Archive for August, 2010

Style and Formatting

Posted in class, Writing on August 31, 2010 by Loriendil

Since we had lots of questions in our last class about style guides, I’m going talk about them for a bit.

Style guides help you keep your own writing consistent, grammatically and format-wise. There are various guides out there. Some, like the AP Stylebook, are for journalists. The MLA Handbook is one often used in colleges for writing research papers.

But we write fiction, I hear you say, what should we use? Ah. Well. A good jumping off point is Strunk and White’s Elements of Style. It gives easy-to-understand rules and information.

If you need something more in-depth, you might choose The Chicago Manual of Style. This, I am told, is the guide most major publishing houses choose.

However, if that’s not enough headaches for you, many publishers have their own in-house style guides as well, where they give their preferences. If you are going to submit a book or short story to a publisher and you don’t find any a guide on their site, just use CMOS. But if they do have a guide, you’d do well to adhere to it where it varies from CMOS.

As an example, I will list the style guide we use at Ray Gun Revival, which reflects not only grammatical and spelling preferences but also a few preferences based on the fact we are a science fiction magazine:

Clarifications and Style Preferences:

* ‘all right’ not ‘alright’
* ‘okay’ not ‘OK’
* serial comma: a, b, and c (CMOS 6.19)
* no semicolons in dialogue
* one space between sentences (CMOS 6.11)
* italics for emphasis, not ALL CAPS or underlining
* three-space ellipse – without spaces between the periods, and not Word’s one-space ellipse
* straight quotes not Word’s “curly” quotes
* em dash without a space before or after (Alt+0151)
* the title not CAPITALIZED or underlined or (heaven forbid!) BOTH
* the ‘by’ in byline not capitalized and on same line as author’s name: by Johne Cook

Scientific and SF Terminology:

* 3D
* sci-fi
* A.I., A.I.s
* G-force, Gs, three-Gs

Had enough? Too bad, I’m not done. On top of the actual style guide, you also need to follow formatting guidelines. Some publishers are more forgiving than others, but it’s best not to irritate them and give them a reason to reject your story. I’ve written a few articles about this, and they might help clarify what you’re up against in submitting a story:

Don’t Annoy Your Editor

Behind the Scenes

Formatting Submissions

Okay – I’m through torturing you now. I’m sure our next class will be filled with “OMG! I can’t do all this! I’m quitting!” Guess what? You’ve all told me you’re (corrected – thanks, Tink) writers, so you can’t quit. Writers write, it’s what we do. We’ll have a little pity party – with chocolate, that can soothe anything – then wade through all this and answer questions.

See you Saturday, 4 September, at 6 p.m. eastern at the UOT Classroom Annex in Twinity.

Capitalization in Dialogue

Posted in Writer's Cramps - the column, Writing with tags , on August 28, 2010 by Loriendil

Well, one column sparks another. Readers of last week’s article wondered about the capitalization in dialogue, so I’m going to use some of the same examples to show how to handle that.

A dialogue sentence is unto itself, yet is part of a whole, larger sentence. So, if a tag follows the dialogue, you don’t capitalize (unless it’s a proper noun, of course), since the tag is part of the whole sentence.

“So what are you going to do?” he asked.

“Now what?” Slap asked.

“Well, I hope we don’t have that sort of fun too often,” he said.

However, if the tag is first, you capitalize the first word in the dialogue, since it starts the dialogue sentence.

He asked, “So what are you going to do?”

Slap said, “Well, I hope we don’t have that sort of fun too often.”

Tristan said, “If you’ll finish up in here, I’ll get the chess board.”

Got it?

Capitalization, or lack of it, follows the same rules as punctuation. If the sentence ends (as dialogue or tag) as indicated by a period, the next sentence has a capital letter:

“That’s no problem,” Tristan said. “Speaking of which, are you certain I can’t pay you?”

“That’s where you come in, boy,” old man Russell said. “You’ve fought them. You know them. We want you to be our Chefe.”

“That’s close enough,” Myers said when Tristan was about twenty-five feet from him. “I wanted to clearly see your face when you die.”

If tag is in the middle of the sentence, you’ll use the comma, of course, and no capitalization:

“Hm,” Kane said, “we can help you out with that. What sort of ship?”

“The point is,” Tristan said, looking Slap in the eye, “that force shield is safe.”

“Nothing is completely foolproof,” Tristan said, “but I agree, the banks are very secure. Especially the out-systems banks.”

I hope this helps. Feel free to post below in Comments if you want clarification or have questions.

Punctuating Dialogue

Posted in class, Writing on August 23, 2010 by Loriendil

Well, I put all of this week’s work into one pot and voilà. My Writer’s Cramps article for the week is also the class reading assignment.

Without further ado, here it is:

Writer’s Cramps: Dialogue Punctuation

Don’t forget – class is Saturday, 28 August, 6 p.m. eastern, at the UOT Classroom Annex in Twinity.

See you there, and keep writing!

Dialogue Punctuation

Posted in Writer's Cramps - the column, Writing on August 23, 2010 by Loriendil

I’ve had questions about punctuating dialogue. Actually it’s fairly easy. I think we all know that you must have quotation marks around your dialogue. The confusion I see most as an editor is what punctuation mark to use with your tag or attribution.

I apologize in advance for this article, as it is a bit longer than most. But since there are several ways to attach or insert tags and attribs into dialogue, I wanted to try to cover all the basics. So I’m going to give examples of each.

Questions first. If it’s a question, you use a question mark if the tag follows the dialogue:

“So what are you going to do?” Slap asked.

However, if the tag is first, you use a comma to separate the tag from the dialogue:

Slap asked, “So what are you going to do?”

Use the same pattern for exclamation points.

(There are some writers and editors who have varied opinions on the use of said vs asked/shouted/yelled – I’m not going there. At least not for this article. I’ll heap even more confusion on you at a later time.)

If your character is not asking a question or shouting, you will wish to use a comma between your tag and your dialogue:

“Well, I hope we don’t have that sort of fun too often,” Slap said.

Slap said, “Well, I hope we don’t have that sort of fun too often.”

Easy, huh? Now, putting a dialogue tag or attrib in the middle of dialogue is a bit tricky, but hopefully we can get it easily sorted. If it’s in the middle of a sentence, use commas:

“Hm,” Kane said, “we can help you out with that. What sort of ship?”

“The point is,” Tristan said, looking Slap in the eye, “that force shield is safe.”

“Nothing is completely foolproof,” Tristan said, “but I agree, the banks are very secure. Especially the out-systems banks.”

If it’s between sentences, you’ll need a period after the tag, before you begin dialogue again:

“That’s where you come in, boy,” old man Russell said. “You’ve fought them. You know them. We want you to be our Chefe.”

“That’s close enough,” Myers said when Tristan was about twenty-five feet from him. “I wanted to clearly see your face when you die.”

Now, if you are using beats, then you do not use a comma.

“I said I wouldn’t try to kill MacCay.” She brushed a curl off her forehead. “For now, anyway.”

“You too? That’s all everyone in the city is talking about.” Tanya set her cup down. “We’ve never needed a government on Zenos.”

I hope the examples above give you some guidelines. If you have questions, corrections, or want clarification, please post in comments.

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(If you are confused about beats, tags, and attributions, check out this old article: “Say What, er, I Mean, How?” )

World Building

Posted in Writer's Cramps - the column, Writing on August 16, 2010 by Loriendil

Most people know what world building is. Some authors go farther than others in creating their worlds. Some things you might wish to include are history, political and economic systems, culture, geography, types of flora and fauna, sentient beings… it can go on and on. And so could I. This could become a tome on building worlds, but I’m going to limit myself to some very basic advice.

World building can be wonderful. Letting one’s imagination soar free, trying to come up with things that are new and different. Or different yet familiar, so your readers don’t feel totally lost. How far does one go? Is it enough or too much? Valid questions. Ones only you can answer. Granted critique partners might be helpful—although you can get such varied responses, you might be more confused than ever—but you must give the final answer as to what will be in your world. Well, you and eventually your editor one day.

One frustrating point is thinking you’ve been unique only to find something similar exists in our world or worse, another author already used what you’d thought to be singular. Ah well. Thus is the life of the writer.

It’s not just the big things either. Oftentimes it’s the little things which can keep a world from seeming its own, apart from ours—like current trends in idioms and vocabulary. For example, we don’t have problems anymore, we have “issues.” Would the beings on your world have “issues”? And again, a critique partner or two can often catch the simple things which might be under your radar.

Above all, go for consistency. Your readers will appreciate it.

~:~:~:~:~:~:~
Need in-depth help? Try this list of questions by Patricia C. Wrede: Fantasy Worldbuilding Questions

Beats, Attribs, Tags

Posted in class, Writing on August 14, 2010 by Loriendil

Our next class will cover beats, attributions, and dialogue tags:

Say What, er, I Mean, How?

Using Speaker Attributions Correctly

So now you should now know what a dialogue tag is, what an attribution is, and what a beat is.

Now for a little advice when it comes to dialogue tags – don’t tell, and don’t explain. What am I talking about? Oh, my students, you are so obliging, and ask just the right questions! Here you go:

Do You RUE?

Granted, my RUE article goes beyond writing dialogue tags, but I think it gets the idea across.

So your homework is to take a sentence and write it three different ways – once with a tag, once with an attribution, and once with a beat.

Bring any questions to class, or if you wish, post them as comments below.

See you next Saturday, 6 p.m. eastern at the UOT Classroom Annex in Twinity.

And keep writing!

Plotting

Posted in class, Writing on August 7, 2010 by Loriendil

This summer we’ve covered most of the basics of writing; believable characters, dialogue, the Hook, POV, and writer’s block.

We had several new people, so I think it might be a good time to review plotting.

Here’s a link to a forum post that lists several articles on plots:
http://loriendil.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=63

These articles give some fantastic info and various ways of plotting a novel. The second post gives a basic run-down, which hopefully will be helpful.

Join us Saturday, 14 August, at 6 p.m. eastern at the UOT Classroom Annex in Twinity.

So – read the articles, scribble down any questions for class, and between now and next Saturday, keep writing!