Wednesday, February 13, 2019

What Does Grammar Have to Do with It?

          I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard or read, “Why should I care about using correct grammar in my writing? That’s why they have editors.”  Wrong! Most publishers won't even consider an error-filled manuscript.  Paying for an experienced, dependable literary editor is expensive, and the editors themselves will do only so much.

Some writers fight the idea that grammar (including sentence structure, punctuation, subject/verb agreement, pronoun usage, spelling, etc.) impacts the worthiness of writing, which is like saying failing to lay a solid foundation does not impact the stability of a building. Good grammar is extremely important. It shows the writer's professionalism and attention to detail. The writer will also be able to give an explanation that is understood.

Grammatical errors can cause confusion, and, in the worst-case scenarios, they can completely change the meaning of a sentence. A writer not knowing how to use good grammar will make writing difficult to read. Poor grammar (including all subtexts) breaks the flow of reading, annoys the reader, and reflects badly on the writer. No-one wants to be jarred from a really interesting read by poor punctuation or glaring grammatical errors.

Writer Melissa Donovan states, "Too many times I’ve heard aspiring writers shrug off good grammar, saying they’d rather focus on plot or character, they’d prefer to use a natural, unlearned approach to keep the writing raw, or they will simply hire an editor to do the dirty work. I have a hard time buying into those lines of reasoning. Refusing to bother with grammar is just plain lazy, especially for writers who yearn to be more than hobbyists."

Why should writers embrace grammar rather than make excuses for ignoring it? Here are ten reasons why good grammar should be a central pursuit in writing efforts:

1. Readability
If your work is peppered with grammatical mistakes and typos, your readers are going to have a hard time trudging through it. Nothing is more distracting than being yanked out of a good story because a word is misspelled or a punctuation mark is misplaced. You should always respect your readers enough to deliver a product that is enjoyable and easy to read.

2. Communication
Some musicians learn to play by ear and never bother to learn how to read music. Many of them don’t even know which notes and chords they’re playing, even though they can play a full repertoire of recognizable songs and probably a few of their own. But get them in a room with other musicians and they’ll quickly become isolated. You can’t engage with others in your profession if you don’t speak the language of your industry. Good luck talking shop with writers and editors if you don’t know the parts of speech, the names of punctuation marks, and all the other components of language and writing that are related to good grammar.

3. Getting Published
How will you get that short story, essay, or blog post published if you don’t know the basics of grammar, spelling, and punctuation? Sure, some managing editors will go over your work and clean it up for you, but most reputable publishers have enough submissions that they can toss grammatically weak work into the trash without thinking twice.

4. Working with an Editor
I love it when writers say they can just hire an editor. This goes back to communication. If you can’t talk shop with other writers, you certainly won’t be able to converse intelligently about your work and its flaws with a professional editor. How will you respond to feedback and revision suggestions or requests when you don’t know what the heck the editor is talking about? Remember, it’s your work. Ultimately, the final version is your call, and you won’t be able to approve it if you’re clueless about what’s wrong with it.

5. Saving Money
Speaking of hiring an editor, you should know that editors will only go so far when correcting a manuscript. It’s unseemly to return work to a writer that is solid red with markups. Most freelance editors and proofreaders have a limit to how much they will mark up any given text, so the more mistakes there are, the more surface work the editor will have to do. That means she won’t be able to get into the nitty-gritty and make significant changes that take your work from average to superior because she’s breaking a sweat just trying to make it readable.

6. Invest in Yourself
Learning grammar is a way to invest in yourself. You don’t need anything more than a couple of good writing resources and a willingness to take the time to hone your skills. In the beginning, it might be a drag, but eventually, all those grammar rules will become second nature, and you will have become a first-rate writer.

7. Respectability, Credibility, and Authority
As a first-rate writer who has mastered good grammar, you will gain respect, credibility, and authority among your peers. People will take you seriously and regard you as a person who is committed to the craft of writing, not just some hack trying to string words together in a haphazard manner.

8. Better Writing All Around
When you’ve taken the time to learn grammar, it becomes second nature. As you write, the words and punctuation marks come naturally because you know what you’re doing; you’ve studied the rules and put in plenty of practice. That means you can focus more of your attention on other aspects of your work, like structure, context, and imagery (to name a few). This leads to better writing all around.

9. Self-Awareness
Some people don’t have it. They charge through life completely unaware of themselves or the people around them. But, most of us possess some sense of self. What sense of self can you have as a writer who doesn’t know proper grammar? That’s like being a carpenter who doesn’t know what a hammer and nails are. It’s almost indecent.

10. There’s Only One Reason to Abstain from Good Grammar
There is really only one reason to avoid learning grammar: the writer is just plain lazy. Anything else is a silly excuse.

          No matter what trade, craft, or career one is pursuing, everyone starts with learning the basics. Actors learn how to read scripts. Scientists learn how to apply the scientific method. Politicians learn how to… well, never mind what politicians do. We are writers. We must learn how to write well, and writing well definitely requires using good grammar.

William B. Bradshaw, and author and writing expert says:
"Whenever I get on my soapbox about grammar, people often tell me I put too
much emphasis on the importance of grammar -- after all, they say, why does
it matter what kind of grammar people use; the important thing is whether or
not they understand what they are saying and writing to one another."  

However, grammar is the foundation for communication. IF a person wants to be taken seriously as a writer, he/she must use proper grammar. Therefore, if you don’t have a good grasp of grammar and all of its subtexts, learn. Find a good easy-to-understand book of grammar and read it, refer to it, and use the knowledge inside it. Find websites with grammar lessons and information.

Grammar has much to do with good writing.

As a teacher of English, composition, yearbook, newspaper, and magazine, Vivian not only taught how to write but worked to hone her own skills. She continued to attend workshops, classes, and clinics to improve her knowledge, while she also had poetry, articles, and short stories published. Finally she began writing full time. Now, she has three young adult books and a mystery / suspense / thriller out.

When Vivian saw a gap between self-publishing and the large publishing houses, she with two other women began their own small press, 4RV Publishing LLC. They work one on one with authors and artists, and the list of published books and clients is growing. 

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Writing: It's All in the Details

by Susan Day

Whether you enjoy jotting down your thoughts in a journal or you consider yourself to be an experienced writer, you should know by now that the key to creating powerful prose and narration is in the details.

But, is it easier said than done?
The way you describe a character or thing is crucial to the readers' enjoyment. Regardless of what you have planned to happen in the plot, the words you use to expand on details are what will capture the hearts of your readers.
The truth is that most plots and situations have been written about before. With thousands of books published a day, there is bound to be a story just like yours 'out there'.
The way you can make your story stand out is not what you write about, but how you write it.
Read the Classics
The reason some authors are still being read today is the quality of their work.
Let's look at Charles Dickens – he wrote stories about the people and the events which shaped the city of London in the mid-1800's.
Each morning he would walk the streets making a mental note of the people he saw and what they did. Then at home, he would use his notes to create wonderful characters, all of whom, carried the story and, at times, drove the plot for him.
When you read of a young man, whose desire to be rich is far from his present situation, described as being disproportionately unlike the distance between the soles of his feet and the cold pavement due to the holes in his shoes, you know you're reading a brilliant descriptive text.
Knowing when to stop adding adjectives
Describing the physical characteristics of the people in your book should go beyond simply telling how old, tall, fat or rich an individual might be.
Instead, we might read how someone struggles to stretch a worn leather belt around jeans fading at every edge.
We might be privy to small hands fidgeting like trapped butterflies under the table as the characters share their first lunchtime rendezvous.
Just listing adjectives or adverbs is not going to cut it. Rather, put your characters into situations and watch them squirm, relax or even shine.
Knowing when to reach for the thesaurus
If you've been writing all your life, like so many of you have, you should begin to recognize words you repeat over and over again.
Replace overused words by using your thesaurus. If you are writing in an MSWord doc, select the word and hit 'shift' +F7 and a list of words will appear to help and guide you. The more you do
this the better you'll get.
Read and take note of how other great authors create minute details which add so much more substance to the plot of their book.
Adding details which show rather than tell your reader what you are saying will make your writing powerful, compelling and, best of all, have your readers wanting more.
Susan Day is a passionate blogger, author, and educator. She has written over 100 guest posts for other bloggers this year alone and has just published her first non-fiction book 10 Things Happy Grandparents Never Regret Doing.  Susan lives in Australia with four dogs, three bossy cats, three rescue guinea pigs, and an errant kangaroo