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22 July 2008 @ 08:46 pm
An interlude  
Just a few quick comments before I settle down to the long haul of the remaining punctuation symbols.

Someone asked a question that I have been asked by many writers in the past: 'should I concentrate on editing what I have already written, or writing what is left?'

In almost every case, you are best to keep writing. This is because there are only two tricks to writing a book: having an idea, and finishing it. Once you start getting that idea down, you should keep going. You can edit it later, Or someone like me can do it for you. But no one else can write it for you.

There are three exceptions to this rule:
1. When you have Writer's Block of Doom and cannot create another word even with a gun to your temple. It can be handy to go back and remember why you loved this book at the beginning, and doing some editing is a good excuse for a read-through.

2. You are posting it chapter-by-chapter on the internet as it is being written.

3. You suddenly realise that you would rather write it from a different POV or other such major change.  Because this can change major sections of your novel, you should at the very least go back and mark up the changes you will need to make to each chapter, especially any parts of your narrative that will need to be cut or shifted elsewhere.

Thanks to everyone who has brought an "I was taught X" discussion to the comments on the previous post, they're fascinating, and a lot of fun. While in some cases I am answering with something on the lines of Y is correct, and better than X because … in most cases the replies are along the lines of, actually, X and Y have both been acceptable, and this one may be currently stronger, because …

This is not a cop-out. As blindmouse says, it's depressing how much of grammar all boils down to being a matter of style. Style changes across countries and through time. For example, Mr. Draco Malfoy, Esq. is perfectly acceptable 17th century usage, but not acceptable in formal 20th century usage (and just barmy in 21st). But it's better in a snarky sense than D. Malfoy, Esq, regardless of when you say it.

Similarly, "Hi Ron, hi Hermione, hi Remus." may cause conniptions in those who insist on "Hi, Hermione", and so on, but I would rather they froth than construct a sentence with five commas and six words. This is why I can't submit to that archive that insists all speech be perfectly granmmatical. It's not. It never has been, never will be. We talk in fragments, are discursive, lose track, faff ... Even Jane Austen used ungrammatical speech at times. (Shakespeare would be dying of laughter at this whole discussion. "Just make it up!" he would say. "I do that all the time!")

There are editors and subeditors out there who would be horrified to hear me say that. They are members of this league. They are possibly moderating an archive or modding a fest near you. Treat them gently. They have terrible frown lines and are not happy people.

Above all, don't panic. I am writing this series so that when you have one of those three in the morning moments, when you cannot recall if the punctuation should go inside or outside the brackets, you have a handy, free reference that is shorter than 40 pages and covers most common mistakes (because I am familiar with most of them).

You do not need to punctuate perfectly. All you need to do is convey the meaning that you intend. If your punctuation is clear and does not change the meaning of what you want to say, then it's fine. Even if the National League of Pedants would frown. Back to apostrophes, I may be some time.
Randydrgaellon on July 22nd, 2008 07:30 pm (UTC)
Back to apostrophes, I may be some time.
That should be a semi-colon, not a comma, as each clause is a fully-functional sentence (albeit an informal one in the first case).

Why, yes, I am a card-carrying member of the ILP. Why do you ask? :D
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 22nd, 2008 10:18 pm (UTC)
Just read the next few comic strips to see where that will get you ;-)
&helena;uminohikari on July 22nd, 2008 07:56 pm (UTC)
*giggles* I like how the post is tagged fairies~
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 22nd, 2008 10:18 pm (UTC)
My brain feels like it's away with the pixies after a day of dealing with this sort of thing!
It's a Deensedeensey on July 22nd, 2008 11:58 pm (UTC)
Two questions:
1)How much do you love Goats?

2)If my name is Stephanie Meyer, should I ignore these rules and go back and read my work and edit it? (Possibly deciding that destroying it is best?)
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 23rd, 2008 03:35 am (UTC)
1. Is that love goats as in the Aberforth Dumbledore school of self-pleasuring, or love Goats as in the comic strip? Because if it's the latter, quite a bit.

2. If your name is Stephenie Meyer, please have some more children so that you are too busy to write. Her kids are cute, she clearly loves them, she should stick to that! It will be better for the world!
It's a Deensedeensey on July 23rd, 2008 05:18 am (UTC)
1. I hope the latter
2. Ahahaha, yes, seriously. And so we do not have to come and remove her fingers, spinal cord and tongue.
Blindmouse: scribbleblindmouse on July 23rd, 2008 12:16 am (UTC)
One thing that's frustrating me a bit in my course is the way we're being taught simply to correct grammar without considering how it affects rhythm. In particular examples like:

This was fine while the king was still breathing, but when he died it all sort of went to pot.

And, OK, yes, when he died is a subordinate clause and the but doesn't really belong to it, but if you fix it by making it This was fine while the king was still breathing but, when he died, it all sort of went to pot you completely screw the rhythm, and it becomes dumb and pedantic sounding. My lecturer kept saying things like "For some reason authors are terrible about putting their commas before the coordinating conjunction, tut tut," and I just wanted to burst out that yes, that was because it scanned better, and for god's sake if you had to fix it then either kill the commas entirely, or chop it into two sentences (or divide it with a semi-colon), which keeps the emphasis on each part about the same.


*Cough* So I'll leave your journal and do my ranting on my own, now. Ta.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 23rd, 2008 03:37 am (UTC)
YES! YES YES YES YES YES!!! A Molly Bloom of Yesses!

Take comfort in the fact that Joyce, Shaw, Twain and Woolf were all on our side. And Kit Marlowe would probably have run your lecturer through in a dark alley.
Blindmouseblindmouse on July 23rd, 2008 04:11 am (UTC)
Oh good. I feel better :-)