Why didn’t Sauron simply place some guards over the access to Crack of Doom?

plot holes editor

Since Quora likes to collapse my answers in an effort to keep me quiet, I’m copying and pasting some of the Quora Q and A’s in which I’ve participated. Here’s a question from Quora.

This one sounds like a strange question, I know. It doesn’t really sound like it’s on the topic of writing and editing, but it really is.

Here’s the whole question: The Lord of the Rings (creative franchise): Why didn’t Sauron simply place some guards over the access to Crack of Doom?

My answer: The creator of the series wasn’t bright enough to see it’s flaws.

That’s the truth of it right there. There’s a lot of writers–screen writers, novelists, journalists, all kinds–living and dead, past and gone, and those coming up now–either they aren’t bright enough to see their flaws, or their editors aren’t bright enough to catch the flaws.

Now, specifically, in Tolkien’s case, he croaked, and subsequently his son was so amazed by the story that he missed the obvious.

Look at the movies, though; there’s a reason 90% of the books’ content didn’t make it into the movies–Tom Bombodil and a whole bunch of other characters and events–the books suck, they’re written by someone with a colorful but limited imagination. They’re a cliched good versus evil match up with the underdog coming out on top by just walking somewhere, and in the mix, there’s some Germanic Folklore, but Tolkien didn’t invent elves, dwarves, or anything else; even hobbits are really just gnomes. There are better books….

The thing is is that a great many writers, stories, movies, franchises, etc., have tons of flaws or plot holes.

One of the movies I hate the most? Prometheus

Why? It’s filled with plot holes!

I wasn’t even able to finish the movie, but here’s why.

The geologist tosses his flying, spherical devices into the air, remember? They’re scanning for molecular makeup, and hey, they don’t pick up any DNA–as if living molecules aren’t also made of minerals or metals, but that’s alright; I got past that.

Then, the storm hit, and everyone’s rushing back to the ship, remember? The groups get back to the ship, and they can’t find the geologist and his partner, and they’re worried, and they’re all scrambling, and then they see them on the camera, which the captain was monitoring…….?

Okay, first of all, they were all in communications, so when the other groups started freaking out, the geologist and his partner would have said: “Don’t worry guys, we’re coming.” At the very least, their scrambling commotion would have been heard by someone else, but that’s not the point: the other groups called for them, questioning their absence, and they would certainly have replied.

Furthermore, the captain was watching the screens the whole time, so he must have, at some point, witnessed the geologist and his partner trying to make their way from the caves.

PLOT HOLES=BAD WRITING/BAD EDITING

Maybe this kind of stuff doesn’t bother you. Maybe you don’t catch this kind of stuff when you read or watch movies, but I do, and so do lots of other people.

If you’re going to be a writer, it becomes imperative to catch this kind of stuff. It also becomes important to try to figure out how to solve these issues–plot holes. In the end, you may just need an editor to make certain you have no plot holes; avid readers do hate them, and you don’t want your story to fail because of a simple oversight, right?

Hire an editor. It can’t hurt. Hire me as your editor. You can find my services here.

When writing a novel, should I create a fantasy world or just use the real world?

self aggrandizing aaron

Since Quora likes to collapse my answers in an effort to keep me quiet, I’m copying and pasting some of the Quora Q and A’s in which I’ve participated. Here’s a question from Quora.

Question: I am writing a novel with elements of fantasy including cloaked figures of murdered victims. Should I create a fantasy world or just use real world?

My answer: There is no simple answer, but there are some simple questions.

What do you want?

What do you enjoy?

How much thought have you given your new writing project?

How original or authentic do you want to be?

I’m also a fantasy writer, and I like to include a handful of brand new concepts, but also include some of the tried and true ones. It works for me, and I enjoy my work.

When writing a novel, short story, anything at all, the first and most important question is: for whom are you writing?

The answer must be: for yourself.

Yes, you must also have a target audience in mind, but that comes about much, much later. First, a writer must consider what they want to do, what they enjoy, and then it’s time to put the thoughts down. In the end, those thoughts might not create a novel, but a story of a different length. In the end, that story may not truly be a fantasy or any other genre, but a blend, which can always be referred to as speculative fiction.

Often times, things don’t go according to plan anyway, and the great thing is; your story is not a finished product out to the public until you’ve decided it’s done. It is a first draft until you publish; it is not etched in stone.

So, let’s assume, you start off with a cloak and dagger murder story within the confines of the current world when suddenly, you feel like including fantasy elements. No big deal; include those elements, and just keep going.

Later, in the editing process, you can either add all of those same elements throughout, or you can cut them if they didn’t pan out.

Whatever you do, write for you, edit for your audience, and just try to have fun. You can change all kinds of things during the editing process, and then, if you feel you need an extra pair of eyes, or maybe you feel that your book just isn’t everything it can be, hire an editor.

Hire me as your editor. I’ll help you transform all of those sequential thoughts, ideas, and scenes into a story your audience will enjoy.

My editing services can be found here.

How many words should my novel be

Since Quora likes to collapse my answers in an effort to keep me quiet, I’m copying and pasting some of the Quora Q and A’s in which I’ve participated. Here’s a question from Quora.

Question: How many words should my novel be?

My answer: There’s no simple answer or formula for the proper length of a novel.

My personal take is that a novel should not be for both children and adults. If it’s written in a simple tone for children, adults will review it as sounding childlike, and they won’t enjoy it. If it’s written in an advanced tone to cater to adults, children will find it incomprehensible. Furthermore, the length of either should vary; children have a shorter attention span, right?

Do as you will.

In answer to the question, though, it should only be as long as it needs to be to drive the story from beginning to end. There’s no set number of words. Too few, and it’ll read choppy. Too many, and it’ll drag out.

My advice is to write it, proof it, have it beta read, and then hire an editor.

Striving to work within the confines of a word limit is counter productive to both creativity and joy.

First and foremost, as a writer, it’s important to enjoy writing your novel, so just write it. Once it’s down, read it, and have others read it before its release. People will tell you if it feels like the chapters are too long, too short, if the story feels empty, sluggish, or whatever.

The best way to approach novel writing is to just get the whole story down. Once it’s down, get away from it for a bit. Then, go back and read it as a reader. You will find your own issues with it. You can then fatten it up as much as you like. If there’s too much in there as it is, you can cut out whatever doesn’t need to be there.

In the end, especially if you’re a novice writer, it’s really important to hire an editor. An editor can go through your story and help you cut what doesn’t need to be there. An editor can help you restructure sentences, paragraphs, scenes, and chapters. An editor, a competent editor, will help you to prepare your book for an audience, an audience who will be extra critical of your work because they have purchased a product they expect to hold quality content–good writing.

If you think you might need an editor, check out my editing tab.

Why don’t people read books anymore

Since Quora likes to collapse my answers in an effort to keep me quiet, I’m copying and pasting some of the Quora Q and A’s in which I’ve participated. Here’s a question from Quora.

The question: Why don’t people read books anymore?

My answer: It’s complicated, but the following is my take.

People do read; they read blogs, social media feeds, web articles, and e-books. However, if we’re speaking of books, the problem is the huge disconnect between publishers and their target audience.

Publishers are adamant about their tried and true methodology that’s worked for hundreds of years, but times change as do people and tastes. Publishers, and publishing in general, must also change.

For instance, an old movie was popular, and now it isn’t, so a production company remakes it and bam! It’s big again, but why?

The remake looks better, sounds better, and most importantly, the language is updated to reflect the current social culture; publishers need to catch on to this.

Also, there’s a ton of self published junk out there really turning people off. This can easily be fixed by new “authors” hiring editors. They don’t seem to understand that words on a page don’t make a book.

A book must be a work of art with each word carefully chosen, each sentence germane to an idea, and each paragraph driving the story forwards. Self publishing has thrown a wrench in the works, but lovers of books will call for an improvement of quality, and the aboveboard authors will answer. They will hire editors.

The problem, doesn’t end there, however. As already mentioned, the mainstream presses also release junk, and since they can mass market their junk, it really turns people off.

Finally, consider this: in America, throughout school, children are forced to read. Teachers call these books the classics, but let’s be honest, those classics suck. Moby Dick, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Wuthering Heights, Great Gatsby, Huck Finn; these books are actually quite terrible.

Maybe, they were great in their time, back when half the population didn’t know how to read, and anyone who wrote a book was considered a great author, but today? Those old authors are out of touch, practically speaking a different language about a culture no longer pertinent.

There’s a huge disconnect between language and culture and the zeitgeist, and if the classics, the best of the best books, are awful then doesn’t it stand to reason that anything that isn’t considered a classic or the greatest must be even worse by comparison?

If someone told you Gone With the Wind is the best movie ever and you hated it, and you had never seen any other movie, wouldn’t you think that all other movies must be even worse? Do you see what I mean?

Well, people do read. Lot’s of people even read books, but the problem is the publishing industry, whether indie, self published, or traditionally published; writers need editors, competent editors to speak to an audience.

For inquiries about competent editing, check out my editing tab.

 

Do you think self publishing has lowered the quality of publishing, a Quora question

Since Quora likes to collapse my answers in an effort to keep me quiet, I’m copying and pasting some of the Quora Q and A’s in which I’ve participated. Here’s a question from Quora.

Do you think self publishing has lowered the quality of publishing?

My answer:

Self publishing in and of itself has not ruined the literary market; even Stephen King self publishes. However, people putting words on a page and calling it a book have lowered the quality. These “authors” need to 1. Hire an editor 2. Stop auto posting on social media 3. Stop giving each other glowing reviews in exchange for the same 4. Stop claiming best seller status for books, which are clearly ranked low on Amazon and other outlets.

There is still hope out there for both traditional publishing and self publishing. Publishing in general is not under siege, but the quality of writing is. This is not strictly a self publishing problem. Mainstream publishers and mainstream editors are wrecking the written word just as much if not more so than self publishing because the large presses can sell their dreck to a larger audience.

If you’re curious about editing, and proper editing practices, visit my editing services tab!

So you want to be a writer part 1

Allow me to preface this post by saying Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and happy new year. The new year is a time for renewal, for resolutions, and so I think this is the perfect time to write this post, or rather, this series of posts, which will set out some guidelines for actually becoming a successful novelist.

Allow me also to apologize. For whatever reason, every time that I answer a question on Quora, it is now automatically collapsed, and I don’t believe the public is allowed to see it, but they have yet to squelch my Quora blog, from where this post was born. Should Quora eventually do so, you can still find these posts right here. I’m also going to be moving the Q and A’s I’ve done on Quora here, so stay tuned for all that.

Now, to get on with it:

How does one become a successful writer? There are so many of you out there asking this question, so I want to provide you with a series of posts, which will help to outline the process that can lead to your success.

These posts are in no way a perfect manual; however, if you follow them closely, you will eventually become successful. Why am I so sure? Because the only guaranteed method for achieving long term success is to continuously release quality content, and that’s what I want to help you accomplish.

Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but if you write, edit, and release decent stories on a regular and continuous basis, you will eventually be the successful writer you’ve wanted to be.

Unfortunately, many people ask the following:

I want to be a great writer, and I like to write, but I can’t come up with an idea. How do I find a great idea to write about?

I’m gonna’ let you guys in on a little secret, actually a few secrets.

One! There are no original ideas, only original presentations. Lord of the Rings? That’s just good versus evil, combined with a little the underdog fights against insurmountable odds, and a hint of Germanic folklore. Shawshank Redemption? That’s just the trial of a man overcoming great obstacles with a touch of righteous injustice.

Mankind has been around for a long, long time, and throughout most of its existence, mankind has passed along stories in one form or another. Did you know that Sumerians had scifi? Well, maybe it wasn’t quite scifi, but there’s a tale of King Gilgamesh, before he was king, and a mechanical man fell from the sky and wrestled with him; that machine became his friend, Enkidu. Together, they journeyed to an island where they fought some other kind of machine that fired off blasts of energy. I don’t recall the lesson behind the tale, nor did I actually lay my eyes upon the story cylinder, but according to some anthropologists, such was one of many Sumerian stories.

No story today has an original idea, only an original presentation.

Two! An interesting, complex, consuming, convoluted idea with numerous plot twists and turns isn’t what makes a story great. In fact, such things often ruin a story. There is an elegance to simplicity, and if you’re a novice writer, or someone who has never written, stick with the simplest idea possible.

Many great stories, or many successful writers, start first with a very simple idea. There is no doubt that Stephen King is successful, whether you like his work or not, but he did not begin his career with a complex idea. He first practiced by writing short stories—and we’ll get to that—and then moved on to Carrie. He even threw away his first draft and rewrote the whole thing from scratch!

The point is that King started his career with simple ideas that he happened to present very well and in an authentic manner, and we’ll discuss how to become authentic later on.

Three! Every idea, no matter how small, how seemingly insignificant, can become a story.

I have written stories based on people getting sick, based on friendship, based on love, sex, money, inner silence, the most asinine imagery imaginable, I have written stories based on a one-liner I jotted while watching television, playing video games, watching movies, looking at pictures, or listening to a song.

This leads us to the answer—you don’t need to come up with an idea. The ideas are there; they are all around you. An idea is just that, an idea, you must then write everything you can about that idea, and then tie that into other related ideas, but perhaps you aren’t imaginative, you aren’t creative; That’s okay. It really doesn’t matter. One just needs to present a series of ideas to an audience in an entertaining fashion, but let’s get back to the idea.

Find somewhere quiet. Find a place with few distractions. Close your eyes—after reading this post, obviously—take a deep breath, and exhale.

Daydream. Do what you used to do when you were a tyke. Play make-believe; pretend that you are a knight, a cowboy, a soldier, a spaceman, that’s all writing is, unless you want to write non-fiction, in which case you don’t need to try to come up with an idea, what you need to do is find a topic about which you care, and then do a great deal of research and experimentation, but I don’t really deal with non-fiction too much, at least not outside of editing, and we’ll discuss editing later on.

Now, maybe you want to write poetry, and that’s a little different, but the plus side to poetry is that you never need to worry over the technical aspects of literature and composition; you just write according to cadence, a rhythm, whatever. The important thing to consider when writing poetry is imagery, sound, etc., and that leads us into the next piece of advice.

For now, just start watching your favorite movies, watch television, read books you like, play video games; it doesn’t matter because you’ll find ideas in the things that you enjoy.

Obviously, you don’t want to plagiarize, but that’s not really an issue at this moment. In fact, think about your favorite show; if you know it inside and out, you should be able to imagine what the characters will do, how they’ll solve a problem, how they act, react, and interact. All you have to do is imagine a new problem for them, and then think about it day in and day out until you see your idea come to life.

If you want, you can try writing fanfiction. There’s nothing wrong with that. Lot’s of successful writers started out writing fanfiction. In fact, most screen writers started their careers by writing an episode of their favorite show, submitting it to the production company, and bang; they became screen writers just by writing fanfiction.

Isn’t that how 50 Shades of Grey got started?

The ideas are there, guys. All you need to do is relax, and think about the idea over and over again until it slowly becomes you. Then, start writing pieces of it down. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a beginning. It doesn’t matter if there’s no middle, or characters, or problems, or resolutions; all that comes later.

People today, they want to start writing a novel from the very beginning all the way through to the end on their first attempt, but that isn’t how it works.

Imagine building a house. You don’t just buy all the supplies and build the house. First, you have to find a piece of land. Then, you have to level the land. Next, comes your foundation, and then, brick-by-brick, you build walls, place the roof, designate rooms, run electricity, pipes, finish the drywall, paint, decorate, and then, finally, you bring people inside to live out a tale. Writing a novel is the same.

Imagine sculpting a horse from marble. You don’t just start chipping away and sculpt a perfect rendition of a horse on your first attempt. You stare at the horse. You stare at the marble. You stare at the horse again. Then, you chisel a small chunk out from the corner of the marble block; it’s a process with a learning curve, and it starts simply with an idea, an image, a scene, something that fascinates or enthralls you.

Some people, once they have an inkling of an idea, they write an outline or do some kind of brainstorming. I am not a visual person. None of that works for me; time spent on that crap is time better spent writing for me. Try out different methods. Something will work for you.

For me, I just write out what I want to write:

There’s a guy named Jake, and he’s tasked with taking soil samples from a polluted lake. When he returns to the lab, he finds something strange; it turns out to be a new life form.

The above sample is literally how I start my stories. Then, I add until I feel I have something worth writing. So you want an idea? Close your eyes, and pay attention to the world around you; the scents, the sounds, the feel. Your idea is somewhere amidst the things you do. Then, you just jot it down.

Writing is just the transfer of thoughts to paper. They don’t have to be perfect, logical, ordered, or anything. Just write down a related series of events. Once your story is down, you can do with it what you want; it isn’t etched in stone; it isn’t a published title out to the public.

Think about a picture, like, drawing a picture. You want to draw a picture of your house, so how do you start it? You sit down, and look at your house. Then, you start to draw the lines, affect the shading to provide a perspective of depth, and when you mess up, and you will mess up, what do you do? You erase, and fix it over and over again until you’re satisfied with your picture.

I think too many people try too hard and are discouraged too easily because they set themselves up for failure. So, with this first post about becoming a successful writer, I just want you guys to relax, and think about different ideas. If you find some that interest you, write them down.

I have numerous, an overabundance, of ideas that I will never use. That’s just the way it is. Everything, to me, is interesting and can become a story for a novel, a novella, a short story, a poem. Once you have an idea you like, writing is the easy part, and we’ll pick up there in the next post of this series.

Thank you very much for reading. If you’ve already started writing, and you need some help cleaning up your story, visit my Editing Tab. I want to help you guys out as much as possible, but I want you to understand that what I’m proposing isn’t free. You want free help? Keep tuning in to this blog.

You want in depth assistance? Maybe, you just need some light proofing, or maybe you need some comprehensive editing; in either event, contact me, and we can discuss what kind of help you need. If you haven’t begun writing yet, now is a great time to mull over your idea, and talk to your friends, family members, and coworkers about the idea; let them know you want to start writing. Make it an interesting process for you, and stay tuned for more posts.

Make sure you visit my editing services tab, too!

conjunctions and prepositions are freakin weird

This copied and pasted from my blog on Quora

Words, all words, are used to modify an idea. Words are used to interpret and present a molded block of thoughts, emotions, and ideas. Punctuation, grammar, sentence structure; these facets of writing and editing are in existence in order to best relay one person’s ideas, emotions, thoughts, and experiences to another. If the words aren’t used correctly, they create confusion, or they make no modifications at all. If the word isn’t making a modification, it must be cut when dealing with written language.

Conjunctions tie together clauses or ideas. That is how conjunctions mold and modify.

He was going to go to the store, but it was raining, so he stayed home.

Some will argue that one can start sentences with a conjunction. Sometimes one can do so, but keep in mind that by definition, conjunctions tie ideas together, so it might be senseless. Let’s begin with a comment left by a wonderful visitor on my personal blog:

“Actually, you can start a sentence with a conjunction according to the Chicago Manual of style. They encourage it. And for the publishing world, the Chicago Manual of style is the bible. But otherwise, I agree with you. Fragments are all too common in bestselling books these days. However, all those fragments sound awesome as an audiobook. The narrator is able to deliver them in rapid succession and keep the listener on the edge of her seat. It makes me wonder if this book was written for the reader or the listener because there is a difference. Forgive me for nettling you. I had to read the Chicago Manual of style in grad school cover to cover. So when I read your assertion, I flashed back to those terrible nights memorizing that tome (and fantasizing about using it as a weapon). Otherwise, you have an excellent post, sir. Have a wonderful weekend.”

To her comment, I replied:

“Thanks for commenting. I will never advise a writer to start a sentence outside of dialogue with a conjunction. I also won’t ever scorn a writer for doing so. I will scorn an editor for allowing it, though, especially when they forget to apply all the other rules. Such a thing has been drilled in us since the 1st grade–remember FANBOYS?–so starting with a conjunction, for me, is absolutely incorrect, and there are plenty of resources that solidify this proper application of rules.

“I understand fully what you mean about the pacing of those fragments in question when heard versus read, but the proper punctuation paired with a great performer will still have the same effect. In the end, my most prominent complaint is that this is a book. This is a book released by a fairly prestigious press. Editors have supposedly combed through it in order to present the reader–the buyer–a finished product, and it reads to me like a first draft, but the real issue is that this is happening with numerous books from numerous presses, and all the while, literary agents are telling new authors not to submit their MS without having it edited; so I ask: to what end?

“These editors, the ones employed by the big presses, are doing a terrible disservice to readers and writers alike, and all the while, they sit there, obviously not doing anything, and receiving sixty, seventy thousand dollars a year. Maybe more? It angers me, and I won’t stand for it.

“Thanks again for commenting. I cherish everyone’s opinion, and in the end, what really matters is that readers enjoy what they purchased. It’s to that end, however, that I will continue to provide people, who are interested, with the correct way of writing, so that our reading skills, writing skills, and speaking skills might begin to improve rather than decline.”

After that, I had to check The Chicago Manual of Style.

http://www.storiesbydennis.com/?… This link is to that older post, and there you will actually see pictures from The Chicago Manual of Style. I then typed it all out, and guess what? Nowhere does it encourage such behavior—starting a sentence with a conjunction.

This is exactly what the Manual states:

5.206 Beginning a sentence with a conjunction.

There is a widespread belief–one with no historical or grammatical foundation–that it is an error to begin a sentence with a conjunction such as and, but, or so. In fact, a substantial percentage (often as many as 10 percent) of the sentences in first-rate writing begin with conjunctions. It has been so for centuries, and even the most conservative grammarians have followed this practice. Charles Allen Lloyd’s 1938 words fairly sum up the situation as it stands even today:

Next to the groundless notion this it is incorrect to end an English sentence with a preposition, perhaps the most wide-spread of the many false beliefs about the use of our language is the equally groundless notion that it is incorrect to begin one with “but” or “and.” As in the case of the superstition about the prepositional ending, no textbook supports it, but apparently about half of our teachers of English go out of their way to handicap their pupils by inculcating it. One cannot help wondering whether those who teach such a monstrous doctrine ever read any English themselves.

Still, but as an adversative conjunction can occasionally be unclear at the beginning of a sentence. Evaluate the contrasting force of the but in question, and see whether the needed word is really and; if and can be substituted, then but is certainly the wrong word. Consider this example: He went to school this morning. But he left his lunchbox on the kitchen table. Between those sentences is an elliptical idea, since the two actions are in no way contradictory. What is implied is something like this: He went to school, intending to have lunch there, but he left his lunch behind. Because and would have made sense in the passage as originally stated, but is not the right word–the idea for the contrastive but should be explicit. To sum up, then, but is a perfectly proper word to open a sentence, but only if that idea it introduces truly contrasts with what precedes. For that matter, but is often an effective word for introducing a paragraph that develops an idea contrary to the one preceding it.

That is the end of this moron’s rant from within The Chicago Manual of Style.

Did you notice he never once started with a conjunction?! Amazing, right? I never read a rule that states you don’t use two articles before a noun either, but it’s generally accepted that such a thing is wrong, right?

You never write: The a duck quacked. Right?

Now, let’s really explore this conjunction business.

To begin with, it is stated that a single person–Lloyd–feels it is alright to start a sentence with a conjunction–one guy! Second, he makes a completely incorrect assumption within his own context.

Evaluate the contrasting force of the but in question, and see whether the needed word is really and; if and can be substituted, then but is certainly the wrong word. Consider this example: He went to school this morning. But he left his lunchbox on the kitchen table. Between those sentences is an elliptical idea, since the two actions are in no way contradictory. What is implied is something like this: He went to school, intending to have lunch there, but he left his lunch behind.

First of all, but is not always but. Sometimes, but can be replaced by however, or except, or yet, so it is imperative to know what you mean when you write but. Second, the correct sentence is: He went to school, but he left his lunchbox on the kitchen table.

Now, now, that the but in question is separated by the comma, and it is no longer the beginning of the sentence, everything Lloyd said becomes moot, hence; you do not start a sentence with but. That solves everything that moron just said regarding but and and. All the confusion is over! Furthermore, starting with a conjunction: But he left his lunchbox on the kitchen table is not a sentence. It isn’t even a fragment because the main clause, and the only clause, is: He left his lunchbox on the kitchen table.

Thus, because of the of the fact that first sentence ends, the second sentence is no longer modified by the conjunction but, which means the second sentence—the second clause—is not only no longer modifying the first clause, but the second clause, which is supposed to be a sub-clause, is also no longer modified by the conjunction (its own conjunction), which is why but must be dropped or tied into the original clause by way of a comma preceding the conjunction.

He went to school this morning, but he left his lunchbox on the kitchen table.

Beyond that, to say that his two broken sentences imply the following: Between those sentences is an elliptical idea, since the two actions are in no way contradictory. What is implied is something like this: He went to school, intending to have lunch there, but he left his lunch behind. No, it isn’t.

What’s implied is that on every other occasion that he went to school, he brought his lunchbox. This time, however, he did not bring it. That’s what’s implied and nothing else. More might be inferred by you, the reader, but nothing else is stated or implied. Lloyd is a complete moron who doesn’t understand the English language.

It’s clear to me, that Lloyd is implying that his second sentence could have been started with However, and in that case, he would be right because However isn’t one of the FANBOYS conjunctions with which we do not usually start a sentence.

The sentence in question then becomes: However, he left his lunchbox on the kitchen table.

I do believe such a sentence is acceptable, but I suggest one finds a better way to write it in prose.

Now, let’s get back to something else that was presented: In fact, a substantial percentage (often as many as 10 percent) of the sentences in first-rate writing begin with conjunctions.

10% is hardly substantial! Moreover, who decides what is first-rate writing? Which books are we referencing specifically? Which authors? On top of that, are we discussing those 10% of sentences all of which are dialogue? Are the conjunctions in question actually conjunctions?

You do not start a sentence with a conjunction if it can be avoided. It’s that simple. If you hire me as an editor, I will tell you not to do it unless it is absolutely unavoidable.

Now, let’s find out exactly what’s going on with these crazy conjunctions. Remember, they are used to tie together clauses. They can’t tie anything together if they aren’t part of the same sentence, if they are at the beginning of a clause!

He was going to go to the store. But it was raining. So he stayed home.

Those conjunctions aren’t doing anything by being at the beginning of those sentences. That’s why they shouldn’t be there.

He was going to go to the store. It was raining. He stayed home.

That’s the same exact information, so why the use of conjunctions?

For one, properly employing conjunctions to tie ideas together sounds better to the ear than the preceding example. Two, using conjunctions allows a reader to glean more complex information out of one single sentence. However, if writers are going to use conjunctions, they must use them properly.

He was going to go to the store, but it was raining, so he stayed home.

That’s the right way to write that single sentence with the conjunctions. There are, however, instances where such a thing, beginning with a conjunction, is permissible.

For a big man, he moved with grace.

For is a conjunction, and it is one of the FANBOYS conjunctions, but it isn’t acting like a conjunction in that sentence. It is not conjoining ideas or clauses. Why use it then? What is it doing?

A big man, he moved with grace.

Well that’s not a sentence! In the above example, removing the conjunction obliterates the sentence. It no longer makes sense. For, however, is not acting like a conjunction in that example; it’s like the letter Y, which is not always a vowel. In the case above, For is directly linked to the other words: a big man. Together, they form a restrictive element of sorts, which states something important. It’s the same with the word as.

As far as he knew, it was a solid, business investment.

So you see, (I started with a conjunction) it’s important to understand when a conjunction is really conjunction. I believe that was the point Lloyd was trying to make in his clumsy way, but the thing is that I’m writing this post in the same manner that I speak to people. I am not writing this post as prose in a novel.

When it comes to writing a novel, a journal article, a report of some kind, there may well be a better way to present the information, and that’s where an editor comes in handy. An editor needs to make certain that prose doesn’t sound like dialogue. (Unless, of course, that’s the author’s wish. Nevertheless, don’t begin a sentence with a modifier that isn’t modifying anything.)

For a big man, he moved with grace.

Perhaps, a better way to write that sentence is the following: Although he was a big man, he moved with grace. For all intents and purposes, that’s the correct way to write out the idea that regardless, and in fact, surprisingly, a big man moved gracefully.

Now, we all know although is a conjunction, but it is not one of the conjunctions that pertain to FANBOYS, which are also considered coordinators, and this is a great distinction to make.

Coordinators express a relationship between related words, phrases, or clauses, without which, a reader is left to draw their own conclusions; another point Lloyd tried to make. If such a coordinator is placed at the beginning of a sentence, how and where is it expressing that relationship?! Do you see?! It becomes useless and shouldn’t be there because it isn’t doing anything. That’s the rule; don’t use a word that isn’t doing anything.

The but in but he stayed home, isn’t relating anything to anything else. The although in although he was a big man, is relating the girth of the man with his ability to move with grace. However, it might still be presented in a more efficient manner.

Considering that he was a big man, he moved gracefully.

That’s dead on, but will it work for your novel? Will it work for your voice? Will it work for that particular scene or paragraph? Will that phrase stand alone, or will there be other phrases? Let’s look:

John was a ballet dancer. At six feet tall, he weighed a whopping three hundred pounds. For a big man, he moved with grace.

That’s an entire paragraph, and since the last sentence is the one starting with the conjunction, I advise against using that particular conjunction; in fact, I advise writing that whole paragraph in a different fashion.

Despite his being six feet tall and three hundred pounds, John was a graceful ballet dancer.

See, now we’re back to showing versus telling and less is more. I can now provide much more detail, much more story, in the paragraph because I’ve only used one sentence.

Despite his being six feet tall and three hundred pounds, John was a graceful ballet dancer. He had trained with the famous Russian performer, Mikhail Baryshnikov, so it was no wonder the hefty dancer moved so artfully. On the stage, John was like magic in motion.

I still have only three sentences there. Which paragraph is better? The second one, right? Why? I utilized correct writing.

Are we on board? Are we staring to understand why one avoids the use of opening sentences with conjunctions? What must be asked when opening a sentence with a conjunctions is: is my conjunction modifying the sentence in which it has been placed?

If the answer is no then the conjunction should either be removed, or the previous sentence, the one actually being modified, should not have ended.

To switch tactics, I want to point out that Lloyd also argued it isn’t incorrect to end a sentence with a preposition, but then, what is a preposition? What does it do?

A preposition acts as a reference. It is a governing word that expresses a relation to another element within a clause. For example:

The man standing on the sidewalk wore a hat.

There is a relationship between the man and the sidewalk denoted by the word on. If the preposition is at the end of the sentence, it isn’t expressing the relationship; so what is it doing? Nothing, and that’s the rule. You don’t utilize a word that isn’t doing anything.

It was the sidewalk that man with the hat was standing on.

That’s wrong. On is no longer able to do its job.

It was the sidewalk on which the man with the hat was standing.

That’s the correct way to write that sentence, but it’s so ugly, right? That’s why we write: The man standing on the sidewalk wore a hat. Another example might be:

What are you talking about?

That phrase also ended with a preposition, and people certainly talk that way. I talk that way, but a writer shouldn’t write prose the way they speak. As a matter of fact, if one considers the meaning of the question, something interesting happens. Let’s see what I mean:

What are you talking about?

This question is actually asking to clarify some information, so more appropriately, one should write:

Of what do you speak?

What are you saying?

What are you trying to tell me?

Can you clarify?

Obviously, when writing dialogue, the idea is to present natural conversation; it makes the characters real, relatable, and genuine, and dialogue shouldn’t sound like prose. Anyone who speaks to you with the above phrases sounds like a pretentious douche, right? This is why I always state that dialogue can break most rules of English writing.

If you start talking to me about physics, and I don’t get what you’re saying, I’ll ask: What are you talking about? As a writer, however, it becomes my responsibility to provide clear information, which is to say, it’s my job to prevent a reader from inferring or drawing their own conclusions. When I write prose, my readers have no choice but to grasp the information I provide the way I intend for it to be processed.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t utilize plot twists, which force a reader to believe in an event that hasn’t actually occurred. It just means that when I want to portray confusion, I’ll confuse the reader without their knowing they’ve been confused, not by utilizing poor and confusing writing elements, but quite the contrary, by employing the correct writing elements.

Now, that said, while I write my story, I certainly type it out in the same manner I speak, the same manner I think; writing is just the art of putting thoughts into words, and that’s fine. At the end of my first draft, everything I complain about in my posts is present, but it’s during the editing process that I fix everything, so that everything presented is presented in an accurate and correct manner; this is why writers use editors. This is why the big publishers use editors. This is why literary agents demand edited manuscripts. This is also why I’m so mad about this editing business, these novels that aren’t properly edited, and these publishers who are crapping all over the English language; and then there’s all the misinformation circulating!

Many writers don’t have a stomach for editing. There’s nothing wrong with that. Many editors lack the creativity to write enrapturing stories. There’s nothing wrong with that either. It’s imperative that a creative writer is paired with a technical editor, and sometimes it’s imperative that a technical writer is paired with a creative editor; not all writers and editors can collaborate effectively. That’s why writers need to shop for the right editor.

Now, there are some writers, great writers, who are neither creative nor technical. They can’t write their way out of a paper bag, but that doesn’t stop them from being successful. If they have an interesting story, they just need extra help transforming the accounts of the story into an experience.

None of this, however, is an excuse for releasing a poorly written novel, and then charging the audience, and that’s precisely what aggravates the crap out of me. You’ve all read my posts in which I chew out both indie titles and mainstream titles, and it’s because those publishers either didn’t hire an editor at all, or the editors who lent their “expertise” didn’t know what they were doing.

That’s not to say that the story hidden amidst the mess isn’t worth reading, but it just isn’t right to charge someone for a novel that reads like a first draft. Editors today make big, big money, and a lot of them aren’t doing their job, and now, it’s becoming increasingly acceptable to release, promote, and sell poor writing. On top of that, many indie writers or debut writers are being shot down by literary agents and publishers because their manuscript isn’t properly edited, but what’s the point? The publishers turn a properly edited manuscript into dreck with their own editors!

Maybe I’m wrong to criticize those writers, editors, and publishers if readers enjoy the dreck, or maybe those readers don’t know any better because everything out on the market today is crap. If you’ve grown up eating fast food your whole life, you won’t know how much better fine dining is, right? If you’ve ever only worn clothes by Banana Republic, you won’t know the quality of Armani, right?

Now, I get it; there’s nothing wrong with liking what you like. Some people love cheeseburgers and don’t give a crap about seared ahi tuna. Some people love their Old Navy skinny chinos and don’t give a crap about wearing Armani. I get it. All I’m trying to do is let people know that there is a right way to write, and a wrong way, and what the difference is. I’m not suggesting to you what to enjoy or what more often sells.

I’m just very passionate about the written word, and it is my sincere belief that someone needs to stand up and show people the right way to write and edit, and why the right way is superior to the crap out on the market. In the end, if you don’t like my style, if you don’t like the correct way to write, that’s okay, but maybe you just didn’t know any better until I came along.

If you’re reading this, and you’re a reader who loves the books I call crap, that’s great. I’m very glad that you enjoyed your little vacation, which is what a novel is supposed to be, a reprieve from the hum-drum of reality. I’m glad you don’t feel ripped off by the poor writing. It’s your satisfaction that matters. I said it last time: we writers are a fart in the wind without you readers, and I will always cherish your opinions.

However, have you tried reading books that are well written? Have you, by chance, read a book that everyone loves and wondered why, all the while thinking, it reads like crap! Maybe that’s because you have a more refined palate and care for superior storytelling.

If you’re reading this, and you’re a writer who thinks the rules don’t apply to your writing, I won’t dream of telling you that you must do as I say. If your novels are selling like hotcakes and all your readers adore your books then that’s just aces. I’m very glad for you. I want everyone to succeed, especially when doing what they enjoy.

If you’re reading this, and you’re a writer who is wondering why other writers give you great reviews but readers are giving you scathing reviews, maybe it’s because you’re in need of a competent editor. There’s no shame in that. Most people can’t create a work of art all on their own. Writers usually need a cover artist, an editor, proof readers, promoters, reviewers, and publishers; that’s why there’s an entire industry built on publishing books, but that’s exactly my point: an entire industry must be able to release quality writing, or they are doing their audience a disservice, especially considering just how much they are charging for their e-books and how much overhead they are keeping from their writers.

However, if no one is pointing this out to anyone then the problem will remain unsolved. I am trying to solve that problem.

If you’re an editor, and you’re reading this, I sincerely implore you to comment, for better or worse; if you find my ideas invalid or erroneous, I’d certainly like to hear to your opinion. Perhaps, you agree with me. In that case, please comment, and show your support for quality writing.

If you’re a publisher reading this, you need to get on the ball. Your job is to consistently release quality content to consumers. Your job is also to help writers sound like they know their craft. Editors are supposed to be the unsung heroes, the ones behind the scenes, right? Haven’t you wondered why more and more people are going the indie route? It isn’t because the artists can’t hold up to your standards. It isn’t because the consumers are dumb. It’s because everyone is getting tired of purchasing indolent garbage at an outrageous price.

Look at the indie market. Movies are going indie. Actors, producers, screen writers, and musicians are going indie. Programmers are going indie. Comic book artists and writers are going indie. Directors and video editors are going indie. It isn’t because they can’t hack it in the major leagues. There are numerous indie platforms, and indie artists are collaborating with indie reviewers, promoters, and publishers because the audience is screaming for quality content. They want something new. They demand something of quality.

The dinosaur mentality of I been doin’ this thirty years has come to an end. People are waking up. People want to feel like they received their money’s worth. New artists of all shapes and sizes are taking the world by storm. Not only am I one of them, but I want to help others in the same boat.

That’s precisely why I’m offering my editing services. For one, I will continue to provide tips through my blogs, so those writers out there who only need a new perspective can read, for free, my advice and explanations and move on.

Two, I’ll continue to answer questions on Quora, although I’ll be referring everyone more and more often to this blog. Moreover, Quora has begun to flag my answers because I sometimes refer people to other sites. I thought we were supposed to do that in order to prove that our answers are valid, but the moderators want to be turds, so I’ll be answering fewer questions. If you have a question, ask it on the blog in the comments section, and I’ll answer.

Three, I’m providing readers with a better experience. I’m trying to show them that if they don’t like the mainstream mess, there is an alternative.

Four, for those writers out there who love to write, but hate editing, they can find someone they trust who understands how best to provide information—a reading experience. They can read through all of my posts, and if they like what I’m puttin’ down, they can hire me to clean up their work, and make it presentable.

If you disagree, if you don’t like me, if you’ve got it all figured out, great; I’m happy for you. If you’re successful then you don’t need me. Move on. If, on the other hand, you’re just starting out, or you’ve been at the game for a while and haven’t made much headway, I want you to know you have a friend in me. I’m right here, and you can even hire me.

Thanks, everyone, for reading. Stay tuned for next week’s post. I’ll be discussing how to come up with an idea for writing your first story. My website is in my profile. I’d hate to get flagged again by Quora vigilants. Thanks again.

Bt dubbz, Quora is giving me a hard time, and they’re even automatically collapsing my answers.

Make sure to check out my editing services tab, too!

The Dragon of Time, Gods and Dragons giveaway

The Dragon of Time, Gods and Dragons By Aaron Dennis
The Dragon of Time, Gods and Dragons By Aaron Dennis

I’m releasing this post today to announce that I’ve started a new Gods and Dragons giveaway on Goodreads.

Book giveaway for The Dragon of Time: Gods and Dragons by Aaron Dennis Dec 06-Dec 30, 2016

Gods, Dragons, a mercenary with a blade and no memory of his past…. The world of Tiamhaal is alight in war. Men ruled by kings slay their opposition in the name of their God, but there are others who claim the Gods are little more than scorned Dragons of ages past. Scar has come to find the truth, but is the truth an absolute certainty, or is it just the skewed memory of a forgotten kingdom?

This is, without a doubt, one of the fastest growing fantasy adventure series.

It has already won the August 2016 novel reading.

Aaron Dennis – August 2016 NOVEL Writing Winner

It has also won the best logline in the world for its genre.

Best of 2016 ADVENTURE Novel Loglines

I can’t stress this enough; fans of fantasy adventures have been clamoring for a great series of books about dragons, and this one is it. It won’t be long before it beats out The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and A Song of Ice and Fire. People are already saying it’s as good as The Wheel of Time, which is a lesser known fantasy series, and The Dragon of Time is far from finished.

For now, you can enter the giveaway for a chance to win a signed copy of the first book, Gods and Dragons, but it doesn’t end there. You can download free samples of Gods and Dragons directly through Goodreads.

https://www.goodreads.com/Dennis…

Or Smashwords

https://www.smashwords.com/books…

You can read the reviews for yourself on Goodreads, Smashwords, and Barnes and Noble online.

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/…

I know indie and self published books still get a bum rap, but many people are yet to realize that Harry Potter was turned down by numerous publishers. The only reason Harry Potter was released through a major publisher is because Rowling’s sister worked for the company and went over the acquisitions editor’s head.

Don’t misunderstand, I’m not taking anything away from Harry Potter; people love the series, and that’s what counts. I also hope the acquisitions editor was fired because they nearly cost that company billions in revenue, but my point is that the only reason The Dragon of Time series is self published is because it has become increasingly difficult for new writers to land a literary agent, and just because an agent turns down a book, doesn’t mean it isn’t good; it just means that person doesn’t think it’ll be marketable, but look at how much I’ve done all on my own. Clearly, The Dragon of Time is marketable; if I had had a whole team of marketers behind me, you’d all be buying these books from your local book store, but don’t fret, not only am I giving away a signed copy of Gods and Dragons, I’m also giving away free e-copies of the sequel, The Dragon of Time Two, Dragon Slayer.

With the death of Kulshedra, Dragon of Truth, it has been revealed that Scar, the mercenary, is in fact Sarkany, the Dragon Slayer, a creature fashioned for the sole purpose of purging the Dragons from the world of Tiamhaal, yet such a thing is not so simple. Kings and queens yet war amongst one another. They, too, lie, connive, and coerce, and so, Scar and his friends must find a way to persuade those few, benevolent rulers to band together. In the midst of peace talks and dead Dragons, those still in the worship of the beasts grow more powerful. Some of them even doubly praise their oppressor in an effort to wield more magic. Now, united with his friends, Scar sets his gaze upon a hopeful horizon, but is strength in numbers sufficient to keep the Dragons from completing their machinations?

The Dragon of Time Two, Dragon Slayer By Aaron Dennis
The Dragon of Time Two, Dragon Slayer
By Aaron Dennis

The Dragon of Time Two, Dragon Slayer

I’ll be giving it away free until December 24th of 2016. A link to a free e-book makes for a great gift to friends and family for the holidays when money is tight, and I know money is tight for a lot of people right now, but all you guys and gals out there are my fans, or potential fans, and without you readers, writers are nothing; we’re a fart in the wind, so giving away this amazing book is my way of saying thank you to you all.

Please go and grab your free copy of Dragon Slayer. Be sure to also enter the Goodreads giveaway, and grab a free sample of Gods and Dragons. You will not be disappointed.

Thank you all for your continued interest and support. Stay tuned for the next post, which will be about conjunctions and prepositions.

The giveaway may have ended but the benefits have not!

Don’t just buy books from Smashwords, sell books through Smashwords. Smashwords provides readers, bloggers, reviewers, anyone a chance to earn money from the books they love. By making a Smashwords account to buy and download books, you automatically have the ability to sell books through your blog or website. Read more about it here!

Commas, commas, commas, and more commas

Reposted from blog on Quora

AARON’S BLOG

 

I’ve delayed writing this particular post for a long time. The reason behind my delay is that there are really a great many variables when it comes to current comma usage in writing. Some of it boils down to style and personal preference, and some of it boils down to good practice and the clarification of given information.

That said, the first thing I want to do is guide everyone over to Purdue Owl.

Purdue OWL: Commas

This is my go-to site; when I’m in doubt, I check out Purdue Owl, and apply the concepts provided.

Now, I want to add that absolutely, under no circumstance, is a comma ever used to indicate a pause in speech. Such an idea is completely erroneous. First of all, it is not a writer’s or editor’s job to tell a reader when to pause in speech or mental dictation. Should such a situation arise, and it will in dialogue, the pause is indicated by the ellipses, or perhaps even the prose: he paused before continuing. If you doubt me, I want you to think about William Shatner, Matthew Perry, and Christopher Walken; they all speak perfect English, or at least American English, yet they all have their own, very discernible, and easily recognizable, speech pattern.

Do you think they place commas in different places than you or I because they pause in different places, accentuate other words, or elongate words in their own, weird way? No, the comma is used in sentence structure and information presentation, not pacing of speech. Furthermore, everyone takes a breath at different intervals and throughout a variety of situations. This is actually how voice recognition software works; people can mimic the sound of someone else’s voice, but not the breathing patterns, which result in different people pausing their speech at different times.

Moreover, when a person is distressed, frightened, out of breath, happy, or angry, their breathing patterns shift, and their timed pauses change, but not the placing of commas in written word.

Imagine that a writer wants to convey a series of distressed thoughts. Does the writer suddenly abandon punctuation in order to elicit the feel of words strung together rapidly? No. In order to achieve such a feel, a writer employs short sentences, words of fewer syllables, and less complex ideas within each paragraph; it is an art, to be certain.

Finally, on top of all this, some people, like the Micro Machine spokesman, and myself, for that matter, tend to speak like a machine gun, without ever stopping to take a breath, not even at the end of a sentence; so what does that mean? Does it mean that when I write, I don’t use commas or even periods? That’s obviously not the case, because, again, commas, and all punctuation, are used to clarify information, not set a pace (with the exception of the ellipsis, which is the only punctuation used to identify such a thing…ever).

So, when are commas used?

Well, there are some very basic rules and guidelines, but a great deal of punctuation has been cut from modern writing; people aren’t stupid, and for the most part, we can omit some of the commas. Not sure how accurate I am? Go and check out Elizabethan writing.

Without going into the rules, since you can view them on Purdue Owl, I’ll provide some of the basics.

He went to the store and bought milk, eggs, bread, and juice.

In the above example, commas are used to separate a list of nouns, a list of things. It is absolutely incorrect to imply that one pauses between each item on the list; I certainly don’t pause when I read the list out loud, yet the commas are required to “break up” the list.

Let’s look at a slightly different example.

“What did you buy,” John asked.

“Uh, let’s see; milk, beer, bread, waffles, corn, juice, raisins…yeah.”

The above sentences are very real, in that people do speak that way, and although you might pause between each item, I didn’t; the only time I paused was between raisins and yeah, hence the ellipsis. It’s important to state that every single comma above is required.

A comma is required after buy because it is the end of dialogue, yet the sentence in and of itself is not over until the word asked. What did you buy, John asked, sounds to the ear very different than, what did you buy…John asked.

If you pause between buy and John, that’s your prerogative, but the comma is not placed there to inform you, the reader, that a pause must take place.

The comma after uh is required, not because of a pause in speech to indicate thought, but because uh is a sort of non-word separate from the main clause. Then, the rest of the commas “break up” a list of things.

Let’s look at it without the commas.

“What did you buy” John asked.

“Uh let’s see; milk beer bread waffles corn juice raisins…yeah.”

Does the above example provide different information? No, it doesn’t, but if we didn’t use commas there then we are forced to omit commas of similar situations. Furthermore, in the event that one wishes to elicit the feel of rapid speech, one doesn’t simply omit the commas of the list, one states, in prose, that the person spoke rapidly.

“Uh, let’s see,” he then rattled off, “milk, beer, bread, waffles, corn, juice, raisins, yeah.”

Let’s view another example.

At the store, Peggy ran into Sue Joe Betty Mike Meg and Olaf.

In the above example, it becomes evident that a comma is required to “break up” the list of names.

In the parking lot, there were many cars bikes trucks scooters and buses.

Again, we need to “break up” the list of things, and if we’re going to do it with the list of names and the list of vehicles then we have to remain consistent and do so with the list of items as in what was bought at the store in the previous example.

At the store, Peggy ran into Sue, Joe, Betty, Mike, Meg, and Olaf.

In the parking lot, there were many cars, bikes, trucks, scooters, and buses.

Let’s look at another kind of list.

John was an athlete. He was tall muscular lean fit and quick on his feet.

I think we can all agree that the list of descriptive words must be “broken up”. (Before you call me out, yes, the period at the end of the preceding sentence belongs outside the quotation marks because I’m referencing a colloquialism and not employing dialogue.)

John was an athlete. He was tall, muscular, lean, fit, and quick on his feet.

That’s the appropriate way to employ the comma for that particular list, but there are other kinds of lists, other kinds of words.

She was an awe inspiring woman.

In the above case, awe inspiring are two words that function as a single idea and “breaking them up” doesn’t work.

She was an awe, inspiring woman.

That’s wrong; awe does not describe the woman even though inspiring does.

She was an inspiring, driven woman.

In the above case, the comma works, but it isn’t really required. This is a case of predilection.

She was an inspiring driven woman.

That sentence works. The comma is not required to clarify any information, and there aren’t so many descriptive words as to create a list. Generally, a list will have three or more items, but an argument can be made that the comma is useful.

Let’s see something a little different.

He bought milk bread.

Is this referring to a kind of bread, milk bread, like rye bread? No, I mean milk and bread.

He bought milk, bread.

That isn’t right either.

He bought milk and bread.

That’s correct, and I point this out because the other sentence, she was an inspiring driven woman, can also be written as: she was an inspiring and driven woman. There are instances when a comma takes the place of a conjunction.

He bought milk and beer and bread and waffles and juice.

That sentence is correct. No commas are required because the appropriate conjunction has been implemented between each thing to “break up” the list, but that’s ugly writing, and no one talks that way, so we use commas to omit the conjunction, smooth the writing, and clarify the information.

Now, one kind of optional comma is one you see me use all the time.

Yesterday, he went to the store.

The above sentence has a comma that separates the restrictive element: yesterday. If the comma is omitted, the meaning of the sentence does not change, and no information is lost.

Yesterday he went to the store.

The above sentence is also correct. One can also write the same idea in a slightly different manner.

He went to the store yesterday.

It has the same meaning, but the time frame, which informs you of the when aspect, has been moved to the end of the clause. It is my personal preference to place the comma after such an element when it is provided at the start of a clause, but not the end.

Then, he went to the store. (How I like to write in order to set the restriction at the onset.)

He went to the store then. (How most people talk in order to provide the main idea at the onset.)

Then he went to the store. (A perfectly reasonable way to write the sentence without the optional comma.)

He went to the store, then. (A perfectly reasonable way to write the sentence with the optional comma, a comma I personally do not employ.)

All four are correct, and so in this case, consistency becomes imperative. Readers get annoyed when they read the following:

Yesterday, Bill went to the store. There he met Mike. The two got into a long discussion about the nature of commas. Bill became angry, then. Mike tried to calm down his buddy to no avail.

It’s a horrible lack of consistency. None of the commas are needed, but if you’re going to use a comma, be consistent.

Yesterday, Bill went to the store. There, he met Mike. The two got into a long discussion about the nature of commas. Bill became angry then. Mike tried to calm down his buddy, to no avail.

I added the comma between buddy and to because I’m really replacing the conjunction but. That comma is also not required, as the idea stands on its own, but I like it.

Yesterday Bill went to the store. There he met Mike. The two got into a long discussion about the nature of commas. Bill became angry, then. Mike tried to calm down his buddy to no avail.

That’s also correct, and none of those commas have anything to do with pauses of speech.

The above sentence doesn’t only make a point, it also shows something else. I placed a comma before and. A comma before and is not always required, and sometimes, it can be incorrect.

The reason the comma is required is because the clause following the conjunction is a complete sentence. None of those commas have anything to do with pauses of speech.

In the case of the words following a conjunction, where a complete clause is not formed, there is no comma.

For example:

That’s also correct and fun to do.

The words following the conjunction, fun to do, are not a complete sentence, so a comma is not used preceding and.

Now, you can see why I begrudged writing this post, and we aren’t finished yet. I’m going to switch tactics just a bit, though.

He ran around the shed, dodging paint balls.

I have been told, incorrectly, that the above use of a comma is considered comma splicing. No it is not. Omit the comma, and what do we have?

He ran around the shed dodging paint balls.

The above example has a totally different meaning. In the first sentence, it is he who ran around the shed, and it is he who is dodging. In the second sentence, it is he who ran around the shed, but it is the shed that is dodging, and unless this is some wild scifi, that shed isn’t dodging anything.

In this case, the comma is actually replacing the word while.

When there are two verbs in a sentence, it becomes critical to outline the meaning of the ideas, so the comma has nothing to do with a pause; I am not pausing between shed, dodging anymore than I am between shed dodging. My speech remains the same, yet when I speak the sentence, you know very well I am meaning that he ran, and he dodged the paint balls.

Let’s see another example.

He ran around the woman jumping rope.

He ran around the woman, jumping rope.

Again, the two sentences provide totally different ideas because of the comma. Neither is wrong; they’re just different concepts. In the first, he ran around the woman, and the woman is jumping rope. In the second example, he ran around the woman, but it was he who was also jumping rope.

Again, the comma is replacing while.

On occasion, though, there are forms of comma splicing, which can easily be overlooked.

He took one, last look at her.

The comma usage is incorrect. You can tell by reading the sentence to yourself in kind of a strange way; it’s a trick that I use when I edit.

He took one and last look at her.

You can just slide the conjunction in place of the comma: he took one and last look at her. That’s obviously wrong; since the comma isn’t replacing and, there shouldn’t be a comma. It isn’t the same as: she was a big, tall woman, since the comma is replacing the conjunction.

Next, we have complete sentences jammed together by a comma.

That was prior to the invasion, now he was concerned with the lab in Russia.

The comma here is also not to indicate a pause. The comma is incorrect. The correct punctuation is a period.

That was prior to the invasion. Now, he was concerned with the lab in Russia.

Keep in mind that a period is also not an indication of a pause in speech. Several, short, choppy sentences can be strung together by someone speaking quickly, and there will be no pause between the sentences.

It’s all very confusing. I know. It takes a great deal of practicing, practicing editing, not writing, to fully appreciate these guidelines, but I wanted to present a few points.

One, commas do not represent pauses in speech.

Two, commas do not represent pauses in speech.

Three, commas do not represent pauses in speech.

Four, many commas are optional, but they are to be used in order to clarify information.

Five, consistency is paramount.

Thank you very much, everyone, for reading this post. I know many of you have different outlooks on comma usage, but all of you who are saying that they represent a pause in speech are wrong, and any of you who want an actual lesson in comma usage should really visit Purdue Owl.

Purdue OWL: Commas

Real quick, before anyone jumps me, I know that number 3 on the site references a pause, but they mean a pause in thought, not a pause in speech. This is much like the sentence preceding this one.

Real quick, before anyone jumps me, I know that number 3 on the site references a pause, but they mean a pause in thought, not a pause in speech.

You see how sets of commas break up thoughts, references, and afterthoughts, all of which are stuck into a single sentence. I can’t stress enough that just because you might pause while reading such phrases out loud doesn’t mean that everyone does, and it certainly doesn’t mean that one should insert commas every time they pause in their own speech.

I’m not even going to pretend that I’m an instructor of literature, but I am a writer, and I am an editor, and I have been taught many, many lessons over the years, and I just want to provide an outline of those lessons to those of you who would like to improve your writing.

For those of you, who just want to write their story without worrying about any of this crap, feel free to do just that. I’ll say now what I always say: there are no rules in writing, but there are rules in editing, and you should definitely hire an editor, a competent editor, and I believe I’ll be taking on clients soon.

I recently released The Dragon of Time Two, Dragon Slayer. I’m still giving away copies for free for a while, until December 24th, 2016. If you’re interested in the book, you can visit my site

Stories by Dennis

I’m also in the middle of piddling around with some of my old work, but I’m not really writing anything new anytime soon, probably not until next year, so if you’ve been reading any of my posts, or if you just read this one, and you think you’re interested in my editing services, feel free to shoot me an email at dennis @ storiesbydennis . com.

Thanks again.

Visit my editing services tab, too!