Saturday, July 28, 2012

Grammar Peeves: Tips for Keeping it Clean

Like with many writers, language and grammar are important to me, but that doesn't make me an expert. I try to keep my writing free of errors, even when taking a casual tone or while using social media, but I've caught my own carelessness plenty of times. Here are a few commonly misused words, along with some general tips for remembering how to avoid future mistakes:

1. Affect and effect. 
Affect is a verb. Effect is a noun. 

If you can use "the" in front of the word you're trying to use, you probably mean to use the noun, "effect". If this is troublesome for you, think of "the sound effect", which is a noun.

2. Lay and lie. 
Lay is the action of putting something down. Lie is the action of reclining.

This is a tricky one! I keep in mind that chickens lay eggs, so I can't lay down unless I'm laying down an egg, or some other object. Translate that to all the conjugations, and you'll think twice about saying that something is laying on the floor. Unless it's laying eggs.

3. Passed and past.
Passed is a conjugation of the verb pass. Past relates to a period of time that has already happened, or sometimes a location beyond a defined point.

"Past" can be a noun, adjective, adverb, or preposition. Because "passed" is generally used as a verb, the simplest way to check your usage is to see if your sentence still makes sense using a different verb tense.

-She passed/past a finely dressed gentleman. (Switch test: She passes a finely dressed gentleman. Passed is correct!)
-She brushed passed/past a finely dressed gentleman. (Switch test: She brushed passes a finely dressed gentleman--huh? Passing doesn't work, so it must not be "passed".)

4. Should've and should of.
Should've is the contraction for "should have". Should of is just plain wrong.

Moving on...

5. Then and than.
Then is used in reference to time. Than is used to compare.

There are a lot of ways to use "then", but the word "than" is pretty much only used for comparison. One quick way to check if you're using the wrong word is to check if you're comparing anything; if you aren't, you know you should be using "then".

Flash Round: Mistakes I Make That Leave Me
Gnashing My Teeth Because I Do Know the Difference!

Its and it's

Your and you're

Too, to, and two

Their, they're, and there

What are your worst grammar peeves? Are there grammar mistakes that leave you gnashing your teeth at the offender--even if it's yourself?

~ ~ ~

Diana Paz is the author of TWISTS OF FATE (Rhemalda Publishing, April 2013). She writes books for teens about magic, adventure, and romance. Born in Costa Rica, Diana grew up on Miami Beach, moved to Los Angeles in high school, and went to college in San Diego. Basically, she’s a beach bum. Diana graduated from California State University, San Marcos with a Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Arts. She loves thunderstorms, warm chocolate chip cookies, and reading a good book. Preferably at the same time. Find her at her or on Twitter @dianapazwrites

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Where do you get YOUR story ideas from?

It seems like at least once a week I get asked the dreaded question: "Where do you get your story ideas from?" My answer is simple. I have a garden gnome with a magic pen locked in my attic, who comes up with all my ideas for me. He writes the ideas down on a slip of paper, puts it in a bucket and then lowers the bucket to me through the hole in the ceiling. Then, I sift through the slips of paper to find the perfect story idea.

What? You don't believe me? Darn. Well then I'll have to make something up.

My ideas usually come to me at the most inopportune times. Sometimes it's when I'm showering (this is a frequent place my muse likes to attack), sometimes its when I'm driving to the grocery store. Most often, however, is at 1 a.m. when I should be sleeping. I jump out of bed, grab my pen & paper and start writing out an outline, or a scene, or whatever else my muse has decided to bless me with. Sometimes its an entire full-blown outline (like my last WIP). Sometimes it's just a scene that I will eventually wrok into an entire story.

Most of my story ideas begin with some sort-of prompt. It can be anything from a picture, to an object, to a song. I find music extremely inspiring, and have written entire books to a single playlist on repeat. It's the feeling the song gives me that I try to incorporate into my story.

So for Awaken, my YA Fairytale reimagining, there was a particular picture that inspired the entire story - but I can't post it here for copyright issues. But, there was also a song that inspired it. (To be honest - the entire soundtrack for the movie was on repeat the entire time I was writing it.)

So tell me - how do you come up with your story ideas? Do they just pop into your head, or are they brought on by a prompt? What do you find most inspiring for your writing?


Shelley Watters writes romance for young adults and adults. She lives in Arizona with her husband, two kids and two dogs. She loves listening to music, reading good books and letting her imagination go wild as she creates new worlds and torments her characters in delicious ways. She is an active member of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She is represented by Mark McVeigh of the McVeigh Agency.