Yes, this is filled with whisky

Yes, this is filled with whisky

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Meet Miss Persnikity, your ms' BFF

A recent email exchange with one of my authors:

> ...I got far too many letters from
> prisoners, so a post office box was a necessity.

I get those too!
I always reply personally to those poor guys. Their handwritten hopes for publication just kinda break my heart. A LOT of Sci-Fi writers are in prison.

If we'd been in actual conversation, that third sentence might very possibly have passed unremarked because we both knew what I meant: the majority of query letters coming from a prison address are for SFF books.

But written on the page, it stops the eye (and rightfully so!)

If you'd sent a query letter that said most of your audience was in prison, we'd have a problem. Of course, what you'd meant to say was "lots of prisoners have ordered my book."

When you write, you know what you mean. Your task is to make sure I do too.  Whether your reader does is YOUR responsibility. If I don't understand your sentences, that's YOUR problem (generally) not mine.

How to make sure you avoid this problem: other readers. No matter how you get them, it's really important to have a second set of eyes on your manuscript that will catch things like this. Someone who is thin lipped, evil-eyed, and sucks lemons for a living. If you can pay them in lemonade and sauerkraut, so much the better.

Here's the kind of thing Miss Persnikity will catch:

should of



Bale/bail (misuse of found just tonight in a published book!)

How many SFF writers are in prison (or exiled in Carkoon)

I read your manuscript with Miss Persnikity looking over my shoulder. Too many tsks tsks from her and I know you're more careless than the kind of writer I want to work with regularly.

It's not a problem to write this stuff. The problem is when you fail to revise it away.

(and how many revisions are enough? This blog post had seven in three days)


Sam Hawke said...

Agreed - we all need an obnoxious picky friend to find our misplaced words! I have been that person for others for a long time, and I'm sure a few people enjoyed getting a chance to return the favour with my MS. :)

Kitty said...

I'm not stupid, but for some reason the lie/lay/lay stuff totally escapes me. After all these years, the correct usage has never clicked. So, I try to avoid it if at all possible. (My tombstone will read, "Here's where they buried Kitty.") And when I can't, there's always Grammar Girl.

brianrschwarz said...

I just wish I knew what cruel DA was prosecuting all these poor helpless SFF writers...

Something must be done.

Personally, I know when Miss Persnikity is going to hate my manuscript because it's usually around the time Mr. Mostly-Right comes a-knocking.

Mr. Mostly-Right tells me that people will get what I mean.
He tells me that 80% there is good enough.
He tells me that even really big books have a few errors riddled throughout.
He tells me that the idea is what matters, not the execution.

Personally, I keep a .45 on my bedside table each night to show Mr. Mostly-Right where he can stick his advice.

And then I resume pulling out my hair while editing.

So when my book is published, and you all see a bald man in his 20's on the back cover, you'll know what happened.

Yeah, I buried Mr. Mostly-Right out back beneath the azaleas.

Amanda Capper said...

I'm with Kitty. The lay/lie/laid/lain refuses to sink in. Even when I'm dead I'm not going to lie/lay/languish anywhere. Cremate me and be done with it.

Beth said...

My personal difficulty is with affect/effect. I have to think about it every time, and still don't always get it right.

Mistakes like this in published books can be concerning, but also amusing. A week ago, I read the phrase "water flowing through a damn" in a book. I read that sentence at least three times, trying to make sure that I wasn't crazy.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

I've finally got a handle on "less" and "fewer", lie/lay etc. will come along eventually. I suspect "lie" is correct in most instances of my usage.

Too bad I taught the dog "lay down" (though she has a hand signal too, and that adheres to no grammar).

Dena Pawling said...

About a month after I'd been sworn in as an attorney, I received two hand-written letters from prisoners asking me to take their case. That's when I learned the State Bar includes my mailing address on its website for public viewing. And because I wasn't yet employed, my mailing address was my home address.

The very next day I rented a private mail box.

I love my CPs / beta readers. I've never accused them of being “thin lipped, evil-eyed, and sucks lemons” though, because I'm too much of a paranoid woodland creature. [It makes for a GREAT visual tho.] I pay them with Starbucks gift cards and my time reading their ms. I never thought of lemonade and sauerkraut. I'll have to run that by them and see what they say :)

I'm with Kitty and the rest of y'all. I generally do okay with most of those examples, but I hate lie/lay and I avoid it whenever possible. In fact, every time I typed “lie” [as in “fib”] in my manuscript, a chill crept up my back and I gave an involuntary shiver. I like Jennifer's idea of a hand signal instead. Now every time I type “lie,” I think I'll give it the single-finger salute.

Susan Bonifant said...

On the second pair of eyes: You just have to be sure you're craving honesty and not affirmation when you go looking for those eyes.

This was my favorite critique:

"Okay, parts two and three? Good, good. But, part one?" Pause. "Were you going through something when you wrote that or what?"

Stark honesty, like surgery, can be tough to come back from but wow, can it make things better. said...

Your point about your third sentence - which by my count btw, is REALLY your fourth (Miss Persnickety was screaming that in my ear as I typed) is so true. It was one of the biggest issues I had to deal with in corporate communications - which I lived and breathed my last year at work. And even in general day to day communications with friends/family. There is a lot to be lost by not seeing facial expressions, hand gestures, and all of the other ways we have of communicating aside from our words.

I think this is why we go crazy with this: :) and this LOL!

We are trying to insert body language and natural reactions via technology and much like an e-reader/Kindle/Notebook, etc., it's not as good as the real thing. (my opinion - not world view)

Anyway, yes to revisions galore. Like we've all said and experienced before, if we get to the point we're only moving comma's around, then we MIGHT be close to being done - but even that's a risk, right?

Let's eat Mom!
Let's eat, Mom!

Fortunately (???) my CP is brutally honest. I have noticed her lips are always puckered.

brianrschwarz said...

Susan, that's one amazing critique partner you have there! I still think there's a place for affirmation, but I agree fully that a pat on the back doesn't make anyone a better writer. Personally I turn to family to tell me it's great when I'm drowning in a shattered MS. Even at their harshest, they're kittens compared to my crit group.

I like Dena's idea of paying critique partners in Starbucks cards. And I agree that a single-finger salute is in order for whatever genius decided on the lie/lay conundrum.

Colin Smith said...

Amazing. You described the editor we just hired here at FPLM-Carkoon. Thin lips and red eyes. She's also yellow with tight curly white hair and sharp teeth. I knew she was right for the job at the interview. I told her to lie her resume on the desk and she nearly bit my arm off. Thankfully I had some lemons nearby to placate her. Miss Purrz Nikitie she calls herself.

And we've also noticed a number of SFF manuscripts coming in from the Buttonweezer Correctional Facility. One concerned an earth lawyer who traveled the world dispensing justice and wise counsel free of charge. I'm sorry, but there's fantasy, and there's FANTASY. To be fair, though, the author had never been to earth, and listed Matlock as a comp title.

Seriously, though, you're absolutely correct, Janet. It's one thing to misunderstand someone who's speaking, or for the speaker to use ill-chosen phrases when put on the spot that require clarification or apology. But with the written word, the author has the opportunity to edit and proof before those words are read by anyone else. Absolutely, the onus is on the writer to be clear and precise.

Julie Weathers said...

I am blessed with crit partners who are very well educated as well as being extremely talented writers in their own rights. Thank heavens for me, because I am uneducated and it takes a while for high school English to come back to me. I coasted through it without paying much attention.

My favorite grammar book is The Deluxe Transitive Vampire: The Ultimate Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed. Even so, I still avoid lie/lay/lain at times.

There's a line in the WIP, "I asked a pirate to lay with me, Mother and he refused because I'm so hideous! Tell me again how I'll meet some nice boy who'll fall madly in love with me."

We've tussled back and forth because this is incorrect, but it's how she speaks. Tanya Tucker doesn't help.

What I really took away from this is Janet's unfailing kindness to respond to prisoners who contact her. From experience, I can tell you those letters are counted among the treasures.

How many revisions are enough? Who knows? I've lost count on FAR RIDER. One of the posse came up with the very brilliant idea of writing the MC in first person and leaving the other POV characters in third. The purpose (almost wrote purprose there) of the exercise was to get me to go deeper in the MC's head, which is a problem with me.

The experiment worked so well I decided to convert the entire manuscript. This was probably not a wise move as I have it on submission. I have fulls and partials out. I know agents hate this stuff and I am deeply remorseful.

To top it off, I enrolled in a Margie Lawson class on developmental editing. After that, one more pass with the posse and I am through messing around with it. That baby is coming out of the chutes one way or the other.

Julie Weathers said...


Agreed. One critique on FAR RIDER, the early days:

"Voice, voice, voice. When it's on it's on. However, FAR RIDER as a story isn't working."

She went on to suggest I completely gut it and start over. Which I did, after I cried for three days.

I thank heavens for honest crit partners. It took me a while to find them, but they're solid gold when you do.

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

It's interesting to hear that lots of SF comes out of prison.

I like what Susan said.

Ms Persnickety will be my best friend soon.

It's emabarrassing to say I was forty when I learned that alot is not a word. Cringe or chuckle. Dyslexia makes syntax difficult. Three languages in my head at once mess with my spelling: appartamento, apartment, appartement. I use both British and English spelling interchangeably. It's a nightmare.

Luckily a friend who is a professional editor has agreed to be paid en nature -- a painting for their services.

Here's a list of
British -vs- US spelling Apartment is not on the list.

Kitty said...

donna, your Let's eat Mom! reminded me of this unfortunate magazine cover of Tails featuring Rachael Ray and her dog.

Mister Furkles said...

The lie/lay rule. This rule is so simple that it is hard grasp:

Lie NEVER takes a direct object. Lay ALWAYS takes a direct object.

But you must memorize the complete conjugation of them. (Ref You'll notice that lay is also the past tense—preterite in linguist-speak—for lie.

“Now I lay me down to sleep.” This is correct because me is the direct object of lay (present tense.)

“Now I lie down to sleep.” Is also correct because down is not a direct object.

If you didn't diagram sentences in school, you may have trouble spotting parts of speech. If that's the case, you may want to bone up on diagramming sentences.

Another great site for writers is It's a list of a couple thousand common usage errors. I make more than my share of usage errors. And occationally screw up lie/lay. But, knowing the rule, I usually catch it myself.

LynnRodz said...

I think I need to find new beta readers. The ones I've given my ms to had mostly minor critiques. (No family members or close friends, btw.) Basically, they said, "wonderful story, I cried, so many emotions," etc. Could be my questionnaire (below) is what did me in, too much like school, so they decided to ignore it.

Questions for Beta Readers

- Did the story hold your interest from the very beginning?
- Could you relate to the main character(s)?
- Did the setting pull you in? Did the descriptions seem vivid and real to you?
- Did the dialogue sound natural to you?
- Was there a point at which you became less interested in finding out what was going to happen next?
- What parts did you dislike or not like as much?
- Were there any parts you didn't believe?
- Did you get bored? If so, where?
- Are there any parts of the story that are confusing or you had to read twice?

Maybe I'm going about it all wrong, does anyone else give questions to their beta readers?

Mister Furkles, I don't think the present tense of lie/lay is what's confusing. It's when lay becomes the past tense of lie that people begin to pull their hair out.

Angie, I'm exactly like you, three languages in my head, using both British and American spelling and punctuation. As you say, it's a nightmare, but the rule of thumb is to be consistent throughout your manuscript with whatever you decide to go with.

Kitty, it's amazing how no one at the magazine Tails caught it. That reminds me of a hilarious post on FB a few years ago:

Robby: At the hospitel n my grandpa is still sick n i have to watch him fuckin a man tonite is gunna suck.

Mason: Hey Robby, i think a comma would help here.

Robby: Dats fucked up man my grandpa already sick n the last thing he need is to be put in a comma fuck you man.

Kat Waclawik said...

My favorite "I knew what I meant" story:

My critique partner was reading my first fantasy novel, in which a group of heroes is ridding their country of terrible beasts. Every time they kill one the king hosts a celebratory ball. The protagonist complains about how she hates all these beast balls.

My critique partner underlined "beast balls" and drew a hilarious picture in the margins of the character staring up in horror at a hideous beast's nether regions.

Colin Smith said...

Lynn: I do offer direction to beta readers, especially those who are relatively new to beta reading, but I try to keep it simple. I ask them not to worry too much about line editing, except for glaring typos. I'm more concerned about pace, flow, coherence, plot, character development/connection, those kinds of things. Basically, I ask them to act as an honest reader. Tell me things that annoyed you, that made you laugh, that made you cry, that made you bored, that made you turn pages. Don't worry about hurting my feelings. You won't. If you really want to help me, don't spare my feelings.

Unless the beta reader asks for a lot of direction, I'd be wary about giving too much. You want them to be engaged in reading your story, not in making sure they've checked off everything on the to-do list.

That's my take, anyway.

brianrschwarz said...

I always get a kick out of that one!

One of my favorite grammar books is "Eats, shoots & leaves: The zero tolerance approach to punctuation."

It references the clever joke about the panda bear who walks into a bar and

eats(,) shoots (the bartender) and leaves.

Karen McCoy said...

Lynn: I pose similar questions to my betas. I also ask about character development, since that's what I struggle with most. I also agree with Colin that big-picture questions should be asked too--but a few of my betas tend to throw in line-edits as a bonus.

And from Camp Persnikity, I'll add to Mister Furkles's excellent explanation by including this:

affect = cause
effect = result

Ardenwolfe said...

That's interesting. My uncle-in-law was also a former prisoner, for many years, and he's also heavy into science fiction.

I wonder why that is.

On the note of editing, I tried to do that for my fellow hopefuls on a board that shall remain nameless. Correcting improper and misused words. That sort of thing.

Got a private message that I was, "Too aggressive. Too confrontational. Too mean." You read that right . . . over editing and proper word use. Well, after I picked up my jaw, I knew it was time to move on to other pastures.

The land of hugs and kisses isn't the land of publishing when it comes to sentence errors. I might be green, but I know a gingerbread house in the woods ain't where Santa Claus lives either.

That's interesting. My uncle-in-law was also a former prisoner, for many years, and he's also heavy into science fiction.

I wonder why that is.

On the note of editing, I tried to do that for my fellow hopefuls on a board that shall remain nameless. Correcting improper and misused words. That sort of thing.

Got a private message that I was, "Too aggressive. Too confrontational. Too mean." You read that right . . . over editing and proper word use. Well, after I picked up my jaw, I knew it was time to move on to other pastures.

The land of hugs and kisses isn't the land of publishing when it some to sentence errors. I might be green, but I know a gingerbread house in the woods ain't where Santa Claus lives either.

Hansel and Gretel say hello . . . and they ask that you get them the hell outta there.

Lizzie said...

Brian, great character there.

I think it's easy to equate CP honesty with helpfulness, but that's not always the case. Sometimes the crits are opinions that should be ignored.

Julie Weathers said...

Lynn, I don't give instructions unless there's a bit that's bothering me. Then I'll ask them to pay closer attention to it.

As I said, I've been really blessed. We've added some new ladies into the mix so we'll see how they work out. They needed eyes and we all get along well. My posse members are all voracious readers as well as having degrees in English and Literature.

We pretty much do line edits on each sweep. We point out passages that work particularly well and why they work. We also point out the rough spots. "This seems pretty random. What's the significance? It's never mentioned again."

Basically we put down what we're thinking as we read through it for good or ill. It's just as important for a writer to know specifically what they're doing right as well as what they need to work on

At this point we've been reading each other long enough to be very familiar with style, so no one screws around with stuff that is strictly voice and style.

Keep looking for the crit partners who will dig deep with you. Atta boy's are great when you're starting out, but when you get to the serious part of writing, you need someone to beat the stuffing out of you at times.

REJourneys said...

In a conversation about classes, I said "Spanish is a lot like English, only in Spanish." My friend at the time laughed at me for it. In a conversation, about classes, it's acceptable because saying class over and over again is redundant (plus no one ever called it English Class). On paper, not so much.

Like others have said, the whole lie/lay issue goes over my head. But what doesn't when you're short?

Kate Larkindale said...

I've decided some people just aren't ready for critiques, even when they ask for them. I do a lot of beta reading and critiquing for others and I've been told I'm too picky and exacting because I'll fix spelling and grammar and other errors alongside commenting on story issues. Because for me, bad spelling and grammar is a story issue. I can't get into the story if I'm constantly having to re-read sentences to figure out what they're saying because the commas are wrong.

Before I agree to take on a whole book, I always ask to see a single chapter first. If I have to fix too much spelling and grammar in that chapter, I'll usually pass on beta reading the whole book because I know it isn't really ready to be beta read yet.

I guess I'm one of the few people who doesn't have a lie/lay issue…. I just have weird spelling and punctuation issues from being educated in five different countries and having to learn each ones' slightly different rules.

John "Ol' Chumbucket" Baur said...

"Should of." Drives me crazy. Even when people say it because of – shall we say? – relaxed elocution, surely when you see it on the page you realize it's wrong, don't you? I can think of few errors that make a writer look like a yahoo than "should of."
Another killer is "try and." "I'm going to try and finish the assignment today." Really? You're going to try, AND you're going to finish the assignment? Perhaps what you meant was "try to."
Yes. I'm a copy editor. Bottom line, my job is to make my writers look smart, even when they're not.

Colin Smith said...

Kate: Personally, I don't mind if a beta reader wants to do a full line edit on the ms. I just don't insist on it because I know that's a bit overwhelming for some. And I feel bad for those that go that extra mile because I know how time consuming it is, and it's not as if they're getting paid for the effort. I'm always extremely grateful, though. :)

Colin Smith said...

Sorry, John. I should of read your vomment more closely. I'll try and do better next time. ;p

french sojourn said...

Wait a minute, am I the only one that caught the fact I might have a better chance of getting my SFF published if I get incarcerated?

I mean the real numbers seem to favor being locked up. Less distractions? A gripping real feeling of horror?

Well, that puts a spin on a motive.

See yah in five to ten.

(I sped through the comments, if redundant just prosecute me.)

Cheers #007734 Felix "Cheeseater" Buttonweazer.

Dena Pawling said...

I give my CPs basic questions like 1) do you like my MC and main supporting folks, 2) can you picture each setting, 3) does everything that happens make sense, 4) are you compelled to turn the page, 5) where did you laugh, and 6) where did you cry. We exchange ms by emailed word docs and we use the "insert comment" feature to write comments where we think of them. I've received info like "I don't like this character here" and "what does this term mean" and "WTF happened here". One of my CPs had a mystery embedded in her ms and I took a guess at who-done-it at the end of every scene so she would know how her readers might be thinking. I remember one comment I made in one ms where I wrote "I love this verb!" Only another writer can get excited over a verb lol

Colin Smith said...

Hank: The correctional facilities here in Carkoon are quite exceptional (especially with the work Craig's been doing on the toilets--they flush now!). You're welcome to come visit. Just make arrangements with the Office of Carkoon Relations, or make some ludicrous suggestion in the comments. :)

bjmuntain said...

Angie: The reason 'apartment' isn't on the list of British vs American spellings is because an apartment is called a 'flat' in England. :) It's called an apartment in Canada, though.

Okay. I have to make a confesson here: I am Miss Persnickety. My critique partners will tell you this is so. Not only do I have a very keen interest in grammar and punctuation, but I read style guides for fun. In a critique group meeting, it's common to hear, "I found a few nitpicks, but I'm sure BJ found all those and more."

I know lie/lay and comma splices and what a gerund is. I love the oxford comma, and feel it is often necessary for clarity in writing. I've created a style guide for my novels, which include some Canadian spellings, some American, and some made up (it's science fiction - I make a lot up. I should probably be locked away for that.)

As for giving beta readers questions - while beta readers might also be critique partners, they aren't necessarily the same people. Good critique partners can tell you if something is wrong and why. Beta readers may be simply readers, and may not be able to put the 'why' into words. That takes a writer's mental abilities to do. So I'm careful to ask my beta readers only things they can tell me. For some, "What did you like? What didn't you like?" For others, "What do you think is missing from this scene? Does this plot point make sense? Do you think the character's motivation is strong enough?"

One of my critique partners uses both family and CPs as beta readers. Her mother reads it, and 'It's very good.' Her daughter reads it, and 'It sucks, mom.' Neither are writers, obviously. Then I beta read it. It took me two months, because I not only picked out story problems and gave some possible ways to make changes, but I also line-edited the whole thing. Because I am Miss Persnickety.

french sojourn said...

The Office of Carkoon Relations sounds a little ominous, it's probably the "relations" aspect that makes me involuntarily...twitch, as it were.

I am forwarding my resume''s also a work in progress. Thanks Colin.

"Cheeseeater" (the rat) Buttonweazer.

John "Ol' Chumbucket" Baur said...

As to the appeal of SFF to prison inmates, surely it's not that big a surprise, is it? Is there a genre that's more accurately called "escapist?"
I'm reminded of the convicted architect who hated prison because the walls weren't built to scale.

french sojourn said...



So what can you tell me about Warden Persnikity? She is obviously head of corrections...pause...ahem!

I would like an "upper" bunk, and a view?

Can you accommodate. Well. I have to run, the game is afoot.

Cheers Rat.

Colin Smith said...


Ms. Nikitie may well be moonlighting as the Warden. Her skill with corrections certainly would qualify her. I'm sure she can adequately handle reckless colons and dangling participles, so she would get no trouble from the, um, residents. :)

As to your accommodation needs, I'm afraid I have no authority there. Though I'm sure there are some cat burglars that would love to have you as a cell mate... :)

Amy Schaefer said...

Being persnickety is half the fun of editing. If you can't whip and twist and coax and persuade and demand those words line up exactly the way you want them to, then why are you writing in the first place? You could have just waved your hand in a vague manner, mumbled "It's like, you know..." and saved yourself a lot of time.

Now, just because I write SFF does not mean Paradise is actually a prison island. Although, funny enough, my boat is named Papillon.

Sam said...

I'm always worried one of those mistakes will slip through when revising. I recently read in a book from a NYTimes bestselling author a condom described as a 'foil rapper'. I can't recall the book's name, but I sure remember that little gem and they way it cracked me up (probably not the reaction the author was aiming for)

french sojourn said...


Cat burglars are for the birds, or more specifically...stool pigeons.

But I guess they are better than forgers. I roomed with one on French Guiana, reedy little guy with glasses. He and I made a raft named Papillon.

But he lost his eyesight and couldn't ever forge a czech-mate.

Be well, Mr. Psmith ( the show)

Cheers Rat.

Julie Weathers said...


"In a conversation about classes"

Someday we'll have a discussion about Mom and Bomb and the rodeo school. Some classes are more interesting than others.

Julie Weathers said...

I'm laughing so hard. We were talking about Miss Janet and Donna R, one of my posse members, lamented that Janet isn't at Surrey anymore.

Then someone mentioned Easter, they thought it was this weekend. I confirmed and said Janet wouldn't be posting as she was doing faith-based things and the shiver was on their own.

Janet is Jewish? What's a shiver got to do with religion?

No, a shiver is a group of sharks. Janet is the head shark, so the rest of the baby sharks are the shiver.

Colin Smith said...

Oh, and lest you think I am neglecting my duties, here's Julie's link from earlier (9:06 am). She said:

We've tussled back and forth because this is incorrect, but it's how she speaks. Tanya Tucker doesn't help.

Colin Smith said...

Just FYI, I couldn't linkify the link earlier because I was at work where YouTube is blocked, and I like to check the links before I linkify them. :)

bjmuntain said...

I'm sorry, but the first thing I think of when I see the word 'Papillon' is this:

(Let's see if I've figured out how to link here...)

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Jeesh, a torrential vomment today!

I'm glad I'm not the only person who struggles with lie/lay. But I haven't seen anyone else mention difficulty in distinguishing when to use good/well. (I am good? I am well?) Unless I missed it up above while trying to catch up to you all.

And picking up on the crit partner and beta reader thread, I haven't given my crit partners questions ahead of time. They're also writers so I'm curious to see what strikes them. I've been fortunate. They let me know my weaknesses--whether skeletal prose or character soup. I have a LOT of writing ahead of me.

Julie Weathers said...


Thank you so much. I owe you a starbucks card or something. I can figure out the link, but not video links. They still elude me.

Of course, I'm the woman who went down to pick up the grandson from the bus stop.

Will: Mom, what are you doing here?

Mom: You gave me a schedule to pick him up today at 3:30.

Will: No, just on Mondays and Wednesdays.

Mom: This isn't Wednesday? Never mind. I'm going to go home and go to bed now.


AJ Blythe said...

thin lipped, evil-eyed, and sucks lemons for a living

Ah, so you've met my Year 9 English teacher then?

My CPs pick up some of my grammar/spelling errors, but I use The Grammar Police (aka my Mum) for a final run through. She's of the 'old school' when they used to actually teach grammar. Crazy things like parsing that I've never heard of.

Dena, love the idea of having a CP 'guess' whodunnit at the end of every scene. I'm going to inflict that on my CPs when I next send out my wip. Thanks!

Julie Weathers said...


I'm glad you have a mother you can depend on. I would take up a pen name and pretend I'd stopped writing before I let my mother read anything I wrote. *shudder*


LynnRodz said...

Thanks everyone for your input, I appreciate this group, opps I mean shiver, more than you know. I definitely need to find more beta readers. It's always nice to hear people say they love your story, but it's not as useful as getting a helpful critique. Still, I don't know if I want someone to tell me to start over. I think I would have cried for a week if that happened to me.

Btw, Julie, if you want to link a video from YouTube, just click on "Share" and the link you need to copy and paste is under all the share icons. It's that simple, hope that helps.

AJ Blythe said...

Aww, hugs, Julie. I'm lucky because my Mum rocks.

But I use a pen name because of my MIL (the wicked witch from the west incarnate) so because of her I share your shudder. said...

Holy whackamoli.

When I left this morning to go to Raleigh I was the second vommenter. I come back tonight and there are FIFTY comments. I haven't even begun to read them all, but Kitty, I did see yours and again! Holy whackamoli! Some cover there, Rachel. Funny!

Christina Seine said...

So here I am, late to the party again. Everything worth saying has been said. So I'll just say something worthless and be done with it.

Re: lay/lie. I'm a confirmed, card-carrying grammar nerd, but that one still gets me. So I just avoid the whole thing by using the word "set." Either way works just fine if you say it with a Southern accent: "Y'all, I'm gonna go set down for a rest." "Go set that pitcher down over by the veranda."

Also, if a group of sharks is a shiver, does that make us a "vommentation" of blog followers?

Eileen said...

So interesting to hear how others work with CPs and beta readers. Though I think clean writing is critical, how much Persnickety Sauce I pour on really depends on the stage of the MS. If I’m looking at a zero-draft, I don’t want the author to miss the big picture forest for the comma-land trees. In our crit group, we tend to take several passes at it, focusing first on big picture stuff like voice, characters, theme, overall plot, pacing, etc. Once the big fixes have been made, then we can get down to the word-level critique. At that point, you can bet that I will pour my own special brand of Persnickety Sauce all over your MS.

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...
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Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Bjmuntain, of course, I forgot. The flat also has a lift.

Kate, you've got five languages to think through. A true polyglot.

When you return, let's have a drink and bring a few chapters to share.

As Ms. Persnickety the thing that drives me crazy is "She started to get out of the car, started to stretch and yawned." Started to scream.

A while back QOTKU posted a link to SF writers critiques. I can't remember the site but do remember that to partake one had to have thick skin and be forgiving.

Sam Hawke said...

Who/whom is probably the one I have to think about the most. It doesn't come naturally most of the time (probably because in spoken language so few people use it) so I always have to check my usage.

I'd make some modifications to Karen's effect/affect rule (affect - cause, effect - result). Effect can be a result, but affect doesn't tend to mean 'cause' - it means something closer to 'influence'. Because it's a particularly annoying set of words, effect with an e can ALSO be the verb, and it's the verb that is closer to 'cause' (eg you can effect change ie bring it about).

Lay/lie isn't a problem for me but my lovely partner is always saying 'I'm going to have a lay down' and it is a sign of my excellent restraint (and a good 15 years together) that I no longer correct it (out loud). In the interests of not being an annoying jerk, I try to reserve my pedantry for times when I've been specifically asked to use it, these days. Why, the other day I saw a facebook post where the poster explained how fussy they were about grammar and how they were taught never to start a sentence with a preposition... then complained taht they see it 'alot'. And I didn't even post a picture of Ally Brosh's Alot comic - now that's restraint! :)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Speaking of prisoners, I once got a phone call in the middle of the night. The operator said, "are you willing to accept the charges of a phone call from a Connecticut Correctional Facility". I thought my brother was in deep do-do, must have been arrested, had no one else to call, was desperate and needed me.
I said "no".

And, I'd rather not comment about my crit-group because some read this blog. I guess that means I'm being as honest as I think they are.

AJ Blythe said...

Cw2Ns, Just had a coughing fit after choking on my cuppa while reading your post.

And has anyone noticed that the 'prove your not a robot' now dances? He's very cool :)

LynnRodz said...

Angie, great idea! I'll call you when I get back. (Looking forward to meeting you.)

Kate, 5 languages, wow - some mornings I'm happy if I can speak one.

Sam, who/whom, you're not alone, that's another one that bothers me.

AJ, too much wine perhaps, I don't see a dancing robot. Okay, I take that back! I do - cute.

eparentcoach said...

This is a fascinating post and conversation! I was trained by nuns with hand-smacking rulers (that's a real thing) to BE Ms. Persnickety. When I beta read, I always verify what people want because I find so many errors even in ms people think are ready to go. And then I feel terrible! I'm an overqualified volunteer beta reader who bars the door before returning the track changes! People say they appreciate...but do they?

bessie stewart said...

I haven't read through all the comments yet, but has anyone thought about creating some sort of persnickety beta reading swap through friends here? I certainly can't find many people i might trust to read with the same mind set as all of us here would have. Wait no, I haven't found any beta readers I feel like would get the point of such a reading. That doesn't mean we'd be perfect, but certainly our eyes would be wider, or narrower depending, because we all pay so much attention and are growing here with Ms. Jet. Any takers? Any dangers in something like that, i wonder? Could we create some sort of good faith agreement? Just a thought.

bjmuntain said...


I'd much rather people forget the use of 'effect' as a verb. It's very jargonistic, and I have spent a good part of my working life trying to remove jargon from people's vocabulary. :)


Re: vommentation. I kind of prefer vommentnation. Can we be a vommentnation? (I know, I'm new here so I shouldn't have a say, but I think it sounds cool.)


Debra Giuffrida said...

~ Colin Smith
Every time you mention Carkoon I read Cartoon and see you drawn as Bart Simpson. Don't ask why.

~ Julie Weathers
Your posse over at the wall is a very tight knit group. I went away and now that I am back I feel that I don't know what I am talking about so I end up being just a cheerleader. But one of the posse did me an enormous favor and kicked me in the can. If I ever want another CP she would be the one!

As to being the lemon eater, sometimes I have been and it is never well received.

As writers, when we are asking for opinions we need to accept what ever comes our way, be it a Bronx cheer or a hearty pat on the back.

Great post, Ms. Shark. I shared with my writers group, cause we have some awesome sauerkraut eaters in the bunch.

Ed said...

The problem with editing is, every new edit creates new errors. It's an insidious, infinite loop leading to insanity.