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Monday, March 8, 2010

Get Grammar

Please welcome guest blogger Kat Duncan

Hello everyone! I'm Kat Duncan, RWA-PRO, New England Chapter member, author of seven full-length manuscripts and several short stories, published in poetry and looking for new fictional territory to explore. At the end of this month I will be presenting a workshop on grammar (apologies to those of you who cringe at the word). But hey, if that describes you then it's time you got the better of this beast and I'm just the gal to help you do that. If it doesn't describe you then, maybe this does: Ever get a feeling that something's wrong with your writing, but you can't quite put your finger on it and neither can your critique partner? Ever get a rejection that says something like: "This story didn't grab me the way I thought it would?"

My critique partner told me this morning: "You really made big difference in that opening scene. Wow! It really sings now. The scene is so alive. You must have made a lot of changes." Me: "No, I only changed a few words and re-wrote a couple of sentences."

It's true. My partner was blown away by a few simple changes. Most of them were either word choice changes or grammatical changes. How did I do it? For a long time, I didn't really know. Maybe I'm just instinctively good at grammar (don't hate me). But that wasn't good enough for me. I had to try to understand what makes writing bad versus good and good versus great. Luckily, I'm a tutor by trade so I have lots of opportunities to read what people write and try to help them understand what they want to say and how to say it better. I haven't gotten all the answers (yet!), but I can promise you one thing in this workshop: practical, useful solutions that you can start using in your writing the moment you learn about them. No short lists of "do this, but never do that", no drawn out lectures about subjects, predicates and complex clauses. And I promise I won't ever make you diagram sentences!

What you'll get instead is a sensible explanation of what works grammatically and why it works. Not the kind of scholarly details you'd find in a textbook (although I do provide the correct grammar terms for the die-hards out there). You'll get real, practical applications and examples geared to romance writing. For those of you who are really old-school, there will be optional practice exercises that you can work on. You can send these to me privately and I solemnly promise never to reveal your grammar goofs.

This workshop is for writers who don't "get" grammar and for those who think they don't want to get it. Proper use of grammar makes a story flow smoothly, page after page. Poorly constructed sentences and paragraphs ruin the pace of your novel and make editors and agents pass up your manuscript. I'm going to make it easy for you to try out techniques that work and I'm going to explain why they work so you don't go back to making the same old mistakes. I'll show you how to blend different grammar constructions to make action, emotion, and tension come through.

Lately I've been writing a string of short stories. One thing short stories have taught me is how to set up scenes in just a few words and how to get to the crisis point quickly. Come join me at the end of the month and give yourself a chance to "get" grammar off your back once and for all! Head on over to
http://www.romance-ffp.com/event.cfm?EventID=163 to sign up today! The workshop runs from March 29th to April 4th. See you there!

Kat Duncan obtained her Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry and German from Regis College in Weston, MA and spent a Fulbright year in Germany. She recently obtained her Master's Degree in Special Education from Gordon College in Wenham, MA. She is a full-time tutor to students from elementary through college and beyond in reading, writing and math. An active member of the New England Chapter of RWA, and RWA-PRO, she has written a series of popular newsletter articles on grammar and style.  With seven completed manuscripts she uses a spreadsheet to keep track of multiple submissions to agents and editors.


EmilyBryan said...

It's so important to get the grammar right. If an editor likes your premise, but sees your manuscript is full of work for her, guess what will happen to that manuscript. You go, Kat!

Lisa Kessler said...

Grammar shouldn't be a bad word! It's our friend... :)

I agree with you! It's very important and as a writer, it's core of communicating our stories...

Lisa :)