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Sunday, July 17, 2011

No. Co. Writers Bloc

My first attendance at the North County Writers Bloc meeting Friday, July 15, 2011, was a delightful experience.  There are many fine members within this group, with plenty of writing talent.  I look forward to their next gathering, and I thank Bob Richard for alerting me about the Writers Bloc.     Joy Taylor Jaeger

Thursday, June 9, 2011



I decided to write about commas since a fellow writer asked me to look at her commas or lack thereof and because I’m considered a comma expert. Ha. Ha.

Also, in a writing contest, I got dinged for this:

I wrote, “Got something Colonel from Zachari’s men.”

They corrected, “Got something, Colonel, from Zachari’s men.”

“What?” I remembered distinctly that commas were optional in short sentences and when the meaning was obvious, so I checked it out.

I wrote the Chicago Manual of Style on-line. The Staff wrote back to agree with me, but said that my sentence was gibberish without the commas. Oops. I’m not going to argue.

The rest of the rules are summarized from, THE COPYEDITOR’S HANDBOOK, 2nd edition, by Einsohn:

1. (Compound sentence) Separate independent clauses by comma unless they are short and unambiguous.

2. (Compound predicate) Use a comma between subject and second verb if needed for emphasis or clarity.

3. (Dependant clause preceding an independent clause) Place a comma after the dependent clause.

4. (Dependant clause following an independent clause) No comma after the i.c. if the i.c. is restrictive. [A restrictive clause is essential to the meaning of the sentence.]

5. Set off an introductory participle phrase with a comma.

6. Set off a sentence and transitional adverb with a comma. (Unfortunately, …//The sched, however, …)

7. Set off an interrupter with a pair of commas.

8. Use commas to separate the items in a list or series (3 or more). Sometimes house rules differ.

9. Use commas to separate coordinate adjectives and no commas if the adjectives aren’t coordinate. [Coordinate adjectives equally and independently modify the noun.] This is lax in practice.

10. Separate interdependent clauses unless the clauses are very short.

11. Separate antithetical elements with a comma. That’s my book, not yours, on the table.

12. In direct address, set off the addressee. See example from my novel at top of page.

13. Use a comma to separate the quotation from the speaker’s tag.

14. In running text, use a comma to separate the street address from the city, and the city from the state.

15. Use a comma to separate the date from the year.

16. Do not use a comma to join independent clauses.

17. Do not insert a comma between a subject and the second member of a compound predicate. [X This new method will simplify billing, and save us time. Drop the comma.]

18. Do not use commas to set off a restrictive appositive. The movie, Casablanca, is out. Drop commas.

19. Do not use commas before an indirect quotation. Management asked [no comma] whether sales were up.

20. Do not use a comma after a that that precedes a quotation. [Oh, I love this one and the next.]

21. Do not use a comma before a quotation that is the direct object of a verb. The sign said “No Fishing.”

22. Do not allow a comma to interrupt a so . . . that construction.

23. Do not place a comma before an opening parenthesis that introduces a comment. X Many dislike double pronouns, (he or she) and so we do not use them. Many dislike double pronouns (he or she), and so we do not use them.—A comma may, however, precede a set of parentheses that encloses a numeral or letter in an in-text list.

24. Sometimes an author will insert a pair of commas to provide a slight degree of de-emphasis. Example: The older conventions for using commas, at times, can produce an unpleasant choppiness (and applies well when using the same accenting technique in compound sentences. In this case, it’s better to drop from four to two commas because of a stutter step cadence and visually clarity.

25. Prevent a misreading of your text by applying commas.

26. Use your judgment with strange sentences.

All this is as clear as pancake batter, right?

By RW Richard

Sunday, June 5, 2011

I can't get you out of my head

I was at an estate sale and bought some sheet music for a quarter. It hit me. I remembered NPR's 600 word short story contests (which are ongoing) and how every song has a story of some kind.

So I issue a challenge. Look up the lyrics to some song by googling, any era, read the lyrics, get inspired and tell a short story of 600 hundred words or less. Then we read them at our pleasure on friday. Then we start collecting them. I'll use my publishing company to publish them when we have collected enough of them at no charge, we'll share the profits, going kindle at first to test the waters. This shouldn't detract from our regular writing because it probably takes a couple hours, initially.

Let me give you an example: Wake Up Little Suzie.

A boy and girl can't find a way of see each other because they're parents don't want them together, so they secretly meet at the movies and it becomes a disaster....Dialogue, setting: the why, where, who, how, when can all be answered....even the cute poodle skirt she wore.

If you like the idea we could expand it to 5 double spaced pages at the most (perfect for a friday).

Monday, May 16, 2011

Ode to Suddenly


By RW Richard

On page 136 of the paperback, “Thanks, But This Isn’t For Us, A (Sort of) Compassionate Guide to Why Your Writing Is Being Rejected,” the author, Jessica Page Morrel writes, “I discover suddenly in most manuscripts I read, and it’s never necessary. Things that happen unexpectedly don’t need to be explained as being sudden; the reader will understand this phenomenon. Suddenly a loud sound shattered the silence . . . Or “Look” Alan shouted suddenly . . .”

Now wait, one self-serving minute. I know, suddenly, you don’t want to read on. You wonder about my sanity or worse yet about my authorlyness (yep, made that word up). At this point I’d like to recommend picking up a copy of New York Times Bestselling Author, Barbara Delinsky’s, romance titled, Suddenly. Sorry, I have not read the whole thing (as yet). Two suddenlys lurk in chapter one. But, isn’t it, as a title, good enough to make my point? Do we need to rip from the rich English language this poor snibbling word? Might we get rid of tragically, randomly, beautiful? How about, It was a dark and stormy night? Hell, throw-em all out, but beware of dead prose promising a good sleep for the reader. And what does a reader want? Generally, they don’t put down a novel over our affectations. Most readers feel the whole, we analyze the parts.

Might there be times when using suddenly is called for? Are there times when a writer uses the word to describe the excitement of the situation? And during those times, if a writer wanted to build excitement, is there an any more concise way of enriching the sentence, giving it power, giving it meaning? Why does nearly every published author use suddenly (sparingly) during their masterpieces (almost as a dare to the unwashed)?

Let’s try to think up kinder examples. Let’s say you have a novel with twists and turns, a page turner. Everything is normal. The hero is solving a crime, yep time after time he’s surprised, but always manages to Karate-chop or shoot his way out. Why, because he anticipates. He’s always weary. That’s why when his nine-year-old son suddenly drives a knife into his chest while they munched together watching the Super Bowl, you shriek.

By the way, I don’t use suddenly in my novels, but I’ve always wanted to be good enough. Someday when I ‘m a world famous author, I’ll sneak one in, once in a while.

Maybe I’ll start the first words on the first page of chapter one of my masterpiece with, “Suddenly, it was a dark and stormy night,” and then spend the rest of the novel trying to justify the beginning.

In the Dimwit’s Dictionary, find “suddenly and without warning A wretched redundancy. . . . impetuously; impulsively; spontaneously; suddenly; unexpectedly; without warning.” Consider this. These words are not exactly interchangeable. What shade of meaning differentiates them?

Is everything simply black ink on white pages or might you see color?