The Journal, Sunday, July 15

Hey Folks,

From a DWS response to a comment on his “Pulp Speed Time Again” post (,

“[Writing] gets so much easier as you keep going. We call it ‘ground [e]ffect’ after that affect that planes have as they near the ground. The air between the plane and the ground makes it easier to stay aloft. When you get writing, it is easier to just keep writing. Starting is always the hard part.”

He also offers a lecture titled “Starting and Restarting Your Writing” that’s well worth the $50.

Finally, Dean also wrote two posts for today, both about a BookBub promo he’s doing. I recommend going to his website and reading both posts and the comments. No telling what you might gain from the few minutes it takes to read them.

The posts are “Cold Poker Gang: Kill Game” and “Still Number One.”

Just editing this morning, then ending a pleasant visit with my youngest son and his wife.

Topic: Punctuation Revisited

I’m always annoyed when, as a copyeditor, I encounter punctuation that interrupts the flow of a story.

Of course, that’s one of the things I’m paid as a copyeditor to fix, and I don’t mind doing my job. After all, I took it on myself.

But it’s still annoying, for two reasons:

1. Next to the words themselves, punctuation is the most important tool in the writer’s toolbox. It directs the reader in the reading of your work.

2. It’s the ONLY tool in writing that is absolutely finite in its use.

Not because of the “rules” as prescribed by various style manuals, but because EVERY mark of punctuation creates the SAME effect in EVERY reader EVERY time. Period.

This is not conjecture, and it is not theory. It’s fact.

Now, once you realize and understand the appropriate uses of punctuation, you can use it in different ways. But do so from a position of knowledge, not ignorance.

In English classes at ever level from elementary school through college, the instructor teaches what to do. I’ve never yet encountered even one (other than me) who explains WHY.

Here’s a brief:

The rule — tne period, question mark, exclamation point and colon ( . ? ! 🙂 should always appear only after a complete sentence. (The colon most often appears at the end of a complete thought in order to introduce a list. The long pause is necessary because the list is the most important information in the sentence.)

Why? Because each of those marks forces (causes the reader to take) a long pause while reading.

The rule — The semicolon ( ; ) may be used INSTEAD OF a comma and a coordinating conjunction to connect two related complete thoughts (subject/verb combinations). The em dash ( — ) is used to indicate the abruptness of an interruption and introduce parenthetical information.

Why? Because each of those marks forces (causes the reader to take) a medium-length pause.

The semicolon forces the reader to see a connection (usually implied cause and effect) between two complete thoughts.

The em dash makes parenthetical information stand out. It tells the reader (subliminally) that the parenthetical information is more important than the sentence that surrounds it. When the reader encounters an em dash, he has no choice. He MUST read the parenthetical information that follows it. (When parenthetical information is nice to have but less important than the surrounding sentence, use parentheses, which do not create a pause at all.)

The rule — The lowly comma is the only mark of punctuation that forces the reader to take a short pause.

The comma is used (with a coordinating conjunction — for, and, nor, but, or, yet or so) to combine two complete thoughts. (Note that the combination of the comma and the coordinating conjunction creates a medium pause, like the semicolon. That’s why these two ways of joining complete thoughts are largely interchangeable.)

The comma is also used to separate like-items in a list of more than two.

The key phrase here is “like-items.” If you have more than two nouns in the subject or more than two verbs in the predicate or more than two prepositional phrases in a row, for example, separate them with commas.

But DON’T (for example, and this is where a lot of writers get confused) wrap one or two prepositional phrases with commas.

Right: John kicked the ball over the fence and into the woods.

Wrong: “John kicked the ball, over the fence” or “John kicked the ball, over the fence, and into the woods.”

In the wrong example, do you see how the comma interrupts the flow of the sentence?

The only way I know of to check your own work for this problem is to read it aloud. Unnecessary commas will make you stumble as you’re reading.

But let go of “rules.”

The “wrong” example above isn’t wrong because of some stupid arbitrary rule. It’s wrong because it unnecessarily pulls the reader from the story, and there’s never a good reason to unintentionally interrupt the reading of your work.

The reader who encounters an unnecessary comma can’t simply read through it. Without even realizing it most times, he’ll stop, then go back and re-read the work, having mentally removed the unnecessary comma.

There are other marks of punctuation too, but none of them create a pause at all. Those include quotation marks, apostrophes, the hyphen, the en dash and the aforementioned parentheses.

For a great deal more on this, I strongly recommend buying my book, Punctuation for Writers, 2nd Edition. You can find it at all ebook retailers and it’s also available in paper. This book will improve your writing craft by leaps and bounds.

Again, punctuation is the only tool you have to direct the reader in the reading of your work. Ir’a just that important.

If any of you have specific questions or examples you’d like to share or ask me about, I’m wide open.

See you soon. ​

Of Interest

Nothing other than the above.

Fiction Words: XXXX
Nonfiction Words: 900 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 900

Writing of

Day 1…… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXX

Total fiction words for the month……… 2946
Total fiction words for the year………… 237162
Total nonfiction words for the month… 9380
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 88556
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 325468

Calendar Year 2018 Novels to Date………………………… 5
Calenday Year 2018 Novellas to Date…………………… 2
Calendar Year 2018 Short Stories to Date……… 11
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)………………………………………… 31
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)……………………………………… 6
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………………… 193