Wednesday, February 23, 2011

It's vs Its

Don't run away!
I know you don't like grammar.
Oddly enough, neither do I.
But what I hate worse is seeing simple things like it's vs its wrong all over the Internet.
Even in published books!
Come on people.
This one is easy.

Oh, I know you have excuses.

"My English teacher was crazy."
"My dog ate my grammar book."
"I had a doctor's appointment during every grammar lesson."

Fiddle-dee-dee. You can still learn grammar, even if you were done with school before The Beatles were popular. Let's do it. Let's change the Internet.

Today we're talking about it's vs its because it is one of the MOST COMMON grammar mistakes I personally see online. If you aren't sure which is which, you may think that it takes extra brain cells, years at MIT, or a membership into a secret Grammar Society to know the difference.

It's not as hard as you think. Trust me.

It's = It is
Its = Any other usage

See? That was easy.

Hold on. Possessive you say? What about possessive?

Its = possessive.

Waiiit a second. Don't you usually need an apostrophe for possessive? Like David's bike or Larry's laptop? Yes, that is true. But think of what "it" means. "It" is not a person-- "it" is an object or an animal or something else. So it is different. Plus it would be confusing. It's is the contraction for it is, and that is how it is. Any other way you use "its" doesn't need an apostrophe-- even possessive.

Quiz time.
Underline the correct version of each sentence.

1a. He saw its bright light.
1b. He saw it's bright light.

2a. Its not true.
2b. It's not true.

3a. I liked its color.
3b. I liked it's color.

4a. She said it's a good movie.
4b. She said its a good movie.

Correct: 1a, 2b, 3a, 4a.

If you still need help with this, please email me or leave a comment. I'm glad to help.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Should I Write My Book in First Person or Third Person?

My Sister's Keeper
First Person: I, me, my
Third Person: They, she, he

Maybe you are ready to start writing your novel, or you already have a completed fiction manuscript in hand. 

Either way, you'll have to decide which perspective is most engaging for your story -- first person or third person?

If it's coming from your head, but it's not about you, then you're probably writing in third person. Third person is very common. It's natural.

But like every writer, you must question every nook and cranny of what you are writing. {Writers are such fussy people.}

Writer Kris Cramer writes about First Person vs Third Person (and everything in between) in a great post {in a very non fussy way to boot}.

Here are just a few things that came to my mind when comparing the two:

First Person Pro:
readers really get to know the inside of the main character's head

First Person Con:
the story misses out on some possibly key play by play because the main character has to be present to witness it or figure out that it happened

Third Person Pro:
readers get a broad scope of all the characters from a subjective point of view

Third Person Con:
it can be harder for writers to develop so many characters or they may focus too much on descriptions rather than getting into characters' heads

So really, it comes down to your story. Which point of view will best bring across what you are trying to say? Which point of view is better for your reader?

*Is the story mostly about one character? Is getting into his mind important? Stick with First Person.

*What if you have a big plot with lots of players? Third Person might be a better choice.

Homework Assignment: Write a chapter in First Person. Then take the same chapter and write it in Third Person. Which one has bigger impact?

If you STILL can't decide, there are even other options. Jodi Picoult wrote My Sister's Keeper with each chapter in a different point of view -- each character takes turns telling "their side" of the story in First Person. It was a unique experience. For that particular book, I thought it worked wonders. Each chapter was a fresh new look into the story. Be careful if this interests you, though. Writing this way is definitely not for amateurs; it must be done right if done at all.

Discussion: What pros and cons of First Person and Third Person do you see?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

How Do You Write?

Do you sit down and just... write?
Do the ideas come to you magically?
Or is there a method to how you get things on paper?

I recently read On Writing by Stephen King and I found it very interesting. In it, King described his own writing methods, which included setting aside specific time to write everyday. He also talked about how some of his ideas initially came about, and then how he brought them to life.

It's funny how we think the writing process is mysterious... how the story unfolded miraculously, sort of like being channeled from above, until it was all typed out and sent to the publisher.

But it's not quite so grand as we all think, at least in most cases. For King, he talks about using an idea for a situation (eventually a plot in other words) and then using characters .... he follows them and sees where they go. He figures out who these characters really are and lets them drive him through the story. Interesting eh?

Obviously there is some inborn talent there-- I think so many writers are talented in different ways. You can usually tell if a writer has a gift. But as King professes, every writer should go beyond that and write purposefully, regularly, and master writing techniques.

In essence, I think he's telling us to use our talents but to also work really hard. Good advice.

How do you write? When you sit down at the computer, notepad, or whatever, where do you start? Chapter 1? Or do you write the ending first? Perhaps you have an outline figured out before you even write any dialogue or look up any sources.

Inquiring minds want to know.