Sunday, February 5, 2012

Mood Mythbuster

Romance writers deal often with mood, and changes in mood. Our heroines can change their minds quickly, as they are presented with new information or they reassess.
William Zinsser, in his On Writing Well, offers a myth buster. He says, "Many of us were taught that no sentence should begin with "but." If that's what you learned, unlearn it--there's no stronger word at the start of a sentence. It announces a total contrast with what has gone before, and primes the reader for the change."
"However" is best used mid sentence, as in "It is, however, a weaker word."
"Yet" does almost the same job as "but," though its meaning is closer to "nevertheless.: Either of these words can replace a whole long phrase that summarizes what the reader has just been told. "Instead," "still," "thus," "therefore,."
Using "meanwhile," "now," "later," "today," and "subsequently" ensures the reader follows a transition in the story.
And she'll thank you for using only one word.


  1. Oh, I LOVE this myth buster. Having been taught never ever to use 'but' at the beginning of a sentence, I still cringe every time I do. BUT (ha-ha!) there are times when it is the ONLY word to use, not as part of the previous sentence, but to show that complete change.
    Sometimes I use it instead of 'on the other hand' when a character is trying to sort out his or her thoughts.
    Another one is 'And' at the beginning of a sentence. Again, officially a grammmatical no-no, but sometimes so necessary.

  2. Great post. I teach my third graders to NEVER use 'but' at the beginning of a sentence, but in my own writing I do all the time!

    You hit the nail on the head. It provides an instant contrast.

    One word or similar transitions are a great way to move to another period in time without long passages of narrative.

  3. I echo everyone else here--great post! Sometimes turning grammar rules on their head is a great way to grab the reader's attention, providing, of course, it's used the right way. Love these definitions and word usage ideas.