Archive for the ‘Fiction’ Category

Precise But Distracting

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

I’ve recently noticed an odd trend in mass-market fiction–a tendency toward distractingly precise description. Believing that lively words will necessarily enliven their prose, some authors are liberally sprinkling their writing with words that are, admittedly, precise but that are also misleading to the reader. These words sometimes have the wrong connotations, or they simply offer far too much distracting detail.

At Beaumont Hardy, I fully support authors’ efforts to create vivid descriptions for their readers. However, description cannot exist for its own sake. It must serve the larger purpose of enhancing both plot and character. When description becomes so specific that it pulls the reader from the story, it may be time for an edit.

The following sentences illustrate the kind of precision I believe distracts a reader, instead of enlivening the story.

1. Fear scraped at her insides.

I see variations of this sentence in many current thrillers. “Scraped” is a wonderfully descriptive word, but it doesn’t seem particularly relevant to fear or to its effects. Does fear really scrape? I argue that a reader will stop to wonder what internal scraping feels like and whether this scraping is more characteristic of something other than fear–like a corrosive acid. This kind of reader distraction can destroy any plot suspense the author hopes to create.

2. His gaze collided with hers.

The notion of a collision is effective, in certain narrative situations, but it seems unrelated to the actual process of making eye contact. Readers all recognize the power of eye contact and the shock of an unexpected gaze. However, readers might have trouble imagining one look colliding with another one. Once again, readers are pulled from the story into irrelevant thoughts about ricocheting lines of sight and violently clashing eye contact–not what the writer wants at a moment of interpersonal tension.

3. The little girl launched herself into her mother’s arms.

“Launch” is an excellent descriptive verb, and it can clearly describe various actions. However, in this particular sentence, it conveys an action the writer might not have intended. Instead of suggesting a warm maternal moment, the word “launch” suggests the sudden movement of a projectile or the violent motion of a lion encountering an injured gazelle. It also connotes a long-distance leap more characteristic of a cheetah or an Olympic athlete than a little girl. Because of its violently athletic connotations, the precision of the term leads, I think, to more distraction than it does description.

4. The maiden gnawed at her muffin nervously.

Like launching, gnawing has very precise connotations, many of them rodent-related. Using the word “gnaw” to describe the relatively pleasant actions of a nice young woman seems incongruous and confusing. The reader may struggle with images of vermin, momentarily forgetting the trajectory of the story or the personality of the character.

5. “Get in the car,” the gentleman snarled.

Snarling is a very precise activity and one usually attributed to beasts of prey. When an author uses a word like “snarled,” instead of a more ordinary word like “said,” he or she must acknowledge the connotations of the word and consider whether these connotations are appropriate. In the case of the snarling gentleman, the author risks the temporary distraction of a reader who envisions werewolves or lions, instead of the fully human hero.

Accurate description is an art that I wholeheartedly support at Beaumont Hardy Editing. However, I recommend whittling away the kind of description that makes the wrong connotations and only serves to distract the reader.

If you have any concerns about your own descriptive passages and would like an expert opinion about them, please send them to me. I look forward to hearing from you.

How Many Words Do You Need to Develop Character?

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

In a recent tweet, writer/editor Robert Swartwood made an interesting observation about character development in the new genres of short, short fiction. He mentioned a horror anthology seeking submissions for stories of 500 words or less. The anthology editors said that character development would be impossible in so few words. Robert Swartwood countered that character development is certainly possible in 500 words and that even hint fiction—a genre he himself created and with a word limit of 25—allows for character development. Of course, Robert Swartwood continued, we must all agree on the definition of “character development.”

I believe that character development is of two types, and both are possible in the 25 words of a piece of hint fiction. I also think character development of at least one type is possible in a shorter piece, although that will be the topic of a later post.

As I understand it, the term “character development” can refer both to 1) the action and descriptions that establish a character as realistic and three-dimensional and also to 2) the growth and change a character undergoes throughout the course of a story. The first type of character development is, perhaps, more static than the second. But in either case, the idea is to create a well-rounded and believable character.

In hint fiction, character development is severely limited by word count and by the fact that, by definition, hint fiction merely hints at character (as well as plot and conflict). Hint fiction can have a meaningful title (not included in the 25-word limit), which can be a big help in character development. As the following examples illustrate, character development of the first type—merely creating three-dimensionality and believability—does seem entirely possible in 25 words or less, although showing character might take away from creating plot. Character development of the second type—showing character change throughout a piece of fiction—might also be possible, although this character development relies heavily on plot.

The following piece of hint fiction shows character development of the first kind. Although we learn what Lucretia is like at the particular moment the story describes, she undergoes no change throughout the piece. The title contributes to characterization:

Bully

One tableful of drunken wedding guests sat together the entire night. Lucretia was among them, snickering.

“Hey, Dottie,” Lucretia called mockingly. “Come talk to us.”

In this particular example, one might argue that plot has given way to character development. In order to establish Lucretia as a bully, little happens in this story.

Character development of the second type is more difficult in a piece of hint fiction. In general, character change in hint fiction probably comes across through plot, rather than through a character’s emotions. The following shows plot-dependent character development. Once again, the title contributes:

Redemption

Dwight cocked his pistol and walked into the bank. He chose the youngest teller. A child waved at him. Dwight put the safety back on.

Developing character and showing character change are both possible in hint fiction. However, the first might tend to take the place of plot, and the second might tend to rely very heavily on plot.

Please read my next blog, in which I explore the possibility of character development in less than 25 words, and leave your comments about character development in short fiction. I would love to hear from you.

Learning from Hint Fiction

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

Although Robert Swartwood’s new hint fiction anthology (W.W. Norton, 2010) is a compelling enough reason to write hint fiction, publication is not the only reason to write in this intriguing new genre. Crafting a successful piece of hint fiction is, in itself, an excellent writing exercise. By its very nature, hint fiction demands that its author select each word carefully and understand the pacing and timing inherent in a small collection of sentences.

Swartwood, who coined the term, defines “hint fiction” as a work of 25 words or less that suggests a larger story without telling it outright. Thus, as Swartwood says, a piece of hint fiction implies conflict and its potential outcome but does not have a traditional beginning, middle and end. Under Swartwood’s definition, hint fiction must have a title, which conveniently allows the author to convey more meaning outside the 25-word limit.

The following is an unedited piece of hint fiction. Below the unedited version is my edit of the same text. My editorial comments are at the bottom of this post.

JURY DUTY

The women in the corner say that they think he looks innocent. I haven’t said anything, because I know how dangerous he really can be.

After editing, the piece reads as follows:

JURY DUTY

The woman in purple says, “He’s innocent. His eyes look innocent.” I don’t say anything, because I saw him that morning with the knife.

Below is the piece with my editing marks. My comments to the author are in brackets and italicized. The portions I cut appear with a strike-through, and the portions I added are underlined. (In a normal Word document with “Track Changes,” my editing marks are in red, and my comments are in their own separate section, not inserted into the text.)

[This story is an effective piece of hint fiction, as it suggests a larger plot without telling it directly. A few changes in word choice can make better use of the 25-word limit and convey the suggested story more pointedly and dramatically.] The women in the cornerwoman in purple [Perhaps one woman would be just as effective as more than one. “In the corner” could normally be an effective descriptor, but with so few words available to convey the storyline, it seems that you could say something that more effectively differentiates the women from the male defendant about whom they are speaking.] says, that they think he looks innocent “He’s innocent. His eyes look innocent. [Dialogue is interesting here, and repeating the word “innocent” emphasizes the woman’s assessment. The repetition also serves to highlight the narrator’s own secret knowledge.] I haven’t said don’t say anything, [The past participle—“haven’t said”—introduces a confusing time element. It isn’t necessary for the narrator to indicate a time different from the one in which the woman is speaking.], because I know what he’s really like saw him that morning with the knife. [In a longer piece, “I know what he’s really like” could introduce a more in detailed discussion of the defendant’s true nature. However, this very short piece benefits from more precision.]

Please send me your thoughts and comments about this post. I would love to hear from you.

Writing Prompts: Using Them In the Introduction

Monday, July 6th, 2009

sunsetWriting instructors—and some clever websites—often provide prompts to motivate writers in need of a creative push. Although stories generated by writing prompts can read like exactly what they are (a story that must include the words “pig,” “rocket” and “deed of restrictions,” for example), they can also be excellent pieces of writing. When used creatively, writing prompts can lead to interesting, original stories.

Arguably, some of the most successful prompt-generated writing happens when the author uses the prompt as a trigger for his or her own ideas—ideas that are unrelated to the prompts themselves. Writers who take a moment to free associate based on the prompt often write something that is unconnected to the original prompt but that is filled with meaning for the author. Taking full ownership of the prompt can make the difference between a mere writing exercise and a well-crafted piece of writing.

One way to break free of the writing-exercise feel of a prompt is to use the prompt, or prompts, at the beginning of a story, in its introductory material. A prompt can, thus, motivate an author in the opening of a story without forcing the author to develop a plot that connects, for example, a penguin, a clown and a cigar.

The following is the unedited opening of a story based on three prompts—chicken, quilt and fake mustache. Below the unedited version is my edit of the text. My editorial comments are at the bottom of this post.

It was my turn to make dinner, and I was mad about that fact. I didn’t feel like cooking at all. All I really wanted to do was plop down on the couch and watch TV. I remembered the frozen dinners I had bought earlier that week, on special at the grocery store—two for one. I pulled them quickly out of the freezer and put them on the counter. We’d be having chicken again.

Bruce was wrapped in my grandmother’s old quilt, sleeping and snoring in front of the TV. I plopped down next to him and flipped away from the wrestling program he had been watching on the TV. I found a made for TV romance movie starring a washed up actress who seemed to have developed a facial tick since the last time I had seen her. Her love interest was a scared looking cowboy. The actor playing him looked terrified of his own horse. Or maybe he was terrified his obviously fake mustache would fall off.

Bruce groaned in his sleep, and I turned down the volume somewhat. Suddenly, Bruce was wide awake and gawking at me. I felt startled and looked away from the TV. “What?,” I asked in a frightened voice.

“I have something to tell you,” he said.

“What is it?” I asked softly.

“You know that convenience store I was telling you about?” he asked nervously.

I nodded. Bruce slowly unwrapped the quilt from around his body, revealing several stacks of twenty-dollar bills on his lap.

The final edited opening reads as follows:

It was my turn to make dinner, and I didn’t feel like cooking. All I really wanted to do was watch TV. I remembered the frozen dinners I had bought earlier that week, on special at the grocery store. I pulled them out of the freezer and put them on the counter. We’d be having chicken again.

Bruce was wrapped in my grandmother’s old quilt, snoring in front of the TV. I plopped down next to him and flipped away from the wrestling program he had been watching. I found a made-for-TV romance starring a washed-up actress who seemed to have developed a facial tic since the last time I had seen her. Her love interest was a cowboy. The actor playing him looked terrified of his own horse. Or maybe he was terrified his obviously fake mustache would fall off.

Bruce groaned in his sleep, and I turned down the volume. Suddenly, he was wide awake and staring at me. “What?” I asked.

“I have something to tell you,” he said. “You know that convenience store I was telling you about?”

I nodded. Bruce slowly unwrapped the quilt from around his body, revealing several stacks of twenty-dollar bills on his lap.

Here is the story opening with my editing marks visible. My comments to the author are in brackets and italicized. The portions I cut appear with a strike-through, and the portions I added are underlined. (In a normal Word document with “Track Changes,” my editing marks are in red, and my comments are in their own separate section, not inserted into the text.):

It was my turn to make dinner, and I was mad about that fact. [Linking this sentence to the next conveys the narrator’s feelings about making dinner.]  I didn’t feel like cooking at all. [“At all” doesn’t add to the meaning of the sentence.] All I really wanted to do was plop down on the couch and watch TV. [I cut “plop down on the couch” for two reasons. First, “plop down…,” as an expression, tends to feel clichéd. Cutting it keeps your writing fresh. Second, you later talk about plopping down. I didn’t think you should use this same term twice within two paragraphs.] I remembered the frozen dinners I had bought earlier that week, on special at the grocery store—two for one. [The detail about the special tends to pull the reader away from the story, so I suggest cutting it.] I pulled them quickly out of the freezer and put them on the counter. We’d be having chicken again.

Bruce was wrapped in my grandmother’s old quilt, sleeping and snoring [“Snoring” sufficiently conveys the idea of sleeping.] in front of the TV. I plopped down next to him and flipped away from the wrestling program he had been watching on the TV. I found a madeforTV romance movie starring a washedup actress who seemed to have developed a facial tick since the last time I had seen her. Her love interest was a scared looking cowboy. [I recommend cutting “scared-looking.” The cowboy isn’t scared-looking, but the actor playing him is. Your idea will be clearer if you don’t mention the actor’s frightened looks until the next sentence.] The actor playing him looked terrified of his own horse. Or maybe he was terrified his obviously fake mustache would fall off.

Bruce groaned in his sleep, and I turned down the volume somewhat. Suddenly, Bruce he was wide awake and gawking staring at me. [“Gawking” feels like too strong a word here. Wouldn’t Bruce merely be staring?] I felt startled and looked away from the TV. [The fact that Bruce is wide awake and staring at the narrator is sufficient to indicate to the reader that she is startled.] “What?,” I asked in a frightened voice.

“I have something to tell you,” he said. “You know that convenience store I was telling you about?”

“What is it?” I asked softly. [Although the narrator may have asked this question, it’s unnecessary to the dialogue.]

“You know that convenience store I was telling you about?” he asked nervously.

I nodded. Bruce slowly unwrapped the quilt from around his body, revealing several stacks of twenty-dollar bills on his lap.

[Please send me your comments about this Sample Edit. To submit your own work for a free edit–and inclusion in a posting on this blog–please write to me at jane@beaumonthardy.com.]

Flash Fiction

Monday, April 27th, 2009

flash1Short-short stories, or flash fiction, provide the entertainment of short stories in a fraction of the time. “Flash fiction” usually refers to stories that are less than 1,000 words long. The flash fiction genre is popular among the literary magazine set and is  ideal for new authors hoping to break into publishing. However, flash fiction can be difficult, because magazines only publish short-shorts with well-developed plots and significant character development. Authors must make the most of very few words.

What follows is an unedited piece of flash fiction. Below the unedited version is my edit of the same text. My editorial comments are at the bottom of this post.

Sondrine waited for her turn at the soldering iron. She shifted her weight from one foot to another, because she couldn’t wait to see how her ring looked when she had completely finished making it. She was taking a jewelry making class at the local community college, and her big project was to make a ring. Last month, their instructor had told them all how to plan their design and how to think about ways of making their rings look good. Sondrine had spent a long time in her quiet study, thinking about the ring she would make. It needed to have just the right heave—the amount of weight that would make her notice the ring when she lifted her hand to select a can off the grocery store shelf or opened her—usually empty—mailbox in the morning. She had drawn a diagram of her ring, and it was in her pocket now.

“Are you done yet?” Sondrine asked Chelsea, who was huddled over the soldering iron. “We have to leave soon.” Sondrine looked again at the clock—8:37.

“I know class ends at 9:00,” Chelsea said, as though Sondrine had been just about to remind her—as if she would, Chelsea could be so annoying sometimes. Chelsea looked over her shoulder—furtively, it seemed to Sondrine. Sondrine tried to look over Chelsea’s shoulder to see what she was making.

“Class, you have five minutes until it’s time to put everything away until next time,” the instructor, Maxwell, intoned.

Sondrine clutched her metal wire, itching to get her hands on the soldering iron. Chelsea continued to use the soldering iron, humming away contentedly as she worked. Sondrine cleared her throat. “I know. I know,” said Chelsea. “I’m hurrying.”

Maxwell had begun to shut off the lights in the back storage area, where the students stored their unfinished work.

Sondrine looked longingly at the soldering iron. Just then, Chelsea stood up and snapped her chewing gum. “I’m done,” she said. She held a ring between her thumb and index finger.

“OK. That’s it until next week,” Maxwell said. He walked up to the soldering iron and shut it off with a resounding click. Chelsea smiled at Sondrine phonily.

“Well, there’s always next week,” she said. Chelsea set her ring carefully on the table and bent down to pick up her purse from the floor.

In the instant when Chelsea’s head was out of sight, Sondrine caught sight of Chelsea’s ring. It was perfect—everything that Sondrine had imagined her ring would be. Had Chelsea copied Sondrine’s diagram? But no, Sondrine hadn’t shown her ring diagram to anyone, and there it was—still folded in her hand. But the ring had everything Sondrine had imagined for her ring. There were the braids of gold, the interlocking whorls of silver, and the smooth curves that formed a central band. It was just as Sondrine had planned her ring. The whorls Sondrine had imagined weren’t quite so intricate, and she hadn’t actually put the braiding or the smooth part in her drawing, but it was the same ring—exactly the same, except without the dragon’s head Sondrine had drawn. She was filled with a strong sense of jealousy. Why should Chelsea have Sondrine’s ring? She had taken up all the soldering time and had—somehow—copied Sondrine’s design.

Chelsea straightened up and looked over her shoulder to shout goodbye to Maxwell. Sondrine grabbed the ring—her ring—still warm from the soldering iron. It fit her perfectly, and she admired her finger for a moment. “See you next week!” Chelsea called. Sondrine quickly put her purse over her shoulder. The ring had just the right heft, as she had known it would when she raised her hand to her purse strap. She pushed open the door and walked outside.

She wouldn’t be back next week.

The final story reads something like the following:

Sondrine waited for her turn at the soldering iron, shifting her weight from one foot to another. She couldn’t wait to see how her ring looked once she had finished it. She was taking a jewelry-making class at the local community college, and her final project was to make a ring. Last month, their instructor, Maxwell, had taught them how to plan their ring designs. Sondrine had thought a long time about the ring she would make. It needed to have just the right heft—a weight that would make her notice the ring when she lifted her hand to select a can off the grocery store shelf or opened her—usually empty—mailbox in the morning. She had drawn a diagram of her ring, and it was in her pocket now.

“Are you done yet?” Sondrine asked Chelsea, who was huddled over the soldering iron. “We have to leave soon.” Sondrine looked again at the clock—8:37.

“I know what time class ends,” Chelsea said, as though Sondrine had been just about to remind her. Sondrine tried to look at Chelsea’s ring. Chelsea looked back at Sondrine over her shoulder—furtively, it seemed.

“Class, you have five minutes until it’s time to put everything away,” Maxwell said. He began to shut off the lights in the back area, where the students stored their unfinished work.

Sondrine clutched her metal wire, itching to get her hands on the soldering iron. She cleared her throat. “I know. I know,” said Chelsea. “I’m hurrying.”

Just then, Chelsea stood up and snapped her chewing gum. “I’m done,” she said. She held a ring between her thumb and index finger.

“OK. That’s it until next week,” Maxwell said. He walked up to the soldering iron and shut it off with a resounding click.

Chelsea smiled artifically at Sondrine. “Well, there’s always next week.” She set her ring carefully on the table and bent down to pick up her purse from the floor.

When Chelsea’s head dipped below the table, Sondrine caught sight of Chelsea’s ring. It was perfect—everything that Sondrine had imagined her ring would be. There were the braids of gold, the interlocking whorls of silver, and the smooth curves that formed a central band. It was the very ring Sondrine had designed. The whorls Sondrine had imagined weren’t quite so intricate, and she hadn’t actually put the braiding or the smooth part in her drawing, but it was the same ring—exactly the same, except without the dragon’s head Sondrine had drawn. Had Chelsea copied Sondrine’s diagram? But no, Sondrine hadn’t shown her ring diagram to anyone, and there it was—still folded in her pocket. She was filled with jealousy. Why should Chelsea have her ring? Chelsea had taken up all the soldering time and had—somehow—copied Sondrine’s design.

Chelsea straightened up and looked over her shoulder to shout goodbye to Maxwell. Sondrine grabbed the ring—her ring—still warm from the soldering iron. It fit her perfectly, and she admired her finger for a moment. “See you next week!” Chelsea called, still looking at Maxwell. Sondrine quickly put her purse over her shoulder. The ring had just the right heft, as she had known it would when she raised her hand to her purse strap. She pushed open the door and walked outside.

She wouldn’t be back next week.

Below is the text with my editing marks. My comments to the author are in brackets and italicized. The portions I cut appear with a strike-through, and the portions I added are underlined. (In a normal Word document with “Track Changes,” my editing marks are in red, and my comments are in their own separate section, not inserted into the text.):

Sondrine waited for her turn at the soldering iron, shifting . She shifted her weight from one foot to another., because sShe couldn’t wait to see how her ring looked oncewhen she had completely finished making it. She was taking a jewelrymaking class at the local community college, and her big final project was to make a ring. Last month, their instructor, Maxwell, had told taught them all how to plan their ring designs and how to think about ways of making their rings look good. [In its original form, this sentence makes it sound like Maxwell gave them some ring design ideas. For your story, I think you want to make clear that each student makes his or her own design. This is a good place to introduce Maxwell’s name.] Sondrine had spent a long time in her quiet study, thinking thought a long time about the ring she would make. It needed to have just the right heaveheftthe amount of a weight that would make her notice the ring when she lifted her hand to select a can off the grocery store shelf or opened her—usually empty—mailbox in the morning. She had drawn a diagram of her ring, and it was in her pocket now.

“Are you done yet?” Sondrine asked Chelsea, who was huddled over the soldering iron. “We have to leave soon.” Sondrine looked again at the clock—8:37.

“I know what time class ends at 9:00,” Chelsea said, as though Sondrine had been just about to remind her—as if she would, Chelsea could be so annoying sometimes. [It doesn’t seem like Chelsea would actually mention the class ending time, since both she and Sondrine know it.] Sondrine tried to look at Chelsea’s ring. Chelsea looked back at Sondrine over her shoulder—furtively, it seemed to Sondrine. Sondrine tried to look over Chelsea’s shoulder to see what she was making.[The two mentions of Chelsea’s shoulder tend to get confusing, and switching the two sentences around seems to work better.]

“Class, you have five minutes until it’s time to put everything away until next time,” the instructor, Maxwell, intoned said. [“Said” is sufficient.] He began to shut off the lights in the back area, where the students stored their unfinished work. [I put both mentions of Maxwell together in one place.]

Sondrine clutched her metal wire, itching to get her hands on the soldering iron. Chelsea continued to use the soldering iron, humming away contentedly as she worked. Sondrine She cleared her throat. “I know. I know,” said Chelsea. “I’m hurrying.”

Maxwell had begun to shut off the lights in the back storage area, where the students stored their unfinished work.

Sondrine looked longingly at the soldering iron. Just then, Chelsea stood up and snapped her chewing gum. “I’m done,” she said. She held a ring between her thumb and index finger. [Cutting back and forth between Sondrine and Maxwell tends to undercut the tension of the story. I’ve tried to tightened up the action here.]

“OK. That’s it until next week,” Maxwell said. He walked up to the soldering iron and shut it off with a resounding click. Chelsea smiled at Sondrine phonily.

Chelsea smiled artifically at Sondrine. [I don’t think “phonily” is a word.] “Well, there’s always next week.,Sshe said. Chelsea set her ring carefully on the table and bent down to pick up her purse from the floor.

In the instant Wwhen Chelsea’s head was out of sightdipped below the table,[I’m trying to keep you from using “sight” twice in one sentence.] Sondrine caught sight of Chelsea’s ring. It was perfect—everything that Sondrine had imagined her ring would be. Had Chelsea copied Sondrine’s diagram? But no, Sondrine hadn’t shown her ring diagram to anyone, and there it was—still folded in her hand. But the ring had everything Sondrine had imagined for her ring. There were the braids of gold, the interlocking whorls of silver, and the smooth curves that formed a central band. It was just as Sondrine had planned her ringthe very ring Sondrine had designed. The whorls Sondrine had imagined weren’t quite so intricate, and she hadn’t actually put the braiding or the smooth part in her drawing, but it was the same ring—exactly the same, except without the dragon’s head Sondrine had drawn. Had Chelsea copied Sondrine’s diagram? But no, Sondrine hadn’t shown her ring diagram to anyone, and there it was—still folded in her hand pocket. She was filled with a strong sense of jealousy. Why should Chelsea have herSondrine’s ring? She Chelsea had taken up all the soldering time and had—somehow—copied Sondrine’s design. Chelsea straightened up and looked over her shoulder to shout goodbye to Maxwell. Sondrine grabbed the ring—her ring—still warm from the soldering iron. It fit her perfectly, and she admired her finger for a moment. “See you next week!” Chelsea called, still looking at Maxwell. Sondrine quickly put her purse over her shoulder. The ring had just the right heft, as she had known it would when she raised her hand to her purse strap.[What about, “as she had known it would when she designed it”?] She pushed open the door and walked outside.

She wouldn’t be back next week.

[For very good listings of magazine publishers—including those who publish flash fiction—visit Duotrope’s Digest.]

[Please post your comments about this Sample Edit. To submit your own work for a free edit–and inclusion in a posting on this blog–please write to me at jane@beaumonthardy.com.]