Sunday, May 20, 2012

There Is No Writing Without Reading

I have recently read somewhere that there are now more (self-professed) writers than readers.  If it is indeed true, it is rather disturbing - I know I am not the first one to say that in order to be a good writer one needs to be a good reader first.  As writers we must read more than we write; we have to let our imagination soar and utilize what we learn by reading the works of other writers, whether established or just starting out.

That said, I am terribly behind on both my reading and my writing.  I am still on the last draft of my work-in-progess / first novel and I dread reading it. I think I am afraid that after two full years of writing and editing, I may find it still lacking here or there - and I fear having to rework it.

As for my reading, I simply don't know what title to pick up next!  Can you help me out?

I just finished reading Arthur Schnitzler's Dream Story.  Before that, I read Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.   I tend to reach for classics, literary fiction, or YA, especially if it is by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Any ideas?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Like I Said, We All Make Mistakes

And that is the one I keep making. I know the rule, yet I manage to "forget" it ever so often.  I could try to blame it on the fact that English is not my first or second language, but that would be a cheap excuse. After all, I use English everyday, practically all day long.

The rule is a simple one and quite easy to follow.  In theory like (a preposition) should be used only with a noun, a pronoun, or gerund.

You look like a princess.  Be like your brother - start studying. 

As, on the other hand, is a conjunction, and is used with a verb or before a clause containing a verb.

Why don't you walk to work as we do?  As I told you, I left my coat at the office.

That said, why is it so easy for me (and others) to make this mistake time and again?  In colloquial English people have been using "like" as if it were a conjunction for about 100 years. The Harper Dictionary of Contemporary Usage states that “probably no single question of usage has created greater controversy in recent years” than the conjunctive use of like.  Why we have been switching like and as - that they did not explain.

Any rules of grammar you have difficulty adhering to?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Length of Chapters

I am done with the hard revisions of my work (which is called In The Shadow of Honey Locusts) and I am giving it a last read, making minor changes here and there.  I think I have said that before but hopefully it is true this time.

In the absence of former training or coursework, I find it challenging to manage some aspects of writing.

Take, for example, chapters.

How long should each chapter be?  Should their length be somewhat uniform or can one be 5 pages and the next 500?

As one who reads a lot, I know there are no hard and fast rules (although having a 500-page chapter is probably not a good idea), but some guidance, even if by analogy, is helpful.

I look at each chapter as telling a mini (although not necessarily stand alone) story that forwards the overall plot, just long enough to serve its purpose.

One blogger / author likened chapters to TV shows. When a TV show finishes its first act (which often happens right after something significant is revealed), it goes to commercial break. Then the second act comes, with the same set-up and rules.  Same for the third act and so on.  He suggests we look for our chapters to have similar elements and when we reach a “commercial break,” we are wise to end the chapter and start a new one.

Do you follow any rules in creating chapters or do you just let it flow as it may?