Wednesday, 25 February 2009

More Comma Hunting

This time of a different sort...

Coordinate adjectives.

I've used these perhaps a little too much, maybe as much as one or two per chapter and I didn’t even know it was a style crime.

We all know that in some circumstances we should use a comma to separate a pair of adjectives that describe the same noun.

The Owl defines the rule quite clearly and there is even a test to make sure they are coordinate and not cumulative adjectives:

6. Use commas to separate two or more coordinate adjectives that describe the same noun. Be sure never to add an extra comma between the final adjective and the noun itself or to use commas with non-coordinate adjectives.

They’ve been bothering me since I read Allen Guthrie's Infamous Writing Tips on the Absolute Write Water Cooler Forums.

Here’s a snippet:

5: Pairs of adjectives are exponentially worse than single adjectives. The ‘big, old’ man walked slowly towards the ‘tall, beautiful’ girl. When I read a sentence like that, I’m hoping he dies before he arrives at his destination. Mind you, that’s probably a cue for a ‘noisy, white’ ambulance to arrive. Wailingly, perhaps!

Here's Allen Guthrie's tip sheet.

How do you feel about them? Is it OK to use them sparingly or should coordinate adjectives be banned?

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Honest Editing

I've been working on my first chapter (again). I know I shouldn't but I couldn't help it.

I must admit I was proud of the opening hook after the last rewrite, but on reflection it’s -well -er -um crap.

I still want the same hook but damn I need to write it better.

I've been working on the rest of the chapter the last few days and today I realised what was wrong with it. It is boring - really boring.

I need to get rid of the rubbish. I can fix the pacing problems of this chapter by keeping the last part of the chapter as that's quite strong. There is some essential information that needs to go in somewhere, but I can work that into any of the first half a dozen or so chapters and there is one plot-device that needs to be retained. That I've decided can be moved into the next scene.

Problem solved.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Reading to be a Better Writer

I've just picked up a copy of The Starflight Handbook - A Pioneer′s Guide to Interstellar Travel. It's been on my wish list for a while so I was rather surprised when it plopped onto the doormat courtesy of my girlfriend (an early Valentines gift).

I don't know whether it will help with WIP but it'll certainly add an element of realism when I come to revise.

On the horizon is Seeds of Earth (Humanity's Fire) by Michael Cobley.

I've been looking forward to it since I heard about it a couple of months ago. The back cover sold me I can't wait to read this:

First contact was not supposed to be like this. The first intelligent species to encounter Mankind attacked without warning and swarmed locust-like through the solar system. Merciless. Relentless. Unstoppable. With little hope of halting the savage invasion, Earth's last, desperate roll of the dice was to send out three colony ships, seeds of Earth, to different parts of the galaxy. Earth may perish but the human race would live on ...somewhere. 150 years later, the human colony on the planet Darien has established a new world for Humanity and forged a peaceful relationship with the planet's indigenous race, the scholarly, enigmatic Uvovo. But there are secrets buried beneath the surface of Darien's forest moon. Secrets that go back to an apocalyptic battle fought between ancient forerunner races at the dawn of galactic civilisation...

Seeds of Earth is published by Orbit in the UK on the 5 March 2009.
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