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Here you will find editorials, how-to columns, and featured articles on topics important to writers. Columns will change regularly and will feature current information on market trends, do's and don'ts, and tips on writing styles, how to submit a manuscript, plus we'll showcase pieces on the various elements of writing like characterization, plot developement, how to set the scene, and how to show vs tell a scene.

Is There A Mechanic In The House?

by: Bea Ware
Editor-In-Chief

             

Okay, over the past two years I've covered a wide spectrum of writing topics from why do we write to creating a believable heroine to the publishing avenues available to all writers looking to see their work on sale.  This month's editorial is all about mechanics.

When a writer sits down to write a chapter, an outline, a short story, or even an anecdote, it's important that she get the mechanics correct.

What are mechanics?  Do I really need one?

Writing mechanics are different from automobile mechanics, but just as important.  Without a mechanic with the proper knowledge of how to seek out problems with your vehicle, he couldn't possibly fix it properly.  Right?  I mean you wouldn't take a vintage Corvette to a dog groomer to be repaired.  Would you?  The same thing can be said for your writing pieces.  The mechanics of writing, just like the mechanics of Corvettes, need to be learned, honed, and used in order for a short story, newspaper article, magazine piece, or novel to hum like a finely tuned engine.

Nothing can ruin your work of art quicker than comma splices, run-on sentences, improperly executed dialogue, poor sentence structure, and grade-school spelling errors.  It is the writer's job to present the most finely polished finished project they possibly can and the best way to do that is to arm yourself with the best equipment and tools you can find.

Let's start with what I like to call the Writer's Bible: The Elements of Style (the Old Testament) and The Elements of Grammar (the New Testament).

The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White, is a must have for all serious writers.  Inside the hallowed covers one will find The Elementary Rules of Usage.  Did you know the proper way to separate a series of three or more terms followed with a single conjunction is with a comma after each term except the last?  Example: Pompey, Leslie, Cliquot, and Gordon went to the ball.  And yet, nearly all writers--experienced and novice--would omit the comma between Cliquot and Gordon.

Also in The Elements of Style, you'll find The Elementary Rules of Composition.  It's loaded with such topics as writing in the active (not passive) voice, using concrete language, omitting useless words, and avoiding a succession of loose sentences.  You'll find commonly misused words and phrases, approaches to style, and tips on how not to inject the writer's opinion over the opinion of your character.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Elements of Grammar, by Margaret Shertzer, is a second must have reference tool for writers.  Ms. Shertzer covers such hot beds as how to recognize good grammar, points of grammar, grammatical terms, proper spelling usage, how to express numbers, capitalization, and using signs and symbols.  For instance, did you know that blonde and brunette refer to women with those hair colors?  As in:  The blonde and the brunette are good friends.  But when referring to brown or fair hair--regardless of sex--it's proper to use brunet and blond.

The point is: if you didn't know that, then you should.  As a writer, no one expects you to know everything, but you are expected to know the basic mechanics and the best way to learn them is to start by purchasing and using books like the two mentioned above.  When you submit your work to an editor, agent, or publisher, you want it to represent you as a professional writer, not an amateur unworthy of their time.  When you post your work on the Wall, no one expects you to have a work-in-progress polished, but it is expected that you proofread your work and--to the best of your ability--display the best possible version.  Make use of your word processor's grammar and spell checking programs.  Refer to reference books.  Then be receptive to editing comments from your peers and make the corrections that are necessary.  Use the information from the first post to fix the errors in the consecutive posts and before you know it, the edits will become second nature--knowledge learned and retained--and your peers can concentrate on other aspects of your writing.

Once it's learned and retained, you can offer someone else on the Wall your knowledge and expertise.  It's about giving back what you receive.  That's life, folks.  More importantly, that's the writing life.

 

 

Until next time...Happy Writing!

 



(c) April 2003 BeaWare
All rights reserved

Writing resources available:

The Elements of Style
By:  William Strunk, Jr.
and  E.B. White
 
The Elements of Grammar
BY: Margaret Shertzer