Language evolves over time. Words come en vogue (or are invented) and some words become passé or even archaic. As language changes, so do the
"rules" of its use.
For example: someone says to you that
"every sentence ends with a period and that rule will never
Oh, really? That’s news to me!
Here are examples where a period does not end a sentence:
it ends with a question mark;
it ends with an exclamation point;
it ends with a colon.
"Never start a sentence with a
But why not? This can be a personal preference or a “house rule” for a publisher or publication, but it is not a law and if you break it you
don't go to jail. My husband, who also edits, follows this
"rule" but I don’t. We still manage to have a happy, loving marriage despite this difference in our editing preference.
Baloney. What kind of writing are you doing? I would say this is true for academic and professional writing, but in fiction writing, sentence fragments are allowed and even encouraged.
"I write like this because this is my
Well, if your "style" is
rubbish – mission accomplished! Don’t be dragged into this prima donna-esque attitude when trying to define your
"style" to your confused, long-suffering editor. Your editor may know more about grammar and punctuation than you do, but that doesn’t absolve you, as the author, from your responsibility in taking the time to learn the elements of fiction writing as well as the
"rules" of grammar and punctuation.
"Okay, Miss Know-It-All-Editor. One minute you say it’s fine to break the rules and the next minute you say I have to follow them. Just what are you trying to tell me?"
My point is simple. Before you break the
"rules", you must know the "rules".
Relying on the spelling/grammar check on your computer does not count. A word processing program will record what you want it to record. It cannot tell the difference between your writing
"style" and the grammar and punctuation "rules" coded in its program.
When it comes to writing fiction, a lot of the
"rules" we learned (or should have learned) in school can be bent, stretched, and even broken –
when the author knows when and how to do it and does it to create a certain effect or mood.
If you want to be a successful
(i.e. published) author, and have editors love you, take time to learn the grammar and punctuation
"rules" of your language. Or, instead of calling them
"rules", call them nuances because by applying certain
"rules" of grammar or the use of one form of punctuation over another, your writing will have more depth and more meaning. Your writing will have a certain nuance. Unless you know these
"rules", you won’t know the ones you can use and the ones you can do without.
One thing I learned in my years of education is that many of the
"rules" of grammar and punctuation have exceptions. You won’t know this if you only deal in absolutes or you haven’t taken the time to educate yourself of this fact. You must discover what works best for you when it comes to conveying your message in your writing and, hence, develop your style.
If your publisher or editor follows the
"rules" of a certain style book, you will be good to follow the same if you wish to work with them in the future.
If your editor wants you to change something that you are not comfortable with, you should be able to explain the reason why you want to keep that item as written. Chances are, the editor misunderstood what you are trying to say and will make suggestions to make it clear. Then again, you could be wrong in your reasoning (shocking, I know) and your editor will explain the reason why. It’s a give and take process.
However, despite all of this, I think there is one rule we can all agree upon that can give us hope when it comes to the sins and transgressions made in the editing and writing process.
Writing has always come easily to me. Throughout my teen years, poetry
and journal writing was my favourite hobby.
As I grew older, raising children became my hobby, but writing was
never far behind. I’d lay the children down for an afternoon nap shortly
after lunch, and I’d start filling page after page in my journal, writing
impulsively, whatever came to mind. Looking back to that particular part
of my life, it is now evident that I was paving the way to what is now my
However, the real lessons came later when I started submitting stories
for possible publication to every magazine, newsletter or newspaper I could
get my hands on. Rejection slips filled my mail box regularly – in a
year’s time, I had enough rejection slips to wallpaper a 14’X14’ room! That didn’t stop my writing impulse. I kept hacking away at the old keys
of my typewriter, and kept filling page after page of spiral notebooks that
cost about 50 cents each at that time.
Now, there are six filing cabinets full of any kind and every kind of
article or story imaginable and about four filled boxes of nothing but
filled spiral notebooks. Somewhere along the line, I turned rejection
slips into acceptances and now have about 650 published credits in about
350 publications nationwide.
So can you! If you are an impulsive writer like me, then it’s kudos
to you. If you possess this wonderful gift, nurture it and let it grow. Never stifle it or try stopping it – take a writer’s course and chart the
course for your writing ventures. If you don’t have time to attend a
class, take a home study course. The idea is to shape your writing
impulses into something that will eventually pay off for you. It will help
you to learn to become a published writer.
I took three writing courses and received a diploma after completion. The diplomas are displayed in my office to remind me of my training days,
and to remind me of a job well done. The real reward comes in the form of
published credits – something a writer is proud of for years to come.
Writing has been a major part of my life, as well as wonderful
experience for me. I wouldn’t have it any other way nor would I consider
changing careers for anything in this world. If you have the gift of
writing, then you are blessed, and by all means, should use it to every
Write everyday, at least an hour each day. You can become a published
writer if you keep trying. Never give up, even when it seems hopeless. Let the impulsive writer in you guide you!
Marcella Simmons has been writing professionally since 1988 –
she has over 650 published credits in over 350 small press
publications nationwide. In 2005, Simmons had her first book of
poetry published, and is working on several book projects at
this time. She continues to write a regular weekly column for a
local newspaper in her hometown, as well as many other writing
projects. "Writing is a way of life for me," she says.
Simmons is the mother of eight children (all are grown now) and
she has seven grandchildren with another on the way. "My
family is also a way of life for me, and my inspiration."
uses English spelling conventions.
Spellings such as "realise"
differ from other spelling conventions
but are nonetheless correct.
Publisher looking for romantic novels UK publisher Choc-Lit is looking for romance novels with
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Magazine seeks feminist science fiction Future Fire magazine is accepting submissions for a themed Feminist Science Fiction issue aimed at being published late 2009 or the beginning of 2010. Stories need not be by or about women, but must address issues of gender.
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