5 Cases: How to Write Infrequent Phrases – Part 1

“Like everything metaphysical the harmony between thought and reality is to be found in the grammar of the language.” —Ludwig Wittgenstein

image by seeka
image by seeka

Often grammar books and publishers differ in on how to handle grammar rules. Sometimes it’s hard to find the answer. (I’ve thumbed through books to see if anyone else was in my predicament.)

In a 3-part series over the next few weeks, I’ll mention acceptable ways to write some phrases that might have puzzled you. Whichever you choose, be consistent throughout your manuscript. Your publisher may have a preference.

  1. You want to write a sentence that trails off because the character doesn’t know a person’s surname to go with his Mr. title.

“Will you ask Mr. . . . ?” (manual ellipse; space after ellipse)

“Will you ask Mr. . . .?” (manual ellipse; no space after ellipse)


“Will you ask Mr. … ?” (software generated ellipse; space after ellipse)

“Will you ask Mr. …?” (software generated ellipse; no space after ellipse)

You add the period to Mr, add a space, type in an ellipse, and end with a question mark. (The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) shows the space between the ellipse and the question mark.)

If it isn’t a question:

“He asked Mr. . . .”


“He asked Mr. …”

Note: No punctuation after the ellipse in the statement case, and no space between the ellipse and the ending quotation mark.

  1. You want your character to scream in her mind for the man to stop prodding her with questions.

Here are acceptable cases, starting with the woman speaking aloud.

image by Perlinator
image by Perlinator

“Stop it!” (screaming aloud)

“Stop it!” she thought. (quotation marks; not in deep point of view)

She thought, stop it! (no quotation marks; not in deep point of view)

Stop it! (no italics; deep point of view –  option 1)

Stop it! (italics; deep point of view – option 2)


  1. You want your character to exclaim something like it’s a single word with no pauses.

No comma is used. (Use commas when there’s a pause.) (CMOS)

Oh boy.

Oh no!

Oh yeah.

No no no!

  1. You want your character to give alternate utterances for yes and no. En dashes are used.

Yes: uh-huh

No: uh-uh

5. You want to use the word which

Here’s how to write it under various cases. Watch for commas and no commas. (CMOS)

He didn’t know which way to go

After her blunder, her cheeks flamed, which added to her embarrassment.

He always gushed over how pretty I was. Which was a pack of lies.

He always gushed over how pretty I was—which was a pack of lies.

(The last two examples could be written as one sentence with a comma after was.)

image by pixeltweaks
image by pixeltweaks


Our family reunions were always the sort at which my cousin tortured me with snide comments.

I was stuck in a situation for which I hand no solution.




Acceptable ways to write 5 infrequent phrases – Part 1. Click to tweet.

What issue have you had a hard time finding in a grammar book?

8 Essentials to Cook Up Your Story

“Life is a glorious banquet, a limitless and delicious buffet.” — Maya Angelou

by rkit
by rkit

John and I created a straw bale garden. No dirt. No plowing. The straw bales become ovens to germinate and grow fruits and vegetables. The process mirrors what is needed to cook up a great story.

8 Essentials to Cook Up A Great Story.

Essential 1- Foundation


Chicken wire, landscape fabric, posts, and stakes.
Chicken wire, landscape fabric, posts, and stakes.

We laid chicken wire and landscape fabric to keep out the moles, voles, and weeds.


  • Before we can write a great story, we must live a great story. We must transform our hurts, scars, and successes to create something meaningful to share with others. We must lay “chicken wire” to keep out discouragement.
  • My foundation is my desire to write with God. I don the full armor of God against temptations and discouragements. (Ephesians 6:10-17)

Essential 2 – Fence

5 deer checking out our partially fenced garden
5 deer checking out our partially fenced garden


We cemented in sturdy wood posts and pounded in tall metal stakes to support the fencing mesh that protects our garden.




  • The sturdy posts are understanding plot and characterization.
  • The metal stakes are learning punctuation, grammar, and spelling.
  • The fencing prevents such things as shallow characters, weasel words, and misuse of “lay” and “lie” from entering our stories.
The 3 wires will allow tomatoes to climb.

Essential 3 – Climbing Supports


We ran wire between T-bars for plants to climb.


  • Our characters must grow during our stories. They should be able to do or be something they couldn’t do or be in the beginning.
  • If characters droop and rot, readers have little to inspire them.

Essential 4 – Straw Bales


We placed straw bales in the sun. We performed a 10-day process to turn the bales into germinating, growing ovens. Fertilizing and watering. Again and again. On day five, we poked our fingers into the straw and felt the heat.

See the fertilizer pellets?
See the fertilizer pellets?
Warm water only.
Warm water only.


  • We must cook up conflict, obstacles and disasters to give our characters challenges, failures, and successes.
  • Readers will feel the heat and beg for more.

Essential 5 – Soaker Hoses


We ran soaker hoses on top of the bales. Timers attached to the hoses water the plants daily.


  • We need to water ourselves daily.
  • A burnt out writer doesn’t write a great story.
  • For me, soaking is spending time with God. He may invite me to forget about word count and take a walk with Him.

Step 6 – Seeds


We planted seeds and seedlings in the straw.


Our stories should have themes and ah-ha moments seeded within the action, dialog, and reflection.

Essential 7 – Flourishing Plants


We watch our plants grow, reaching toward the sun.


  • Our stories grow almost by themselves. Why?
  • Because we’ve worked through the prior steps.

Essential 8 – Fruits and Vegetables

by JamesDeMers
by JamesDeMers


We pick the red, succulent strawberries and tomatoes. And enjoy.


  • Readers enjoy a satisfying story that grows them in some way.
  • For us writers, the fruit could be to:

-connect with people who’ve read our stories, or simply 

-watch our love of creating come to fruition.

Cook up your stories and get readers returning for more. Click to tweet.

In what ways have you thought about the growth of your stories?

How to Move to the Next Stage in Your Creative Career Sooner

“Our job in life is not to be successful, but to be faithful.” — Billy Graham

Image courtesy of wiangya at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of wiangya at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

You have a dream or calling. You have failures and too few successes. You harbor resistance and discouragement. You ask yourself, “Will I ever be a __________?”

My question was: Will I ever be an author?” Instead of God dropping at my feet everything I needed to succeed, He grew me in several stages. Most likely, you’re in the right stage now. But if you understand how stages work, perhaps you could move to the next stage sooner than you think.

All Stages Have Steps in Common

Image courtesy of samuiblue at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of samuiblue at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

1. You have an image of what success should look like.

2. You try something. Let’s call it Something Now.

3. You get lazy when Something Now gets hard or doesn’t succeed.

4. You feel guilty for procrastinating and try a modification of Something Now: Something Else.

5. You get better at Something Else and enjoy a success.

6. You notice different facets of Something Else and have the urge to know more.

7. You think, “Now, I’m on the fast track!”

Image courtesy of hin255 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of hin255 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

8. You look ahead and see what experts say is a necessity for success: Necessity. You think:

a. Necessity requires way too much work.

b. Doing Necessity takes all the fun out of the art.

c. I’m good enough at Necessity.

9. You become proficient at Something Else, but you’re not moving forward.

10. You think, “Maybe I wasn’t cut out for this work.”

11. You reconsider Necessity, grudgingly or hopefully.

12. You learn more about Necessity and begin to embrace it.

13. Bam! You’re in the next stage.

The next stage works similarly to the last stage. A caution: If you jump to a Necessity two or more stages ahead, you may become overwhelmed and experience a setback. After I attended a marketing session as a novice writer, I stopped writing for a short time.

Example: My Stage 3

Image courtesy of anankkml at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of anankkml at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Before Stage 3, I stacked up partial, bad manuscripts. Then, I self-published two books of short stories. I had some non-monetary success. So I finished Novel 1, an inspirational historical romance, and secured an agent. The novel was rejected. That’s when I entered Stage 3.

  • I pictured a novel on a bookstore shelf with my name on it. So, I switched to the inspirational romantic suspense genre.
  • Novel 2’s rejection letter said the idea was good but my writing was substandard.
  • Although I’d just retired to write fulltime, I redecorated our house.Remodel
  • Finally, I listened to my guilt and wrote Novel 3.
  • I improved my grammar, sentence structure, and other “surface” writing.
  • I received better scores on contest submissions than for the prior two novels.
  • I was on my way!
  • Novel 3’s rejection letter said the idea was good, but the balance among the spiritual, suspense, and romance elements was lacking.
  • On an author email loop, experienced authors mentioned classes and books on plot and characterization. Studying these seemed overwhelming and no fun. I would simply try harder.
  • Novel 4’s rejection letter was a repeat of Novel 3’s. I struggled to rise above my doubts about God’s calling on my life.
  • We moved away to a remote community. I read writing craft books and went to conferences and workshops. I wrote and reworked the plot and the characters of Novel 5, an inspirational romance.
  • Bam! I moved to Stage 4, where I received a contract on Novel 5, Calculated Risk.

In Stage 4 I started Novel 6. With novel 5 coming out, I grudgingly no longer resisted learning social media and marketing.

What is the activity in the next stage of your creative career that you’re resisting?