The Journey to a Bestseller: Commas and Pirated Content (Series #22)

Stay tuned. There’s sample writing coming in this post. But first, with my editing, I have to add and subtract commas, and semicolons. So, as a writer and editor, I felt like I should brush up on my own education while solving some issues for you writers. Do you believe in the Oxford comma? Know what it is? There are wildly different views on this and if no one has asked you this as a writer, just wait. What is an oxford comma?

Ox·ford com·ma noun

  1. a comma used after the penultimate item in a list of three or more items, before ‘and’ or ‘or’ (e.g. an Italian painter, sculptor, and architect ).

In fact, there are tons of rules for commas, that aren’t debatable. Do you know when to add a comma and when not to? I often follow Grammarly or my Word program and correct according to the suggestions; however, the suggested uses are not always correct. So you still need the knowledge to differentiate between the right advice and the wrong advice.

The following article gives us simple rules and examples for using commas:

Comma Rules (click title for link)

  1. We use commas to separate a series of words
  2. To separate a series of phrases
  3. To connect two independent clauses
  4. To set off introductory phrases or clauses
  5. Used after certain words that introduce a sentence
  6. To separate the parenthetical elements
  7. To separate coordinate adjectives
  8. To separate the quoted parts
  9. To set off phrases to express contrast
  10. To avoid confusion
  11. To set off expressions that interrupt the sentence flow
  12. To separate dates, years, addresses…
  13. To separate a statement from a tag question

When to Use Commas with Example Sentences

Separate a Series of Words

We use commas between words in a series. Notice that a comma does not follow the last word in the series.

(*Note: They do not agree with using the oxford comma, apparently. But others do add that last comma and will swear by it.)

Examples:

  • See, listen, and be silent, and you will live in peace.
  • He was tall, dark, and handsome.
  • Do you want some cakes, candies or ice cream?

Separate a Series of Phrases

Examples:

  • I like reading books, listening to music, watching TV, and studying English.

Connect Two Independent Clauses

We use commas to separate two complete statements.

Examples:

  • It’s an old car, but it’s very reliable.
  • I was feeling hungry, so I made myself a sandwich.
  • Although she is very poor, she has not lost her dignity.
  • He walked all the way home, and he shut the door.

Set off Introductory Phrases or Clauses

We use a comma to separate an introductory element from the rest of the sentence.

  • Having finally arrived in town, we went shopping.
  • As the day came to an end, the fire fighters put out the last spark.
  • Talking with her, you’d try to head off your happy marriage.

After Certain Words that Introduce a Sentence

Examples:

  • Well, I’m not going home on foot, at any rate.
  • Hey, don’t tell me what to do.
  • Yes, I’ll be there. Thanks for reminding me.

Separate the Parenthetical Elements

A parenthetical element adds extra information and can be removed from the sentence without changing the meaning of the sentence.

Examples:

  • Football, which is a popular sport, is very good for health.
  • My grandmother, old and sick, never goes out of the house.
  • We visited Sydney Opera House, Australia, last week.

Separate Coordinate Adjectives

We place commas between adjectives, if two ore more adjectives modify a noun in the same way. These are called coordinate adjectives which can be identified by the fact that the word and can be inserted between them and their order can be reversed.

Example:

  • Followers feel energetic, confident and happy.
  • He is a competent, efficient worker.

Separate the Quoted Parts

Examples:

  • He asked,”Do you want to go with me?”
  • The teacher asked, “Do you love English?”
  • “I don’t think you should do that,” he said.

Set off Phrases to Express Contrast

We also use commas to set off contrasting expressions beginning with not, but…

Examples:

  • Money is a good servant, but a bad master.
  • The golden age is before us, not behind us.
  • Adversity makes a man wise, not rich.

Avoid Confusion

We also add a comma in some cases to make a sentence clear.

Examples:

  • For most, the year is already finished.
  • I saw that she was busy, and prepared to leave.

Set off Expressions that Interrupt the Sentence Flow

Examples:

  • This, after all, is a company which is awash with cash.
  • On the other hand, many women choose to go out to work.
  • We all tried our best. However, we lost the game.

Separate Dates, Years, Addresses…

Examples:

  • We will meet Friday, July 15.
  • I was born in August 26, 2001.
  • The White House is located at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20500.

Separate a Statement from a Tag Question

We use this punctuation mark to set off a tag question which is used at the end of the statement to ask for confirmation.

  • There weren’t any problems when you talked to Jack, were there?
  • Let’s take the next bus, shall we?
  • We have never seen that, have we?
  • You’re moving to London, are you?
  • This will work, won’t it?
  • There‘s nothing wrong, is there?

Okay, so what about semicolons? When are those used? Brush up the rules below:

Three Essential Semicolon Rules

Posted on March 16, 2008 by Writer’s Relief Staff 

Many people consider semicolons to be the most confusing of the punctuation marks. These people generally fall into two camps: those who liberally pepper their page with semicolons, and those who never use them for fear of using them incorrectly. However, as with the other marks of punctuation, using semicolons is not difficult if you keep some basic rules in mind.

Rule 1: Use a semicolon between independent clauses that are closely related in theme.

Independent clause definition: a word group that contains at least one subject, at least one verb, and expresses a complete thought. An independent clause is also called a sentence.

The key words in this rule are closely related in theme. You should not place semicolons indiscriminately between independent clauses, as in the following example:

Example 1: Jane drove to Phoenix to visit her parents; her parents’ dog had to go to the vet.

Clearly, these sentences have nothing to do with each other. The fact that Jane visited her parents in Phoenix is one thing, and the fact that her parents’ dog had an appointment with the vet is quite another. A period should be used between unrelated sentences such as these. Semicolons should be placed only between sentences that are closely related in theme, as in the following example:

Example 2: Tom earned his bachelor’s degree last summer; his sister earned hers in the fall.

These sentences are related thematically; both discuss academic degrees and when they were earned, so the semicolon is appropriate. Of course, a period would also be appropriate.

Rule 2: Use a semicolon before conjunctive adverbs and transitional phrases that join independent clauses.

Conjunctive adverb: adverb that acts as a transition between independent clauses by showing comparison, contrast, cause-effect, sequence, or other relationships.

Common conjunctive adverbs: also, consequently, conversely, finally, furthermore, hence, however, meanwhile, moreover, nevertheless, nonetheless, otherwise, similarly, subsequently, therefore, thus

Transitional phrase: a phrase that acts as a transition between independent clauses by showing comparison, contrast, cause-effect, sequence, or other relationships.

Common transitional phrases: after all, as a matter of fact, as a result, for example, in addition, in conclusion, in other words, on the contrary, on the other hand

Example 3: Philip is studying engineering; however, he is also interested in pursuing a degree in music education.

Example 4: Cindy has published several novels; in addition, she has published a volume of poetry.

In each of the previous two examples, you should note two things. First, the sentences joined by the semicolons are closely related in theme, which is the fundamental rule of semicolon placement. Second, note that the semicolon is placed before the conjunctive adverb or transitional phrase. This is because the adverb or phrase begins an independent clause. Compare the following examples:

Example 5: Angela fell and injured her leg last month; nevertheless, she was able to compete in the race today.

Example 6: Jim has always been an exceptionally hard worker; his coworkers, moreover, have nominated him for employee of the month seven times.

In Example 5, the semicolon is placed before the conjunctive adverb nevertheless since the adverb begins an independent clause. In Example 6, the semicolon is placed before his since his signals the beginning of the independent clause. The conjunctive adverb in this sentence (moreover) is simply serving as an interrupter.

Rule 3: To ensure clarity, use a semicolon between items that contain internal punctuation.

Compare the following examples:

Example 7: For her young son’s birthday, Jenny purchased a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, sprinkles, and candy topping, a pair of shoes with white stripes, laces, and light-up heels, and a new racetrack complete with cars, people figurines, and miniature buildings.

Example 8: For her young son’s birthday, Jenny purchased a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, sprinkles, and candy topping; a pair of shoes with white stripes, laces, and light-up heels; and a new racetrack complete with cars, people figurines, and miniature buildings.

Example 7 is difficult to read due to its excessive use of commas; because of the internal punctuation within each item in the list, the commas between those items serve only to muddle the writing and confuse the reader.

Example 8, which places semicolons between each item, is much clearer.

Semicolons are like spices; they shouldn’t be overused. As spices complement the main ingredients in a dish, semicolons should complement your writing—not overpower it. When used correctly, semicolons can add variety and increased readability to your writing.

If you’re still not sure whether you’ve seasoned your writing with just the right amount of semicolons, call us. We can help! We offer proofreading services to writers of books, novels, stories, poems, and essays.

This article has been reprinted with the permission of Writer’s Relief, a highly recommended author’s submission service. We assist writers with preparing their submissions and researching the best markets. We have a service for every budget, as well as a free e-publication for writers, Submit Write Now! Visit our site today to learn more.

Now that that’s out of the way, I promised to tell you about my writing. I am on the fifteenth chapter. Where are you in your writing? Are you doing NaNoWriMo? You might be where I am right now. My word count is currently: 60,157.

Wyll has entered the dark night of the soul. The plan was to move forward with the intention of Sira shooting the king with her dart pistol and knocking him unconscious before making a fake and getting out with the magic pen. But Wyll is captured and put into another one of the king’s terror contraptions. Maybe this time I’ll share the rough draft of the scene. How’s that? Okay, here is a bit of Chapter Fifteen:

His mouth was painfully dry. Wyll tried to swallow and his tongue made a crackle sound in his mouth. He learned a trick from his Grandma when he was little. If she ran out of mints in church and he was thirsty, she’d plop a button in his mouth to suck on. It was probably illegal nowadays to put a button in a kid’s mouth.

He wondered if he had a button on his sleeve, and wiggled his fingers, but realized his hands wouldn’t move. What the–? He cracked open an eye and lifted his chin from his chest. The room was shadowy. At least he didn’t think he’d slept all day, but one couldn’t be completely sure. The leather straps that held his wrists were soft, but held tight, and he was strapped to a sort of chair in an orb of metal bars that arced from floor to ceiling. He felt like a huge hamster in an enormous plastic ball. When he rocked forward, he expected it to move, but it didn’t. The room around him was small; only space for his cage, a wooden chair facing him and a table by the door that held a lamp and a few small boxes.

After a few hours of utter boredom, Wyll realized he needed to pee. He began to shout, calling anyone who could hear him. Not that he wanted anyone to come and turn on the contraption he was in, but someone was going to come for him, weren’t they? Or was he doomed to starve in this chair? Whether his ankles were bound to the legs or the floor, he couldn’t tell. The harness over his body didn’t let him bend down far enough to see. The lamp flickered. It was made of copper tubing on a cedar platform, with a dial on the front, and it branched out at the top like a tree; each piece of copper tube ending with a light hanging down, encased in blue, tear-shaped, glass bulbs. He’d memorized its shape with his eyes open and closed.

The only thing close to Wyll’s cage online.

He screamed until he was hoarse and his throat was so dry, it was gritty and painful to speak. Then he heard a grinding sound and a series of clicks before his chair was unlocked from its upright state. That’s the only way he could describe it, as the chair tipped back a bit and rocked inside the cage. A gear near his left ear whirred and caught a chain that began to spin him upside down. Wyll was not a fan of the rides at World’s of Fun that went round and round. He was flying; his chair hurtled around as the bottom of it ran along the rails like they were tracks. He thought he’d seen something like this at the space museum. Astronauts used it to get ready for zero G; but they only went one direction.

He wasn’t sure when exactly he lost his last meal, but he hoped it gummed up the tracks enough to derail him. It didn’t. By the time the chair stopped, he was dizzy, sick, and pissed, with a monster headache. If only he had that pain-relieving water flask. Damn. His chair rocked at the bottom of the cage. It was done. Thank God. A pulley attached to another gear, grabbed the chains and clicked his chair into place. Wyll found he was now sitting in a puddle. He didn’t need to go to the bathroom anymore, though. He stopped shouting after that.

It felt like an entire day passed before anyone came to see him. Covered in his own vomit and reeking of pee, he felt disgusting. His clothes were crusty. His stomach was in knots from grumbling and his tongue was fat and foreign in his mouth, beyond thirsty. By then, he was fairly sure night had passed, and it was just a dark room. A man he’d never seen before came in holding a tray in both hands. In the middle of it stood Wyll’s oasis. A tall, condensing, glass of water, complete with tinkling ice cubes.

His mouth couldn’t even water. He opened and closed his mouth, making a smacking sound as he peeled his tongue off the roof of his mouth so he could speak. “Is that for me?” he tried to say as the man stood in front of him, unmoving.

The man stood there, apparently not hearing him. He looked like the cartoon version of Icabod Crane, all knees and elbows with a huge adam’s apple and a nose like a beak. His dull gray hair was pulled back and fastened at his neck with a black velvet ribbon that matched his black coat and pants. A gray vest held his pocket watch and he pulled it out to take a peek, then snapped it closed and returned it, looking straight ahead.

Wyll saw the drops of water running down the side of the glass, and he wanted to cry. No, he was not beaten yet. He would make it through this. Sira said they were moving ahead in three days. It must be two days by now. He felt like he still had a grasp on time, though the longer the clock ticked, the less sure he was.

“Do you have a name?” He murdered the words.

The man ignored him. Fine. It’s too much effort to talk anyway. Wyll settled for glaring at him through the bars.

A bell chimed from the man’s pocket. Wyll was curious what time it was, what day it was, but knew that silence would meet his query, so he waited. He would have spit at the man if he could…or kicked him.

He tried to flick his vomit-encrusted boot at the man, but had just succeeded in losing a warm sock, when the door creaked open and Rozam the king stepped in. His smile was dazzling. Nice warm gloves covered his hands and he rubbed them together. Wyll felt the cold tingle of poor circulation on his fingertips. It was drafty and damp in the all-rock room. Wyll guessed he was somewhere in the reformatory. But where?

“How are you feeling, Wyll?”

“Who’s this guy?” Wyll nodded and pointed to Icabod, ignoring the king completely. Usually it worked. But today, the king just chuckled.

“He’s my little gift to you. Call it a good-faith wedding present.”

“Excuse me?” Wyll thought he must have missed a page or something. “Am I getting married?”

“Well, not now, of course. But in time… Sira insists on mating herself with a human. I understand. And she likes you, so, one day you’ll be family. So here’s my gift.” He patted the man on the back, grinning at Wyll. “He’s your butler. He obeys you. Unless I tell him not to, of course. He was just made, so you can name him yourself, if you’d like. He doesn’t speak though; flaw in the design.”

More like flaw in the designer.

“You have lost your marbles. Sira isn’t going to stay here. And every time you pull her back, it makes her that much more determined to get away. You should have let her visit the real world. You should have been honest with her. She deserves that.”

“Oh, like you? Honest Wyll? Did she deserve what you did?” The king lost his smile and Wyll thought, stupid, stupid, stupid. He would have face palmed himself if he could. Rozam went on, “She is going to stay here and my plan to guarantee it is working perfectly.”

“Yeah?” His voice was hesitant. On one hand he really, really wanted to know this plan, but on the other hand, it probably involved something he definitely didn’t want.

“Do you want to hear it?” Rozam’s eyes lit up and his eyebrows shot to the ceiling. He clapped his hands together and pressed them, palm to palm.

“Sure.” He tried to fake his excitement, but the king didn’t seem to notice.

He sat in the wooden chair opposite the cage. “Oh yes.” He looked up at Icabod, he wasn’t hard to name, and said, “Give the boy a drink so he can listen.”

Wyll would’ve licked his lips if his tongue wouldn’t just stick to a lip. Icabod held the glass up to his mouth and tilted it gently, letting Wyll sip it first and then drain most of the glass. He tilted his chin up so none would be lost, and the butler wiped his face with a cloth. He suddenly felt two thousand percent better. He smiled in relief and realized the king was watching him like some kind of Truman show. He stopped smiling.

Rozam cleared his throat. “Here it is. First, I put you in my device, The Reeducator. Then I tell Sira that you died in the reformatory. I might have to make a clockwork copy of you for burial, but I have enough of your—” He looked at all the chunks of Wyll’s last meal on the floor. “—DNA to do that already.”

“Wait, she thinks I’m dead?”

“Yes. Delightful, isn’t it? She’s going to be so happy when I show her you’re still alive and she will love that I’ve made you new, and improved. Then she’ll love us both and never leave.”

“I’m sorry, but I don’t think I can convince her to stay. I don’t plan on staying myself.” Wyll knew it was useless talking to a madman. There was no logic.

“Aha. Well, not now. But when the Reeducator is done with you, you will only desire to stay and restore Sira’s relationship with me. You will fix it and she’ll listen because she cares for you.”

Wyll’s mind was going a million miles an hour. The Resistance would move forward with the plans. They would leave without him in two days. Was it two days? Three? One? When his grandpa died, Wyll’s grandma said the hardest part was wanting to talk to him, wanting him to know something desperately, but being unable to know if he heard her. He didn’t get it at the time, but he was starting to understand. If he could speak telepathically from sheer effort, Sira would have heard him screaming all through the castle.

“What if it doesn’t work?” Wyll asked.

“The beauty of this machine is that, similar to the terror machine, it can change your reality. It will make you believe anything I tell you is true.”

He snorted. “Like you could tell me I’m a girl and I’d believe it?”

Rozam picked up one of the boxes on the table and pointed it at him like it was a tv remote and he was the comedy…or the tragedy. The gears began to turn, and he swung loose again. Oh no, not this again.

“You don’t have to show me–” The chair seemed like it flew faster this time than it had before. He lost the water he’d just ingested. The straps on his wrists released and his arms flew out in front of him. Then Rozam started talking. “Look at your arms, Wyll. See the bumps all over them? They’re greenish. Can’t you see them moving? The green worms burrowing into your skin, one right next to each other, they swim and eat your flesh. They itch don’t they?

Wyll’s eyes were huge and he watched the worms moving around under his skin. He could feel them wiggling. Hundreds of them. He began to scratch. The more he scratched the tops off the burrows, the worm heads popped out and he pulled them out, as many as he could at a time, as his stomach lurched again. The worm goo from their smeared and broken bodies was under his fingernails. Once the worms were out and his arms were green and slimy, he noticed his arms were covered with small identical holes, close to each other. They’d eaten the skin were they’d grown and left him cratered. He ran a hand over the torn flesh and wanted to throw up again, but he could only heave.

“Stop. Please.” Wyll was in tears. He could only take so much.

The chair slowed down to a stop and he came back to starting position. When he looked down, the worm guts were gone, but the holes were still in his arms. He panicked. Scratching the skin, his pinky nail fit in each hole. “I thought you said it wasn’t real?”

“Oh yes, you are correct. But what I tell you is real, becomes real, for you.”

“My arms are stuck like this?” Wyll looked hideous. He only heard the part where the king said whatever he told Wyll became reality. That was enough to really mess with his brain. Sira would hate these holes. Sira thought he was dead and would go home without him. He would be stuck here with the insanity. And everybody else believed he sold them out and wouldn’t wait for him anyway. Maybe she’d come for him? If she knew where he was.

“Until you don’t believe it anymore.” The king stood. “It’s all in your control, Wyll. Eventually, you will be released from your bonds, free to leave. But you won’t be able to. Your own mind will keep you in this chair until I’m ready for you. I’ll have your man here clean up.”

Wyll had about a hundred questions. “Where is this place? How is Sira? Is she upset? How—” He stopped talking when he realized Rozam was ignoring him and had gotten up to leave. Then he had a hundred more. “Wait! When are you coming back? Does anybody know I’m here? Is someone else coming? How long are you going to keep me here?” His voice rose in volume and pitch as he cried out and realized with panic that he was not only alone, but no one would even be looking for him if Rozam concocted a look-alike corpse in his place. It made him so furious that he lashed out, screaming and pulling at the restraints. Finally, a tear of resolution slipped down his cheek when the door shut behind the king and Icabod, who followed him.

I told you it was dark. That’s just an example of the king’s insanity. I just realized this is the first time I’ve added any of the story in this series. I hope it’s okay that I shared it from this far back. Lol. I suppose I could start giving real examples from now on. But this is where Wyll gives up on everything. He retreats, then when all seems lost, he finds a kernel of hope and forms a new resolve, though we aren’t sure at that point if the brain-washing worked or not. Will he try to make her stay? Has she left without him? How will he get out? Everyone’s mad at him because the king’s men shouted that Wyll had led them to the encampment. In a way he did, from the tracker put in his boot. He only has the one pair.

I’m not going to tell you how he gets out of that trap, but hopefully by next week, he’ll be be back in the group and they will be making the BIG finale plan happen. I will write the final battle, then the resolution. Even if you have a cliff-hanger, I’ve learned, you still need some type of resolution and it’s possible to write one, still not giving away what will happen in the next book.

In that case, say they are leaving a battle at the end of this book, to start directly after it in the next. You can add distance by writing the main character’s thoughts as the resolution. They can react to the battle and have a little inner dialogue, maybe about how far they’ve come since the beginning, or how they wonder if the battle’s really won at all, or how they’ve grown and changed during the book’s timeline. Maybe have them hoping for things to come in the second book, or have them daydream the outcome they had hoped for, etc.

This is enough to bring closure to a story, without moving the action farther than you want to go. Or, give us an epilogue that can also count as the next book’s prologue and ties them together. Something with a nice little recap of what transpired in the first book and how far they’ve come in their ultimate plan for winning. Or, make it from the villian’s POV. Tell us how they’ve not given up on world domination and though they lost this battle, they have a new plan already…

See what I mean? This was the case of my first and second books in my trilogy. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07YWQJLVL?ref_=series_rw_dp_labf I had to go back when I republished the books and add a bit so that the ending wasn’t so abrupt. I didn’t work too hard on it, but I hope it smoothed the cliff-hanger from jarring to just annoying. LOL. I have a love/hate relationship with cliff-hangers. It’s okay, I guess, if I have the next book bought and ready to go. But if not… they make me super grumpy.

Well, in looking up my trilogy page to post here, I googled it and found a pirated copy of my book available on Pinterest as a free .pdf file. Wow. Really? I only get about $0.23 per book as it is, now you’re going to take that from me?

I don’t think people realize what they do to authors when they share “FREE” books. It’s different if the book is out there perma-free, but even if it is, that might not always be the case. It’s the AUTHOR’S job to give it out free, not yours, but I also get that free is free. In my situation, it violates my contract with Amazon that says the book cannot be offered online anywhere but on Kindle Unlimited. So I had to dispute it and ask for it to be taken down.

FYI to READERS– I will always send you a free pdf or mobi file (for Kindle) of any of my books in exchange for a review. But then it’s not yours to give away unless I’m getting another review from it. And writers, it IS okay with Amazon to receive a free book in exchange for a review, but no other incentives can be offered. Not a “chance to win,” or “another free book,” or anything you can think of. They have devious minds that have already figured out what you’re going to come up with.

So as a lesson to you authors out there, google your series, google your books, and see what comes up and what you show up next to. It’s good to see what other buyers see anyway. If you really want an objective look: in your web browser, at the top right, click the three vertical dots and then click where it says, “New Incognito Window.” This will open a page for you that has none of your cookies, none of your purchases or personal markers. You’ll see what Joe Anybody sees when they Google you. Do it every once in awhile.

I am by no means famous or successful yet, so I had no idea this would be an issue. But if Amazon had seen it, they could have taken down my book(s). That would be a travesty for me. So do yourself a favor and check yourself out.

I’ve got to get back to it. Sorry I was late this week! Keep Writing!

~jenn

The End.

One thought on “The Journey to a Bestseller: Commas and Pirated Content (Series #22)

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