June 2011 Archive

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It’s as if my house is filled with light. I come home and colors are more vivid, sounds more brilliant, and smells more delicious. I am filled with contentment; the message ‘everything will be alright’ beats through me. I love coming home, particularly because home is filled with music.

One of the very first things I did after getting back to MN (after I went on a run with Dad, the dogs, and Cale, and after I ran into the house to give Mom a big sweaty hug!) was to lift the piano lid, sit down and play, letting the music spin around me. I have an electric piano in MS, but it just isn’t the same as the real thing. After playing piano, I played guitar with Dad.

Today, I’m going to leave you all with the first piece I sat down to play. It’s glorious. Of course, there are about a bazillion I’d like to leave with you, but this one has some wonderful parts. So relax, sit back, and enjoy some beautiful music.

Oh, and uh…before y’all start getting crazy ideas, I don’t play it near as well as this dude ;)

Sentence Sundays! Words!

Yes, I know it’s Saturday night and not Sunday, but tomorrow I start the drive from Mississippi to Minnesota to go visit my family. I can’t tell you guys how ridiculously excited I am. :)

So, here’s your sentence Sunday post a night early, and it’s all on words, specifically word variation.

I admit, varying words is not easy. But honestly, does your reader really notice if you’ve used the word cacophony twice in one book? Umm, yes! At least I do.

But what this post is really about is insuring you vary how you begin a sentence.

Here’s an example of a paragraph I wrote tonight:

Twisting on my toes, I look back to Kira, her blond hair brittle in the morning sun. My shoulders sag and I turn to look over the expanse of desert we are traveling across. I shuffle forward, continuing to walk up the small mound of dirt that has formed into a hill.

But what if I had written it like:

I twist on my toes, looking back to Kira, her blond hair brittle in the morning sun. I sag my shoulders, turning back to look over the expanse of desert we are traveling across. I shuffle forward, continuing to walk up the small mound of dirt that has formed into a hill.

Every sentence here begins the same way, always beginning with the word I (yes, the format is the same, but I don’t know what you call those sentences so I’m not messing with that part). Isn’t the first example more interesting? The reader isn’t punched in the face by an ‘I’ character, someone completely all about me, me, me.

If you find yourself beginning several sentences in a row with the same word: he, she, I, my, change it. Those words begin to grate on your reader and your writing will become boring as there are no surprises, and as we all know, surprises are a great thing :)

Ode to My Neighbors

We are moving.

It’s sad to think we’re leaving this beautiful neighborhood where Cale and I first lived together, where we got Piglet, I started writing, Cale went to school, and where we met Amanda and Justin, our amazing neighbors.

I’m sure it’s the Southern Hospitality thing, but as of yet, I have never met another person who every single time they say, “Hey, how are you, today?” I genuinely feel they want to know how I am. Every single time. I swear, I could sit down and spill my life and they both would sit with me and actually, honestly care.  It’s a pretty incredible gift to have been given these two wonderful people as our neighbors for the past year.

Plus, Cale and I have both always known that if the house was burning down, one of them would break out a window and save the dogs. ;)

Yes, this isn’t actually an ode because isn’t an ode a poem? I don’t know. But I do know that I don’t write poetry; I’m terrible at it.

Anyway, thanks for the past year, guys. We’re going to miss you.

Tears of Writerly Sorrow

I haven’t cried while reading since “Where the Red Fern Grows” in elementary school, but “The Forest of Hands and Teeth” had me all sorts of teary.  I read some reviews of “The Forest of Hands and Teeth” and realize not everyone enjoyed it, but I loved the writing, characters, plot, the whole shebang.

After finishing the book and setting it on my nightstand, I curled up in bed and tried to sleep.  Eyes puffy and headache coming on, all I could think was, I want to write like that.  I want to move someone to tears and outright laughter.  I want to take people away to another world so that they can’t put the book down until they’ve reached the end.  My next thought was, I have so much more work to do! And that’s when the tears started again.

Ugh.

I laid there feeling all sorry for myself and as the first tear dripped down my nose, Pre jumped on my head.

Seriously.

She went to the side of the bed, aimed her little body, and jumped, landing with her sharp claws straight on my closed eye and forhead.

Cale thought it was hilarious.  I didn’t.  But, reality check!  Writing a novel isn’t about writing, it’s about rewriting.  Yes, I have a ridiculous amount of work still to do, but that’s the deal I’ve gotten myself into.

So, thanks Pre for jumping on my head and making me stop feeling all lousy.  Dogs are the best.

(As a side note, I realized today I have the habit of writing dialogue backwards.  Usually I know how the conversation will end, so I write that first and then go from there.  Is that weird? Hmm)

(And as another side note, I’m in the midst of putting together a crit group for YA fantasy – or something along those lines.  I have two wonderful ladies who are interested and there’s room for a couple more.  If you’re interested, let me know. :) )

Sentence Sunday! Punctuating Dialogue

I’ve learned over the past months that I do not punctuate dialogue correctly and I’ve noticed it’s an easy thing for people to mix up.  So, today’s lesson is on punctuating dialogue.  Aren’t you excited?!

The main source of confusion is comma versus period and when to capitalize letters.

Capitalize vs Not Capitalize

“Piglet! Stop chewing on that book!” yelled Juliana.

Here, the y on yelled is not capitalized because yelled is a continuation of the sentence ‘Stop chewing on that book.’ A good way to look at it is to read it as a whole sentence, Stop chewing on that book, yelled Cale.

“Piglet! Stop chewing on that book!” The binding on the book frayed as Piglet sunk her teeth into the thick paper.

In this example, the T on The is capitalized because a new sentence is beginning. ‘Stop chewing on that book’ is separate from ‘The binding on the book…’

The book frayed as Piglet sunk her teeth into the thick paper. “Piglet! Stop chewing on that book!” Running toward her dog, Juliana curled her fingers over the soggy, torn cover of Nevada Barr’s book, Blind Descent, and realized she would have to buy a new copy.

Each of these sentences are complete on their own and so all start with a capitalized letter.

Juliana yelled, “Stop chewing on that book!”

And here, the letter S on Stop is capitalized even though it is a continuation of the sentence ‘Juliana yelled’ because it is the start of dialogue.  The beginning word in dialogue is always capitalized.

Comma vs Period

“Piglet! Stop chewing on that book,” yelled Juliana.

The first time I used this example I had an exclamation point, but here I’ve changed it to a comma.  I would not use a period because ‘yelled Juliana’ is not a sentence of its own, as I said before, it’s a continuation of ‘Stop chewing on that book.’ The comma is used to connect the tag to the dialogue.

The book frayed as Piglet sunk her teeth into the thick paper. “Piglet! Stop chewing on that book.” Running toward her dog, Juliana curled her fingers over the soggy, torn cover of Nevada Barr’s, Blind Descent, and realized she would have to buy a new copy.

Just as before, all of these are new sentences and so use periods and not commas.

“I hope,” said Juliana, “that my book tasted good, Piglet.”

‘Said Juliana’ is set off by commas because it interrupts the dialogue and is not a separate sentence of its own.

Alright, there are a few examples and explainations for you.  If you think of any I’ve missed, add them in the comments section :)