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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Is It Just Me...

Or do these shoes look like commas? Up until a few months ago, I considered myself to have a relatively firm grasp on grammar. My first love was always English. I was in the honors classes throughout high school, and I spent hours reading and writing. But, since my dad was paying for college, his checkbook had the honor of choosing my degree. So, I majored in Accounting. One day, I was researching agents and came across a blog about how to improve your manuscript. (I'd point you in that direction, but I don't remember which one it was.) There was a whole section dedicated to the mechanics of writing. I was shocked to find that I had broken many of the rules this agent listed as important. Had things changed since I was in high school? Or had I just forgotten the rules? Either way, I decided I needed a refresher. I went right away to the local book store and bought several books on proper writing mechanics. I spent the next few days reading these books and searching the web for any sites about the subject. In the end, I realized my manuscript needed a complete overhaul. There were twenty-five errors on the first five pages alone. I had a brief moment of humiliation at the thought of agents reading my submissions and shaking their head at my careless writing, but I pushed it out of my head and quickly got down to the task of editing. Have you taken the time to rid your manuscript of mechanical errors? By the way, there are probably a dozen or more mistakes in this post, but I don't have time to edit it! :)

36 comments:

Strange Fiction said...

Love the shoes! I also love proofreaders! If there are any mistakes in your post, they didn't leapt out at me :)

jbchicoine said...

I hope I did...Even more so, I hope you'll point out any glaring mechanical errors as you read my MS.

Janna Qualman said...

Yes, I'm very picky when it somes to mechanics. And I'm a Comma Queen! I may use too many. But I think they can lend a lot to voice and flow.

Stephanie Faris said...

I worked for the Arts Commission when I first started writing. My job was editing and creating most of the content for our newsletters, as well as writing press releases and booklets for our events. They sent me to a grammar class for an entire week, free, and it was AWESOME to have a refresher course because journalism had done some wacky things to what I'd learned in English classes. The rules are just different.

strugglingwriter said...

"there are probably a dozen or more mistakes in this post, but I don't have time to edit it! "

He he. I worry about this sometimes.

Cool shoes!

I always think my grammar is pretty good, but I know I can't catch everything. Luckily, my writing group helps with this.

Lily said...

Don't sweat the blogs! I don't proofread. I use that time on my ms. Like you, I was surprised to see how many errors I make.

I know you've seen some of the blogs I was referring to... like a kid wrote them. I've read people's excerpts that read the same way! We'll never get anywhere in this business (writing) without looking objectively at our own work.

In an earlier post, I talked about taking a class or two at the community college. That's why... I need a brush-up!

Tess said...

Oh, yes, I read Strunk and Whites and THOUGHT I knew...then my agent sent me my ms back w/ a note to the effect of - "I have taken the time to copy edit all of your punctuation errors and am returning the corrected ms back to you, please work off this copy from now on".

oops. Can you say humiliation? Anwyay, I pulled out the books again for a refresher. I'm trying, but I still suck rocks at it.

Amy Tate said...

Susan where on earth do you find such awesome shoes????? I'd love to see your closet! Errors? Oh yea. One of the cool things about going back to school while I'm writing is the constant learning. Rules HAVE changed and through out my agent research, I've found that certain AGENTS have their own way of doing things. One in particular has a grammar link on her website!!!! If your interested, email me and I'll send you the link.
Interestingly, one of the topics that kept coming up in the NYC conference this year was the fact that editors get lots and lots of manuscripts with all sorts of errors. But if they like the story, then they'll work with you in making it ready. I found that fascinating, because we hear the opposite all of the time. Now I don't think this gives any of us a green light to submit sloppy work. On the contrary, I think it should be our very best, but it did make me think. We can spend so much time researching and jumping through everyone's hoops that we lose our voice. There's got to be a balance somewhere and I haven't found it yet.

Patti said...

I took a grammar couse last month, for work, and learned a lot. Like how they don't like using myself, herself, or yourself anymore. They are trying to phase them out.

My question is who are they and why do they keep changing the rules.

Beth said...

I haven't done the mechanics thing yet, but I definitely will when I'm through. Right now, I'm focusing on getting the story out of my head, but I'm sure there will be a massacre of red ink all over my MS when I'm through! Great post...and crazy comma shoes...still amazed.

Sharla said...

Hey girl, you got an award over at my place, go check it out!!

Heather Sunseri said...

Oh, I definitely need to concentrate completely on the mechanics on a trip through my MS. My husband is in charge of editing my MS for commas.

Love the shoes! I love how many different pictures of shoes you seem to come up with. They make me laugh.

Lazy Writer said...

Strange,
I love proof readers, too. Sometimes that's the only way we catch our mistakes.

jb,
I'll be sure to point anything out to you. :)

Janna,
I have a thing for commas, too.

Stephanie,
The rules do seem to be different, but I though I had just forgotten.

Struggling Writer,
I need to find a writing group.

Lily,
Yes, some do appear to have been written by a child! :)

Tess,
How funny! I'm sure you are getting better at it.

Amy,
This is a great point! Tess, who commented before you, is the perfect example. She found an agent even though her ms was littered with errors. Very interesting...

Patti,
Great question! Who are they?

Beth,
Yes, the first time I went through my ms, there was more red than black when I was finished.

Sharla,
Ah, thanks! I love awards! I'll be by shortly.

Heather,
I wish I had a husband who was good with commas. And I'm glad my shoe pictures make you laugh.

Dawn VanderMeer said...

Dig the comma shoes. ;) I don't know which agent site you read, but 3 Seas Literary has a section called "Improving Your Manuscript". They hit some common errors. Tess already mentioned THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE. THE CHICAGO MANUAL OF STYLE is my other fave.

K. M. Walton said...

I love the comma shoes, too. When I wrote my first book I had the luxury of still being a 6th grade Language Arts teacher & I worked with a woman who I'll call the 'Grammar Goddess'. She knew what a dangling participle was, for real.

She combed through my whole book and taught me loads about the repetitive mistakes I made. It was a learning experience for me. I know the basics, of course, being that I taught 12 year olds, but the nitty gritty stuff was foreign to me.

Karen said...

I am considered to be somewhat of a Grammar Queen. But now you have me seriously questioning my skills...

I might need a bit of a refresher, too!

Kathy said...

Good post. When I read the part about you loving English but having to major in accounting to please your dad, I thought Wow. I majored in English anyway even though the job possibilities weren't so good. It did take a long time to find a job post-graduation.

Those are cool shoes!

FictionGroupie said...

I took an elective in high school (intermediate composition) where we had to write an 8-10 page (handwritten) essay each class on various topics--mostly creative writing prompts. Then, we would have to turn it in. If it had ONE grammar mistake (something as simple as a missed comma or more obscure things like parallelism), she gave it back to us to rewrite by hand the WHOLE thing. Once you completed a certain number of perfect essays, you were done for the semester.

That class was one of the most valuable I've had ever. Although, I'm definitely not perfect with grammar still (and for blogging I throw the rules out the window most of the time.)

Jungle Mom said...

May we not speak of grammar? Please?
English is my mother tongue but I have lived and worked with Spanish for 25 years. I also speak Ye'kwana, a South American tribal language, and am now studying Guarani.
Any grammar I once knew has been deleted to make room for new data.
That's my story and I am sticking to it!

Weronika said...

They definitely look like commas. :)

As for mechanical errors, oddly, I've never had a problem with them. Ever. 100% on all the quizzes in school testing knowledge of this and that and, though I may make errors in haste, I usually don't. LOL.

Good luck cleaning your MS up. If you ever need a second glance, EMAIL ME!

Jill Kemerer said...

Even the grammar rules change. I have three grammar books on my shelf and none of them completely agree. Why is this so hard??

P.S. It's blogger award season and I love your blog, so come over to my blog tomorrow!

Lazy Writer said...

Dawn,
I've seen the 3 Seas Literary site. They have some very helpful tips.

K.M.,
You are lucky to have had her help.

Karen,
A refresher couldn't hurt.

Kathy,
I don't regret my major because I have something to fall back on, but I wonder if I'd have more success as a writer if I had a degree in that area.

Fiction Groupie,
I throw out the rules for blogging, too. I'm sure you've already noticed that, though.

Jungle Mom,
Sounds like a darn good excuse to me!

Weronika,
I think everyone makes mistakes in haste.

Jill,
Oh! I can't wait. I'll be over tomorrow!

Rae said...

I have a pretty good grasp on grammar. It's punctuation that I need help with. I must have asleep in school when those basics were taught.

There are still plenty of times when I have to edit something I wrote because of some awkward wording. And MS Word is forever telling me that my structure is fragmented and I should revise.

Anna C. Morrison said...

Oh, yes! Grammar is an editing thing for me. Not a writing thing. As you can tell write now. 1001 Pitfalls in English Grammar saved my butt.

Jody Hedlund said...

In a contest that I entered earlier in the year, I apparently didn't know how to place commas in my MS! Each of the judges consistently added commas everywhere! (And the funny thing was that they all added them in different spots!) Commas won't make or break us, but having a professionally written MS does say something about us.

Life is good! said...

love the shoes and your blog, mistakes and all!(i wouldn't have a clue where though). my sister always corrected my blog at first until i told her i really didn't give a damn!

Terri Tiffany said...

I hate finding simple mistakes but they always show up! Good that you too the time and read up on it again. I don't worry about my blog posts being perfect--if I did, I'd never post anything!

Kathryn Magendie said...

One of the things I enjoy about my blog is that I don't worry about getting it "perfect" - I'm writing them so fast, to boot!

I'm writing about grammar on the TG blog, too - but trying to do it in a different way - the way I began to understand it by relating it to my manuscript - scenes, etc.....

I try my darndest to get rid of errors in grammar, puncutation, syntax, etc etc etc - no one's perfect, but I do try to make it as clean as I can!

Solvang Sherrie said...

Love the comma shoes!
My parents forced me into a business major in college, but I switched to communications in my junior year. I am NOT a numbers person. And even though they told me I'd never be able to make money as a writer, I do sell a lot of freelance articles which they proudly show to their friends =) Some day I hope to have that elusive book deal too!

Danyelle said...

Commas are the bane of my existence. We all have our different strengths, and this isn't one of mine. I'm glad to have good friends who can peg a misplaced comma ten feet away though. :)

Cindy said...

I hope I have, but I know when I first started sending manuscripts out I had so many errors. I read and re-read and catch as much as I can so an agent/editor sees my best work.

Lazy Writer said...

Rae,
I must have slept through a great deal, too. At least, that's what I'm thinking these days!

Anna,
Since 1001 saved your butt, will you save mine?

Jody,
Yes, professionalism says a lot. I guess that's why I focus too much on mechanics.

Life is Good,
Thanks for stopping by. I don't care so much about the errors on my blog; it's my writing I'm worried about!

Terri,
I don't worry about the blog either. Everyone is so kind and forgiving of mistakes around here!

Kathryn,
I'm loving your posts this week.

Sherri,
I'm hoping for that elusive book deal, too!

Danyelle,
Thank you, God, for good friends!

Cindy,
I've missed the same error after reading and re-rereading, I couldn't even count the times!

Amber Lynae said...

I don't edit my posts. But yes I have a lot more to learn in writing mechanics even though I feel I have a rather firm grasp compared to the average joe.

Stephanie said...

Hi Susan,
This was such a valuable post. First of all, I felt instantly liberated I am not the only one who struggles with editing for our blogs (I am learning to give that one up in obsessive detail, it distracts me) and not looking like nitwits!
It was helpful to hear that if an agent likes your story, they work with you on the mechanics sometimes. I'm gonna just get moving then...
Love your blog, great info!

Eileen Astels Watson said...

I need to do exactly what you did. Study this. Grammar has never been good for me. One of my critique partners is a master with it, though, so that helps!

GirlMeetsGun said...

I was always given compliments in my English classes in high school about how proper my grammar was.

Then I enrolled in college 4 years after graduating and my new professor ripped my writing to pieces. :-/ I'm sending my manuscript out, too, and it is very nerve-wrecking. I hope your fellow writers can help you out a bit!!