Monday, April 09, 2012

Five Days of Writing- Or Things I've Learned about Writing

Day One- Mechanics
I aced English. Loved it. Played with it, memorized it.
When I me an agent in a writer's group and she took out her quick, red pen, I realized just how much I didn't know about English. Or maybe I just didn't remember as much as I thought I did.
Punctuation-commas go before the word "but", but only in certain places. They connect two thoughts within a sentence. Sometimes they don't.  You use them in a series and belong before the word "and" as in: He had meat, potatoes, string beans, and salad. However, somewhere along the line one of the news lines wanted to save space and decided to wipe out that last comma to read: He had meat, potatoes, string beans and salad. I learned this when writing for one of the info sites on the net. I got tagged for putting the comma in by one editor and tagged for not putting it in by another editor for the same site. (That's a whole different post! If you wrote for them, you know who they are.) I went and looked it up and discovered it was a space saving thing done by a big news site. I think it was app but don't quote me.
And let's not forget that commas saved grandma.
Let's eat grandma!
Let's eat, grandma!
Oscar Wilde once said he spent most of the day putting in commas and the rest of the day taking them out.
Since I write fiction, let's talk quotes and the connected tag line.
"I love puppies," Jane said as she scooped a warm ball of fur into her arms. Since Jane uttered a complete sentence I'd think the period should go after puppies, but I'd be wrong.  The entire thought is about Jane's words and actions so they are connected with a comma. Weirdly correct.
However if the sentence continues after the tag we use another comma.
"I've loved puppies, Jane said as she scooped up a warm ball of fur, "ever since I was a child."
After this and more I've decided I hate punctuation. Blah. And don't get me started on Its and It's...they hurt my brain.
Punctuation is essential in good writing, but sometimes fiction bends the rules. Setting something apart so the reader will hear the voice of the character or mood of the story can be done with correctly placed punctuation. It can add dynamic expression.
Which are incomplete subjects/thoughts and completely wrong, but work so well in some places.
It can also get grandma eaten by cannibals so be careful with your commas, quotes and periods.
Tomorrow we'll talk about character dos and don't s and if any of them can be write or wrong.

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