Tag Archives: Susan’s fiction

One Comma, Two Meanings

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Graphic of a crossed sword and a pencilSo… here’s an interesting one for you.

It’s from my own fiction, so I’m not bothering to change the line to protect the innocent. Let’s just let ‘er rip. (Also, if you want to know more about my own fiction, sign up for the newsletter, eh? Be sure to check the box for the author newsletter. And then stay tuned, because as soon as we have the new website and the book cover and the legal stuff worked out, we’re letting this project loose and I promise you’ve never seen a project like this one.)

Here’s the sentence:

It didn’t help that he still looked good, in a green collared shirt and tan dress pants—very expensive dress pants, she noted.

Pretty innocuous statement, no?

Here’s where it gets interesting: My proofreader, the amazing and wonderful April Hughes (so don’t you dare be thinking I’m picking on her or suggesting she’s not up to par because she totally is. I mean, hello? I PAY HER), suggested I cut the comma after good.

Except… this is where the comma changes the entire meaning.

Because without the comma, the sentence means that he looked good because of the clothes he’s wearing. His looking good is dependent on his clothes.

WITH the comma, the man just looks good, period, and the comma signals that we’re getting a description of his clothing.

Teeny tiny little bits of nuance… that even the best editors can’t catch for you.

WHAT? WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY, SUSAN????

Yep. This is one of those sentences, because of the twin meanings, that only the author can choose which message to send to the reader. They’re both grammatically correct. They both paint a vivid picture of the dude. The question is whether or not the dude needs his clothing to enhance his looks… and that’s something no editor can answer for you. All we can do is call it out and suggest the author take a closer look and consider the different messages the sentence is sending, with and without that comma.

For a little piece of punctuation, it’s sure got a lot of power.

Right, Grandma?*

Ahem.

If you’re one of those people who thinks you don’t need an editor, well, I can’t help you. But if you’re not, April and I would both love to work with you, and this isn’t the only project we’ve worked on together! I heartily recommend using one editor for different stages of editing, but most especially using a fresh set of eyes for that final look before you hit publish or submit to your agent/acquiring editor. Yes, it’s more expensive, but you’re worth it.

I promise.

*As in: Let’s eat, Grandma/Let’s eat Grandma

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Susan Sets up Shop in Littsburgh!

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West of Mars logoWhat’s this Littsburgh stuff? You all thought I was West of Mars!

Well, I am BOTH. Littsburgh is the literary hub for us publishing folk in the city of Pittsburgh and maybe you missed it, but West of Mars definitely refers to the only city or town of Mars in the United States. The question I usually won’t answer is how far west of Mars I am, but that’s because I hate it when people show up on my doorstep. Of course, showing up on my back deck is even worse, so don’t do that, either. And before you go, “A-ha! I’ll use the garage,” know that’s where the boy’s bows are stored. Just sayin’.

So because I’m both West of Mars and a proud part of the Littsburgh community, Nick and Rachel and Katie were more than glad to feature me with a quick four-question interview about my story, “Undaunted,” in the Running Wild Anthology of Stories.

I know I’ve done other interviews and stuff about it already, but somehow, seeing myself up on Littsburgh, being an active part of the writerly community… it’s darn cool.

Check it out. If you haven’t picked up a copy for yourself, what are you waiting for?

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Just a reminder…

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I’ve been watching more and more new folk stop by and check me and my fictional friends out lately, so I thought this would be a good time to remind all of you, faithful groupies that you either are or are about to become, that most everything you read here is fiction. Mitchell, Kerri, Trevor, and company exist solely in my head. For better, worse, or a much-needed diagnosis.

Search the archives or the recent links. You’ll find small character sketches, outtakes from novels-in-progress (or even the one I’m shopping to literary agents, Trevor’s Song), and my own musings on what shapes the characters into the people that they are.

My hope is that you’ll come to see them as living, breathing people (as I often do, much to the chagrin of my friends and family). That you’ll use this site to whet your appetite for Trevor’s Song, and that by becoming my groupie, you’ll let these fictional folk touch your lives as they’ve touched mine.

Stay awhile. Enjoy.

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