Tag Archives: editing a novel manuscript

The Roads Newly Taken

[Warning: The rocky trail ahead is just me placing the needle back on my same broken record. Am in pausing-to-take-stock mode, and writing is my way of therapeutically reflecting through it, so please don’t feel you need to keep reading if you’ve already heard all this crap. :)]

It’s been a lot of work and reinvention of my professional self this last decade and a half, what with making the Finance-to-Education career move and then the USA-to-UK geographical move that abruptly demanded I figure things out all over again…just when I’d had it all sorted. I was happy as an English teacher, truly, and gave a go at teaching in London. But let’s just say I know the joy to be found in teaching, so when I found myself treading water through an unpleasant situation that didn’t let me fully be who I am, well, signs to move on simply don’t come clearer than that.

I was devastated having my professional playing field leveled on moving overseas, but I find myself looking back on these last three and a half years—which had always felt rather random and drifting—and seeing what I’ve been doing in that time is finally starting to gel. I think. Even when I was teaching and loving it, my primary love for the English language and literature that I instructed naturally fed my dreams of also becoming a writer and editor. So, I’ve been biding my time writing web content and editing fiction on a freelance basis, and I’m on the cusp of finishing a second novel. And while my editing to date has been for the same small publisher, I’ve just been approached for my first outside gig and am thinking of shaping that independent role into something more official.

Baby steps.

The querying and job-searching continues as I seek to ultimately become a published writer and full-time editor. It’s humbling to compete with so many talented writers likewise seeking publication, and it’s humbling to compete with young graduates for the same in-demand entry-level jobs. I’m 35 with a Masters degree and CFA and have applied for an unpaid internship, for cripes sakes. It’s fair to say I officially checked my ego at the door in 2008. And now I’m wriggling and fussing a bit, as we newborns will do while we wait for our sight to sharpen and learn new uses for our arms, legs, and minds.

But in the meantime, best thing I can do is keep cultivating mah skillz, yo—hoping they pave a relevant path toward what I suppose is shaping into a third freaking career. And London itself just continues being its wonderful, literary self for me to absorb and enjoy, introducing me to Charles Dickens’s great-great-great-granddaughter, Lucinda, last week and various publishing professionals last night in the very space Sir Laurence Olivier dressed and rehearsed for his stage debut. Ahh, London. I love ya.

So can you tell I’m just feeling out my sense of validation here? Glad I warned ya? Not to worry—I’m very content. I just need to stop now and then to assess the situation…because I work just as hard now as I ever did, but without the compensation or recognition. Fine, I guess I’m not money-motivated. But I’d also always been one of those people who functioned best within the straight-and-narrow, doing everything I was supposed to with clear goals in mind. MY goals, fending for myself. And then I became someone’s wifey. And then supporting his goals resulted in resetting mine (no small feat when you’re as stubbornly independent and feisty as me and will rage against anything threatening your autonomy and inner life). And now that my never-expected-to-have-to-set-new-goals-so-soon new goals are finally clarifying, the road to reach them, I see, is a little less marked and a lot more meandering than what I’m used to. In fact, it looks to me like there are multiple pathways still lying ahead, some flat, some steep, some wide, and some narrowly hugging a cliffside. All of them, though, appear to converge on the horizon…so I guess it’s time for me to just stuff my yapper with a protein bar and take a hike. 🙂


The Red Pen: Stating the Obvious that Obviously Needs Stating

I’ve been wearing my editor hat again the last couple weeks, working with someone’s raw manuscript that is pending rewrite for resubmission. For confidentiality reasons, I apologize that I can’t be more specific than I am. What follows below are merely some overarching concerns that a rookie can easily overlook (hey, I’m one, too!) and sometimes get the Monkey’s head beating against the trunk of its tree:

1. Research – They say, “Write what you know,” but one doesn’t have to live in a place or serve in a certain profession, for example, to be able to research authentic details relating to such. Writing fiction doesn’t give the liberty to entirely fabricate a place or occupation if it’s one that actually exists. The internet is a beautiful place for research, as are books, site visits, and interviews with people in the applicable locations/fields. Be knowledgeable of your story’s setting and subjects and use common sense to discern what claims need to be fact-checked, then verify them accordingly. (see also “Settingcategory)

2. Narrative – Do NOT “tell” versus “show”! That is Writing 101. Your story shouldn’t read like an extended synopsis that lists events rather than describes them in such a way that immerses the reader. Don’t say that your character is making a facial expression that looks angry, show that his brows are furrowed and lips screwed into a menacing sneer. Don’t say that the room is filled with expensive-looking furniture, show that it’s cluttered with ornately carved oak chairs upholstered in embroidered silk astride side-tables trimmed in gold leaf (I don’t know if that’s “expensive” or just tacky…). And don’t say something in dialogue that you then paraphrase in narrative—communicate the info/insight one way or the other; to do both is redundant.

Also, avoid an abundance of character introspection. Readers really don’t need to know every single thought and motivation of your character. Make them privy, yes, if it’s from a certain character’s POV, but it’s also more interesting and vivid to visualize if you concisely show their body language and actions and let the reader reasonably infer some of what they’re thinking or feeling. Telling all on characters and the labyrinth of questioning they’re wondering their way through is tedious and doesn’t let readers form questions of their own that’ll make them keep reading in search of answers. Leaving something to the imagination not only indulges one of the joys of reading but can heighten a story’s sense of conflict and climax when the reader isn’t already in the know of everything. (see alsoDescriptive LanguageandSensory Detailscategories)

3. Dialogue. In keeping with the above, character conversation can come across as unnatural when too much information is shared by this means. Be subtle when doling out back-story or insight via dialogue, otherwise it’s blunt and awkward: your manipulations of story become too transparent, and the characters don’t sound like real people. (see alsoDialoguecategory)

4. Characterization. The above narration/dialogue factors are just as important to building a strong sense of character. Do your characters sound believable? Are you showing enough description of features, mannerisms, and personality such that your reader can visualize your characters (yet not so much that you’re telling readers everything about them and leaving nothing to the imagination)? And are you giving your reader reason to remotely care about them and whether or not they reach their goals? Without any of this, characters aren’t even two dimensional; they’re stick-straight lines. Boring. Flesh ’em out and make them more interesting with flaws if they seem too goodie-goodie or benign—or with redeeming qualities if they’re otherwise the Devil incarnate. No one likes a purely good hero or a purely evil villain. (see alsoCharactercategory)

5. Story Arc. Tensions need to rise as the story progresses. Not overly telling and giving everything away (as discussed above) will help contribute to this as readers speculate character motivations and future actions and reactions; scan and replace lengthy sections of introspection with concise, external descriptions of character body language/expression and leave readers to their own interpretations. Add complexity by interweaving relevant back-story and subplot(s). Foreshadowing is also a useful device for enhancing curiosity along the way as readers form predictions, but it will blow up in your face if the seeds you plant are too obvious! Don’t lead up to your big reveal only for your reader to go, “Uh, derr!” That reeks of anticlimax.

It’s not to say everything should be a surprise for the reader—it can be just as suspenseful when the reader already knows something the character doesn’t (like in horror movies when you know the killer is lurking right around the corner from the innocent victim), but only when it’s deliberately played to this effect. There’s a craft in pulling that off, so don’t think simply telling your reader everything and leaving your character in the dark is an easy shortcut—be discerning in what you share and withhold.

Your big revelations can likewise be a let-down if your characters’ own responses fall flat. Think about what you’re wanting your readers to anticipate, to get excited about, and make sure you deliver it in a commensurately enthusiastic fashion. If there’s a big secret out there that your reader knows and is dying for your character to find out, is the character finding out in an exciting and unexpected way? Or is, for instance, another character just explaining it in a straight-forward conversation, garnering a reaction as enthralling as, “Oh.” (see alsoStory Arccategory and, more specifically, Pacing Your Pages” Parts I & II)

6. Other: Plot Elements (in general). Map out all the major and minor elements of your plot and subplot(s) alike and make sure every piece of them flows/connects logically. Ensure not a single important question they could raise is left unanswered if it’s vital to understanding and believing in the story. Loose ends that leave something to the imagination or tease for a sequel are one thing, but overlooking major gaps in how a character got from Point A to Point B (just because you want them to get there for the sake of driving the story forward in other ways) undermines a story’s entire credibility. Don’t just say something happened if it’s not entirely logical for it to have happened and assume your readers won’t notice, that they’ll just take your word for it. If something is complicated whether you like it or not, do the work to figure it out; stop writing and start reasoning through it (via outline or time-line, perhaps). Do more research if it’s necessary. And if it’s not working, accept it and change it to something that will.

Readers’ disbelief can only be suspended so far; you have to earn their trust if they’re going to follow the journey you want to take them on. Even the most fantastical of story-worlds need plausibility (working within the rules/parameters the author so designs for those worlds if it’s not the one we actually live in), so the reader must understand how plot events feasibly come to happen and tie together for the story to be realistic and identifiable.

Speaking of “Uh, durr!” and “Oh,” that’s probably your reader-response to all of the above. But you’d be surprised what we writers can’t see in our own writing that we so clearly do in others. As the author, the mental full-picture we see tends to automatically fill the gaps of the written story that our readers otherwise trip into. With that in mind, never underestimate a pair of fresh eyes; it really does pay to have others read your work. So toughen that skin and git ‘er done! Constructive criticism has groomed the Monkey’s own fur into a nice thick and glossy coat. 🙂


And now a word from our sponsors…

* * BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP * *

This blog is temporarily on hiatus.

The Primate was at first preoccupied with October travels,
and now with November NaNoWriMo.

(see sidebar widget to track my progress…
…and have mercy. I joined 12 days in.) 

Please stay tuned for The Fallen Monkey’s winter season line-up, though, when it returns to its regular schedule.

Same Monkey Time. Same Monkey Channel.

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On Priorities, Parks, Parents, and Publishing

Yowzah. Sorry I fell out of the tree again. These have been weeks of prioritizing, and unfortunately if I’m to make any blogging a priority, it’s gotta be the one I actually get paid for. 🙂 In the meantime, while I haven’t been the most attentive commenter on your blogs lately, I’m glad to see you all are keeping busy and doing well, too!

I do finally want to pop in this week, though, before going on hiatus yet again. I’ll be heading Stateside in a few days for a brief visit to my sweet home Chicago before then undertaking the grand road-trip with my parents to Orlando for our big family Disney World vacation three years in the making. We made this pilgrimage many-a time as kids, but we started the tradition of returning with spouses and grandkids ten years ago. This is the first time since that all of us siblings are able to make it again. So factor in me, me mum and dad, two brothers, one sister, two sisters-in-law, one brother-in-law, six nephews, two nieces, and my brother’s parents-in-law, and our grand total is nineteen. Could be an even twenty if my husband’s eleven weeks of grad school this year didn’t suck away all his work holiday and then some. 😦 In any case, leave it to my parents to be the only ones choosing to drive, so I’m making the journey with them to help out—they’ve had a rough year of health issues, and it’s the least I can do when I’m otherwise missing out on everything, the bad and the good, while living abroad. Time to shift my priorities to others, finally.

And who am I kidding. I love this stuff. Fire up the Family Truckster! Cracker Barrel, here we come! Marty Moose! Marty Moose! Marty Moose!

This is no longer a vacation—it’s a quest. It’s a quest for fun.”

In literary news, where my freelance editing work goes, I’ve wrapped up the developmental edit of a very fun YA paranormal novel so will await whatever the managing edit may throw back our way. And the second novel I’d edited has just been published! The author has been making a great effort at social media, so it looks like it’s doing well so far. Three-for-three wonderful authors to work with [knocks wood for next time]. And as for my own manuscript, I’ve been revisiting ms #1 after some time away from it and reckon my next step is consulting with a professional editor—I’ve been really envying the process I go through with my authors and would like to see my story get all buffed-n-polished, too. Regardless, I need to get more momentum behind that one; I admittedly haven’t been trying very hard to query. Dare I say it, I think I’ve settled into contentment with just the process of bringing it into being—I’ve entertained the hell out of myself!—so, where priorities go, getting it published has almost come to feel secondary. Or is that what all the unpublished say when they’re in massive denial? 😉

In any case, I’ll try to pop back at least a couple more times this week before the *Disney magic* beckons me…


A Cage of One’s Own

Ya know, I usually play up the whole monkey thing because I think I’m so terribly clever and no one will ever get sick of it (shyeah right, you’re thinking), but, honestly, my flat really is starting to feel like a zoo right now.

Within one week of returning from two weeks in Singapore with my husband and in-laws, I already hosted two separate visitors and received news that another was scheduled to arrive, well, as of yesterday and staying for two weeks. Apparently so much poop flies around in here that my husband’s ears must’ve gotten clogged, because for the second time we have a scheduling conflict thanks to our stellar communication with each other. The first time was last fall when we double-booked my parents and a couple friends of ours—six adults in a wee flat of one bathroom + two beds + one punctured aerobed screamed nightmare to me, so I took my parents to the Cotswolds for most of the overlap while my husband hosted our friends. Problem solved.

Well, it turns out that I’m fleeing to the countryside yet again during my father-in-law’s present visit. Something about telling my husband, “If your father hasn’t decided on his dates yet, late August is out because I’m going on a writer’s retreat in the wake of our insane spring and summer,” got lost in translation, so he’d emailed his dad that late August still worked great. Great.

So here he is, and here I am packing up to leave on Sunday for five nights in Cornwall.

Could I have canceled? Sure.
Was there a chance in hell I was going to? No sir.
Do I feel a little bad about that? Of course!

But maybe this is a good time to mention that we’ve hosted over thirty (30) different people in less than three years since moving to London. And hosting is particularly problematic for those like me who work from home. And whose office is also the guest bedroom. In all fairness, though, this guest is super easy and independent, and we’ve given him the master bedroom so I can access my computer.

Nonetheless, after doing a little more basic math for this year alone, I estimate 30% of 2011 will have been spent hosting, traveling, and visiting home. Which leaves a lot of everyday life to be crammed into that remaining 70%. Which leaves not a lot of time for a reclusive writing life. (And I don’t even have kids!! How do you writers with children do it all??!!)

So I’m going, to a cage aaall to myself. No work, no hosting, undoubtedly a little hiking, but primarily writing. Selfishness has never tasted so delicious. See you in a week or so.

And how about you? How have you made a point to prioritize your writing, to give yourself some space to think, imagine, and create?


Oh, Okay Fine. May as Well.

It seems inevitable that part of the aspiring author’s procrastination from writing consists of farting around with mocking up potential cover art. I suppose I might have sort of maybe done this myself before…in which case, oh, okay fine. May as well share with ya.

I came up with two possibilities for my first ms. No, I’m not sharing my title yet (too irrationally afraid to), and, yes, I’ve used stock images with watermarks still on them (too cheap to pay for them). Whatever. Do you like them or not? Sorry, that came out more antagonistic than I’d intended. And I’m also sorry that I for whatever reason didn’t keep a file that would’ve allowed me to just delete (versus hideously black out) the title in the 2nd image. So just to be clear, my title is not “Graphic Leftovers.” 😉

  – OR –  

Have you ever done this, too? I’d love to see ’em!


Is the Baby Still in the Bathtub?

I heard once at a writing seminar that every time we read, it’s an investment in our writing. So in light of that, we shouldn’t feel guilty when we spend our time reading someone else’s writing instead of working on our own.

When I do read someone else’s story, on one level of consciousness I’m processing how they’ve approached its construction and shaped its language, which helps me likewise reflect on my own projects. I still lose myself in the experience of the book, yet today was one of those when I did snap out of someone else’s story-world to reenter my own—because it had just smacked me upside the head, somewhere in the middle of the book I was reading, that I needed to work more on the beginning of the book I am writing. Seemingly out of nowhere, but I think my subconscious has known all along and something I read must have finally dislodged that. Not merely the revelation of what I probably need to do, but my acceptance of it. I think I’ve known for a long while what I should do but have been nurturing my precious poopsies, running the warm water over them and adding more bubble bath.

I’ve only done some cursory restructuring so far, but looks like my manuscript needs to be run like a conveyor belt in reverse again, backing it up another couple chapters to start at even later one. If I do this, I must be mindful of what had happened last time and ensure the babies of characterization and exposition don’t get thrown out with the bath water in the interest of moving plot forward a bit faster. And it really isn’t so much that I’m trying to get a move-on with the story line; the more I look at those opening chapters, the more I realize that I was still finding my way into the story with them; it doesn’t all have to be scratched, but it needs to be tightened through rearranging. So as I try to look at the story elements in those chapters more strategically right now—isolating the “need to haves” from the “nice to haves”—it’s like they’re all lined up before me, beads of sweat glistening at their brows and sweaty palms wringing behind their backs as they try to stand tall, stand proud with chins up but lips quivering, and some surely wetting their pants.

I shall place the little dears in the foster care of my archives and keep faith they’ll find a good home in a short story or other novel some day. Until that time of weaning, I’m letting them push their little rubber duckies through the suds, scrubbing them extra clean behind the ears before tucking them into bed for the night all clean and sweet-smelling and raisin-fingered…who knows, perhaps after I sleep on it, too, I’ll change my mind.

I’m curious to hear about YOUR babies—it’s inevitable that some of them get chucked out the window, but have you actually had success reusing them elsewhere? How so?


What Characters Looove to Do…


Characters love to—

* sigh *
and take deep breaths
when they’re not
catching their breath at the back of their throats
or gasping!
They like taking sidelong glances as they
look out the corner of their eyes,
and they’re fond of
muttering,
mumbling,
murmuring,
and growling
through clenched teeth.
They’ll pinch the bridge of their noses
or roll their eyes in frustration
or furrow/cock their brows in confusion.
And their mouths drop open in shock.
In good moods, they’re wild about
smirking
and
winking
and
blushing
as they
chuckle or snicker or giggle
with smug grins.
In tender moments, they’ll
whisper
and do everything
softly and gently.
And they absolutely get off on
beginning to do some things
while starting to do others.

These are just some of the things I see characters loving to do all over the place when I edit manuscripts. (I catch ’em with the naked eye, but a tool like “Wordle” might also help authors divide and conquer those tendencies)

What penchants do YOUR characters have?

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Editing Out the Editor

This shit editing is bananas, B-A-N-A-N-A-S.

Hey, Editors, are ya there? Editors? Editors? Bueller? Bueller?…

I recently saw this editorial, “The Price of Typos,” which comments on how “typos are everywhere” now—in large part because publishers are employing less editorial staff and rushing to publish books ever faster. And modern authors are playing their part in it, too:

“Use of the word processor has resulted in a substantial decline in author discipline and attention. Manuscripts are much longer than they were 25 years ago, much more casually assembled, and beyond spell check (and not even then; and of course it will miss typos if the word is a word) it is amazing how little review seems to have occurred before the text is sent to the editor. Seriously, you have no idea how sloppy some of these things are.”

Though editors arguably have more work cut out for them in light of the above (man, don’t I know it firsthand!), when I read traditionally published books I’ve wondered the same: where are the editors? How did that typo get through? I’ve always said that I’ve never read a book without a typo, which is fine—annoying but fine, as I understand how that can happen maybe once or twice—but lately I see several mistakes, and it’s not just typos anymore.

Back when I read the Twilight series (disclaimer: my Freshman Year students were squealing about it incessantly and kept begging to write book reports on it, so I felt it my duty to understand what they were talking about…and obsessively read all four books, and joined Team Edward, and watched all the movies so far, and…), and, I’m sorry, where was I? Oh, so when I read Stephanie Meyer’s decent storytelling but crappy writing, her overuse of words like “guffaw” and “mutter” bored a hole in my head as they plunk, plunk, plunked against my skull like water torture. Where was the editor to chuck a thesaurus at her and make her vary word choice? [See Also: “Sloppy YA Editing: Tic Words]  And when each book got longer than the previous (and not in a good JK Rowling way), when plot didn’t thicken so much as stretch like taffy and read like a fanfiction of her own work, I asked myself, where was the editor to hack out those paragraphs and pages of redundancy and filler?

So maybe Twilight is an unsurprising example, but I was in a bit of despair when I read the most recent book of one of my new favorite authors: The Distant Hours by Kate Morton. I loved her first two books in a way I hadn’t anything that I’d read in such a long time, and while I still enjoyed this third one, it needed a good, solid edit. The thread of an interesting story was there for me, which did keep me reading, but I found myself in a frustrated “get on with it” mode—and this from someone who can totally nurture the slow-going and character-based. I don’t need action and rapid pace, really I don’t, but I also don’t need constant dancing around with dazzling wordsmithing and every detail about yet another thunderstorm raging outside while, go figure, conflict between characters is on the rise, too. That’s my two cents, but here’s a sample of what I saw at Amazon as well:

“What on earth went wrong with this book? Was there no editor involved?”

“[T]oo long and too repetitive. A great deal of the fault lies with the editors.”

“What did this book lack? An editor!”

“This seems to be a problem with modern publishing…some way down the line in an author’s output either the editors stop thinking they need to edit or they believe it OK to drop an earlier piece of work on an unsuspecting readership who naively expect new books to be better books.”

Hear, hear! to that last one; I really do think publishers think we’re chumps when it comes to best-selling authors. I don’t read much Philippa Gregory, so maybe she’s been doing this all along in her historical novel series, but I recently read her The White Queen and, while her writing style otherwise does keep a good pace (especially considering the mammoth amount of factual history she manages to distill), I felt little explosions in my head every time I chanced on passages like this:

“More importantly, I think, but I do not say, not even to Elizabeth, that once we are living in a private house quietly, my boy Richard might be able to join us. As we are stripped of our royalty my son might be with me again. When he is no longer a prince, I might get him back. He has been Peter, a boy living with a poor family in Tournai. He could be Peter, a visitor to my house at Grafton, my favorite page boy, my constant companion, my heart, my joy.”

Listen, I know there’s merit to lyrically using repetition for emphasis, but it loses its efficacy when this sort of thing is done over and over and over again for the length of a novel. I mean, seriously, this reads like she wrote the same thing a handful of different ways in brainstorming which she wanted to use and just forgot to scratch out the losing options.

And by this point, you’re probably all wishing I had an editor to keep this post concise. 🙂 But before I go, I leave you with this: eliminating redundancies might be a subjective task, but spelling and grammar are not. An editing colleague recently emailed this sentence:

“A woman without her man is nothing”

Evidently, an English professor wrote this for students to then punctuate. Most of the boys wrote:

“A woman, without her man, is nothing.”

Most of the girls wrote:

“A woman: without her, man is nothing.”

The power of punctuation! Never underestimate the importance of attention to detail—the importance of EDITING!

 


The Red Pen: Top 3 Errors in Grammar

Following up on my previous post, below are the three most-recurring grammatical corrections I make in my editing assignments.

1. Tense consistency:

All manuscripts I’ve edited so far have been narrated in past tense. While it’s still okay (and necessary) for their dialogue to use present tense, sometimes there are incorrect lapses into it in the narrative. More often, though, I’m correcting the times when past tense is used instead of past perfect.

Past perfect is basically the past tense of past tense. If the main action of your narrative is already in past tense, events described as having occurred prior to that are denoted as even further in the past by using past perfect tense. e.g.:

  • I called him. (past)
  • I had called him. (past perfect)
  • I was upset. (past)
  • I had been upset. (past perfect)
  • Why didn’t he tell me this before? (past)
  • Why hadn’t he told me this before? (past perfect)

[Brief flashbacks can be easily handled this way. If ever writing a lengthy flashback, though, in which you think using past-perfect for paragraphs or pages on end might be awkward / distracting / lacking immediacy, you can alternatively offset the scene in italics and/or as its own section.]

2. Commas for coordinating conjunctions:

Unless denoting a pause for particular emphasis, a comma is only needed before and, but, or, for, so, nor, yet if the clause following one of those conjunctions could stand alone as its own sentence. e.g.:

  • I called him, but I hung up before he could answer.
  • I called him but hung up before he could answer.
  • I called him, and I asked about tonight.
  • I called him and asked about tonight.

3. Semicolons:

A semicolon is basically the same thing as adding a comma + conjunction (and, but, or, etc…). It separates what are otherwise two complete sentences that could stand independently from each other. e.g.:

  • I called him; I hung up before he could answer.

The easiest test for when it’s appropriate to use a semicolon or comma+conjunction is to ask yourself if you could use a period in place of either. And the point of not just always using a period in that case is to vary your simple sentences with complex ones.

This goes right back to what I was saying last time about varying sentence structure. Unless repeating a certain structure for emphasis, it’s good to change it up. Of course, sentence fragments can also be used for an effect, but you’ll use those only to a limited extent. As long as I’m totally dorking out here, I’ll take this opportunity to share the basic sentence formulas for evaluating structural soundness.

The cheat-sheet of basic sentence structure & punctuation:

I = Independent clause (it can stand alone as its own sentence)
D = Dependent clause  (it can’t stand on its own, unless for stylistic emphasis)
c = coordinating conjunction

Starting with the simple sentence below, the subsequent compound sentences can be formed a few different ways:

I .           The monkey screeched.
I , c I .    The monkey screeched, and it fell out of the tree.
I ; I .      The monkey screeched; it fell out of the tree.
I D .      The monkey screeched when it fell out of the tree.
D , I .    When it fell out of the tree, the monkey screeched.

So there you have the basic building blocks for any sentence you could come up with, like the compound-complex ones below that combine the above in different ways for all sorts of crazy fun ;):

ID,cI.
The monkey screeched when it fell out of the tree, and it grabbed for a vine.
D,I,cI.
When it fell out of the tree, the monkey screeched, and it grabbed for a vine.
D,I;I.
When it fell out of the tree, the monkey screeched; it grabbed for a vine.

I,cID.
The monkey fell out of the tree, and it screeched as it grabbed for a vine.

I;D,I.
The monkey fell out of the tree; as it grabbed for a vine, it screeched.
I;ID.
The monkey fell out of the tree; it screeched as it grabbed for a vine.

And blah-blah-blah, blah-blah. I think you get the idea. How we phrase our sentences usually comes from a more innate, magically creative place, but the basic formulas above remind us of the options and, at the very least, are a great way to check commas and semicolons. Even if you want to play with this punctuation, too, for stylistic reasons, you still have to know the writing rules in order to break them.

I’d better leave it at that before the red pen editing section of my brain lights your brains on fire, too…


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