Monday, May 23, 2011

the death of a language

Sometimes I wonder if the English language isn't dying a slow, agonizing death.

Every day, I see the language mangled and abused in a variety of ways and by a variety of people. Sometimes, it's merely functional--for example, using abbreviations in a tweet because of the length limitations. Sometimes, though, it's out of either laziness or ignorance. This is what I can't abide. In today's information- and technology-filled world, there is really no excuse for an ignorance of the basic rules of spelling and grammar.

So it's down to laziness.

Maybe it's my background. I am an English teacher, after all. But even among English teachers, I seem to be a bit more of a grammar-nazi. Maybe it's just me. Perhaps I'm just too stuck on the rules. Rules are made to be broken, are they not?

Short answer: No, they're not.

Grammar and spelling rules exist to help make writing clear, to help make the meaning of the written word unambiguous. Unfortunately, many people don't seem to understand the simple fact that you can't assume your reader knows what you mean--especially when you're not writing in a coherent fashion.

This is perhaps especially important in the world of self-publishing. I recently purchased a self-pubbed book for 99 cents. After reading the synopsis, I was very excited to read the book. However, it didn't take long to realize that this author might not be quite the grammar maven I am; however, if you're going to publish something and charge people to read it (even only 99 cents), you should, at the very least, make sure all your grammar, word choice, and spelling errors are corrected! I find myself cringing on nearly every page.

And here's the really disturbing thing: Amazon is full of five-star reviews for this book. Only three (or so) mention the atrocious grammar. The other reviewers seem unaffected.

Is this because the other reviewers are just more able to deal with the incredible lapses in grammar than others? Or do they honestly just not notice?

And if the latter is the case, what does that say about the state of the written language?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Hitting send

This has been a big couple of days for me in my development as a writer. I did something that I typically have a hard time doing- I let someone else read what I wrote.

That probably sounds pretty crazy, right? Someone who wants to be a writer has a hard time letting people read her writing? Crazy, perhaps, but true. Many writers have talked a lot about how they always wanted to be a writer, about how they never stopped writing no matter what . Maddie has plenty of unfinished or partially finished manuscripts under her belt. My journey has been somewhat different.

I love writing, and I always have. When I was younger, I wrote a lot of fiction. Once I got to high school, I pretty much stopped. While I still really enjoyed writing essays and articles, the fiction just stopped for me. I'm not sure why.

Actually, I do know why- I lost confidence. I didn't think I was good enough. I didn't think there was any point. And that self-doubt translated into terror at showing anyone my fiction. That feeling has stayed with me for many years.

Finishing this novel has been such an amazing accomplishment for me. I never believed I could do it. The only thing more amazing is that I am willingly (eagerly, even) sharing my work with other people. I have sent the completed draft to be read by three beta readers (all friends) and have sent the opening chapters out to critique sites to get feedback from strangers.

It was scary, hitting that send button to deliver the manuscript to other people. But it was exhilarating too. And you know what? I've gotten some really awesome feedback- and not just from my friends. Strangers seem to like my book too! But the weirdest thing is this: the positive reviews (though really fun and awesome) are not my favorite part of this process. The best part, for me, has been the constructive feedback I've gotten. I have a dozen or so really good ideas for changes. Things that might make my book better.

I'm so excited to do that- to make my book better. And I'm even more excited to share it with all of you when it gets there.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

throes of revision

So, Rachel's got her book revised and off to beta-readers and critique groups...and I'm still revising.

I think it's really good that Rachel and I are on this journey together because I get to compare my progress against someone else's. If I didn't have her constant tweeting about how awesome she is (because she is!), I might think I'm doing alright. And I guess I am, really, I just wish I were a little further along in my process.

But, I've only got 17 more days of school (plus records' day, but that doesn't REALLY count). After that, I've got approximately three glorious months wherein I'm going to live the life I eventually want to live full-time: the life of a writer.

I say this every summer. Every summer, I have a list of things I plan to do--writing is usually one of those things. But I'm lazy by nature, and other things seem to win out (lame movies and TV on DVD are perennial winners). But this year, it's real. I think having a goal in mind (namely ebook publishing and having all three books of my trilogy out by August) will keep me focused. And, of course, a little friendly competition.

It's good I've got support for this venture. Not that people in my life haven't always been supportive of my wanting to write--this is just a different kind of support. Not only do I have Rachel, I have another friend who is also writing YA who is giving me LOTS of feedback and advice, and I know Awaking will be much, much better for it.

It also helps to have a timeline for everything. Yes, I want the Naturals trilogy to be out by August. But that's not the end of the dream. Rachel and I have plans to be 30 and out (as evidenced by our created Twitter hashtag). Now, I know I can't control how many people buy my books. I mean, I can encourage them to do so, but, really, I can't force anyone. So, I'm focusing on the one thing I can control: the books themselves. I'm working on these revisions to turn this book into the great story I know it is (somewhere, deep down). I'm still working from the advice given to me by my mentor teacher in high school: you can't assume the reader knows what you know. I used to start scenes all the time with dialogue and just assume that the reader would know that the characters were at lunch, at a baseball game, on the moon, etc. I would, of course, reveal said location a few paragraphs in, but I didn't realize that the reader needed to be told before that. It's kind of the same thing in Awaking right now: The reader will realize certain things down the line, but if I don't get her attention to begin with, she won't read far enough to figure it out.

So, now that I've got the bare bones down, I need to finish my surface revision/edit (adding simple scenes, fixing awkward wording and typing errors) and then start on the real work. I need to amp up some characters, I know it. I need to add more interactions with said characters. I need more intrigue, I need more investment...

I know what I need. I have ideas in my mind of what needs to be added and modified. I just have to do it.

And I will. I'm going to start right now.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

on a roll

So, I'm for-real revising. I've moved things. I've added things. I've even deleted bits.

It feels good, but weird. The first couple chapters have been written for so long, so changing anything in them is strange. I think it'll be easier revising the newer stuff, just because I'm not as used to it.

I'm just excited to make things better. I really, really like this draft, but I know that there are some bits missing. (And not just the scenes I skipped over toward the end.) There are some things to change, some things to clarify.

I can't say that revision is the most difficult part of the process, but it's definitely a challenge. I shift between being convinced that what I've written is right and doesn't need any improvement and thinking that I'll never be done fixing it. And then, of course, there are the thoughts of impossibilities: How do I differentiate my characters' voices so that they don't all sound like the same person? How do I keep readers interested throughout the whole story? Throughout the whole series?

It'll be worth it, though. That's what I keep telling myself. Everything I do is making my book better. I hope.

I really don't want to put out something mediocre just because I'm so excited to get something out there. As much as I want to get started with ebooks, I want what I put out there to be great.

Truth? I'm totally jealous of Rachel, because she's farther along on the journey than I am. (Though she is busy watching Fringe of late, so maybe that'll give me some time to catch up.)

So, in order for me to get things done, I've got to stop watching Stargate SG-1 (Walter Bishop's in this episode!) and continue the revising process. Chapter two! I saw two bunnies today, which is an auspiscious sign.