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Crimes Against Grammar (Real, Perceived, and Premeditated)

April 4, 2008 at 2:58 pm

This comic seems relevant, in light of a recent post (rant?) regarding the differences between perfunctory and innovative storytelling. Although in this case it was the post itself, rather than the comments, that demonstrated a wildly-swerving train of thought flirting ever so briefly with coherence.

(As an aside, my friend Melinda continued the storytelling discussion over at her blog. She lists several useful techniques for creating interesting, engaging scenes.)

In the category of real and perceived crimes against grammar, I'm preparing to send Bitter Seeds to my editor before the end of the month. After finishing a fairly extensive rewrite/second draft a week ago, I've put the manuscript aside for what I hope will be about two weeks. Then I'll come back to the rewritten version somewhat fresh, so that I can give it one more read and (one hopes) catch at least a few of the grammatical contortions that entered the manuscript on the last go-round. I work very hard to produce clean copy, but I'm a sucky copyeditor at the best of times, and especially so after rewriting 500 pages in a month and a half. Other writers could handle that kind of load without breaking a sweat -- every month -- but I hate them.

In the category of premeditated crimes against grammar, I'm using the time away from Bitter Seeds to write my story for Rio Hondo. It's something that's been rattling around in the back of my head for several years, based on an image in a dream. (Which is rare for me; I rarely find inspiration in my dreams, though I wish I did. Except for that long series of recurring dreams about getting mauled by wild animals.) For a long time I've only had little bits and pieces of it, and I didn't even know what kind of story it would be. (Or, more correctly, what kind of story I want it to be, regardless of what my inexpert fumbling turns it into.) But after Daniel Abraham gave a reading reading of his fantastic, Hugo nominated novella The Cambist and Lord Iron: A Fairytale of Economics at Bubonicon, I picked my jaw off the floor and decided I'd like to try a fairytale of my own. The end result won't be anything half as wonderful as Daniel's tale, not least because I lack a firm grasp on the kind of narrative voice appropriate for these kinds of stories, but I am a big believer in writing against obstacles.


S.C.Butler April 5, 2008 at 1:10 pm
I find the best way to find grammar nits and spelling mites is by reading the MS aloud. You don't catch them all, but you have to concentrate a little more.
Ian April 5, 2008 at 2:50 pm
Agreed! And thanks for the reminder. I read almost everything aloud when I'm writing-- it makes a huge difference. If it doesn't roll off my tongue it usually doesn't end up on the page. Except when I'm writing a World War II book, because I took Spanish in high school rather than German. I can't even get close to the German pronunciations. Yeah, readings at cons are going to be real interesting for the next few years...
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