Friday: Cicero Grade Testimonial

Promotion

I’m always up for a new challenge, so if you have writing that needs proofread, critiqued, or edited, please click over to my business website, Cicero Grade Editing. Enjoy this testimonial from K. Wall:

Lisa was a valuable member of the team at Shadows Express [Magazine], and the two issues she worked on with me were much better for her input. 

She helped authors realize the full potential of their stories, often creating the proverbial silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

While Shadows Express is no longer publishing, I expect that Lisa will continue to help authors succeed in the future. I anticipate seeing great things from her and her clients.

Would you like to hire me [Lisa] to edit your writing? Check out my Submission page!

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Wednesday: Before Editing and After

Before Editing and After

Before Editing and After highlights writing that may not be bad originally, but that has improved after Cicero Grade’s suggestions. Sometimes we stumble upon writing somewhere on the Internet and offer a few suggestions to the author privately. The piece is available to the public (at least at the time of publication here), and we never post more than a few lines. If the authors change the availability of their piece, or they ask we take down their writing here, we will do so. It is meant as a learning tool.

We thank Anonymous for sharing a bit of her prologue.

Before:

Sniffing, I could smell the sweet perfume she wore. Glancing around the corner, she appeared into my line of vision. A pretty girl, with sun-blonde hair pulled tightly back. She stared over her shoulder, as if something was lurking in the shadows. A hint of fear spread in her eyes.
And fear was what I enjoyed the most.

After:

I could smell her sweet perfume. She didn’t see me when she glanced around the corner, and she walked on, peeking over her shoulder. She was pretty–young and blonde–but that wasn’t why I chose her; it was in her eyes, spreading to her beating heart, to her clutching hands, to her quick steps.

It was fear.

How would you have rewritten it? Put your answers in the comments below!

Would you like a free paragraph-edit? To be featured in Before Editing and After, send your passage of up to 150 words (along with your name and a link to your webspace) to Blog@CiceroGrade.com. Thanks!

Monday: Tidbit

Grammar Tidbit

Does your writing tend to be more formal than conversational? Even if it’s on the casual end of the style spectrum, don’t you aim to keep everything grammatically sound enough to clearly convey your messages?

Sometimes we write the way we speak, whether that’s intentional or just the product of writing on a roll. When this happens, we can say something we don’t quite realize is confusing. Take the word “only,” for example:

I only have 100 updates because I just restored this computer.

That’s a bunch of updates! This line is almost nonsensical; it helps that there is no comma, which points us in the right direction, but in effect, the speaker is coming across as nonchalant about the number of updates. What do you mean only a hundred updates? That isn’t the message he means to convey at all!  What he means is this:

I have 100 updates only because I just restored this computer.

Now we’re understanding! See how the placement of “only” made us misconstrue the line? While this can be fine in dialogue (it is, after all, the way people speak), narrative has to be cleaner. Make sure you position “only” right where it needs to be to modify the correct idea. Otherwise, readers could make many bizarre interpretations of a very simple thought!

Have a grammar peeve you’d like others to finally learn? Send your tidbit, name, and web-space to Blog@CiceroGrade.com!

Friday: Tips

Logo

The truth about Mary-Sue is she doesn’t lurk in only fan-fiction. She is published daily by beginning and veteran writers all across Internetdom. She possesses the protagonist of many a novel-in-progress, and the author may not even know it.

You cannot know that you have one if you don’t know what she is, so I’m going to put it in the simplest terms I can: Mary-Sue is a character who is indisputably admired because the author will never let her be wrong. To expand on that, the Mary-Sue is an unrealistic ideal, a pawn of a character who serves only to act out the dreams of the author, or Suethor.

If the Suethor wants to be a cheerleader, for example, Mary-Sue is the prettiest, peppiest, and fittest cheerleader – also captain – who is the only one on the squad to get every single person in the stadium to chant along (even the people rooting for the other team)! She already has a full scholarship for cheering (is that even a thing?) and probably will get onto the Dallas Cowboys’ cheer lineup when she effortlessly performs the best routine that anyone has ever seen, ever. Oh, also they’ll just make her the captain automatically, so she’ll be the youngest, prettiest, peppiest cheerleader the world has ever seen.

This concept is taking form, you say, but how can you tell if you have a Mary-Sue infection without reading the entire damn book? The simplest indicator is other characters’ reactions to Mary’s actions, beliefs, or even presence. Typically, characters of Mary-Sue’s gender will assume a sidekick-type role, wherein they admire every little thing about Mary-Sue (or Gary-Stu), even if he or she has no way to realistically take credit for that thing (You have perfect earlobes! -or- You’re the best lifter here!).

Opposite-sex characters are automatically romantic-interests. They appreciate Mary-Sue as if they were always meant to be together, and no matter her actual attractiveness and charm, her fan-boys will drool over the very thought of escorting her to her locker. They are protective of Mary-Sue, who inspires obsessive chivalry among her fans and bitter envy among her acquaintances.

Every admirer’s dialogue at some point serves as the cheap disguise for the author, who sneaks some justification and approval of Mary-Sue’s actions: “You said you weren’t any good at planning parties!” or “I thought you’d be horrible at karaoke, but you’re even better than Cecelia, and she’s been singing since she was twelve!”

Do you think you might have a Mary-Sue? What do you consider the most offensive Mary-Sue characteristic? Is the “My Immortal” story a fake? What books or movies have a Mary-Sue? Discuss in the comments below!

Wednesday: The Grade

The Grade

Cicero Grade would like to introduce its editing contest: The Grade! Even the best writers produce some cringe-worthy lines. The measure of a writer lies in what he or she does about it. This contest challenges our following writers to fix these offending lines. To participate, simply post a “before” line and an “after” line from your writing. If you’d rather not show your personal growth, just work on the lines provided below. The follower with the best rewrite will win an edit of their work for up to 1000 words!

The lines in question come from Nicholas Sparks’ A Walk to Remember:

A sad smile crossed her face, and I knew right then what she was trying to tell me. Her eyes never left mine as she finally said the words that numbed my soul.
I’m dying, Landon.

Monday: Find the Typo

Find the Typo

This sign has bothered me for a decade. I swear, one day I’m going to paint those damn apostrophes white.

Apostrophe

Just because it’s a word you don’t see often doesn’t mean you should give it an apostrophe to pluralize it. Who approved this?

“Villa’s of R—ia from the 100’s”

Sorry about the photo quality; I am no Keaton.

Submit your own “Find the Typo” photos to Blog@CiceroGrade.Com! Leave your name, any necessary explanation, and a link to your personal web-space for Cicero Grade at WordPress to highlight. Thanks!

Friday: Showcase

Publishing News

Dun-dun-dun-duuuuuuun! Published on 6 December 2013 and crafted for your reading pleasure, it’s the debut novel of Lexa Cain, Soul Cutter!

The Soul Cutter is hunting again. 

Soul Cutter #0

Seventeen-year-old Élan spends her free time videoing psychic scams and outing them online. Skepticism makes life safe—all the ghosts Élan encounters are fakes. When her estranged mother disappears from a film shoot in Egypt, Élan puts her medium-busting activities on hold and joins the search.

In Egypt, the superstitious film crew sucks at finding her mom. When a hotel guest is killed, whispers start—the locals think their legendary Soul Cutter has come back from the dead. Élan’s only ally is Ramsey, a film-crew intern, but he’s arrogant, stubborn—and hiding dangerous secrets.

When Élan discovers the Soul Cutter is no scam, she finds herself locked in a deadly battle against a supernatural killer with more than her mother’s life at stake.

Élan’s fighting for her very soul.

Previously mentioned here. If you haven’t picked it up yet, please do so here and now. It’s a thrilling read!