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cJay
03-16-2006, 04:31 AM
I know that I am probably going to be attacked for this, but after reading this grammar board I do have a comment. Anyone can go to school to learn the rules of grammar, very few people have the talent to spin a great tale.

I guess what I am saying is that as long as you spin it well, which most of you seem so talented at, let the editors do their jobs and make it grammatically correct.

If you keep stopping in the middle of your great thoughts to wonder if the comma should go here or there, you are going to lose momentum.

I just think that you should focus on what is important...the story that you are compelled to tell..that story that is going to keep us on the edge of our seats, or sitting by a box of Kleenex, rather than a misplaced comma.

Talent is talent, rules are just rules.

aghast
03-16-2006, 04:55 AM
no you dont stop and worry about grammar when youwrite but during your rewirte and god forbid before you send out to anyone agents or publishers you should really fix your grammar and make it as perfect as possible

Maryn
03-16-2006, 06:58 AM
I don't think talent and knowing the rules well are mutually exclusive. Whether the writer pauses to decide on a comma or lets it flow with whatever errors arrive with it, a dedicated writer edits his or her own material until it's virtually error-free. To presume that editing, whether now or later, isn't the writer's job is incorrect, in my opinion.

But I'm not going to hold it again you, cJay, for holding a different opinion. I'm just thinking that the editor is going to love me best! (Nah-nah!)

Maryn, pleased to meet you

reph
03-16-2006, 07:09 AM
Maryn, yes, the editor will love you best, or better. Leaving bad grammar for an editor to fix makes the editor feel mistreated, as if the writer, emulating a stereotypical 1950s businessman, had said "I needn't bother about this; the girls in the office will take care of it."

cJay, storytelling is great, but we have plenty of nonfiction writers here, too. In a competitive situation, whatever the kind of writing, guess who'll get the contract/assignment, the writer who attends to grammar or the one who doesn't?

Jamesaritchie
03-16-2006, 07:19 AM
I know that I am probably going to be attacked for this, but after reading this grammar board I do have a comment. Anyone can go to school to learn the rules of grammar, very few people have the talent to spin a great tale.

I guess what I am saying is that as long as you spin it well, which most of you seem so talented at, let the editors do their jobs and make it grammatically correct.

If you keep stopping in the middle of your great thoughts to wonder if the comma should go here or there, you are going to lose momentum.

I just think that you should focus on what is important...the story that you are compelled to tell..that story that is going to keep us on the edge of our seats, or sitting by a box of Kleenex, rather than a misplaced comma.

Talent is talent, rules are just rules.

It just doesn't work that way. An editor's job is not to fix your grammar, and even if it were, fixing grammar alone seldom solves anything. Writers with poor grammar skills are invariably poor writers AND poor storytellers.

I don't think anyone would suggest that you stop and ponder over every comma, thats what second drafts are for. Write the story first, then go back and fix the grammar. If you don't fix it, do not expect an editor to do it for you.

And editors job is to find writers who don't need huge amounts of time spent on them, because editors do not have huge amounts of time to spend on anything or anyone.

You don't have to be perfect, and editors will fix minor grammar mistakes and the occasional type, but that's it.

Grammar rules arethere for a reason. They are not arbitrary decisions made by some group of grammar elitists to make poor, wannabe writers suffer. As I said, you don't have to be perfect, but if you don't know these rules reasonably well, you simply are not going to have much success as a writer.

The worst possible thing any wannabe writer can do is believe that it's an editor's job to fix your grammar, and that you can be a great storyteller without being fairly knowledgeable of the rules of grammar and punctuation.

And if anyone can go to school and learn these rules, then why in God's name don't more people do so? Grammar isn't rocket science, and there simply is no excuse for not learning the basic rules. It's laziness at best, foolishness always.

In truth, anyone who has been trhough junior high school should have learned enough about grammar and punctuation to be a writer. But they didn't learn. Nor did they learn in high school. Nor do that take a single month out of their lives to buy and study a grammar book. Just a month is enough for most people who can learn to do so. But, shoot, give it two or three months. But do it. If you don't, won't, or can't, then start looking for another career. Writing isn't for you.

Do you really expect an editor to spend time fixing the grammar of writers who won't even do this much? Especially when fixing the grammar seldom solves half the problems a story has. A story written by someone without grammar skills always has problems above and beyond the grammar. Always.

I would agree that correct grammar alone does not make for good writing. A story can be grammatically perfect, and still stink in every possible way. But lack of grammar ensures the story will be bad, will take far more time and effort to repair than any editor has time to give it.

Talent is rare. Most do not have enough to succeed. But for those with enough talent, grammar and punctuation are part of the package any editor expects to see. Poor grammar and punctuation skills can, and often do, bury talent to such a depth that editors can't even see it.

Believe me, as an editor, when I see grammar and punctuation errors in the first few pages of a manuscript, or when I see too many througheout the manuscript, I never, ever think, "Gee, I'll just fix this and we'll have a winner."

I always think," "Well, another wannabe who doesn't care enough to master some basic, simple, easily learned skills."

If there's one mantra every wannabe writer should have it's this: "It is NOT an editor's job to fix my grammar and punctuation. It is NOT an editor's job to fix my grammar and punctuation. It is NOT an editor's job to fix my grammar and punctuation."

Repeat this until it sinks in. It's the blunt truth. As a writer, it's your job to learn grammar. As an editor, it's my job to find writers who have done their jobs. It is never, ever my job to do a writer's job.

If anyone can do it, then there is no excuse for not doing it. The thing is, anyone can do it, and they don't have to go back to school. They simply have to be willing to put in a little bit of study time. That's all.

blacbird
03-16-2006, 07:18 PM
Grammar and punctuation are the tools of a writer. Their abuse are signs of a writer not paying attention. A writer who doesn't pay attention to the proper use of writer's tools is a writer who doesn't pay attention to issues of imagination and story-telling either.

caw.

Bufty
03-16-2006, 08:20 PM
In addition - posting here doesn't mean one is ignorant of grammar. Normally it is a quirk or special situation folk want to have clarified - as part of the exercise of making sure their grammar is correct.

maestrowork
03-16-2006, 08:22 PM
Talent and skills are not mutually exclusive, cJay. There are plenty of talented people in this world, but they won't succeed if they depends on talent alone. They must sharpen their skills.

Writing is about communication. The rules are there to "standardize" the communication so that what you're saying/writing can be understood by others. Same with art and music.

And grammar and punctuations are only part of that. There are other things that a writer must learn and master to tell an effective story, techniques such as show/tell, POV, pacing, plotting, etc. That's when talent and skills come together. Raw talent alone would not cut it.

When a writer says, "I have oodles of talent to spare. I don't need to master these 'rules'," I think he's being disrespectful to the craft and probably delusional as well.

Yes, the editors would help fix errors, but you have to be pretty darn good to begin with before you reach that point, out of the slushpile.

Raw talent is nice. Like an unpolished piece of gemstone. It's still dull. Sharpen your skills, then perhaps you could become a brilliant diamond. Until then.

PastMidnight
03-16-2006, 09:32 PM
In truth, anyone who has been trhough junior high school should have learned enough about grammar and punctuation to be a writer. But they didn't learn. Nor did they learn in high school. Nor do that take a single month out of their lives to buy and study a grammar book. Just a month is enough for most people who can learn to do so. But, shoot, give it two or three months. But do it. If you don't, won't, or can't, then start looking for another career. Writing isn't for you.


You can't blame the students, though. Grammar just isn't taught in most schools anymore. I didn't learn anything about English grammar until I took German in high school.

Strongbadia
03-16-2006, 10:40 PM
I have browsed some of the boards before about grammar. I always find the information confusing. I have experience with little grammar (g) prescriptive and big Grammar with a (G) descriptive.



If anyone wants information on language and Grammar/grammar I suggest reading the following books.



Aspects on the Theroies of Syntax - Noam Chomsky

Metaphors We Live By - George Lakoff

Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things - George Lakoff

The Language Instinct - Stephen Pinker

A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language - Quirk and Greenbaum


Be aware these books are for linguists and may be confusing. The Language Instinct is the most readable.

cJay
03-16-2006, 10:56 PM
Wow-you guys are tough!


My intention was not to say that writers should not know or use grammar correctly. A carpenter can't work without tools. My assumption was that the writers posting these very technical questions on this grammar board know their grammar quite well.

After following the grammar question threads and all of the very technical what's correct and what's not, hearing all of the differing expert schools of thought on what is correct in some of these odd cases, that is where I feel that the writer is cutting into creativity when they comment that they are stuck on this phrase and can't move on.

I just think in these cases that the writer should research the grammar rule to the best of their ability and use it without worrying that they have chosen incorrectly. If the problem is that controversial it will most likely come down to how the editor would like to see the phrase worded.




In addition - posting here doesn't mean one is ignorant of grammar. Normally it is a quirk or special situation folk want to have clarified - as part of the exercise of making sure their grammar is correct.


And I certainly did not suggest that anyone that posted on this board is ignorant of grammar. In fact I see it as quite the opposite.

Tish Davidson
03-16-2006, 11:12 PM
I just think in these cases that the writer should research the grammar rule to the best of their ability and use it without worrying that they have chosen incorrectly. If the problem is that controversial it will most likely come down to how the editor would like to see the phrase worded.

When writers with grammar questions post them here and get answers, they add to their toolbox. Once they know what is correct, they can learn to use the correct form automatically and don't have to spend any time wondering "Gee, does that question mark go inside or outside the quote." Solidifying correct usage actually speeds the writing and editing process and frees one's mind for creative work.

aghast
03-17-2006, 02:03 AM
its like a carpenter asking someone is this the right way to use a staple gun and once he learns the proper way its part of his skills and the more skils he has the better hes at in his craft

PastMidnight
03-17-2006, 04:33 AM
And it doesn't take much time away from his building to ask how to use the staple gun. Might as well be sure he is using it correctly at the beginning.

Cathy C
03-17-2006, 05:11 AM
Yes, cJay, we are tough--because the editors are tough. We have to face facts in publishing. Let's say an editor is presented with two manuscripts. One is a good, solid, "well-spun" story, the grammar, word choice and spelling are close to shelf ready. The other is a good, solid, "well-spun" story too. But this one has repetitious words, mis-used words (to vs. too, for example) and a spelling error on . . . let's say, one every five pages. Book #1 will take the editor about a day to edit and return the edit letter to the author. Book #2 will take about a week and half to be certain that each of the "minor" errors is correct.

The editor only has ONE slot open. Which will s/he pick? No contest. Even if Book #1 ISN'T as good, the editor will STILL pick that one because it means s/he has more time to do the thousand other things that have to be done in the same time period, whether reports to the publisher, or taping blurbs of the books in a line for marketing/sales, or reviewing cover art. Every SECOND you can save the editor improves your chances to get purchased ten-fold.

So, PLEASE don't depend on your editor "doing his job." It's NOT his job. It's YOUR job to provide, from square one, a book of shelf-quality. If corrections are still needed, fine. That's life. But even with a terrific story, you'll doom your manuscript to your desk drawer if piddling little details aren't utmost in your mind.

:)

unthoughtknown
03-17-2006, 05:18 AM
When a writer says, "I have oodles of talent to spare. I don't need to master these 'rules'," I think he's being disrespectful to the craft and probably delusional as well.


Good points!

KTC
03-17-2006, 05:29 AM
CJay,

You should fly by the seat of your pants while you are writing, allowing your creative juices to do their magic unhampered. But this is not what you show somebody when you are trying to find a home for your work. You show them what you end up with after you take a breath and hone the piece to the best of your capabilities. If they like it, then they accept it...and then the editors hone it to the best of their capabilities. Maybe it takes a tale spinner to create a good story, but it takes a village to present it to the world.

poetinahat
03-17-2006, 06:01 AM
I find it more distracting to try to ignore rules when I'm writing. I can't go on until I've corrected the typos.

You'd think I'm a neat freak, but that's not the case at all; quite the contrary. I think it's a strong sense of right and wrong. That, or caring extremely about what other people think.

alaskamatt17
03-18-2006, 01:08 AM
One thing you can do if you don't have a knack for English grammar is just write in simpler sentences. I've come fairly close to being published with a book like this (I got a handwritten rejection letter from a chief editor at Tor), so it has to be possible to get a book published this way. This is by no means a recommendation to avoid more complex sentences altogether; I just think that until you learn the rules you shouldn't attempt anything above your level of skill.

Aconite
03-18-2006, 04:00 PM
cJay, the day you start thinking you don't need to keep refining your skills is the day you stop being both a good craftsman and a good artist. No matter how good you are, you can be better, and if you're not concerned with that--if it doesn't matter to you how close to perfect your work can be--it will show.

maestrowork
03-18-2006, 11:03 PM
One thing you can do if you don't have a knack for English grammar is just write in simpler sentences. I've come fairly close to being published with a book like this (I got a handwritten rejection letter from a chief editor at Tor)...

Amen. You don't have to use big words and a lot of complex sentences, etc. to write a novel (or sell one, for that matter). According to Amazon, mine is VERY easy to read -- even a third-grader could read it!:

Readability Compared with other books

This book has a Fog Index of 5.1
A higher Fog Index means a book is more difficult to read
3% of books are easier to read
97% of books are harder to read

This book has a Flesch Index of 80.8
A higher Flesch Index means a book is easier to read
4% of books are easier to read
96% of books are harder to read

This book has a Flesch-Kincaid Index of 3.8
A higher Flesch-Kincaid Index means a book is more difficult to read
3% of books are easier to read
97% of books are harder to read


Complexity

Complex Words:5%
5% of words in this book are complex.
6% of books have a smaller percentage of complex words
94% of books have a larger percentage of complex words

Syllables per Word: 1.4
This book has, on average, 1.4 syllables per word.

9% of books have fewer syllables per word
91% of books have more syllables per word

Words per Sentence: 7.4
This book has, on average, 7.4 words per sentence.

4% of books have fewer words per sentence
96% of books have more words per sentence

Danger Jane
03-19-2006, 07:39 AM
If you don't know the general rules of English, you'll probably find yourself getting caught up on grammatical details. Whereas if you do understand "proper" English, you'll be able to write your story, not a string of subjects and verbs. No, your grammar doesn't have to be perfect the first time around--but it sure makes it easier to edit when you're simply reworking for best effect, rather than for correctness. You wouldn't build a car without knowing where all the parts went and just fix it later. You'd learn how to construct it before actually building.

When a strange grammatical construction is so easy to fix upon learning the correct form...there's no reason not to use it. Why not find out if the comma goes here or there? It's a second of your time to do it right.