Thoughts on Grammar


Outtakes 308

Thoughts on Grammar

By Cait Collins

 

I remember the good old days when English teachers taught grammar rules and made us diagram sentences. I’m sure grammar rules are still taught in school, but with our reliance on email and texting, we seem to forget how to write properly. The following are examples of statements from actual police reports.

The pedestrian had no idea which direction to run so I ran over him.

I had been driving for forty years when I fell asleep at the wheel.

To avoid hitting the car in front of me I struck the pedestrian.

The other car collided with mine without giving any warning of his intentions.

I was thrown from my care as it left the road. I was later found in a ditch by some stray cows.

If you think these statements are amusing you’ll enjoy the following signs posted in the workplace.

On a repair shop door: We fix anything. (Knock hard, the bell doesn’t work.).

On a leaflet: If you can’t read this, it tells how to get lessons.

In a safari park: Elephants Please Stay in your Car.

At a dry cleaner: Anyone leaving their garments here for more than 30 days will be disposed of.

In a church: This is the gate of heaven. Enter ye all by this door. (This door is kept locked so please use side entrance.)

We all make grammar mistakes. We rush to finish a project, forget to proof read, and then we send out the work with misspelled words, typos, misplaced modifiers, and punctuation errors. And then we wonder why no one takes our work seriously. Over the next few weeks we will look at some common grammar errors and how they can be corrected. Be prepared to diagram a few sentences.

Favorite Author


Outtakes 307

Favorite Author

By Cait Collins

 

Every reader has a list of favorite authors. One of my favorites is Julie Garwood. Years ago I purchased a book entitled RANSOM through a book club offering. I had never read a Julie Garwood novel, but the synopsis caught my attention. Highland clans, English nobility, and a lady in distress sounded like an interesting historical romance. I was not disappointed. In fact, I began looking forward to each new release and even began reading her backlist. Her work has kept me entertained for many years.

Ms. Garwood sets the scene perfectly, but without paragraphs of description. Her characters come alive through action and spot-on dialogue. I know not to start one of her books when I have to be somewhere by a specified time. Once I start reading a Julie Garwood novel, I have trouble putting it down. Her newest release, WIRED, is a page turner. I became so engrossed in the adventures of Allison Trent and Liam Scott. And when you add Allison’s cruel relatives, a bitter FBI agent, and a would-be computer programmer, you have a cast of characters that compel the reader to forget the clock and keep reading.

Whether it’s an historical romance or a contemporary romantic suspense, every release is an adventure. I recommend WIRED and any Julie Garwood novel.

Reunion


Outtakes 306

 

Reunion

By Cait Collins

 

 

The older I get, the more I am made aware of the frailty of life. I recently lost a friend whose family has been a part of my life for fifty years. She suffered from Alzheimer’s for a number of years and has not known us, but the loss hurt.

My friend and her husband sponsored youth events, held parties in their home. She was a hostess for many of our wedding and baby showers. Together they mentored young people who didn’t have good role models in their homes.

I appreciated the way the family did the service. There was no rush to leave the church building. Instead the funeral home quietly removed the casket while the mourners gathered in the auditorium, the foyer, and outside and talked, shared memories, and caught up on our lives. There were also the awkward moments when someone came up and said, “I haven’t seen you in years. How are you doing? I stood there with a smile pasted on my face thinking, “Okay the face is familiar, but who are you?” We laughed and cried, and maybe healed a bit.

You see, I was part of a church youth group of about 70-80 teens. We learned the importance of checking on friends who were not attending, put out a monthly youth bulletin (I can still smell the machine fluids), and we fellowshipped together. Our folks would take 60-70 of us to Palo Duro Canyon and turn us loose. We supported each other in good times and bad times. We were, are a family.

Family is important whether it’s blood family or family of the heart. Maybe that’s why family is prominent in movies, books, and plays. Family shapes our lives either for good or bad. Our characters can wallow in thoughts of bitterness and never find happiness. Some rise above their upbringing and find happiness and security. Others thrive on the acceptance and support of a good, strong upbringing. Family memories can bring tears of anger and frustration, or tears of love and appreciation. I can truthfully say that I have been blessed with both a loving blood family and a family of the heart.

Life is fragile and I know that there will be more funerals; more gatherings to remember those who are gone from us. It is the way of life. But I know I will not face these events alone. I have family.

Now I Know


Outtakes 244

Now I Know

By Cait Collins

 

Sometimes I really love the way my characters reveal themselves, but waking from a sound sleep at 3 a.m. is not at the top of my list. However I must say I like what Adam Sinclair told me. You see I was having problems with Adam’s storyline. He’s the third friend in my current work Three x Three.

Adam seems to resent his best friends. The question is why. He’s a trust fund baby with more financial security than his successful friends Sean Hawthorne/aka Creed Whitley and Tyler Crawford. Although both men have achieved financial stability from their chosen professions, they had something Sinclair wants – family. Money doesn’t guarantee loving parents, and in Adam’s case family meant dealing with a Mom and Dad more interested in their country club friends than in raising their children. In fact, the senior Sinclair put strings on the inheritance. If Sean didn’t pass his CPA exams, his share of the death proceeds would be divided between his brother and sister. So Adam follows the letter of the will. He is miserable. He wants to replace Sean/Creed in the Whitley household just so he can bask in the warmth of parental love.

Adam also resents his friends’ enjoyment of their chosen professions. Adam had his own dreams; plans he had to put aside to ensure his inheritance. And now he lives a secret life. But how far will he go to get what he wants? Would he arrange his friend’s disappearance to assume a position in Sean’s family? Would he murder Tyler’s girlfriend so that Tyler would know the misery of being alone.

Those are the questions Sean and Tyler must answer.

Make No Mistake


Outtakes 305

Make No Mistake

By Cait Collins

 

 

I’m helping train a new employee for my team. Normally we start with the basics of the computer programs and applications, teach them about products, and pray they understand basic grammar so that they can create a decent business letter. Considering some of the notes and emails we get, I’d swear kids are not taught English. But I digress.

I had a thought regarding the training…why not train from the end result back to the beginning. Sounds a little disjointed, but training from a quality control point of view makes sense. Start with the completed letter and the OneNote documentation package. Step one is read the request and determine what the client is asking. It’s not always as easy as it sounds because the request may be hand written and barely legible or the request rambles. Once you determine the need, start pulling documents that verify the points of the response. KISS (Keep It Simple, Silly).

As I work with the new guy, I’m impressed by his questions. And he takes notes. While this approach may appear backward, but by seeing the mistakes others make, maybe, just maybe, he’ll take the steps to avoid them.

I hear people say “I’ve always thought about writing a book.” Okay, have at it, but don’t start at the beginning of your story. Start by being the editor and analyzing a successful author’s latest novel or story. How did he start the story? Did he provide enough back-story to grab your interest and place you in the action? Or did he begin with the day that was different? Are the characters believable? Is it over researched and over thought? Were you into the action or thumbing through the pages to get to the end? Were there typos and grammar errors? Was there good flow from scene one to the end?

Reviewing another person’s work could give you insight into the pitfalls a successful writer faces and help you avoid making the same mistakes. And, it might make writing and self-editing less frustrating.

Killing Trees


Outtakes 304

Killing Trees

By Cait Collins

 

I started thinking about all the junk in closets and cabinets in my apartment. I’ve got a lot of storage in the place, but instead of tossing out stuff, I keep finding a place to store it. One of my big “I can’t toss this out” is the hard copies of my writing. In this day of computers, the Cloud, flash drives, and external electronic storage, why do I need hard copies? Of course I don’t want to trash four or five completed novels and other various and sundry ideas. But I can scan the information to my computer and save the file to my external hard drive or a flash drive.

And what about all those critiques? Once I’ve reviewed the notes and made the updates, do I really need to keep the notes? Of course not. So why am I having such a hard time just filling the dumpster? I think I know the answer. I’m saving my art for posterity. One of these days, some kid will come along and grab a file box and reap valuable wisdom from my work.

You want the truth? Killing trees and packing file boxes is easier than making a decision on what is necessary to keep and what can go to the dumpster or the shredder. I guess that makes me lazy. I wonder if the pharmacy has a pill for that.

Blank Mind


Outtakes 303

 

Blank Mind

By Cait Collins

 

 

Ever had one of those weeks when no matter how hard you try your project just won’t jell. The characters are stuffy, the dialogue stilted, and the setting, forget it. That’s where I am this week. Nothing is working. Even at work, I’m having issues in reviews and creating new letters.

So, I’m taking a break. I make another attempt to write tomorrow. Getting frustrated doesn’t spark creativity. It will be better tomorrow.

Best Friends


Outtakes 302

Best Friends

By Cait Collins

 

I have been accused of hoarding books. My library shelves are full, and the new bookcases hold books I have not read yet and some titles for research, as well as some old favorites. The truth is I love books. Hardcover or paperback, I enjoy their words of wisdom, the dreams, their knowledge, and the hours of entertainment. Opening a book is akin to meeting a new friend or revisiting an old, dear one.

Recently, I found myself without anything new to read. I searched the bookshelves for my copy of Nora Roberts’ THE DONOVAN LEGACY. I first read the trilogy in 1999, and periodically I reread the stories of witches who find love with mortals. Nearly 20 years later, the stories are still great reads.

I was recently told by a young furniture salesman that bookshelves are no longer necessary as everyone uses e-readers. Because they were no longer needed, the store only carried one style. Needless to say, I did not take the time to look for the new sofa I want. Why would a dinosaur need their more modern styles? I will not visit that store again.

While e-books and e-readers are popular now, nothing will replace the joy of holding a book in my hands and turning the pages as the story unfolds. E-books have their place and are great for vacations and travel, but an e-book will not replace the memories of book signings where I have met and conversed with favorite authors.

A book never judges, nor does it offer unwanted advice. The volumes I hold offer friendship and surprises with each reading. I love books and I always will.

Trash It or Fix It?


Outtakes 301

Trash It or Fix It?

By Cait Collins

 

I tried a new approach to writing my current novel. Instead of start at the beginning and progress to the end, I’m writing scenes. I’m trying to put them in order and then see what works and what doesn’t. The problem is that I really like some of the scenes that I’m unable to use.

Right now I’m working on two scenes. In the first scene, the heroine must come to terms with a disastrous relationship. In the other scene, Tyler, must confess a dark secret. So tell me, how does a man who has always been Uncle Tyler tell a shy eight-year old girl that he is her daddy?

I think I have my work cut out for me on this one.

Take Out the Trash


Outtakes 300

Take Out the Trash

By Cait Collins

 

Our office is about to undergo some serious renovations. In an effort to reduce work stoppage, we are being moved to another campus in town. As our new space is limited, we have been instructed to remove our personal items and go through our files and storage and eliminate as much paper as possible. I took personal items home the first week. As I order supplies for our team, I helped sort the supply storage. It just needs to be packed. Now I’m in the process of cleaning out my files.

I appalled at the “stuff” I’ve held on to. For example, I retained copies of every performance evaluation since I was hired. Every course completion certificate was safely stored in a series of file folders. Old faxes also took up space in the two file drawers. Needless to say, I’m taking out the trash before I move this week.

Editing is probably the most difficult step in the writing process. Editing is more than checking spelling and punctuation. It’s also taking out the trash in the story. Do you have a minor character that’s just a talking head? One that really provides no substance for the story? Get rid of him. You have a beautiful scene, but it doesn’t help move the story. No problem. Paste it into your file of “do not lose” scenes and move on. Every character, every scene, all dialogue must support and build the story. We have no room for place holding in our work. Nothing should remain that doesn’t move the story to the climax and resolution.

Words are important. Scenes are important. Characters are essential. Just make sure they are an asset to the work. Non-essentials go out with the trash.