Thursday, August 9, 2018

How the Internet Is Destroying Our Language

Photo of Eduardo Paolozzi mosaic inside Tottenham Court road tube station by Mark Hillary, via Flickr
Like many people with creative tendencies, I wear more than one “artistic” hat. I not only love to read, write and edit, but I also dabble in art, photography, poetry, bead-making and a form of mosaic known as pique assiette that uses pieces of broken crockery in place of colored glass.

You might be asking yourself what does any of this have to do with a blog about writing and editing? Quite a lot, in fact. My artistic ramblings led me to the world of t-shirt design and I was pleased to discover it was a lot of fun and brought in a few extra dollars each month.

A few years ago, I posted some tee designs on Amazon when they opened their print on demand division, known as Merch. These evergreen designs had all been best-sellers on other POD platforms in the past so I figured they were a good place to start.

And there they sat. I was pulling out my hair trying to figure out why my clever, amusing shirts weren’t selling while barely literate teen boys whose designs were frankly awful were routinely making $10,000 to $20,000 a month selling their tees. Seriously. They were. See why I was intrigued?

I started investigating and soon realized the difference came down to language skills. My insistence on using proper grammar and punctuation in my keywords was costing me sales because almost no one else in America cares about such things anymore. Why search for a t-shirt when it’s so much easier to search for a tshirt? That’s one less character to type, plus it’s so difficult to reach all the way up to the top of your keyboard to type a hyphen when, really, it’s not needed.

Why bother with possessive apostrophes when potential buyers looking for runners’ t-shirts are almost certainly searching for runners tshirts instead? The sheer number of adults whose grade school teachers never managed to convey the difference between your and you’re to them, nor the vaguest concept of why it might be important not to use them interchangeably is staggering. Now, on almost a daily basis, I see the pronoun “our” used in placed of the verb, “are.” I guess they do kind of sound alike...if you’re underwater with a motorboat running nearby.

These errors are creeping into headlines as well, and not just in local community newspapers. Last summer, the scroll on an NBC newscast read: “Turkey Trimmers.” Now you might be forgiven if you thought that meant a light-hearted story about someone who provides free haircuts for needy turkeys, but nope. The story was about a devastating 6.6 earthquake in the Aegean Sea that injured almost 500 people and caused millions of dollars in damage to homes and irreplaceable historic structures. I guess whoever wrote that scroll was actually looking for the term, “Turkey Tremors” instead. But there was no copy editor on hand to correct the mistake before it aired because most copy editors have been fired, because really, they're not needed anymore either, right? So I say the Internet is destroying our language, I mean that when people see errors repeatedly in print, either on the Internet on TV, or in trusted publications, the error becomes the norm as it is inculcated into our language as acceptable usage. And correct usage withers, dies away and becomes "archaic."

I would like to say I am carrying this noble grammar flag into battle but the truth is, I caved on this one. I now meekly peck out "writers tshirts" in my descriptions, cringing with every letter I type. I guess that makes me part of the problem now, but hey, if you can manage to make $10,000 a month selling anything that isn’t drugs, I guess you’re doing something right.

Addendum: For the record, I don’t make anywhere close to that amount selling t-shirts online. If I did, I’d be on some sun-soaked island in the Aegean Sea, keeping a watchful eye out for trimmers.

Patricia B. Smith is a journalist who is the author of 11 published books, including Idiot’s Guide: Flipping Houses, Alzheimer's For Dummies and Sleep Disorders for Dummies.

Pat is also an experienced professional developmental editor who serves as an Editorial Evaluation and Developmental Coordinator for Five Star Publishing. She works with private clients as well and has helped many authors land their first publishing contracts. Many of her clients have achieved notable success, including two winners of the Missouri Writers’ Guild Show-me Best Book of the Year Award.

Connect with Pat on Facebook, Twitter, or Linked In.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The Summer NovelRama: 25,000 words in 4 days. Because you can.

That’s the slogan for the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers most excellent summer NovelRama, a writing event sponsored by RMFW’s IPAL (independently published member writers) and open to writers everywhere who need encouragement, inspiration, camaraderie, a challenge, and a chance at prizes…and all from the comfort of your own home where you can work in your sloppy sweatpants and slippers (or any other venue and attire of your choice).

Need a boost (aka a kick in the pants) to produce a lot of words in a small amount of time? Think about that novel that just needs a few more chapters but has been neglected while you toddle off to lunch with friends, binge watch a new series on Netflix, or procrastinate by cleaning house (yes, I’ve been doing all three).

Doesn’t have to be a novel though. Maybe you want to write three or four short stories. Churn out the first draft of a novella. Whatever works for you works for NovelRama. Even if you can only participate one day or a few hours, you can still benefit from the activities and the fellowship.

Want to give it a try? Visit the NovelRama Facebook page and click on “Interested” or “Going.” There will be LIVE videos, writing sprints, and fun llama memes (ranging from charming to silly but guaranteed to bring a smile to your face).

Did I mention there are prizes? If you join the challenge, you'll need to post your word count each day and meet the word count goal. That’s how you get entered in drawings.

The date for this fantabulous event is August 10th through August 13th, Friday through Monday. The link to the Facebook page is right HERE HERE HERE.

A special note: This year there’s also a NovelRama Jr. Young writers can participate with a goal of 5,000 words in four days.

My own project for NovelRama is to finish the first draft of the historical novel I’ve been fiddling around with for many, many months. As of this writing, I have 54,964 words written and the rest of the story in my head. The research is all done, but I’ve been lollygagging on the writing part. The invitation to participate in NovelRama showed up in my Facebook notifications at precisely the right time—and the event is happening on a weekend when I have nothing else planned. I think the Force is with me.

I've committed to the event. What about you? Are you in?

To learn about other ways to kick start your writing efforts after a period of lethargy, check out these past posts from the Blood-Red Pencil blog:

Breaking the Literary Atrophy
Beetling Along

Pat (Patricia) Stoltey is the author of four novels published by Five Star/Cengage: two amateur sleuth, one thriller that was a finalist for a Colorado Book Award in 2015, and the historical mystery Wishing Caswell Dead (December 20, 2017), a finalist for the 2018 Colorado Book Awards.

Pat lives in Northern Colorado with her husband Bill, Scottish Terrier Sassy (aka Doggity), and brown tabby Katie (aka Kitty Cat).

You can learn more about Pat at her website/blog, on Facebook, and Twitter. She was recently interviewed for a Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers podcast that you can find at the RMFW website.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

The Benefits of Genre Associations

Fiona likes to critique
As writers, many of us are introverts and would rather hang out in our pajamas with our pets than go out and network and attend public functions where we don't know anyone.

Still, you really need to reach out and get involved with other people if you want to improve your writing and market your finished product.

There are multiple advantages to joining a genre-related group:

1. They have meetings, local and national, and online events so you can meet other people who love the same books you do. Most of them have online communities and Facebook groups which offer support and connections for beta readers, editors, etc. And I guarantee your TBR pile will grow and topple over.

2. Genre groups offer opportunities to build a virtual or in-person critique group. I met my crit group members at a local writers' conference. I wouldn't have met them if I hadn't gotten dressed and gone outside.

3. You can learn what is selling in your category. The groups often post articles about trends (and what not to do) and industry news.

4. All of them have great material on craft for their specific genres. Facebook groups post wonderful articles on craft, setting, worldbuilding, history, etc.

5. They can offer unique marketing opportunities. Banding together with authors who write the same genre allows you to do group promotions and cross promotions. A good example is Sisters in Crime for the Mystery genre.

6. Group blogs also help promote your work. A great example is Jungle Red Writers  with a few of my favorite mystery mavens: Hank Phillippi Ryan, Lucy Burdette, Rhys Bowen, Deborah Crombie, Julia Spencer-Fleming, Hallie Ephron, Ingrid Thoft, and Jenn McKinlay. There is power in numbers.

7. They often have contests you can enter to increase your exposure. You might even win!

8. They understand you. Unlike your partner, family, friends, and pets, they get what you are going through and serve as a support system and cheerleading team.

Here is a short list of groups by genre. Note, there are many other local, regional, and international chapters and subgroups. Look for those close to you.

Romance Writers of America

Gothic Romance Writers

Mystery Writers of America

Sisters in Crime

Thriller Writers

Horror Writers Association

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America

Fantasy Writers Organization

Historical Writers of America

Western Writers

Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators

Blatant self-promotion is always frowned up. It is important to be a positive contributor and follow their guidelines. Groups are not entirely free of cliques, hierarchies, or trolls, but for the most part they are wonderfully supportive and enlightening and well worth your time. It is important to participate and not just ask for favors. Be professional and put your best self forward. Always add value when you can. Make a name for yourself - a good name.

Read more about networking:

Face Time


Building A Critique Group

2018 Writing Workshops and Courses

Diana Hurwitz is the author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.