Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Tech Talk: Chapter Breaks

Tech Talk: Chapter Breaks

Want your editor to love you? Or at the very least, make your manuscript look a bit more professional?

Learning to do chapter breaks can be fun. Okay...that might be the geek in me coming out. But really, it’s not that difficult, and if you make it a habit as you are writing your next story it’s not even time consuming.

My assumption is that we ALL use Microsoft Word when we write. (That’s because I like to haul out that old adage about ASSUME.) But really, I’m sure the Help section of whatever word processing program you use can teach you how to do page breaks--which is the key to making chapter breaks.

The nifty part about doing page breaks is that no matter how much editing or revising you do on your work, the chapter breaks will always remain at the top of the page. Not so if you use the Enter Key multiple times (sometimes up to 30 times!) to make “Chapter Six” appear at the top of the next page.

All you need do is at the end of chapter one, hit the return key once. Then insert a page break.

On the newer ribbon-style versions of Word, go to the “Insert” tab. In the first section called “Pages” you will find an icon called “Page Breaks.” Click it and Word takes you to the top of the next page. Magic!

It has been many years (more than one constitutes many, right?) since I’ve used the older icon-based version of Word, but I do have a screenshot that shows an “Insert” pull-down menu along the top bar. I’d be willing to bet that they’ve stored the page break command there.

The house preference for The Wild Rose Press is to have the chapter title aka “Chapter 2” or “Chapter Two” placed on line 6 of the page (5 blank lines) indented as a paragraph (not centered). Then we insert one blank line and the body of the text begins.

For a more detailed account (including pictures!) of this procedure and five other exciting ways to please your editor, leave your email address in the Comments section and I will send you a copy of the tutorial I send all my new authors, “Polishing Your Manuscript.” It includes both pre- and post-Word 2007 instructions.)

Free! No obligation! No credit card required! Your email address will not be used for marketing purposes. (What other disclaimers did I miss?)

Maggie Johnson - Editor
The Wild Rose Press

Monday, April 7, 2014

Driving down the road, a pothole ate my car.

To be honest, I love dangling modifiers. I even collect them. The idea of a pothole driving my car tickles me pink.

What? You don’t get it? Look closely at the title of this post. “A pothole ate my car” is fine. It has a subject, verb, direct object. It’s a classic example of personification, giving animate qualities to inanimate objects. On the other hand, “driving down the road” is an adjectival clause, but what does it describe? It’s just dangling there at the beginning of the sentence. The only thing it can describe is the pothole.  But how can a pothole drive a car?

You might think, “But isn’t it understood that ‘I’ was driving the car?” Well, no. You could get away with saying this in dialogue, because people do say things like that, but not in narrative. In narrative you need to be crystal clear. The solution is to turn the adjectival clause into an adverbial clause: “As I was driving down the road, a pothole ate my car.”

Here’s another one. “Captured around the neck, the lariat terrified the horse.” Did you know lariats had necks? Neither did I. And why would a horse be terrified of a lariat captured around its non-existent neck? The poor horse is terrified at being captured around the neck by a lariat. Or you could say, “The lariat around its neck terrified the captured horse.” 

Misplaced modifiers can be just as much fun. Er, just as confusing. A notable one came up in a description of a down and dirty street fight: “She kicked the guy in the privates wearing the Lacoste shirt.” I nearly fell out of my chair howling at the mental image of some poor peon in a Chinese sweat shop, sewing oddly shaped little shirts for Lacoste. Obviously, the guy, not his privates, was wearing a Lacoste shirt.

How about this one: “She watched the brown-haired guy with envious eyes.”  Who had the envious eyes, him or her? In this example and the one above, the solution is to keep the prepositional phrase (in the privates, with envious eyes) as close to the word it modifies as possible. This can mean simply moving it, but more often a better solution is to rewrite the whole sentence. You may lose some hilarity, but gain clarity.

Here’s a series of sentences with one word moved. See how that one word can change the meaning?

Today the man we hired to mow our lawn is sick. (He’s sick today.)
The man we hired to mow our lawn today is sick. (He’ll mow the lawn today, not tomorrow.)
The man we hired today to mow our lawn is sick. (We just hired him today, even though he’s sick.)
The man we hired to mow our lawn is sick today. (He’s sick today.)

All of these sentences are grammatically correct, yet they have different meanings. (The first and last are equivalent, of course.) All I did was move the word “today.” For another example, try replacing “today” with “only.”

Only the man we hired to mow our lawn is sick. (Not the man we hired to trim the shrubs.)
The man we hired to mow our lawn only is sick. (He’ll mow our lawn, not the neighbors’ lawn.)
The man we hired only to mow our lawn is sick. (He won’t do any other work for us.)
The man we hired to mow our lawn is sick only. (He’s not dying.)
 The last one is awkward but would work as “The man we hired to mow our lawn is only sick.” 

English is very flexible with where one can place modifiers, but that flexibility has consequences. To have your sentences say what you want them to say, make sure your modifiers are where they belong. 

Kinan Werdski, editor
The Wild Rose Press