Other Thoughts on Grammar
As I mentioned above, I’ve been writing for 21 years, and that number will keep going up as time passes. I don’t intend to stop. I’ve been reading and enjoying reading for much longer, though.
I do not have the words to describe the sheer joy a well-crafted narrative gives me…whether I wrote it or someone else. Especially someone else, because each individual is his or her harshest critic. So, with the explosion of the independent author market since the first eReaders came out, I would be lying if I said I don’t have anything to read. Finding something I want to read is another matter entirely.
Despite what you might guess, given the characterization I wrote of myself in the first section above, I am not an eBook snob. For me, a eBook is a good read if I enjoyed the story and left wanting more. Joshua Dalzelle’s Omega Rising is an excellent example. Amazon tells me I bought it on April 2nd, 2013. I remember two things from my first read-through of it: (1) the story is great and sets the stage well for a continued series and (2) the formatting was atrocious. I think he has since updated the book, and the successive books were far, far better in formatting quality. So, if an eBook has formatting issues or missing commas or what have you, I really don’t care as long as I enjoy the story.
It takes a lot to kick me out of a story.
A case in point: “could of” vs. “could’ve.” I don’t remember which eBook had this. I’m afraid the error sticks out in my mind better than the story, which I would argue is a problem for the author. Readers should have zero problems remembering a story (even if it’s just a fragment), despite the absurd amount of stories available.
Another: “its vs. it’s.” One’s a possessive. The other’s a contraction. There is a difference, believe it or not…but this is so common it was used as an example in The Elements of Style.
The tried and true “there” vs. “they’re” vs. “their.” This isn’t as common as one might think, at least not in the stories I’ve read…but I have seen it.
A near favorite: “Calvary” vs. “cavalry.” Calvary refers to the site of Jesus’s crucifixion in Christianity. Cavalry is a military unit that was typically on horseback. I don’t have an exact count, but I laugh every time I see a sentence similar to “Just hold on; I’ll bring the calvary.” Really? Now, granted…it could’ve just been a typo. I’ve produced some typos that defy explanation, but when the writer makes the same mistake over and over again, I would argue it comes down to bad information.
Hmmm…I’m pretty sure I have a longer list than this, but genius that I am, I didn’t write them down. Maybe I should start doing that.
Perfect vs. Good Enough
“So, what you’re saying is that you need to go over a manuscript as many times as it takes to make it perfect, right?” Nope! Not even a little bit. One of my favorite quotes is, “Perfect is the enemy of good enough.” Authors could spend $100,000 in proofreaders, and typos and mistakes would still exist in the final copy.
Every published book of any size has typos and mistakes. They’re like cockroaches; it’s almost impossible to get rid of them.
The key is not to eliminate typos and mistakes but to minimize them.
Besides, given that each of us is our own harshest critic (as I mentioned above), you’ll never publish if you keep striving to have it be perfect. Your novel could win hundreds of awards around the world and set you and your children up for life from its royalties alone…and you as the author would still see places where “it could have been better” or where “I should really go back and fix that” or…well, you get the idea.
I’m a firm believer in the idea of Perfect vs. Right. I spent 20 years studying the craft of writing novels, continually revising my pet project as my knowledge grew. It wasn’t until 2015 – 2016 that I developed a version that “felt right” and ready for publication, but I’ll guarantee you it’s not perfect.
Making a living as an independent author isn’t some arcane secret (note: I did not say it isn’t difficult). Here’s how it works:
- Write the best story you can that readers enjoy.
- Publish it.
- Engage with your readers.
- Learn from your mistakes.
- Repeat Steps 1 – 4.
Are those steps easy? Nope. Not at all. Simple? Not even close. But that’s really all there is to it.