There was an Old Lady Who … Wait Stop Telling Me.

Ever want to re-write the classics?  I mean, with everything you are learning as a writer/author you can do better.  Yeah.  I don’t know about that always.  Today though, as I stood brushing my teeth it came to me.  Show vs tell – again!   I know. I am obsessed. It happens to be the one thing that was killing my writing above everything else.   

Sure I still have grammar mistakes and odd sentences here and there.  Sure I sometimes think everyone is in my head.  But – show vs tell was killing me from getting a publisher.

So let’s look at the sentence and rhyme “there was an old lady who lived in a shoe.”

There are a million ways to write any sentence.  But I think this rhyme is riddled with tell.  Here is my attempt at making it more “showy.”

An old lady live in a shoe.  The seams were bursting. Children were everywhere. Confusion and desperation consumed her.

Or

An old lady lived in a shoe. She balanced a kid in each arm and watched the countless others run amuck.

Well it was worth a try. This rhyme wouldn’t be what it is, written any other way. It’s still an example of what authors are told daily, what not to do. So good luck. I hope you find inspiration or a laugh from this today.

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Thoughful Tuesday – Advice or Opinion?

When is it advice based on fact vs. an opinion from your own little mind?  There are a zillion books on writing, editing, and selling. Don’t stop there. Look at all the parenting books and books on finding your soul mate.  So out of all these books which ones are really helpful and which are simply a string of opinions that worked for one person. We are not cookie cutter. Just because Author A got published without editing a single word doesn’t mean Author B can do the same. Just because your child responds to time outs doesn’t mean that another child will. Now the book/movie, He’s Just Not that into You, might actually have some legs to stand on.

He's Just notWhat self-help or instructional books do you rely on? Writing, parenting, dating or otherwise. I personally like Dr. Sears books for child rearing and my own personal gut of course. I have yet to find a query letter book that is perfect, but The Guide to Query Letter’s isn’t bad. The Element of Style for basic grammar isn’t all that bad either – are there better?  I guess it depends on who you ask.

Fun Fact Friday – Where You Learn the Big Words

Winnie the pooh has some very large words in it.  Words that I didn’t even know existed.  This has to be good for me and our children, right?

So I’m thankful for some new words from an unlikely source. Who knew toddlers would expand my horizons.  Sure they suck up all your time, but at least I am being educated.  A word that only Winnie the Pooh could have taught me: Remuneration.  That being said why is it that they spell honey wrong throughout and use the wrong tail = tale spelling?  For those that use words every day I am sure that we are all trying to inspire adults to keep learning and young children to stretch their imaginations.  Is Winnie the Pooh helping or not?  I learn new words but repeatedly see another word misspelled.  I actually had to sit back and think hard about what was the correct spelling for a word that is almost second nature normally.

This isn’t my typical fun fact Friday but I am interested in where we all learn new words to write the impossible or express human emotion.  At some point you have to expand your own horizons in order to fully express what it is you are trying to communicate to the rest of the world.  I hope you will share your thoughts; sorry no remuneration other then gratitude will be given.

 

 

The Common Comma

There are a million rules out there, okay maybe not a million.  In writing though, there are a few that repeat all the time.  Starting out writing, if you weren’t an English major, can be difficult.  When do you use a comma in writing?  I am by no means an expert, but I have found some useful rules that made my life easier.  This list is not exhaustive, but it has the rules that I most commonly use in writing.

First things first: a common is not meant to join independent clauses, it is meant to separate.  Semicolons are the opposite.

  •  When you write a list of descriptive words use a comma.  Mary decided that she needed new shoes, a new purse, and a new dress.
  • Use a comma when you have two or more adjectives in a row to avoid confusion.  He was a short, balding man. If you can put an and between the words add a comma.
  • Use a comma when writing a tag line followed by an action.  “Please don’t do that,” said Liz, jumping off the couch.  OR “Why do you need that,” she asked, still not understanding.
  • Don’t use a comma when the tag line includes a descriptive word.  “Sorry,” Lisa said sadly.
  • Don’t take two independent clauses and join them without a conjunction. (The comma-splice)  Conjunctions: “and, but, nor, for, so, yet” or subordinating conjunctions: “after, although, because, before, how, if, once…”  Examples.  Fred couldn’t understand why Liz was so mad, but he certainly understand why she wouldn’t be happy.
  •  Use a comma to separate and introductory statement.  Before she could get into the car, the heavens opened and drenched her new shoes.
  • Use a comma to separate a parenthetical element.  (I know what the heck is that?) These are the statements that could be removed from a sentence without changing the meaning.  Liz was wearing blue, which was her favorite color, knowing that Frank loved her in it.
  • When offsetting quotes use a comma.  “What I really want to know,” said Liz, “ is whether or not you are planning to take me to the dance.”
  • Don’t use a comma with quoted items.  As my mother always says “don’t count your chickens before they hatch.”

 What comma rules do you use that are not on my list?  Or do you have a question on the use of a comma that maybe myself or one of my readers can answer?