BSV Forum - Writing - General Tips

What difference does it make?

Feb 05 2007 01:49 am   #1slaymesoftly

A comment left on another thread by verse member Joyce about the misuse of lose and loose making her cringe when she reads reminded me that there are always some people who don't understand why they need to worry about the mechanics of their writing as long as they are telling a good story.  (Um...that would be why, other than that the evil mods here at the verse won't put your story through if it has too many boo boos in it. We all know that already, right?)

Joyce's comment explains it pretty well.   The last thing you, as a writer, want to do is something that will jar the reader out of your story -even if it's only for a couple of seconds. And you certainly don't want your audience to be cringing!.  Unfortunately, that is what happens when you have blatant mechanical errors - everytime the reader comes to a misued word, an incorrect verb tense, a period when it should be a question mark.... Everytime that happens, they are jarred out of the tale.

If that happens too often, many readers will just bail on the story - even if they like the plot.  It's just too much like hard work to make yourself ignore a steady progression of mechanical and/or vocabulary problems.  Not to mention that, as arbitrary and irritating as punctuation rules may seem to be, they do have a purpose and that is to help the reader to understand what is going on.  Without clarity in the writing, we're right back to making the reader have to work too hard to figure out who's doing what to whom.

For instance:  "Buffy!"cried Dawn. means something quite different from Buffy cried, "Dawn!"  Without the punctuation, it''s just gibberish - Buffy cried Dawn.  

Poorly structured sentences can also be confusing.  Perhaps not in the sense that the reader couldn't figure it out eventually; but, again, is your story really so wonderful that the reader is going to be willing to work that hard?  I'd give you an example, but the best one I have is a real one from someone's  story and this wouldn't be a good time to be putting up anything identifiable.   Maybe someday...sigh. It is a lulu. Also, sometimes those poorly constructed sentences are unintentionally funny and that wouldn't be a good thing to have in the middle of an emotional scene.

Anyway, these are the main reasons for wanting to have your stories as mechanically correct as you and your beta can make them:

1 - to avoid making readers cringe or otherwise pause and lose the thread of the tale

2 - to avoid making it difficult for readers to understand what you meant to show them

3 -to please the mods 

And here's one I didn't mention - if your story is nominated for awards, that little point or two that  comes off your score because of mechanical errors just might be the difference between first and second place... I'm just saying.....


I am not a minion of Evil...
I am upper management.
Feb 05 2007 06:24 am   #2LisFayte

A couple of things that will jar me out of a story are

1. When people rely on their spell check too much, for example, I recently read a fic where the person was meaning 'scene' but was spelling it 'seen'. It was a small thing, but it really irritated me

2. This next one is something that will definately make me stop reading something. When a writer has an American character using British phrases or one of the British characters are using American phrases or using phrases that are OOC (can you imagine Giles saying 'cor' or 'blimey'?) I don't care how good the plot is, I will stop reading, because as you say, it is too much work. I would sugest that British writers get an American beta, and American writers get a British beta. I don't want to hurt anyones feelings, but I know that I am not the only one bothered by this.

The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.--- e e cummings

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Feb 05 2007 06:53 am   #3Caro Mio

I know some people don't care when they're reading, but I do. My mother was a teacher who a) drilled grammar into me from day one, and b) made me help grade papers when she got busy, so my brain is irrevocably trained to catch all those errors, and I really dislike having to mentally correct a bunch of stuff in my head as I go along. I read fanfic for recreation, so I really don't want it to feel like work!

So please, don't take it personally that you have the errors.....they aren't terribly difficult to fix, especially if you find someone to give you a hand, and it makes things a lot easier on your readers.

What If I'm Not the Slayer? now updated with chapters 22 and 23.