad, my-butt-didn't-leave-the-chair rush on Friday, I wrote almost 10k words and finished the first draft.

In celebration of this, I'm turning off the Internet for...one entire week. Saturday to Saturday: no Internets. None.

And I can't help but wonder....how many posts will line up in my Google Reader? Some of you have commented on how many blogs I read, all of which I subscribe to in my Google Reader. I know I've mentioned before how I've had to hit "mark all as read" just to get through them all.

So what will a week of unread blog posts look like in my Google Feed Reader?

That, dear reader, is your challenge.

In the comment section below, post a guess of how many posts will be in my Google Reader after a week of Internet darkness.

The Prize? A feature interview on this blog, and a special blog award--no one else has it--you'll be the first to win it!

PS: Do I not subscribe to your blog and/or follow you, and you really want me to? It's not because I don't love you--I just sometimes forget to check out all the links I stockpile. Link it in the comments here, and I'll make sure to check you out!


Since the blog will be dark for an entire week, I thought it best to leave you with some fantastic links to explore in my absence.


  • A Twitter Celebration of PB/MG/YA Books released this year! I scoured this list not only to see what new books were coming, but also to find new authors to follow on twitter. (Be sure to say hello to @christinemarciniak and @pjhoover!)
  • OMG, you must read this. A bookseller's recent experience buying books. What blows my mind? Just how many Dan Brown books they buy...and how little anything else they buy. Not to harp on about Twitter, but look at this:
    Confronted with Othmer's book on the catalog page, I tried to see it in the best light possible. It's basically a book about advertising (sounds like a contemporary Mad Men) that is gunning for a general audience. Ron showed me two possible covers. One bizarrely featured a fried chicken leg, while the other showed the earth. I ordered five copies and prayed the chicken leg would go away. My guess is that without the personal interaction with Othmer on Twitter, I would have gagged on that chicken leg and moved on without bringing the book into the store.
  • BEA Panel about YA lit--especially good for you spec fic peeps out there.


Kathy wrote: "Do you keep a notebook in which you jot down interesting ideas or thoughts whenever or wherever they come to you? "

I do. And I lose them. And then I find them again, and read things I've written and go "What a great idea. I have no memory of coming up with that at all. Brilliant."
Editing is more by-the-hip. You look at a text and ask yourself how it can be improved. One thing I have noticed is that when you're a younger editor, you're more intense about it. As you go along, you relax a little. More and more, I feel that the book is the author's. You give the author your thoughts and it's up to him or her to decide what to do.




I think we’ve had to look at our sluggish beginnings in epic, and realize that two hundred pages of wandering around a castle before conflict appears may not be the best way to begin a story. We’ve had to become more creative in our worldbuilding, partially (I think) to compete with the elegance of YA competition.


You See That?

That? Yeah. That's the wordle for my fresh off the computer screen completed novel.

Oh, yeah.

Final stats:

  • Title: Long Way Home
  • Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction
  • Word Count: 85k words (10k of which were written yesterday)
  • Quick Pitch: Amy's been cryogenically frozen so that she can survive the three century journey to a new planet with her parents and the other scientists and military specialists they work with. Meanwhile Elder, born on the ship fifty years before it's due to land, has no idea that there's a secret cargo of frozens on a hidden level. When Amy is woken up early, she and Elder must work together to find out who's unplugging the frozens--because the others aren't surviving.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Ways to Avoid Work, parts 2-5

...get so caught up in work that you forget to post the clever little diversions you'd planned to post throughout the week.

I'm at 75k words. I've got most of the rest outlined. I have set a deadline to finish by tomorrow.

I've always said that blogging must come last on my list of priorities in life--well, this week that has rung true.

And, when I finish tomorrow, I plan on turning off Internet entirely for a week--so we'll be dark until almost July (unless a miracle occurs and I finish early enough to plan out some posts).

I've printed out a list of entrants for the book contest--see, I've not forgotten!--but every time I try to cut them up and draw one from the hat, I get distracted by a new book idea. Yesterday, I tried to type notes into my iTouch while driving down a mountain road. It's bad y'all: I've got to get this book out of me before it plots my murder!

So: before Saturday, I'll announce the winner! And I'll probably be leaving you with a fairly sizable linkspam that should last you through next week!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Ways to Avoid Work, part 1

So...I'm almost done my WIP. And, as we all know, I am my own worst enemy. This is me; this is my gun; this is me shooting myself in the foot.

So, what do I do when I have about 5k words to write until COMPLETION of the awesomest thing I've ever written?

I look up comics and things to make me laugh and forget all about my work.

Monday, June 15, 2009

*blinks in the sunlight*

Oh! Um....the world is still here? See...I've been trying to finish this YA SF I've been working on. And in the flurry of finishing school and the relief of finishing school, I was able to throw myself back into it. I'm at 70k words right now, and on the home stretch. So much so that I think I might finish by the end of the week. Maybe even sooner.

I don't mean to be MIA! Especially since the blog will go dark next week (surprise!). I've got some bloggy stuff planned later this week. But in the meantime, don't forget about the CONTEST that ends TONIGHT at 11:59pm.

I'll announce winners for the book and for the bookmark by tomorrow! Good luck!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Great Ideas

Wanna see a great idea for a book launch? Check out Cynthia Liu's online launch for Paris Pan Takes the Dare, which includes book give-aways, auctions (proceeds going to charity), and awesome contests with even better prizes!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Simple Rules of Grammar

This is a compilation of my simple rules for grammar. So many people asked for them linked in one spot that I thought I'd do it here.

Part 1: Definitions
Part 2: IC/DC
Part 3: Prepositions
Part 4: Exceptions
Part 5: Proof in the Pudding

Practice Makes Perfect

ETA: PubRants has just posted about this same topic here.

After reading a blog post by a "writer" (note the quotes: this is none of you guys, trust me), it occurred to me the reason why Janet Reid and Editorial Anonymous make a point to say that one of the most important things for a new writer to do is prove s/he isn't a yahoo.

This "writer" had a long rant on why her first book should be published. How she'd done everything right--write it, "edit" it, paid for editors to "edit" it, kept the idea behind it super secret so no one could steal it, did all the best social networking sites to promote it before it was (inevitably) "picked up by a publisher." The expectation was that this "writer," who had only begun writing less than six months ago, would be published...soon. Very soon. As in, watch out world, her name is about to be lit up on the marquee, she's the next JK Rowling...you get the idea.

Now, in the past, this "writer" has made a big deal about how she wasn't classically trained, had never taken a writing class, and certainly wasn't a MFA, but how those kinds of degrees don't make a writer.

And I actually agree with her on that point.

I don't think a writer needs a degree to be a writer.

But what I do think a writer needs is...practice. (And a MFA can sometimes provide that practice.)

There's a reason why so many people box up their first manuscript. If you are a writer, you need PRACTICE. There is nothing wrong with writing a book and realizing that it isn't perfect, and that you can't fix it. Really. This isn't something writers talk about often--I think there's a certain amount of shame associated with boxing a book. There's an attitude that you're giving up on it.

But that's not the case. Writing is a skill--and it takes practice. The hours you spent working on a book that will never be published are not wasted. They were the hours you spent developing your skill. If you wanted to be an artist, you can't expect your first painting to be perfect, no matter how many times you touch it up. There comes a point where the canvas is ruined, and you just need to pack it away and start on a fresh canvas.

If you think about it, it's almost ridiculously preposterous to think that your first novel will be published, especially if you think it will be published successfully, especially if you spend more time working on social networking sites than seeking valuable criticism that could salvage the manuscript. Sure, there are exceptions to this rule. Natural talent and luck both play a big part in publication. But you can't assume you'll get luck, and you can never assume your natural talent is enough. Instead, compare your art to other art. Yes, writing a novel is an investment in time. Yes, it was an investment in work, skill, effort; blood, sweat, and tears. But it is art. And art requires skill. And just because you did it, doesn't mean you deserve a reward for it. Just because you spent time on it as a writer, doesn't mean it's worth me spending time on it as a reader.

Painters have to ruin canvasses with ill-proportioned pictures before they make a canvas worth their skill.

Photographers have to ruin rolls of film before they can find the right light.

Musicians have to practice years before they can even make an agreeable sound beyond "Chopsticks."

Why is writing any different? Writers have to practice writing novels before they can write a novel worthwhile. (1)

It seems that people think because of the time you spent working on a manuscript, it's too valuable to "give up on" and that you are a failure if you quit working on it. But the reality is, sometimes it's just time to move on. It doesn't matter that you wrote over 100k words, that you paid thousands of dollars for an editor to "edit" it, that you're on every social networking site there is.

It doesn't matter that this is your baby, that you want it published more than anything else.

It was practice. You may not have known it at the time, but that's what it was.

Part of being a writer is being able to separate the chaff from the wheat within your own writing. It's part of the process, part of the practice. Having a boxed manuscript isn't a thing of shame, but one of pride. It's part of your path, a more important part than a Facebook page or a paid editor.

1. Footnote: Does this mean I think you can't write a novel and be published? No, of course not. Like I said, there are exceptions to the rule. Does this mean that I think your first novel can't be published. Again, no. But I don't think your first novel is perfect, and I do think you need to revise and possibly re-write it, and I also think that, probably, your second one will be better than your first, and your third will be better than your second, and that with practice, you will continue to be better and better. And if you think that your first novel is done and perfect and you can't get an agent or a publisher, then just put it aside, call it practice, and move on. Your next book will be better. Trust me.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Your Simple Rules to Grammar, part 5

Don't believe me when I say those rules actually work?

Lemme prove it to you.

Here's the most complicated sentence I could think of on the fly:

After eating supper with my husband, I decided to go to the movies, but he didn't want to go; we stayed inside and watched TV instead, and it may not be as exciting, but I enjoyed spending extra time with him because it is something we so rarely get to do.

  • After eating supper = prep phrase. It should be followed by a comma, but it's not because there's another prep phrase behind it.
  • with my husband = prep phrase. It's the last prep phrase, so it's followed by punctuation (a comma).
  • I decided to go to the movies= independent clause, not followed by punctuation...
  • ...except that the next word is "but" followed by an independent clause--"but he didn't want to go"-- so, you follow this rule: IC, cc IC.
  • we stayed inside and watched TV instead = independent clause following an independent clause; therefore, the rule is: IC; IC, so you separate it with a semicolon.
  • and it may not be as exciting = IC (so it's joined with conjunction + comma)
  • but I enjoyed spending extra time with him = IC (see above)
  • because it is something we so rarely get to do = dependent clause, so it must be followed with punctuation--and it is: the period.
If you wanted to break down this sentence into it's parts, it would look like this:

PP PP, IC, cc IC; IC, cc IC, cc IC DC.

It's a thing of beauty, isn't it?

The rules work whichever way you do them. Let's say I make up this series of ridiculously long phrases and clauses:


If I make a sentence made of those parts, the commas and semicolons would be the same. See:

When I make pizza, my husband is happy; he loves pizza after a long day of work, it's his favorite food because when I cook it, it reminds him of home in the summertime.

Told ya so. That's the exact same components, just with the words filled in. The commas and semicolons still stay the same. Don't believe me? I'll do it again, just using different words.

After I graduated college, I wanted to move to England; it wasn't in the cards for me, I fell in love with a man who loved me back, and we got married within a year.
Exact same set-up as the other sentence--DC, IC; IC PP, IC DC, IC PP--just with different words. But the words don't matter--the commas and semicolons are still in the same place.

And that's it. With the IC/DC rules, along with the PP and rule exceptions, you know all you need to know about those tricky commas and semicolons.

Final word. Now that you know the rules, feel free to break them. Good writers do. But good writers KNOW THE RULES FIRST.

Questions? As far as I'm concerned, this is it for the grammar post. But if you've got other pressing grammar questions--or if my IC/DC rules don't make sense to you--feel free to yell at me in the comments below.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Writer, the Teacher

In celebration of THE LAST DAY OF SCHOOL!!!, I would like to share this blog post I found via How Publishing Really Works, by the author of the blog Alphabet Soup Kitchen.

If you've ever wondered what it's like to be a teacher & a writer at the same time, this post explains it perfectly. This is a poignant telling of what it's like--how it's both a compromise and a value, how it's bother rewarding and damaging.

Here's the sample:

Wake up, shut off alarm, don't snooze. Used to be a snoozer, but now you're not. Now you're a teacher. It seemed a perfect fit for a budding writer, a chance to immerse yourself in the English language. Your day job would be related to your dream job; it felt like cheating.

Yesterday: taught all day, wrote all afternoon, prepared and graded papers into late night. Now it's early. Still dark out. Four hours sleep. More papers to grade.

Really, this is excellent writing. Go read.

Side note: You know you, perhaps, grade your essays too hard when you use up an ENTIRE red pen on one set of essays. Perhaps.



School is SO OVER.

There are not words to describe my joy. Something like this, maybe:

Hooray, indeed, my catty friend. Hoo! RAY!

Your Simple Rules to Grammar, part 4

Part 1: Definitions
Part 2: IC/DC
Part 3: Prepositions

I can hear you. You're thinking that I can't possibly explain grammar in three short posts, one of which was just definitions.

You're right. There's one more caveat.

The Exception Rule: When you have dependent clauses or prepositional phrases in a row, the last one gets the comma unless it doesn't make sense in the sentence.

For example: I said before that you always follow a prepositional phrase with a comma. But what about this sentence?
After going to the bookstore in the city, I bought three books.
  • After going = prepositional phrase
  • to the bookstore = prepositional phrase
  • in the city = prepositional phrase
Punctuation follows the last one. You don't put a comma after every single one.

The Second Exception Rule: There are always exceptions to the rules. But don't you dare break them without understanding the rules first.

I love 'em. Ask away.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

*prays this isn't true*

Via the webcomic, Pearls before Swine.

*eyes the countdown clock*



Your Simple Rules to Grammar, part 3

Part One: Definitions
Part Two: IC/DC Rules

Welcome to my third post in the series: What to do with prepositional phrases!

My other posts were a bit long. You'll be relieved to see this one is shorter.

Prepositional phrases are treated the same way as dependent clauses: you follow dependent clauses with punctuation.

I call it the PP Rules: The Prepositional Phrase rules (although my kids do like saying PP).

  1. IC PP.
  2. PP, IC.
It's the same as with dependent clauses: if it's at the end of the sentence, no comma; if it's at the beginning of the sentence, comma.

  • I cried after reading the book.
  • After reading the book, I cried.
The only difference in the above two sentences are where the phrase is. If it's at the end, it gets the period. If it's at the beginning, it needs a comma after it.

Questions? Ask me, because I'm a grammar fan-girl.

Monday, June 8, 2009

A Fun Writing Contest

If You Give a Girl a Pen has just posted a fun writing contest. Can you solve the plot problem? It's a mystery and a challenge in one! Go enter!


It can't all be grammar lessons and hardcore writing! Check out this intriguingly gross but also kinda funny comic posted by Tor.com.

Today, in Class: The Foreign Edition

As some of you know, I've got a foreign exchange student from China in my English III class.

Kid: I'm going to dig a hole and go to China!

Foreign Exchange Student: What?

Kid: Have you ever heard that before? Do they say in China, "I'm going to dig a hole and go to America?"

Foreign Exchange Student: No. That is stupid.

Other Kid: *with a look of dawning understanding* Yeah....she's right. That IS a stupid thing to say!

Entire Class: *begins discussion on how the Earth's core would make it stupid to dig to China*

Me: Hey! We're supposed to be having a final review here! HEY!!

...hmmm, well that was a lot funnier at the time. But I wanted to have one last Today in Class before summer starts.

Your Simple Rules to Grammar, part 2

If you're not up on your grammar definitions, check yesterday's post here.

So, now you know all about the basics definitions, and what makes a sentence be a sentence (hint: sentence = subject + predicate).

But how do you hook them together?

Note: You do NOT put commas just "wherever it feels natural to pause in the sentence." BECAUSE THAT MAKES NO SENSE AND YOUR ENGLISH TEACHERS LIED TO YOU.

Here's how I teach my tenth graders: the IC/DC rules. IC = independent clause, DC = dependent clause, cc = coordinating conjunction (and, but, or--etc.)

  1. IC.
  2. IC DC.
  3. DC, IC.
  4. IC; IC.
  5. IC, cc IC.

That's it. Now you know grammar. See? Told ya it was simple.

OK, some explanation.

Rule 1: IC. Whenever you have an independent clause, all you need is a period at the end. IC.

Rule 2: IC DC. Whenever a dependent clause follows an independent clause, you don't need a comma, just a period at the end.

Rule 3: DC, IC. Whenever a dependent clause is in front of an independent clause, you DO need a comma to separate them.


Rule 4:
If you're joining together two independent clauses, there needs to be a semicolon separating them, or...

Rule 5: You can also join together the two independent clauses with a comma + a conjunction.

  1. The monkey flings poo. One independent clause = only a period at the end.
  2. The monkey flings poo when he sees you. Independent clause is before the dependent clause. Punctuation follows the dependent clause, so there's only a period at the end, after the dependent clause.
  3. When he sees you, the monkey flings poo. Because the dependent clause is now at the beginning of the sentence, and because punctuation follows a dependent clause, then the comma has to go after the dependent clause.
  4. The monkey flings poo; he laughs at you. Two independent clauses--hook them together with a semicolon, or...
  5. The monkey flings poo, and he laughs at you. ...or you can join them together with a comma and a conjunction. Same difference.
Rant. I think one reason (lazy) English teachers tell kids to just put a comma wherever it feels natural is because these rules do allow for natural pauses. It makes sense to pause in my third example where the comma is, and it doesn't make sense to pause in the second example, where there is no comma. BUT. We don't put the comma there because it's "natural" and "we feel like it." We pause because the comma is there BECAUSE THAT IS THE RULE OF WHERE TO PUT THE COMMAS. (Can you tell that English teachers who don't teach grammar really bother me?)

Easy-peasy, right? With those five simple IC/DC rules, you know when, where, and why to put a comma (or semicolon) in a sentence.

Questions? Feel free to ask below. I am a grammar nerd, and I love grammar questions.

Tomorrow: But what about prepositional phrases?!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

My Sunday Afternoon

It's a crappy, crappy picture, but there it is.

The stack of essays I have to grade for tomorrow.

*tragic sigh* Three more days of school....three more days of school...

Your Simple Rules to Grammar

: I am a grammar nerd. There, I said it. I have been known to put down a book because I could not stand the poor grammar in it. I have once corrected a published book with a red pen. I have once sent a "corrected" book back to a publisher. I am a grammar nerd.

So, after talking with some writing buddies who confessed never having been taught the "rules" of grammar, and having observed once too often poor grammar (thanks, intarwebs, for lowering standard everywhere) (did you see the irony in that parenthetical?)...anyway, I decided that perhaps I can share some of my grammar nerdiness.

Do you need to read this post? Sure, we all know the basics. Separate items in a list with commas. Always start a sentence with capitalization and end with a period. But what about independent and dependent clauses? Prepositional phrases? Comma splices and dangling participles and semicolons? If your knowledge of these things is shady at best, stay tuned for a multi-post series on the simple rules of grammar!

First. There are rules to grammar, just like there are rules to math. If you ever had a teacher tell you that you should put in a comma "whenever you feel like there should be a pause in the sentence," please track down that teacher and kick her in the knee caps. BECAUSE SHE LIED TO YOU. Commas don't go where ever you "feel" like they should. There is a quite logical, mathematical way to do them.

Some history. In the past, there were no proper rules for grammar. None for spelling, either. But as the world became more industrialized, people like Webster thought we should be a little more consistent, so he wrote a dictionary. And some of the most famous mathematicians noticed the rules in, for example, algebra, so they wrote down the rules for grammar, such things as punctuation and double negatives (ever notice how double negatives cancel each other out, just as they do in math? That's why).

My point:
There are rules to grammar, and if you don't want to use them, you should have been born 600 years ago.

My second point: Wuld you liek it if somone mispelled evrythang? Wuld you respekt that persan? Prolly not. Having poor grammar is as bad as misspelling everything, especially if you're a writer who is submitting her work to publishers and agents.

Some definitions. Some of you probably know all about this. If so, ignore me completely. But for those of you who don't, here are some basic definitions to get us started.

Noun: A person, place, thing, or idea. If you can have it, it's a noun.

Verb: It's not just "what you do" (Lord, I hate that commercial.) It's action or a state of being. Basically, if you can put a noun in it and make a whole sentence, it's a verb.

Preposition: A word that gives relationship. A word that tells what, when, where, how, etc. Examples: at, in, before, over, under, because.

OK, so those were kind of basic. Let's get more specific.

Subject: The part of the sentence that contains the noun that's doing something, and all the things that go with it. Key word: it contains a NOUN (or pronoun).

Predicate: The part of the sentence that contains the verb and all the words that go with it. Key word: it contains a VERB.

Clause: A subject + a predicate.

Independent clause: A subject + a predicate that makes sense by itself. In other words, a simple sentence.

Dependent clause: An independent clause that starts off with a preposition (which is now known as a subordinator, or a subordinating conjunction, depending on your school of thought, but that's just labels, don't worry too much about it). This makes the sentence not make sense by itself.

Got it? See, I told you it wasn't hard. And don't worry--it's not going to get any harder. Simple rules, people, simple rules.

Let's try some examples.

  • Noun: dog
  • Verb: ran
  • Preposition: when
  • Independent clause: The dog ran.
  • Dependent clause: When the dog ran.

See how the independent clause made sense by itself, but the dependent one didn't? That's the key difference. Once you know your definitions, the simple rule to keep in mind is this:
  • Independent clause = subject + predicate
  • Dependent clause = subordinator + subject + predicate

OK, so probably this is all basic information that you know like the back of your hand. But do you know how to put those clauses together? Do you know when to use a comma or a semicolon?

I hope so--but if not, check back tomorrow for the simple rules of hooking together clauses!

Friday, June 5, 2009


...I am not going to make it...

...the kids are taking over...

...God, they're everywhere....

...they're so...hyper...

..leave me, save yourselves...

...they can taste summer in the air, there's no stopping them now...

...they're everywhere...

...tell the husband and the dog I love them...

...i think one of them can see me...

[violin music playing in the background, "Nearer, My God, to Thee," fade to black]

Thursday, June 4, 2009

MG vs. YA

Edith Cohn, fellow SCBWI member, has a great post up about what the difference between YA and MG is. Check it out!

Some highlights:

A lot of editors will say they know if a book is MG or YA from the tone. How angsty is the main character? Super angsty and brooding? Sounds like YA. Tons of humor? Could be MG.

Subjective? Absolutely. As someone who writes humorous YA, I find the MG humor stereotype somewhat annoying. And I’m sure if you’re a MG writer who leans toward serious or angst in tone, you do too. Here are some of my favorite funny YA books if you’re looking for YA with comedy: An Abundance of Katherines, Spanking Shakespeare, and Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac.

Me, Hyperventilating

I won some books! ...and look at what books they are!

And while you're at it, Lenore is giving away more books (one of which is....CATCHING FIRE!) I've decided not to enter that one because it'd be a bit hammish of me to enter for more books after just getting some great ones, but I know there's a lot of Catching Fire fans out there, so I thought I'd pass it along.

The End

I typed those magic words last night.

But...I'm not at the end of my manuscript. Not yet.

I did something I've never done before. I wrote the last chapter before I was there yet.

This is very unusual for me. I've mentioned before how I typically don't outline, and when I get stuck, I'm stuck until I figure it out--I can't jump around because I don't know what will happen next.

But with this WIP, I've known the last scene from the moment I started writing. Nothing clear and definite, mind, but I knew where I needed the characters to end up, emotionally, and I knew I had to get them there.

Currently, I'm just before the climax scene, and I've been hesitating. Part of it is being overwhelmed with work--I'm afraid I'll rush the scene and forget about doing something correctly. Part of it, too, is that I'm not 100% sure how to bridge the gap from where I am to that shadowy end scene I've pictured since I started writing.

So I did something unusual (for me). I wrote The End. I wrote that last chapter, and I was able to make concrete that image of the final scene. And then I wrote the chapter in front of it, because I knew what needed to happen immediately before that scene so they'd be emotionally on the same page. I worked backwards like that for four chapters.

I look at it like this: The End is the like the final destination on a voyage. I've gotten down most of the road, but just before I reach that final destination, I come to a river, and the bridge is missing. The End is on the other side of that river. I've been building the bridge on my side of the bank--getting to that climax scene, building up the tension, getting my characters ready to cross that bridge--but building a bridge is hard. So I waved my magic writer-wand, and started building the bridge from the other side, from The End side, and we'll just let my writing meet in the middle.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

What Came in the Mail

Guess what came in the mail?

Oh, yeah.

TBR Tallboy.

Haven't got your copy yet?


It's made and edited by the genius that is Leila of bookshelves of doom, and it's chock full of stories that are a) brilliant, b) YA, and c) brilliant.

Review will follow, probably after I get a chance to sleep, which probably won't be until, say, Saturday.

Today, In Class

In my American literature class, we're reading from Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried. He describes a character's death, and mentions that the definition of war is contradictory. "War is ugly, war is beautiful," he says.

Me: Look here, where he's talking about rocket's red glare. He's saying that war can be beautiful. When you're in it, it's scary, it's ugly--but it's also beautiful.

Kid: What if, like, the rocket shot into your eye? Would it be pretty when it blew up your eye?

Me: Umm...that's not exactly--

Other Kid: How can you see it if your eye's blown out?

Girl Next to Him: You've got two eyes, stupid, you can just look at it with your other one.

Me: *facepalm*

Monday, June 1, 2009

RIGHT NOW: #askagent

Ask an Agent (#askagent) is going on RIGHT NOW at Twitter. I know last time several of you expressed disappointment in missing it. Well, go log into Twitter RIGHT NOW and find @colleenlindsey or @bostonbookgirl to ask questions to agents about the book industry.

(Note: #askagent is a ghost of Twitter--it comes and goes at various agents' whims. The only chance to get it is to luck out and find it when it happens. This is the first time I've seen it since the last time I blogged about it.)

PS: Ignore the post time below--it's 11 pm EST.

PS: While you're at it, friend me! @bethrevis

Today, in Class

We're reading a poem about a chimera, which is an ancient Greek mythological animal.

Kid: Shoo, that ain't nothing. I done shot me some chimera. Do it all the time. I be a hunter.

Me: A chimera isn't real.

Kid: Well, I woulda shot me a chimera if I coulda. Don't be hatin'.

Easter Eggs

Flights of Fantasy recently had a great post on Easter eggs, and I've been building up this blog post ever since.

An Easter egg is like an in-joke: if you know something about the author or the background of the work, then it adds a little something extra. The example Marian gives is

... in China Mieville’s The Scar, where the flagship of the New Crobuzonian fleet is named Morning Walker. That’s a reference to C. S. Lewis’s Dawn Treader, but it’s subtle. If a reader catches the parallel, it provides a little more enjoyment; if not, the name of the flagship still sounds exotic and interesting.
This got me to thinking of all the little Easter eggs I've hidden in manuscripts:
  • I had a main character in an early work named Mina, because I couldn't think of a name for her. Since she was the main character, I switched around the letters of main to get Mina.
  • Mr. Nate Mallory of one work was named after Nathan Fillion, who played Captain Mal Reynolds in the Firefly series.
  • Belle Ravenna is named for the Greek mythological hero Bellerophon.
  • In my last WIP, I put the names of my first critique group partners as children in a classroom as a subtle way to thank them for their help.
  • The artists in my current WIP is named Harley. I originally needed a minor character who was a painter. One of my students, named Charly, had recently drawn me a picture of a gold fish. So, I named my character Harley and had him painting a koi in the scene.
  • In my current WIP, a science fiction, the name of the ship is Antimachus. They are travelling towards a planet in the Centauri star system, so I named the ship after an infamous centaur.

Most of my Easter eggs have to do with names. What about you? Do you slip in any Easter eggs into your works?