YOU Can Have Perfect Grammar Too!

Grammar has never been my thing.

I loved diagramming sentences in middle school, but the finer details have always escaped me.

I suppose that’s par for the course as I also have a tendency to skip directions, skim long descriptions in novels, and not put the last book/cup/stray sock in its place. When I weed a garden, a bucketful of weeds usually linger beside the garden long enough to kill the grass beneath it.

I’m an idea person.

idea

So, the bigger grammatical elements I can handle; it’s the nitpicky stuff that trips me up.

Which is why my favorite person in the publishing process is the copy editor. The copy editor keeps me from sounding like I barely passed sixth grade English.

I recently received the proof for my book that’s coming out in August and there were over 400 marks on it. (YES, that’s a lot, even for me.)

And yes, the book had already been copyedited. The proofreader, though, seems to be a zealous person. A nit-picker of nit-pickers, which, I suppose you want in a proofreader.

Many of the nits she was picking pertained to my voice, so my editor and I decided we’d stet most of her marks, which is a fancy way of saying we’d ignore them. (stet= Latin for ‘let it stand’)

Many more of the marks were additional commas she’d added to make my overly long sentences clearer. Okay, maybe.

I’ve spent the better part of my week considering those commas. I’m only more confused, but at least Frankie has finally realized I’m not talking to him as I read sentence after sentence out loud with and without a comma. He no longer jumps off the futon in hopes of a treat each time he hears my voice.

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The marks that pushed me over the edge, though, are the commas placed before the word ‘too.’

Everywhere the word appeared, the proofreader had inserted a comma preceding it.

For example-

I spent the entire day learning about commas, too.

Until a month ago, I had always put a comma before the word too, too.

But during the copy editing process, the copy editor had removed all my commas proceeding the word too at the end of a sentence. When I saw that, I thought—wait, wait, I don’t know much about grammar, but I KNOW there should be a comma before the word too!

A little research turned up the cold, hard, truth – my middle school English teacher was wrong.

That. Rocked. My. World.

Do you know how many times I’ve written a comma before the word too incorrectly? Do you know how many times that incorrect comma has been published?

Now, here was this proofreader reinserting every comma the copy editor had removed.

AGH! Who to trust? I posed the question to my editor and she said, The copy editor.

To prevent you from ever losing sleep over the use of a comma before the word too, let me set the record straight:

From no less than Grammarly, my go-to and permanently installed editor (which is a FREE Chrome extension- YOU should download it now!):

When using the word too, you only need to use a comma before it for emphasis. According to The Chicago Manual of Style, a comma before too should be used only to note an abrupt shift in thought. When too comes in the middle of a sentence, emphasis is almost always intended since it interrupts the natural flow of the sentence.

I, too, like bananas.

When a too comes at the end of a sentence, however, a comma is almost never needed.

I like bananas too.

So, now you know.

Always trust the copyeditor.

Hey, thanks for reading. I know you’ve got lots of options, so thanks for sharing a few of your minutes with me.

Honored,

Cara

If you’d like to know more about me, my books, and where you might run into me, check out my website, CaraWrites.com.

If you’d like to subscribe to my (sometimes) monthly e-newsletter, click here.

If you’re a dog lover, check out my other blog, Another Good Dog.

I’d love to connect with you on Facebook, twitter, or Instagram, and I’m thrilled to get email from readers (and writers), you can reach me at carasueachterberg@gmail.com.

COMING AUGUST 2018 FROM Pegasus Books (available for preorder now):

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I know that place, I’ve been there too

For whatever reason, I’ve been running into a lot of frustration lately.

I’m not the frustrated one, nope, I’m in a good place (for now). But a lot of the writers I know have recently shared their own head-banging-the-wall moments.

I know that place; I’ve been there. It’s part and parcel of being a writer, heck with being a person, really.

There are days, hours, okay maybe even weeks and months, but hopefully not years, when you feel as though all this slogging through the mud is getting you nowhere. No one, not even the dog, seems to appreciate your efforts. And let’s face it, basically, you suck at this. Continue reading “I know that place, I’ve been there too”

Avoiding Stagnation of the Soul (or Me-in the movies!)

Since you became an adult, how often do you do things you really don’t want to do?

Okay, bad example since we all pay taxes and spend our savings on the new furnace, roof, tires, etc.

We also clean out the sink drainer, fold our laundry, and go to the dentist.

I remember that as a kid, the big draw of being an adult is you no longer had to do anything unless you wanted to. I suppose that is still kind of true, but not doing some things could lead to losing your house, car, teeth, respect, significant other or even land you in jail.

And yet, sometimes it’s doing the things we are least comfortable doing, that make us grow, and maybe even change our lives. Staying put and only doing the easy stuff leads to stagnation of the soul.

stagnation of the soul

And once we do these things that make us uncomfortable, it gets easier and easier.

I’ve decided to try something new on my writing journey. Continue reading “Avoiding Stagnation of the Soul (or Me-in the movies!)”

Up for a Challenge?

I like challenges.

Especially when life feels like it’s drifting towards auto.

In the past, I’ve challenged myself to wear everything I own or donate it, try 100 new recipes in a year, shop only local for three months, and write a novel (see where that got me?).

Of late, I’ve challenged myself to read 52 books this year (goodreads is keeping me accountable) and finish my current novel-in-progress by April.

challenge

Big challenges are all splashy and fun, but it’s the little stuff that can make you batty. It’s also the little stuff that can change your life.

The minutiae that nag at your conscience (and your soul) can bog down your days and your to-do list. You know what I’m talking about – the tasks that won’t stop your world from turning if they don’t get done but would certainly improve your world if they did get done. You probably remember these things while you’re brushing your teeth before bed and then promptly neglect to do them again the next day.

And once you tackle these insidious little jobs, there’s room for inspiration and ideas and projects. All of which are accomplished one little insidious task at a time!

So I have a plan for me and YOU—so we can get some stuff done, maybe even change our lives.

This past week, I was the host of one of my publisher’s Facebook groups – The Back Booth: Talking Women’s Fiction. (btw, you’re WELCOME to join – we’d love to have you! The Back Booth offers daily discussions and visits with its authors and members.)

On Monday, I challenged members to post one thing that had been languishing on their to-do list– a task they would accomplish that week. I called it their Monday-Must-Do.

Lots of people were game and shared tasks big and small (make a doctor’s appointment, put away Christmas decorations, update a resume). On Friday I checked in with all of them and guess what? – nearly everybody had taken care of their Monday-Must-Do!

Telling people you’re going to do something, especially publicly in writing, creates accountability. It worked last week and it’s worked for me time and again when I took on challenges publicly via my blog.

So, for all our sakes, I’ve decided to create a way for us to challenge ourselves each week publicly, for real, on my little corner of the internet, and then hold ourselves (and me) accountable.

Even though many of you are dissing Facebook at the present (but please, who actually thought Facebook wasn’t collecting your stats and selling them?), I’m going to do this on my Facebook writer page.

You can follow along like a commoner lurking in the shadows OR you can join in! Every Monday I’m going to be telling you what my MONDAY MUST-DO is and asking you for yours. Are you game? Want to change your life, or at least get *hit done?

Monday must do

On Friday, I’ll follow up with you and ask how it went. Me, and my thousands hundreds (for now) of followers will want to know.

What I’m hoping, is that most weeks you’ll discover that if you push yourself, just a teeny-tiny bit, you’ll succeed.

And all those little tiny successes, week after week, add up to big things—of this I know. It’s how I wrote all my books. It’s how I’ve saved over 100 dogs. It’s how I took the toxins out of my house and my life. One little challenge each week. That’s all it takes to change your life, or at least make it a little bit better.

Up for the challenge? Follow me. (and be sure to click the notifications tab so you don’t miss my reminders! I promise I won’t nag, I will be only balloons and champagne, and if some weeks your To-Do gets the better of you, I’ll just casually look the other way and nod my head in understanding. We all have those weeks.)

I’ve got another challenge for myself brewing, but I’ll need a running start for that one. Look for it in next week’s post!

Hey, thanks for reading. I know you’ve got lots of options, so thanks for sharing a few of your minutes with me.

Honored,

Cara

If you’d like to know more about me, my books, and where you might run into me, check out my website, CaraWrites.com.

If you’d like to subscribe to my (sometimes) monthly e-newsletter, click here.

If you’re a dog lover, check out my other blog, Another Good Dog.

I’d love to connect with you on Facebook, twitter, or Instagram, and I’m thrilled to get email from readers (and writers), you can reach me at carasueachterberg@gmail.com.

 

COMING AUGUST 2018 FROM Pegasus Books:

Another Good Dog cover

But lucky you! You can preorder your copy now!

 

24/7 Writer Brain

Year of Yes cover image“Being a writer invades my life 24/7.”

When I read that line in Shonda Rhimes’ book Year of Yes, I thought, Exactly.

All day long I take mental notes of everything I see. I can’t not do this, even when I want to shut my brain off. Even when I notice stupid details that will likely never make it into my writing, like how cigarette butts pile up in intersections where people empty their ashtrays while their cars idle or how the smell of the dollar store clings to you even after you’ve been out of the store for hours.

And I wonder about everything…The Wal-Mart employee with the raccoon eyes, snapping her gum as she stands frozen, starring at a shelf, a product in her hand. Is she putting away returned items? Is she doing a price check? Has her brain frozen in place? Does she know her eyeliner is running? Does she care? Maybe she’s depressed? Maybe her boyfriend just broke up with her this morning after he used her toothbrush and took the last bagel. Maybe….

The squished toad on the driveway, guts spewed out its flattened mouth. Did the driver notice before they ran it over? Did I run it over? The flattened skin has the same texture as a football.

The pink hue to the light at dusk and how it makes everything softer, the same way snow makes everything look cleaner. How do you capture its essence in words?

Walking the dog, I find myself narrating my actions as if I was in the story itself. “They crested the hill and scanned the woods for the fox that keeps watch over the chicken pen. A hawk circled overhead– was it a sign?”

busy beesI can’t seem to stop my brain. I tell it to chill, but it doesn’t listen. Maybe I should sign up for yoga or learn to meditate. Something to stop my busy brain.

Sometimes I’m frustrated when I can’t seem to put into words what I truly feel in my heart. The perfect words that floated through my thoughts as I ran along our country roads this morning, escape me when I finally sit down to type them out. When I read the writing of someone like Shonda Rimes, who so easily, almost embarrassingly, spills her heart on the page, I think, “Yes! That’s it!” I’m grateful for her talent and strive to open my own heart unfiltered as she does.

I find there to be a magic in writing, a power well beyond me. So I’m grateful for this 24/7 invasion. It makes my days richer, even as it means that my mind is preoccupied and sometimes I forget about the clothes on the line or the tea I left steeping on the counter.

Writing makes life more real for me. I’m awed by the potential power it holds. Maybe this next sentence will change a life or lift a spirit, bring back a memory, or at the very least, make someone wonder. Maybe it will shine right through, all the way from my heart to yours.

maybe it will shine

Hey, thanks for reading. I know you’ve got lots of options, so thanks for sharing a few of your minutes with me.

Honored,

Cara

If you’d like to know more about me, my books, and where you might run into me, check out my website, CaraWrites.com.

If you’d like to subscribe to my (sometimes) monthly e-newsletter, click here.

If you’re a dog lover, check out my other blog, Another Good Dog.

I’d love to connect with you on Facebook, twitter, or Instagram, and I’m thrilled to get email from readers (and writers), you can reach me at carasueachterberg@gmail.com.

COMING AUGUST 2018 FROM Pegasus Books:

Another Good Dog cover

Changing the World Over Donuts

Last Friday I had the great pleasure of speaking to 4th and 5th graders at an Elementary School in Maryland.

It was crazy fun and went by in a flash. I met with ten different small groups for only ten minutes each session, which was never enough time. I wasn’t quite sure I had something to say, but those kids sure had plenty. I loved hearing what they are reading and writing and I enjoyed answering their excellent questions.

I tried very hard to leave them with the message that words are powerful. Their words can change minds and hearts and they are here long after we are gone.

I went home with a smile on my face and hope in my heart. I wish I could visit with elementary age kids more often; they are certainly good for the soul.

Tomorrow I will have the opportunity to meet with another local group. This time it’s the Rotary Club.

I wasn’t too worried about it until I looked up what the Rotary Club is. For some reason, I thought they were the old guys who zoom around on their scooters in the Mummers parade.

bikes in parades

Turns out, they’re not. They’re actually a group of business and professional men and women who to meet to talk about how they can help this world. They’re a service organization.

So now I’m pretty intimidated. I’m not sure I have anything to offer them beyond my story. Which isn’t really helping the world. At least not directly. Hopefully, my stories help entertain and maybe even inspire, but world changing? Probably not.

Like the elementary school kids, these folks are busy, so the meeting is brief. It starts long before those elementary kids are even on their buses, includes breakfast, and finishes up in a neat hour. The friend who invited me to come speak said they’d just like to hear my publishing story. That story is a long and winding road that changes every time I tell it.

long and winding road

It’s not that I’m embellishing with the glint of history, it’s just that I always try to condense it and I’m never quite sure if I get my cliff notes right.

What to include, what not to include? There have been so many false starts and pointless tangents. Because how do we know what really influences our journeys? Was it the word of a wise editor or the nudge of a trusted friend? Maybe it was a comment from a stranger or the doubt of a family member.

I freely admit, I did not always make the wisest choices as I followed my heart to where I am now, but I think it’s mightily better to follow your heart than the crowd.

Reflecting on the influences upon my own story, I can’t help but picture the eager faces I encountered last Friday. I hope that the words I said and the answers I gave are little seeds planted in those kiddos that will someday help them know the power of their own voices.

And tomorrow?

I don’t know what I’ll say, or if any of it will be of consequence, but I’ll offer it up straight from my heart and hope it helps make the world a little better.

Or at least entertains some mighty impressive people over donuts.

Hey, thanks for reading. I know you’ve got lots of options, so thanks for sharing a few of your minutes with me.

Honored,

Cara

If you’d like to know more about me, my books, and where you might run into me, check out my website, CaraWrites.com.

If you’d like to subscribe to my (sometimes) monthly e-newsletter, click here.

If you’re a dog lover, check out my other blog, Another Good Dog.

I’d love to connect with you on Facebook, twitter, or Instagram, and I’m thrilled to get email from readers (and writers), you can reach me at carasueachterberg@gmail.com.

 

Changing the World

I have a speaking engagement coming up tomorrow in front of a tough audience.

Elementary school students.

It’s Career Day and I was invited to an Elementary School in Maryland, along with lots of people who likely have much more exciting careers than mine. I’ll have just 10 minutes per group to talk about what I do and answer questions.

I’m in a quandary about what I should tell them.

Writing is pretty boring. At least the act of it.

Unless you’re inside my brain, I appear awfully sedentary. Most days I bore my office mates to sleep.

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So, what should I tell the kids?

Obviously, they’ll find my dog writing much more interesting than my women’s fiction writing or my occasional freelance pieces about parenting or organics or writing. They probably know more than me about marketing yourself via social media. And I’m pretty sure that talking about the largest part of my writing day – editing – would bore the life out of them, as it does me.

My tentative plan is to dazzle them with the dogs. I’ve even printed out a few 8x10s of some of my more exciting foster dogs to flash them.

My biggest dog- Whoopi. Continue reading “Changing the World”