Friday, September 3, 2010

Friday Fricassee

What a great round! A big thank you to everyone who took the time to critique the entries. I was delighted to see the comments continue to pour in yesterday, and I'm hopeful that the authors were able to glean something useful from the varied responses.

A tiny something baffled me, though. More than one critter referred to Entry #1 as being in "present tense." Um. It's not in present tense. It's in past tense.

Now, I'm admittedly a grammar snob, so of course something like this is going to rattle my chains a bit. The three simple tenses are very black-and-white: past, present, future. Not, in my mind, mix-up-able.

A sentence from the entry:

I slid the serving tray into the rack on the bar and flashed my best waitress smile.

The verbs slid and flashed are clearly in the past tense. Otherwise, the sentence would read as follows:

I slide the serving tray into the rack on the bar and flash my best waitress smile.

The above sentence is in the present tense. First person, present. Like the Hunger Games books.

Which may be part of the problem. We've got Mockingjay ringing so loudly in our ears that as soon as we see the pronoun "I" we start hearing everything in present tense.

(Seriously. I'm still having emotional flashbacks and I finished the book almost a week ago.)

I don't know. I just want us all to be above reproach when we comment on grammar. Because we're writers. And grammar is the foundation of our craft.

Anyway, no condemnation, no finger-wagging. None of that. Just a call to higher ground for all of us. Dotting our i's and crossing our t's, as it were.

Big hugs to everyone! And have a delicious weekend.


  1. We know your a grammar snob but that fact is not a writing qualification.

    #1 clearly mixes tenses. The example you gave was from the latter half of the piece where tense is NOT an issue. You chose the first sentence that wasn't ambiguous for your example.

    I do not claim to know everything about grammar, but I too noticed that there was something wrong with the tense in # 1.

    You clearly have a case of OIS (Overinflated Ego Syndrome.)

  2. Yo, troll. Can you read a book with terrible grammar issues? Can you enjoy it? Can you read past page one without wanting to spork your eyes out?

    Being a grammar snob isn't a requirement; knowing how to use our words is important, regardless.

    Number one is in past tense. There are -ing verbs, but they are all accompanied by -ed verbs in other phrases of the sentence. That means (quick grammar lesson for you, troll!) the -ing verb happened at the same time as the -ed verb.

    Example: I laughed, getting water up my nose.

    The laughing and the water up the nose is happening at the same time.

    It's a perfectly legitimate complex sentence.

    Number one isn't perfect, but there's nothing wrong with the tense. (Hi, yes, I'm the author.)

    Troll, go haunt someone else's bridge. Someone's going to think you have a crush on Authoress.

  3. **still laughing**

    Note to self: Do not drink coffee while reading replies to snarky posts as it results in laughing/coughing/choking.

    Gotta clean the keyboard. Again.

  4. Thanks so much for doing this, Authoress! And a big thanks to all who participated! I now have many ideas on revising my opening.

  5. Oh, and to the troll with the faulty grammar argument: you used the possessive "your" when I think you intended to use the contraction of "you are" which is "you're."

  6. Thanks for offering this critique session Authoress! And a huge thanks to the folks who critiqued!

    I knew my opening wasn't ready for primetime, but wasn't sure how to fix it or if my concerns were valid. Thanks to the detailed and to-the-point critiques, I now know where I want to take this. I'm so jazzed, I've already drafted a revision.

    Looking forward to seeing whether any of these snippets end up in published books someday. ;->

  7. My wip is in present tense, so when I was recently critting my friend's novel, which is in third person past tense, I keep reading it as if it was written in third person present tense. It would take me several paragraphs to figure out my mistake. :)

    Have a great weekend, Authoress!

  8. Well, I don't want to bash Anon, but clearly this person should step back from the situation and take a deep breath. We are all here to learn, and critiques/comments are simply the opinions of those who write them. If you feel you must lash out at others for offering opinions, then this type of enviornment is not for you. Anger and defensiveness only hurts one person: you.

    Now. :) I agree with the others--when you read or write in present tense, it is funny how much it gets into your head. I was telling Stina that after writing a book in present, the next book I wrote in past was RIDDLED with present tense issues because I'd go 'in the zone' and switch automatically to Present. Tense shifting has never been a big problem before, but it made a heck of a mess to clean up. But I still enjoyed PT and would write and read it again in a heartbeat. :)

    I enjoyed reading through all the critiques. There were definitley varied opinions, but also many common concerns and recommendations being offered up on each story.

    Everyone was a great help to me (#9) and I think you all for it. :)

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  9. I love writing in first person present tense but I realised it is difficult to keep it consistent. I start off fresh and run into "do I don't I" problems and get bogged down.
    I was in the generation who bordered on the science (my explanation) of English, that which is in my opinion more closely related to the accuracy of the mathematician - rather than my own instinctive use of what's right or wrong.
    So breaking down a sentence into all it's analytical parts is almost as difficult as I'd find it in doing an autopsy on a dead body in a morgue tomorrow.
    Past perfect, past imperfect...
    I can remember my English teacher like it was yesterday, and I think this is because I probably looked at him in bewilderment rather than at the sentence he was trying to teach me to understand the BREAKDOWN of the sentence. I hated it.
    But as for the basic nastiness of the first comment, being anonymous mean is the equivalent of a coward.
    Your comments may have taken on a different interpretation had you been honest enough to add your identification as all the others have done.
    Opinions and perceptions have much more weight when they are spoken with openness and conviction.
    So therefore I think anything you have said should be taken as the grain of salt that leaked from the salt shaker rather than sprinkled on your steak (deliberately) because you wanted extra flavor.
    I think whether it's past or present tense, that which looks right, reads right is therefore right.
    To me the first sentence feels right.
    The second sentence grinds on my sensitivities. I know I would have been guilty of confusing the first sentence for being present tense. The sentence reads as is happening right now, but the verbs are past tense.
    The verbs in the second sentence while being present, render the sentence as a bit palsy.
    This is all part of the generations like me, who were at the edge of that curriculum that technical grammar ceased to be taught. And one of the generations who probably
    get by on instinct.
    (Same is happening in maths. Kids use calculators these days so do they still teach the times table?)

  10. WTF? Why are you degrading the quality of your site's crits by writing a specific post to address a minor question about an entry posted by a (good and well-documented) friend of yours? The entry did very well. Both you and the author have since embarassed yourselves, IMO. The author of the piece has read slush, and has worked in at least one lit agency. You've now written an entire post to single out one entry you think was judged unfairly despite its positive response? And that entry was written by a good friend, slush reading, former (?) lit agency reader?

    I'm saddened by that as well.

    Ah, well.

    -Mags (Who has learned from your site. Perhaps more than she meant to.)

  11. Why can't we be friends? Why can't we be friends? I feel like there is too much snark and not in the good way going on with these comments. (Oh yeah there is good snark, the helpful kind, and not just the kind to be mean). So....everyone should grab some chocolate (Godiva truffles), sit back, and relax.

  12. I just don't see the issue with Authoress's post. She merely raised the tense issue in a helpful way, making sure not to condemn or finger-wag. Of course grammar is important to a writer -- our whole purpose is to communicate using language and grammar is a fundamental part of language. If you make mistakes because you don't understand the English language's grammar, you will look unprofessional.

    The irony is that the anon troll used your instead of you're...