First off, thank you very much to the talented and amazing Miss Snark, who was kind enough to link to me today. I actually think Miss Snark is a tactical mastermind who uses the links to crush her competition under the ensuing deluge of queries, but I am proud to say that I am still alive and breathing after quite the busy morning. Luckily Miss Snark’s readers seem to be as talented as she is, so it’s been a pleasure reading everyone’s queries.
A few of my more anal I mean astute readers have been kind enough to point out the poor grammar choices in my blog posts lately, and this of course has made me quite the sheepish agent because I so readily reject queries on the basis of said poor grammar. I’m a stickler for grammar, diction, and all those other topics that you should have been paying attention to when you were aiming a spidwad at the back of Suzy’s head in elementary school. A misuse of its/it’s or there/their/they’re is enough to send me scurrying for the rejection button (I don’t actually have a rejection button, but I like to imagine that I have a trap door like in cartoons that drops someone into the basement at the press of a button. And yes, these are the things I think about all day).
I liken grammar and diction and word choice to playing an instrument. No one can write a symphony without knowing how to play a note, and no one can write a great novel without a thorough and complete command of the English language. I think there’s a misconception out there that if you just have a good story it’s going to shine through and then a magical copyeditor will come along and correct everything. That’s just not the way it works — if you have grammatical mistakes or poor word choices in your query letter or your manuscript you’re not going to make it very far. And if grammar and diction are not your strong suits then you might think twice about your expectations for success as a writer. I’m not saying you can’t enjoy the process of writing and sharing it with your friends and family, but you’re facing a major uphill climb if you want to be a published writer.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to the 7,278 queries that came in as I was writing this blog post. (I’m exaggerating. Barely.)
Christopher M. Park says
“maybe it’s the drive to improve our weaknesses that makes it possible for us to become published writers.”
Quite so. I think another thing that separates those who succeed from those who don’t is the ability to even see those weaknesses in the first place. I think that some writers see themselves as infallible gods, and that attitude makes it really hard to improve. Some people can be so touchy when hearing any suggestions about their work that it makes others stop even offering suggestions–but no one is offering them representation, either.
And then, there are those who just give up way too easily, as you say. They find out writing is harder than they thought at first, and then that’s just it for them. I guess it’s those happy mediums who see their problems, but aren’t afraid to attack those problems head on, that will hopefully persevere.
My blog on writing
Maureen McGowan says
You know… I’ve always thought that blog entries (and comments, expecially) get a free pass re: grammar and spelling and diction. (Oh my!)
Aren’t blog entries supposed to be akin to off-the-cuff thoughts?
Query letters and manuscripts are a whole different thing in my mind. (But hey, everyone makes the occasional mistake there, too.)
Great blog! Love the entry on publishing time. We writers have a lot of agnst and it’s unbelievable what we can read into our agent taking an extra few days to reply to an e-mail. (Not to mention ages to read a manuscript…) Not that mine does… LOL
Maureen McGowan says
Ha!! My point, exactly. I don’t spell check on blogs and sometimes my fingers get ahead of me.
Hope you won’t hold it against me.