During last week’s blog post about grammar, I got some great feedback on Twitter from my friend, @flickguy. It was a quote (sent in a couple of tweets to me) from a NaNoWriMo experience he’d had in 2005:
If your spelling and grammar turns readers off right from the start, your thoughts and ideas are worthless because you’ve failed to communicate them to anyone.
The quote was attributed to Holly Jahangiri, a professional writer and author, and she’s absolutely right. Have you ever picked up a book (typically self-published) and, just a few pages in, got rid of it because the language in it wasn’t reaching you? Much of the time, it isn’t because the writer is using circumlocutory language, but because they never bothered to edit their prose and correct their spelling and grammar mistakes.
Now, there are some really great self-published works out there, actually. Well-written, with excellent spelling and grammar, free of egregious mistakes. I’m not knocking self-publishing. I’m knocking writers who don’t get their work copy edited before publishing because they don’t want to pay for it and couldn’t get their work published traditionally (likely because their query letter was so filled with said egregious errors, but that’s for another blog post).
Basically, what I’m saying is this:
GET YOUR WORK EDITED, ESPECIALLY IF YOU’RE NOT GREAT AT SPELLING AND GRAMMAR.
But you can save that for the editing process.
Now, last week, I also said that dialog is a different matter altogether. Because it is. Essentially, don’t forget to listen to how people say the things they say. Ever read V.C. Andrews? This sort of Gothic thriller fiction was great for me, especially when I was a teenager, but one of the things I couldn’t stand was her dialog. Of course, it was purposefully crafted that way, but it was so stiff…so punctilious, it would get on my nerves.
Unless you’re going for that kind of prose and dialog, I would suggest you listen to the way people speak to one another, and work from there. If you have to, read it out loud and hear how it sounds. If it comes across as too stiff, change it up a bit and relax. Unless your speaker is an erudite university professor, you probably want it to come off a tad more unrefined.
Don’t let your hard work get pushed to the side by bad spelling, grammar, or overconscientious dialog. Get it edited, check it yourself, and be proud of the manuscript you’ve built.