Monthly Archives June 2014

Critique Technique, Part 55 — Manuscript Format

By Ross B. Lampert

Almost since this series began, I’ve been writing about things that writers, especially new ones, have trouble with. This post is the last of that string. Next time I’ll begin a short series on how critiquers should respond to things a writer did well. Positive critiques are at least as important as corrective ones, so that’s a set of subjects we can’t and shouldn’t avoid.

MS Word's paragraph format controlsFormatting a manuscript is a simple and almost purely mechanical process, yet it’s one new writers may not have had any training on, or they were trained on formats that aren’t appropriate for fiction manuscripts.

This might seem like a minor point, yet if an author intends to follow the traditional publishing route and submit their work to literary agents or directly to publishing house ...

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Critique Technique, Part 54 — Grammar Errors

Four professors in cap and gown

photo credit: peyri via photopin cc

By Ross B. Lampert

Like the rules of spelling and punctuation, the rules of grammar are meant to help make a writer’s meaning clear to the reader. Unfortunately, there are probably even more grammar rules than there are spelling and punctuation rules, which means that many more opportunities for a writer to mess things up.

Whole books, college classes, and web sites are devoted to these rules, so there’s no way I’m going to try to replicate even a tiny fraction of that material here. Instead, visit Mignon Fogarty’s Grammar Girl Quick and Dirty Tips web site. It will tell you everything you wanted to know about English grammar, and more besides.

The thing is, as a reviewer, you don’t need to know down to the micro-level detail every single rule, c...

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Critique Technique, Part 53 — Punctuation

Humanoid image surrounded by question marks

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

By Ross B. Lampert

Perhaps as much as spelling, punctuation can be a wonder and a mystery to a lot of novice writers. School teachers try to teach their students all sorts of rules—if you really dig into it, there are hundreds of them—and of course they all have their exceptions and caveats. After a while, many students just give up, and it shows.

I thought I had a good workable handle on what to use, when, and how until I went to one of my friend Harvey Stanbrough’s seminars, and then the light bulb really came on.

Harvey’s take on punctuation is simple: punctuation exists simply to help the reader understand what she’s reading. Try this and you’ll see what I mean:

I dont understand why punctuation is so importa...

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Critique Technique, Part 52 — Spelling

By Ross B. Lampert

Spelling, misspelled and correctedThis post begins a series on mechanical errors in writing, and with it, we’ll finish all the posts on the errors writer make. After that I’ll discuss the kinds of things a reviewer should address when the writer does well. Critique is not criticism, after all, and especially not negative, destructive criticism. It’s important to point out a writer’s successes, too.

Before I get to that, though, I need to discuss speeling, grammer, puncturation, capitolization—I mean, spelling, grammar, punctuation, capitalization—and other usage problems, and manuscript formatting.

Spelling words correctly is a basic requirement for every writer. There’s simply no excuse for getting words wrong, unless, like I did in the paragraph above, you’re doing it intentionally...

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Critique Technique, Part 51 — Point of View Shifts

By Ross B. Lampert

Two angry people sitting on a benchWhoops! Last time, when I wrote about head-hopping, I thought I had already written about point of view (POV) shifts. Unfortunately, I was wrong. Time to correct that error.

Let’s make sure right now that we’re clear on what POV is. The written-out term gives us a good start. Point of view, or viewpoint: whose eyes and other senses, in other words, the reader is seeing and experiencing the story through. Said another way, if you think of the reader as being the proverbial fly on the wall, where is that fly? That sounds simple enough, but there are at least four different POV options.

  • Omniscient. The word means all-knowing, and in this case, the fly is really on the wall...
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