Monday, December 9, 2019

Don't Ditch the Comma


By Martin Wiles

As authors and writers, we can’t control what publishers and editors do with commas, but let’s not throw them out completely.

In the publishing industry, as it relates to the comma, the current trend is less is more. As an English teacher, I’m still hanging on to the old-school philosophy of teaching my students to put commas in places from which a publisher or editor might remove them. But as an editor, I must follow the style guides of the place I’m editing for.

Let’s set the standard: commas are important. And at least for two reasons.

First, commas prevent misreading. My all-time favorite is “Let’s eat, Grandma” versus “Let’s eat Grandma.” Without the comma, Grandma—whomever she is—faces a dilemma. With the comma, we know someone is directly speaking to Grandma.

Another example is reflected in the following compound sentence: “I chose the colors red and green, and blue was his first choice.” Without the comma, blue might be associated with red and green—which actually belong to an entirely different sentence—but with the comma, we know blue begins a new sentence.  

One place from which commas are disappearing is following short adverbial and adjectival prepositional phrases when they begin a sentence. Recently, I was reading a book published by a noted publisher when I noticed their comma usage. Two different sentences on the same page had short adverbial prepositional phrases at the beginning of a sentence. On one, the editors chose to insert a comma; on the other, they chose to omit it. I saw no difference in either sentence.

I teach my students to put commas the old-fashioned way. If the editor chooses to remove some, so be it. At least, the acquisition or proof editor will know the writer knows how to use grammar correctly, which in the end will benefit the writer more.

Second, commas—and all forms of punctuation—guide our readers to read our material in a certain way. Normally, a dependent clause or prepositional phrase at the end of a sentence does not require a comma, but a writer, on occasion, might want to insert one for effect.

With a comma, the following sentence takes on new meaning: “I studied for my exam but failed to pass,” or “I studied for my exam, but failed to pass.” Since the sentence is simple, it does not grammatically require a comma, but inserting one gives a totally different effect for the person reading it. With the comma, I can see in my mind the disappointment of the student.

Although comma usage rules are evolving in the world of grammar and writing, let’s keep the comma. Throwing them away—or severely limiting their use—could cause a lot of misunderstanding.

(Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net, yodiyim, and everydayplus.)


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Martin Wiles is the founder of Love Lines from God (www.lovelinesfromgod.com) and serves as Managing Editor for Christian Devotions and as a copy editor for Courier Publishing. He has authored six books and has been published in numerous publications. He is a freelance editor, English teacher, author, and pastor


Monday, December 2, 2019

19 Unique Gifts for Writers and Readers in 2019

by Alycia W. Morales     @AlyciaMorales

Most gift lists for writers will have the generic writer T-shirts, jewelry, games, Scrivener, cups, etc. When I decided to curate this list, I wanted to provide truly unique gift offerings for writers. Christmas is quickly catching up to us, so hopefully you can find something original to gift that writer with this year!

19 Unique Gifts for Writers in 2019

1. Gift Cards: 

This one is generic, but a lot of writers I know (including myself) love gift cards. Some of the favorite places are Starbucks, Barnes & Noble, and amazon. What makes this gift unique is that the individual can choose what he or she wants, and you can rest assured they'll be pleased.

2. Laptop Skins: 

I love shopping Redbubble.com for unique laptop skins and cases and stickers. With a multitude of artists, they have plenty to choose from. Check out the "I Create Worlds" Laptop Skin here.

3. Bookends: 

Writers read. Why not get some cool bookends for your writer friend? Check out these WRITER bookends by Knob Creek Metal Arts on Etsy.

4.  Writing Gloves:

I'm a huge fan of these fingerless writing gloves. Especially when it turns cold outside. Check out these A Christmas Carol writing gloves by storiarts on Etsy.

5. Christmas Ornaments

Find something unique for the writer's Christmas tree. Check out these ornaments:

There, Their, They're Rustic Ornament by Convertible Girl Shop on Etsy

 Little Author Ornaments on Bas Bleu (featuring Poe, Dickens, Dickinson, & Austen)

Vintage Typewriter Ornament Set by Creationz By Catherine on Etsy

6. A Book Box Subscription

There are box subscriptions for everything these days! Check out some of the boxes for readers:

 Fairyloot (Fantasy YA)

Owl Crate (YA)

Coffee and a Classic (Classic Lit, Classic Children's Lit, Classic Nonfiction)

7. Bookish Candles

What writer doesn't love the scent of antique books? Or maybe you'd like a themed candle based on your favorite tale? Check out these bookish candles:

Antique Books by Werther and Gray on Etsy

Forks, WA by The Cheeky Nose on Etsy

The Shire Sweetgrass by North Ave Candles on Etsy

Christmas at Hogwarts by A Court of Candles

8. Book Sleeves

Men have drink cozies. Writers and readers have book cozies. Protect your latest read (or your e-reader) while you're on the go with these:

The Cozy Life on Etsy

Book Nerd by Lukie Dukie on Etsy

Tea Time by StoryHero on Etsy

Steam Punk Inspired by Baby My Book on Etsy

Signature Library Card by Baby My Book on Etsy

9. Artwork

Have you ever wanted artwork to hang on your office wall for inspiration? Here are some pieces to consider:

@whimsicalillustration is one of my favorite book artists. Check out her print from the Caraval series by Stephanie Garber. She does commission work! This would make a great gift for a writer if you can describe a character or scene from the author's book.

Write Here Write Now Print by typeshyshop on Etsy

William Faulkner Quote Poster by Santander Art on Etsy

10. Handbags

My best friend bought me a purse with a library print on it. You wouldn't believe how many compliments I've received on that bag!

These are on amazon:

Women's Tote Bag

Unisex Messenger Bag

Women's Handbag

11. Music to Write By

Everyone has their favorite music to write by. Some like soundtracks. Others like classical. I, personally, like a variety. It really depends on what I'm writing.

Consider gifting your writer with a year's subscription to Spotify or iTunes or amazon music.

Or, order them the music you know they love.

Some of my favorites are Lindsey Stirling, the Downton Abbey soundtrack, and a variety of music stations on amazon music.

12. A Writing or Blogging Planner

 My Brilliant Writing Planner by Susan May Warren

 The Writer's Planner by Laura Kinker

13. A Weekend Away

Sometimes, authors need a getaway in order to find that extra boost of inspiration they need in order to put those words on the pages. Book a cabin in the mountains or a condo at the beach and let that author in your life get away from the every day for a weekend (or a week!).

14. Coffee Mug

I know coffee mugs can be generic, but what if you could personalize the mug? With a caricature? And the writer's first name? Check out this one by Tooned Up Gifts on Etsy.

15. 100 Essential Novels Scratch-off Chart

This is really cool! It's a poster of 100 classic reads, like To Kill a Mockingbird and Lord of the Flies and Fahrenheit 451. They're covered in part by gold foil. As you read the novel, you scratch it off on the poster. What a great way to keep track of your classics reading list! I want one!

16. A Custom Photo Blanket

Some writers like to snuggle into a comfy chair, pull a blanket over their lap, and go to work. Instead of a picture of a person, you could customize their throw blanket with pictures of their book covers. Check out this blanket by Custom Cat Face on Etsy.

17. Tea or Coffee

Again, this could be generic... but!

What if your tea was based on a writer? Check out these literary teas by Rosie Lea Tea UK on Etsy. Your tea could be called Louisa May Alcott or F. Scott Fitzgerald. She has over 48 teas named after literary greats!

Hop on over to amazon to find these Novel Teas by Bag Ladies Teas.

 Know someone who writes suspense or thrillers or crime or war-themed books? Black Rifle Coffee Company has something for them!

18. An Hourglass

 Help your writer stay on task for up to 60 minutes with one of these hourglasses.

Do writing sprints with a pack of 6 hourglasses timed at 1, 3, 5, 10, 15, & 30 minutes.

Romance writer? Here's an hourglass for you!

Here's another great hourglass for the romance writer in your life.

This dragon hourglass is perfect for the fantasy writer!

Does your writer drink tea? This perfect tea timer hourglass set can not only tell you when your tea is steeped well; you can do a writing sprint while it steeps!

19. Computer Accessories

Every writer enjoys little perks. What if that perk was an accessory for their workday?

Check out this steampunk keyboard from Azio on amazon.

Slavatech on amazon has created this nifty steampunk thumb drive.

Like writing on a typewriter? Now you can have a keyboard complete with clacking sounds.

Maybe you're a romance writer or a fan of lipstick colors. Check out this keyboard.


19 Unique Gifts for Writers and Readers in 2019 {Click to Tweet}

What would you add to our list? We'd love to hear from you in the comments below!
 








Monday, November 25, 2019

Whatever Is Good


Today's guest post is by author and editor Ramona Richards, who is giving away two signed copies of her new book Murder in the Family. Leave a comment below to register for the drawing.


By Ramona Richards

Employ whatever God has entrusted you with, in doing good, all possible good, in every possible kind and degree.

This quotation from John Wesley may have been inspired by 1 Peter 4:10, which instructs us in a similar fashion: “And serve each other according to the gift each person has received, as good managers of God’s diverse gifts” (CEB).

Most of us recognize that our ability to string words together in a skilled way is a gift from God, one that we should use to the best of our ability to honor Him and be a good manager of that gift. But therein lies the rub … that most indeterminate and relative of words: "good."

What does that mean in terms of our writing? What did Peter mean? What did Wesley mean by “doing good,” being a “good manager”? Not in any deep theological sense, but in a practical, everyday, "how to I make the best choices” sense?

Never take your gift for granted.
Writers often hang out with a lot of other writers. Our friends tend to be smart as well, and occasionally we drift into this place where we believe anyone could do what we do with a little training. Especially after so many rejections, we begin to doubt our gift. This is so not the truth. You have a gift unique to you. Only you can nourish it, strengthen it, and tell the stories you are meant to tell.

You do need to nourish your gift.
Strengthen it by writing and learning continually. Your gift came from God with raw potential, like an athlete’s gift for running or throwing a ball. Receiving the gift is just the beginning. Take courses, listen to other authors, read as much as you can in your genre or chosen field. Your gift is like possessing a foreign language: if you don’t use it, it will grow weak and stale.

Make choices that honor the gift Giver.
You may be a whiz at dialogue and human psychology. This doesn’t mean you should write the next Fifty Shades of Gray. And I don’t mean to just avoid pornography—there are many ways to write, and you have claimed the label of Christian. You may be the only reflection of Christ some people will see. Keep that in mind when stringing your words together.

Be flexible and listen to the Lord.
Since He gave you the gift, He has a plan for you and a path for you to walk with it. You may crave writing romance novels, but He may lead you to write suspense or devotionals, which require as much a gift for storytelling as a novel.

In fact, repeat that to yourself: Since He gave you the gift, He has a plan for you to use it. And the best way to know that plan is to listen and to watch for the doors He opens. Don’t ignore them; they’re there for a reason. A “good” reason.

When you keep your writing eyes on HIM, “good” becomes clear.

----

This blog is an excerpt from Tracked Changes: One Editor’s Advice to Inspirational Fiction Authors by Ramona Richards, coming in 2020.

(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net, solargaria, and photostock.)

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Don't forget to leave a comment to be registered for a free, signed copy of Ramona's book.


Ramona Richards is an author and editor and a 30-year veteran of the Christian publishing industry. She is currently the associate publisher of Iron Stream Media, the parent company of New Hope Publishers, Iron Stream Kidz, Iron Stream Books, Iron Herring Books, Ascender Books, and Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Her latest novel is Murder in the Family.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Priming the Writer’s Pump



 By Tim Suddeth

I used to get frustrated when starting my old lawn mower. There was a rubber bulb I had to mash, and mash, and mash. By forcing gas into some thingamajig, it would—eventually—start the mower with a burp and a cloud of smoke.


The engine had to have gas in it before it could run. And getting that gas in is called priming the pump.

That’s a lot like how a writer’s mind works. (Not the burping and cloud of smoke part.) If you want to come up with new ideas and new stories, you need to continually prime the pump. A local college has a program called “Lifetime Learning,” and that’s exactly what is expected from a writer.

Today, we have more ways than ever to learn: podcasts, books, articles, blogs, videos, websites, forums, magazines, newspapers (yes, we still have them.), chat rooms, etc. And new information mediums are coming out all the time.

So, how are you keeping your pump (mind) primed?

My first thought goes to what you are reading. Are you reading the types of books, blogs, or articles you write or want to write? I’m always hearing stories about the shock agents and publishers have when they ask a hopeful writer what they are reading, and they answer they don’t read. Or they don’t read the types of stories they are submitting.

Then how can they know what is good, what has already been done to death, and what their desired reader expects to encounter?

They haven’t primed the pump. Or they primed it with water. In either case, the engine isn’t going to start, and the story won’t meet the expectations of the agent or publisher. Or worse, the reader.

If you’re thinking of writing a book, read other books in your genre. Definitely the works of respected authors but also non-published works. 

If you blog, read other blogs on your subject as well as those on totally different topics. Find what draws you in. 

There are other ways you can prime your writing pump. Listen to music. We all have our favorite types, and that’s fine, but don’t limit yourself to just one. I’m a big fan of Christmas music, new or traditional. Give me “Away in a Manger,” but I also want to hear the latest songs that come out each year. What are they about? How do they look at the same old Christmas story but from a different angle?

Take a nature walk. From a panoramic view of the ocean, the mountains, or the sky to the grains of sand on the beach and a slide under a microscope. Each will leave you grasping for new words to describe the wonder you’ll find.

The seasons remind me how our lives are constantly changing. You can also see this when you watch a river as it flows between its banks. On the other hand, a mountain seems as if it has stood silent, unchanging, since God first called out for it to rise.

God has made our minds to be His marvelous creations that allow us to experience His world. To experience Him. He has filled His world with things and people who give us an endless amount of creative ideas. Explore. Smell the roses … and the bugs. And remember, while you are searching for ideas, the Creator has left His fingerprints all over His creation. He’s just waiting for us to discover them.

To me, wispy, white clouds look as if God took a Bob Ross brush and—swish, swish—hung them high in the blue sky.

What is the most unlikely God fingerprint you’ve ever found?

 (Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net, vectorolie, and everydayplus.)


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Tim Suddeth is a regular attendee of The Blue Ridge Mountains Writers Conference and a member of ACFW and Word Weavers. He’s currently working on his fifth novel. He has a monthly post on The Write Conversation and is trying to make a dent in his to-read bookcases. You can follow him at on his blog at www.timingreenville.com or on Twitter @TimSuddeth.



Monday, November 4, 2019

Don't Let Rejection Derail You


By Andrea Merrell

Rejection stings. That’s a fact. But the truth is we have a choice when it comes: give up and quit trying or let it motivate us to press on.


Sometimes the rejection is a simple no without explanation. At other times it comes with constructive criticism that can help us improve our project—if we let it. The key is not to personalize the rejection. One writer warns against allowing the opinion of ourselves to be colored by the opinion of those who fail to see our potential.

In the writing world, rejection is inevitable. That’s another fact. But to be successful, we have to maintain a positive attitude and overcome it. Here are a couple of examples from author Bob Gass:

In 1902 an aspiring young writer received a rejection letter from the poetry editor of The Atlantic Monthly. Enclosed with a sheaf of poems the twenty-eight-year-old poet had sent them was this curt note: “Our magazine has no room for your vigorous verse.” Yet he became one of the most beloved and popular American poets of all time. Who was he? Robert Frost.

In 1907 the University of Bern turned down a PhD dissertation from a young physics student. Yet that student went on to change the scientific world forever. Who was he? Albert Einstein.

When a sixteen-year-old student got his report card from his rhetoric teacher in school, there was a note attached that read: “A conspicuous lack of success.” But he refused to accept it. Who was he? Winston Churchill.

I’ve heard dozens of stories—from both newbies and seasoned writers—about the piles of rejections they have received. Even Frank Peretti was turned down by fourteen publishers before This Present Darkness was accepted by Crossway Books. Thank goodness he refused to stop trying.

I could add my own stories to the mix, and I’m sure you could as well. But I learned early on that when my manuscript gets that dreaded no, it’s either not ready or it’s not the right time or place. The truth is when we write for the Lord and He gives us words to share with others, He will open the right door at the right time, and the right person will be on the other side of that door. You never know when that will happen. That’s why it’s so important to never give up or lay aside your God-given calling.

Words are powerful. God spoke the world into existence. He tells us that words contain the power of both life and death. Sticks and stones may surely break our bones, but words go deep into our innermost being. They have the power to wound the heart or set the captive free. One single word from God can change the entire course of someone’s life. What if God has entrusted that word to you? There just might be someone out there waiting to hear your story. Read your blog post. Savor your devotion. Learn through your magazine article. Be set free by your testimony. Or be impacted forever by your powerful novel.

Take your rejections and turn them into resources. Remain teachable. Learn from the advice and suggestions of others. Keep writing and never allow rejections to derail you.

Your time will come.

How do you handle rejections? Do you have some advice you would like to share? We would love to hear from you.

(Photos courtesy of Blogpiks.com and Stuart Miles.)


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