Friday, February 13, 2015

Knowing the Basics

I hate to end the week on a rant, but I got one. I had a book that was a DNF yesterday, and the reasons frustrate me. I won't tell you which one it was because it doesn't really matter. It's a small book, with a tiny press, and I got it free on Kindle, so naming it doesn't do any good. It has its supporters with some positive reviews, but I'm not one of them.

See, I could barely get through the first three chapters. Not because the idea wasn't interesting (it was), or because the prose wasn't pretty (it wasn't, but then again, it wasn't that sort of book), but because of all the technical errors in it. More than just typos. More than stylistic choices we all might make for the sake of a voice. This was about glaring verb tense shifts, often more than one to a page, that made it impossible for me to get into the story. So I didn't waste my time. I gave up on it and deleted it from my Kindle.

What I honestly don't get is...why? Why do some authors think that it's okay not to know the basic tools of their trade? Don't tell me that's what an editor is for. I don't buy it. Editors are wonderful for a lot of different reasons, but their job description should never include, "Teach authors what verb-agreement is," or anything that includes basic grammar lessons like verb tense. Honestly, editors have enough to do already, and putting that burden on them as well is lazy, selfish, and unreasonable. Typos? Sure, we all make them, though I'd hope you'd send in a manuscript as clean as you possibly could. Occasional lapses in POV? It happens. But the fundamental tools of the written language should be the author's responsibility to know, and nobody is ever going to convince me otherwise.

This is your work. This is your craft. Every job has basic requirements, and writing is no different. Being able to come up with compelling characters and stories is only part of the package, and sure, there are people who don't care or can't tell when a story is riddled with easily fixable grammatical errors, but why is settling for that enough?

If you don't know basic grammar, learn. The resources are out there. If it's still too hard for you, find someone who does understand to go through your manuscript before it goes to your editor, and then--and here's the hard part for some people--listen to them and fix what's wrong before making your poor editor do half your job for you.

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