Monday, March 12, 2012

The Little Foxes Spoil The Writing Vine

Like Red Riding Hood, we think the big, bad wolf presents the most danger to arriving at grandma's publishing house in one piece. Unfortunately, the little foxes can destroy our writing dreams.

As writers, we spazz over big stuff like getting an agent or editor. Does our story have the big emotional reaction, lots of tension, and multi-faceted characters? All of those things are important, but there are small things that can spoil our writing vine. Let's look at a few of them:

1) Writers Guidelines - ignore them and pay a hefty price. Agents and editors are looking for reasons to hand out rejections. When they receive material that doesn't meet their requirements, it's easy to send it to the circular file (wastebasket).

2)  Grammar & Spelling - If we don't have the basics down, publishing pros will assume our storytelling ability is also lacking.

3)  A Half-Baked Idea - Like a cake that's not quite done, this idea needs further development.

4)  Copying Other Writers - I once heard an author say, "God made you an original. Don't end life as a copy." It's one thing to admire the talents of others, but we need to develop our own voice.

5)  The Publishing Industry - It works in its own peculiar way. The more we know about how a book gets into print, the better the chances are we'll succeed.

Paying attention to the details will produce big dividends. It may mean the difference between an editor or agent tossing our manuscript aside or turning the page.

Writers: Can you think of other small things that can spoil your writing vine? Let's talk. :)

Readers: Does it drive you batty when authors produce awkward sentences or misuse words? Please give an example.


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Susan .. I do like a book to flow and if there are errors, then it is really jarring and off-putting. Articles can freak me out too - in fact what really riles me is the poor education - adults now seem to have .. poor spelling, and unprofessional layout .. untidy. This happens at the Nursing Centre - drives me nutty!

Cheers Hilary

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Hilary -

Yes, anything that stops the reader cold and pulls them out of the story/article is frustrating.

Thanks for stopping by.

Susan :)

Karen Lange said...

These are very important points to heed. If I don't pay attention to them, I do indeed run into trouble!

I dislike it when I come across numerous typos when reading. It causes me to lose confidence in the book or article, etc. I stress this idea with my teen writing students. Polished writing is a way to put your best foot forward and really does make a difference.

Nancy said...

It does annoy me when any sentence is so convoluted that I have to read it twice. And if I still don't get it, I may finish the book, but the author gets "so so" on my critique list.

Sarah Forgrave said...

Great points, Susan!

I enjoyed reading a book this weekend that was written by a friend of mine. But I was mortified when I read a sentence that was almost identical to one I've written. Neither of us has read each other's work, so there's no stealing...It just goes to show that sometimes accidental "copying" happens. I debated whether to change my line, but I think for now I'll keep it the same. The stories are both distinctly different so I have a feeling we as the authors will be the only ones who notice. :)

Loree Huebner said...

Great reminders, Susan.

Jean Fischer said...

Good points, Susan. I'll add that publishers are also looking at writers' online presence. They want to know how you can help them market your book.

You always give us something to think about. Great blog. Thank you!


Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Karen - Yes, it screams amateur, sloppy, and all those other adjectives.

Hi Nancy - I may finish the book, but it's unlikely I'll pick up another by that author.

Hi Sarah - Interesting point. I'm sometimes nervous about reading books in my genre for that very reason.

Hi Loree - Thanks for stopping by.

Hi Jean - These days, being online is the only way to get your name/work out there.

Susan :)

Ferree Bowman Hardy said...

Good points! Thanks for boiling these down for us. "The publishing world works in its own peculiar way---" gave me a grin. That word "peculiar" seems so fitting today.

Rhonda Schrock said...

Poor writing is grating. Grammar errors, spelling errors, awkward flow of words...

When you're born with an internal editor, you can't turn it off. Hard to ignore this stuff when you run across it. It may be a perfectly great story line, but if it's delivered badly, I can't finish it.

BUT, on the other hand, I do know great writing when I see it. That, I love.

Very good list, Susan!

DenaNetherton said...

"don't end life as a copy." I love that. I'd like to add my own advice: make sure you research whatever you write about. For example, I just read a contemporary book where a character was expecting twins, went into labor and simply went to a clinic to have them naturally. What OB doc would let that happen nowadays?

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Ferree - I guess every industries has its "peculiar" ways. :)

Hi Rhonda - I like the positive side of recognizing the good writing.

Hi Dena - So true. Accurate research is important for any book/article.


quietspirit said...

As a writer, I pay special attention to spelling.

As a reader, when I come across a misspelled word my mind comes to a quick halt. It upsets me to find these mistakes in a professionally published work.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Quiet Spirit -

The worst part of finding errors is that it pulls you out of the story. When an author works so hard to establish a story world, it's sad that a typo can ruin the effect.


JD said...

A handy list, Susan--thank you for providing it!

Typos are my pet peeve. They irritate me so much that I circle them in the book or magazine I'm reading, with an exclamation point in the margin. I've found typos in books on writing. Gasp! No bueno.

Be well. :-)