♦Welcome to another edition of the Open Book Blog Hop!♦
Do you use said or asked after a ? or tag your interruptions?
Any punctuation that bugs you? What’s the hardest for you to get right?
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Grammar is something of which most authors are cognizant. Or, at least, they should be. Right? Right. Most grammar is just second nature. Explaining it to someone sort of stops the conversations to reflect a moment to find the proper articulation. I hardly think about it. You see, I write in my native language, and I’ve been practicing it since an early age. It’s a feeling for me. To turn around and articulate grammar into explanations is foreign. This is probably why I don’t teach writing. Not only do I not wish to teach others this finer part of what I do, but I find it anxiety inducing.
Writing structure is probably the seat of most writer’s anxiety with their work. This is where we receive our most criticism: typos, punctuation choices, and paragraphing. Grammar can be such a headache. Hence, we’re always hyper aware of those who criticize those choices, and hold concern that our editors may have missed something. Do you use a program like Grammarly? It’s a good resource. So is Grammar Girl.
No one is perfect, but there is a faction of reader out there who seeks out mistakes to prove an author has no business writing. So much energy wasted on being a real drag. These folks like to ignore story and go right for the technical aspects. Somehow, they believe this gives them a greater pedestal on which to stand.
Story, you see, is a subjective matter. It’s easily dismissed as an opinion of simply not liking it, but finding technical issues gives fodder for naysayers. There is a way to do this constructively for writers, but these folks don’t do it constructively. The thinly veiled attitudes, say it all. After all, were they asked? Are they a beta reader? Is the feedback from your editor? Was this from a prospective manager/agent/ publisher? Fancying yourself the protector of all things written and the from and grammar isn’t a real position. In the end, language is a fluid and living thing always changing. What is being protected?
Much like social media is a haven for trolls, so too is the writing world. Either the bitter writer seeking to clear the field of competition or the gatekeepers of traditional publishing. Whichever they are, know that they essentially don’t matter. Your art is your art, pimples and all. The sheer fact that you dared to put it out there should be commended. As for gatekeeping, it is the purview of systems of inequality. I have no time for it. Don’t waste your time as an author criticizing other’s grammar. Readers also have better things to do than be a drudge. You could simply say: the writing wasn’t as clear as I hoped, and distracted me from the story. Then, move on. Don’t spend days sniping at someone like the mean girls of high school.
Just know, when I write, I will do what I will, adhering reasonably to the rules, which my editor enforces. Frankly, most of the rules makes sense and aid clear communication in writing. I don’t want my writing to end up inaccessible because I ignored perfectly reasonable basic grammar. That said, things like how you mark dialogue and punctuate often has a creative aspect to it. This is style. The above line I offered as criticism is useful feedback, and could open a useful conversation. Maybe you’ll find out it was wordy or literally unclear writing. Perhaps you went too high on concept, and made it hard to access. This is fixable, and will help you hone your style, too.
Every writer has a style. That style tends to be their personal fingerprints on the artform. In other words, we do not record the story in the same manner writer to writer. What I make dialogue, someone may make a show instead. Someone who marks their question with said differs obviously from those who write asked. I like to use different descriptive words to show emotion, regulate pacing, and smooth the flow on dialogue. Repeating said after each line of dialogue is choppy writing. I don’t like it. I’ve had editors who have insisted! I think it ruins the conversation between characters. Obviously they said. It’s in quotes.
For tagging interruptions in dialogue, I prefer the em-dash. For tagging interruptions in the prose, I like a segue of sorts. That smoothness keeps the ideas connected. If they’re not connected, then I’ll use the break in text, either marked by asterisk, or a chapter break. I also use em-dash here, bracketing a sidebar between two of them. These tools are on par with the use of a semi-colon used to attach connected ideas in one sentence.
Punctuation that bothers me is the over-use of exclamation points. Why are you shouting or shocked so much? If you’re writing dialogue, you don’t need to write in exclamation if someone is shouting across the ravine to another character, cup their hands and project that voice. Go ahead and use an exclamation once, but carry forward without. we get it! For the love of God, don’t use a lot of capitalization to express loudness or emphasis. Italics is great to emphasize a word. Make sure you’re emphasizing the right word. That it makes sense in the sentence. I see many authors choose the wrong word to emphasize, making it awkward.
Anything that hammers the reader over the head should be tempered. Most readers are pretty intelligent folks, aren’t they? Don’t insult your reader’s intellect by being repetitive, over descriptive, or loud. Especially in books, if a reader feels they missed something, they’re welcome to go back and reread. This is the gift of a book. It’s static and under control. I miss things all the time, because I’m speeding through the reading trying to get to the next thing. And, I’m not alone. But, please, don’t repeat it to me, unless you’re using it as a purposeful device. Caution, however. There’s device and then there’s hammering your point in a ham-fisted manner.
The hardest thing for me to get right? You’d have to talk to my editor. I’m sure there is something… I probably am guilty of hammering my point from time to time. Doing this was a thing I had to learn to let go of in the past. Knowing when enough is enough, and getting just the right words is always a gamble. Most authors are frustrated by the words not coming in the best way for the sentence. We write it down anyway. Eventually, we’ll polish it out.
Don’t you hate it when you get a sentence that speeds into your head in perfect form, and it’s gone before you can write it all down? Frustration! Welcome to being a writer. Keep at it. Those words will come back to you.
Before you switch off, be sure to review the answers the other authors have provided by clicking on their links below. If you’re an author, these answers will be invaluable to your craft. It’s important that you keep up the professional development. You’ve never reached such heights that you don’t need to refresh and review. If you’re just a reader, you might find a new book and author to follow. Enjoy the hop!