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Grammar for Grown-Ups, Wasting Time, and Pop-Factor Novelists

21 Jan

We had a week off from lessons the week before last, and during that time I did a fair bit of grammar. I’ve set Harvey’s Grammar aside for now. I got to a lesson and had little idea what I was doing. The lesson gave a one-sentence definition of some grammar term (that I now can’t recall), then launched in with the exercises. I was pretty lost. I managed to muddle my my through and get about half of the exercises correct, but it was really frustrating and I don’t feel I learned anything.

The other thing I realised was that I still don’t quite understand what a predicate is. The definitions in Harvey’s are difficult to decipher, there isn’t enough explanation, and few examples are given. I’ve decided to work through some other resources, then maybe use Harvey’s for further practice. I’ve recently purchased:

The Only Grammar Book You’ll Ever Need (Kindle edition)  I’m not sure if I agree with the title here, but it does look like a sufficient book for my needs. Eventually I may purchase the Chicago Manual of Style, which is the be all and end all of grammar and usage manuals, but I think it would just overwhelm me if I had it now.

If I’m struggling with that book, I’ve got Painless Grammar to fall back on. This is a children’s book that explains grammar in a delightful, and as the title suggests, painless way. This will also make a great resource for Esa when he’s a little older.

But my favourite resource, the one I keep picking up and drooling over flicking through is Grammar by Diagram. I ordered this workbook, only to discover that you need an accompanying textbook. The only place I could find it at a reasonable price was from Alibris. Apparently, the book shipped on the 14th, but it’s been a week and it still hasn’t arrived.

This chunky workbook is packed with diagramming exercises. Fortunately, the key is at the back, so there’s no emailing publishers, trying to strike a balance between sufficient grovelling and proving that I’m not a pimply teenager looking for a cheat sheet.

I’m convinced that the best way to gain a thorough understanding of grammar is through diagramming. I liken it to translating exercises when learning a foreign language. If you’re learning say, French, you aren’t just going to memorise lists of words everyday. You’re going to spend a good amount of time translating stuff. That, after all, is the whole point: to be able to read and understand French (or take some English, wave your translating wand, and turn it into French.) Diagramming is the same. It’s taking what you’ve learned and putting it to use. Okay, it may not be useful in a practical sense, but it will cement those grammar points. Then, when you sit down to do some real writing, you’ll have the necessary grammar know-how. After diagramming a few hundred thousand sentences of increasing complexity, you’ll have a firm grasp of grammar.

Alright, you don’t need to diagram that  many…just a few hundred. (I ♥ grammar.)

If you’re wondering whether grammar is worth studying, you’ve got to listen to this podcast; it’s informative and humorous: http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/does-grammar-matter.aspx

Sadly, I did waste a lot of time on the computer during our week off, playing Green Farm, Zen Garden, Flower House, and Barn Buddy on hi5,  but it was nice to have that luxury, and I think it was therapeutic. I can sometimes stress myself out by trying to make every minute count. I have so little free time and I have so many things that I have to/want to do…I need to get the most out of every day and it can get tiring. I enjoyed lazing about a little. I also spent a lot of time looking at Latin curricula for myself, sorting out answer keys, reading, and working on my grammar study, so it wasn’t a total waste.

This week I began my Latin study. I spent a good 20 minutes lovingly covering my copies of Wheelock’s Latin, Wheelock’s Latin Workbook, and Collins Latin Dictionary with book-covering film. The softcover Wheelock’s books are quite thick and not sturdily-bound, so they will need the reinforcement. I’m happy I didn’t go for the Kindle edition, because I find myself flipping back and forth a lot in this book.

I’ve also put a notebook together using a 4-ring binder (they come in 2- and 4-rings in the UK), dividers, a snap pocket (they don’t have the kind of folders you get for binders in the US), and paper. (I ♥ notebooks.)

I’ve finished How Not To Write a Novel. This book could have been subtitled How to Piss Off Crappy Writers. While I found this book helpful (somewhat) and hilarious, at times it felt like a bit of a rant. I think the editors were tired of seeing certain things in the novels presented to them, and this book was a way to vent that annoyance. I found many of their writing faux-pas to be no-brainers. Take, for example:

  • Men Are from Cliché; Women Are from Stereotype: Wherein the characters are built solely of broad gender stereotypes

Melinda picked up Joe’s beer-stained sports  section with a wry smile, replacing it with another saccharine-berry scented candle. As she sat on the pouffe to enjoy her copy of Brides’ Shoe Monthly, she wondered if he would remember to call for their third-date anniversary.

Meanwhile, across town, Joe gave the jailbait waitress a sly wink, letting the caveman in him take over…

The passage goes on a bit, but you get the idea. A few others:

  • I Mean This!! It’s Important!!: Wherein the author punctuates hysterically
  • Linearity Shrugged: In which the author assembles the novel in no particular order
  • Gibberish for Art’s Sake: Wherein indecipherable lyricism baffles the reader

These writers aren’t going to get published even if they do fix these problems; these are merely symptoms of a bigger writing malady. I also suspect that some people writing in this way won’t even admit that they’re making such hideous blunders. It reminds me of those people who audition for shows like X Idol and Pop-Factor. They launch into heartfelt, yet horrendous and interminable renditions of I Will Always Love You, and when they are booed off the stage they throw themselves at the presenter, crying angry, hysterical tears, and insisting that they CAN sing ’cause  mamma said, and they are going-to-be-famous…just-you-wait.

Clueless…the lot of ’em.

Having said that, the book was an entertaining read and I did make a few notes. But it certainly won’t be the only book I read on how to write a novel.

I will be posting about homeschooling soon…I promise.

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2 Comments

Posted by on January 21, 2011 in Grammar, Latin, Michelle, Resolutions: 2011

 

Tags: , , , , ,

2 responses to “Grammar for Grown-Ups, Wasting Time, and Pop-Factor Novelists

  1. Suji

    January 22, 2011 at 9:33 pm

    How Not To Write A Novel sounds exactly like what I need right now. 🙂 Hey I love notebooks too (surprise, surprise). And I love putting binders together and arranging colorful dividers all over the place. I just don’t love the enthusiasm dwindling right after I do all that. I applaud you for being persistent about all this!

     
    • whimsyway

      January 23, 2011 at 6:29 am

      “I just don’t love the enthusiasm dwindling right after I do all that…”

      Oh, I get that, too. 🙂 I get everything ready and then I think, ‘right, now I’ve got to do something with all this stuff. Ugh.’ Lol! Once I get going, I’m usually ok. But if life gets in the way, and I’m forced to set things aside for a few days, I find it so difficult to get moving again. I have a tendency to be lazy, so sometimes I really have to push myself. I spent several hours yesterday working on Latin, so I want to maintain that momentum. Going to have to cut back on the gaming…that darn computer is such a distraction! 🙂

       

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