Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Editing Hell and Vodka

     Recently I have been in editing hell for my next novel, Broken Wings. And after several sleepless nights, more trips to the online grammar boards than I care to remember, and a bottle of vodka, my manuscript is ready to be sent to the publisher to make its way out into the world. I only have one question. WHO IS THE IDIOT THAT CREATED ALL OF THESE STUPID RULES FOR WORDS?
     I mean come on, does it matter if your character goes out the door or out of the door, that you put a space before and after an ellipse, and that you place a hyphen in air-conditioning, but not air conditioner. What ever happened to creative freedom because it sure in hell is not alive and well in the literary world. You can write a story about a rabid squirrel that takes out half of Cincinnati, but God forbid you have him chew the head off of someone instead of off someone. No one taught me any of these rules in high school. Let’s face it, do any of us even remember what we learned in high school, inside of the classroom that is. And when you find a rule, there are about thirty different opinions from grammar experts on whether or not you are even to follow that rule. But the time I get off the Internet, and not off of the Internet, my head is swimming, hence the bottle of vodka.

     Do all of these rules really matter to the reader? If a story is good, really good, can a few slips of the keyboard be overlooked? Not according to many reviewers. Editing mistakes are for some reviewers the bane of their existence. But is there really a perfect manuscript out there? Maybe in another dimension, but definitely not in this one. I found references to Chaucer not correctly placing commas in his stories. If we have to go that far back into literature and attack someone we all grew up reading in high school, even if we don’t remember it, what does that say about the chance any author today has of getting the rules right. And what manual are you supposed to follow to get the rules right. I was taught the Chicago Manual of Style was the be all and end all for fiction writing, but not everyone agrees on that. There is no definitive reference guide used today and many editors vary in the references they do use. So who is right? Who is the ultimate judge of what is correct?
     I guess like most things in this business it is up to the reader to decide. And in the end I think the reader will choose a story that moves them. I never believed before this point in my life that a choice of career could lead to a psychological disorder, but after picking up the pen I find myself now suffering from an acute case of anal-retentive syndrome. And yes, you do spell it with a hyphen. That way you know you are anal-retentive. Because if you weren’t you wouldn’t care about the damned hyphen anyway.            


Kohhna said...

Hubert Selby Jr. and kafka would certainly agree that even basic punctuation is entirely optional.

Do publishers insist that all this work is done by you? if so it ight be hard to avoid.

wilygeist said...

I have noticed that the mean spirit of William Safire grammar police still survives when one is a new writer, but if the writer is already famous, the rules are more flexible.

If you have ever read a book by Mr. Safire, you would be immediately taken over by the need to take a nap from his grammatical precision and drone of superiority. It was too bad that Mr. Sarfire could be more ethical in his choice of bosses then being a speech writer for Tricky Dick Nixon.

In the age of twitter, the rules are in flux and flash fiction will destroy the use of anything that requires a dictionary.
Anyone has my best wishes when they still scribble away against a tide of dwindling readers who have only time for flickering images.

MichelV69 said...

My answer is that I "write what sounds right read aloud". That's my acid test. I read everything aloud to my wife ... if either of us has a "wait... what?" moment, I re-write as much of it as I have to.
Your reader is as smart as you are, but not as picky as your editor. Write your voice, not your rule book.

Commchick said...

When I'm reviewing books, the story is the most important thing to me. If it keeps my attention and makes sense, a few typoes and grammatical errors are not a big issue.