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Grammar Pet Peeves: Annoying Writing Mistakes Infographic

Perhaps it’s a side effect of reading so voraciously when I was a child, but I’ve never had major issues with grammar.  Although my grammar isn’t perfect (no one’s is, really), grammar comes pretty naturally to me.  I’ve never had to study it to inherently understanding parallel structure or compound sentences or what have you.  I don’t strive for perfect grammar, but I do strive for excellent grammar.

As a child, I would embarrass my parents by correcting adults’ grammar (because it was something my parents corrected in my brother and me, I didn’t yet understand at 4 years old that it was rude to correct adults when they used bad grammar).  I’ve since grown out of that habit, but I still get a little nails-on-the-chalkboard feeling when people use incorrect grammar in the written word.  For your grammatical delight (or perhaps you’re trying to learn English grammar?), I’ve found a gorgeous little infographic over at bitrebels.com about the most annoying writing mistakes (and yes, it does have an unnecessary hyphen in “most-annoying,” but we’ll let that pass for now…).

Most Annoying Writing Mistakes - Learn English Grammar - Grammar Goofs - Novel Conclusions writing blog - writing rules - writing tips - infographic

Most Annoying Writing Mistakes via bitrebel.com

One mistake that this infographic didn’t include was when people end a sentence with “John and I” instead of “John and me, or they say “Jane gave it to John and I” when it should be “John and me.”  Egads!  And for me, one mistake I personally am frequently making is spelling the word “happened” wrong — I never can remember whether it has one “n” or two.  Thank goodness for spell check!  Which mistakes really make you want to whip out that red pen?  Which mistakes do you have to keep catching yourself on?

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Getting Reluctant Readers Reading: the Grown-Up Edition

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An Interesting Story painting - Leon Perrault - Novel Conclusions - writing blog - reading blog - book blog - writing tips - reluctant readers

An Interesting Story by Leon Perrault via Wikimedia Commons

If you Google “reluctant readers,” you’ll find quite a bit of material on very young and middle grade readers.  These ideas are absolutely important; however, recently, I’ve been thinking about grown-up reluctant readers.  About 25% of adults will actually go an entire year without reading a single book (craziness!), and most read 6 books or less per year.

Although it would be a whole other post to go into the intricacies of this (see here to start), in my humble opinion, reading enhances everyone’s life, not just the lives of the person who is reading.  Readers become more well-informed, more sympathetic, and more well-rounded than non-readers.  They develop better problem-solving skills from exposure to different ideas.  They develop better communication skills.  We could really go on for a while, but if you’re already here reading this book-related blog, you’re probably already on the same page.  What I’m getting at is that the more we can nudge non-readers into reading, even if it’s just a smidge more than they’re reading now, the better our world will be.  I’m always a fan of making the world a better place.

So how do we encourage others to read more and therefore improve our larger world?

  1. Do not (publicly) judge what others are reading; it doesn’t pay to be discouraging.  It might horrify me a bit that my teenage cousin is reading some disgusting political propaganda book, but at least she’s reading something.  I’m sure there are some five dollar words in there somewhere to build her vocabulary.  It might be disconcerting to sit next to someone on the subway reading 50 Shades of Gray, but at least they’re getting back into the habit of reading books.
  2. Ask about books that they have read.  If you can get someone talking about a book they read that they loved, it might remind them how much they miss reading.
  3. Recommend easy “transition” books (e.g. transitioning from not reading).  The book that finally got my man back into reading was Hunger Games (he picked up my copy, of course, after seeing me wrapped up in it a few years ago).  He spent a number of years after undergrad just reading accounting textbooks and movie scripts (he’s an accountant who used to work in the film industry), and he says that Hunger Games was just like a movie script.  It hooked him, and he stayed up until 2am one night finishing it.
  4. Talk about books you love.  Enthusiasm is infectious.  My mom, my dad, my boyfriend, my best friend, my friend’s mom, and a coworker –among others – have all been talked into picking up The New Geography of Jobs after my enthusiastic description of the book’s awesomeness and its applicability to everyday life.  When I first read Hunger Games, I was similarly excited – though I still haven’t talked my mom into it.  She’s afraid it’s too violent (and she’s into Game of Thrones!  Talk about violence!).
  5. Recognize people for reading.  This may sound silly, but people need to be validated.  A simple “That’s awesome you make time to read!” goes a long way.

How have you been successful in encouraging friends to read?  What could we add to this list?

Glorious Summer Reading

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Sun-bathing Girls in Brittany by Moric Goth via Wikimedia Commons

Sun-bathing Girls in Brittany by Moric Goth via Wikimedia Commons

What makes summer such a great time for reading?  Leading up to summer, even the most trivial magazines and talk shows have a column or segment on “Great Summer Reads” or “Fun Beach Reads.”  As children, we’re all given a handful of books to read over the summer, some more interesting than others.

There are so many other vacation seasons during the year, but for some reason, summer wins as a time to read.  Perhaps it’s because the warm, lazy days lend themselves to sitting in a lounge chair on the beach with a fun read propped up next to a yummy drink under a sun shade.  Perhaps it’s because summertime, as a child, was so carefree that we long to bring that time into adulthood, even through just a few hours reading something escapist.

Something about summer is a little bit magical.  The books you read in summer, on vacation, when it’s warm, seem somehow a little more than they would otherwise.  As a kid, I went to Girl Scout camp in the summers, and my camp had a library of sorts, really just a collection of book crates.  At age 9, I was already in love with books, but I had never read any classics.  In our camp library, I ran across a copy of Little Women (it was an abridged version – I was pretty young, after all).  I devoured that book; I fell in love with Jo and all her sisters, and it ignited in me a desire to read more books that weren’t just about other elementary-age kids.

Which books have been your favorite summer reads?  What do you think makes summer such a great time to read?

Books vs. e-Books

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Books or e-books?  First of all, I don’t think this is a zero-sum game – that is to say, there’s definitely room for both real books and e-books in the world.  Although I definitely read way, way more real books (I have yet to pay for an e-book; I’ve only read free ones.  If I’m going to pay for it, I want to be able to HOLD it), there’s definitely a place for e-books.

What do you think are better places for e-books and better places for real books?  For example, one may be better for traveling and the other better for lending.  One may be better for reading embarrassing books (a la 50 Shades); one may be better for reading to a kid at bedtime (picture books!).  One may be easier to sign than the other…  Anyhow, check out the infographic below and feel free to weigh in!

Books vs. eBooks infographic - Novel Conclusions writing blog - writing tips - reading

Books vs. eBooks via stephenslighthouse.com

P.S. My favorite part might be the reminder that “Walking to the library is still the most ecofriendly way to read.”

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Authenticity in YA Fiction

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Child Soldier in the Ivory Coast, Africa, by Gilbert G. Groud via Wikimedia Commons

Orson Scott Card definitely caused a stir when he published Ender’s Game in 1977 with a young child being trained as a battle mastermind, away from his parents and any true parental authority from age 6 onward.  Very few books up to this point treated any character under the age of 14 as a character whose thoughts were to be taken seriously.  Why should a child represent humanity?

In an introduction to a reprint edition of Ender’s Game in 1991, Orson Scott Card tells us,

Never in my entire childhood did I feel like a child.  I felt like a person all along – the same person I am today.  I never felt that I spoke childishly.  I never felt that my emotions and desires were somehow less real than adult emotions and desires.  And in writing Ender’s Game, I forced the audience to experience the lives of these children from that perspective – the perspective in which their feelings and decisions are just as real and important as any adult’s.

Although there are definitely inauthentic parts of Ender’s Game (psychologically damaged and chauvinist much?), Card went out of his way to prove that children take themselves seriously even when adults frequently don’t.  This is one of the primary things that separate YA and MG (middle grade) books about youth from adult books written about children/youth; in the YA and MG books, the protagonists are acting in the here and now.  These youthful protagonists have real emotions and real issues; we as writers must treat these issues as such.  If we do not, we risk losing our readers.

Having spent years working with kids, both in my time teaching and in my ten summers at a girls’ overnight camp, I can absolutely attest to the idea that kids and youth have real emotions, desires, and issues.  The primary difference between them and us is their lack of experience (and their frequent desire to hide that lack of experience).

What we as writers must learn to do is write the truth right there on the page; it should ring with emotional integrity.  This can be harder than it sounds.  In Writing Irresistible Kidlit, Mary Kole reminds us that

Teens have a very sensitive BS-o-meter.  So for the YA market especially – even though this applies to all kidlit – authenticity and truth are paramount.  If something is cheesy or irrelevant, teen readers will not hesitate to declare you a poseur.

What are our takeaways?

  • Be authentic in your writing.  Write truth.
  • Treat your characters’ issues like they matter.  If they don’t matter to you as the writer, they certainly won’t matter to your readers.

What else do you think is frequently stereotyped with youth protagonists?  Do you have any favorite authentic youth protagonists?

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How Can I Help Debut Authors? And Why Would I Want To?

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Transparent - Natalie Whipple - Debut Author 2013 - Novel Conclusions writing blog - writing tips

Transparent via nataliewhipple.com

Today is a very special day.  Today is the day that debut author Natalie Whipple’s book Transparent comes out.  Transparent is about a girl with the power to become invisible whose mob boss daddy makes her do crazy stuff – and she wants to escape.

What makes Natalie Whipple so special?  Well, as of last summer, I hadn’t written much of anything that wasn’t work-related in about 7 years, since I graduated from college.  At first, I wasn’t writing because I was teaching, and teaching in a bad area is an 80-hour-a-week job.  Later, I wasn’t writing because I had gotten out of the habit.  Last summer, I ran across Natalie Whipple’s blog, and I realized how much I really missed writing.  She inspired me to write again (Side note:  I’ve been following her blog since last summer, but I don’t comment on it frequently because of how often the Captcha ate my comments in the past.  Boo Captcha).  Although my current work in progress is far from finished, it is thousands of words more than it might have been if I hadn’t been re-energized by Natalie’s blog.

How can we help debut authors like Natalie Whipple?  And why do we want to?

Spread the word.  Tell your friends, ask for it at the library, post about it on Facebook/Twitter/Tumblr/etc., or even blog about it.

Buy the book within the first 3 months it comes out.  This seems obvious, but it’s worth repeating: if it’s an author you really want to support, actually buy the book.  The first 3 months are when publishers are watching.  Pre-order it or buy it in the store.  And then write the review afterwards.  Remember that buying it in a brick and mortar store does more for the author than buying it online.  If you buy the book in a store, that store is more likely to stock an additional copy or two – and shelf space is at a premium.  Shelf space is free advertising for books that they don’t get elsewhere.

Why should we support these hard working authors?  We should support them because good books need a leg up.  There is only a certain amount of publicity budget available at publishing houses these days (and even less budget available for many self-published and indie authors), and mid-list authors with great books can benefit from a few extra recommendations ever so much.  Getting the word out about authors and books we love is paying it forward.  Every single mention counts.  I’ve heard John Green got to where he is because his books spread virally before he made it big.

But, you say, there are so many!  Well, just pick a couple you’re excited about and spread the word.  Here’s a few sites to encourage your imagination:

What other advice would you add about supporting debut authors and their ever-so-fabulous debut novels?  Where else have you seen debut author listings online?

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How a Book is Born

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Today is the day for a short post.  Galley Cat over at mediabistro.com recently shared this oh-so-fantastic infographic that absolutely deserves more blog love.  You can find the origin of the infographic over at weldonowen.com.

My favorite part of this infographic is that it is never ending; no matter where you are on the chart, you can end up with a book about goat farming (or publish a novel).  What would you add to this chart?  Perhaps a section on self-published books?  Perhaps a section on unicorns?

How a Book is Born infographic - Novel Conclusions - writing blog - literary blog - writing tips

How an Idea Becomes a Book via weldonowen.com

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