Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Weak Writing- Gerunds

There are all kinds of things to avoid in writing that weakens the power of your words. Many of them I've already posted about such as crutch words, filtering, passive writing, boring verbs. But there's another indicator of weak writing that isn't as well known--gerunds. 

So gerunds. What's that? The easy answer is -ing verbs used as some form of noun whether that be the subject, direct object, or objects of a predicate. Many writers lump all forms of -ing verbs together and try to avoid all of them. That can lead to some awkward or weird sentences. It's like saying never use adjectives or adverbs. Ridiculous. You can't writing a story without certain words. Just don't try.

What's more important is to be aware of your word choices and make sure they are used for a reason. There are some gerunds to be avoided. And others that are less harmful.

(Please note that I'm no English major. Grammar isn't my strong suit. I'll do my best to get the terms right. ) 

When gerunds come up in writing discussions, it's usually paired with to-be verbs. What we used to call helping verbs. Like so:

Suzie is flying to the post office.
James was sweating up a storm before his speech.
Helen and Jake are shopping for my present.

And it's usually considered weak writing because you're using extra words and the sentence feels less active written this way. That's easy to fix.

Suzie flew to the post office.
James' armpits poured with sweat as he waited to give his speech.
Helen and Jake drove off to shop for my present.

Another form of a gerund is when it's used as the subject of a sentence.

Reading is my favorite leisure activity.
Swimming is a low impact exercise.
Eavesdropping is a nasty habit.

My opinion is that these types of sentence in your writing are usual rare enough to be ignored and left as is. It's not likely that using -ing verbs as a subject will be overused in a story or that your pages will be full of this type of sentence. Try and avoid having too many of them and then don't worry about this form of gerund.

Next up is the another form of -ing--the participle phrase. These are often used in action sentences to create a flow of movement. When you have a lot of such action sentences in a row, participle phrases can be useful to give a different sentence structure from conjunctions alone. But beware of placing them at the beginning of your sentences. 

Santa's sleigh flew through the night sky, stars blurring with its passage.
Binki the elf grabbed for the safety rail, tumbling off the vehicle. 
Arms and legs churning, he plummeted through the air.

There are easy to rewrite to be more direct also. 

Santa's sleigh flew through the night ski, and stars blurred with its passage.
Binki the elf grabbed for the safety rail, but he tumbled off the vehicle.
His arms and legs churned as he plummeted through the air.

The trouble with getting rid of all participle phrases is that your sentences begin to get a cadence and all sound alike. Especially the longer the action continues. You simply have to mix things up and use some -ing phrases, if just for variance. 

So how do you get a good mix? That's where reading great writers in your genre comes in. After careful observation I've noticed that writers often use participle phrases in the middle of or end of their sentence. But rarely do strong authors use participle phrases at the beginning of their sentences. If you want to banish more -ing from your sentences, this is the one to eliminate. So a better mix might look more like this:

Santa's sleigh flew through the night ski, stars blurring with its passage.
Binki the elf grabbed for the safety rail, but he tumbled off the vehicle.

His arms and legs churned as he plummeted through the air.

To repeat myself, No More sentences like:

Dancing in time to the music, Rudolph clicked his hooves.
Jumping for joy, Sally tore into her presents.
Using the Bumble for a trampoline, Yukon Cornelius launched a kiss on Mrs. Claus.

They just don't flow.These types of sentences stick out. Pile too many together and they'll tire the reader. I suggested my Pitchwars mentees limit themselves to one sentence with this structure to a chapter, and I hinted that zero is the better choice. Whenever I see books with many of these participle phrases sentences I have to wonder about their copy editor.

Here's some other ways they could have been phrased: 

Rudolph danced in time to the music, clicking his heels. 
Rudolph danced in time to the music and clicked his heels.
Sally jumped for joy as she tore into her presents.
With the Bumble for a trampoline, Yukon Cornelius launched a kiss at Mrs. Claus. 
Yukon Cornelius launched a kiss at Mrs Claus from his Bumble trampoline. 
Yukon Cornelius bounced off his Bumble trampoline and launched a kiss at Mrs. Claus.  

That's my take on gerunds and I hope you found something useful in my rambling.    


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Announcing Sun vs Snow for 2018

It’s that time again for THE BIG BATTLE between the heat and the cold! Yes, it’s time for the fifth year of Sun vs. Snow hosted by me and the fantastic, Amy Trueblood. We had several amazing success stories from last year. This time we have a fun new question and some important details about the entry process. Please read the following THOROUGHLY and then let us know if you have questions.

The submission window for Sun versus Snow will open January 23rd at 4:00 pm EST. 

Act fast. We will only be taking the first 200 entries. Please do not enter early or your entry will be deleted. You can resend at the proper time if this happens accidentally. Confirmation emails will be sent. If you don’t receive one, don’t resend. We don’t want duplicate entries. Please check with us on Twitter first to confirm your entry did or did not arrive, then you may resend. 

There is only ONE, yes that’s right, ONE entry per person allowed. Any attempt to cheat will result in entries being thrown out. This contest is only for finished and polished stories. Do not send us your NaNoWriMo from November 2017. 

Important note: The story can’t have been in the agent round of any other contest in the last three months. This doesn't mean twitter pitch events with hashtags, but multiple agent blog contests. 

Also, Michelle and I have decided not to accept picture books for this contest. Though we love picture books, Michelle holds special contests just for them. We do accept all MG, YA, NA and Adult genres, excluding erotica. To enter you must be followers of our blogs. Click the “follow” button on my blog. You can find Amy's blog here. If following our blogs doesn't work, follow us on twitter or sign up for our newsletters instead. 

The Format:

Send submission to Sunversussnow (at) yahoo (dot) com. Only one submission per person is allowed. It doesn’t matter if you write under different names or are submitting different manuscripts. You are still one person and get one entry.

Here’s how it should be formatted (yes, include the bolded!) Please use Times New Roman (or equivalent), 12 pt font, and put spaces between paragraphs. No indents or tabs are needed. No worries if your gmail doesn’t have Times New Roman. No worries if the email messes up your format. Yes, we will still read it! :-)  

(Here’s a trick to keep your paragraph spacing: copy and paste your entry into your email and then put in the line spaces. They seem to get lost when you copy and paste. It may look right but sending scrambles the spacing.)

Subject Line: SVS: TITLE, Age Category + Genre
(example: SVS: GRUDGING, Adult Epic Fantasy)

In The Email:

Title: MY FANTASTIC BOOK (yes, caps!)
Genre: YA dystopian Ownvoices (Age category and genre. Add "Ownvoices" here if it applies)
Word Count: XX,XXX (round to the nearest thousand)
Twitter Handle: (Optional so we can contact you. Will not be public.)

Is Your Antagonist hot or cold: 

Describe whether your antagonist is hot or cold. Personalities differ. Does your villain snap easily or are they calm and calculating? (Don't have an antagonist who is a person--then describe the weather of your setting.) 

(Can be in your character's POV, but doesn’t have to be. 100 words or less.)


Query goes here! Include greeting and main paragraphs. Please leave out bio, closing, and word count + genre sentence. You may include comps if you’d like. There is no word count limit on the query but please aim for 250 – 300 words.

You may include if your story is OwnVoices up in the genre line. We really want diverse and talented writers and striping out the bios sometimes leaves us in the dark.

Remember a query has several paragraphs. Don't send us a pitch.  

First 250 words:

Here are the first 250 words of my manuscript, and I will not end in the middle of a sentence. But I will not go over 257 words. Be reasonable and don’t make us count. Don’t forget to space between paragraphs! No indents!

That’s it for now. Get those entries ready for January 23rd and leave any questions in the comments or ask on Twitter.

Mentors and agents will be posted in January. As of now, we have over ten agents signed up. There will be some crazy cool mentors who are itching to work with the selected entries. Keep checking my blog or sign up for my newsletter for advance warning of the FREE PASS to be on Team Snow!

So get those entries ready! We can’t wait to get started!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Release Day For Steadfast

The final novel in Michelle Hauck's Birth of Saints trilogy, Steadfast follows Grudging and Faithful in telling the fateful story of Claire and Ramiro and their battle against a god that hungers for blood.
When the Northerners invaded, the ciudades-estado knew they faced a powerful army. But what they didn’t expect was the deadly magic that was also brought to the desert: the white-robed priests with their lethal Diviners, and the evil god, Dal. Cities have burned, armies have been decimated, and entire populaces have been sacrificed in the Sun God’s name, and it looks as if nothing can prevent the devastation.
But there are still those with hope.
Claire, a Woman of the Song, has already brought considerable magic of her own to fight the Children of Dal, and Ramiro, a soldier who has forsaken his vows to Colina Hermosa’s cavalry in order to stand by her side, has killed and bled for their cause. Separated after the last battle, they move forward with the hope that the saints will hear their prayers, their families will be saved, and that they’ll see each other once more.
A stirring conclusion to the Birth of Saints series, Ramiro and Claire’s journey finds completion in a battle between evil and love.

My Appreciation to You:

The end is here. In some ways it's been a long journey. In others it has passed in the blink of an eye. It seems only yesterday the announcement for my Birth of Saints series came out. It was three years ago. Back then I was worried whether I could manage to write a series. Now it's finished. 

I want to thank everyone who has helped me on this journey. Thanks for your friendship that kept me writing. Your financial support to buy these books, and the support of your time to read them and even better to give more time to leave a review. 

It's because of readers that storytellers get to do their jobs.

New adventures wait for all of us--if we seek them. I look forward to finding a new adventure and surprising myself again.