Mon. Aug. 27, 2018: Respect for Craft #UpbeatAuthors

Monday, August 27, 2018
Day After Full Moon
Saturn Retrograde
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Mars Retrograde – as of today

The final post about respect is about respect for craft, which is vital to us as authors.

If you’re a professional, published writer, your craft matters. Making each book better than the one before it, on levels of story, character, structure, language, grammar, and style MATTERS.

It shows respect for yourself, your work, your readers, and writing in general.

It matters.

When I teach, students who don’t give a damn about grammar, spelling, the difference between a possessive, a plural, and a contraction don’t last long. Because it shows a lack of respect for the work.

This ties back into the post from a few weeks ago – if you don’t respect your own work, no one else has any reason to respect it, either.

More than one student has shrugged and claimed “they didn’t have” basic, third-grade grammar in school. Having been through the school system, there’s a difference between what the teacher presented and what the student CHOSE to learn.

If you CHOSE not to learn something vital in school, and you expect to be a professional, published writer, take the time now to do it.

Also, when you, as a writer, work with a professional editor, be it in a publishing situation, or a workshop situation, and you get a correction, APPLY IT MOVING FORWARD. There is little more frustrating, as a teacher, than explaining to a student why a contraction is not appropriate when context requires a possessive and the student CONTINUING to make the SAME mistake, because that individual can’t be bothered to pay attention and apply what is learned. It is a waste of all of our time.

When I worked for a publishing company, I supported their strict submission policy on errors in submission packages. If there were more than three errors in the submission (which was usually query letter, synopsis, and the first three chapters), it was an automatic rejection.

The company, which did high-end art books printed on gorgeous paper in Italy and Japan, expected the authors to give enough of a damn to take the time to proofread and understand the craft. Anyone who submitted a package filled with errors obviously didn’t, and wasn’t worth the time or the money it took to produce the beautiful books. Because there were ten thousand other talented writers lined up right behind that one who cared enough to learn the craft and submit error-free proposals.

Fortunately for all of us writers who appreciate our editors and copyeditors, we have more leeway in the actual book. It never fails to mortify me when my editor and copyeditor catch things I should have seen before I submitted. But when it’s a craft issue, and not just me not catching an error, I ask questions, and pay attention to the “why” of the answer. Is it house style? Have I mis-learned something along the way? And then I apply what I’ve learned moving forward.

I still remember what a former editor at Amber Quill Press taught me about the difference between “toward” and “towards.”

There are also certain stylistic choices that are non-negotiable for me. I get those into contract clauses, so there is no confusion down the line.

Editors are overworked and underpaid. They don’t have the time to teach you what was taught in third grade that you did not bother to learn. Nor should they have to. The days of Jack Kerouac walking into a publisher’s office with a mess of a roll of typing that was brilliant enough and that an editor had time enough to fix are over.

Not only that, when you know and understand your craft: grammar, structure, spelling, story, character – then YOU get to control when you break what are considered the rules.

There’s a HUGE difference between a writer who knows the rules and chooses to break them and the writer who can’t be bothered to learn the rules in the first place.

The writer who learns and makes a choice pushes the work into exciting new realms. Because the foundation is solid, and each rule-breaking is a CHOICE, it usually works. Those who don’t know/can’t be bothered – well, the work reads as careless.

I’m always up for something exciting and new in the work. But careless writing is a slap in the face to me as a reader.

My goal in each book, story, article, is for it to be better than the one before. I try to learn with each piece, and build on what I learned before. I’m the first to admit that I don’t always succeed. Not everything I write is going to work. Even when it goes through the entire publication process, with the support of other professionals, some pieces are going to miss the mark.

I learn from those, too. And what I learn is applied moving forward.

Because I love and respect the craft of writing, and I respect my readers. I try to do the best for all of us that I can. Which means always learning.

Published in: on August 27, 2018 at 6:23 am  Comments Off on Mon. Aug. 27, 2018: Respect for Craft #UpbeatAuthors  
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