My muse is cranky!
authors, breaking the rules, finding your voice, following the rules, good writing, novelists, novels, rules of writing, the right way to write, unique voices in writing, what you should know before you write, Writing
They say use active verbs and forgo the passive forms. Rid your writing of adverbs and other superfluous words, such as: really, just, and very. Don’t tell your readers, but show them, for readers detest author intrusion. Remember to start each new chapter with the names of your characters, else the reader will feel lost. Avoid using too many adjectives, they bog down the reader and slow the story’s pace. Throw away prologues, readers don’t like them, anyways, instead, start with chapter one.
I could go on, but I won’t. Suffice it to say, there seems to be more rules than I can remember. And I wondered, do all these rules create a fast food quality to our writing? By seemingly standardizing the way most authors write, are we taking the color out of novels?
Can you share an author that you feel has a unique voice and why you feel her/his voice is original? I know of a few, but as I consider their style, I find they don’t seem to follow these rules, at least not wholeheartedly. What say you about the rules of fiction writing and an author’s special voice?
Oh boy, this is a problem for me. I don’t know why I can’t remember which word to use, passed or past, but I simply can’t. I’ve had to look up the definition every time I’ve used it. So, I have to give credit for the information in this post to Grammar Monster. I won’t relay all of their in-depth explanations they provide regarding these two verbs, but I will pass along their “hot tips”.
Each time I’ve looked up the definition of passed and past, I marvel at the numerous meanings of these two words. It is no wonder I get so confused. But it is when I refer to movement, or moving by something, that I get baffled.
I drove by him on my way to school./I passed him on my way to school./I drove past him on my way to school.
All of those sentences indicate moving by someone or something, and they all can use some form of passed/past.
According to Grammar Monster, you can check if you used passed correctly by substituting went past and sometimes gone past. So, let’s try that in the sentence where I used passed.
I [went past]/ passed him on my way to school. That makes sense, so, hooray for me! I used passed correctly!
Another way to determine which word you need is to check if you have already used a verb in your sentence. If you have, then you use past and not passed.
Marley ran past the bus stop.
The cat scurried past.
Don’t walk quickly past the garden or you’ll miss the beautiful array of flowers.
Since I used ran, scurried, walk in the sentences above, I needed to use the word past. This will always be the case if another verb is used in a sentence.
It seems my confusion comes in to play when motion by something is concerned. Whereas using past when referring to time is less confusing. With the help of the hints I found on Grammar Monster, I just might be able to leave this confusion in my past.
My mother was an English teacher, so growing up we had all kinds of grammar rules and sayings told to us. Turkeys get done. People get finished. I before e except after c. Needless to say, I have a lot of these cute phrases floating around in my head. One rule that didn’t have a saying, but was drilled into my brain dealt with fewer or less. [Maybe someone knows of a memorable saying to help remember this rule, if so, I’d love to hear it.]
Anyways, the rule as laid down by my mother was if you can count it, you use fewer. If you can’t count it, you use less.
There are fewer glasses of milk in the final photo than there were in the first photo.
Mary bought five fewer pencils this year than last year.
Frank drank fewer sodas after he began dieting.
In January, there were fewer people at the conference because of bad weather.
Did it rain less this year than last year?
The perfume has less of a floral scent and more of a spicy aroma.
Use less salt if you want to lower your blood pressure.
When I eat less sugar, then I have fewer headaches.
I hope that helps someone. If it does, Mama would be proud! And if you know of grammar sayings, tell me! I can always use some help when it comes to remembering rules.
I am still seeking a group of fellow writers (two more) to offer feedback to one another. If you’re a serious author who needs a thorough critique of their work-in-progress, and is willing to reciprocate, drop me an email or let me know in the comment section below.
If you think you can’t critique another writer’s work, well, ask yourself if you notice mistakes when you read books, like or dislike particular novels, have enjoyed some characters more than others, felt some books were too slow, stopped reading because you were bored, got so engrossed you stayed up for hours unable to close the book, cried, laughed, or got angry while reading a story. If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you have an opinion. That’s all critiquing is; sharing your opinion with the author. Not everyone corrects grammar, sentence structure, or stylistic aspects, but everyone can let a writer know what they liked and what they didn’t like when providing feedback.
So, don’t be shy. If you you need help, and are willing to offer your feedback, contact me. For more information see my previous post about writing buddies.
My husband has a Ph.D., and he used to get then and than confused all of the time. Even in published works I often find these two words used interchangeably. I think the confusion has to do with their similar pronunciation. Unfortunately, their definitions are also alike.
According to Google then is defined as:
1. at that time; at the time in question.
2. after that; next; afterward.
Google defines than as:
1. introducing the second element in a comparison.
“he was much smaller than his son”
2. used in expressions introducing an exception or contrast.
“he claims not to own anything other than his home”
However, the easiest way, for at least me, to remember the difference is to associate one with time and one with comparisons. Some folks like to use a trick called mnemonics that implements letters, patterns, words, or associations to help them remember. I know I’ve read about this trick before, but I can’t recall where; however, in searching the web for then/than, I came across Grammar Girl’s blog that offers the same suggestion. [Grammar Girl Quick and Dirty Tips] Time has an e in it and so does then. Comparison has an a and so does than.
If you are comparing something use than.
Do you like tea more than coffee? (comparing tea to coffee)
Cats are generally smaller than dogs. (comparison)
He was growing faster than a weed. (comparing his growth to a weed)
If you refer to time, use then, or when using if/then statements.
If you go to the store, then pick up a gallon of milk. (If/then statement)
She turned the knob, and then walked through the doorway. (time/progression)
Tell me then, do you often quote Shakespeare? (tell me now/tell me next – a reference to time)
Hopefully, that helps clear up any confusion regarding these two words, but if you need a little practice, then take the ten question quiz below.
Thanks for reading!