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Friday, December 02, 2005

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Guide to Grammar and Writing

Super Resource!

If you want to find out the difference between a phrase and a clause, or how to avoid a dangling modifier, Guide to Grammar and Writing is the place to go. It includes some great interactive tests and quizzes, all with instant feedback. There is also a free 'Ask Grammar' service for any questions you may have on grammar, punctuation, etc.

The Guide to Grammar and Writing is sponsored by the Capital Community College Foundation, a nonprofit 501 c-3 organization that supports scholarships, faculty development, and curriculum innovation.


Tips for Writing While Your Children are at Home.

As a parent, writing from the home office can sometimes be difficult, especially during your children's summer vacation from school. The need to supervise and care for your children often conflicts with your job...writing.

Depending upon the ages and number of children present, summer vacation can effectively cut in half the time available for writing. And, the time you are left with becomes a precious commodity that demands stricter focus and work habits.

Here are some tips for working from the home office while children are present. Be sure to leave a comment with your ideas and suggestions.
  • Sometimes, children just want attention. Sometimes, children really need your attention. Discuss situations with them and come to an agreement about the things that do and do not warrant interrupting your work time.
  • Buy your child a stop-watch and set the timer. Unless it is an emergency, your child has to wait until the timer goes off to enter your office.
  • Post a work schedule outside the office door with visiting hours listed. Then, make snacks before work and invite your children to bring the snacks into the office during those visiting hours to eat with you and spend some time talking.
  • Enroll your children into summer activity programs.
  • Plan special parent/child activities as a reward for the child not interrupting your work hours.
  • Coordinate with other parents in the neighborhood to trade off days where all the children play at one house or the other for a few hours, giving the other parents time to run errands, clean house or work child-free.

What are your tips or suggestions? Leave a comment.


Using the Elements of Figurative Language in Writing

Figurative Language uses words in fresh, new ways to appeal to the imagination. Similes, metaphors, extended metaphors, hyperbole, and personification are all elements of figurative language.

Using figurative language in your writing enables you to describe people, places, and things while creating memorable images that stay in your readers' minds long after they have finished reading your words. Let's examine each element of figurative language.


A figure of speech in which two essentially unlike things are compared, often in a phrase introduced by 'like' or 'as'. Here are some examples from Shakespeare:
"How like the winter hath my absence been"
"So are you to my thoughts as food to life"
Metaphor and Extended Metaphor

Metaphor - a figure of speech in which an expression is used to refer to something that it does not literally denote in order to suggest a similarity. Here are some examples from Shakespeare:
"All the world's a stage"
"It is the east, and Juliet is the sun"
Extended Metaphor - a metaphor that is extended through a stanza or entire poem, often by multiple comparisons of unlike objects or ideas.


A figure of speech in which exaggeration is used for emphasis or effect. Here are some examples:
I could sleep for a year.
This book weighs a ton.

A figure of speech in which inanimate objects or abstractions are endowed with human qualities or are represented as possessing human form. Here is an example from Shakespeare:
"Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief,
That thou her maid art far more fair than she."
As you can see from the examples above, figurative language can add depth, power, and/or lyrical beauty to your writing. Judicious use of these elements will spark a reader's imagination and help improve the quality of your prose.




"Creative Writing" Search Results at Amazon


Rejection Letters Aren't All Bad

by Charlotte Dillon

They Didn't Give Up

Okay, you've gotten a rejection letter from an agent or editor. It feels awful! Maybe it was your first. Maybe it was number sixteen. Whichever it was, don't despair, you're standing in really good company, so don't give up. These authors didn't.

If you are a romance writer, and maybe even if you aren't, you've probably read -- or at least watched -- Margaret Mitchell's story, Gone with the Wind. Over 20 publishing houses tuned that little story down before it sold.

Who hasn't heard of John Grisham in this day and age. Did you know that the fist manuscript he wrote, A Time to Kill, was rejected 45 times before it was accepted?

Famous western novelist Louis L'Amour has sold countless books over the years. Many of his stories have been made into movies, like The Quick and the Dead -- the old one, not the newer version. His stories earned him over 300 rejections before he ever sold a book.

Mary Higgins Clark is well known by mystery fans all over the world. She kept wiring and sending out her novels, even after 40 rejections rolled in.

If you have children, you've probably spent at least a few hours with a Dr. Seuss book in hand. He was the proud owner of nearly 30 rejections, and that was just from one story.

Aren't you glad they filed those rejections away, and then kept on trying?

Rejection Letters Have Some Good Points

Getting a rejection from a publishing house -- or agent -- might leave you feeling depressed, sad, angry, and more. That's okay, let yourself sink into the biggest pity party known to man. Eat a ton of chocolate, watch a sad love story and cry your eyes out, sit around in your PJ's until noon, but don't spend too much time on that party. You have things to do, another publishing house to research, a new agent to check out, and that manuscript to get back in the mail. There is also that new story you should be working on.

Believe it or not, there are some good things you should remember about rejection. What good things? Let me list a few. Oh, and let me add congratulation on that rejection letter. You should be proud!
  1. That rejection letter means you are a REAL writer.
  2. You completed a manuscript. A whole story.
  3. You wrote both a query letter and a synopsis; something that can be harder than writing an entire novel.
  4. When you were done, you looked through guidelines and found a publishing house that printed your kind of story, or an agent who accepted the genre you write in..
  5. With dreams overflowing, you addressed that envelope and mailed your baby into the cold, hard world.
  6. You used up more patience than you even knew you possessed, watching that mail box and waiting to hear something, anything...probably for months.
  7. When you got that rejection, you didn't give up, or you wouldn't be here reading this.

The Steps on the Rejection Ladder

When you at last get brave enough to send out your manuscript, the rejection letter you might get could be the standard form letter. When I sent my first MS off about ten years ago, I thought it was filled with great writing! Now looking back, I know it was awful! It did get me my first rejection letter though.

Dear Author,

Thank you for thinking of DreamOn publishing, but at this time we feel your story does not fit our needs. Best of luck placing your work elsewhere.

The Editors

Notice I'm an author, but they don't use my name, nor do they mention the title of my MS, the real reason it was rejected -- it sucked dirt -- or even list an editor by name. Oh well. I kept writing, joined RWA and went to some meetings, started learning what I was doing wrong, did a little rewrite, and sent that baby out again.

Next rejection, please, one step up.

Dear Ms. Dillon,

Thank you for thinking of GettingBetter publishing, but at this time your story, Love at Last, does not fit our needs. Best of luck placing it with another house.

Assistant Editor,
April Noname

Lots of work later, I made it to the top step of the rejection letter. Ah the glory of it all. :-) Hopefully, sites like mine will help you skip at least the first kinds of rejection letters.

Dear Ms. Dillon,

I enjoyed reading Love Again, and find you have an impressive writing style, but I'm sorry to inform you that we can not accept your story at this time. Although you have strong characterization skills, and a powerful use of description, too much narrative slows your overall pace throughout the story. If you have any other manuscripts available, I would be happy to consider them.

All the best,

Senior Editor,
Pattie Loveme


Charlotte Dillon ~


Thursday, December 01, 2005

Reference, Facts, News ... Free and Family-friendly Resources

Writers of all types and in all industries can benefit from bookmarking this site: Reference, Facts, News ... Free and Family-friendly Resources. is a comprehensive resource for research, and it's reach is massive. The site truly is your "Virtual Reference Desk."

Here is the site's Vision Statement:

Refdesk aims to index, review, and publish quality, credible information-based Web sites and to assist readers in navigating and extracting needed data from these sites. Since 1995, Refdesk free and family friendly.

Be sure to visit the Introduction And Tour Of Refdesk page to learn about the service and maximize your experience at the site.

My hat is off to this amazing site and indispensable resource.

Other Resources-

Original Fiction and Fan Fiction Archive - Writing Resources:

Are you a writer? Want to get paid? Advertise your skills and accomplishments, network, and gain exposure:

Screenwriting, Screenplays, Screenwriters - Writing A Screenplay Using Structure

Effective screenwriting relies on the good understanding and use of structure.

Inexperienced screenwriters may believe that structure inhibits creativity, but experienced writers know that following a template helps them to problem identify, generate ideas, select good ideas and develop them to reach that all important words-on-paper first draft – structure is not a hindrance but an enhancer of creative output.

If doubts about structure still exist, then they are soon eliminated – when screenplays are presented to decision makers for evaluation, writers soon learn that structure becomes an important part of the evaluation process.

A writer, through an individual and tortuous process of trial and error, may develop templates, or he or she may use one of the classic templates such as the Hero’s Journey. But a writer will rarely admit to the use of templates (it reduces the perception of originality) or he or she may be only mildly aware that they are following a process.

The Classic Hero’s Journey story structure template contains 106 sequences and more than 30 in the final act alone. It is an evolution of Campbells’ original model, containing only 17,18 or 19 sequences, depending on who the interpreter is.

There is a theory that there are only five jokes in the world. Similarly there is a theory that there is only one story in the world. An analyses of nearly all the stories produced by Hollywood bears this out from a certain perspective and the Hero’s Journey would be this universal template.

But from the one universal template are derived many descendants, and one of those is the NO WAY BUT DOWN story structure. In it, the anti-hero heads for self-destruction as a result of his own misdeeds and the betrayal of a shape shifter, allies and goddess et al. It is more exploratory of the darker side of human nature and behaviour and there are no happy endings…but it still makes for a fascinating story.

The Classic Hero’s Journey and the No Way But Down story structure templates can be found at

You can also receive a regular, free newsletter by entering your email address at this site.

Kal Bishop, MBA

About the Author: Kal Bishop is a management consultant based in London, UK. He has consulted in the visual media and software industries and for clients such as Toshiba and Transport for London. He has led Improv, creativity and innovation workshops, exhibited artwork in San Francisco, Los Angeles and London and written a number of screenplays. He is a passionate traveller. He can be reached on


HGSE Style Guide

From the Harvard Graduate School of Education:
HGSE Style Guide

This resource, produced by the HGSE Communications Office, covers major points of style. While the items featured are designed to help you as you compose text online, a comprehensive resource like the Chicago Manual of Style remains the ultimate arbiter in questions of style and format. Additionally, a reference for online style like the Yale University C/AIM Web Style Guide can also be very helpful in supplementing this resource.

The White Goat & The Importance of Proofreading Your Work

I find it interesting how an experience that happened 26 years ago at the tender age of seven can still affect me to this day. It is a bittersweet memory from 3rd grade that both spurs me to greater effort and recalls feelings of complete humiliation.

We can all recall pivotal points in our lives. Hindsight is 20/20, after all. These pivotal points may be experiences or revelations that fine-tune our focus, change our goals, or alter our perceptions.

The earliest pivotal point that I can remember in my life just so happens to involve a white goat, an aggravated teacher, and a classroom of laughing students. Oh, and let's not forget the humiliation, because that was the true catalyst behind my mantra today - proofread, proofread, proofread.

Huh? What does all this have to do with proofreading?

My third grade teacher gave the class a simple assignment. We were to write a short story, and she would pick a few to read to the entire class.

Everyone was excited! Backs straightened with confidence all around me. Each student was sure his or her story would be the one chosen, including myself. What an honor it would be!

Little did I know that my story would be singled out as an example of poor writing. The only consolation afterwards was that the teacher wouldn't tell the class which student wrote each story she read.

With trembling fingers and visions of my classmates patting me on the back for my creative talent, I handed in my story. Mine was sure to be chosen! After all, it was full of drama, action, and terror. Who wouldn't love my story about an eerie white ghost chasing a poor, frightened family through their big, creepy house?

Wait a minute. The story was about a ghost, right?

Unfortunately, I had written the word "goat" instead of "ghost" all through my story.

Can you imagine my pride when the teacher began reading my story to the class? Now imagine my shock and crushing shame when I realized my mistake. Of course, I felt even worse when the teacher glanced up at me, eyebrows knitted in disapproval, each time she came to the word "goat" in the story.

I can still remember the boy sitting next to me snickering and saying, "Goat? Who'd be afraid of a stupid goat? That's so dumb."

I learned a valuable lesson that day, though I didn't realize it at the time. No matter what you write - a note, a sales letter, a novel, or anything in between - proofread, proofread, proofread!

Proofreading your own work will help you avoid the great "white goat" fiasco, but smaller mistakes are almost sure to slip by. After proofing several times, pass your work along to a trusted friend or associate. The extra set of eyes may pick up on anything you missed.

In my case, the humiliation I experienced 26 years ago proved to be a powerful learning experience. However, I wouldn't wish it for someone else.

So, take to heart the lesson I learned. Always remember the white goat and the importance of proofreading your work.

Copyright 2005 - Karen K. Campbell - All Rights Reserved

About the Author: Karen Campbell is a Copywriter and National Trainer for DirectMatches Business Network with over 11 years experience in marketing, sales and coaching. Visit DirectMatches at She also administers a fiction archive at and the Fictional Perspectives Writer's Resources Blog at

Online Handbook of Rhetorical Devices

Robert A. Harris provides an online Handbook of Rhetorical Devices at

This online version contains definitions and examples of sixty traditional rhetorical devices, all of which can still be useful today to improve the effectiveness, clarity, and enjoyment of your writing. Be sure to take the self test to check your knowledge and retention level of the information provided.


Punctuation Made Simple

Unsure about punctuating your prose? Get started here...

Punctuation Made Simple is a website from Gary A. Olson and hosted by The College of Arts & Sciences at Illinois State University. See below for an excerpt from the Introduction page.
In “Punctuation Made Simple,” we discuss several of the most useful punctuation marks that you will use as a communicator. Instead of listing many rules, as a grammar book does, we discuss these various marks in general so that you can get a sense of how to use them in your own prose. Of course, every communicator should own and use a grammar handbook as a reference tool. You will still want to refer to such a book when you come upon a particularly difficult punctuation problem. Here, however, we are most concerned with helping you develop a feel for the way punctuation works.