This is a column by Novel Publicity’s Editorial Lead, Kira McFadden Hannah asks: How do you think it’s best to avoid ‘she’, ‘he’, ‘they’ from sounding repetitive and overused without doing the same with character names? Kira answers: Pronouns substitute a noun, or noun phrase, and are a pro-form (a type of function word or expression that stands in for another word, phrase, clause or sentence where the meaning is understood via the context). Words such as it, she, he, and they are examples of...read more
Ask the Editor: What is the difference between a gerund and a present participle, and how do I punctuate each correctly?
This is a column by Novel Publicity’s Editorial Lead, Kira McFadden Emlyn Chand asks: When it comes to commas, I’m pretty good. However, there is one comma rule that has always managed to elude my understanding. Gerunds—that is “-ing” phrases. I’m always so confused about whether they’re needed, so I usually just end up doing it (or not doing it) on a whim. What are the rules for commas and “-ing” phrases? Example: I say, twisting a strand of hair around my finger, or, She weighed the options in...read more
This is a column by Novel Publicity’s Editorial Lead, Kira McFadden Di Castle asks: I tend to get stuck on lie and lay. I am okay with, “he lay down on the bed,” and, “the chickens are laying well,” but at other times I am unsure. When should I use “lie,” and when should I use “lay”? Kira answers: These two words are very commonly misused and I’ve received a few inquiries regarding their difference, so I thought I’d go ahead and blog about lie vs. lay this week. Lay is a transitive verb, and it means to put or place...read more
This is a column by Novel Publicity’s Editorial Lead, Kira McFadden Amanda Taylor asks: When writing dialogue I sometimes have trouble knowing what is the right punctuation when it comes to random changing of thought while speaking, stammering, or a brief pause vs. a long pause. So my question is, when do you use ellipses vs. the em dash in the listed situations? Some say that ellipses are a big no-no in novel dialogue, so I am totally confused! Kira answers: This is a pretty common error I see. Authors like to use em dashes (—) in...read more
This is a column by Novel Publicity’s Editorial Lead, Kira McFadden Jeffrey Littorno asks: I have been a high school English teacher for most of the last twenty-five years, so I know that sentence fragments are to be avoided at all costs. However, I have gotten into the habit of using them regularly in my writing to convey the seed of a thought or impression. What is your opinion on breaking the rules of grammar by utilizing fragments? Kira answers: A sentence fragment is a phrase or clause punctuated and capitalized like a sentence, but...read more
This is a column by Novel Publicity’s Editorial Lead, Kira McFadden Kay Weetch asks: When I was in school, it was taught that when someone spoke, you always started a new line in the text. I know this isn’t done now, but why? When is it okay to do this and when isn’t it? Kira answers: This is something I encounter quite often in novels and short stories. The truth is, you always want to start a new line of text if the speaker changes. If the speaker remains the same, you don’t need to start a new line of text, and you...read more
This is a column by Novel Publicity’s Editorial Lead, Kira McFadden Terry Rodgers asks: I use past participial phrases in my writing. Are participial phrases an acceptable technique in fiction? Kira answers: For those not familiar with the term, participle phrases are modifiers of nouns and pronouns. They don’t function like other modifiers, though, and are longer than one word. Here are a few examples of participle phrases: Running down the street, Roxanne thought back to when she was a child. Alan, shocked by his mother’s...read more
Ask the Editor: How often should similes and metaphors be used in fiction? Is it possible to rely on them too much?
This is a column by Novel Publicity’s Editorial Lead, Kira McFadden Emlyn Chand asks: Okay, so according to my editor, I’m addicted to metaphors, similes, and analogies. How much is too much, and what can authors prone to simile do to redirect this problem? Is it a true problem—would it jar readers—or is it just a matter of stylistic preference? Kira answers: Similes and metaphors are a bit tricky, because many authors use them for style. When it comes down to it, an author’s job is to describe setting, characters, and...read more
This is a column by Novel Publicity’s Editorial Lead, Kira McFadden Emlyn Chand asks: This question is about my favorite punctuation mark—the dash. When is it okay to use? When is it overkill? Are there rules for using it as opposed to commas, parentheses, or colons? Kira answers: To begin, let me first say that the Chicago Manual of Style, either in print or online should be referenced by all authors and editors—it is the best place anyone with literary passion can go to answer any number of questions. Thank you, Coral Russell, for...read more
This is a column by Novel Publicity’s Editorial Lead, Kira McFadden Astrea Baldwin asks: How do you feel about starting sentences with words such as “but” or “and”? One of my editors is okay with it, the other pulls out the red pen of death. All this confusion, yet I see the practice in Big Six novels every day. Kira answers: Starting sentences with initial conjunctions, such as “and,” “but,” “however,” etc., can weaken the structure of your sentence. In many cases, there are better ways to write a...read more