Funny Misplaced Modifiers and Other Common Writing Mistakes

misplaced modifierIndies Unlimited has all kinds of editing resources for writers. We even have real-life editors who take a spot at the gruel pot.

Because I am not an editor, while I’m reading a novel that interests me, the occasional typo or misplaced modifier is likely to fly right past me. In spite of that, I’m a writing tutor for Pearson/Smarthinking. It’s okay. I can pay attention when I have to.

I tutor over 100 students per month on higher-level orders such as thesis statements, content development, and organization. I also coach them on lower-level issues such as noun-verb agreement, sentence structure, and misplaced modifiers.

Over time, I’ve come to see the same lower-level mistakes again and again. Some are so sneaky that we can read a passage, know something isn’t quite right, but have no idea what it is.

Here are some of the sneakiest errors I see: Continue reading “Funny Misplaced Modifiers and Other Common Writing Mistakes”

Tips for Realism in Writing

boring writing book-15584_960_720The mantra for writers these days is “Make it realistic.” After all, it won’t be long before we’re competing with three-dimensional, five-sense virtual reality. But we will never try to do that. It is impossible to give the reader everything, and you don’t want to. The trick to giving the reader a wonderful experience is to make the right choices in what we show.

Naturalism: the Ultimate Reality

There was a movement in the theatre world in the nineteenth century. The performers were trying new ways to make their performances as realistic as possible. One offshoot of this movement was the “naturalism” school. These people had the brilliant idea that the best way to show realistic theatre was to show reality. Actors woke up in the morning pretending to be their character. They went through their whole day as their character. By the time they reached the theatre, they were totally immersed in their role. This is now called “method acting,” and many performers use adapted versions today.

However, other theatrical geniuses tried to take the “reality” much farther. Someone actually had the idea of taking the side off an apartment building and placing seating there instead, so the audience could watch the tenants go about their daily lives. Can you imagine? Continue reading “Tips for Realism in Writing”

Some Writing Rules Should Not Be Taken Quite So Literally

i will show not tell writing rulesWhen I first sat down and put fingers to keys, full of optimism about being a writer, I looked for suggestions about how to write my first book. Any guesses what I found? The two most overused pieces of advice in writing: “Show, don’t tell,” and “Write what you know.” If writers’ groups were classic rock radio stations, those two pieces of advice would be Stairway to Heaven and Hey Jude. All good enough, as far as it went, but I didn’t even understand what they meant.

It took me quite a while to get the hang of “showing,” not “telling.” Years, honestly. I never said I was bright, or a quick study, did I? Finally, ten years later, I think I’ve got it. Instead of just “telling” my reader what happens, I put them in the scene. Make them a part of it. Give them an emotional connection to the material. What I’m not sure of is when this became the way to go. Continue reading “Some Writing Rules Should Not Be Taken Quite So Literally”

“Do I Need All Those Hads?” – Past Perfect Tense

past perfect tense pocket-watch-598039_960_720I admit it: when I see certain things in a book, it sets my teeth on edge. One thing that sets me off is abuse of the past perfect tense.

What’s past perfect tense, you ask? Let me explain.

Let’s say you sent the following two sentences to your editor:

Vivian never saw a skyscraper before she visited New York. So by the end of her first day in Manhattan, her neck ached because she was spending so much time looking up.

And she kicked them back to you with the following edits: Continue reading ““Do I Need All Those Hads?” – Past Perfect Tense”