Re: Grammar & Flow

#1
My fiction just received its first review, a 2/5, and it stings to be honest. The reviewer makes good arguments, part of them subjective and part of them objective. I would like to focus on the latter, where he points out that I’ve “Lack of proper flow and sketchy grammar”.

I’ve every reason to believe he’s correct, since writing is freaking hard and English is not my first language, but what really gets me is that I don’t know how to improve upon those mistakes! I write my chapters and go over them a few times before publishing online, and though I’m sure I make grammatical errors and that the chapter doesn’t flow well to others like it does on my head, I can’t seem to pinpoint where I’m going wrong no matter how much I look at the words on the screen.

For one I decided to download classics from the public domain and instead of just reading them (like I usually do most books), I’ll try to be more careful and analyse them as I go. That will take some time and I don’t know how much I’ll gain from it, so I thought it wouldn’t hurt to try and get some help here at the forum. How does one improve their flow and grammar?

To those feeling particularly generous, would you mind reading some random chapters from my fiction (say, chapters 2, 10 and 21 – or any other spread combination) and give me some feedback? Like what are my most common vices, grammatical mistakes or general bad practices?

Sorry for the trouble and thanks for your time ^^

Re: Grammar & Flow

#2
Quote:How does one improve their flow and grammar?


Experience, experience, and more experience. Oh, and with an extra side of more experience.
I'm impressed that English isn't your mother-tongue, as I would've hardly noticed.

Now, let me go through each point and see if I can help you a bit. I'm no professional, but I have been writing for some time and like to imagine I have a firm grasp on things. 


Quote:My fiction just received its first review, a 2/5, and it stings to be honest. The reviewer makes good arguments, part of them subjective and part of them objective. I would like to focus on the latter, where he points out that I’ve “Lack of proper flow and sketchy grammar”.


For starters, don't take this first review to heart. Negative reviews happen to everyone, and they can definitely sting. Some people will tell you to simply ignore it, and that it's no big deal, but I won't tell you that. I would be shallow to tell you that. Take the negative review, read it, understand it, and move on. You haven't lost anything yet, in fact, you're only just beginning.

I'm very impressed that you're able to accept that the negative reviewer did have several good arguments. That takes strength to admit it and means you're already leaps and bounds ahead of where I was when I first started.

Thankfully it's relatively easy to correct your writing flow with time, and sketchy grammar is even easier to correct, with even several programs just for that very purpose. I'll be introducing one or two of my favorites to you as we go.

Quote:I’ve every reason to believe he’s correct, since writing is freaking hard and English is not my first language, but what really gets me is that I don’t know how to improve upon those mistakes!


This part here impressed me. A non-native English speaker trying to write a book in a language you weren't born and raised with... I couldn't do it. I was born to speak English and even then I'm barely more than an amateur. I can't give too much feedback or support on this, but I can say you will improve with time, as is the case with most things.

You need time and patience to overcome these weaknesses. You need to continue writing, you need to continue stretching your creative muscles, and you need to keep moving forward. Don't let it get you down too much.

Quote: I write my chapters and go over them a few times before publishing online, and though I’m sure I make grammatical errors and that the chapter doesn’t flow well to others like it does on my head, I can’t seem to pinpoint where I’m going wrong no matter how much I look at the words on the screen.


I'm really happy to see you reread your work before posting, as that's something every successful author needs to do continuously. That, however, is only the beginning. You need to not only read your work aloud, perhaps to another person so that they may point out anything that sounds wrong to them, but you also need to run your writing through spell-checking programs such as Word, Grammarly, SlickWrite, and even the Hemingway Editor. I'll provide a link for each. If you need an alternative for Word, I recommend OpenOffice. It's free and light-weight.

Word, OpenOffice, Grammarly, SlickWrite, Hemingway Editor.
Look into each of them and maybe you'll find something that suits your needs when it comes to proofreading and cleaning. Also, there are countless other programs just like these, so search around.

Quote:For one I decided to download classics from the public domain and instead of just reading them (like I usually do most books), I’ll try to be more careful and analyze them as I go.


Downloading and reading well-sold classics is great when trying to learn how to write prose, it doesn't substitute experience. I won't say that you're wasting your time, though, keep at it.

Quote:That will take some time and I don’t know how much I’ll gain from it, so I thought it wouldn’t hurt to try and get some help here at the forum. How does one improve their flow and grammar?


The big question. Flow needs to come naturally, otherwise even a smooth flow can, at times, feel shakey and awkward. Quick question; are you a discovery writer, or are you an outlining writer? Discovery writers are able to create the story as it's happening, seeing it in their heads as if through a screen. Discovery writers suffer when it comes to outlining plot, but their characters and dialogue usually are a step above the rest. Outliners, by definition, are the opposite. Their plots stand tall, while their characters at times feel shallow.

You can be both, you can be neither. I'm a discovery writer, personally. Flow comes as I write it, so the aid I could provide would be relatively limited to discovery writing, and my help would be relatively lacking otherwise.

Quote:To those feeling particularly generous, would you mind reading some random chapters from my fiction (say, chapters 2, 10 and 21 – or any other spread combination) and give me some feedback? Like what are my most common vices, grammatical mistakes or general bad practices?


I'm a bit busy as of right now, BUT, I can promise I'll mark your fiction as "Read Later." Once I have free time, I'll give it a look and see about writing either a continuation to this post, or a full fledged review.

Quote:Sorry for the trouble and thanks for your time ^^


There is no trouble. Everyone who joins RoyalRoad does so intending to either read for fun, or write for fun. We're all here to improve ourselves, one way or another. Don't take my word as gospel, do what feels natural to you.

Re: Grammar & Flow

#3

Norlum Wrote: My fiction just received its first review, a 2/5, and it stings to be honest. The reviewer makes good arguments, part of them subjective and part of them objective. I would like to focus on the latter, where he points out that I’ve “Lack of proper flow and sketchy grammar”.

I’ve every reason to believe he’s correct, since writing is freaking hard and English is not my first language, but what really gets me is that I don’t know how to improve upon those mistakes! I write my chapters and go over them a few times before publishing online, and though I’m sure I make grammatical errors and that the chapter doesn’t flow well to others like it does on my head, I can’t seem to pinpoint where I’m going wrong no matter how much I look at the words on the screen.


I took the liberty to check out your fiction. Honestly, I don't get what the reviewer was trying to say. Since I once did many reviews for other new authors, I would normally take everyone's review into their context.

And I dare say that the person who did your review was just well... have his own preferences and what he liked to read. And this is a occurring theme in RR amongst the readers. You will find a lot of reviews by these so-called 'experts' who will bash your grammar whereas their own grammar sucks. Don't lose your sleep over it.

Now, back to your grammar and flow. I did read your prologue and I'll base what I could on just that chapter to help you. Bear in mind that English is not my first, nor second nor even third language that I use and speak.

1. Your first improvement could be on the usage of comma and full stop. I'll take the first few paragraphs of yours as an example to help you to figure it out.

" In the western part of the Balt Kingdom there is a place called the Ancient Aldin Forest, a very old location filled with unusual creatures and plants, including magical beasts or, as the common folk call them, monsters.

----> There is a lot comma here. You could change your paragraphing and by keeping your sentences short and succinct. An example:

In the western part of the Balt Kingdom lies Ancient Aldin Forest; filled with unusual creatures and plants including magical beasts or as the common folk call them, monsters.

Or If you do not want to change the wordings at all, you could just do this instead.

In the western part of the Balt Kingdom there is a place called the Ancient Aldin Forest; a very old location filled with unusual creatures and plants including magical beasts or as the common folk call them, monsters.


Notice the changes of punctuation marks. Remember that punctuation marks will always carries a big weight in your story's flow. Let's see the next few paragraphs. 

"The forest is blocked off to the north by the Keeper’s Plateau, but it extends in all other directions till eventually the trees, bushes and other plants start becoming sparse, turning the scenery into plains as far as the eyes can see. 
(I don't understand what the meaning of this sentence or what it was trying to describe. And in most cases, it will breaks the flow of the readers. Your first few paragraphs are important to make good impressions.)

The people of Balt prosper on these plains, farming grains, raising animals and expanding their communities, but the fear of the forest and its creatures is ever prevalent on these folks. As such, there are no towns or villages where you can see the border of the forest with your own eyes on the distant horizon.

(Your first sentence contradict each other. You said prosper but then there's fear of something. How could it be prosperous while there's fear just beyond the horizon? And I don't get your second sentence at all. )

In one of the hamlets closer to the southern border of the Ancient Aldin Forest, in a small and somewhat dirty tavern, a group of eight people were huddled together around a table, talking in low voices. Like most foreign people that came to the villages near the ancient forest, it was easy to spot that this was a group of adventurers or monster hunters.

(The sentences feel off in this paragraph. The first one contains three part, namely about a hamlet and then the scene pans into a dirty tavern and then pan again into a group of people.)

It was a common sight due to the saying “where there is danger, there is opportunity”. Many of the things one could obtain from the forest were worth a lot of gold, you only needed to risk your life to obtain it. That being the case, the profession of adventurer (or monster hunter) was a popular one, albeit with a huge mortality rate, where many people confident in their swordplay, archery or magical skills tried to make it big.

(You need to fix your comma usage ASAP. There's too many commas but not enough comma splice and full stop. I could see this will be your biggest area for you to need to improve on.)

One could tell that this group was experienced due to the quality of their equipment and its roughness. Both the gear and the people wearing it were full of scars, trophies of their many battles, showing the history of the struggle and success of these adventurers."

(Just like my comment above)

Don't mind me changing these three paragraphs for you. One will be with changes of words and one would be just the punctuation only.

The forest extends in all directions except off to the north which was blocked by the Keeper’s Plateau. And at the edge of the forest, one would come into plains as far as the eyes can see. The people of Balt prosper on these plains. They farmed grains, raised animals and expanding their communities amidst the ever prevalent fear of the forest and its denizens just beyond their borders.

In one of the hamlets close to the southern border of the Ancient Aldin Forest, a group of eight people were huddled together around a table in a small and somewhat dirty tavern talking in low voices. Like most foreign people that came to the villages near the ancient forest, it was easy to spot that this was a group of adventurers or monster hunters.

"Where there is danger, there is opportunity”. 


Thus it was a common sight to see people gathered here in such a way. Most of the things one could obtain from the forest were worth a lot of gold to these people. But of course, it comes with certain risks. Whatever the case, the profession of adventurer (or monster hunter) was a popular one despite the huge mortality rate. These are the people who were confident in their swordplay, archery or magical skills and they wanted to try to make it big and rich.

One could tell that this particular group of eight was experienced due to the quality of their equipment and by the wearers look; full of scars - trophies from their many battles - showing the history of the struggle and success of each of these adventurers.


Or just the punctuation only.


In the western part of the Balt Kingdom there is a place called the Ancient Aldin Forest; a very old location filled with unusual creatures and plants, including magical beasts or as the common folk call them, monsters.


The forest is blocked off to the north by the Keeper’s Plateau, but it extends in all other directions till eventually the trees, bushes and other plants start becoming sparse, turning the scenery into plains as far as the eyes can see.

The people of Balt prosper on these plains - farming grains, raising animals and expanding their communities - but the fear of the forest and its creatures is ever prevalent on these folks. As such, there are no towns or villages where you can see the border of the forest with your own eyes on the distant horizon.

In one of the hamlets closer to the southern border of the Ancient Aldin Forest in a small and somewhat dirty tavern, a group of eight people were huddled together around a table talking in low voices. Like most foreign people that came to the villages near the ancient forest, it was easy to spot that this was a group of adventurers or monster hunters.

It was a common sight due to the saying “where there is danger, there is opportunity”. Many of the things one could obtain from the forest were worth a lot of gold. You only needed to risk your life to obtain it. That being the case, the profession of adventurer (or monster hunter) was a popular one, albeit with a huge mortality rate, where many people confident in their swordplay, archery or magical skills tried to make it big.

One could tell that this group was experienced due to the quality of their equipment and its roughness. Both the gear and the people wearing it were full of scars - trophies of their many battles, showing the history of the struggle and success of these adventurers.

I am just concentrating one part of your writing which is the most common mistakes in new authors. You have to improve on using the proper type of punctuation because each one of these marks will either help or hinder your story's flow. Perhaps if I have more time, I could look into depth about your writing, but I hope this is good enough for now.

One more thing. 

I found there's a lot of POV changes within just your prologue. This is a major no-no as it makes the reader lost their immersions and your flow would be disrupted. I get it that you are trying to tell the story so that all of these scene will fall in together but at prologue? Be very careful of doing that cause it makes your story feels haphazard and sketchy.

Chapter two was alright, but do work on your commas and other punctuation. Chapter three, you need to paragraph your story. Having one or two sentences as paragraph would make your story lack that certain flow. I don't know it is called, but I will call it formatting. You need to format your writing and your scene so that it doesn't feel disruptive and out of the place. The hydra fight could be done better when you format your writing in such a way that readers could feel the moment is moving seamlessly. 

Hopefully that helps. Good luck in writing your story :)

Re: Grammar & Flow

#4
Wow, thanks so much for these in-depth answers, the compliments and the encouragement! It means a lot.
 
== Venior ==

Quote:Experience, experience, and more experience. Oh, and with an extra side of more experience.


Experience is king then, that’s good. It means as long as I keep writing I’ll get there eventually, it’s an encouraging thought.
 
Quote:For starters, don't take this first review to heart. Negative reviews happen to everyone, and they can definitely sting. Some people will tell you to simply ignore it, and that it's no big deal, but I won't tell you that. I would be shallow to tell you that. Take the negative review, read it, understand it, and move on. You haven't lost anything yet, in fact, you're only just beginning.
 
Thankfully it's relatively easy to correct your writing flow with time, and sketchy grammar is even easier to correct, with even several programs just for that very purpose. I'll be introducing one or two of my favorites to you as we go. 
 
You need time and patience to overcome these weaknesses. You need to continue writing, you need to continue stretching your creative muscles, and you need to keep moving forward. Don't let it get you down too much.


The negative review did bum me out a lot on the first day, but after a good night's sleep I could be more level headed and take it for what it is. Like you said, I’ll keep writing and trying to improve. I’m just afraid of improving too slowly and getting swamped with a lot more negative reviews in the future, that would be harder to take in a stride, I imagine.
 
Quote:I'm really happy to see you reread your work before posting, as that's something every successful author needs to do continuously. That, however, is only the beginning. You need to not only read your work aloud, perhaps to another person so that they may point out anything that sounds wrong to them, but you also need to run your writing through spell-checking programs such as Word, Grammarly, SlickWrite, and even the Hemingway Editor. I'll provide a link for each. If you need an alternative for Word, I recommend OpenOffice. It's free and light-weight.
 
Word, OpenOffice, Grammarly, SlickWrite, Hemingway Editor.
Look into each of them and maybe you'll find something that suits your needs when it comes to proofreading and cleaning. Also, there are countless other programs just like these, so search around.


I read it aloud sometimes, but not consistently. I’ll make sure to do that from now on. For writing I use Word, but of all the programs you listed Hemingway Editor caught my eye the most. I’m curious on how it makes its determinations and how on point they are. In your experience do you think I could put serious weight behind its suggestions and change everything that it points out as too complex to read?
 
Quote:The big question. Flow needs to come naturally, otherwise even a smooth flow can, at times, feel shakey and awkward. Quick question; are you a discovery writer, or are you an outlining writer? Discovery writers are able to create the story as it's happening, seeing it in their heads as if through a screen. Discovery writers suffer when it comes to outlining plot, but their characters and dialogue usually are a step above the rest. Outliners, by definition, are the opposite. Their plots stand tall, while their characters at times feel shallow.
 
You can be both, you can be neither. I'm a discovery writer, personally. Flow comes as I write it, so the aid I could provide would be relatively limited to discovery writing, and my help would be relatively lacking otherwise.


I’m not sure, maybe a bit of both? I used to be one of the Dungeon Masters for my RPG group, and there I would create the main landmarks of the adventure and let the players work their way from one point to the next, till they reached the end. I’m writing much in the same way, I already have all the major events sketch out and now I’m trying to connect them all together in a seamless way.
 
I don’t know if it’s the same as you are describing, but I also imagine the story as if I’m seeing through a screen, like a movie. I believe it hurts me sometimes, because I have this image on my head of what the scene looks like and I can think of no other way to convey that to the reader but describing it in length, using lots of adjectives and adverbs which, from what I’ve been reading around, it’s not a good thing.
 
Quote:I'm a bit busy as of right now, BUT, I can promise I'll mark your fiction as "Read Later." Once I have free time, I'll give it a look and see about writing either a continuation to this post, or a full fledged review.


Thanks a lot! I’m looking forward to your input.
 
== acederequiza == 

Quote:I took the liberty to check out your fiction. Honestly, I don't get what the reviewer was trying to say. Since I once did many reviews for other new authors, I would normally take everyone's review into their context.

And I dare say that the person who did your review was just well... have his own preferences and what he liked to read. And this is a occurring theme in RR amongst the readers. You will find a lot of reviews by these so-called 'experts' who will bash your grammar whereas their own grammar sucks. Don't lose your sleep over it.


Yes, most of his review was subjective. While what he said is not incorrect, it’s very much a matter of taste and preference. That’s why I ignored that and focused on the objective part of his review, the things I could actually improve upon.
 
Quote: Now, back to your grammar and flow. I did read your prologue and I'll base what I could on just that chapter to help you. Bear in mind that English is not my first, nor second nor even third language that I use and speak.

1. Your first improvement could be on the usage of comma and full stop. I'll take the first few paragraphs of yours as an example to help you to figure it out.

" In the western part of the Balt Kingdom there is a place called the Ancient Aldin Forest, a very old location filled with unusual creatures and plants, including magical beasts or, as the common folk call them, monsters.

----> There is a lot comma here. You could change your paragraphing and by keeping your sentences short and succinct. An example:

In the western part of the Balt Kingdom lies Ancient Aldin Forest; filled with unusual creatures and plants including magical beasts or as the common folk call them, monsters.

Or If you do not want to change the wordings at all, you could just do this instead.

In the western part of the Balt Kingdom there is a place called the Ancient Aldin Forest; a very old location filled with unusual creatures and plants including magical beasts or as the common folk call them, monsters.
 
Notice the changes of punctuation marks. Remember that punctuation marks will always carries a big weight in your story's flow.


I see, I think that’s something that carries over from my first language where short sentences are frowned upon. I’ll be on the lookout for that. Thanks for the examples, they help me visualize it much better.
 
Quote: In one of the hamlets closer to the southern border of the Ancient Aldin Forest, in a small and somewhat dirty tavern, a group of eight people were huddled together around a table, talking in low voices. Like most foreign people that came to the villages near the ancient forest, it was easy to spot that this was a group of adventurers or monster hunters.

(The sentences feel off in this paragraph. The first one contains three part, namely about a hamlet and then the scene pans into a dirty tavern and then pan again into a group of people.)


You gave lots of examples from my writing and I could understand that it most comes down to improper use of punctuation and general confusion/unclear writing. I agree with most of them and I’ll make a note to be careful about that.
 
I highlighted this one in particular because it got me confused. I imagine my scenes like a film. In this scene there’s a camera high above that is zooming in, first on the hamlet, then on the tavern and finally on the group of people. Pretty much how you described it, but in my head the camera is zooming in, instead of panning or going through a transition.
 
If your description is on point with how I imagined it, why did the sentences feel odd for you? From the suggestions you gave for this paragraph, the one below I agree that feels much better, though I would use a comma there. What do you think?
 
In one of the hamlets close to the southern border of the Ancient Aldin Forest, a group of eight people were huddled together around a table in a small and somewhat dirty tavern, talking in low voices.
 
The other suggestion though I’m not sure. By removing the first comma doesn’t that make the sentence too long and hard to speak out loud, giving almost no pause for breath?
 
In one of the hamlets closer to the southern border of the Ancient Aldin Forest in a small and somewhat dirty tavern, a group of eight people were huddled together around a table talking in low voices.
 
Quote: I am just concentrating one part of your writing which is the most common mistakes in new authors. You have to improve on using the proper type of punctuation because each one of these marks will either help or hinder your story's flow. Perhaps if I have more time, I could look into depth about your writing, but I hope this is good enough for now.


You hope it’s good for now? Are you kidding? That was great! I now have lots to think about and keep on the back of my head while I’m writing. Stamping out vices is pretty hard.
 
Quote:I found there's a lot of POV changes within just your prologue. This is a major no-no as it makes the reader lost their immersions and your flow would be disrupted. I get it that you are trying to tell the story so that all of these scene will fall in together but at prologue? Be very careful of doing that cause it makes your story feels haphazard and sketchy.


I realized that, specially after noticing the amount of views from the first to the second chapter dropped more than 50% >.< . The thing is, even after thinking about it a lot, I can’t seem to find a different way to write about all these scenes that are happening at the same time. Do you have any suggestions? Perhaps I’ll create another post just for this question, it looks like a hard problem to grasp that would require further discussion.
 
Quote:Chapter two was alright, but do work on your commas and other punctuation. Chapter three, you need to paragraph your story. Having one or two sentences as paragraph would make your story lack that certain flow. I don't know it is called, but I will call it formatting. You need to format your writing and your scene so that it doesn't feel disruptive and out of the place. The hydra fight could be done better when you format your writing in such a way that readers could feel the moment is moving seamlessly.


Oh, that’s interesting! I usually read with big sized fonts, so 1 or 2 lines take a good chunk of the screen, making it pleasing to read, while 5-7 lines almost becomes a wall of text that feels grating to the eyes. I was formatting for my own experience, never thought how ridiculous it would look to someone reading with normal font size.
 
== Conclusion? ==

 
Oh boy, lots to work on! I’ll keep in mind all your suggestions when I write from now on. Right now, it takes all I have to keep my schedule of 5 chapters releases a month, but when I find the time I’ll go back and review/edit/rewrite all my already released chapters. Thanks for all the feedback!