Saturday, June 27, 2020

The Flash Flashes Back - Using Flashbacks




         I have waded through books that have so many flashbacks the story is lost. I have enjoyed stories that the author used flashbacks so well the story flowed. How does one use flashbacks well, and when should one not use any?

         Let's have a lesson in flashbacks.

 
         A flashback can bring information needed for a reader to understand a character or plot better, or one can overwhelm the reader with too much information. Too many flashbacks disrupt the story line and confuse the reader.

         Let's look at tips for writing flashbacks:

1. Know if and when your story needs a flashback (and use seldom). A flashback must be an essential part of the story. Never use a flashback in the middle of an action scene.

2. Look at examples of flashbacks in stories. (see sample)

3. A flashback must focus on a single event or experience.

4. Never make a flashback the first or even the second scene. Have it follow a strong scene.

5. “Signal” a flashback’s beginning and end. Let a character’s words or actions lead the reader into the flashback and then back out.
         Example: Craig’s mind wandered back to Vietnam, the battle that destroyed his life.
         Example: Marion smiled as she remembered that meeting.
         Example: With an oath, John strode to the window. He stared, not at the yard below, but back to that fateful day.
         Example: With a shudder, Craig mentally shut the door on the horror and answered the ringing phone.
         Example: Her thoughts returned to the present.
         Example: “Nothing can change what happened, nothing.” He turned from the window to face the woman sitting on the sofa.

         One method to start a flashback is using objects or senses to trigger a memory of a past scene are precisely the devices you should use to trigger flashbacks in writing. Say that you want a character to remember something about his mother… Make him find her old apron at the back of a drawer. Make him see a stranger who reminds him of his mother.

6. Verb usage should lead into and out of a flashback. 


         If you write the story in past tense, you avoid the use of “had” as a helping verb most of the time to avoid passive voice. To begin a flashback, use “had” as a helping verb for the first sentence of or two to transition from the main part of the story to the flashback. Then return to simple past tense until the last sentence or two. For the last sentence or two of the flashback, use “had” as a helping verb again.

         If you write in present tense (which I personally don’t prefer because it limits what the author can convey), you still handle the flashback as described above.

         Below is an example, a sample of a flashback:


         Marion’s head snapped up. “That would devastate Roger.” She frowned. “But, but, can you even do it?”
         “Yes, I can do it. There’s nothing legal standing in the way. I just allowed him to take over more and more until I was just a ... a bystander.”
         “Oh, my dear. When we first met, and you were so sure we should marry, I knew we faced problems, but I never thought they would last this long.” She laid her head back against her husband’s shoulder. “I had no idea that we would face something worse.”
         “I’ll never forget the first time I saw you. So beautiful and still are.”
         Marion smiled as she remembered the meeting that changed her life.

         David had gone to town to pick up a load of barbed wire and posts. The fencing around the north pasture had to be replaced, but David hadn’t wanted to take the long trip to town. The wagon couldn’t take a shortcut across country but had to stay on the road that meandered another ten miles than the route a horse could take.
         “A wasted day,” he muttered as he flicked the reins over the backs of the horses. “The old man could have sent one of the hands. No! He wants me to go.” The young man pounded a gloved fist on the seat beside him. “Had to leave before dawn, drive all day, load the stuff, and not get home until after dark. Wasted day.”
         As he wove the horses and wagon through the crowded streets of Guthrie, he cursed the job, the crowds, the need to be in town. Then he spied the tall, slender woman standing on the wooden walk beside the dirt street. The breeze stirred her blue skirts, teasingly showing the tops of her laced shoes. One hand gathered the wind tossed strands of black hair and tried to force them back into place, but the wind just whipped them away. A wizened woman stood beside the younger one. Piles of bundles occupied space around both women.
         David pulled the wagon to the side of the street, stopping beside the women. “Howdy, ma’am, miss.” He tipped his hat. “May I help you ladies?”
         The younger woman blinked in surprise, her eyes a startling blue in the pale tan of her face. “I, uh, I think perhaps you ... ” She turned to her companion in confusion.
         “Thank you, sir, for offering your help,” the old woman began, “but you’ll be better off if you aren’t seen speaking to us.”
         David frowned. “And why is that? You seem decent ladies.”
         A tall, grizzled man in buckskins joined the two women. “You are right, sir.” A southern drawl tinged his speech. “My mother and daughter are good, moral women, but the people of this town hold it against them that my father was half Cherokee.”
         “So what?” David replied. “Most of us around here have some Indian in us.”
         The man laughed. “You are rather naive, sir. Your parents would be shocked to know you spoke to us.”
         “My parents do not tell me who I can talk with. They don’t control my friends.” David’s eyes narrowed. “I’m my own man and make my own decisions.”
         The older man studied the younger for a few seconds. “I do believe you.” He stuck out his right hand. “I’m Henry Thunderhawk. This is my mother Margaret and my daughter Marion.”
         David grabbed the other man’s hand, feeling the sinewy strength. “Glad to meet you, sir. May I help you load your things?” He motioned toward the bundles on the walk.
         “I just discovered that the wheelwright can’t get to my wagon.” Henry Thunderhawk shrugged. “The wheel rim broke. And oddly there isn’t a wagon to buy, rent, or steal in town.”
         “Well, if you’ll let me get my load on first, I’ll come back and pick you and your things up.” David glanced toward Marion. “It might be a bit tight fit, but if you don’t mind ...”
         “Perhaps I should refuse your offer for your sake,” Henry suggested, “but I don’t want my mother and daughter exposed to any more hatred.” He shook his head, his longish hair flapping against his neck. “At least you won’t have to go but about a mile out of your way.”
         Thereafter, David insisted on making trips to town for supplies. Each trip, he stopped at the Thunderhawk homestead, both going and coming. Each stop, he managed to spend at least a few minutes alone with Marion. One evening, as she walked to the wagon with him, David took her hand, pulling her to a stop.
         “Marion, I, uh, I wonder if you’d mind if I talked to you dad about us?” He studied her face in the darkening light. “Or have I spoke too soon?”
         The white of her smile shone through the twilight. “No, not too soon. I just hope you know what you’re asking.” She lightly brushed the side of his face with cool fingers.
         “I know I want you for my wife. That’s all I need to know.” He ducked his head and brushed his lips across hers.
         “Don’t promise something if you can’t keep it, David. I couldn’t stand that.” Marion had tried to smile again, but quivering lips wouldn’t allow the smile to form. “If you promise never to leave me, and then you did ... I couldn’t stand that.” She had lowered her head. “I would prefer that you never promise.”

         Her thoughts returning to the present, Marion asked, “Remember when you promised you would never leave me? Your parents made it hard for you to keep that promise.”


         A flashback can be a useful tool for a writer to use, if used correctly.


 

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Journey Back to the Archives



We all have a manuscript that gets locked in the drawer and never sees the light of day. That certainly wasn't the plan when you started. You spent days, weeks, and months pouring over your manuscript; writing every chance you got, determined to type "The End" one day.

Then that day came. The story over, the next step in the process involved editing. So, you cut, you polished, you corrected errors, and worked feverishly until your eyes glazed over. 

Excited, you sent your beloved manuscript to a select group of beta readers. Then, you waited and waited, until the hives on your arms had hives because you felt so nervous over what your readers might say. 

Then the feedback emerged. Gasp! How dare they say it isn't ready. The pacing is off? Absurd. The characters seemed one-dimensional? Outrageous. Not enough conflict? Did they even read it? 

Disillusioned, you crammed that manuscript into the back corner of your desk, hid it under a tray of assorted office supplies, and forced yourself to believe it never really existed. 

For many of us--including yours truly--this is the story of our first novel. Often referred to as the practice novel, this is our first real endeavor in writing a full-length manuscript. Sometimes we aren't ready to hear the truth about it. Sometimes, we haven't matured enough in our writing to create a marketable novel. That doesn't mean we should give up. It also doesn't mean all of it is worthless. 

No matter how much time has passed, open the drawer, lift the tray, and pull out that manuscript. Even if you decide it's not worth salvaging as a whole, can you find pieces to develop into a fresh story? Is there a favorite character that you can breathe new life into? 

Take a journey back to the archives of your writing. Things will look differently. Perhaps your next novel hides within those pages in your desk drawer.



Cheryl C. Malandrinos is a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of four children’s books including, A Christmas Kindness, released by 4RV Publishing. A blogger and book reviewer, she lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two daughters. She also has a son who is married. Visit Cheryl online at http://ccmalandrinos.com and her children’s book blog at https://childrensandteensbookconnection.wordpress.com

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Working from Home During the Pandemic



Who knew when 2020 blew onto the scene that it would mean so many changes for all of us? I am not sure how it is where you are, but we are heading into week 14 of everyone at home. The girls finished school weeks ago. Looks like this will be a long summer.

Working from home while the kids are there, too, doesn’t have to mean burning the midnight oil just to keep up with your to-do list. Here are a few ways you can remain productive, keep the kids occupied, and still leave room for family time.

Adjust Your Schedule

I am a firm believer that productivity increases if you find a work schedule that is best for you. With the kids home, however, that schedule might not be practical. Consider getting up an hour earlier than usual. While this might not be easy all year long, it is a temporary solution that can help you accomplish your weekly goals.

Take More Frequent Breaks

While it might seem counterproductive to take more breaks during the day, you’ll get more done if you don’t have to listen to, “I’m bored!” every five minutes.

Set a timer. When it goes off, put your work down and spend time with the kids. Read, have a picnic lunch in the backyard, or play a game together. Taking time out of your day to spend with the kids lets them know they are still important to you. And, let's face it, with everyone being home for weeks, a little fun time feels good.

Easy Arts and Crafts

Nowadays, there are so many arts and crafts kits available, and ideas on blogs or Pinterest, that you’re bound to find something your children like.

An excellent way to transition from family time back to work time is to have arts and crafts set out for the kids. When you’re done playing, let them choose what they want to create. Read the instructions together. Then let them know you need to work until the timer rings again. Have other simple activities such as molding clay, paints, or coloring books and crayons available in case they get bored with what they are working on.

If they distract you, remind them they can’t interrupt you until the timer goes off. As long as you consistently get up and spend time with them when promised, the kids will learn to respect your work schedule.

Mommy’s or Daddy’s Little Helpers

Young children love to help. Take advantage of this by allowing them to dust or sweep the floor. Will it be perfect? No. But, it will be good enough. Older children can do the laundry, wash dishes, empty the trash or clean the living areas. Kids don't always mind pitching in if it means they can spend time with you later.

Summer is a fun time for families. It can also be a productive season for you. With a few simple changes, you can work at home even when the kids are there.



Cheryl C. Malandrinos is a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of four children’s books including, A Christmas Kindness, released by 4RV Publishing. A blogger and book reviewer, she lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two daughters. She also has a son who is married. Visit Cheryl online at http://ccmalandrinos.com and her children’s book blog at https://childrensandteensbookconnection.wordpress.com

Sunday, June 7, 2020

5 Top Fiction Writing No-Nos


By Karen Cioffi

Fiction writers who are good at what they do, enjoy what they do. They like creating something from nothing . . . well from an idea. They enjoy the craft and the process – heck, they love it!

But, with that said, there are 5 top mistakes these writers need to be aware of and avoid.

1. You make the beginning of your story all roses.

While we’d all love to live in a peaceful, happy land, readers need something to sink their teeth into, especially at the beginning of the story.

The beginning of your story is the hook. It’s where you GRAB the reader and make her have to turn the page and want to know what’s going to happen to the protagonist.

Here are a couple of examples of ‘hooking’ beginnings:

“I have noticed that teachers get exciting confused with boring a lot. But when my teacher said, ‘Class, we have an exciting project to talk about,’ I listened away.”
“The Talented Clementine” by Sara Pennypacker.

“My name is India Opal Buloni, and last summer my daddy, the preacher, sent me to the store for a box of macaroni-and-cheese, some white rice, and two tomatoes and I came back with a dog.”
“Because of Winn-Dixie” by Kate DiCamillo

These two examples of children’s writing give you a good idea of what it takes to ‘hook’ the reader.

2. The dialog is weak, fluffy.

Having weak dialog can kill your story. You need your characters to have passion . . . to have life.

You want dialog that is strong and tight. You want the emotion (the conflict, the tension, the passion) to come through the words. And, you want to say it in as few words and as realistically as possible.

You want the reader to feel what the character is feeling at that moment.

If Bob is angry in the story, show it through his dialog:

“WHAT! Who said you could take that?!”
“Hey! What are you doing?!”
“No! You can’t. Now get lost.”
“Get your hands off of me!”

The tight, strong dialog goes for exchanges also:

“Hey! What are you doing?!” Bob yelled.

Gia spun around. “Oh, uh, nothing.” Her eyes darted to the door then back to Bob.

3. The story is predictable.

You’ve got to have some surprises in the story. If you don’t, it will make for a rather dull, predictable story.

For this aspect of your story, think questions.

- Why is the character in that situation?
- How did he get there?
- What must she be feeling, seeing?
- How can she get out of it?
- What might happen next?

Try to come up with four or five options as to what might happen next.

In an article at Writer’s Digest, the author advises to “Close your eyes and watch your scene unfold. Let the characters improvise. What are some outlandish things that could result? If something looks interesting, find a way to justify it.” (1)

Let your imagination run wild.

4. Your characters are one-dimensional.
For readers to become engaged in a story, they have to develop a connection with the protagonist and other characters. In order for this to happen, the characters must be multi-dimensional.

Characters need to be believable and unique. You don’t want them to be predictable or a stereotype.

According to “Breathing Life into Your Characters” by Rachel Ballon, Ph.D., “The essential components for creating successful characters with emotional and psychological depth—feelings, passion, desires, psychology, and vision—reside within [the writer].”

So, think about it. What conditions or characteristics does your character have?

- Is he stingy?
- Does she frighten easily?
- Is he a troublemaker of bully?
- Is she a risk take, on the fearless side?
- Does he listen to good advice?
- Does she get along with others?

- Does he have a personality disorder?
- Does he have phobias?
- Is she dysfunctional?
- Is she a troublemaker or bully?
- Is he anxious?
- Does she have an eating disorder?
- Is she fearful?
- Is she a risk taker, fearless?

And, keep in mind that the more stressful an ‘inciting incident’ or event, the more reaction and/or adjustment there will be.

For example: If a child lost a pet, it wouldn’t be as severe as losing a parent.
If a woman separated from her husband, it wouldn’t be as severe as having her husband suddenly die.

So, using your experiences and innate characteristics, along with research, you can create multi-faceted characters.

5. You dump information into the story.

This is more of a mistake that new writers may make. I had a client who created the entire first paragraph of her story with ‘information dump.’

Having the protagonist tell another character his entire backstory, along with other details the author wants to convey to the reader is a no-no. Backstory needs to be layered or weaved into the story, not dumped in one big truck load.

You might also use a prologue to give backstory.

While there are other things to watch for in fiction writing, these are five of the top no-nos.

Reference:
(1) 5 Biggest Fiction Writing Mistakes and Fixes
http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/the-5-biggest-fiction-writing-mistakes-how-to-fix-them



ABOUT THE AUTHOR



Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children's author and a working children’s ghostwriter as well as the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move. You can find out more about writing for children and her services at: Karen Cioffi Writing for Children. Check out the DIY Page!

And, check out my new picture book: The Case of the Plastic Rings – The Adventures of Planetman



Friday, May 29, 2020

The Case of the Plastic Rings from the Artist's Perception

              Every children's book requires an illustrator to bring the author's words to life. The Case of the Plastic Rings - The Adventures of Planetman has an illustrator with remarkable talent: Thomas Deisboeck .  Tom graciously agreed to let me interview him. My questions are in black, and Tom's answers are in blue.


      How did/does your history and home background affect your illustration work?


            I was born in Munich, Germany, and grew up with comics of the Franco-Belgian tradition, Asterix, Tintin, Spirou etc. These books were not only drawn very well, the story arches masterfully wove a bit of history and plenty of adventures together, and all of it PG. Mind you, the 1970s were a pre-personal computer area, growing up without 24/7 social media on an ever-present web - which clearly dates me – but that meant we read books, and comics, and had time & space to let our fantasy fly. A well-developed imagination is an absolutely crucial asset for an illustrator (and anyone else, really, regardless of age and profession).  



             Tell us something about your educational background that made you a better, or more caring, artist/illustrator.


           I went to both Medical School (in Germany) and then business school (in the US) which depending who you talk to is either a testimony of a quest for a broad education or a thorough lack of focus. Artistically, I am largely self-taught, but I took online classes with Charles Zembillas at the Animation Academy in Burbank and John Byrne at the London Art College. Charles is a friend and a Yoda-type influence. He has the uncanny ability to be super supportive while he readily improves with ‘annoying’ ease every single one of my character designs and cartoons. The internet has moved the power from studios and agencies to the creatives with artist-owned content being published non-stop at low or no costs which was not an option just a few years ago. The byproduct is that there is so much great art at sites like Behance, Deviant and even Pinterest that it's humbling. I recommend whenever you think you got a piece perfectly right and feel the urge to kick back for a few min, take a quick look at Pinterest drawing pins and it brings you down to earth quickly.



             Please share your hobbies, interests, or activities with us, you know the ones for during your leisure time (laugh), if you have any.


            First off, I do a fair amount of work because I have 2 other careers in parallel (medical scientist and entrepreneur/consultant/investor). That being said, I like to spend time with family and a few good friends wherever they are. Traveling with family has always been one of my absolute favorites – from Alaska to Europe to Africa, any place in the Caribbean – life is short, so nothing is a better ‘investment’ than making unforgettable memories together. I enjoy watching “old” movies, reading comics and art books, try to keep up with the best magazine ever – The Economist, enjoy kayaking on a quiet lake and walking our dog. I love to collect art – old Disney drawings or cool comic pencil layouts from (more talented) artist friends that work for Marvel or DC. 



              Illustrators/artists are often asked when they started illustrating or what triggered their interest in art. I’d like to know that, too, but I would especially like to know what keeps you illustrating.


         I loved watching Disney’s pictures, particularly those from the Golden Age of Animation, i.e. Snow White, Pinocchio, Fantasia; Walt’s 9 Old Master Animators are the Gods, unrivaled, no electronics available at the time, just pure skill. I started to draw in High School, then dropped it for 30 years and restarted 10+ years ago when I went on a plane to LA to meet with Charles. It was and is an outlet for my sense of humor and emotional expression. What keeps me drawing? – well, both, the constant thrill to push the boundaries of my skill and try to get better, and the enjoyment of every now and then getting it (almost) right.



              How do you manage to draw/illustrate and have time for relationships?


             Finding quality time to sit down and draw is always a challenge because there are so many demands on anyone’s time these days. Deadlines are not always helpful; while they aid in focusing attention, they cannot force the production of an artistic masterpiece, or anything close. So, managing various time demands really comes down to setting priorities – my family (incl. our dog) comes first, then the various deadlines, in my various jobs. It helps that cartooning is super fun for me, so I tend to book it under relaxation which moves it up the priority list ...



              What inspired you to illustrate your most recent book?


           Planetman is exciting for a number of reasons. One, Karen (Cioffi-Ventrice, the author) did a marvelous job in drafting an engaging story on a worthwhile subject, and it inspires me to contribute in this ‘literary conservation effort,' if you will. Artistically, it was fun to develop the visual looks of the three protagonists and then equally challenging to remain consistent to the character design, also knowing that there are more books in the series. While I have done a fair amount of editorial cartooning, this is my first children’s book and so I wanted to get it right or at least gave it a try … which led to constant publication delays (which 4RV graciously was very patient with). Ultimately, the boys are little superheroes; this requires a bit of a more animated drawing style which I’d like to think I handled reasonably well.



             Would you share something about your most recent book?


         Let’s just say that we all know that climate change is real and that recycling is important but it also can be fun, strengthen friendships and ultimately help men’s best friend to get out of a pickle, eh, ring … you’ll see.



             Do you have a particular process or technique, and if so, what?


            I really try to visualize poses in my head before I sit down and draw; that cuts down on multiple to-be-discarded drafts. I tell myself that’s more efficient but perhaps I’m just lazy, combined with unfounded confidence and no hesitation whatsoever to use my eraser. While I can create directly in digital media, here I draw everything first blue pencil on paper, strictly 2D, then scan it and from there work on it on a Wacom tablet in Photoshop. I love the quality of blue pencil with its ability to allow for nuanced line work – it allows me to literally “carve” a character out of a white piece of paper which to me is the main part of the creative process. This determines everything that comes afterward. In other words, you can be a top expert at digital touch-ups, but you won’t be able to ‘rescue’ a sub-par drawing; that said, you can definitely improve a pretty good drawing with digital mastery, particularly nuanced light effects and a vibrant color palette that can advance the storytelling. I continue to practice with and learn through both media.   



            How do you feel when you complete a book?


          Satisfied – for all of 10 min – then anxious because I know I could and should have done better with some illustrations, and apprehensive because it starts all over with the 2nd book in the series, but now I have less wiggle room as the characters are defined … i.e., more pressure, higher expectations all around. That said, it obviously feels good that people relate to it and already asked me to do another book.

  
           That sounds like an author feels after finishing a book, especially if a sequel in the works. Anyone who reads The Case of the Plastic Rings will be waiting anxiously for book 2.
 

           What are your illustration/arts achievements and goals?



          It’s not money, at least not primarily. Rather, I’d like to have my art seen by as many people as possible, even better then if a large portion of them enjoy it. That would necessitate making access affordable or ideally free which admittedly is not a particularly appealing business model to most children’s book publishers. Artistically, I’d like to be satisfied with the quality and consistency of my work – which will remain an elusive goal. It’s always good to push yourself.



           With not being able to foresee how many books will sell and which ones, I don't know of anyone who gets into the book business for the money. Sad but funny in a way.          

          Are you a member of any group or organization that aids you in your profession?


          Not that I can think of … there are professional organizations and societies, so perhaps at some point, I’d be invited to join, we’ll see, you can always dream. I do like to stop by at the Society of Illustrators when I’m in NYC – they have a lovely little restaurant upstairs that’s rarely packed amidst all the buzzing traffic in Midtown Manhattan, and you can marvel at the original Norman Rockwell behind the counter. Speaking of, I recommend visiting the Rockwell Museum at Sturbridge in Western Mass – look at the Saturday Evening Post covers that Rockwell did and you see what the gold standard is for turning inconsistent top quality. This guy was annoyingly good, marvelous stuff each and every one of his illustrations.  



         I would suggest you join SCBWI if you can.

        Does illustrating help better you as a person? How?


        … drawing calms me down also because I like to listen to either Frank Sinatra or Cool Jazz like Chet Baker in the back when I work on a piece. You can’t force it so you may as well enjoy it when everything comes together on a good day and you get that elusive pose or perspective finally right or experiment with a new brush on digital. And given all the quality competition out there, the quest to be consistently good is ever humbling … a bit like golf.



         What advice do you have for someone who wants to become an illustrator?


        First, make sure you love drawing – then draw, draw, draw & try to get better – and finally and most importantly, don’t be discouraged by rejection. Unless you’re a rock star out of the gate (at which point you probably won’t spend your time reading this interview), this field is super competitive and you’re bound to have to deal with constant critique and setbacks, many of them. It’s then when reason #1, i.e. love for drawing, helps you get through it – in addition to a super supportive family and group of long-term friends.



        What is your favorite genre to read? Your favorite author or authors? Yes, even illustrators need to read.


        I just finished “The Woman in the Window” by AJ Finn (a.k.a. Daniel Mallory) which I bought in a small independent book store up in Vermont and thoroughly enjoyed. I am still working on Fiona Deans Halloran’s biography of Thomas Nast, the German-American grandmaster of political editorial cartooning – fascinating how he established the pen as a much-feared tool for voicing political critique. I am currently reading “Berlin”, a comic book for mature audiences driven by rich characters set in the stormy backdrop of the Weimar Republic by Jason Lutes. At times, it feels like a masterly interwoven ensemble movie, and it is a revelation as to where graphic novels can go.



         Any other comment?


        Well, I enjoyed this – so, thank you, 4RV, for the opportunity. Secondly, if you made it that far in the interview, thanks for reading – and I’d say you deserve a wrap-up and get back to drawing … NOW!

     Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us, Tom.

      For more information about Tom, visit his website. His book can be purchased on the 4RV website, as well as through bookstores and other online stores.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Grammar - The Foundation of Good Writing


A sig given as gift.


         I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard or read, “Why should I care about using correct grammar in my writing? That’s why they have editors.” Wrong! Most publishers don’t edit any writing that comes their way, IF they even accept any error-filled manuscript. Paying for an experienced, dependable literary editor is expensive, and the editors themselves will do only so much.

         Some writers fight the idea that grammar (including sentence structure, punctuation, subject/verb agreement, pronoun usage, spelling, etc.) impacts the worthiness of writing, which is like saying failing to lay a solid foundation does not impact the stability of a building. Good grammar is extremely important. It shows the writer's professionalism and attention to detail. The writer will also be able to give an explanation that is understood.  
 
         Grammatical errors can cause confusion, and, in the worst-case scenarios, they can completely change the meaning of a sentence. A writer not knowing how to use good grammar will make writing difficult to read. Poor grammar (including all subtexts) breaks the flow of reading, annoys the reader, and reflects badly on the writer. No-one wants to be jarred from a really interesting read by poor punctuation or glaring grammatical errors.

         Writer Melissa Donovan states:


                   Too many times I’ve heard aspiring writers shrug off good grammar,
                   saying they’d rather focus on plot or character, they’d prefer to use a
                   natural, unlearned approach to keep the writing raw, or they will simply
                   hire an editor to do the dirty work.

                   I have a hard time buying into those lines of reasoning. Refusing to bother
                   with grammar is just plain lazy, especially for writers who yearn to be more
                   than hobbyists.


         Why should writers embrace grammar rather than make excuses for ignoring it? Here are ten reasons why good grammar should be a central pursuit in writing efforts:

1. Readability
         If your work is peppered with grammatical mistakes and typos, your readers are going to have a hard time trudging through it. Nothing is more distracting than being yanked out of a good story because a word is misspelled or a punctuation mark is misplaced. You should always respect your readers enough to deliver a product that is enjoyable and easy to use.

2. Communication
         Some musicians learn to play by ear and never bother to learn how to read music. Many of them don’t even know which notes and chords they’re playing, even though they can play a full repertoire of recognizable songs and probably a few of their own. But get them in a room with other musicians and they’ll quickly become isolated. You can’t engage with others in your profession if you don’t speak the language of your industry. Good luck talking shop with writers and editors if you don’t know the parts of speech, the names of punctuation marks, and all the other components of language and writing that are related to good grammar.

3. Getting Published
         How will you get that short story, essay, or blog post published if you don’t know the basics of grammar, spelling, and punctuation? Sure, some managing editors will go over your work and clean it up for you, but most reputable publishers have enough submissions that they can toss grammatically weak work into the trash without thinking twice.

4. Working with an Editor
         I love it when writers say they can just hire an editor. This goes back to communication. If you can’t talk shop with other writers, you certainly won’t be able to converse intelligently about your work and its flaws with a professional editor.          How will you respond to feedback and revision suggestions or requests when you don’t know what the heck the editor is talking about? Remember, it’s your work. Ultimately, the final version is your call, and you won’t be able to approve it if you’re clueless about what’s wrong with it.

5. Saving Money
         Speaking of hiring an editor, you should know that editors will only go so far when correcting a manuscript. It’s unseemly to return work to a writer that is solid red with markups. Most freelance editors and proofreaders have a limit to how much they will mark up any given text, so the more grammar mistakes there are, the more surface work the editor will have to do. That means she won’t be able to get into the nitty-gritty and make significant changes that take your work from average to superior because she’s breaking a sweat just trying to make it readable.

6. Invest in Yourself
         Learning grammar is a way to invest in yourself. You don’t need anything more than a couple of good writing resources and a willingness to take the time necessary to hone your skills. In the beginning, it might be a drag, but eventually, all those grammar rules will become second nature, and you will have become a first-rate writer.

7. Respectability, Credibility, and Authority
         As a first-rate writer who has mastered good grammar, you will gain respect, credibility, and authority among your peers. People will take you seriously and regard you as a person who is committed to the craft of writing, not just some hack trying to string words together in a haphazard manner.

8. Better Writing All-Around
         When you’ve taken the time to learn grammar, it becomes second nature. As you write, the words and punctuation marks come naturally because you know what you’re doing; you’ve studied the rules and put in plenty of practice. That means you can focus more of your attention on other aspects of your work, like structure, context, and imagery (to name a few). This leads to better writing all around.

{indent{According to Toni Fitzgerald ({i}The Writer{/i}, May 2020, page 14), "Reading messy grammar is diffult."

9. Self-Awareness
         Some people don’t have it. They charge through life completely unaware of themselves or the people around them. But, most of us possess some sense of self. What sense of self can you have as a writer who doesn’t know proper grammar? That’s like being a carpenter who doesn’t know what a hammer and nails are. It’s almost indecent.

10. There’s Only One Reason to Abstain from Good Grammar
         There is really only one reason to avoid learning grammar: the writer is just plain lazy. Anything else is a silly excuse.
         No matter what trade, craft, or career one is pursuing, everyone starts with learning the basics. Actors learn how to read scripts. Scientists learn how to apply the scientific method. Politicians learn how to… well, never mind what politicians do. We are writers. We must learn how to write well, and writing well definitely requires using good grammar.

         William B. Bradshaw, and author and writing expert says:

                   Whenever I get on my soapbox about grammar, people often tell me I put too
                   much emphasis on the importance of grammar -- after all, they say, why does
                   it matter what kind of grammar people use; the important thing is whether or
                   not they understand what they are saying and writing to one another.


         However, grammar is the foundation for communication. Let’s examine some grammatical mistakes:

                    ‘She was deeply effected by the death of her beloved pet.’ Toni Fitzgerald, page15, states, "Affect is a verb, and effect is (almost always) a noun."
                   ‘Its over their.’ She gestured to the large mahogany table slowly decaying in the corner.
                   Mary didn’t know weather it was time to go or not.
                   He bought milk when he should of bought bread.
                   Let’s eat Mary.’ and ‘Let’s eat, Mary. Can you see how this could end up with Mary being eaten for dinner?
                   Goats Cheese Salad – crispy lettuce, juicy tomatoes, cucumber, goats, cheese
                   Vegetarians are certainly going to be put off this salad when they realize it contains not only cheese, but goats!
                   My interests include cooking dogs, walking, reading and watching films. Oh dear, those poor dogs. I wonder who gets to eat the canine culinary delights created by this person?

                   There is used in place of their or they're, or one of the others is used incorrectly.
                   It's and its are not interchangeable.
                   Your and you're are not the same.
                   Commas are not used where needed, or they are sprinkled like rose petals everywhere possible. Run-on sentences create a feeling of confusion in the minds of readers.

         All right (and that's another mistake, using alright for all right), some people don't know grammar well, but writers and editors definitely should. I don't know that I would want to read a book by someone who can't manage to understand the difference between homonyms (words that sound alike but have different meanings) and/or what version of a pronoun is used as the object of a preposition.

         For example, I often hear (hear not here), "That's important to Mary and I." Really? He would say "That's important to I"? Actually, that is what he did say. A compound object is the same form pronoun as a singular object. And, I have heard and read that problem from so-called well-educated people. Anything between a speaker or writer and another person means the object form MUST be used: between John and me; between my husband and me; between you and him.

1.  Correct grammar is required (except in the case of dialogue in dialect).
2.  Correct sentence and grammatical mechanics are needed. This point means correct subject/verb agreement, correct sentence structure, correct pronoun reference and usage, sentence variety, etc.3.
3.  Correct spelling is a MUST. Correct spelling includes using correct words in context. Words that sound the same but are spelled differently are misspelled if the wrong word is used: For example, they're, their, and there mean completely different things.
4.  Correct punctuation is important to avoid confusion.

         IF a person wants to be a REAL writer, he/she must know grammar to be considered professional. Therefore, if you don’t have a good grasp of grammar and all of its subtexts, learn. Find a good easy-to-understand book of grammar and read it, refer to it, and use the knowledge inside it. Find websites with grammar lessons and information.

          Grammar has much to do with good writing. It is the foundation of good writing.