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  1. I wanted to do something a little bit different for the second part of Signature Week. This month, the story picked for the Signature Background was "Into the Deep" by CassieQ. If you haven't already done so, you can download your background, with or without the calendar, here. I decided to ask Cassie if she would be willing to share her views on writing fantasy, she was more than willing to write up a little something for us. Hope you enjoy it!! Tips for Writing Fantasy by CassieQ So as part of Signature Week, I was asked to write a little bit about how to write fantasy, since Into the Deep is a fantasy story. I think a lot of tips of writing fantasy apply to writing in general, but I will do the best I can to mention some things that I consider to be very specific to fantasy. (Kudos to my beta reader, Nathaniel, for adding some good ideas to the mix). Read and research. This is critical. If you are wanting to write fantasy, one of the first things to do is figure out what kind of fantasy you like. To do so you have to read fantasy. Lots of it. This gives you a good idea of what you like and don't like. For example, I don't like reading "high fantasy" type novels, therefore it is highly unlikely that I would ever write something that contained elves, fairies, dwarves, dragons, and the like. (Except maybe dragons. Dragons are cool). But I do like mythology, especially Greek mythology and for Into the Deep, I wanted to work with some of the things I read about in Greek mythology, especially the Sirens. This leads to research. Unless you are an expert in the type of fantasy you are going to write about, you will probably need to do at least some research. It is far easier to do research on something you find fun and interesting than in something you don't. Researching merpeople, Sirens and the such was fun. If I had to research dwarves, I would probably cry. Whose world are you using? Decide whether to create your own world or take on an existing world. Into the Deep belonged to ancient Greek, mythological hijinks included. There are also alternate realities, or completely different worlds, or worlds hidden within our world (Harry Potter, for example). If you decide to create your own world, decided what you are doing to involve; time/decade, technology level, political system, religion, whether magic exists or not, etc. The level of detail depends on how much immersion you create for your reader. Some writers create crazily detailed and vivid worlds for their characters. I tend more towards alternative realities that are very similar to our world. It's up to the writer. However, if you don't want to create a world with a whole lot of detail, make it at least believable and coherent enough that the reader won't stumble about inconsistencies. Bend the rules but don't break them. One of my favorite things about writing fantasy is the flexibility that it offers. For example, consider a mermaid. Could they exist on land? That was up to me. In some stories, merpeople are confined solely to the water. In the fable of the Little Mermaid, the mermaid was confined to the sea until a sea witch gave her legs to walk on land. In the movie Splash, the mermaid could exist on land, but would turn back into a mermaid if she came in contact with the water. So there are options. However, just because a story is a fantasy doesn't mean there aren't rules. Vampires can't walk in sunlight, werewolves can't keep from transforming, and regular men can't breathe underwater. If you break one of these rules, then you need to explain why this particular vampire can walk in the sun, why these werewolves can keep from transforming on the full moon and why a human being can fall in love with a merman. The better the reason, the more interesting the story. So those are my opinions on writing fantasy. Please feel free to share your own ideas, I know there are plenty of fantasy writers out there!
  2. Many authors have had reviews in which they're just not sure how to respond. We've had reviews that tell us how much a reader has loved our stories and how they just can't wait for the next chapter or story to come out, but there's the other side that as an author we're not always sure how to handle. The purpose of this blog is to show how some of our promoted authors have dealt with some of their worst criticisms. There was so much interest from our Promising and Signature Authors that I had to break the blog post up into two parts. Today, in Part I, I'm focusing on Promising Authors. On March 19th, I'll post Part II and you'll get to hear from the Signature Authors here at Gay Authors. Each author has picked what they felt was both one of their best compliments and their worst/harshest criticism. I hope you enjoy this look into how other authors handle some of their harsher criticisms. Promising Author: Andy78; author of The Crown Affair Well, not really much of a struggle to find my worst criticism. It was from my creative writing lecturer. She said: Although the story fulfils the provided brief, I find it an implausible plot, set in yet another homophobic school. What makes the plot even more implausible, is that it contains the obligatory and clichéd teen who accepts and befriends the gay character. Although the story has no issues concerning grammar or punctuation, the repetitive feel to previous stories means this is definitely not your best piece of work. How was I affected by it: To say I was irked is an understatement. The brief was “write a 2000-3000 word story on a bullied teen”, and this was only the third short I had “set in yet another homophobic school” out of probably twenty shorts over two years. I wasn’t the only person in the class who had gone down “the gay teen” route, but what had annoyed me was that she had based her comments on the fact that I had previously written gay-themed stories and not considered the story on its own merits. I felt that her criticism was unjust, but hey, it was after all only one person’s opinion on one 2500 word story. It took a lot, but I finally managed to shrug it off Finding my best compliment has been so much harder. I’ve had so many wonderful reviews and some great feedback from readers here at GA, and offsite. But I guess one of my favourites, one that probably meant the most to me, was a review left by Nephylim of The Ddraig-Cyfinachau (which I really must get back to writing): (Chapter 7 Review) – posted by Nephylim June 12, 2012 The Cailleach is my favourite goddess. She who tears down so that new growth may sprout up. Not as violent at the Mhorrigan, more natural... which, after all death is. Can the deaths be justified? In a way, I suppose it depends on how you view death. Many Celtic deities/demi gods can be considered to be violent and immoral but it depends on your own particular moral code and what you justify to yourself. I have no problem with accepting the deaths were necessary. Cruel, yes but necessary in the progression of the story and the myth, How was I affected by it: This was a review of a particularly gruesome chapter, and to be honest about the only review/comment/feedback that didn’t make me think I’d made a horrible mistake with the way the chapter played out. There was a lot of emotional response from the chapter, mostly sent to me by PM, and I’m sure I lost a number of readers because of it. Although I have had some great reviews in my time here, they have been primarily from widely liked stories, this was one of only a couple of positive reviews I received for the chapter, which told me that I must have done something right. The very lopsided feedback I had from this chapter made me realise that the saying is true: You can please some of the people some of the time, all of the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time, but you can never please all of the people all of the time. However, Nephylim’s review gave me the confidence to write my story my way. Promising Author: Andr0gene; author of Colorado Game Best Compliment: Not sure if it is a compliment, but they always want more. I guess that is the best compliment one can get. Worst Criticism: There are three 'critisisms' that I agree with, and would love to correct at some point in time: 1) The cop out with the father being ill, and the main character leaving without a word since. Too easy. 2) People hating Mark for being too trusting with Kyle, not realizing he was being played by Kyle. That didn't come out right, and I'd love to fix it. 3) Spelling. Writing in another language is not a good excuse to use. Good editors would fix that. Having said that, I would not dream of dissing my old editor's efforts (Bill) for even a smidge. All I can do is expand on what he has done for me. Promising Author: K.C.; author of Pour Me Another Ever since I started putting my writing out there for the world to see, I’ve gotten an overwhelming number of reviews both good and bad over the last few years. When readers connect with my stories, when they enjoy something I’ve created, it gives me encouragement and it makes me want to work harder to bring them the best story I can. Unfortunately, negative review can sometimes do the opposite. It’s hard to keep your chin up and take the blows when someone hates a story I’ve worked so hard to create. I try to stay objective and tell myself that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but honestly, it hurts! At one point, while working on "Shepherd's Crook" a reader publically announced that people should never read this story. The reader said to stay clear of it or they will have to adjust their depression medication. I was very taken aback by this. The reader went on to say that I thrived on pain and use nuclear energy to fill the world with bombs. In that moment, I contemplated giving up writing. I sat and stared at the screen. Dazed...Speechless…Wondering… Then I pulled out the journal I use to write all my story ideas. I read over the plots of what I've written in the past and new projects I had for the future. If I only write happy stories, where the world is full of rainbows, fluffy clouds and butterflies, my creative side will die! Life isn’t perfect, it isn’t sugarcoated, and it sure as hell isn’t easy. Nobody is guaranteed a happily-ever-after! Life is messy and complex and a mix of triumph and pain. My goal is create something great, something amazing, something that leaves readers breathless, hanging on each word, begging for more…anything less isn’t worth writing. Promising Author: Mann Ramblings; author of So Little Magic Left Best Compliment: I have two really, both from The Luxorian Fugitive. The first was a review after a chapter where all hell had broken loose and the fate of the main characters was seriously in question: "Oh. My. God." The other was by the same reviewer after a particularly steamy scene in a shower: "You tred the fine line of raunchy so well, lol!" I'm very proud of both and can't choose which one I prefer. Worst Criticism: This was more "Harshest" rather than "Worst." After a particularly violent scene in Little Man I braced for unhappy reactions. "How does this violent physical assault and rape advance the plot? It just strikes me that the drama and its related tesion were already quite high. Now this. I don't get it." I sat back, took a deep breath and responded as politely as I knew how. The story wasn't complete and I hoped the remaining chapters made the scene valid even if the content may have been controversial. Promising Author: Sasha Distan; author of Born Wolf Best Compliment: Wow! After the last chapter, I figured out that each would have to submit to the other in different form for their relationship to work, but OMG! The werewolf culture you have created is fascinating, and the complex relationship you are developing between the boys provides some of the most drawn-out, hottest foreplay in history! I feel like a wolf, panting with my tongue hanging out, waiting for the next chapter! Kudos! Worst Criticism This sucks. I like your story about the bear and the boy, so I decided to read this. It's terrible! You have a "dominant" and big male get raped and not anally raped (not that would have made it better), and is crying and throwing up like a female dog. Women who have actually gotten raped don't act as weak and pathetic as this guy. I can't get over how pathetic you've made him. You should just take the story down and try again. Reaction: As awful as finding out that somebody out there thinks that what you've written isn't worth the binary it's stored in (please forgive my bad-geek paraphrasing), to me, it's still better than no feedback at all. This particular piece of vitriol did not make me question the worth of what i had done. It is one person's opinion. However, our best feedback comes from complaints, and it's important to listen - if this idea had been repeated, then i would have worried. You should never give up because one person doesn't like what you've done, because for each bit of bad feedback, there's always something nice to say. When I get negative feedback (and this bit in particular) I generally storm up and down the house (shouting) until my husband gets me to calm down from the stressed and sweary mess I have gotten myself into. Then I go back to the keyboard and try to prove everybody else wrong. Don't forget to check back on March 19th for Part II!!!!
  3. Exactly a month ago, we gave you Best/Worst Part I, which consisted of Promising Authors, though one of the authors has since been promoted to Signature. There were lots of response as everyone seemed to enjoy the post. As promised, here's Part II: Signature Authors! I asked each author what they felt was both one of their best compliments and their worst/harshest criticism. I hope you enjoy this look into how other authors handle some of their harsher criticisms. Signature Author: CassieQ and author of Geeks Worst criticism: This is a tough one to pick from, because I believe all criticism is useful unless it is non constructive. In my mind, the worst criticism is no feedback at all! In all the time I've been writing and posting online, I've never had a criticism that has torn me apart, and although I get harsh comments from my beta sometimes they are invaluable, because they show me how to make my work better. The closest I ever came to non-constructive criticism was a review that I got on this site for NTS, in which a reviewer stated that they didn't like this kind of story and didn't like cliffhanger endings. And while I definitely appreciated the feedback, it wasn't the type of criticism that I felt that I could really do much with. I can't change the story to make it fit into a genre that the reviewer liked better and while readers often claim that cliffhangers drive them crazy, this site seems to value them. (Reader's Choice awards, anyone)? If choosing a worst criticism was hard, then choosing the best compliment is even tougher. All constructive feedback is valuable to be, so I can't really say that one is better, or best, in my mind. However, I think my favorite feedback probably comes from my beta, just because of his honesty and his willingness to tell me things that I don't like to hear sometimes. Because his criticism is so honest despite hurting my feelings sometimes (okay, most of the time) when he comes across something he likes, I know he is honest about that as well. So I never have to worry about him "just being nice" or "not hurting my feelings" because he doesn't do things that way, and I know that whatever he tells me will help further my writing and you can't get much better than that. (Although someone telling me that the opening chapter of Reach was "one of the most erotic story chapters" they had ever read was pretty sweet. Especially considering it was the first erotic scene between two males that I had ever written before. That comes in a very close second!) Signature Author: Cia and author of Needing You Hmm… feedback is one of those things that is so subjective. What is negative to me might not be to the person commenting, so I try to keep an open mind about what the other person says. This is especially apt with published work, which should be held to a higher standard. When I published Pricolici a reader discovered they could comment on Goodreads as they read… and boy was I treated to a LOT of commentary, way too much to share here. And a graphic too. A highlight of the reviewer’s feelings at 39% in: "At this point, I cheerfully dislike both MCs. Woot. Prospects are great, guys!" Of course my ending reply on the review sums up my basic regard toward feedback on any of my work but especially for anything published. The most important part of my reply: “Ah well, if I couldn't hack it, I wouldn't have published it. You'd make a great beta, the sarcasm is entertaining, and I certainly can't mistake how you feel.” You can see the entire exchange here. Knowing what I now editing-wise, I can see a lot of validity in the commentary. The lessons an author can and should learn as they mature in our craft makes all the difference when we look back. In January I had two eBooks come out with two publishing houses. The both began as free serial stories, and both were polished and improved. Since they came out I’ve received some stellar reviews. The best of which came from someone I’m not even sure I know personally, but who is definitely an amazing fan. This effusive review is from Todd Ticen on Amazon about my writing in general and Protecting Bear in particular. When this comes from friends it's nice, but when it comes out of the blue, I really treasure knowing I've touched a reader so much. “If you have not had the privilege of reading one of Alicia Nordwell's stories then I strongly encourage you to delve into her world and experience stories that will both excite your senses and ensnare your soul. A truly remarkable writer that has a special and very talented way of pulling a reader into her stories with lifelike characters, enthralling plots and always the thrill of escaping into the world she vividly paints with her imagination. A truly gifted writer and a MUST read. I can promise you that you will not be disappointed with any of her stories." Obviously I was floored by Todd’s lovely review and ecstatic to receive such praise. You can read all of it here. I only hope I can continue to live up to it! Signature Author: Comicfan and author of Last Christmas I’ve written a number of stories on GA. Some have been reviewed favorably but there are reviews you get that are emailed to you. Among those you get people who are incredibly kind and those who are deeply vicious. The good ones I keep these, no matter how long ago they came in and read them when I need a pick me up. I have had two of the best and perhaps sweetest reviews come in on a tale I wrote called “A Cat’s Life.” Here are the reviews as they were emailed to me. Hi :I was reading some stories on the Gay Authors site and without going into a long explanation, I came across your stories. I have read several and enjoyed them, but " A Cat's Life " just touched something in me. It is so heartwarming and kind, I had to write to you and say thank you. Best wishes, Joel Then there was this one as well. Hope this is okay for contacting you as I am not a member of the website. I just wanted to say that I really enjoy your stories a lot. Especially "The Strange Life of Jonas Marks" (which I am trying to wait patiently for the next installment), "Accidents Happen" and "A cat's life". I also read Broken and found it very upsetting. It was good, don't get me wrong, but I hated that this was probably true somewhere. I have no doubt that people do that to other people. I think if I ever found a letter like that, I would do anything I could to try to find this person. It was very thought provoking, and made me cry. I wish things like that wouldn't happen, but I know they do. Anyway, just wanted to say that I think you need to be more well known for your stories. I will definitely be handing them along to friends. Please keep writing, and I can't wait for the next part of Jonas' story. Jenna Reviews like this encourage me. They remind me that the stories I write have a life beyond me. They can affect people and that is something special that can only come between a reader and a story. Knowing I have had a hand in that just shows me that the things I enjoy are also enjoyed by others. Of course I have also had those that felt it was completely alright to rip me apart because they wrote to me privately. One such piece came about my work in an Anthology for the “The End of the World.” The reviewer of my story very “politely” told me that my writing sucked, the dialogue was stilted, and the story didn’t work. I was told I should stay to the little tales of happily ever after and leave the real writing to others. The author tore the work to shreds without giving me any encouragement of what I did well or that anything was worth going on with. Instead of quitting as my reviewer suggested, it pissed me the hell off. The end result of it was I took a huge departure from my usual style of writing and delivered the story, “The Escape of John Doe.” I don’t think I have had so many surprised comments on a piece of work I have done in a long time. Signature Author: Renee Stevens and author of Thwarted Honestly, choosing my harshest criticism wasn't that hard to do. I've received a few over the years that I've been writing, but one really sticks out in my mind. It was a review to my story Leather Bar. As far as the author was concerned, there was nothing redeeming about the story. Sorry to spoil the party, but this was boring beyond belief. Nothing happened. A non night out which had been predicted. A guy who isn't actually safe to be out on his own. There was no tension. No dramatic pre-emption. No twist. No significant plot. No point. Two guys debate going out, go out, have experience predicted, came home. God only knows what sex would have been like if we had actually got there and klutz had not broken his neck tripping over an ant. Probably would have snapped the condom and pinged himself in the eye ... and no, not THAT eye either. That would have been funny. I had to walk away before I could respond. As I responded to the reviewer, I understand that not everyone is going to like what I write, but I didn't feel that was a constructive criticism. I finally had to sit back and look at my other readers' thoughts and remind myself that it was one reviewers thoughts. The other readers saw the story for what it was, a short look into the lives of my two characters. Choosing my best compliment, that was much harder. I've received some absolutely wonderful reviews, both on and off site. I think the one that really stands out in my mind, is one that was left on one of my prompt responses, The Only One. The reviewer really put a lot of thought into the review and took the story down to its basic elements, elements that I didn't even really think about while I was writing it. As I read the review, I realized that the reviewer was right. I'm only going to share the first part of the review, cause the rest of the review would contain spoilers. I enjoyed this story immensely based solely on the technical challenge this kind of story presents to the writer. In a sense, this is a "confession story", similar to "True Confessions", a magazine sold in the UK and mostly written by women for the confession market, except, of-course, this is a gay confession. Technically, it has all the attributes of a confession story. Let's look at them for a moment. If you want to read the rest of the review, I'd strongly suggest you read the story first! I don't usually think of formulas when I write, but the fact that the reviewer was able to point out the formula to me, was great. I enjoy getting reviews and all of them make me think and look for ways to improve. Some point out things they don't like, not always nicely. Others, like the one on The Only One, show me what I'm doing right, whether or not I realized it when I was writing it.
  4. So, I was looking through some of the blog articles that I have and was trying to decide what would be a good choice for Wacky Wednesday. It was a hard choice, to be honest, but then I came across this little gem. Since I don't want to give too much away, I'll just let you see for yourself what I found... Story Cost... More or Less by Cia Yes, we're putting a price on stories. No more free fiction. *snickers* Are you getting ready to flame me? Okay, okay, we're not going to stop anyone from posting free stories or anything. However, I did want to share some thoughts I recently had on 'fifty cent' words and their place in fiction. These so called fifty cent words are ones that catch your eye, the big words full of rich meaning in the English language (or whatever the author writes in). So many times I see a story littered with them with every sentence structured to feature the words that jump out at readers, sometimes even hosting two or three of them! I guess to some that's a good thing. They like to use those fifty cent words, thinking they increase the worth of their story. For example: "Oh, how spectacular," she exclaimed fervently, enthralled by the landscape when she beheld the vermillion flowers carpeting the verdant meadow. Now, my writing is all about entertainment. I'm after the picture, not the words, to be memorable for my readers. I'm not trying to enlighten anyone when I write, I'm trying to entertain. For my style bigger is not better. I made those mistakes at first, throwing out the unusual words with great shades of meaning, but those become annoying and difficult to wade through for the average reader. Sure, there was little confusion for those of us who grew up reading the dictionary for fun, but for the other 99% of readers it isn't nearly as enjoyable. (Yes, self-confessed geek here, lol) I came to a decision. My goal is to always make the words in a story as invisible as possible. That means using simple phrases and key words everyone knows to create vivid images in the reader's mind. I'm a big fan of 'nickel words' of the fiction world you might call them. I don't want my writing to get in the way of my story, so I streamline visuals and add only the essential descriptions. Or you could just call me cheap! For example: "Oh!" Her bright smile lit up her eyes. She gripped his hand as she stared, taking in the ruby red flowers carpeting the lush meadow. The second example is simpler but very visual and still rich with meaning. I use the word ruby to evoke a vivid red color everyone knows, and since most people already think of meadows as green, I used lush. It works since we usually relate the word to something really rich with gives a visual of a green meadow with a ton of plant life and flowers. I also avoid the speech tag and instead show her reaction with visual cues, so the reader can see how she feels and, therefore, get a better 'picture' than if I tell them she's excited. Now, I'm not saying using big words is wrong all the time, or that they can't enhance a story. You might have a discussion between two doctors, for example, and they'd logically use more technical words than the average person--depending on the discussion. A story set back in the Victorian era would also be more adaptable to a flowery turn of phrase because that is the expected speech pattern of the time. But for regular ole entertaining stories, the kind I enjoy presenting to my readers, I think I'll stick to my trusty nickel words!
  5. Hope everyone is having a fantastic week so far! If you haven't already done so, don't forget to chime in on the CSR Discussion on "Wrangler Butts" by Reddirtwriter! For today's installment of the blog, I have a list of some great quotes compiled by Cia. I hope you all enjoy them as much as I did! Quotes from the Greats Compiled By Cia Writing Quotes There is probably no hell for authors in the next world -- they suffer so much from critics and publishers in this. - C. N. Bovee If you write one story, it may be bad; if you write a hundred, you have the odds in your favor. - Edgar Rice Burroughs If you have other things in your life -- family, friends, good productive day work -- these can interact with your writing and the sum will be all the richer. - David Brin I have been successful probably because I have always realized that I knew nothing about writing and have merely tried to tell an interesting story entertainingly. - Edgar Rice Burroughs Thank your readers and the critics who praise you, and then ignore them. Write for the most intelligent, wittiest, wisest audience in the universe: Write to please yourself. - Harlan Ellison Editing Quotes I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil. - Truman Capote It is perfectly okay to write garbage--as long as you edit brilliantly. - C. J. Cherryh Never throw up on an editor. - Ellen Datlow Half my life is an act of revision. - John Irving [Editors] drive us nuts. We go from near-worshipful groveling when we submit to bitter cursing when they reject us. - Ken Rand Publishing Quotes When a man publishes a book, there are so many stupid things said that he declares he'll never do it again. The praise is almost always worse than the criticism. - Sherwood Anderson Rejection slips, or form letters, however tactfully phrased, are lacerations of the soul, if not quite inventions of the devil - but there is no way around them. - Isaac Asimov The reason 99% of all stories written are not bought by editors is very simple. Editors never buy manuscripts that are left on the closet shelf at home. - John Campbell There are three difficulties in authorship: to write anything worth publishing -- to find honest men to publish it -- and to get sensible men to read it. - Charles Caleb Cotton Engrave this in your brain: EVERY WRITER GETS REJECTED. You will be no different. - John Scalzi
  6. As we've mentioned before, FictionStoriesOnline.com is a "sister" site of GayAuthors.org with some great writing advice and tips. With permission, here is one that ran last year, but the advice is great and we hope you enjoy it! Flashbacks: Friends or Foe? I had a discussion in a chat room recently over flashbacks. Specifically, how does an author relate history in a story of another character that isn't the main POV? This was especially important, as he wasn't known to the main character at the point where his actions impacted the plot, and the story was written in third person limited. So there wasn't a logical way to simply introduce him to the reader by showing a scene in the present timeline. One of the ways discussed to provide that information on the character's personality and his history with the main character was a flashback. While I don't prefer them myself, we all agreed there are a few simple guidelines that are vital to ensuring a flashback is used correctly to help the author tell their story. 1) The flashback needs to clearly relate to the specific point in the plot where it begins. If it is a memory triggered by a specific drink the character has, the memory should start with a situation where the drink was involved - such as a date in a coffee shop. It wouldn't, however, be clear to the reader if you had the flashback start while the character is making the date days before then. 2) The scene shared in the flashback must have a purpose. Why does the reader need this information? If it is just to share the history of the characters, and it doesn't move the story forward, then don't add it. 3) The most important rule we agreed on was very simple. The story must return to the exact point the flashback started. To do anything else removes the legitimacy of the 'flashback' and makes it become a scene out of timeline sequence instead. For example: A woman waiting for her husband picks up her cup of coffee and takes a sip, then she has the memory of their blind date in the same coffee shop. She puts down the cup, then her new husband walks in. She smiles at him when he sits down and repeats the corny line he used on her when he first sat down in the memory. They laugh. The coffee drink/shop in the present scene relates to the memory of the first date directly. The memory is vital to explaining the line, why she'd use it with her husband, and why it is funny. Without it, the reader wouldn't understand the scene that the author returns to as the woman puts the cup back down and her husband walks in. Using those simple guidelines, a flashback can enhance your story. Just remember not to overdo the flashbacks scenes or the timeline can become muddled. It can be a very useful tool, however, when used sparingly. What are your thoughts on this? Do you agree with these guidelines? Are there any other tips about using flashbacks that you've found in your writing or in stories that you've read? Let us know in the comments - Trebs
  7. Not everyone knows that GayAuthors.org has a number of sister websites - also operated by CDEJR Web Services Inc for various purposes. One of those sites, fictionstoriesonline.com is the source of today's blog and we thank FSO for allowing us to use it. Meaningless Words With A Purpose What's a meaningless word? How could one have meaning? Well, I'm talking about interjections! What is an interjection really? Well, it's a word that doesn't have any part of speech but is put in a sentence to indicate an emotion. Sometimes they're not really even words, but through their use, they've come to mean something. They can be very useful, though I believe they should be limited to dialogue. Below is a list of frequently used interjections and their commonly held meanings. Feel free to add to this list, as it is by no way complete. Mmm: Indicates thought or sort of a lazy pleasure Mmhmm: Indicates agreement Aha: This indicates triumph or a sudden moment of understanding. Um: Is just a place holder for a pause, but sometimes expresses confusion. Oh: Very versatile. It can express surprise, pain, pleasure, add emphasis to a statement, Oh my god! or could be used to indicate a question with the addition of a question mark, Oh? Hmph: This one is very Scottish sounding, lol. It expresses indignation or annoyance. Ew, Ick, Ack: These all can express disgust. Duh: Expresses disdain to someone who is being dense. Eek: This could be fright or an unpleasant surprise. Bah: Indicates derisive dismissal. Shh: Indicates a need for silence. Aw: This one is also versatile, it can be disappointment or if extended, it could be an expression of sympathy, like awww. BTW - did you know that we're on Facebook too? Give us a "Like" to see updates...
  8. This is a first - normally we solicit articles or pull up things from the distant past, but for this week's blog article, I was looking around last Thursday and saw a personal blog that comicfan had written. As I read it, I went "Self - this is PERFECT." So after a little cajoling and offers of first-born puppies, I was able to steal borrow his blog to share it with all of you. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do! Leaving Reviews by comicfan I noticed someone had commented on leaving reviews. I've been on both sides of this, reading them and leaving them. I just figured I would note a few things. 1) I love a review. It is nice to know what what people think of the ideas I have in my head. I have had great reviews and bad ones. 2) Bad reviews - I have no problem if someone doesn't like my story. However saying "You suck as a writer," or "Why did you write such crap," really doesn't tell me much, other than feeling it is a personal attack on me. I would rather read, "your characters don't seem real to me" or "people don't talk like you have them doing here." These sort of comments are something I can now focus on and see about fixing. The reviewer is presenting to me what they see as the flaws. Sometimes mistakes happen and by being specific it gives the author something they can go and look at. 3) Good reviews - Every author loves an ego boost. Reading such things as "This is wonderful" or "I love your work" will always make us feel great. However, just like the bad review it doesn't let us know much about what you liked if you leave that out. "I really connected to the mother in this story, she reminds me so much of my own mom," or "I've had times when I felt just like that and those comments have passed through my own head" allow the author to know we are connecting and how with the reader. A favorite line or favorite character that is commented on allows the author to realize where we have succeed and can hopefully do so again in the future. 4) Finding an error. Most authors on the site have a beta and editor. However, even the best of us are still human. If you find something (The author changed Karen to Karren, or misspelled experience in the middle of the story) isn't something to note in a review. A simple note to author goes a long to making the correction and saving the embarrassment for the author and their team. Remember, the review will stay even after the correction will be made. 5) Answering the review. You have taken the time to read and comment on an author's story. You have giddily commented on what you seen, enjoyed, and now wait to hear back on your comment. Yeah, as you have taken the time to write, it is also now on the author to answer those reviews. With a published author, they made their money and may have someone else answering their fan mail. Here the reader is much closer, reading weekly an author's contribution to their tales. Responding to those readers also lets them know you appreciate their time and the kindness they have taken in responding to what you have written. Personally I try not to let any review go more than a day without answering it. I like my readers to know I really am interested in their comments and ideas. It is just a courtesy I try to keep. So those are my ideas and comments on reviews. Might help someone with what they are doing. Anyway, enjoy. Thanks again comicfan for your viewpoint on this - I think it really is helpful. What do you think? Let us know in the comments! - Trebs
  9. ANNOUNCEMENT: Please welcome GayAuthors.org's newest Hosted Author: David McLeod. David has been a Promising Author here and has a great body of work - hope you check it out! Sorry for the slight delay this morning, got caught up in one too many phone calls. Sometimes, conflict can be a burden, or - as Libby Drew helps point out, it can be the key to great writing. We hope you enjoy this latest writing tip - let us know some other ideas for conflict that you think could be effective. As always, if you have a writing or site tip that you'd love to share with the community, let me know. - Trebs Enjoy! Conflict Is Key Creating powerful conflict and weaving it tightly throughout the story is a difficult skill to master. It can take years of practice. But the reward is worth the learning curve, especially if the result is cathartic to the reader. Conflict is what makes us interested in outcome. A story with a weak conflict that leaves the characters exactly as they were at the start won’t be satisfying; your story won’t make a lasting impression. I’m betting that’s a no-brainer for most people reading this. Unfortunately, knowing isn’t the same as doing, so here are a few generalities to keep in mind while crafting your plot. Your main character, your hero, should face three different types of conflict. • Internal • Relational (with other characters) • External (against environment or circumstances). Use all three. It’s not as difficult as it might seem at first glance, and your story will have more depth. Keep the tension rising. Always. All the time. The pacing of conflict in your story should look like this: Conflict Simmers --> Conflict Boils --> Conflict Explodes --> Temporary Safety --> Repeat. Envision your story with peaks and valleys. Your peaks should get progressively higher as the climax nears. At every turn, ask yourself “How can I make this situation worse?” Conflict is the nervous system of your story. It sets characters in motion, forcing them to do things they would never have imagined doing. They may lash out or jump onto paths they never expected to travel. In reality, most people try to get along with others, to bring peace to potentially explosive situations. Your characters should go out of their way to make those situations worse. This will highlight their imperfections. Make them more richly rounded. Your characters can’t all love each other. They can’t always agree. If they do, your readers will be asleep by chapter two. Or looking for something else to read. So don’t hold back. Let characters say things they’ll regret. Make then lose their tempers, their possessions, and their hearts. Push them beyond their limits and then show the reader how much that hurts them. Consider these suggestions: • Give your characters opposing goals. • Make them face their fears and rely on their weaknesses instead of their strengths. • Deny them what they want most of all. Then deny them again. • Introduce uncertainty at every opportunity—is a friend truly a friend? • Make them care, then threaten what they care about. • Leave them isolated and under attack from both friends and enemies. Maybe even from themselves. It may sound complicated, but chances are you already have a solid grasp of what’s needed. Execution may not be so simple, so stay vigilant. Test yourself by “graphing” your story. Is the tension escalating as it should? Pushing your characters into conflict will drive your story tension higher, forcibly evict blandness and banality, and leave behind something far more fulfilling for the reader. Conflict is a requirement of satisfying fiction, so make it a strong component of your stories. ~Libby
  10. Is the proof in the pudding or do the results stand for themselves? Here is our favorite writing tip guru, Libby Drew, with "The Writing on the Wall" - how using clichés can weaken your writing. Enjoy! The Writing on the Wall A cliché is an expression, idea, or element of an artistic work which has become overused to the point of losing its original meaning or effect to the point of being trite or irritating, especially when at some earlier time it was considered meaningful or novel. The cliché is your enemy. Writers, your editors and beta readers should be catching the clichéd phrases that slip into your narrative. “Lasted an eternity. As old as the hills. Frightened to death. What goes around comes around.” But clichés can affect good writing on a much broader level as well. Certain ones appear over and over and have become nothing more than crutches for the writer to lean on. The story progresses, but not because the author has stretched their abilities. Here are a few to look out for: • Characters describing themselves in mirrors—I have an opinion on just how much physical character description is needed in a story (little to none, if you’re interested), but many authors have a pressing need to give the reader something. This is far more challenging in a first-person narrative, obviously. But unless they’re incredibly vain and self-obsessed, what person hangs around in front of a mirror ruminating over their gorgeous locks and flawless skin? Avoid this. It’s lazy, and it’s been done to death. (Ha!) • Blaming bad behavior on bad parenting—Why is this overused? Because it’s easy. It’s difficult to justify bad behavior. Abusive parents and a tough childhood can explain a lot without the author having to work. Yes, an abusive childhood can be profound and deeply affecting. No argument. But a lot of the time in fiction, the bad parents are there because it’s convenient. You know what’s far more unsettling and provocative? A character who had a perfect childhood and still turned out to be a cruel, evil person. • Inside jokes—This is ego related. It’s cool to let everyone know that you, dear author, have seen every Monty Python movie ever made, right? No. Some people will think it’s cool. Others will be stopped cold by references they don’t understand and may never get the wheels going again. They’ll back-button on your story, close their Kindle, toss the paperback under the bed. Writing for your ego will alienate more readers than it will charm. • Veiling your message in a dream—I've achieved imagery! That means I’m a “real” writer. Nonsense. You were a real writer the moment you finished your first short story, novel, screenplay, poem, etc. There are thousands of ways to convey ideas and feelings using imagery. Don’t be lazy. A dream sequence isn’t even that effective as a storytelling device. Either the correlation between dream and story is so on-the-nose it’s ridiculous, or it’s so esoteric that the reader is pulling out their trusty “Meaning of Dreams” book to decipher the clues. Could you strike a balance? Sure. But why would you? You can do better than a dream sequence. What’s wrong with these storytelling techniques? Nothing, truthfully. They’re clichéd exactly because they’re effective. But you can do better. Work at it. Stretch your imagination. Don’t rely on what has become trite and meaningless. ~Libby
  11. REMINDER: Political posts/comments are not allowed in the GA Forums including status updates and chat - thanks! So - have you started going through withdrawals from not getting a writing tip from Libby? I really enjoy the perspective she has and the experience she shares in these tips that she does for our community. Here Libby writes on "Specificity" - Enjoy! Specificity Of course we can say “she cooked him dinner.” But why would we, when we could say “she broiled him a Delmonico to medium rare.” We experience life in particulars, not in vague generalities. Specific details jolt our memories and feelings. When writing, name things and actions specifically, but be wary of overbalancing. Too much specificity dilutes the power of your juicy Delmonicos. Specific details are the things that sell reality to the reader. They can be powerfully emotive, and they help our audience empathize and sympathize with our characters. They let us believe we have experienced what they have. Writing description—painting a vivid picture in the reader’s mind—is a bear to master. Often, we err on the side of too much or too little description to carry a scene. One key to making description work for us is specificity. It makes our prose more powerful. It can change a bland, generic piece of descriptive writing into something far more interesting to read. It draws the reader in. It makes the story more tangible and believable. There's probably no limit to the number of specific details we could build into a passage of descriptive writing. So we must be selective. Too many details can slow the action, and if they aren't of vital importance to the story, they become boring. On the other hand, a few telling details inserted in the middle of the action can paint a rich picture for the reader without slowing things down. He picked her up at seven o’clock and took her to the Chinese restaurant in town. Or… He roared up in his Porsche at seven. Candy-apple red and gleaming, it shamed the other cars lining the street. At the House of Chen, they parked next to a boulder-lined koi pond. The red fish matched the car perfectly. So… the next time one of your chapters seems a little bland, try replacing some general words with specific details. You may be amazed how much power they contain. But be selective. Think carefully on which details, when brought to life though specificity, will add the most life to your story. ~Libby
  12. The experiences of our members are always a valuable resource here at GayAuthors.org, whether it is in reviewing, tips on writing or in this case, how to market your work. Thanks go out to Hosted Author Andrew_Q_Gordon (the artist formerly known as Quonus10) for this blog entry on what to do, and what NOT to do! So you wanna be an Author – hope you took marketing classes. by Andrew_Q_Gordon I imagine many of the writers on GA want to not only publish the work, but also sell their books as well. It's a realistic goal. Many have done it and more will. When AnytaSunday and I sold (Un)Masked to Dreamspinner Press, she had already self-published a few titles. Some were free, others were $.99 or $1.99. I figured her name recognition would translate into buckets of sales for the professionally published book that was about to be released. Sometimes I can be so wrong. I knew there was a need to 'get the word out' so I created a blog and a Facebook page and thought – well, now I'll just announce things and the sales will tumble in. It's stunning how wrong I can be at times. [A word of warning – if you use your author name as your profile, Facebook may delete it without any notice to you thereby wiping out everything there because it violates the terms and service agreement. In theory, only real people may have a FB Profile. Pen Names and the like are supposed to use their much less user friendly Author Page. It's happened before and will happen again, even if it's rare, so be aware of the issue.] In the last year I've learned a few things that might be of use to others who are considering or want to be a published author. Marketing isn't so much about getting the word out about your new book as getting your name out there so when you do have a new book, people will be interested. The idea is you want fans/readers/followers who will read your announcements and be interested in your book. Sure you can buy banner ads, or put your book cover up on literary sites and hope it will catch someone's eye enough that they'll buy it, but real sales comes from somewhere else. [For today's discussion we can leave out what genre sells better than others and speak in more general terms.] Perhaps the single best piece of advice I can give is, start early. Well before your book comes out, you should be marketing yourself as an author. You can and should be cultivate a fan base, create an interesting website/blog, engage readers on a daily basis, help promote other authors work so when your book comes out they'll return the favor and you can tap into their readers. All of these things and others take time to build up. If you do what I did and wait until your book is almost out, you'll be disappointed by the sales. Anecdotally, for (Un)Masked, there were four (4) presales before it was published. The Last Grand Master presold 8 copies. As of June 18th, Purpose has presold 18. The difference is name recognition to some degree. If you're still writing your book, now is the time to start your site, your blog, create a twitter account and join groups. Make nice with authors, re-tweet their posts, have them as a guest, review their books and post it on your site. All these things will help you build up good will that is generally returned when you're promoting your own work. The second suggestion is find a way to get readers of your blog, FB, tweets, website, whatever, to sign up for email up dates. Wordpress has an easy tool on their site where you can put up a box where folks can add their email address and get email notifications. You should put this high on the page, on every page, so that anyone who visits your site/page will see it. Not everyone will join, but at least they don't have to hunt to find it if they want to. Here is an example from my site: http://andrewqgordon.com/posts/ Once you've got your accounts and set up so people can sign up, you need to get eyeballs and you need people to keep coming back. While I'm certainly not authority on marketing – others have more experience and sell more books than I – I've noticed anecdotally that what works to get you followers and to a lesser degree what doesn't. First the don’ts. 1) While this may seem counterintuitive, I'd say don't hype your book non-stop. If all you ever post, tweet, write about, is your book, people will tune you out. No one wants to sign up to get email alerts – or tweets for that matter – non-stop about your book. If you want examples of people who do this and want to see just how annoying it is, let me know and I'll send you some Twitter names to follow. It won't take long to see how off-putting it is. 2) This piece of advice came from seasoned author and the more I think about it the more I agree. Avoid negative posts – no "this review is stupid and so is the reviewer". No posts about your horrible medical condition, or financial problems. Don't talk about how you don't get how reviewers can be so mean, or if you can't say something nice, don't leave a comment. None of that. The problem is people don't fan you to learn about your problems or to hear you talk trash about someone – or generic someones. They follow you and your characters. Readers escape into your stories. They don't want to know you have the same troubles and failings as they do. You and your characters are fictitious and they're fans of that fiction. Keep it that way. If you make friends with readers, sure share with them as you would any friend, but for the general public and on your blog – positive and up beat is the way to be. The Do's 1) Give away free stuff. I don't just mean giving away a free copy of your book. That helps generate interest, but it doesn't keep people coming back. I mean consistent free fiction that they can come back to your site to read. I was fortunate to be asked to join the Wednesday Briefs group. Cia, Nephylim and Renee Stevens all belong as well. The idea is that each Wednesday, you put out a short piece of fiction and fans who like it will sign up to get alerts. When your book comes out, they'll get that notice too and if they like you well enough, hopefully they'll buy your book. The benefit of a group is that we all help promote each other. Sure there is a lot of overlap as we probably share more readers than are unique. But even if only 20% of our followers are unique, if you have 20 people spreading the word, you can see that the reach grows exponentially. Since I've joined the group and been posting regularly, the number of people who've signed up for email alerts from my blog has jumped considerably. That is the real goal. Anyone who is willing to type in their email address to get an alert from you is far more engaged than a follower on Twitter or a like on Facebook. 2) Be a good friend. Yes, it's a bit of work, but having others visit and making it friendly and inviting is a big deal. It's also an easy source of content and new eyeballs. Having guest post – and doing it consistently and regularly is important. Each guest brings their readers/fans with them – not all but some. Many of those readers are new to you. Now they are not. You're also opening your readers to this new person. Again, some will know the author/guest, but some won't. It's a win/win for both. One of the most clicked on posts I've had in the year my blog was up was recently when SJD Peterson visited. Her post is far and away the most viewed Author/guest post. She is also a full time author with a large following. She publicized the event and her followers came. Because I can see when people follow my site, I can tell I got quite a few new followers thanks to her visit. Of course there are the usual marketing ideas – guest blogs, a blog hop, give aways, advertising, excerpts, etc. I don't mean to suggest these don't work or you should avoid them, not at all. They are all helpful and you should do these things. But in my mind the best way to sell a book is to make fans. People who know you and your work. Fans who will want to read your latest and greatest novel. It takes time, there is no magic shortcut, and it definitely will take time away from writing. But if you want to publish books, you need to do it. This is why I say, to be successful, start early. Well before your book is going to come out – and a month or two is not early. Post often. People like free and if your good enough to get people to pay for your books, giving away free fiction is a valuable commodity. It's the same as getting a free book. Make friends with others by helping promote them and their work. A tweet here, a review, letting them come take over your blog for a day – all these help build up good will that 99.9% of authors will gladly repay in kind when you need it. And ban together with others to take advantage of scale. You need to get as many people as possible to see your work. The more who read it, the more who'll sign up for email alerts. That's the prize. Engaged fans who like you well enough that they'll let you email them alerts every day. As I said, I'm no expert. I'm still feeling my way around, but if you have any questions, feel free to PM me on GA or email me directly – andrewqgordon@gmail.com.
  13. Well, we started the week out by featuring Libby Drew's story and now we're featuring an article written by Libby Drew! I think it's looking a bit like a Libby Drew week! Enjoy! Editing Isn’t For the Weak When you love the written word and hang out online in places that cater to that love, someone will most likely, at some point, ask you to edit their story. It may be a friend. It may be a writing partner. It may be your ex. Okay, it probably won’t be your ex, although that would be fun in an evil sort of way. Editing is hard. Really hard. The work put into a good edit might eclipse the work put into writing the story in the first place. Authors, please keep that in mind, because there are good people out there who do this work for free. If you manage to snag such a saint, don’t take them for granted. Here are a few things for an editor to consider before diving into a manuscript. (And actually, writers, this may help you too.) 1. It’s not your story. It’s not. An editor doesn’t tell a writer how their story should turn out. An editor helps a writer tell the story they want to write. An experienced editor works within the author’s universe. 2. Communicate expectations. Does the author want a thorough edit? Do they simply want notes on plot and flow? Make sure you have a sense of what the author wants and what their mindset is before you start editing. Adjust your approach accordingly. 3. You’re not helping by being too nice. Here's what I want to hear when someone is editing my work: "OMG it's awesome and perfect I love it!!!" Here’s how often I hear that: never. I’m better for that honesty. Resist the temptation to feed a writer’s ego. Your job is to help them make the work better, not to be their mommy. 4. You’re not helping by being an ass, either. When someone places their creation in your hands, they’re also handing you their heart. Don’t crush it. Be gentle. Suggest, don’t order changes. Ask questions. Help clarify. Creativity is so easily smothered, yet it’s integral to humanity. Without the courage to create, there wouldn’t be Mocha Frappuccinos. Think on that. 5. Point out problems, but don’t offer solutions. This is a biggie. It relates back to number one. It’s inevitable that you’ll be struck by ideas about how someone else's universe could be better: What if BFFs Kirk and Spock were actually romantic soul mates? Wait, I need a fictional example. What if vampires didn’t sparkle, but smelled like bacon instead? How awesome would that be? No. Resist. Ultimately the writer is the best equipped to come up with ideas for new directions. Your job is to spot what's not working, not to rewrite. 6. Why isn’t it working for you? Focus on that. Identify the underlying issue. Don’t try to make it your scene. That just leads to long nights of drinking mojitos and talking trash about Shades of Gray. Then you wake up the next morning and don’t know where your pants are. (So I’ve heard.) 7. Start global, then go smaller. If you see major plot/structural issues, discuss those. Don't get caught up in copyediting and line edits. If the plot feels okay, focus on chapter-level issues. If those look good, feel free to get nit-picky about adverbs and sentence structure. Why this plan of attack? You’ll avoid overwhelming the author, for one. Plus, time spent on line edits is time wasted if a major revision is needed. 8. Personal taste is personal. (Worship my acumen!) Seriously, though, our personal “truths” are often just perception and opinion. We hate things other people love and love things other people hate. Don’t offer up your opinion as law; you may be the only person who feels that way. You’ll look intolerant at best, ignorant at worst. So what if domination isn’t your kink. Don’t judge me… er, the author. To sum up, remain positive. Let the author craft the story. Try not to crush their spirit, even if you think the manuscript has miles to go. Just be helpful. Be supportive. Leave the story and the writer in better shape than you found them. That’s the foundation of editing. ~Libby
  14. So it's Wednesday again which means it's time for another Wacky Wednesday post. What should we look at today? We have a couple of different options, but I think this week we will take a look at those pesky little adverbs. That's right, adverbs! Andy021278 wrote a piece to explain adverbs in their usual role as describing words for verbs. Enjoy, and thank you Andy for this informative article! Adverbs An adverb is a describing word. They are the words we see scattered about stories which provide us with more detail: prettily, bluntly, usually, quietly, loudly etc. First off, I’m not going to tell people whether to use them or not. I know some people don’t like them, some people view them as the Devil incarnate, and then there are out, loud, and proud adverb users. Whether to use them or not is down to the individual in my opinion, but if you are going to use them, then hopefully what follows will help a little. How do I know if it is spelled “-ly” or “-lly” The easy answer is that it is always “-ly”. The more complicated answer is that it depends on the spelling of the adjective you are conjugating into an adverb. Let’s work through three examples. Starting off with a nice easy one: Take the adjective “public”. Is the correct spelling of the adverb “publicly” or “publiclly”? To form the adverb you add “ly” to the end of the adjective (“public” + “ly”). So “publicly” is the correct spelling. Now for a more difficult one: Take the adjective “accidental”. Is the correct spelling of the adverb “accidentaly” or “accidentally”? To form the adverb you add “ly” to the end of the adjective (“accidental” + “ly”). So, the correct spelling is “accidentally”. How for a downright mean and nasty one: Take the adjective “simple”. Is the correct spelling of the adverb “simplely” or “simplelly” I know I said to form the adverb you add “ly” to the end of the adjective. I kinda forgot the annoying “-le” ending adjectives. You just change the “e” on the end to a “y”. The correct spelling is “simply”. As I said at the start, adverbs always end “-ly” and never “-lly”, but at least you now know the reasons why. There are adverbs that don’t follow the “add ly” rule, but that’s another story for another day. Adverbs from made up words If, as a writer, you have invented a word or words of your own, then the “-ly” rule already explained is actually very easy to apply, and should be the way you create adverbs from your fictional world. The made up adjective “exvegert” becomes “exvegertly” (“exvegert” + “ly”). The made up adjective “herthal” becomes “herthally” (“herthal” + “ly”) The made up adjective “zertle” becomes “zertly” (the “e” at the end becomes a “y”, to give the “ly” ending). Of course, since it is your own made up word in your own made up universe, you could create your own adverb rule, such as they could end “ax”. That would give “exvergertax”, “herthalax” and “zertleax”. The only problem with that is that your readers will not expect your adverbs to have an unfamiliar ending, and so may not recognise them as adverbs and just think are other invented words. Words borrowed from non-English Borrowed words from non-English languages may appear to be more difficult to deal with, but the same “-ly” rule should ideally be applied. Although you will not end up with the proper adverbial form of a word, as it would appear in the original language, you will, at the very least, have the expected adverbial form that English-speaking readers will expect to see. As an example, the Welsh word for “perfect” is “perffaith”. If you were to use “perffaith” as a word in an English-speaking fictional world, the adverb you would need to create would be “perffaithly” (“perffaith” + “ly”) in order for it to be recognized as an adverb. If you were to use the true adverb form of your borrowed word in the original language, then your readers would have a very difficult time, if not face an impossible challenge, in identifying your adverbs. To follow on from our example, the true adverb form of “perffaith” (i.e. the Welsh word for “perfectly”) is “yn berffaith”. So, would any non-Welsh speakers recognise “yn berffaith” as the adverb form of “perffaith”?
  15. We wouldn't be able to produce and provide all of the wonderful content here at the GA News Blog without so many great contributors. Libby Drew gives us a great tip for authors on Writing Groups. Enjoy! Writing Groups: Some Pros and Cons A writing group can do wonders for our motivation and keep us accountable for our production. Members cheer us on, understand how even the smallest recognition can mean the world, and know not to say things like, “Oh, you’re a writer? Do you have any bestsellers?” There are pros and cons to using writing groups. Here are a few. Benefits: Writers of the same genre may have a helpful understanding of voice and target audience. Writers of different genres offer fresh opinions. Reading other people's fiction and trying to articulate a critique of that fiction increases our understanding of the way storytelling works. Further, other members may point out things we wouldn't normally notice. This process helps us develop a critical eye, specifically in regards to our own craft. Every writer is different. We use different routines, tools, and work spaces. Talking with other writers is a great way to expose ourselves to alternative processes. We may learn tricks that help us write better or use time more efficiently. Pitfalls: Writing groups can be a waste of time if the members are writing at different levels. Novice writers might be left behind while more experienced writers may not receive the level of critique they need. While the flattery will feel nice, it won’t help them improve. Bad advice is rampant. That it’s unintentional doesn’t make it any less harmful. Writing group peers are not all-knowing, nor are they (most of the time) well-established professionals. The writing group becomes happy hour. Like-minded people have the potential to become our close friends. Meetings can easily become social events. Enjoying being a writer is fine, but being a writer also means, you know, writing. Editing and critiquing can take a lot of free time. Some editing is good and will increase the quality of our own writing, but if all our time is taken up by editing, we’re learning how to be editors, not writers. And here’s one that can go on both the pro and con list: Writing groups are honest and critical. We all want to hear that our writing is good. Nobody puts their creation out there hoping to hear that it’s not. Some writers claim they don’t care what other people think, but with very, very rare exception, they’re lying. When our peers, and quite often they become our friends, tell us what doesn't work, it hurts. We have to develop a thick skin if we want to improve. A critique of our writing is not a critique of us as individuals. Writing may be more of an art than other tasks, but it’s still very much a learned skill. And, with caveats, a writing group is a learning tool. ~Libby
  16. Have you thought about writing your first story, but it seems a little daunting? Don't worry, every new author has been there at one point or another. Thankfully, you're part of a great community that has plenty of authors willing to share their knowledge, and/or what they wished they'd known when they first started. If you're thinking that you've heard that before, it's because you have, but that's the best intro to this feature. Back in December we first introduced the "New Author Advice" feature and it seemed to be well received. So let's take a look at what advice our site authors have this time. Building Readership & Criticism Mikiesboy Ok... building readership... read others work, comment/review, be active in forums, say hello to people be friendly. That's what I did. Works from my experience. It can't be a one way street. And reply to people who comment. They took the time to read your work, you should do the same in return. Criticism? Well that can be hard to take, depending on how it's written and the kind of person you are. If you're unsure, ask the person who commented what they mean. I've not experienced any sort of mean-spirited criticism on GA. Most people are pretty helpful and thoughtful. At least the ones I've met. You can also use the Your Status thing to advertise .. but I don't personally. Feedback Carlos Hazday Encourage readers to give you honest feedback. Reviews pointing out what they liked are great, but the ones where they tell you what they didn't like are even better in my opinion. If you want to make your stories the best they can be, knowing what didn't work for readers is a priority. If you react badly to criticism, you may miss out on great advice, your writing may suffer, and in the end you could end up losing readers when your style stagnates. Before You Start Jamessavik First, read a lot. Read a lot of different authors, different genres and different styles. Read with an eye towards not just the plot but, the craft in which the story is developed. You will see that some authors do a great job in this respect while others- not so much. Second- Start with short stories. They can teach you a great deal. Unlike a novel, you can't wander around for a 40,000 words to make a point. Short stories require a certain discipline to do them well. You have to balance things very carefully with an economy of words while providing characterization and description while advancing a plot. Don't expect to master this over a few weekends. It's more art than science. In fact it's a lot like golf. When you are in the zone, you can do great things. If not, you bogey every hole. Finally- before you embark on a novel, learn how to plan it out. We all make the mistake of sitting down at a blank page on the computer, write a great beginning and then hit a wall. There are numerous GREAT but INCOMPLETE novels on the web. Unfortunately several of them are my own. Know where you are going because, if you don't, your chances of getting there are slim. If you're a current or experienced author and have some advice for newbie authors, send me a PM with your advice and be featured in a future "New Author Advice" feature. If you're a new author, or even an existing author, what questions would you ask your fellow authors? PM me your questions regarding writing and if there is enough interest, we'll start a new feature where I post your questions for the various site authors to give their opinion. You can choose to remain anonymous if you'd like.
  17. I hope everyone has had a great month so far. It's been a while since we had a Grammar Rodeo from Cia, but it's back! Thank you, Cia for providing us with another great writing tip! The Structure of a Sentence Okay, so maybe this seems intuitive. After all, we all write sentences every day, right? But sometimes the visual we’re trying to get across doesn’t work because of the way the sentence has been written. A lot of the time, this can be chalked up to dangling modifiers. What are dangling modifiers? I bet you’ll realize you intuitively know what I mean once we get to the examples, even if you didn’t know you knew! So, dangling modifiers are words or phrases, usually offset by commas, that are supposed to explain more/better describe the subject of the sentence but don’t because the sentence structure either places the subject in the wrong place to work with the modifier or doesn’t have a subject at all. These can be dangling participles or gerunds, but that’s a little more exact than I want to go in for this lesson. We’ll come back to that though! Let’s try a few examples to show just how modifiers work, how they can go wrong, and how easily they can be fixed. Example: Having come to the same conclusion, the project temporarily halted. Having come to the same conclusion is our modifier, but the subject of this sentence is ‘the project’. Can the project come to the same conclusion? No. So the modifier is dangling because the true subject is missing from the sentence. Rephrased: Having come to the same conclusion, the contractor temporarily halted the project. The contractor can come to the same conclusion, so he can halt the project. Example: Without knowing what his job was, it was hard to pick the right outfit. “It” didn’t know his job? That doesn’t make sense. In this case, the surrounding information might make it clear who/what ‘it’ refers to, but that doesn’t prevent this sentence from having a dangling modifier. Rephrased: Without knowing what his job was, Jacob found it hard to pick the right outfit. Jacob didn’t know what his job was, so he could find it hard to pick the outfit. ​Example: Long and boring, the author must revise their manuscript. Is the author long and boring? No. In this case, the subject of the modifier is a ‘misplaced modifier’ because the manuscript is what is long and boring, not the author. Rephrased: Long and boring, the manuscript must be revised by the author. This phrase properly describes what is long and boring, which could not be the author as a person (we don’t usually call a person long, lol). So, basically when you have a modifier in the sentence, you want to make sure it takes place in the sentence close to the subject. If you’re unsure if you’ve structured the sentence properly to avoid a dangling or misplaced modifier, ask yourself, “Was the (subject) (dangling modifier)”? If you have it wrong, the question will usually show how your sentence doesn’t make sense. Was the project coming to the same conclusion? Was it not knowing what his job was? Was the author long and boring?
  18. Have you thought about writing your first story, but it seems a little daunting? Don't worry, every new author has been there at one point or another. Thankfully, you're part of a great community that has plenty of authors willing to share their knowledge, and/or what they wished they'd known when they first started. Today we've got both Aditus, who is going to tell how he started out, and Graeme who is going to share a little advice on planning out your story. Hope this helps! Starting Out Aditus I can tell how I did it. I read a lot of stories and comments first, to get a feel of GA. Then I answered a prompt or two. The response was amazing and I felt motivated. Next I tried the anthologies. I think short stories are a good start for a new author, you get to know people and some of them even might offer help. Multi chapter stories need a lot of time, energy and motivation. If the author doesn't finish them, readers get disappointed and might not read another story of the same author. Another beautiful thing about GA is that people are always willing to support you. Find an editor, and/or a beta reader and all will be well. Planning Graeme Every writer is a new author at some point in time, so what do I know now that I wished I'd known when I started? There is a lot more than can fit into one blog entry, so I'll concentrate on one part of writing only, and that's planning. The two best pieces of advice I received in this area are related. They are: Know how you want the story to end. It doesn't have to be in detail, but does the boy get the boy? Does the team win the competition? Does the homophobe turn over a new leaf, or does he remain a villain to the end? Always keep in mind what's going to happen in the next chapter when you're writing the current one. Both of these recommendations have the same purpose: to keep the writing direction focused. All too often a new author writes themselves into a corner. They want something to happen, but what they've written stops that from happening. By keeping in mind what's going to happen in the future (either the short-term future for the next chapter, or the longer-term future for the end of the story), an author is aided to keep the story moving in the direction they want. This doesn't prevent an author from writing themselves into a corner, but it helps reduce the risk. It also helps stop the where-does-the-story-go-now syndrome, where an author writes until they run out of ideas, without finishing what they started. It's okay if you don't follow this advice, because some authors don't. There are many authors who start with a situation, and then write until the ending presents itself. Stephen King, for example, has said that he doesn't know how a story will end when he starts. However, authors that do this are usually experienced, with a full toolbox of options and techniques to allow them to progress a story to a satisfactory conclusion. That's not something that comes easily to most writers, so please at least consider having an ending in mind when you start. It's also okay if you change your mind during the writing. While some authors will write the ending of a story first, and then write towards that ending, others will have a general concept in mind for the ending, or even multiple options with the decision as to which ending they go for not being known until closer to the ending. This happened to me with my Leopards Leap novel. Right up to the last few chapters, I didn't know exactly what was going to happen to one of the main characters. I had a number of options that I had to choose from, each with their pros and cons. That persisted right up until I had no choice but to make a decision and write up one of the options. Another way of looking at this approach is to view the writing of a story as a journey. You start at one point and you look to where you want to go. That may lead directly to the final destination, or it may be to a significant point in the story, a bridge or a fork in the road. Once you've set your sights on that destination, you then put your head down and start walking the road towards where you want to go, looking up from time-to-time to make sure you don't lose your way. The more often you look up, the less likely you are to wander off the path...but there's nothing wrong with a short side trek to see that beautiful waterfall off to the side as long as you return to the path afterwards. In short, know where you're going with your story. The better you understand where you want to go, both in the short-term and the long-term, the less chance you'll lose your way. Good luck, and have fun finding your way to the ending you want!
  19. It's been a while since we had a Grammar Rodeo from Cia, but this month that feature has returned. Let's see what Cia has to say about.... NUMBERS! Let’s talk numbers! 01 001 1 100 0... no that’s not what I mean. LOL One of the subtle details that refines writing is how an author addresses numbers. Let’s face it, you can’t write anything at length without running into this issue because our lives are dictated by things like time and money. Numbers in Fiction Numbers at the beginning of a sentence. Basically a no no. Write these out instead of using the numerals, but if that doesn’t work, rephrase. You really don’t want to start a sentence with a numeral. Zero through One hundred. You’ll notice I spelled those out. That’s the rule! Zero through one hundred is written out. 101 and more, you can write the numerals. But what if I’m talking about hundreds, or thousands? Well, if it’s an odd number like 4759 you write it out with numerals, but if it’s a whole number like forty-seven thousand or five hundred, you’d spell those out. Dates. Years: Write these as numerals, though you could use twenty-twenty instead of 2020 if you really wanted to, but odd years, like 1999 would be awkward spelled out so numerals are just fine. Abbreviated years: You need a single apostrophe that is a ‘closed’ quote (the quote that comes at the end of closed’ because it’s taking the place of the missing numerals) such as ’99. Decades: 90s is plural for the years involved, folks, so no apostrophe needed! Months and days: Spell the month and write the day as a numeral when they are placed together, like December 21. If you are just using the date without the month, you spell it out like, “We’re going on vacation on the twenty-first.” Time: Not too complicated. If you’re doing a general timeframe, “Meet me at five thirty” you write it out. Same thing for “Meet me at a quarter to five” or any other variation of quarter of, half past, etc... and if you use o’clock you always spell out the time instead of using numerals. Where this does get a little tricky: The rule is if the time is emphasized, you can write it out as numerals. “Meet me at the airport on December 21 at 5:55 p.m.” but that’s more of a judgement call than a do or don’t rule. Noon and midnight. Always spell these out instead of using 12:00 a.m or p.m.. Money. Oh, so complicated this seems! Not really, though. Follow the zero through one hundred spelling rule and write out any money that can be written out like ninety-nine cents or five hundred dollars. If you are writing out a dollar and cents number, you can use numbers such as $500.95. If you have a number like 4759, you can write it out as $4,759 but don’t include the decimal and cents numerals unless you have other numbers that include them, like: “She charged me $500.95 to $4,759.00 for grammar lessons” for example. Addresses. There are three main components of this, and it’s not too hard. Specific addresses: Building numbers always precede the street name when you’re giving an address. Like: I live at 1234 Fifth Avenue. (Ha! I’m not really giving out my address!) If you’re naming a location, you would spell it out, like “One Police Plaza”. So those are the most common number usages I’ve seen in fiction. What about you? Anything you don’t think I covered and still need to know?
  20. Ever wonder what the correct word to use is? Cia has written a blog entry to help show which word should be used in different instances. It's been a while since we had a Grammar Rodeo, but I find these posts to be rather informative and we hope you do too. Commonly Misused Words When writing, most authors know there are homophones to watch out for, and we all know the big ones like your/you’re/yore and there/their/they’re. But there are a lot of words that are harder to figure out because they’re not as common. Affect/Effect I know I’ve written this one up before, but I see it misused a lot. An affect is a verb and an effect is a noun. The way I remember it is affect = action word. If something is affecting something else, an action is occurring. Effect is the result of an action. Examples: I want this scene to affect my readers in a meaningful way. The effect of the scene was devastating. Me vs I Using I or me can be confusing for some, usually when used with another noun (usually another person). The difference in use is whether or not the pronoun is being used as the subject or object of the verb. I could explain the difference if you don’t automatically know the difference between subjects and objects in a sentence… or I could just remind you of the easy cheat: Take the other noun out of the sentence. Examples: Chase and me went to the store vs Chase and I went to the store. Take out ‘Chase and’ Me went to the store vs I went to the store. Easier to figure out. Can you send the files to Patrick and I? vs Can you send the files to Patrick and me? Can you send the files to I? vs Can you send the files to me? Peak vs Peek vs Pique Most people know peak vs peek, but I often see them used equally as often instead of pique because authors don’t know that’s a whole other spelling. Peak means a pointy point, like a mountain, peek means to take a quick look, and pique means to stimulate or be irritated. Examples: We climbed to the peak. She took a peek at the cake before the party. She left the party in a fit of pique, upset at the gossip circulating among the guests. Lose vs Loose Really, these words aren’t anywhere close to each other in meaning, but you see authors not knowing the difference all the time. Lose means to fail to keep/maintain or cease to have while loose means not tight, not in possession, lacking in restraint, ect…. These sentences are almost exactly the same but mean totally different things. Examples: Lose the ball means to get rid of it/not be able to find the ball. Loose the ball means to let the ball go, like if you threw it. Then vs Than I have a simple trick to help remember which should be used and when. First, what do they mean? Then indicates time and than compares items. Memory Trick Then = Time such as We went to the store then the park. Than = Compare such as The kids liked the trip to the park better than the store. Compliment vs Complement Another example where the words sound the same and are spelled very close… yet the meaning is completely different. You can use the letters to help remember here too. Complement means to complete or enhance something. Compliment means an expression of praise or the action of praising someone. Examples: Her scarf complemented her dress. He complimented her choice of scarf. Farther vs Further Yet again, similar but not the same. Both farther and further are often used as if they’re interchangeable, but in reality, there is a difference in the shades of meaning in the words that both mean ‘a great distance’. Unfortunately, I don’t have any tricks for this one, you just have to remember. Farther is used to indicate a physical distance and further is used to indicate a figurative distance. Examples: We went farther than any other team in the race. Nothing he said could further from the truth. What other words do you commonly see misused?
  21. For a while in the blog, we used to do "Blast from the Past" posts. All of these posts came from the old newsletter. I was struggling to figure out what to post for today, when I thought, why not check out the earlier posts of the revived blog. In looking back, I found the perfect post, and it happens to be the first "Writing Tip" that was posted when Lugh started the blog back up. I hope you find it informative. If you want to check out the past comments on the original post, you can go check out the old blog post.
  22. Sometimes it's hard to find new content to share in the GA News Blog. Lately, I've been looking back at some of the stuff that has been shared since the Blog started up again and I realized something. We have new authors joining all the time and not everyone wants to search through the News Blog and read the tips that have been shared. With that thought in mind, I decided to look at some of the past tips and bring them back to the forefront. The first one I'm once again featuring is from Libby Drew and is all about the conflict in stories. It was first featured in the blog back in July 2013. I hope you enjoy this little blast from the past. Conflict Is Key Creating powerful conflict and weaving it tightly throughout the story is a difficult skill to master. It can take years of practice. But the reward is worth the learning curve, especially if the result is cathartic to the reader. Conflict is what makes us interested in outcome. A story with a weak conflict that leaves the characters exactly as they were at the start won’t be satisfying; your story won’t make a lasting impression. I’m betting that’s a no-brainer for most people reading this. Unfortunately, knowing isn’t the same as doing, so here are a few generalities to keep in mind while crafting your plot. Your main character, your hero, should face three different types of conflict. • Internal • Relational (with other characters) • External (against environment or circumstances). Use all three. It’s not as difficult as it might seem at first glance, and your story will have more depth. Keep the tension rising. Always. All the time. The pacing of conflict in your story should look like this: Conflict Simmers --> Conflict Boils --> Conflict Explodes --> Temporary Safety --> Repeat. Envision your story with peaks and valleys. Your peaks should get progressively higher as the climax nears. At every turn, ask yourself “How can I make this situation worse?” Conflict is the nervous system of your story. It sets characters in motion, forcing them to do things they would never have imagined doing. They may lash out or jump onto paths they never expected to travel. In reality, most people try to get along with others, to bring peace to potentially explosive situations. Your characters should go out of their way to make those situations worse. This will highlight their imperfections. Make them more richly rounded. Your characters can’t all love each other. They can’t always agree. If they do, your readers will be asleep by chapter two. Or looking for something else to read. So don’t hold back. Let characters say things they’ll regret. Make then lose their tempers, their possessions, and their hearts. Push them beyond their limits and then show the reader how much that hurts them. Consider these suggestions: • Give your characters opposing goals. • Make them face their fears and rely on their weaknesses instead of their strengths. • Deny them what they want most of all. Then deny them again. • Introduce uncertainty at every opportunity—is a friend truly a friend? • Make them care, then threaten what they care about. • Leave them isolated and under attack from both friends and enemies. Maybe even from themselves. It may sound complicated, but chances are you already have a solid grasp of what’s needed. Execution may not be so simple, so stay vigilant. Test yourself by “graphing” your story. Is the tension escalating as it should? Pushing your characters into conflict will drive your story tension higher, forcibly evict blandness and banality, and leave behind something far more fulfilling for the reader. Conflict is a requirement of satisfying fiction, so make it a strong component of your stories. ~Libby
  23. Who's ready for another Grammar Rodeo? Today's Grammar Rodeo is sorta a Part 2 of last weeks. A big thanks to Cia for providing these for the blog. They are a great learning tool and include some great tips and tricks to help authors remember what is best to use. Hopefully you'll find Grammar Rodeo #6 as informative as I did! Grammar Rodeo #6 Plural Nouns Last time we talked about plural verbs… now let’s talk about plural nouns. Remember how there are ‘regular’ forms and ‘irregular’ forms? Well, in nouns there are a LOT of both that dictate how you make a noun become plural. Regular forms: Adding s: This is the most common form of making a noun plural. Now let’s look at the other ways! Example: Play becomes plays, book becomes books, poem becomes poems. Adding es: You use es in words that end with ch, sh, x, or s. Example: Ax becomes axes, church becomes churches, pass becomes passes Adding ies: You use ies when a word ends in a consonant and y. Example: Butterfly becomes butterflies, aviary becomes aviaries. (notice play is just s, since it ends with vowel and y, not a consonant) Irregular Forms: Nouns ending in o: Add es (Avocado becomes avocadoes) Nouns containing oo: Double oo becomes double ee (eg: Foot becomes feet) Nouns ending in f: Change f to v and and es (eg: Scarf becomes scarves) Nouns ending in fe: Change fe to v and add es (eg: Knife becomes knives) Nouns ending in us: Change us to i (eg: Octopus becomes octopi) Now, many of these have exceptions. Plus you have nouns that stay the same like moose or mouse which becomes mice in a completely random change. As always, when in doubt… check the dictionary! That vs. Which Both that and which connect clauses in sentences. The difference is actually pretty easy to figure out. That connects clauses that are dependent on each other, where both parts of the sentence are needed to make sense. Which connects independent clauses, or those that are not essential to the sentence meaning. Examples: That: I’m allergic to the trees in the yard that bloom every spring. Which: The trees in the yard, which bloom every spring, make me sneeze. Exceptions! What grammar rule exists without these, right? As I mentioned in Grammar Rodeo #5, when you refer to people you use who instead of that. Of course, the exception to this is when you refer to a group—even if it’s a group of people. Example: The Secret Service team that flooded the building scared me.
  24. I hope everyone is having a great week so far! As you can see, Cia has provided us with another Grammar Rodeo. Ever been confused by Present Tense Verbs vs. Past Tense Verbs? Cia gives us a guideline to help out with those pesky issues. In addition to Tense Verbs, Cia also helps out a bit with That vs. Who. Past Tense Verbs While there are a variety of tenses to write in, I think the most common method is to use past tense. So today we’re going to talk about past tense verbs. For the most part, verbs are pretty easy to write in past tense. The majority of them are regular verbs and simply require you add a d or ed to the word, and voila! Pick becomes picked and finish becomes finished. But what about those irregular verbs? You know, the ones that have to screw with the system? Drive becomes drove. Eat becomes ate. Have becomes had. Break becomes broke. Unfortunately, there’s no way I can share to guarantee you know which words are regular or irregular and how to tell the difference beyond just knowing them. The dictionary is definitely your friend. But… what about when the rules are bent or broken? C’mon, well know the English language is rife with “exceptions” and tenses are no different. Usually these exist due to dialect, or in other words, common usage in a region. Drug vs. Dragged While many of you might drug is correct, if you follow the rules, dragged is the past tense word for ‘drag’ and drug only refers to pharmaceuticals. However, in the southern region of the United States, drug is commonly used. **Another little tidbit. When a verb has the emphasis on the ending syllable, you add repeat the consonant letter, as in dragged adding ged to drag.** Snuck vs. Sneaked Once again, the traditional ed form to make sneak past tense by using sneaked is correct. However, through common dialect usage in widespread regions, snuck has now become an accepted alternative. Dove vs. Dived This time again, both are not considered correct, but dived is the grammatically preferred past term use for dive. Outside the US, some even consider the use of dove to be incorrect, though popular usage in many areas does allow for it. So what do you think about the use of verbs common in local dialect versus the grammatically correct version? Is there a common use of a verb, regular or irregular, that you’re not sure is correct? That vs. Who Earlier we visited who vs. whom. Today I want to share a quick reminder about a grammar issue I see pretty often: that vs. who in a sentence. And I do have a quick way to help you remember! The use of that or who in a sentence depends on the subject. If you’re writing a person, it’s insulting to use that because they’re a person—not a thing. So remember, if you’re writing about a thing, use that. If you’re writing about a person, use who, or whom, as grammatically correct!
  25. This time for the grammar rodeo, I thought I'd keep our subject matter simple and maybe even fun! Yes, yes, I swear, grammar can be fun--at least when you're like me and find a wicked glee in rolling your eyes at the grammar fails around you!! First, though, let's take a look at a technical writing tip that seems simple, but catches up more people than you might think! Grammar Rodeo #4 Getting It Write Err... Right! Subject and Verb Agreement No, I don't expect them to shake hands after coming to some sort of deal. And I'm not going to go on and on about all the different subject and verb combos, though these rules can work with verbs that aren't joined with "is" or "are", those two words are the particular angle of this grammar lesson. So how do you know which to use, "is" or "are"? Which one is appropriate depends on the subject of the sentence you're writing. Have I lost you already? The subject in a sentence is the who or what is doing the action. Sometimes the subject is singular and sometimes it becomes a compound subject if you link two subjects with the word 'and'. A subject can also be part of a noun phrase usually made up of a noun/pronoun, modifiers, determiners, and/or complements. That sounds complicated, but really, it's just the bit tacked on that shares a bit more about the subject. Example: Dave "is" driving me crazy. (Singular Subject) Dave and Peter "are" driving me crazy. Compound Subject (Plural Subject) The man seated in front of me "is" driving me crazy. Noun phrase subject (Singular Subject) The men seated in front me "are" driving me crazy. Still a noun phrase subject, but now it's plural because I used 'men'. (Plural Subject) The important part is to know what the subject of the sentence is and whether it's singular or plural. The easiest way to figure that out is to first look for the word "and" in the subject. If you use "and" typically your sentence has a plural subject so you should use the word "are". Sometimes, though, it can be a little tricky because you have to pick out which part of the phrase is the actual subject--and sometimes a sentence with a single subject can still be plural due to what the subject actually is. Which is right? 1A The use of cellular phones and mp3 players is prohibited. or 1B The use of cellular phones and mp3 players are prohibited. 2A Beef and pork is good in moderation. or 2B Beef and pork are good in moderation. 3A Your assistance and cooperation is appreciated. or 3B Your assistance and cooperation are appreciated. Grammar Fails Speaking of "your"... the fun part of today's Grammar Rodeo! If you're a bit of an editing geek, like me, you see these on your travels and can't help but snicker. One day at the county fair I saw this shirt and couldn't help but take a picture! I'm sure many of you have seen pics like these shared online or have a story of one, or more, grammar fails you've seen. So share already!
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