Monday, February 28, 2011

Competent Prose and Clean Copy

I have read short story submissions for contests and magazines as well as mentoring new writers. The biggest complaint of this reader? Getting what is clearly a too-early-draft. Plot holes or plots that clearly fizzle out into nothingness, grammatical troubles of the fourth-grade order. Misspelled words. Writers who misspell their own names (think it doesn't happen?).

The occasional mistake is nothing of course. We all make them. But if I read a dozen clear problems in a thousand words, I begin to think the author didn't care or is infected with texting and twittering, and the general "I don't care" of the ephemera we all produce each day. Hard to fight that. My own blog posts have their maladies.


The reader who is afraid to buy a self-published work might be afraid because of this. People don't edit themselves as well as they edit others. Happens to my students all the time - a student may have a dozen errors on a page and not see any of them. Ask them to trade with the student next to them and suddenly the red pencils find employment.

If you are a writer, please consider that editors* and readers are hampered by what a less generous soul might call sloppiness. They simply can't enjoy the story if there's a pothole in every paragraph. Let alone plot holes.

* You might ask "but isn't it the editors job to edit? Put in the missing commas, fix spelling and such?" In short: No. If the writer can't be bothered...


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