Friday, January 05, 2007

Grammar Rant: Since/Because

It's Grammar Rant Friday! (By the way, how's your chunking going?) I'm chunking as fast as I can!

The Difference Between Since and Because

Since has two meanings: it can refer to some point of time in the past, or it can mean “because.”
Since [from the time that] we last talked, I've found a much better job at another company.
Since [because] I will be traveling for the next two months, please hold my mail until I return.
Ordinarily, the context makes it clear which meaning is intended, but reword in cases where the use of since could cause confusion.


I've not talked with Rob since he got the job that I had hoped to snare for myself. (It is not clear why the writer has not talked to Rob. Is it because the writer is suffering from a bad case of envy, or is it simply because Rob is no longer easy to stay in touch with?)


I've not talked with Rob since he left the company for another job. As it happens, he got the job that I had hoped to snare for myself.


I've not talked with Rob since he left the company, because he got the job that I had hoped to snare for myself.

Got it? Good. Talk to ya Monday!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

So You Want To Write A Book? Lesson 6

Yesterday we started the New Year off on the right foot with a few truths about the writing process.

And since we've already chosen working titles and themes, we're going to pick an obvious path and . . . we're going to start writing!

We'll be writing portions of your book that Maisel calls "chunking."

"A chunk is a piece of writing about the length of a newspaper column that, like a newspaper column, treats a single subject in an anecdote, a vignette, an exercise, a complete thought, a description of a place or an event."

Maisel also adds, "As you get practiced at writing nonfiction you will acquire an increasingly fine sense of what chunks feels like and what they can accomplish. Chunks are the building blocks of nonfiction books."

We'll start by writing five chunks of your book this week. These are not complete pieces of thought, these are doodling vignettes that you've either been collecting or thinking about, and these don't have to be perfect. Just start "chunking."

A sample mini-chunk from me:

A writer's bootcamp is a simple title for an organized approach to writing for magazines. This approach came to me in a brainstorm after I spent too many hours writing a query to one magazine, including meticulous research, and after I sold the piece, I knew that all that research (I am an over-researcher) would go to waste.

Now, I work to maximize the research I put in to try and sell at least five pieces instead of just one.


That's not too hard. And remember, Maisel says that "the first step in deciding which chunks to write is an emotional one: to make a commitment to one version of your book. It is actually a tentative commitment, which sounds like an oxymoron because it is shorthand for the following idea. You are to make a full commitment to one version of your book, while reserving the right to change your mind after you've done some writing."

So, our goal for this week is to write five chunks!

Tomorrow is Grammar Rant Friday! (I know, you cannot wait.)

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

So You Want To Write A Book? Lesson 5

Happy 2007! I hope you had a wonderful holiday break and are ready to go on your book project.
By now, you've either figured out that I'm a big proponent of Eric Maisel's The Art of the Book Proposal: From Finished Idea to Finished Proposal. If you've read any of Maisel's book, you know that the biggest step toward writing a book proposal that sells is your thought process.

Many writers believe that they should just write and not really think about what they're writing and that's the best way to begin. Maisel begs to differ. He believes that thinking carefully about what you’re attempting to write is the best approach.

Today, we're going dispel some false notions we writers have about the fear of thinking (which most people call the fear of writing or writer’s block) that will hopefully start the new year off right.

Maisel writes in his book that "the first days and weeks of the process may make you feel very uncomfortable as, instead of writing your nonfiction book, you force yourself to think about your book." Writing is hard enough; thinking about what you're writing is even harder.

And often, if you read interviews of other published writers, you hear of so many writers who simply say that they sit down and start writing, with no mention of their intricate thought processes at all.

Maisel replies that "writers who are in the habit of thinking about their books do not notice that they are thinking about their books, in part because much of that thinking goes on when they are sleeping or resting or doing other things. They attack the problems their book presents them with, they think hard and long about those problems (sometimes for years), and then when they finally solve those problems they arrive at the experience that is often presented as 'taking dictation.' But they don't report the thinking part, maybe because it sounds unseemly to have sweated, maybe because they have forgotten or never consciously realized that they were doing it, or maybe because they just feel liking pulling your leg about the writing process."

Nice, eh?

Maisel goes on, "There is another reason why some writers fail to report the thinking part. It is that they don't want to examine their own process that closely. If they did, they would recognize some hard truths about the books they attempted that didn't work. They would have to confront the fact that some of the books that they began, often the ones closest to their hearts, did not receive enough of their best thinking attention and consequently sputtered and failed. I have enough of these books in my own life to know exactly what I am talking about. I can think of two recent books that went all the way to a completed draft stage, and several more that peeked into the world as book proposals, that I refused to think hard enough about and that consequently weren't good enough.”

So, what's stopping you? Start those thought engines! Tomorrow we'll work forward from our work on titles.