Devil in the Details

I looked at a blog site yesterday that featured a writer’s comments about submitting work to agents and editors. The writer said many of them seemed testy about things like grammar and punctuation.


It’s hard to imagine where some of these people live. Or how. Let’s get something striaght, however. If you write so well that a professional evaluator of writing and storytelling is willing to slog through unprofessional wreckage to find out how the story ends, you’ll be recognized. In time. In spite of your determination to add to your undoubtedly impressive pile of rejections. Consider: If you hired someone to repair your sickly tv and he or she opened a toolbox and pulled out a tire iron and a hacksaw, would you consider waiting to see how that story ended? If you want to see your work published – or if you want to have people read your self-published work – you have to be as professional as possible. It’s not a question of people being forgiving. The point is, you owe it to any reader to provide an experience they’ll enjoy. I can’t believe that anyone who has the talent and tenacity to create a story can’t learn how to punctuate it. Similarly, you can argue that grammar changes; all language does. But if you don’t write language that engages your readers, you’ll lose them. This is particularly true of narrative, and it can absolutely destroy first-person narrative. Some readers will tolerate or even welcome dialogue that butchers the language because it fits the character. When that character holds center stage throughout the book, you may be in trouble. And you’ll always be in trouble if you don’t take the time to proofread and change “your” to “you’re” where necessary. It’s true the devil’s in the details. If your writing ignores the details, be assured, you’ve got a devil of a problem.

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