Tag Archives: Reading

A Common Error Indie Authors Make

 

 

 

 

 

Firstly, one of the most common. This error is everywhere when people write.

  1. Lay Lady Lay.

A few words from Face-book the other day, “ … instead of laying on the lounge I laid on the beach.”

The word lay is a verb that requires an object. You have to lay something or someone. Like an egg.

It has NOTHING to do with being supine on a bed or lounge. Used that way, it is an error.

Now he/she may have been talking about sex. ‘Cause that works. The verb lay can sometimes have an object that is understood, ie not actually stated but there nevertheless.

Because lay can also mean ‘have sex with’, the understood object would be ‘my partner’, or some-such variation thereof.

The sentence quoted above, if it read, “...instead of laying my friend Bill/Betty on the lounge; I laid him/her on the beach” then it would not be an error. My friend Bill/Betty and him/her – being the object(s). Strange, maybe, but grammatically accurate.

To help avoid this error, try this.

Write these words — “lie, lay, lain” (to recline);
then below them — “lay, laid, laid” (to place or put down).

We call this the Michiko Sato rule after the Japanese lady who invented it. A great and easy way to avoid this error.

Check this list each time you need to use one of these words. You will be amazed how it helps you get the grammar correct.

  1. She jumped off of the train.”

The compound preposition off of is generally regarded as informal and is best avoided in formal speech and writing. So not really an error? Perhaps.

What is a preposition? Prepositions are usually used in front of nouns (things) or pro

nouns and they show the relationship between the noun or pronoun and other words in a sentence.

The construction is “much inferior” to the form without the “of” according to Garner’s Modern American Usage (3d ed.).

There is nothing linguistically or grammatically wrong, it has been said with off of. It’s non-standard in some dialects (mainly American) and informal in most, so you should probably avoid it if you’re concerned about your writing seeming formal, or accurate from a grammar perspective. OK. Not an error, but to be avoided.

Cambridge Grammar notes that the combination “off” followed by an “of” phrase occurs only in American English.

The Oxford English Dictionary calls it “only colloq. (non-standard) and regional” in current use. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage says it’s “primarily a form used in speech”.

So what’s supposedly wrong with off of? The main problem seems to be that the of is unnecessary. In the case above, why not use just off or perhaps from the train, for example? The “of” adds NOTHING to the exchange.

'Off of' has become idiomatic in the USA, although it has “faded into the past” in Britain.

I still think it’s non-standard, an error, in fact, and doesn’t belong in the best written English.

Conversation and informal writing? Not sure. Perhaps!

It has been said, that one day “off of” will undoubtedly be accepted as standard American English, but not yet. I hope not ever. I hate it.

But then I’m not American.

  1. I took the knife off her

There are a couple of strings to this particular bow. Off is a preposition as defined above. It shows relationship between two things. Here the knife (noun) and her (pronoun – substituting for a female person).

As such the usage above is correct - on the surface.

However, off is usually considered an opposite (antonym) of on. Therefore if the knife is on (top of) the woman, off is the correct usage. But, as is probably the case, the knife is more likely in her hand or pocket or handbag. So “from” would be a better preposition to use. Even “away from”, but not “off”.

Then you have the ‘One Word One Meaning’ argument. If off means not on, it can’t mean anything else? But ...

This would seem to prevent anything from being ….. off topic, off in the distance, off like a shot, on and off, straight off, a little bit off etc. Quiet. I'm thinking!!

Once again (see above) this might be considered colloquial/regional American English.

It seems to me that where the preposition FROM could be used, then it should be. This will avoid all of the above discussion.

None of my sources suggest, on the other hand, that from and off are synonyms. (having the same meaning). Therefore if we are taking something away from a person, animal, object or place; then the preposition FROM should be used in all instances, unless one of the ‘things’ is actually on top of the other, and off is then appropriate.

I’m not even sure American English is a thing. I guess I hope not.

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Jillian 33 – Some Writing Notes

Writing tips from Our Jillian

For the start of these episodes go to
http://career-change-strategies.com.au/jillian-1-meet-my-friend/

Writing has been on my mind. Lately I have been reading a lot of free books on my kindle. They are promotions mostly by newer authors and some of them are fantastic.

Some of them fail the very first test of writing – not even good writing – just writing in general. They are just not interesting and do not hold a reader enthralled for any-time at all. Some are also diatribes by people with an axe to grind and these ??writers?? use their stories like the basis for a lecture. Not fun at all.

I mentioned this to Jillian as I know she writes and wants to be a full time author some day.

She said that there were two things a writer, of fiction anyway, needs to be aware of. Obviously there are more than two things or anyone could be a writer, but two elements that are more important than any others.

“OK.” I said. “I'll bite. But don't they say there is a book in everyone, you just need to find the gumption to let it out?”

“True.” she replied, “but you still have to have some idea about the process or the technique. Why do you think there are some very famous writers whose books are read by huge numbers of people, and prolific authors with very large lists and very few readers. And I am not just talking esoteric and less accessable subjects here. I am talking your basic novel that no-one wants to read.”

“Oh, I know what you are going to say,” Jillian butted in “It is just practice, and if you write 500 words per day everyday you will get into a habit and your book will suddenly appear out of apparently nowhere.”

Now that is a good idea (there is a web site that has a 31 day writing challenge based around this very idea) and you should do this if you want to develop your muscle, but, as you know, the wrong exercise will not help a muscle, it may even be a bad thing. So you do need SOME technique.” Jillian was rising to the challenge. I could visualise her in her school marm garb with chalk in her hand and white dust floating about her head like a miasma of cigarette smoke. It was pretty awesome to see her in action this way.

I had a thought. “Well, it's true I have seen some pretty poor examples where people have just taken their lives and some stuff that they'd like to do put it together and let their imagination, as they say, run wild.”

“If that's what they mean when they say there is a novel in everyone' – I reckon in many cases it should stay where it is.”

“True again,” Jillian said, “but the addition of a tad of actual knowledge, (there are after all University courses on writing and journalism and stuff like that,) might be just a little beneficial don't you think? So, perhaps, it is something you can and need to learn.

“OK.” I said. “The first thing is a good plot. The action must be awesome? Right?”

“Nup.” She dismissed me with a flourish. “A very famous author once asked us at a seminar given as part of the Writers Festival in whatever city I was in at the time, 'What was the plot of the latest Harry Bosch or Alex Cross novel that you read?' No one remembered. But they all knew Harry Bosch or Alex Cross, a lot about his life, wife and or kids if he had any, what car he drove and many other things he had got up to, but the latest adventure (The Plot) no one could immediately call to mind.

“So.” she said majestically, “plot is secondary to fabulous characters. Your novel needs to be full of personas that will grab the readers by the nose and lead them places they would love to go but are scared, or show them things they have dreamed about, or make them part of a reality that is impossible but

wonderful at the same time. Readers will identify with the folk in the story. They will live their lives with them. A vicarious existence they had only imagined. The characters need to be real and LIVE in the minds of the readers. All else is secondary.”

Hating to interrupt this flow of erudition I took my life in my hands and said, “Plot – which I naively thought of as the story – is not that important, then?”

“Of course it's important you moron,” she blustered. “but if the characters are not engaging then no one cares. If you don't mind whether the detective, for example, lives or dies. becomes corrupted or sleeps with the suspected killer, or any other plot twist or turn, then none of it matters to you as the reader.”

“OK.” I think I’ve got it.” I say a tad chastened, “but exactly where does the plot fit in?”

“Good question,” Jillian winks. “It is the glue that holds all the characters together. Why is there a detective, why a jilted lover, who is hiding in the shrubbery, what is the point of this discussion and where is the money? All of these plot or story elements are connections between the characters and are the twists and turns that make their lives (and by extension – yours) fascinating. The plot is like a roadmap to your character's final destination.”

“I remember,” I thought out loud, “when someone in a story I was reading acted in a way that seemed to be completely opposite to how I expected them to respond (out of character if you will), that I lost interest in this person and figured I really don't care what you do. Yes. I reckon that this character had been set up with beliefs and values that wouldn't have generally allowed her to do whatever it was she did and so was unbelievable. Therefore I lost empathy and all my other feelings for this person and what they did or didn't do or what happened to them was not something I wanted to know about. I put the book down and never returned to it.”

“Something like that,” said Jillian. “you have to be aware of being overly judgemental, though, they are characters in a story remember, so not everything can be explained. And sometimes timeline and other literary devices may mask possible major changes in a person's character attributes. But yes. You might find things like that.”

“Okaaaay. Let me think on that for a while”, I said thoughtfully.

By the way, There are a huge number of websites that are focussed on this topic. Here is ONE I found. It is not necessarily the best; it is one of many, but it has some good stuff including a downloadable cheat sheet to help with character development.

Character Development

“What is the second element of which you spoke?”

“I reckon we've had enough for one time. Don't you? What say we talk about the next bit later? Besides it is hard to explain and even harder to do consistently.”#ourjillian

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The 500 Words A Day Challenge

Some of you may have seen the Facebook notification when I signed up for this 500 words per day writing challenge.

It is awesome You go for the passion. You ignore the other stuff. The guy who runs this challenge says the power is in the process. You show up. You write 500 words a day. EVERY day.

Don't edit, don't second guess, don't do anything other than getting 500 words minimum (can be more but only if you just can't stop yourself) on the page EVERY day. Set a goal. Just do it.

If you miss a day DO NOT attempt to catch-up. Just leave the day (call it a holiday) and continue from there.

If you don't have the passion, then you probably don't really want to be a writer.

'But you do. You really do. It has been on your wish list since you were just a kid.'

Yeah, but if it is too hard to just DO IT, then it is not something you have a massive desire for.

I hear you. You don't know what to write about. BULLSHIT. Of course you do. Just let the mind go free. You see no-one needs to read it NOT EVEN YOU. Just write 500 words today, tomorrow and the next day. Print it out and throw it away; delete it from your computer. Record the process on a spreadsheet somewhere.

There. 3 days you have done it. Now do 3 days more. Rinse and repeat. Soon you might even read it yourself. You might like it. You might show it to someone else. You might destroy it again. And again. But if the passion is there. You just keep doing it.

You know it doesn't really matter. It is the PROCESS.

It's like walking for exercise. The destination is not even slightly important. You often go round in a circle or round the block. It is the walking that matters. Same thing. It is the writing that matters.

But, I hear you say, “I still don't know what to write about.”

OK. What about this?

Write about: (Thanks Jeff Goins for the following suggestions)

  • A screw up that you have made.

  • Highlight a personal flaw

  • Apologise for mistake nobody noticed

  • Tell the story of your biggest failure

  • Share a fear or a challenge you still haven't overcome

The other day I wrote an article in the Jillian series. I just let it flow.

On reading it a bit later I decided to let it go through to the keeper.

While it was just free writing – coming straight off the top of my head, I seemed to have captured some stuff which may have been information I had been given in confidence. Not to be shared. It was possibly going to be hurtful. While there were no actual identifiable snippets - some people may have thought it was about one of my friends. It wasn't really, but the resemblance was there.

I didn't do anything with it, other than record it as my 500 words for the day.

Gee. Will you look at that - 525 words so far. So that's it for today. Done and dusted. #500wordscolin, #500WED

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Battles V’s Challenges

Battles

The best battle, Sun Tzu says, is the battle that is won without being fought.

One dictionary definition is: An encounter between opposing forces.

Therefore; we assume - if we use the word battle, that there will be opposing forces and one of these will be a winner.

By definition this pretty much always means one of the forces will lose, even if according to Sun Tzu an actual battle has not been fought in the traditional sense. We still have an assumed winner and a loser. Let us call that a “pre-supposition.” And definitely one with negative results for one of the parties.

Challenges

A challenge on the other hand is something that puts you to the test. It can often be used in the sense of questioning whether something is true or right. And it can be a demanding or stimulating situation as in questioning a statement and looking for an explanation. This doesn't, by definition, require either a winner or a loser. It assumes (pre-supposes) an outcome, but not necessarily one that means any party will be vanquished.

A challenge is often thought of as something you have to face and deal with as you see fit. Not necessarily involving another in direct conflict. It can – but usually doesn't.

If a challenge seems like a battle, it can nearly always be reduced to a win/win situation. The sort of thing that can be dealt with by finding and exploiting alternatives to any head-on confrontation.

A challenge can therefore, pre-suppose (or assume) a solution that is not necessarily competitive to the point where protagonists on opposite sides become engaged in a fight or a battle. This is likely a more positive outlook is it not?

This is not to say a situation remains uncompetitive and lacking in any desire (even STRONG desire) for a satisfactory outcome - just that win/lose is not the primary aim of the interaction as it is in a battle.

It suggests that YOU will find an outcome that is satisfactory to YOU without destroying, decimating or even sidelining others who might also have an interest in the outcome.

What we have here is a stance that involves the taking of individual or group responsibility for a particular situation along with the actions undertaken; and accepting the results obtained.

Not a fight to the death.

Conclusion

Therefore, let us not look for battles to win, but challenges to face.

And let us use words that help us to see outcomes in a positive win/win light and not conjure up adversarial elements where they do not need to exist. #CareerChangeStrategies

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An open letter to Mr James Patterson.

The other night in Melbourne, Australia (May 6th 2015), I went to see you at the Atheneum theatre.

I was enthralled.

You were awesome, and you were personally inspiring.

I loved your relaxed laid-back (Australian?) attitude. I loved your answers to the interviewer’s questions. I loved how you extended the questions from the audience and answered more than you were asked. And I loved how you overruled the presenter and asked for one more question when he had already done that. So great. So fantastic. Such a wonderful evening.

Can I make a comment or two, though?

As mentioned your generous donations to independent book-stores are to be applauded.

  • In 2014, James gave away over a million dollars to book-stores across the USA.

  • In 2015, James Patterson will continue to support independent book-stores in innovative ways and will champion a new initiative centred on getting our kids reading and supporting school libraries.

Now this is a fantastic initiative, but it made me think of the horse and cart.

Back in the day, horses used to pull all sorts of vehicles which were used for transport of goods and passengers in pretty much all countries of the world.

A complete set of industries grew up around this means of transport. Such as farriers, carriage makers, stables and stable hands, grooms, horse-shoe and horse-shoe nail manufacturers, carriage wheel makers and many more. And of course manure collectors. Not to mention the farmers who grew the food these magnificent beasts ate so they could toil all day toting people and packages across our fair cities. Although some of these cities may not have been all that fair much of the time. But your stories cover some of this evil doing.

Anyway there came a time when some malcontent invented a motorised vehicle. And once we all got over the fact that these mechanical beasts could and should be allowed to move faster than walking pace the industry blossomed.

We could now go further and faster, in more comfort and carry more weight than ever before. Progress, I hear you say. A fantastic thing is progress and these newfangled inventions. True.

But what of the poor people and animals mentioned previously who relied on the earlier tried and true methods of transport? Their existence and their livelihood depended on this now old fashioned and outdated technology. What about them?

Well, I personally don't know what happened on a day to day or month to month basis, nor how long a transition period there was, but transition certainly took place. Now the only 'horse-dawn carriages' are in places like Melbourne as tourist attractions.

Cars and trucks (and trains and planes as well, but let's not extend our argument too far) have completely taken over the role of these quaint methods of conveyance.

Book shops. Ah the wonder. They are such an institution. The shelves and shelves of paper and cardboard, printers ink, glue and sometimes string. The smell of new books, the smell of old books. The chesterfield sofas and crazy bentwood chairs that we happened upon in these oases of almost quiet; full of the soft sounds of riffling paper, and the low murmurings of cajoling voices “Oh My God, will you have a look at this one?” Fantastic. Beautiful, exciting, inspiring and emotionally intense.

Bookshops are the bees knees.

BUT. There is another way to read NOW. We can do it 'online' and on 'portable devices'. The same stories. Even the older ones (the historic, the famous and venerated texts) are all progressively being made available in a digital format. They don't smell. There are no sofas, no booksellers with unbelievable knowledge, (I could say encyclopaedic but that is too trashy), but the end result is the same. The information, the emotions, the feelings, beliefs, the wonderment is all still imprinted on the brain of the reader. We still even call these infidels readers for goodness sake.

We can take 1000's of books with us wherever we go and enjoy them at any time. In the light, in the dark and at all times and all places in between.

In a similar vein to that of old fashioned travel, reading is going to change. We are going to do it differently. We are going to transition, possibly completely, except for tourist curiosities, to the new world.

It is as inevitable as the march of the automobile. Whether it is a good or bad thing is a moot point. IT WILL HAPPEN. IS HAPPENING NOW. AS WE SPEAK.

While I know, James, we all love your passion for book shops, books in general; and we all follow your fights with Jeff Bezos, I wonder if it is all for nothing?

Is it possible your wonderfully generous money might be better spent? Instead of railing against online behemoths, and propping up an institution whose time has come?

Might you be better off spending the money to make online reading better? More accessible to the masses of people who do not read at all or do read but not as much as they might and do not embrace the joys of the electronic media? Easier, more exciting, more fun. More interesting.

  • Perhaps we could have online book-stores with extra special benefits.

  • We could have electronic book clubs.

  • What about huge global discussions about books and the meaning of life. I don't think it really is 42 by the way.

  • We could have huge webinars with everyone being able to see and hear what I did the other night. You know what I mean. You. Or other famous or infamous - read E L James) authors on Skype, in our own lounge rooms, our cars, our … (no I won't go there.)

They could be streamed, or recorded or both. Live questions could be asked and answered. Visuals and videos could be included.

  • Collaborative writing classes and group readings could happen.

  • Training in writing and other stuff related to reading might be the go

  • Authors reading their books for children. (So they can still have their nightly story even if their parents can't or won't do it for them.) Refer the following:

Could snuggling up in bed and reading a bedtime story to your children ever be a bad thing? An ABC Radio National program about whether 'Having a loving family is an unfair advantage' has questioned whether bedtime reading is causing an uneven playing field for more unfortunate children. British academic Adam Swift told ABC presenter Joe Gelonesi the benefits of the time-honoured custom were greater than a private school education.”

The worlds of writing and reading could collide with a bang greater than all the atomic bombs in the universe.

Books and reading could be even more important than ever before. A different kind of book experience.

  • No longer little out of the way places you can only get to on your next trip to NYC.

  • No longer elitist but for all.

  • No longer expensive books where the publisher takes more money from the sale than the creator of the work itself. (Perhaps that is a problem currently with Amazon, but there is no real competition is there?)

  • Free books for specific purposes/readers/topics

Note I'm not suggesting books are off the agenda, just the method of getting them to the reader. A change in the delivery mechanism.

It has started.

Perhaps you James, and/or other readers or writers can come up with some more new and innovative ways to make the electronic delivery of books better, more accessible, easier, more effective.

Perhaps there is even another as of now completely unheard of way of getting books to the reader?

Think about it. Those who can adapt best, survive. Those who cannot become extinct. Darwin discovered this scientific truth many moons ago, It is still as true now as it was then.

Comment please.

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