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Wednesday #Writetip: Choosing Between ‘That’ and ‘Which’

What's the difference between "that" and "which"? Both words can be used to set off dependent clauses, so how do you know which one to choose?   In some cases and in some publications, the words can be used interchangeably. However, most book publishers make the following distinction:   -Use "that" to set off restrictive clauses -Use "which" to set off nonrestrictive clauses.   A clause is restrictive if it identifies a specific object: The dog that bit me lives down the street.   A clause is nonrestrictive if it adds description only: The dog, which has thick fur and blue eyes, was easy to identify.   If you aren't sure which pronoun to choose, try reading the sentence without the part enclosed in commas. If no meaning is lost, then you know you have a "which" (nonrestrictive) clause....

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Wednesday #Writetip: When to Spell Out Numbers

Consistent use of numerals (1, 2, 3) versus spelled-out numbers (one, two, three) is one of the most common problems I see in my authors' writing. Most just type whatever form their fingers choose at that moment, but ultimately a rule of some kind should be established.    There are at least four different numbers rules that a writer could follow. Which one you choose has to do with the type of publication you are writing for and the technical level of the material. Your options include the following:     1. Some publications prefer to spell out one through nine and use numerals for all other numbers. This is often called the informal numbers rule and is commonly employed in newspapers and magazines.     2. Others prefer to spell out numbers...

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Wednesday #Writetip: Ensuring Variety of Word Choice in Your Writing

When I'm editing I often see writers relying on the same words and phrases throughout their manuscripts. Sometimes the repetition becomes noticeable and distracting, particularly when words are repeated in the same paragraph or sentence.   Some words and phrases are more memorable than others. Indefatigable, for example, or invariably, or in an alternate universe will stand out to readers and need to be used sparingly.   Now, some words are difficult to write around -- work is one that causes me trouble -- but others are not so difficult, and if the repetition is distracting your readers from your message, it is almost always worth the effort to find a new way to say something.   What can you do about it? First, determine if you are falling into this trap. Reading the passage...

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Wednesday #Writetip: Save Money When You Get Your Grammar Up to Snuff

If you want to save money on editing, your first step is improving your writing. Get your grammar and punctuation up to snuff by picking up a couple of language guides.   The Elements of Style by Strunk and White continues to be a favorite of mine for its brevity, humor, and accessibility.   The Chicago Manual of Style offers the other extreme of long and slightly cumbersome but also authoritative.   The Elephants of Style by Bill Walsh is a slightly irreverent guide that covers topics many other books ignore.   Random House's Webster Grammar, Usage, and Punctuation will answer almost any question you may have.   You can find more information online. Helpful websites include:   Grammar Girl, http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/grammar-girl   Chicago Manual of Style Q&A, http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/qanda/latest.html   Grammar doesn't have to be boring, and getting familiar with the rules...

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Tracking Your Story’s Timeline

Keeping a consistent timeline in your story is crucial to earning your readers' trust. Readers will become frustrated if your characters seem to be jumping through the seasons at will or if too much has happened for only one week to have passed.   Although this may seem like a problem only novelists would confront, memoirists, short story writers, and anyone else writing about events that take place over time need to pay attention to their timelines also.   If you haven't kept your outline up to date while you're writing, do what your editor will do. Go through the manuscript and note all of the plot points that hinge on or mention timing. Write down the date and season, and if needed, count the days and weeks (and hours?) that would have passed...

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#Writetip: Taking Part in Writing Contests

New year, new slate of writing contests! Some writers question the value in writing contests. Some of them are expensive, and what do you really get out of them? It's a valid question, and I would advise anyone planning to enter a contest to consider these points:   How prestigious is the contest? How much does it cost? How likely are you to win?   Entering every contest that comes up does not serve your writing reputation. Being selective and pinpointing those contests that are prestigious yet hold a real possibility for you to win can elevate your reputation, increase your exposure, and sometimes provide a significant financial reward. If you have the urge to participate in as many contests as possible, I recommend setting a budget for contests to encourage you to be more selective.   Are...

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Guest Post: Thanksgiving Transition, by Walter F. Curran

This week The POP Newsletter presents the writing of Walter F. Curran, who submitted this essay in response to the writing prompt “Thanksgiving.” Many thanks to Walter for sharing his writing with us.



Walter_CurranThanksgiving Transition

Yeah, that’s right, transition, not tradition.
I am from South Boston, unavoidably, indelibly Irish. A few Lace Curtain types but mostly pig-shit Irish regularly ensconced on their corner pub thrones. A chronic forum for ridiculing the Lace Curtain Irish, claiming disdain but evincing envy. The Lace Curtains in turn behaved the same toward the Boston Brahmins. No one happy being themselves. Only the Irish!

Is a Manuscript Assessment What You Need?

There comes a point in the life of every writing project when the writer has taken the piece as far as she can by herself. You have probably experienced this. It's when you finish revising your manuscript for the fourth or fifth time and think, "I have no idea if this is even any good." When you reach that stage, you have some options on how to proceed.   One option is to take your manuscript to a critique group. Or you might connect with beta readers online to get their input. Or perhaps you decide to share the manuscript with other writer friends to see what they think. Each of these options will give you more information about what you are writing and how you can improve it. Eventually, however, you will reach the...

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Guest Post: Suitcase, by Barbara Hinkebein

The POP Newsletter is thrilled to present the writing of Barbara Hinkebein, who submitted this poem in response to the writing prompt "suitcase."     Suitcase   You don't really know me You don't know what I've seen You've been in your suitcase You've been in a dream.   The more I try and tell you That everything's o.k. The more you ask me questions The more I run away.   I've lived so many lives I don't know where to begin You think I should just tell you You think because you’re kin.   The struggles that I've had You will begin to see I am like nobody else I am not yet free.   Someday I will tell you All about what I've been through Then you will know what I know Then you will know the truth.   --Barbara Hinkebein       If you would like to see your work published on this blog, join The Hop On Newsletter and...

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