Recently I went on a bit of a soap box rant about the need for a strict edit to eradicate punctuation and grammar errors in our writing. I thought perhaps I should explain why.
In the process of reviewing a novel I found myself getting increasingly frustrated by the lack of attention to detail. At first I thought the punctuation errors were meant to reflect the 16 year old narrator's writing style. But the inconsistency of the punctuation made me doubt this. Throughout the remainder of my reading I found myself making a mental editing mark against each and every punctuation error. And then I began to find other faults.
This phrase was repeated too often.
That description was over written.
And so forth.
I'm certain I would not have put my teacher hat on so firmly if the inconsistent use of apostrophes had not jumped out at me and riled up the punctuation and editing pendant lurking just beneath the surface.
I may be alone in this crazy proof-reading trap when reading a novel, but if I'm not then I'm sure those of you who share this afflication might sympathise with my lot.
Even after my rant I still felt unsettled. Clearly there was more I needed to do. So I decided to write a list of advice to any author starting out – young or old:
- Avoid word count for word count sake. Yes, a novel has to be a certain length. But if you've said what needed to be said then simply stop. You can always call it a novella. And if it's really that short then maybe your forte is actually poetry.
- If punctuation is your weakness then find a friend whose strength it is. Badger this person to become your proof reader. Ply him or her with gifts of food, excessive hugs, little presents and notes of profound thanks. I cannot stress enough the need for this person in your writing life.
- Don't write in isolation. Join a tough but fair writing group who give constructive criticism. Be willing to hear the criticism. It will only make your work stronger and allow the hidden gems in your writing to shine forth as they should.
- Kill your darlings if you have to. With every death comes new life. Be willing to cut, cut, cut. It will make your writing tighter, crafted and just beautiful to read and hear.
- Be the best writer you can possibly be. Then be better.
The writing of the list has done its cathartic magic and I think this rant is finally out of my system.
But I can't guarantee it for certain. As a writer there's always something out there worth ranting over. And besides, if you don't rant, how else will people know you're truly passionate?