Recently, Weird Al released another album which shot straight to number 1 on the Billboard Chart. Not since 1963 has a comedy album taken the top spot. Kudos to Weird Al!
And lucky for us writers, he’ s addressed a pressing issue – #Word Crimes! Please watch the following instructional video.
Be sure to laugh out loud if you feel so moved!
And then, please reflect upon Weird Al’s wisdom.
In an age where social media reigns supreme, it does seem like grammar is becoming a lost art. Sure, for us writers, solid knowledge of grammar is a must. But it wasn’t until I chortled my way through this song, that I realized how many of these mistakes also drive me mad.
Now, to be fair, before I began seriously writing, I’d forgotten some of those rules too. Comma placement continues to stump me. See the previous sentence – I probably used too many commas. I don’t always punctuate dialog properly and the distinction between blond and blonde often baffles me (largely because publishers all handle it differently).
I am, by no means, a grammar nit-picker but one thing that does drive me nuts is spelling words wrong on purpose.
I’m looking at you SyFy Channel. For shame!!
I’m curious to know – which grammar mistakes drive you batty?
Once upon a time, in the dark days before the Internet, writers used to be inaccessible Titans of Storytelling. There was a mystique, a veil of awe, that separated the reader from their beloved authors. Many times, a faceless (unless there was an author photo) God who churned out books we love and who solely existed to bring us readers joy.
An intrepid fan could contact a writer via their publishers, snail mail or by attending a convention, book signing or other public appearance. Even then, the hallowed author of your favorite books/series/universe was somewhat of a celebrity, often rendering you speechless. After all, chances were good that you’d approach the table, state your name so they could personalize your book, then you’d mumble something lame like – “I really love your books”, then move on**.
** quick aside – as a writer, we don’t think that’s lame at all. We appreciate knowing that readers enjoy our books.
Rarely did a reader learn or probably even try to discover the author’s political, religious or any beliefs at all. Nor as a reader, did we necessarily care – we just wanted them behind a keyboard churning out another book.
Ahh, how times have changed. Right?
Today, with multiple forms of social media, your friendly neighborhood author is just a mouse click away. The veil of mystique is shattered which begs the question – should author’s have opinions? How much is too much sharing?
Heck, do we even use our own names?
No doubt about it, there’s a fine line here between being yourself as a person and being a persona as a writer.
Some writers love to let it all hang out and are very vocal in their beliefs (example – Orson Scott Card). His very vocal views on homosexuality led to a firestorm that in all likelihood alienated fans. I know it made me think twice about him.
Other’s let the world know just enough about them to be enjoyable but don’t cross the TMI line (example – our dear friend Kristan Higgins). Since we Scribes know Kristan – we can say, yes, she is that down to earth, enjoys her man candy and loves her family. An ordinary person and a generous author with both her time and advice.
Does this mean writer’s shouldn’t have opinions? Are we not allowed to air our beliefs? Well, of course we’re allowed to have opinions and, hey, it’s a free country, right?
But again, it’s a fine line when it comes to what you say in public. So before you rant on Facebook or engage in a heated twitter battle, know the potential repercussions.
I like to apply the old adage – think before you speak (or type). And do unto others is also sound advice.
Put yourself on the other side of the fence – think of yourself as a reader too. Ask yourself:
Does learning that your favorite author has a total opposite view than you change how you see them?
Would you stop buying their books if they expressed/ranted about XYZ?
Do you really want to know XXX level of detail?
For me personally, as a writer, I’d rather walk on the positive side and keep my personal views to myself, especially in the political arena. During the last election, I un-friended people on Facebook (fellow writers) because of too much political ranting.
And when I apply the reader test to myself, I find I’d rather hear about when the next book is coming out and what my favorite author has planned next. It’s not that I don’t think writers should have opinions, but I’d rather save it for face to face conversations or private correspondence.
I say – be polite, accessible but leave a little of that old mystique. Let the reader enjoy your books without too much information ruining their good time.
What do you think? Do you like to let it all hang out? Have you ever faced repercussions? Or have you found a happy medium?
Thea here. Happy Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, everyone.
Now, you know I’ve confessed to being a tv-holic. But people, I can’t watch everything. So when some gremlin snuck into my remote and rendered my tv silent for four days, I was near to losing my mind. How was I going to catch up on Revenge, The Good Wife and Homeland? Was I really going to have to sit in my kitchen to watch Wendy Williams? Or raise the sound on that tv so I could hear and watch in the living room? What about Thursday, and Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal? The #@#$% tv was ruining my life.
You guys should understand: I watch these shows for research. There are writerly lessons to be learned from them. I got hooked on Pretty Little Liars because I loved the premise — and then the whole onion peeling of the plot was fascinating. And Scandal — the twists! the turns! The yes I will, no I won’t. Delicious. And the burning question: how could I apply those strategies to what I was writing?
Now I told John this. I won’t say how he responded except I will never ever try to explain my tv viewing habits to him again. I will be as kind as he was after we’d moved and I told him two months later I wanted to move back to the house we had moved from (he didn’t divorce me). In all fairness, the analogy of house:move=tv:research doesn’t quite equate, but you get the idea.
I really thought the solution to the silent tv was simple: something in the remotes, you know? There were two of them and my oldest son, John and I all fiddled around with them for days and nothing happened. We disconnected all cords and reconnected. Nothing got grounded. Score: TV reception perfect. Sound: 0.
I finally called the appliance store where we purchased it. Two days later, the repair person determined it wasn’t the tv, it was the cable box. He did not leave me hanging, thank goodness.
Listen carefully, people — this may save your tv viewing life. He disconnected the cable box from the tv and pressed the power button on the cable box for a minute. He then replugged the cable box and voila! SOUND!!!!!
People! It was Thursday!!! I had Grey’s Anatomy back. And I didn’t have to watch Scandal in the kitchen with an aching back. And this weekend, I and the Mentalist finally found out who Red John is. How do you put a price on priceless?
And life is back to normal. I know you’ll be happy to know I caught up on nearly everything, though John is absolutely certain I watch Vampire Diaries every day. (I wish). However I have taken on Almost Human and Hostages and I’m thinking about catching up on Blacklist, Dracula and Sleepy Hollow.
Really — you guys get it: too much is never enough, right??
Have you had a tv-is-ruining-my-life moment? How did you handle it? What did you do? What did your husband or significant other say?
Thea Devine’s books defined erotic historical romance. She’s the authors of 27 historical and contemporary romances and a dozen novellas. She was a freelance manuscript reader for many years, and is a Romanic Times Booklovers’ Romance Pioneer honoree. Look for the sequel to The Darkest Heart — Beyond the Night — in 2014.
Thea today, with apologies again for being unable posting last week, and thinking how I’ve written a fair amount about how Maine has changed for me with the loss of family, neighbors and friends.
Curiously, I’ve only written one book set wholly in Maine, a Harlequin Blaze: Night Moves, even though we’ve been summering there for as long as we’ve been married, and John since he was a teenager.
In fact, one of the first things John asked me shortly after we met was, do you want to go to Maine with me?
I was a city girl, born in Brooklyn, living in Newark at the time. What did I know about Maine?
I came to Maine shortly after sunrise on a cool August morning where, on the Kittery Bridge, the temperature dropped another ten degrees as we crossed the state line. We’d driven all night and we had another two hours to go to get to the family camp on a lake in southwestern Maine. I had no idea what to expect. What I found was a cabin with a full living room and wood stove, a bedroom, a bunk room, bathroom, kitchen, electric and running water, and a screened porch that overlooked a lake.
All these years we’ve gone there, weeks and months at a time, with kids, family, friends, dogs, cats, alone. We’ve picnicked, antiqued, swam and canoed in the local lakes, gone to every local fair — imagine my youngest son, city-born and street-wise, chosen to compete in a pig scramble at one of those country fairs — and I’ve written good portions of several books up there at the little desk overlooking the lake that my husband rigged up for me on the porch.
I’ve loved it there in years past. What I especially loved was how time stretched. That everything had a pace and an hour, and that anything that needed to be done got done by four p.m., so we could sit on the porch and inhale the peace, the quiet, the calm, and just talk. Or not.
You might ask why we never moved there. I have no answer — we thought about it for years, we think about it still. I corresponded for many years with Mabel, our neighbor up the road before she died. She wrote wonderful stream-of-conscious letters about life in Maine during the winter. They kept Maine my mind and heart when I couldn’t be there.
I imagined living there. I thought about my characters living there, I dreamt up mysteries that haunted the woods behind our house, monsters that lived in the lake, secrets buried for generations in the attics and cellars of abandoned farms that dotted the hills, heroines returning to their roots, running from their bad decisions, heroes who were local, hard-bitten and wise.
And sweet sultry romance in a place where time moved slower, the air was clear, the water sparkled, where neighbors were always ready to help, and where, forty-seven years after the fact, people still know your name.
And maybe, after all these years, just maybe that’s enough.
What about you? Do you have a place out of mind where you love to go and might want to live? Have you ever acted on that desire?
Thea Devine’s books defined erotic historical romances. She’s the author of twenty-seven erotic historical and contemporary romances, and a dozen novellas. Her sequel to The Darkest Heart (June 2011), Beyond the Night, will be a Pocket Star release February 2014. She is a Romantic Times Romance Pioneer honoree.
Yesterday I guest blogged over at Jill Archer’s siteabout our favorite buddy – the Doubt Monster. Fellow CT RWA members may recognize some of this information because it was taken from a presentation I did last March. If you missed it, here’s your chance to catch up!
Many creative types proclaim that they have a Muse – a benevolent entity that encourages the artist and nourishes the soul, allowing magical prose to flow from his or her fingertips like golden honey down a river of . . . blah, blah, flowery words, blah, blah.
Me and a Muse? No such luck. Instead, I have a Doubt Monster. In fact, if I ever had a Muse, I’m pretty sure the Doubt Monster ate her a long time ago.
What is a Doubt Monster? Let me introduce you.
The Doubt Monster is that nagging feeling while writing that your prose is terrible, your plot is silly, your characters are insipid and no one in their right mind would read this drivel, let alone buy it. Definition courtesy of Jen Moncuse.
In my case, the greedy Doubt Monster messes with my confidence and rears his ugly head (yes, I believe it’s a male – no clue why, honest) at various times in the writing process. Sometimes, he nags me constantly like my brain has been Rick-rolled by an earworm (you know, an irritating song that repeats in your head over and over).
What? That never happens to you? Never mind, then.
Other times, he appears sporadically. If I’m lucky, he won’t show up until I’m almost done with the first draft.
So what attracts the Doubt Monster? (Besides Rick Astley lyrics)
In my experience, lack of certainty creates openings for the sneaky cretin. Observe:
If your self-confidence is shot. Hello, Doubt Monster.
If you received a rejection letter. Hello, Doubt Monster.
If you received a bad contest score or one star review. Hello, Doubt Monster.
If you receive an awesome five star review. Hello , Doubt Monster. (Yes, success can also freak you out with an – “OMG, how will I ever top this story? I will never write anything good again” – moment.
If your family doubts you. Say it with me – Hello, Doubt Monster!
If you’re like me, and you’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop or you just expect that what you’re working on will suck at some point – yeah, yeah, Hello, #@!# Doubt Monster!
And the Doubt Monster doesn’t prey exclusively on unpublished writers. Once you’re published, he has even more confidence busting fodder to torment you with! Even multi-published, NY Times, award winning authors battle the beast.
So how do you combat this annoying creativity killer?
Don’t Feed the Monster!
1. As with any problem, identification is the key.Admit you have a problem. And take it seriously. Yup, it’s that simple. Consider the possibility that you’re staring at a blank page because you’re suffering from self-doubt. If you’re lazy, sorry. Can’t help you with that one. Maybe consider not being a writer, ‘cause, you know, writing requires self-discipline and actual work. Just throwing that out there!
2. When you are in “the creative mind” – anything should be possible and telling yourself that your ideas are dumb or won’t work is not helpful. Really. Sit back and play out those ideas to their logical conclusion. Do they work? Do you like it? Does it move the plot along? Even if it doesn’t – write it down. You know the old adage – you can’t edit a blank page!
4. Confront your Doubt Monster and root him out. What stage of writing are you in? Are you allowing your inner editor to stomp on your creative process? Do you fear imminent arrest by the Grammar Police? If yes, remember you’re not in English class anymore. You don’t have to have perfect sentences or perfect grammar while you’re drafting your story. First draft = word vomit! And that is fine!!
5. Are you worried about what everyone else will think? At this stage in writing, do not think about your critique group, readers, the marketplace or much of anything else real world related. And, seriously, who cares what anyone else thinks?
6. Tell old Doubty to shut it. Don’t feel guilty about it. You can’t hurt his feelings. See # 4.
7. Do not stop writing. Ever. That is the worst thing you can do. If you are truly stuck, work on something else for a little bit. Take a walk, read, go the movies, clean your closet. Whatever floats your boat.
Who’s seen Men In Black 3? There is a great scene in the movie where J &K are stuck trying to figure out the enemy’s next move. Agent K says – “let’s have pie.” Meaning, they will eat a piece of pie and discuss anything but the case. Believe it or not, this really does work (well, you don’t have to have pie). Sometimes, in order to solve a problem, you have to let your subconscious work it out. Doing an alternate activity and letting your mind wander can help silence the Doubt Monster.
Which leads me to my next point . . . sometimes you need to listen to the Doubt Monster.
Wait! What?? But you just said –
– Yes, I know. There are times when you should heed the Doubt Monster’s warnings. He or she is not always wrong to make you question your work. One way to test the validity of the DM is to ask a non-writer to read your finished work. I find it helpful to use first readers whenever I complete a draft. They are not writers, but friends who will be honest and read extensively in the genre I write in.
During editing, let the Doubt Monster play all he wants. This is the time to question your plotline, pacing, word choices, and story flow. The DM can be the voice of reason. Think of
it as the same instinct that prevents you from engaging in dangerous activities like jumping off a cliff or leaving your house in nothing but your underwear.
Over time, the more you write the more you’ll find a happy medium. And, I have discovered that some stories are more prone to attacks of the Doubt Monster. Many times, those books turn out to be better stories in the end and that’s a goal even the Doubt Monster can get behind!
If anyone has confidence building techniques, please share!