How to Tighten Your Manuscript

writingI learned a new term recently: “Pleonasms.”

A pleonasm is a word or phrase which can be removed from a sentence without changing its meaning. For example, “John walked to the chair and sat down.” Down is a pleonasm and can be removed without changing the meaning of the sentence.

Although I was not familiar with the term, I did know them when I saw them. In fact, part of my editing advice revolves around deleting extraneous words. Words such as “that,” “very,” “both,” “just,” and “there was.” Others might include “began,” “started,” or “continued.”

I also caution to watch use of “ly” words. These words are often used to prop up weak verbs. For example: “She walked quickly” can be stronger if written “She strode” (or bounded or rushed). Likewise with the “to be” verbs (was, were, had been, etc.) especially when used with an “ing” verb. “She was walking” is better as “She walked.”

Some authors like to use taglines (he said, she said) plus an action: …she said, taking a sip of coffee. The simple action is sufficient: She took a sip of coffee.

You also don’t need to describe two actions at once: She nodded and smiled. Or: He puffed himself up and took a swig...

NO symbolA writer friend of mine is looking at every sentence in her manuscript and challenging herself to remove at least one word from each. She cut 14,000 words from a 400-page manuscript.

I challenge you to go one step farther, see if you can delete an entire phrase from a sentence, an entire sentence from a paragraph, a paragraph from a scene. Exterminate those “Pesky Pleonasms.”

Sneaky Snuck

How did the word “snuck” sneak into the dictionary and into our “approved” form of language?

This word is one of my pet peeves, and if you are an editing client of mine, I will strongly suggest that you use the “proper” form “sneaked” unless it’s in dialogue.

I think my reaction stems from growing up in an isolated rural area where most people were not highly educated (no denigration intended—they were wonderful friends and neighbors and would do anything to help each other in times of need. But a word like “snuck” that was used as slang by people who also said, “The kids had their pitcher took at school today,” is an indication of that same lack of education or care about proper English.

It’s like “ain’t.” That’s in the dictionary too, but it’s still not “proper” to use, except in slang dialogue.detective

According to wiktionary.org, “snuck” is an irregular verb form that originated in the late 19th century dialect, but is now listed as the “simple past tense and past participle of sneak.” It’s considered the nonstandard past tense—basically meaning that “sneaked” is the preferred word-choice, but “snuck” is also acceptable.

Merriam-Webster’s Etymology: akin to Old English snIcan to sneak along, Old Norse snIkja.

Here’s a link to an interesting article on “Sentence First: An Irishman’s Blog About the English Language http://stancarey.wordpress.com/2010/06/18/snuck-sneaked-in/

And this is a snippet from The Word Detective’s Q&A, who seems to agree with me:

“Yes, ‘snuck’ is a real word, although it has always been classified as ‘substandard English.’ ‘Snuck’ first appeared in the 19th century as a regional variant of ‘sneaked,’ and is still considered colloquial English, but is apparently gaining in respectability among literate folk. Still, ‘snuck’ is not the sort of word to use on your resume, although ‘sneaked’ is usually not a big hit on resumes either, come to think of it. In general, however, my advice is to stick with ‘sneaked.’ Unless you’re talking to Elvis, of course. I happen to know he says ‘snuck’.” http://www.word-detective.com/back-c.html

What are some of your “pet peeve” words that have sneaked into the English Language?

Published in: on June 9, 2017 at 10:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Sink, Sank, Sunk–Which do You Use?

I’ve been noticing more and more use of words like “sunk” as the simple past tense, by authors and even in newspaper writing. For example: I sunk into the easy chair.

Here are some other examples: I’ve heard people say I seen it, when they should say I saw it. Or they will use the past tense instead of the correct past participle: We could have went to the movie.

My editor’s hackles go up!

The simple past tense of “sink” is “sank.” The word “sunk” is used as the past participle (or past perfect) and always requires the “helper” word “has” or “had.”

Sinking shipSink: I sink the ship today.

I sank the ship yesterday.

I have sunk the ship many times.

 

See: I see it today.

I saw it yesterday.

I have seen it many times before.

 

Go: I go to the movie (or I’m going to the movie today).

I went to the movie yesterday.

I have gone to the movies many times.

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I remember memorizing many of these verb forms when I was in grade school. Maybe they don’t teach that anymore?

Don’t even get me started on “snuck.” (A blog for another time!)

Published in: on June 2, 2017 at 6:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Women to Match Our Californio Mountains

 

by Anne Schroeder

maria-ines-coverThe Spanish women of California have been popularly portrayed by Hollywood as vapid fashionistas or dark-eyed flirts peering over their fans at smitten suitors. In fact, these women were strong helpmates in a new land. In the early 1870s, interviewers under the direction of historian Hubert Howe Bancroft set out to record the memories of many aging Spanish widows. These anecdotal stories revealed amazing recall of dates, names and events that had occurred decades earlier. Girls were reared to be vivacious and charming, and they used their charm to bring down unpopular governors and uncover plots by their servants. They defied their Yanqui invaders by hiding bandidos, the true sons of the land, under their ball gowns, or in one case, in their birthing bed.

They were daring horsewomen. They slept on stiff cattle hides and made do without luxuries because the Spanish supply ship only arrived once a year. They were surprisingly robust when it came to childbearing. In many of the early families, 20-25 children born by a single mother survived childhood. Resolute in their Catholic faith and determined to be good examples to their Indian servants, they flourished in the remote outpost of California.

Every school kid knows the story of Sacagawea, leading the Lewis and Clark expedition across half a continent with a newborn baby and a sick husband. Then there’s Pocahontas, savior of the English colony and, later, wife of John Rolfe. After she was baptized under the Christian name of Rebecca, she became the toast of English aristocracy until her death at 22. But can you name another strong Indian woman?

I set out to write a series about a California native woman from a little-known tribe of Mission Indians. The Salinans lived in an area of sagebrush, forest and bottomland with a north-flowing river that runs from the Santa Lucia Mountains of the Central Coast to Monterey Bay, through what would later be known as the Salinas Valley.

Maria Inés was conceived as a result of rape by one of the soldados taxed with guarding the Mission. She is a native “everywoman” who endured in silence while she tried to assimilate her ranchería (village) traditions and her belief in the pagan god Cooksuy and the lesser gods of rain, sun and soil, with the demands made of the new white God that the padres brought. She was taken from her family before the age of 10 and placed in a monjério, a room with other unmarried girls and women who had not found a husband. Here they were trained by a trusted Spanish señora to spin, weave, wash clothes and groom themselves modestly in order to become fit wives and productive Spanish subjects.

For Maria Inés and her Indian sisters, California became a dangerous place. The Missions were the de facto inn keepers for travelers along El Camino Real, the long wagon track that led from Baja California. Strangers stopped for hospitality every night. Her blood was strong enough that she didn’t succumb to any of the white man’s diseases that decimated most of her people.

———–

Anne writes memoir and historical fiction set in the West, especially California, including many anne-at-cuesta-parkpublished short stories and essays. She and husband now make their home in Oregon where they share a passion for old ruins and out-of-the-way places.  If you want to learn more, ask your library to stock a copy. Maria Inés is published by Five Star Press, in hardbound in bookstores, Amazon and libraries. Cholama Moon is another novel in the Central Coast Series. Both are available on Kindle. Anneschroederauthor.blogspot.com

 

 

Cowgirl Up!

I am so excited to share that my book Cowgirl Up! A History of Rodeo Women has won the Global E-Books Award in the non-fiction history category.

CowgirlUp Cover 1x1.5

When someone says “Cowgirl Up!” it means rise to the occasion, don’t give up, and  do it all without whining or complaining. And the cowgirls of the early twentieth century did it all, just like the men, only wearing skirts and sometimes with a baby waiting behind the chutes.

Women learned to rope and ride out of necessity, helping their fathers, brothers, and husbands with the ranch work. But for some women, it went further than that. They caught the fever of freedom, the thirst for adrenaline, and the thrill of competition, and many started their rodeo careers as early as age fourteen. From Alice and Margie Greenough of Red Lodge, whose father told them “If you can’t ride ’em, walk,” to Jane Burnett Smith of Gilt Edge who sneaked off to ride in rodeos at age eleven, women made wide inroads into the masculine world of rodeo.

Montana boasts its share of women who “busted broncs” and broke ranks in the macho world of rodeo during the early to mid-1900s. Cowgirl Up! is the history of these cowgirls, their courage, and their accomplishments. GEbA_Gold

And here is a related post with some wonderful photos of the “bad-ass” cowgirls of the 20th century.

Dare to Dream Honored

Somehow, having one’s book honored in an awards contest is a bigger deal than you would think. I was surprised to find myself walking with a lighter step, smiling a little more, and wanting to share the news with everyone: Dare to Dream is a Finalist in the International Book Awards in the Fiction: Young Adult category!International Book Awardsw

The whole writing and publishing experience is akin to a birthing experience. Writing is not an easy process. Some days we sit and struggle with a few words, then after critique partners go through it, maybe we toss those hard-won words aside and start again.

Do we have a good enough opening to “hook” the reader? Does the story continue to flow throughout or does it lose momentum and sag in the middle? Are our characters “real” and people the reader can cheer on to achieve their goals? Is the ending satisfying?

Once you spend weeks, months, even years getting every word “just right,” then, with held breath and jittery anticipation, you send your baby out into the agent/publisher world, only to receive those “Thank you, but this is not right for us at this time” form rejections.

Rejection = dejection.

But, after you collect enough of those letters to wallpaper your office, maybe, just maybe one will be “Yes! We love your story and would like to publish your book.”

Cloud 99, here we come!Dare Cover .5x1

But the next step of the journey has just begun. Once you hold that “baby” in your hands–the first paper copy–then you have to get out there and “sell” it! Marketing is a whole ‘nother game, wearing a different hat. “Please buy my book. It’s great!” We creative types are not always good at putting ourselves out there and tooting our own horns. What to do? Social media, mail campaigns, Facebook events, speaking engagements, arts and crafts fairs, book signings.

All phases of this writing/publishing/marketing journey are hard work.

And so, if you receive some small recognition, like being a finalist in a contest, it is validation. And it gives that small push to keep on doing it!

Published in: on May 24, 2016 at 6:38 pm  Comments (2)  

Cowgirl Up! A Colorful Legend

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Reviewed by Ray Simmons for Readers’ Favorite

Cowgirl Up! A History of Rodeo Women by Heidi M. Thomas captures a small piece of American history that might otherwise be forgotten. I’m talking about the contribution of women to the world of rodeo. Cowgirl Up! specifically concentrates on the contribution of women from Montana during the golden age of rodeo in America. Montana became one of the states holding commercial rodeos in 1896, but rodeo derived from the working world of ranching. Long before the commercial rodeos sprang into being, there were informal local contests to see who was best at roping, riding, and bronco busting. Conditions were terrible sometimes and the pay was not good by today’s standards, but that didn’t stop women from wanting to compete.
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Cowgirl Up! takes this early history and weaves it into colorful legend. There are many famous names from American history here. Theodore Roosevelt, Will Rogers, Dale Evans, and Annie Oakley are the ones I knew. If you are a real rodeo fan, you will probably recognize names like Lucille Mulhall, Prairie Rose Henderson, and Fanny Sperry. The characters, both men and women, are colorful. The history is rich, and the anecdotes, facts, and biography are very well written. It is obvious that Heidi M. Thomas loves her subject and, if you are a fan of the American West and American history, you do not want to miss Cowgirl Up! It should be on the bookshelf in every school library across America, but especially in states where rodeo played an important part in their history. These women and this sport should not be forgotten.

 

Published in: on May 19, 2016 at 11:47 pm  Comments (2)  
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Happy New Year!

 

happy-new-year-large 

I wish you all peace, happiness and good health in this New Year!

Published in: on December 31, 2015 at 10:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

Happy Holidays!

Christmas nativity

May the Reason for the Season bring you light and joy!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Published in: on December 24, 2015 at 6:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

Sailing With Impunity

Impunity cover 300x200I recently came back to land after a thoroughly enjoyable armchair adventure with Mary and Bruce Trimble on their sailboat Impunity. Sailing With Impunity: Adventure in the South Pacific is a story of a dream fulfilled for two very courageous and adventurous people. I hung on every word, from the chilling opening with “Man Overboard” and the life-threatening storms to the delightful, lazy days in tropical harbors and the new friends they made.

Welcome, Mary. You certainly have had an adventurous life, from living in Hawaii to the Peace Corps in the Gambia, to serving the Red Cross, to this 18-month sailing odyssey. Is this bold “venturesomeness” a part of your DNA, so to speak, something you always aspired to?

Mary: I love adventure. Right after I was born, my dad picked up my mother and me from the hospital and, along with my three year-old sister, we went camping. I guess that set the pace.

How did you and Bruce come to the decision to quit your jobs, sell your house and buy a sailboat to sail around the world?

Mary: We were both at a period in our lives that we longed for change. I loved my job as a computer/analyst at Safeco Insurance Company, and Bruce had a good job, too, working in the marine electronics field. But we knew how strenuous sailing is and decided that if we were going to do it, that was the time.

Sailing, to the uninitiated, sounds so romantic, peaceful and fun. Did you anticipate the possible dangers of this trip, and how did you prepare?

Mary: To tell you the truth, I had thought of this as a sort of luxury cruise. Bruce knew better. It wasn’t a luxury, though there were some lovely periods. But life at sea is hard work and can be downright dangerous. We prepared for some of the possibilities by having drills, such as the “man overboard” drill. We wore safety equipment; i.e. life vests and safety lines (tethers attached to the person and to the boat). We put rules in place such as no changing sails alone—the other person always needed to be present. Someone was always on deck and responsible for the boat, so we stood four hours on, four hours off, watch schedules.

What was the worst part of your trip?

Mary: Going along the U.S. west coast was pretty rough, but I guess the worst part was Cyclone Ofa that we experienced while in Samoa. The storm lasted for about 36 hours. We stayed aboard Impunity to do what we could to protect our boat.

How about the best part(s)?

Mary: Some legs of the journey had good winds and calm seas. We would scoot silently along with a minimum of work on our part. That was glorious. The night stars were wondrous and felt so close. Our companionship with each other was a real plus. We never tired of each other’s company.

What advice would you give someone who wants to experience this type of adventure?

Mary: Be prepared! We were appalled at how many people undertake this journey unprepared. It took a lot of work and planning, but we had food enough to last the journey, supplementing with fresh vegetables, fruit and meat or fish at various ports of call. Food can be expensive in the South Pacific. Also, Bruce stowed spares of anything that could possibly go wrong—spare pumps, seals, screws, sail repair equipment, etc. These are simple steps, but important for a safe trip.

How do you fulfill your adventuresome spirit now that you are “retired”?

Mary: Actually, we’re not retired. I am a full-time writer. Sailing with Impunity is my fifth book and second memoir. Bruce is still working, though retirement is hopefully not too far off.

———-

A prolific writer, Trimble draws on personal experiences including Mary0010 croppurser and ship’s diver aboard the tall ship, M.S. Explorer, two years with the Peace Corps in West Africa, and a 13,000-mile South Pacific sailing trip aboard their Bristol 40, Impunity.

   Mary Trimble’s recently published memoir, Sailing with Impunity: Adventure in the South Pacific is about their 14-month sailing adventure, from magical sights and scents of their first island landfall to the bustling, colorful Tahitian markets. From sudden midnight squalls and weathering a cyclone in Samoa to pristine anchorages in the Kingdom of Tonga.

   An award-winning freelance writer, Trimble’s other works include Tubob: Two Years in West Africa with the Peace Corps, a story of a newly married couple who discover themselves in new light as they work and learn about a third-world culture. Tenderfoot, a romantic suspense with a sub-plot of the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption. Tenderfoot won finalist with Western Writers of America for Best Western Long Novel. Her coming-of-age novels, Rosemount and McClellan’s Bluff have been met with enthusiastic acclaim.

   Trimble lives on Camano Island with her husband, Bruce.

Published in: on December 11, 2015 at 5:43 pm  Comments (1)  
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