Friday, July 24, 2009

Friday Fricassee

I think a brand new contest is just what we needed. The enthusiasm is tangible!

So. In case you're wondering--Jodi is magnificent. And she brings a special empathy to her work as an agent's assistant because she is also an aspiring novelist. A rather prolific one, I might add. So she's passionate on both sides of the pen. Even if you're not planning on entering your query--or if you don't make the 50 count--be sure to take notes on her responses. I'm absolutely certain we're all going to benefit greatly from what she has to offer.

And be nice to her. She has a pride of killer ferrets at her command.

Anyway, Monday will certainly be exciting. In the meantime, I want to let you know what a WONDERFUL THING the plotcards have turned out to be. Just yesterday, I was able to revamp an entire chapter, all because the cards of a certain character made it clear exactly what I had to work out.

I actually crawled into bed last night with my newly-printed-out chapter to give it a read-through and do some more light editing. Excitement mounts! And to think how I grumbled and moaned about those plotcards.

Well, okay. The plotcarding was supremely boring. Tedious. Peel-off-the-fingernails-one-by-one sort of torture.

But worth it. It's an amazing tool, and I'm happy to report that it's WORKING.

So, what are your successes for the week? What are you excited about? (Grammar check: "About what are you excited?" Now doesn't that sound schlorky?)

Oh, and a final word on my grammar rant: Lots of good thoughts shared in the comment box, all done with the best behavior (thank you). I've just got to say this: I have nothing further to say to anyone who thinks mixing up lay and lie is some sort of minor problem. There's informality, and then there's illiteracy. "Style" is one thing. Lack of basic grammar skills is another. In my opinion, the cream rises to the top when a writer has mastered both.

Sure, I might have a character who talks like this: "She knew he done it, but she kep' laying there like she didn't know nothin' at all." That's characterization through dialogue. But you have to know the grammar rules in order to break them consistently and believably.

It's not about reciting grammar rules from a dusty book. It's about mastering one's language and using it to the best of one's ability. And yes, someone might have impeccable grammar and still write a dull or poorly plotted story. But that wasn't the point of my post.

Okay, I'm really finished now. My coffee's cold and the microwave is two stories down.

Have a GLORIOUS weekend, and I'll see you bright and early on Monday (cringe...)


  1. I see you have nothing more to say to me since I don't agree that lay/lie is a big deal.

    However, I'm still speaking to you and like your blog. Here's my last thought on this issue:

    Latin is a dead language. It is no longer changing.

    English is a vibrant, living language in constant flux. I suspect this is why the average English-speaking individual can't seem to tell the difference between lay/lie, or care.

    I bet a few centuries ago, the term - to lay - never meant to have sex with someone. Now, it's in the dictionary as one of the definitions. Change, a living language.

    Eventually the two words will probably either become interchangeable or one will win out over the other.

    Food for thought.

  2. Terry,

    I didn't mean for you to take my snide comment personally. ;)

    What you're really talking about here is the dumbing down of our language. That's different than the evolution of word meaning, appearance of new words, etc. Though it is probably inextricable from it as well.

    When basic grammar -- the MOST basic grammar -- breaks down, that is nothing less than dumbing down the language.

    So while I agree with your comments on the change of a language over time, I disagree that basic grammar needs to be a part of that.

    As a musician, I would not change the way a g-flat minor scale was played simply because it's difficult to play. Music, too, has evolved IMMENSELY over the centuries, but the basics have not changed. They tried to do that in the early 20th century, and some of what came out of that was pure chaos. In the end, the BASICS of music theory hold true, from pop music to classical to jazz and everything in between.

    Evolution is not the same as devolution. And in my opinion, the break-down of basic grammar is the latter, not the former.

    *stepping off soap box*

  3. Terry, how about the King James translation of the bible? It uses lie/lay to mean sex. That's four centuries old.

    I didn't keep up with the other comment thread, but believe me, if I see two decent queries and only have time to request one thing, I'm going to choose the one using lay/lie/laid/lain correctly.

  4. Hi Jodi, Thanks for pointing that out. Never read the bible. It was just an approximation on my part to make a point.

    Guess I was off by a century or so. Nobody's perfect.

  5. To answer your question: my success for the week is having (mostly) followed through on my goal to practice writing description every day for a week. It's actually been really helpful.

    I think sometimes in writing you just have to immerse yourself in the aspect that you hate. It sucks, but it helps. And hopefully, like your plotcards, my description practice will eventually work!