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Happy Now?

I rarely, if ever, post political or world event thoughts on this blog. This is my place to discuss writing, books, creativity, and general geekiness. But I can’t remember ever having agreed so strongly with a blog post, so today I’m sharing this one.

Katyboo1's Weblog

It is day four in the Big Brexit house.

I had hoped after Friday’s absolute catastrophe of a day that the country might somehow magically rally over the weekend. I mean, when you plunge your country into possible ruin on the promise of a golden future that will allow it to rise like a phoenix from the flames, you have a plan, right?

As it turns out, you don’t. The only person that seems to have any plan at all, and be acting on it rather than just spouting meaningless Churchillian rhetoric is Nicola Sturgeon, and I can’t even vote for her.

I was distraught and angry on Friday. I had hoped to feel better by today. Instead I am running on barely controlled rage and getting more enraged by the moment.

Here are a few things I am furious about:

Firstly, leave voters telling me to calm down. I’m sorry…

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Proofreading for All!

I’m a writer who also happens to be a qualified proofreader and copy editor. Not all writers are grammar nuts or perfect spellers or great at spotting typos in their own work. Even those that are still miss things when they’ve been staring at the same manuscript for weeks/months/years on end. But having a polished manuscript is essential when submitting your work to traditional publishers. And having a perfect manuscript is crucial when self-publishing.

Increasing numbers of authors are opting to self-publish these days. The pros are obvious: your work’s out there, right away, for anyone to purchase, all under your own terms. You retain all rights. You bypass (or give up on) the gauntlet of rejection that comes with the traditional publishing route. You’re in complete control of marketing. You keep 100% of the book’s sale price.

Of course, you also have to pay your own publishing and marketing costs, you don’t have the contacts and confidence of a solid publisher behind you, you have to make significant sales in order to rise above the masses of self-published volumes out there, and you have to prepare the entire manuscript, as well as the cover and blurb, yourself.

There are some great writers choosing this route, and many self-published books deserve to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with traditionally published ones. A well-written, self-published novel should be indistinguishable from a well-written, traditionally published novel, but there’s a trend that makes many self-pubbed novels stand out against their traditional counterparts, for the wrong reasons. A traditionally published book will have been handled by a team of editors, proofreaders, copy editors and typesetters before it’s ever available for purchase. Most self-published books haven’t been given anything like this 5-star treatment, and too often, it shows.

At the very least, both writers and readers want books that are free of typos, spelling mistakes, and grammatical errors. These issues are why proofreaders exist.

And that brings me to my point. I have an eagle eye for typos. Spelling has always come naturally to me, and I have a keen grasp of grammar. I want to help fellow writers produce polished, professional-looking manuscripts for self-publication so that their books stand a greater chance at holding their own alongside the traditionally published ones. I want to help those opting for the traditional route to submit work that is professional-looking from the outset. And I want to provide these services at a discounted, affordable rate.

Writing is hard work. It’s blood, sweat and tears. If you want your hard-earned creations to look as good as they possibly can before you send them out into the big, scary world, get in touch at:

proofyourwork [at] rocketmail [dot] com.

For more info, check out Proofreading & Copy Editing.

Pedantics #8

Wow, it’s dusty in here. Excuse me for a moment while I blow away some cobwebs.

*dusts*

*tidies*

*takes out the recycling*

Right. Now, where was I? Ah, yes… some good old fashioned pedantry for a Tuesday evening.

I don’t know when this particular grammatical misdemeanor started creeping into general use, but it seems to have been slow and insidious. I’m sure people didn’t all talk like this fifteen years ago, or even ten. But nowadays EVERYONE is making this mistake. All the time. It’s not an educational thing – I’ve heard university scholars and construction workers alike using it. It’s in mainstream media, down your local pub, in your own home

And it’s driving me crazy.

When did people stop using present participles properly? When did we start forgetting that verbs like ‘sit’ and ‘stand’ (the two most commonly abused in this way) only become ‘sat’ and ‘stood’ when they’re in the PAST TENSE?

I usually sit in this chair while writing.

Yesterday, I sat in this chair.

Right now, I am sitting in this chair.

Notice that? Am sitting? Notice how the past tense is sat?

Verb forms ending in ‘ing’ are present participles. They’re used in the present tense, with an auxiliary verb like ‘am’, ‘were’, or ‘was’, to show that the activity in question is or was ongoing. The ongoing part is key – that’s why it’s present tense and not past.

Past tense forms cannot be used in place of participles in a compound verb phrase. It is completely incorrect to say ‘I am sat in this chair.’ (Argh – it makes me cringe just writing that.) It is equally incorrect to say ‘I have been sat in this chair’, unless you mean that someone else has physically placed you in the chair.

If it’s ongoing activity, you are sitting. Or standing. You are not sat. Or stood. Present participles are important. They’re incredibly precise ways of communicating exactly when and how something took place.

I have been sitting in this chair for several hours. ‘I have been sat’ would make no sense. ‘Sat’ is past tense. Confusingly, ‘I was sitting’ is not past tense, but past progressive tense, using a present participle. Yeah… I can see your eyes glazing over now, so never mind all the different convolutions. The point is, if it’s happening right now, it’s not past tense. If it was happening yesterday, and you’re describing it in an ongoing way, it’s not past tense. You need an ‘ing’ ending on those verbs.

Most verbs are thankfully never misused this way. If in doubt, substitute ‘sat’ or ‘stood’ with another past tense verb. Try ‘cooked’.

I am sitting cooking. Yes.

I am sat cooked. Well… maybe if someone put you on a barbecue, but I doubt you’d be speaking any form of grammar at that point. So, no.

Please, people. This is a desperate plea.

STOP USING PAST TENSE VERBS FOR ONGOING ACTIVITY!

Thank you. That is all.

Highlights of the Year

So, I’m shamelessly stealing this idea from Emma Osborne, who shamelessly stole it from Chuck Wendig. Perhaps ‘stealing’ is the wrong word. Sharing! Sharing is better, and it’s not like they don’t get to keep the idea just because I’m using it too. That would be stealing. Which this isn’t. Feel free to share it amongst yourselves!

1. Favourite novel of the year?

Without a doubt, Fool’s Assassin by Robin Hobb. Not only was I anticipating it more than I’ve ever anticipated any book release in history, it also delivered everything I hoped it would and more. I adore Robin Hobb. I adore Fitz and the Fool. This book was like catching up with much-missed old friends, and even though it was also heartbreaking and painful, it was a beautiful, incredibly fulfilling read. I cannot wait for the next installment.

2. Favourite non-fiction book of the year?

Hmm. Usually I have several non-fiction books on my list in any given year, but this year I only seem to have read one. So I guess it’ll have to be my favourite by default. I finally got around to reading The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, which if I’m totally honest was never that high on my list. But it was a worthwhile read. I enjoyed its philosophical nature, even if it didn’t really impart anything that I hadn’t considered extensively before, having experienced (and moved away from) a heavily religious upbringing myself. I’ve never like Dawkins’ tendency towards snide pomposity, and there were moments of it in the book that did get on my nerves, although admittedly he kept it under wraps for the most part. While I don’t buy into his brand of atheism, and I didn’t find the book particularly enlightening (it may be more eye-opening for those without religious backgrounds), I did enjoy its thought-provoking nature.

3. Favourite short story of the year?

I’ve read a lot of short stories this year. Possibly more than ever before. I’ve been working my way through the complete works of H.P. Lovecraft, for a start, and thoroughly enjoying many of his shorts. I’ve read quite a few short story mags cover to cover. I’ve critiqued a lot of stories for fellow writers (some of which have been amazing). I’ve been reading a lot of online fiction and just generally soaking up as much short story creativity as possible. So it’s really hard to pick one single story that stands out.

But there is one that’s stuck with me: The Ghost Wife of Arlington, by Marilyn Guttridge. I loved it when I first read it, and its atmosphere has stayed with me. It’s beautiful, and disturbing, and completely engrossing. It may only be available in Writers of the Future Vol. 29, which is where I read it, but it’s worth seeking out if you get the chance.

4. Favourite movie of the year?

Ooh, tough one. It’d be a close call between Another Earth, Cloud Atlas, and Her. All (unsurprisingly) sci-fi, but all very different films. Overall, though, I think I’ll have to go with Cloud Atlas. Amazing, mesmerising, beautiful film. If I could only see one of these three movies again, it’d be this one. I love non-linear narratives and stories with colossal scope.

5. Favourite TV show of the year?

Breaking Bad. Breaking Bad. Breaking Bad. I only discovered it this year, and devoured the entire thing from start to finish. It’s spoiled all the year’s other TV shows. They pale in comparison. Incredible television, magnificent storytelling, and the best character arc I have ever seen. Brilliant.

6. Favourite song of the year?

It’s not a new song, but I first heard ‘Mirrorball’ by Elbow earlier this year, and fell head over heels in love with it. It’s so gorgeous. High amongst Elbow’s collection of magnificent songs, IMO:

7. Favourite album of the year?

‘Ghost Stories’ by Coldplay. An ethereal, magical collection of songs, and one of those rare albums that just blends perfectly.

8. Favourite video game of the year?

Er, does Scrabble count? Then Scrabble.

9. Favourite app of the year?

Not very exciting, but ‘Tides Near Me’ is the app I’ve found most useful this year. Essential when you live on the coast and want to time beach dog walks etc. Can I switch copious autumn mud for nice dry sand today? *checks app* Why, yes. It was low tide 45 minutes ago, so still plenty of beach. Thank you, handy tidal app.

10. Favourite (something else) of the year?

That’ll have to be Loncon. Not only did I get to spend a weekend hanging out with my best mate, who I don’t see nearly often enough, I also got to spend it geeking out in spectacular fashion. I met up with some other close pals I hadn’t seen in ages, I met/saw/got books signed by three of my very favourite authors, and I got to hold one of these:

Giant Prickly Stick

Image courtesy of Flickr – Houston Museum of Natural Science

I love roundups like this. Go on, share your favourites of the year.