Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Writing is Writing Unless it's Bibliography--Then it's Math

It's too late! I missed Monday! There's too much to do!

Ah, well. I knew that would happen when I decided to go full time at school this term. Of course there's no time for writing or editing or blogging--I'm too busy studying and reading, listening to lectures and staring at pictures and just plain homeworking.

Also, I'm spending inordinate amounts of time making up lists of things I need to do when I find the time to do them in. A long list, that; and one that doesn't promise to ease up for, oh, six or seven more weeks.

I'm used to taking multiple classes in a term that's twelve weeks long--being cut down to nine, though it's not much difference, suddenly seems improbable. At least my major is one that involves writing (LOTS of it!) so I'm comfortable not only with my subject, but with proving my competency. I just have to write good papers, which I can do. I think.

My stumbling block is bibliography formatting. Someone please tell me why bibliography form is different from in-text citation form? With one it's all commas and with the other it's all periods and don't get your italics mixed up with your underlines--

If you haven't had to worry about intensive bibliographic formatting this might not sound too stressful but, to me, it's like math. There's a set formula and no matter how you explain it to me, I'm not going to do it right. Something will inevitably miscompute.

Oh well! Those papers aren't due for another five weeks or so!

 All of them.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Cat's Not a That

I'm convinced everyone in the world--everyone who writes, at least--has a special writing hang-up. You know, something other writers do that absolutely drives you nuts when you read it. Like arbitrarily using the second person, for example.

It doesn't have to include breaking or even bending a grammatical rule. Just something you read which, as a writer, makes you want to shout at your cat, "Don't they know better? Why???"

To which your cat will probably roll over and ignore you, but this doesn't make the hang-up any easier to gloss over next time you come across it.

For me there's a few such pet peeves. I have a certain favorite writer who uses phrases like 'he climbed upwards towards the summit,' or, 'she inched forward towards the light.' Really? Couldn't you just use upward/forward OR toward? The word 'towards' with an S, for that matter, makes my eye twitch. It's not like it's plural, so what does the S accomplish?

The word alright. Because it's not a word. Use it when you want me not to pay attention to you anymore.

People who spell out abbreviations into words. I once read a book where KO'd became kayoed. Ugh.

But perhaps the worst for me--and keep in mind, there's no grammatical precedent for this to bother me (at a time I thought there was, but so MANY people do it and I've never found the rule anywhere, meaning I must've imagined its existence) is the use of that for who.

Bob was a person that liked cheese.

Really? Because you just said Bob was a person; as in, a living, sentient, animate being. Shouldn't that mean Bob is a who, not a that? Or, more precisely, a what?

Now that I've mentioned it here I'm sure you'll see it everywhere--I sure do. In books and advertisements and newspapers. In the writing of people who get paid nicely to do it. In song lyrics. In commercials.

I think it's rational to make this a rule, even though it's not. Do you think of people as that's instead of who's? Maybe this usage is so popular because people get queasy worrying about the difference between who and whom, I don't know. I just know when I read a story in the realm of fantasy and SF this becomes an issue insomuch as who is a sentient word while that isn't, necessarily. So when you write something like:

He was afraid of the monster that lived in his sock drawer.

Do you see how that's different from:

He was afraid of the monster who lived in his sock drawer.

In the second instance, the monster is an individual. And in fantasy and SF, this distinction often needs to be made.

So anyway, like I said, this is only my own pet peeve. I'm sure you're not the kind of person who'd ever write something like that.

"A cat is a who, not a that. And stop calling me your pet peeve."

Sunday, January 6, 2013

New Focus!

So it's a new year and new resolutions are, it seems, the thing to do. Right? Right.

I'd like to resolve to get professionally published but that's not something I'm in charge of (oh, don't I wish!). Instead, I'll be a little more reasonable.

I have two part-time jobs and will be a full-time student most of this year, which spells that ultimate of four-letter words for aspiring writers: BUSY. Meaning it'll be even more important that I find time for my writing.

I can't control whether or not my stories get accepted but there are resolutions I can make to increase the odds. And they are:

Line-edit to obsessive perfection
--Because getting every word and phrase and sentence perfect can't be a bad thing; the word that doesn't fit, or phrase so overused it's cliche, always bothers me when reading, so why should I inflict this on others?

Work on openings
--Since this is the part people read first, it figures that openings should be awesome. The purpose is to hook readers in while laying out all the pertinent details. According to responses I've got, I have to work on this a little.

Keep on task with submissions and deadlines
--No matter how much editing and hard work goes into it, a story never gets anywhere unless it's submitted. And so I have a long list of submission deadlines and open magazines so I have no excuse to let stuff just lay around. 

And that's it! Sounds so easy, right? Well, maybe when I subtract the fact that I have a bunch of OTHER obligations. Squished into the middle of life, I think it'll be just enough.