Grammar · Uncategorized

Adjectives in Fiction

Good morning! Happy Friday! For those of you who work a Mon – Fri office day like me, welcome to the best day of the week. Why not take a little time to join in on the Grammar BootCamp? Last week we learnt all about nouns, and the week before it was verbs, so no prizes for guessing that this week we are looking at adjectives.

Let’s start with a basic definition of an adjective so we can start afresh in our understanding –

An adjective is a word naming an attribute of a noun

Easy-peasy right? Instead of simply have a burger we now have a tasty burger. Instead of having a handbag we have a luxury handbag.

Let’s have a look at a sentence without adjectives and then a sentence without them, shall we? Here’s a bit of my current WIP without adjectives-

Walls surrounded me, carefully stacked spice bottles by the oven to my left, mugs hang from the wall above the kettle. 

Here it is with adjectives –

Yellow walls surrounded me, carefully stacked spice bottles by the oven to my left, blue spotted mugs hang from the wall above the kettle. 

Stories come to life when we add the little details that adjectives bring. We can write a story that makes perfect sense, and that is full of action, but without adjectives, the prose would be dull and utterly boring. 


Nouns in Fiction

Good morning lovely people! Today we will be looking into the role of nouns in Fiction. Last week we looked at the role of verbs, the action words that add direction and context to your prose.

So, what is a noun? If you’re anything like me, you are trawling through your brain trying to remember lessons learnt when you were ten years old. To save you the trouble here’s a quick definition from the Cambridge Dictionary

a word that refers to a person, place, thing, event, substance, or quality.

Great, so basically without nouns all our action, which we’ve developed by our use of verbs, is floating around in nothingness without relating to anything.

Writing without nouns can be effective in some parts of a novel, especially in a stream of consciousness. For example –

Cold, so cold. Move, keep moving. Walk, run, jump, shiver. Cold, so cold.

It works because it sounds weird so it portrays the confusion and panic of someone who is freezing cold.

This is not the way to write a whole novel! So let’s take a few moments and be grateful for nouns, lovely, specific, grounding nouns.



Verbs in Fiction – Pow! Whack! Boom!

We have an action packed Grammar BootCamp today, get yourself settled and let’s begin. We’ve previously been looking at clauses and the different types of clauses, main clauses and subordinate clauses. Today, we will look even deeper into the nuts and bolts of writing and study VERBS.

Verbs are words which convey an action or a state of being

Here are a list of common verbs-


Imagine your writing without verbs, how boring would that be? All the direction and action would be lost.

Now imagine that you only able to use “boring” verbs how restricted would you feel? Imagine if you could only use the word laugh and not scoff, or giggle, or chuckle, or even titter

A large part of good writing comes from imaginative and emotive verbs. Next time you are writing why not swap out the standard verbs you use and see if you can add more spice to the action of your WIP.

Grammar · Novel Writing

Subordinate Clauses Darling

If you stopped by last week, you’d know we had a delightful time discussing Main Clauses, the cornerstones of complete sentences. Today, we will be focusing on the delights that are subordinate or dependent clauses. 

Subordinate clauses are the peppercorn sauce on your steak, the brandy butter on your Christmas Pudding, and the vanilla syrup in your latte. They are the little extras that bring joy to your taste buds, but just don’t work as a meal in themselves. I’m not ashamed to say that as a twenty-seven-year-old woman I recently ate Fruit Pastilles, Quality Street, and Terry’s Chocolate Orange segments all day long with no “proper” food alongside them. To say I felt unwell would be an understatement, and not because I ate too much but because what I ate had no substance.

Subordinate clauses are like that, they are the added extra that makes writing sparkle, but on their own, they just don’t work.

Here’s an excerpt from my work in progress, I’ll highlight the main and subordinate clauses for you.

The night air tickles my cheeks as we walk home from the hospital, and I turn to look at Annie, wrapped up in the grey, checked winter coat that she loves.

Main Clauses

  • We walk home from the hospital
  • I turn to look at Annie
  • Annie is wrapped up in a coat

Subordinate Clauses

  • Night air tickles
  • The coat is grey with a checked pattern
  • She loves the coat

There is flavour added by the subordinate clauses that would have been lost without them, we know that the night is cold, that Annie is wearing a grey check coat and that she loves it. If we had just used main clauses, we would have lost detail and interest, but if we just used subordinate clauses we wouldn’t care about the temperature or what coat she is wearing because we wouldn’t understand why it is relevant.

It’s the balance of main and subordinate clauses that makes our writing interesting, and many of us do this without even noticing it.


Grammar · Novel Writing

Introducing the Main Clause

Hello, lovely people of the Grammar loving (or hating) variety. I hope you are well? Good? Great. Please, may I have the honour of introducing you to my esteemed friend the Main Clause? Yes? Fantastic, let’s begin.

Without Mr. Main Clause nothing in my life would make sense, he is a standup guy, in fact, if you take him out of a long sentence he’ll just stand alone as a new sentence all by himself. Other clauses are lost without him, oh yes, he is a leader my Mr. Main Clause. The foundation of every sentence I have ever written.

Here are the main facts we need to know about Main Clauses –

  • They make sense independently of any other clause
  • Other subordinate or dependent clauses (more on these later) need main clauses to make sense
  • Main clauses are the only types of clauses that can make up one sentence without any other types of clauses within them (my goodness what a mouthful).
  • A paragraph made up of only main clauses generally sounds abrupt, staccato, and, well, rubbish

Let’s identify a couple of main clauses from my work in progress

She tenses as a contraction sweeps through her body, her painted red fingernails digging into my arms, imprinting small half moon shapes in my flesh.

  • A contraction (subject) sweeps (verb) through her
  • Fingernails (subject) dig (verb) into my arm

I could have written this with only main clauses, but where is the fun in that?

Main Clauses are the structures that we hang the details, subtleties, and descriptions from within our prose. Nothing would make sense, and everything would crumble without them. Come back next week to read about subordinate and dependent clauses.


Grammar · Novel Writing

How many Clauses does it take to Make a Sentence?

In last weeks Grammar Bootcamp, we looked at clauses and learned a simple definition of them. 

Clause = Subject + Verb

Easy peasy! Today we will look into clauses within sentences, and how there is no set number of clauses within a sentence.

One Clause Sentences

Some sentences are made up of one clause; they are the simple sentences that I wouldn’t recommend you use too often in your novels as they can make your writing choppy and annoying. However, when used well, they can add drama and flavour to your work. Here’s an example of a hook from my current work in progress.

Then he shot her, dead.

The subject of this clause is the person “he” is describing, and the verb is “shot.” My subject has shot someone and killed them (I’m writing a thriller can you tell?).

Multiple Clause Sentences

Sentences with multiple clauses are what we use to make up the majority of our writing. Let me show you why with another excerpt from my work in progress.

 I release the lock, and she tumbles through the door, almost knocking me to the ground.

Here we have three clauses –

  1. The lock (subject) is released (verb)
  2. She (subject) tumbles (verb)
  3. She (subject) almost knocks someone over (verb – or at least a verb describing what almost happened)

How boring will this passage sound if I rewrite it with a single clause per sentence?

I release the lock. She tumbles through the door. She almost knocks me to the ground.

I don’t know about you, but I think the original version reads better than the one clause per sentence version. 

So, as aspiring authors do we need to know the definition of clauses to write great fiction? No, not at all, but I think that in understanding the meaning of a clause I can see the beauty and variation that they bring to my writing.


Grammar · Novel Writing

What is a Clause anyway?

Welcome to the first instalment of The Blissful Scribbles Grammar Bootcamp! Today we will be looking at clauses, yippee what fun!

A Clause is a collection of words containing a standalone piece of information that is made up of a verb and a subject.

Verb = a word or phrase that describes an action, condition, or experience: The words “run”, “keep”, and “feel” are all verbs

Subject = the thing that is being discussed, considered, or studied.

Definitions are taken from The Cambridge Dictionary.

Simple right? Here’s an example –

Amy is writing a blog post.

In this clause, I, Amy, am the subject, because we are talking about what I am doing (narcissistic or what?). The clause describes what I am doing, and that is writing, which is a verb.

Clause = Subject + Verb

Look at us, we’ve learnt something (or remembered something we’ve forgotten, which is just as good!). Now, I think I deserve a cup of coffee and a square of chocolate, don’t you agree?



Top 10 Writing Mistakes of 2016 – from Grammarly Blog

I love Grammarly, and so I thought I would share with you a fantastic blog post from them, which can be found here.

Of the three billion or so people on Earth who enjoy web access, roughly half speak – and write – mainly in English. If they’re at all like a typical Grammarly user, they crank out around a thousand words each week, mainly in email, social media, blogs, and the like.

One other thing folks writing on the Internet do a good bit of is make mistakes. We routinely mangle proper spellings, savage the rules of punctuation, email sensitive details to the wrong person, and mix up words – say by referring to an ambidextrous baseball pitcher as “amphibious” while hurriedly dashing off a newspaper headline.

Because Grammarly helps users avoid unforced errors on the web, we’ve had front-row seats to observe, tally, and correct tens of millions of mistakes online. Of those that people frequently stumbled over in 2016, here are the ten most common.

10 Altogether

Altogether is easily mistaken for all together, but the two are far from interchangeable. Altogether is an adverb meaning completely, whereas all together refers to several parts of a group being united.

It’s altogether clear that we’re all together in the need of straightening this matter out. More details and examples are all together right here.

9 Nowadays

It’s one word, meaning “these days” or “in current times” – as in contrast to the past. Also, it shouldn’t be mistaken for now days, now a days, or now adays.

Indeed, if your first instinct on glancing at nowadays is that it should be two words, take solace in the knowledge that it used to be, back in the 14th century, when it was nou adayes. Still, nowadays it’s just one, and that’s worth getting right.

8 Wouldn’t of vs. Wouldn’t have

This wouldn’t have been such a recurring problem, except, well – maybe it shouldn’t have been so confusing in the first place.

The key to getting this one straight is to remember there is no correct would of – and no could of or should of, for that matter. So couldn’t of simply couldn’t have ever been correct.

We could have and should have gotten it right, and knowing this, we will. (More help, should you need it, is on our blog.)

7 Verbing

Using nouns as verbs – to phone someone, to friend them on social media, to plate a nice dinner for them – is verbing, and while it’s very common, in the wrong context it can seem overly casual and out of place, like a visiting uncle wearing a bathrobe to Thanksgiving. In formal writing, it’s best to instead find a common verb that conveys your meaning.

We’ve blogged a time or two about verbing ourselves, you know.

6 Won’t vs. Wont

These two are easily mixed up, and the confusion is made worse by the fact that wont, while often erroneously taken in place of won’t, is itself a perfectly legitimate word in English that isn’t always easy to recognize as a mistake.

As an adjective, wont means inclined or accustomed, as in “She was wont to work late into the night.” As a noun, wont refers to typical behavior in a given situation: “His wont over the holidays is to cook an elaborate feast.”

It may also be helpful to know that won’t is a contraction of an archaic version of “will not” that’s no longer in use: “I wol not.” The Middle English author Geoffrey Chaucer offers examples in The Canterbury Tales like “I wol not lie” and “I wol not do no labour with myn hondes.”

Because it’s a contraction, shortening will not (or wol not) means replacing the middle part with an apostrophe – hence, won’t. You may have been wont to confuse the matter before, but you won’t make that mistake again.

5Who vs. Whom

There’s one key to using these two in their proper places: whom is always the object of a verb or proposition, as in John Donne’s poem “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” which was subsequently taken for the title of a novel by Ernest Hemingway. The bell is tolling for someone, but for whom?

Who, on the other hand, is correct as a subject. For instance, “Who sent these flowers? I don’t know whom to thank for the thoughtful surprise!”

Check here for lots more helpful tricks on this rule.

4 Commas

Ah, the pesky comma. Given the multitude of ways comma usage can go wrong, it may be unsurprising so many people get tripped up over it.

In some instances, a misplaced comma simply makes an ordinary sentence feel stilted, like an awkward pause in the middle of a thought. Other times – like when several items are being listed in a row – a misplaced comma can radically alter the whole meaning of the sentence, as in this example:

“Her vacation photos included shots of my sister, a champion kickboxer and a baboon.”

Your sister might not appreciate that, and if she’s as good a fighter as you say, you’ll want to be wary. We’ve got you covered with helpful pointers to avoid this kind of debacle right here.

3 Hyphen

Hyphens are tricky. So much so that in the past we’ve noted that even editors sometimes struggle to get them right. There are several ways for hyphens to go astray (and we have tips for all of them), but the most frequent offender is the compound adjective.

Compound adjectives occur when two or more words work together to modify a noun, as in “For her birthday, she asked him for one of the most sought-after toys.” Neither “sought” nor “after” makes sense on its own as an adjective in that sentence, so they function together as a single compound adjective, and thus need a hyphen.

That said, you have to be on the watch for adverbs, which require no hyphen. An example is “Such highly desirable toys were all but forgotten a few short months later.” Here, “highly” is an adverb modifying “desirable,” which could work just fine as an adjective on its own, meaning no hyphen is necessary.

That should make honing your compound-adjective-usage skills a little easier.

2 Preposition

Many writers struggle with prepositions – little words that tell you where or when something is, like in, on, above, below and so forth. But while their multifarious uses can seem daunting, prepositions are essential to many of the best things in life. Here are a few examples:

  • Prepositions allow us to relate to waffles, e.g., sitting in front of them, putting syrup on them, saving them for Saturday, etc.
  • Prepositions are also crucial to any movie trailer that begins with the words, “In a world…”
  • Do you listen to music in the car, on the radio? Maybe you check out reviews in magazines. Or perhaps you’d rather be at the library. Wherever you go, prepositions abound.

1 Nowhere and Anywhere

In 2016, we frequently observed writers inserting spaces in the middle of nowhere and anywhere. But both of these words are legitimate examples of indefinite pronouns, no spaces required.

As indefinite pronouns, nowhere and anywhere don’t refer to specific places. If there’s nowhere you’d rather be, it means there are zero particular places you’d refer to. You can think of these indefinite pronouns as part of a continuum that also includes somewhere and everywhere – two other examples that don’t require spaces, either.

Also, these words have cousins that refer to people (anybody or nobody) as well as objects (nothingand anything).

Whatever the object of your writing, saying it well and using the right words and punctuation is a worthy endeavor that will help you look sharp.


Grammar · Novel Writing

English Grammar Bootcamp

It is a truth universally acknowledged that aspiring and motivated authors are all in want of a Grammar Bootcamp.

 Well, maybe not universally acknowledged, but English grammar is certainly a common struggle for many of us. So I’ve decided to go back to basics and refresh myself on all the ground rules of our writing craft. Check in each week or follow my blog to find the next instalment, I’m hoping it will be simple, beneficial, and a good old barrel of laughs!


Please, be aware that as I live in the UK, this will relate specifically to British English, but I’m sure there will be relevant points for everyone.


Passive Writing

I found this post whilst researching passive writing today. There are some incredible tips and illustrations here and I’m sure you will benefit from reading it. I am certainly going to keep reading tips from Stacey Wilk.

If you have any active writing tips please do leave a comment below.

I teach a creative writing workshop to middle school students about writing in the active voice. Active voice gives writing more punch. Passive writing makes writing weak. Even if you don’t write fiction, all writing can benefit from active voice. The easiest way to learn how to write in active voice is to avoid the […]

via Editing Tip Tuesday — Stacey Wilk – Author, Teacher, Editor