Tuesday, 17 March 2009

So what are my tense problems?

This year is all about sucking up my pride and accepting I need to work at the craft of writing fiction. So when a grammar GODDESS offered to give a once off critique of one of my short stories I took her up on it. Possibly the most valuable hour I have had in a long time. Short version, I'm seeing why people get confused as to the tense of my stories, al-la:

Mandy walked through the front door. She smiled at the man seated behind a dusty display counter. It’s filled with old beat up box cameras, broken watches frozen in time and no end of gaudy costume jewellery.

Do you see where I am screwing up? It's is a contraction for it is, not it was which is what I should have used for a past tense storyline. Dammit! How about another?

Mandy considered leaving the store, she’s less concerned about being ignored than she is about feeling a bit creeped out by the guy.

Did it twice in that bloody sentence. Past tense with considered and concerned, but then I go throw in a she's (contraction for she is) and a she is--so not even consistent in my contractions. *sigh*

As we sat there and went through the rest of the story the present tense errors started to leap from the page - The store is, Soon Mandy is, at least there’s no cramps. They are all sprinkled throughout the entire work which is supposed to be written in past tense!

Mandy walked through the front door. She smiled at the man seated behind a dusty display counter. The counter was filled with old beat up box cameras, broken watches frozen in time and no end of gaudy costume jewellery.

Mandy considered leaving the store, she was less concerned about being ignored than being a bit creeped out by the guy.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

A New Beginning

Well three days ago I began my second novel. The first novel can wait on the back burner for a little while longer before I go and revisit it for a second draft. I also want to see if I can write the first draft of a second novel through to completion. This new novel I am setting my expectations much lower, doing it in a more traditional 3rd person omniscient past tense style with a target of around 70,000 words.

This novel, here on referred to as the "Ye Olde Egyptian
[1] Curse Novel" already has a number of major differences to my first attempt at writing:

· I'm more improved in writing using a past tense - frequent feedback to the original novel and various short story attempts advise I seem to use a present tense style, but keep slipping into past tense, and it's confusing.
· A larger cast of characters spread across what will hopefully be some interesting and relevant sub plots
· Third person POV
[2] and already I have left the main protagonist to go to other scenes - my first novel was over 125,000 words (500 pages) from only the protagonist’s POV. Boooooooring.
· I’m doing more structural outlining through the use of Microsoft’s OneNote
[3] which has been very VERY handy for a lot of my preliminary research and keeping track of which character is going to be where.

So there it is, another start, another novel, another year.

[1] Resist the temptation to roll your eyes at another Egyptian theme, the exercise is the main thing
[2] Point of View
[3] http://office.microsoft.com/en-au/onenote/default.aspx

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Finished Beginners Course in Grammar

Man, oh man, does my head hurt. As the lovely Elizabeth M Murphy stated at the beginning of the Grammar Workshop I undertook at the ACT Writers Centre, "If you are under the age of 45 in Australia you most likely DON'T have a decent grounding in grammar." See, beyond the very basics - such as nouns are names, verbs are actions - grammar as part of the scholastic syllabus had little to stuff-all attention when I was a kiddy-wink.

So this meant that before the last four weeks of two hours each Thursday night, I didn't know what a conjunction was, or a predicate, couldn't have spotted a subordinate clause if it hit me in the face and don't get me started on prepositions and prepositional phrases!

The question is though, do I know those things now? Well barely, and I have only just scratched the surface of grammar. So has the course helped me?


One of my most common mistakes is the run on sentence. Not always because I make them too long, but because I never knew where to put a comma other than where it kinda looked OK to put one. I've also received further pointers and advice on active voice. I now know where I have been going wrong in mixing up some of my tense. And heaps of other little hints and tips along the way.

It's important to note the course wasn't direct at grammar for fiction or novel writers, in fact it was more about writing for business. But I know that grammar in fiction can also assist in readability so I am very glad I have done the course. Don't think I'm treating this as a panacea for all of my bad writing habits. A book can be written perfectly from a grammar perspective, but still be as dull as dog poo drying on a footpath...