Monday, March 12, 2012

A Dry Writing Day

No, I am not referring to the weather when I say today was a dry writing day. I am referring to the writing reality that not all days as an author may be spent indulging in the wonderfully creative process of putting words on paper to create a great story. And, since I am one writer who loves to research, a "dry" writing day does not refer to that either.

Today was dictionary and style manual day.

These four books are sitting beside me today. I usually use the online dictionary when I am in the process of writing. However, when the computer is off, and I need a quick look-up of a word, this is my standard go-to book. I have owned this Webster's Standard American Style Manual for years. (You can tell by the price--I doubt I can find a style manual for that price nowadays.) A lot of people, including many family history writers, like the Chicago style manual, which I found and used online when I was taking law classes. But, this book, for a quick look-up, works well.

The Basic Usage, Vocabulary, and Composition book, copyrighted in 1975, I have had since my early days enrolled in the "Writer's Digest Book Club" (not sure if that is the proper usage -- have not looked it up yet) has some good information. However, today, after I stalled as long as I could, I got busy reading through The Elements of Grammar. It is not exciting reading, but, I must admit, it was more interesting than I thought it would be. You can see in my picture I have my little homemade tabs and my highlighter to draw attention to elements of grammar to which I probably will want to refer in the future.

I know I won't do it, but it would not hurt me to read through this book about every 2-3 months, just to refresh myself on all that good grammar usage that sometimes stumps me when I am in the process of putting words on paper. After all, certain usages just are not comfortable to me, and I have to look them up every time. One, for example, is that it is not intuitive to me to ALWAYS put a period inside of quote marks, even for "short phrases." Yet, there it is on page 103. Why is it that I can only put the end-of-sentence punctuation outside the quote marks when "it is a question"? Or, for some reason, it's okay if it is "an exclamation point"!

Don't ask me. I just pack plenty of water and chocolate and buckle down to double-check all that dry style and usage business when I am in the final stages of editing one of my books.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Missed the Mark?

          I hate it when I have completed a great story, which is my humble opinion about my novel, Family Secrets, only to feel like I have missed the mark.
          I am referring particularly to my antagonist, Gerald, my heroine Jennie's unfaithful husband who is deployed to Afghanistan. The focus of this novel is on Jennie ferreting out the secrets in the lives of her mother and maternal grandparents and using the lessons of their experiences to help her work through her own challenges. One of her challenges is her husband.
          However, in the process of developing Grandpa Mike's character, I not only drew upon my own husband's Vietnam War experiences, I did some research on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as it applies to Vietnam War veterans. Some of my more current sources also covered the challenges of combat stress, PTSD and concussion, or mild Traumatic Brain Injury, as it applies to those returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
          That brings me back to Gerald in Family Secrets. He is an unsympathetic character by reason of his poor choices made prior to his most recent deployment to the war zone. However, the more I learn about the challenges facing our most recent returning combat veterans, the more I wish I had written a book with a focus on them. Greater understanding needs to be shared, not only with the nature of combat stress, but also the challenges of those family members left behind. What can veterans and their family expect, and how do those families adjust to and work together with the returning combat veteran to help everyone in the family return to the normalcy of civilian life?
          I have decided to bring this subject a little more in focus in future books in the GOLDEN OAKS series.