Let's Get Connected!

I figured, since the blog is now over the 100 hump, I'd do a little updating. I want to get everyone's social networking contacts and share mine as well.

Here is a list of all my current, social networking links. Please feel free to post yours as comments. Let me know if you want me to add them to this post as links or not. I figured this would be a great way for us all to cross network and get connected.

Here Goes!

Katie Salidas

Facebook Author Fan Page

Find and Replace or Seek and Destroy?

One of the great features in Word, is the find and replace option. It has so many wonderful uses. One of my favorites I like to call, seek and destroy.

In my Belated Blogger Birthday post, I mentioned the problem with the "to be" verbs and how they have a tendency to drag your writing into the passive zone.

Note, I did not say they always do.

Let's recap.

Had, Was, Were... To be or not to be, that is the question.
A year later and I am still learning about passive voice in writing. I'm not going to attempt to give advice on that subject specifically, but I will give this handy little tip.

Avoid the "to be" verbs when possible. They have a tendency to make your writing passive and they are so easily overused.

Now, I am not saying never use them, just avoid where possible. Just like all words, they do have their place in writing.

Example 1 (unnecessary had)

I surveyed the café, noticing that two strangers had sat down at one of the card tables along the painted mural wall.

The had here is unnecessary and drags the sentence into the passive zone. Lets reword.

Example 2 (no had)

I surveyed the café, noticing two, strange men sitting at one of the card tables along the painted mural wall.

Example 3 (unnecessary was)

My heart was pounding in my chest.

Sure the heart was pounding, but we could have gotten the same message in a more active sense without the word, was.

Example 4

My heart pounded in my chest.

You will find, in most cases, when you are tempted to use one of the "to be" verbs, you can simply rework the sentence and avoid it.

Now, there are situations where they are perfect to use. Had, for example is a wonderful way to let the readers know the information happened in the past.

Example 5

I couldn't understand why Hector refused my request. He had helped me many times before. What's stopping him now?

Here, had is used just to tell us of a previous situation. It works, as is.

Ok, now that we have recapped a little, let me tell you how, seek and destroy works.

Open up your current WIP. (if you are using WORD) Turn track changes on. (under tools, find track changes and click). Now hit Control and H (at the same time)

This brings up the find and replace window. (make sure your track changes is on before you do this.)

Start with "was". Type that into the top text box. Now, type "was" again into the second box and let it replace all.

All of those pesky Was' will now show up in red. You will probably see a lot of them.

Here is where seek and destroy works.

When self editing, we tend to miss things because we are too close to our work to notice. Track changes works like an editors, Big Red Pen, highlighting the things we need to work on.

Now that you can see the items pointed out in RED, you can go line by line and decide if they are really necessary. If they are ok, leave them be. If not, you can change them.

Rinse and repeat as necessary with any word you wish to seek out and destroy.

One of my critiquers sent me this great list of words to seek and destroy!

When done, switch your view in track changes (in the menu bar, there should be a drop down) from "final show mark up," to "final" and the red will go away, leaving your document looking normal again.

Gerund or Present Participle Phrase?

A critiquer recently called me out on using a gerund when I think they meant to say present participle phrase.

Gerund, is that a word?

Scratching my head, I opened the web browser and googled the word gerund.
Laughing at my ignorance, I found the definition.

A gerund is a verbal that ends in -ing and functions as a noun. The term verbal indicates that a gerund, like the other two kinds of verbals, is based on a verb and therefore expresses action or a state of being. However, since a gerund functions as a noun, it occupies some positions in a sentence that a noun ordinarily would, for example: subject, direct object, subject complement, and object of preposition.

Now, since we are looking at gerunds, we also need to look at participle phrases too, as they are often referred to and pointed out in a critique.

A participle is a verbal that is used as an adjective and most often ends in -ing or -ed. The term verbal indicates that a participle, like the other two kinds of verbals, is based on a verb and therefore expresses action or a state of being. However, since they function as adjectives, participles modify nouns or pronouns. There are two types of participles: present participles and past participles. Present participles end in -ing. Past participles end in -ed, -en, -d, -t, or -n, as in the words asked, eaten, saved, dealt, and seen.

Now, that is more technical than I want to get into at this moment. You can read the both articles at your leisure (and I suggest you do).

What I really want to focus on is how we use or abuse these present participles in our writing.

The worst use of it is, when we try to avoid the I or He/She trap, (I spoke of this in my previous blog). When we are trying to create gaps between our I's and He's or She's, we sometimes like to think that hiding them in the middle of a sentence will work. The problem with this is we tend to overdo it or do it incorrectly.

Notice the sentences used earlier in this post.

Scratching my head, I opened the web browser and googled the word gerund.
Laughing at my ignorance, I found the definition.

You see how they all started with an -ing? I'm using present participle phrases to start the sentence.

For the sentence to be considered, technically correct, all actions would have to happen simultaneously.

Did I really scratch my head and open a web browser and google the word gerund, all at the same time? Probably not. What I did do, is try to hide my "I" in the middle of a jumble of actions (I scratched my head. I opened the web browser. I googled gerund.) beginning with a present participle phrase.

Here is another bad example.

Walking to the door, I turned the knob.

If you are walking to the door, can you really be turning the knob at the same time?

Do you see the problem here? If the actions aren't happening all at the same time, your sentence is wrong. It's fodder for an editors big red pencil.

Now, I'm not saying don't ever start a sentence this way. You can use the -ing beginning if your actions are all happening simultaneously.

Walking to the door, I grabbed my hat and coat.

That last one is ok (not great, just ok) because you could grab your hat and coat on the way to the door.

The simple rule. If you are going to use a present participle phrase to hide an "I" (or a he/she), make sure your actions are able to happen simultaneously.

And, this should go with out saying but I will say it anyway. If you are going to do it, don't over do it. Make this a tool in your arsenal, not a crutch to lean on.

Is there an echo in here?

An echo happens when you use the same or similar word too close together. This is something you want to avoid doing whenever possible. When you are tempted to use the same word twice, think of ways to reword or restructure the surrounding sentences.

Example 1 (echo)

I surveyed the café, noticing that two strangers had sat down at one of the card tables along the painted mural wall. They did not seem like the type that frequented coffee houses, especially not a vintage cafe like this.

See the echo here. The word cafe is used twice in close proximity.

Example 2 (revised)

I surveyed the café, noticing two strange men sitting down at one of the card tables along the painted mural wall. They looked too clean cut, definitely not the type who would frequent a vintage place like this.

Sometimes a little reword does the trick.

Now, the biggest culprit of the infamous echo happens when we write what a character is doing.

In first person, it comes out I, I, I, I, I.
In third person, it comes out he/she, he/she, he/she.

It is so easy to fall into the, I or He/She trap. You're probably saying, "well, how the hell am I going to tell you he did something without saying he?" The trick is to reword and rework sentences to that you stretch out the gaps between words so that the reader doesn't hear it.

Let's look at some examples.

Example 1 -First person

I knew it was inadvisable to walk around the streets alone at night, but I did not have a car so I was forced to do it anyway. I carried my keychain of pepper spray, for defense, just in case I ran into anyone dangerous. I naively believed in its ability to protect me from any attacker.

Do you see all the I's? It's like an annoying drum beat after a while.

Example 2 - Revised First person

It was inadvisable to walk the streets alone at night. I knew this but didn't have a car, so there was no other choice. For defense, I carried a key chain of pepper spray, naively believing in its ability to protect me from any attacker.

Sometimes a little reworking helps to remove unnecessary I's.

Example 3 -Third Person

Sasha downed her drink. She winced as the liquid burned her throat. A warmth was building in her stomach. Two shots down in less than twenty minutes. She knew she needed to pace herself or this night wasn’t going to go very far. She knew Tequila was a dangerous alcohol. She'd heard stories of people doing crazy things when they drank a little too much of it. She made a quick mental note, not to have another drink for a while.

See all the she's?

Example 4 - Revised Third Person

Sasha downed her drink, wincing as the liquid burned the back of her throat. A warmth slowly built in her stomach. Two shots down in less than twenty minutes. Sasha knew she needed to pace herself or this night wouldn't go very far. Tequila was a dangerous alcohol. She'd heard stories of the crazy things people had done after drinking too much. Setting the glass down, she made a mental note not to have another drink for a while.

Mixing in her, with she, and the character's name helps to smooth out the echo. You will never completely avoid it, but by reworking the sentences you can make it a little less noticeable.

101 Woo Hoo

I've had the blog on autopilot for the last week while I've been in Colorado visiting family. Actually, when this is posted, I should be in the air, flying back home. Yay!

I was so surprised to see that my followers had hit and surpassed 100!

Woot! Squeee! Hooray!

That's a pretty cool milestone to hit after only a year of blogging. 100+ people think this blog is interesting.

I want to say a really HUGE, Thank You, to all of you out there. I've said it before and I will say it again, this is an awesome community of writers and I am so happy to be apart of it.

I've got some great ideas for more upcoming tips and tricks blogs, so stay tuned.

Feeling a bit schizophrenic?

Couldn't help it, I love this song.

Let's talk about head hopping!

First a reminder of POV. Back in my Belated Blogger Birthday post, I touched on this topic.

Your POV is the method you tell your story. Are you the narrator following one character intimately? Are you the Main Character, telling your story? Are you some omniscient being, relaying every detail of the events unfolding?

Once you know who you are, in relation to your story, you can begin to tell it. Picking your POV means committing to one method of storytelling. I'm just going to stick with the two main POV's for now.

In first person, you are telling the story with you speaking for the main character.

I did this. I saw that. etc...

The reader should only see and hear what the MC see's and hears. Just like in real life, you cannot pretend to know the inner thoughts and motivations of the people around you. The same applies to your character. You cannot assume anything about other people, unless your MC is psychic. LoL.

Example 1

George burned with desire for me.

The MC can't know for sure that George is burning with desire. She may be herself, but unless she can read his mind, she can't be sure.

Example 2
George pulled me into his arms. His hot breath blew across my ear as he spoke, "I need you."

Here, you, the MC tell us, through George's actions and words, that he does, in fact want you.

In limited 3rd, the narrator tells the story, following only one character at a time. The narrator can only intimately know that one character they are following. They can delve into that one characters mind to tell us their internal thoughts and motivations, but not any of the secondary characters.

Example 3
George pulled Madeline into his arms, enjoying the feel of her soft body against against his own. "I need you," he whispered in her ear. Madeline sighed with contentment as she wrapped her arms around his waist.

Here, there is a minor POV change from George to Madeline. If the Narrator is in Georges head, they cannot know for sure that Madeline is content. A sigh could mean anything.

Example 4
George pulled Madeline into his arms, enjoying the the feel of her soft body against his own. "I need you," he whispered in her ear. Madeline responded with a sigh and wrapped her arms around his waist.

Ok, now on to the schizo part. POV Shifts or Head Hopping.

It's tempting, when stuck with one character, to hop over, into another characters head and give us their perspective. Writers beware here, though it is tempting, it should be avoided or at least done with some caution.

Hopping in and out of various characters heads tend to stand out to readers.

This mainly applies to the two points above. 1st and 3rd limited.

The general rule of thumb, is to pick only one character's head to be in per scene.

Now, I say, per scene because it is acceptable to swap to another character at a scene break.

However, if you really feel you need to show more than one characters thoughts and feelings in a particular scene, (if it is long enough to do this) you need to pick specific spots to swap. Figure out what characters inner thoughts and feelings are most important, for the part of the scene you are in, and stick with that character for at least 1k or so words. The larger the gap between POV changes, the more willing readers are to accept it.

Otherwise you end up with a bit of a jumble of who is doing and thinking what. In other words, your reader becomes a little schizo hopping in and out of your characters heads. =p

Connor stood up and stalked out of the shadow, trying to look large and imposing as he allowed the light to reveal him to this strange woman.
Daphne’s eyes widened as he came out of the shadow. He was a sight to behold. Unlike the other vampires he did not stick to the traditional long flowing hair. She felt a shiver of fear dancing up her spine, mingling with an odd urge to reach out and touch him, to see if he was real.
Connor took a step closer to her. “It is not smart to provoke a vampire,” he said a menacing edge to his voice. The corner of his mouth rose in a smile giving away the amusement he felt watching her tremble before him.

Do you see the ping pong match going on here? Who's head am in? You can't tell because I am constantly swapping back and forth. In my effort to give you a complete picture, I have you bouncing around too much. This is a prime example of head hopping.

To fix this, I have to decide, who's perspective is more important here? Is it Daphne, seeing a vampire for the first time? Or, Is it Connor, enjoying the ability to scare the living daylights out of this frightened woman? Once that's decided and I commit to a POV the story can move forward.

Now once you have decided what you are doing and who's head you are in, you need to mark the shifts. Each POV shift should be clearly marked with either a noticeable gap in paragraphs, or a symbol like this, # in between paragraphs. Not 100% clear on the rule maybe ### or *** are more acceptable. Many submission guidelines will tell you what format they expect. Always check your formatting before you submit your work.

Dialogue Tags aka, the bane of my existance...

So, In my Belated Blogger Birthday post, I put some tips and tricks I have learned over the last year. I thought I might take a little bit and expand on them. Let's start with one that gets me beat up in critiquing groups.

Dialogue tags and punctuation.

First, the simple rule.

When you use a dialogue tag like, he said. it should look like this.

"I'm heading to the bar,” he said.

Comma inside of the quotes, not a period. In this case, the tag is an extension of the sentence. This seems pretty easy and straight forward right?

Now, let me complicate it a bit more. When the dialogue is followed with an action you would use the period.


"I'll see you later.” He winked.

Notice the difference? I still started with, he. But, because winking (in this example) is it's own seperate action, it is not a part of the sentence, so a period is used.

The waters further muddy when you try to get creative with your tags. These are called bookisms.

"What the hell are you talking about?" The audience screamed in confusion.

Notice the question mark in the quotes. The audience screaming is a separate action.

"I've never heard of this term before," came a meek voice from the crowd.

Notice the comma in the quote, just like using a "said" tag.

Now, bookisms and are generally looked down on when overused. In most cases, said, is all that is needed.

It's tempting to get cute and make every bit of dialogue sparkle, but most editors and agents frown on it. It makes the writing appear amateurish.

(this is where I get beat up all the time. I love to use those cutsy tags.)

The general consensus is that the dialogue should speak for its self. You should be able to glean the manner of the characters speech by the words used. Standard tags like, said or asked, are more or less, invisible to the reader and do not interrupt the flow of the story.

However, if you must break the rules. Here is a tip. Use bookisms sparingly and avoid using the dreaded -ly's if you plan on being creative.

"But, I want to use them," he said solemnly. <-- No!

"But, I want to use them," he moaned. <--Maybe

He stomped his foot. "But, I want to use them." <-- better

Now, because I am not always the best at explaining myself, I've found a great link that does a much better job explaining creative dialogue tagging aka Bookisms.

Linky Linky

Blog, Book, and Author Spotlight!

A couple of months ago I told you about my mother who had just started her own blog.

You can find that blog here.

Today, I am so proud to announce that she has published her first book!

"Where is God in Your Life: Three Retreats in Christian Spirituality"
by Susan Provost

Available at Amazon.com

"Through the development of three two-day workshops, I have presented a program that will show readers and participants how to recognize God in their lives and to feel His love. I have designed these workshops to help people to continue their spiritual journey to greater connection with God. Finally, I have created these workshops to help others to see the importance of the Christian faith as a spiritual road map to be used on the path to God"

She also launched a website to help promote her book as well as her services as a spiritual adviser.

Congratulations Mom! I am so proud of you!

And the winner is...

This morning, I put all the names into a hat and let the munchkin pick the lucky winner.

(Don't mind the Koolaid face)



Here is his tip.

Less is more: I often struggle with this, and get caught up with flowery language. Its the curse of studying and reading too much. Sometimes, it's best just to say something and simple and plainly as possible.

Ok , now something just for the winner. Please email me at ROZGIRL(at)COX(dot)NET or contact me via Facebook (linky in the right, side bar) to give me your shipping information.

Thanks for playing and thanks for being wonderful blog readers!