Line by Line Editing: Part Two: Bad Sentence Structure

Author: Anastasia V. Pergakis // Category:

We all learn in English class that sentence structure follows the order Subject - Verb - Object (or predicate). You can then add to that with modifying phrases and clauses. The problems come in when there are too many modifiers or when the modifiers are in the wrong place.

Subject-Verb Connections
In a sentence with a subject that contains a noun modified by a huge string of phrases and clauses before the verb is hard to read. (Take the previous sentence there as an obvious example.)

Sometimes this is easily fixed by rearranging the sentence. Other times, it may require starting over or changing part of the sentence entirely.

If we rewrote the beginning sentence for this section to rearrange all the phrases before the verb, you have something like this: A sentence is hard to read when there is a long string of modifiers before the verb. The point is still presented but in a much simpler way.

Writers should also avoid long-winded modifiers before the subject. If a reader can't find the subject in a sentence, it causes a pause. Granted most readers are not LOOKING for the subjects directly, but if they become confused with a long winded sentence, they are likely to stop reading. This problem can be fixed by splitting the sentence into two, getting rid of needless phrases, or moving a few of the phrases to the predicate.

This example comes from a great book I read, "Line by Line: How to Improve your own Writing" by Claire Kehrwald Cook. Still persisting almost twenty years, after the assassination, with its truth or falsehood probably never to be convincely proved despite the negative conclusion of repeated investigations, the rumor of a conspiracy to kill President Kennedy has fueled yet another work of fiction.

Hard to read isn't it? The book continues on with a possible solution by splitting the sentence into two: Despite the negative conclusions of repeated investigations, the rumor of a conspiracy to kill President Kennedy persists, probably never to be convincingly proved or disproved. Now, more than twenty years after the assassination, it has fueled yet another work of fiction.

Personally, I would go further to rephrase and move the ending clause in the first sentence: Despite the negative conclusions of repeated investigations, the rumor of a conspiracy to kill Present Kennedy persists. More than twenty years after the assassination, the inability to prove or disprove the rumors has fueled yet another work of fiction. (On a personal note, I think that "convincingly" is a terrible adverb, so I did not keep it in my rewrite. If you prefer, it could be still be placed after "to" and before "prove".)

Writers can mean one thing in a sentence but a reader will take it in an entirely different way. This is due to having ambiguous words or phrases that contradict each other or appear to modify the wrong word.

Other times, it can be a word used the wrong way. Take the following sentence: The writer condemns heavily modified subjects and objects that they muddy the sentence structure. Most would think that "objects" is another noun (subjects and objects) but actually it's a verb (objects to). Using a different word helps clear the confusion here so the sentence reads better: The writer condemns heavily modified subjects and argues that they muddy the sentence structure. You can also take out the second verb entirely and replace "and": The writer condemns heavily modified subjects because they muddy the sentence structure.

Object Placement
Confusion in a sentence can also occur between verb and object or between prepositional phrases and object. The connection may not be clear and these two can often occur together.

Take the following sentence: Please read and let me have your views on the attached memo. There can be two sentences here "Please read the attached memo. Let me have your views on the attached memo." In the example, it is hard for a reader to connect the verb "read" with it's object "memo" as another verb and a preposition are in the way. It would be much better to rewrite the sentence like this: Please read the attached memo and let me have you views. Or you could even take out "read" entirely as it is a given that in order give an opinion on something, you have to read it first. Please let me have your views on the attached memo.

When two prepositions share the same object, it can be a common mistake to "shorten" the sentence by not repeating the object twice. I make this mistake a lot myself as to me it sounds more professional to write a sentence this way - but it's not true! He always consulted with, and asked the approval of, his friends. The two phrases in this sentence are "of his friends" and "with his friends". It is much better to write the sentence this way He always consulted with his friends and asked their approval.

Fixing the Problem
Read your work out loud in one way to find these common mistakes. If it doesn't sound right, it needs to be fixed. Think of how the reader will interpret the sentence. YOU may know what you meant to say, but the reader may not. Put yourself in the mind of a reader when going over your work to make sure that they understand it too.

Don't expect or demand readers to search for your meaning behind a sentence. True, readers are not stupid and so by rights they can figure out what you meant. But why make them pause at one sentence after another to reread? These stops and distractions dissolve whatever spell you are trying to weave. "Efficient writing makes effortless reading." (Claire Kehrwald Cook)

Line by Line Editing: Part One: Long Sentences

Author: Anastasia V. Pergakis // Category:

Long sentences are caused by a number of reasons - weak verbs, too many nouns, and/or an overuse of prepositional phrases. In The Writer's Academy I see this happen a lot in the short story and novel classes. At the time, I did not realize why many of the sentences "sounded wrong" to me - they just did. After doing a bit of research, now I know WHY they sounded wrong.

Weak Verbs
I knew this part well as other reviewers often pointed out this same mistake in my own work. Inert verbs (to be - am, is, was, were, being, been), actionless verbs (have, exist, etc) or the passive form (to be and a past participle - is believed, was seen), and verbs ending with -ing, all lend to the same argument -- aggressive or action verbs are more often than not, better than passive or actionless verbs.

Am I saying that you need to go through and change every single passive verb to an agressive one? No. The point is not to have your manuscript riddeled with them. The rule I often make for myself is that I cannot have two sentences in a row that contain passive verbs. In an action scene (like a fight or chase), I don't allow passive verbs at all. Those are my personal rules, but they seem to work for me. I also do not pay much attention to passive/aggressive verbs in character dialogue, unless there is a certain feeling I wanted to create that was lost in using a passive verb. Otherwise, I let the characters talk the way they want.

Passive: Running across the sand, Tim felt like his lungs were going to explode.
Active: Tim sprinted across the sand, his lungs ready to explode.

Bulky Nouns
Often times a sentence becomes filled with too many nouns or long Latinate ones (end -tion, -ment, and -ence). Too many nouns can make a sentence boring or even hard to understand. Often times nouns used the wrong way, causes a writer to compensate with extra adjectives and pronouns that are not needed.

Bulky: During this blog post, I will provide information about wordy sentences and how to fix them, as there are many mistakes that can be made.
Simple: This blog post will provide information to fix common mistakes in sentence structure.

Overuse of Prepositional Phrases
Prepostionional phrases are easy to spot - just look for the preposition! For those that don't remember, a prepositional phrase is made of a preposition, its object and any assocated adjective or adverbs.

It is easy to over use prepostionial phrases when trying to describe something. However, the same detail or feelings can be shown without so many phrases in one sentence.

Too much: Writers can often fall into a trap where they have too many of these phrases in one sentence in a row. (4 phrases)
Better: Writers trap themselves when they have too many phrases in one sentence. (1 phrase)

Fixing the Problem
How can you catch these sorts of things in your own writing? It takes a certain mind set.

The first thing I do, is put my book down for a few days. When I return, I try to think of it as someone else's work - not mine. I'm much harder on others in a critique than I am on myself! Pretend it's not your story. (That is extremely hard to do, I know - but it works!)

Word has a great feature that I use to highlight the passive verbs. Then I choose a different color to highlight prepositions. I don't use this for nouns, I simply keep a close eye out when reading.

Instead of just reading the manuscript like I would a book I pulled from the shelf, I read it one sentence at a time. Sounds like normal reading right? Wrong! I mean that I read one sentence, then think about it. I ask myself "Can I make this sound better? Is there something here that shouldn't be (like too many nouns or phrases)? Is there something missing? If I answer no to all the questions, I read the second sentence and repeat the process.

It takes a long time to do it that way, but I find it is best to really catch the mistakes that are often hidden. Sometimes, I'll read out loud. Hearing the sentence aloud instead of just in my head, makes a huge difference in the way a sentence sounds. That can really help to find mistakes - especially if you know something is wrong, but you don't know what.

Of course, it never hurts to have someone else read your work too!

Deleted Scene - Drache's Dream

Author: Anastasia V. Pergakis // Category: ,

This is my deleted scene for Deleted Scenes Week

This scene was in the first draft of "The Faery's Tale" but I took it out when I completely rewrote the beginning. Here it is! I hope you enjoy! I actually might put it back in as the feelings Drache has about it still apply...hrmm...

Drache's Dream

Drache awoke to find himself lying in a field. He sat up and surveyed his new surroundings. How did he get here from his cave?

"Where am I?"

The place had a calmness about it that eased the nervous feeling he had about being in a new place. He sat in a field of full of flowers, every flower he could imagine. Butterflies flittered carelessly about. A slight breezed ruslted the trees. Bumblebees came new him but they did not sting him. Bunny rabbits chased each other through the tall grass and birds could be heard singing their happy songs. It was a paradise. Drache had never seen any thing so beautiful in his life.

"Drache. Drache!" a voice echoed.

Drache stood. "Who are you? Where are you? Show yourself!" He looked in every direction but could not see anyone near.

"I am every thing and I am every where," the voice replied.

He looked around again but still saw no one. It was as if the grass was talking to him. He stared to walk towards a huge oak tree when he noticed something else in the distance. He climbed the oak tree to see if he could get a better look.

There was a large lake with an island covered in roses in the middle of the still water. Standing in the midst of the roses, was a female, he guessed. It was hard to tell from the distance. The creatures hair was long and black. The breeze picked it up and whirled it around the creature's face.

"What is this place?" he whispered.

"This is my world," the voice answered.

Drache rolled his eyes. Drache sensed he need to meet this creature. He took flight from the branches of the tree but fell quickly to the ground.

"You cannot fly here, Drache."

"Yes, thank you," he muttered.

He stood, brushed himself off and slowly made his way toward the lake. Once he reached the water's edge, he took in the sight of the beautiful creature.

She wore a pale green dress with sleeves that hung down to her ankles. Her dark green cloak fluttered behind her. Her black hair, with white streaks, covered her face. Every thing about the creature shimmered, even her feet. He noticed that while she had beautiful wings, they did not move. Yet, she was floating in mid air a few inches above the ground.

A bridge appeared in front of him. He was hesitant to cross at first. He did not want to frighten her away. He took one step then another and slowly made his way across the bridge. Once his feet were in the soft ground on the other side, she held her hand out to him.

He still could not see her face clearly but he did see her emerald green eyes. They shone with such wisdom that Drache suddenly felt small standing in front of her.

"Who are you?" When the voice did the answer, Drache tried again. "Why is she here?"

"She is looking for you."

"Looking for me? Why?"

She still held her hand out to him. He was fascinated by her. Why did she not speak? Was she mute? Or was she telepathic and she was the voice in he heard?

"If you want to know, simply take her hand."

Drache reached out with a tembling hand. The moment his hand touched the soft skin of her palm, everything around him began to fade.

"Wait! I do not wish to go! It is so peaceful here!"

"Wake up please," the creature said. "You must."

He tried desperately to hold on to the dream. Something told him to grab a rose but he was not sure why. The last thing he saw was her sparkling emerald eyes.

Drache opened his eyes and found himself back in his cave. He looked into the same green eyes he had just seen fade away.

"Why do you haunt me so?" he whispered.

Stressed to the Max

Author: Anastasia V. Pergakis // Category:

Oh boy am I stressed out people! I really want to start my own business but the cost it would take to start one is just depressing!!

Many of you from Writing.Com know of my group/project "The Writer's Academy". Well I feel it is time to upgrade it to it's own site, so that it can really reach more writers and not be bogged down by the other wonderful groups on WDC.

However, in order to do that, I need to pay for a server (either buying one myself or renting space from another persons server), a business license (which requires tax people and lawyers!), and a bunch of other small things. I'll probably have to pay someone to help me set it up as I do not know ALL there is to know about website construction (esp when dealing with a site that requires people to log in and have a profile etc). I know a little, but not enough for me to just do it on my own.

Then take into account the time and energy it would take to build something like that. It took me two months to set it up on WDC - and I was able to create pages and forums with a snap. With my own site, I'd have to configure the forums first and enable this setting and that setting and THEN set up the forum itself for people to use it!

BUT -- make no mistake, I will do this! It's just a matter of when! I was hoping it would be by August of this year, but with the cost and time involved it might be longer. *sigh* Which is a bit disappointing but, better than never right? Yea, right.

**Originally posted on my other blog "Abyss of My Soul"**

Deleted Scenes Week

Author: Anastasia V. Pergakis // Category:

I dub this week "Deleted Scenes Week"!!! I know my fellow writers have a stack of those wonderful deleted scenes! They may be great but they just didn't make the final cut! So, post a few of your deleted scenes! (Don't forget to say which story it came from!)

Post your links in a comment here. The person who has the best deleted scene (based on my opinion) will get a review of your manuscript/novel from me and a mystery prize!

You are welcome to use the image in your post if you like! Have fun! I'll start reviewing Monday morning to make sure you get them linked in by Sunday night!

Story of William Archer

Author: Anastasia V. Pergakis // Category:

Okay, I have this character in my head that does not belong to a story -- yet. I have his story in notes and things like that, but alas no actual story --- yet. The problem with this is he won't leave me alone! So, I am handing this post over to him - enjoy. My interruptions will be in a different color font. *wink* As a note, he refuses to call me by my pen name, so he'll refer to me by my real name. So here is, William Archer. (Note, he talks with a british accent.)

Well, it's about bloody time! I thought I would never get a say! Lady Anastasia says I should tell you what I look like - if I must, I must. I stand over six feet tall, long black hair, black eyes ... He has silky, shiny black hair that he wears in a pony tail at the nape of his neck. His black eyes can pierce your soul! Over six feet tall? Yea, you stand six foot six babes. Okay yea, he's giving me the piercing stare right now. Sorry, please continue ... Ahem. As I was saying, I have the build of a warrior, fine tuned body ready to fight at any moment. ... Meaning he has six pack abs, defined arms, and a cute butt ... I don't understand! Where did you learn to speak? ... My apologies Sir, I forgot to whom I was speaking ... Much better. Now, may I continue? Thank you.

I was knighted about ten years ago, the youngest man ever to be knighted. The sword I carry was from my Mother, gifted to me on the day of my knighthood. It's handcrafted by the finest sword smiths in Ollur ... It's a small kingdom on the - pardon me. ... Yes, Ollur is a rather small kingdom on the sea but it has a very rich heritage in weapon making and ship building.

However, that history and our heritage is threatened. A new King as risen to power and he appears to be on the side of wrong. He's raised taxes so high that even many nobles have trouble paying them. I have tried to help the people of Ollur as much as I can. Lady Anastasia says I am like a certain man known as Robin Hood. The King discovered my acts and stripped me of my title. I am now considered an outlaw, on the run from the King's guards. In order to support myself and still help the people of Ollur, I have taken to what many call 'piracy'. It is a hard life but it must be done. I refuse to stand idly by and let the kingdom that I have bled for fall to ruin! ... Peace, William. Tell them why you wear a mask ... Is that not obvious? The ladies love it. ...*shakes head and rolls eyes* ... By the way, I speak with an Ollurian accent, not this British as you say. Before you say it, I have no interest in hearing that it sounds like British. ... Whatever. Seriously, tell them why you wear a mask. ...

If you insist. I wear this black mask because of the circumstances of my parent's death. ... Are you going to elaborate on that? ... No. ... All right then. William, you have this whole post to yourself. You can keep talking if you wish. ... I think I am done for now. Must leave a little room for imagination and mystery. Give the ladies time to catch their breath. ... *rolls eyes* ... I will return! Lady Anastasia cannot deny me any longer! My voice will be heard! *struts away with a flutter of his cape, throwing a red rose over his shoulder*

Silver Lining

Author: Anastasia V. Pergakis // Category:

Thank you so much Ashy for this lovely award! It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside!

So I need to pass it one to five other blogs so, once again, here is my short list. Don't worry, if you guys have recieve this award, I will not force you to keep sending this one -I understand that eventually, you run out of people to send stuff to.

1. Annie McMahon
2. SM Blodding & Crew
3. Dawn Embers
4. Dawne Dominique
5. To the first person who replies to this post who is not already on this list.

Thanks again Ashy! It really made me smile!!

**Originally posted on my other blog "Abyss of My Soul"**

Honest Scrap - Honestly!

Author: Anastasia V. Pergakis // Category:

Look! My first blog award!!! Thank you so much Mireyah!! I am honored!

The rules for this award is to post 10 things about myself then pass it one to 5 other blogs. So here we go!

1. I am a recovering alcoholic and drug addict. I have been clean and sober for 3 1/2 years after being in a drug induced fog for almost 10. The hardest part was not quitting, it was living that way. Imagine if you will, waking up in the morning and being pissed off that you woke up, scared that everything was real, and sadened by that reality. Now imagine that for every single morning for 10 years. It was easier to quit and learn to actually live - seriously.

2. I have never graduated - from anything. Shocking right? Yes, I dropped out of high school in the middle of my senior year (might tell this story in another blog post- it's a long one). I got my G.E.D. instead a few years later. Then I went to college to be a legal secretary. Had one semester left after 1 year (shoved 2 years worth of classes into 1 year) and was kicked out. (Again, another really long story that I will probably never talk about in a blog! Let's just say, it relates back to the stuff I said previously in this post. Drugs can ruin every thing - and I do mean every thing.) I went back to college again just a few years ago, but had to quit due to lack of money to pay for it. (Having chidlren changes things of course). I was studying Criminal Justice.

3. I love psychology. I took extra psych classes during my time at college. It is a really interesting topic to me. I love to people watch and I find it fun to learn about why people do the things they do. I love to watch those shows "Inside the mind of a Serial Killer" type of things. I find it fascinating that sometimes the brain patterns of a serial killer or rapist is actually different than the average person. (This is also true for the brain patterns of alcoholics/addicts, just so you know.)

4. I have severe social anxiety. Really. I hate to be in public around other people. I find it suffocating and scares the death out of me. I have panic attacks althought in recent years since meeting my husband, I don't have them as often as I used to. I used to take medication for the panic attacks, but all that did was put me to sleep for 12 hours. Now I just try to do breathing exercises and other techniques I have found to work. (Like LEAVING the crowded place or not going at all!) There are times where it gets so bad I need to have someone rock me so that I can match my breathing to the pattern (sort of like for asthma attacks when they don't have an inhaler).

5. I'm not stupid, I just know completely useless information! Seriously, how would I get on with my life without knowing that in the medieval ages the reason for women having just extra long sleeves was to show wealth, as they could afford to waste the fabric in such a way! Or how about knowing how to properly land after jumping out of an Army plane? (not the stupid way they do it in the movies!) (Sure if was a paratrooper that is valuable knowledge, but I'm a 25 year old stay at home mom!) Oh and the best knowledge of all, that is probably most important - HAN SHOT FIRST!

6. I can read in write in another 'language' other than English. It's not necessarily a language perse, but the ancient germanic runes are a text that was used for communication. I can write and read the text just as well as I can English. (Again this also qualifies as somewhat useless information because when would I need to know how to read this text?)

7. I can technically say I am working on 7 novels at the same time. Yea, enough said. (I bet your thinking, "No wonder she's insane!")

8. What else? I don't what to say! Umm...I don't wear make up, ever. Don't see the point really. It just makes my skin break out anyway so why make it worse? The rare times I do is for formal dressy times or if I'm in the mood to "goth out" as I say. But even then it's usually just mascara, eye shadow and lipstick. Don't need blush as my cheeks are naturally rosy and foundation just makes my skin break out so...

9. I am ambedextrious. To a point. I can't write very well with my left (But I'm sure if I practiced it would be easy to pick up) and I can only golf with my left but pretty much everything else I can with both hands. As a note, I am technically right handed. I have to learn something first with my right hand then it is an easy switch to the left (except for golf that I can't do right handed no matter how hard I try!)

10. Last thing! I have been asked to be a guest writer for! I cannot believe I was asked to write something about reviewing books! I am so honored! It will be appearing the third week of march and I will put a little blurb in my writing blog, Labotomy of a Writer. So keep an eye out for it!

I have to pass this on to 5 other blogs, but I don't know anyone really! The ones I do know have already recieved this award!

4. To the first person who replies to this post that is not already on this list!
5. To the second person who replies to this post that is not already on this list!

I really need to get to know more people on the blog network here! But there it is! Thanks so much again Mireyah for thinking of me and honoring me with this great award!

**Originally posted on my other blog "Abyss of My Soul"**

Great Information

Author: Anastasia V. Pergakis // Category:

I just read a great blog post by a very interesting person. She is a published author and running the workshop I am in right now. While I am sort of lurking in this part of the workshop due to lack of experience, she is providing some great tips for getting published, before and after.

So take a look at this blog entry! It's fantastic! You'll learn a lot from reading the rest of her blog too!

Promotion for Authors
by Dawne Dominique

Reviews (Part Two)

Author: Anastasia V. Pergakis // Category: ,

One of the most frustrating things about getting reviews or critiques about your work is what to do if you disagree or if you get conflicting information.

I recently had both situations happen to me. I got three new reviews for Chapter One from the novel workshop I am a part of. I had one reviewer tell me that I had too much detail. Basically that I should take out the "narrator" voice telling the story only from the characters perspective. Great advice I thought. Well then the very next day, I had another great review tell me that it needed MORE detail and more descriptions. More internal thoughts from the characters. So, I was stuck - what do I do? Take out or add in? I had a third review tell me that only certain parts needed more detail then other parts needed to be taken out.

So what did I do? I printed out all three reviews and hung them up around my desk. (Just for easy reading). Then I opened up Chapter One and began to read through it, with the mindset that I was a reviewer, not the writer. This is hard to do as often times I get stuck on a scene that I just love - but in reality I know it shouldn't be there. My "notes" folder is full of scenes and even whole chapters that are great, but they just don't work in the story and had to be taken out.

Luckily, my reviews were done with "line by line" edits so I was easily able to find where they thought needed more or less detail. Did I do every single edit suggestion they put in front of me? No, that would be impossible. If I agreed with their suggestion - on a line by line basis, not on the entire chapter - I changed it. If I didn't agree, I would at least take a moment to find out why I disagreed. Is it just because I really like that part or was there another reason (like that part absolutely had to be there to set up the next chapter - that obviously the reader didn't know about yet). I had to be really honest with myself.

However, in the end, I was spurred to continue on to edit chapters 2, 3, 4, 5, AND 6 again! I added over 5,000 words but I am certain I took out just as much! The point is that I took out all the things that were not needed and added in the things that were.

That is the great thing about reviews. I improved 6 chapters based on a review for chapter one. I took their suggestions and advice and carried it through the next few chapters. I didn 't wait for them to read those sections, I merely trudged on. Of course, if they do review the chapters and they have more suggestions, I will do the process over again of seeing how they can be improved. That's the wonderful (or worst) part of revising/editing - you're going to edit a scene many times before it's good to go.

With the major re-editing of this first 6 chapters (which morphed chapter 7 into it, so chapter 7 was basically deleted) - the now Chapter 7 is being written from scratch! All new stuff is being added. The idea brewing in my head will add a huge dinamic to the story and new relationships for the characters. To give you a little hint - what is an adventure without a bit of fire?