Grammar errors are one of the most pesky things to eradicate in the writing process. Scrivener doesn’t find grammar mistakes, and while MS Word is pretty good at finding normal passive errors, it fails to recognize idiom. Language is changing. Sentences can and often do start with ‘and, but, or, though’ in colloquial use.
If you’re like me, when you write the first draft you don’t pay any attention to the rules. Well, truth to tell, rules are hardly ever my best thing. I tend to think in fragments; that means some of my characters share this trait. Enough said.
Even in a blog, the sentence construction is not a slave to the Oxford English way of writing. Be a bit boring if it was. However, the unintentional grammar error is the bane of a writer’s existence. It’s just fine to break rules on purpose, so long as you know your purpose. Richard Morgan stood the grammar rules on their collective head in Altered Carbon. His more stream-of-consciousness writing included sentence fragments much of the time. None of that made it difficult to read. Instead, it made his protagonist much more sympathetic. So how do I find those errors in the editing process? I have a few tips and tricks to share.
Walk away from the writing for a couple of days to give yourself some distance
Print it out and keep a highlighting pen handy to mark the pieces to come back to
Read it out loud to a friend. The tongue will trip over phrases that aren’t quite right
Do an editing pass with track-changes on
Try turning it upside down – for those of us who can read that way, the comma and grammar errors jump out
Do an editing pass just for dialog.
Use Find / Replace to fix issues like quote plus period (“. wrong) rather than period plus quote (.” correct)
Write with a manual of style handy – look up stuff that you know you get wrong
Replace instances of passive voice (often uses words that end in y) with active voice (often ends in ‘ed’)
Relax about it. No matter how many times you edit, someone will disagree with your choices
I hope some of these prove helpful. Please share the tips and tricks you have found work for you.
It is an exciting time to be living in as an author, exploring the medium of fiction in multiple formats. The electronic book feels so ephemeral, while the trade paperback feels more lasting and tangible. Both have their charms but I am struck by how different the same work can feel in the two different mediums.
Print will always have my heart I think with the feeling of the pages, the smell of the ink, and the whole experience of interacting with an artifact. Yet my kindle has made it possible to keep a whole library with me; as long as I have a power charge, I can visit with old friends any time I like, no matter where I am. I no longer run late for work in searching for a book to add to my bag before I run out the door; it’s sad to admit how many buses I’ve missed over the years just because I couldn’t bring myself to leave before I had a book in hand. As an author, each of print and ebook is satisfying in its own way – both get into the hands of readers and that’s a happiness.
Fiction is a new departure for me and I’m as happy as a kid in the candy store. For the past twenty odd years, I’ve been focused on technical writing and non fiction. I had no idea fiction could be so rewarding! The characters are about as noisy and demanding as a screech of lyrebirds in the Australian bush. Those pesky creatures are mimics who love to make the sound of squeaky playground swings. My characters keep up the racket in my head until I get their words and stories out.
I must admit to experimenting with the novella format more than a bit; Child of Time is a story in three parts that could be considered three separate short stories. Thematically, it moves through time and explores a single protagonist as she grows up and grows into her magic. It is a single story, yes. It is also a set of stories about a character at different ages. Will be experimenting with the novella form more as time goes on. I already have ideas for another sequence of three stories, threaded together through time.
For me, it feels like around a hundred pages, or around 20,000 words is a good chunk of story. I hope that the readers agree as it means publishing is feasible as soon as there is a sequence to share in ebook and print. Less than 100 pages doesn’t feel print-worthy to me, but other folks mileage may vary.