Sunday, December 17, 2006

Aspiring Writers 101 Lesson One

I started this blog mainly to appear more professional as a writer, you know have an online presence to impress perspective agents and editors. But as life took over, it became a nice little place to update my family and friends about my son's illness and to vent, of course. I have, however, established my own web page devoted solely to my writing, but occasionally I would like to share something worthwhile and writerly.

I joined the Online Writers Workshop of Sci Fi and fantasy several years ago, expecting to wow all the other workshoppers with my unparalleled stories. What I immediately found out was that my writing was not anywhere up to snuff. Extremely simple things that I thought I had learned in high school, I hadn't. It was actually quite embarrassing, but also extremely enlightening. There was something about learning from my own mistakes from other people's eyes that seemed to get into my thick head a lot more powerfully than just looking at other's people's errors. When my own little babies were ripped apart word by word it was heartbreaking, sometimes discouraging, but damn did it make me a better writer.

I especially owe a great grammatical thank you to one Larry West who I traded critiques with. Frankly, I don't think I helped him greatly, but he was a lifeline to me. A literal grammar guru professor type, he patiently and painstakingly went through each of my postings line by line and kindly pointed out all my many mistakes, then explained why they were mistakes and the proper way to write it out. I can only imagine he must be the type of person who likes to fix things, search for things to fix, you know, the type of person who loves crosswords and puzzles, because, well, I had a lot.

However, after months of trading critiques with him, he sent one of mine back with the words close to: "This is near perfect, Clover. I'm hard-pressed to find anything to correct." Had you been a fly on my wall, you would have seen my chair fly back from my computer desk as I proceeded to do a very happy victory dance.

Anyway, in honor of Larry who was willing to tolerate someone who had very little skill in grammar, my little nuggets of writing wisdom to pass on will be bare-boned simplistic. I'm talking about things that should have been taught in, if not elementary school, then at least intermediate or junior high, possibly things that were taught, but tuned out, because passing colorful doodle-enhanced notes between friends was far more entertaining than droning teachers. No past perfect presence tense lectures here yet or things that professional writers don't even sneeze at. I'm going basic, simple . . . to things that make all new writers that are first getting serious about their craft slap their foreheads, exclaiming, "Duh, I should have known that." These are the things that make us feel dumb and stupid and way out of our league because we should already know this, but missed it somewhere. So I will be the brave writer here and say, "Yeah, I didn't know these things either." I once thought that it was better to be a great storyteller and have talent than grammatical skill. I couldn't have been more wrong. A lot of hard work and relearning and being humble enough to let my work be slashed to pieces, shaped me into a far better writer than I ever could have been.

Okay, since I rambled, the first lesson will be short.
Aspiring Writers Lesson One:

It's verse Its. It's is the conjunction for It is. Its represents that the It in question has ownership of something. You wouldn't write her's, or his's for their possessives. Just remember: His, hers, its.

End of lesson.

6 comments:

Izzybella said...

And you've immediately hit on the error I most frequently make. I'm forever calling Faith and asking her to remind me which one has the apostrophe. I consider myself a writer, I really do, but sadly, grammar is not my strong point. Without Faith and Mom to red-pen me into a coma, I'd have never graduated from college!

Spin_Doc1 said...

Lesson please, Than vs then, I don't know when to use either one. Most mistakes I make are a result of laziness and not ignorance.

theresa said...

I love this post, and most especially the way you've communicated your change of heart.
It's tough to be critiqued, but whether you're an athlete, a teacher or a writer, accepting feedback from others makes us better.

Trista said...

Clover, this comment doesn't have anything to do with this post, but I just wanted to say that I'm thinking of your family right now and hoping for the best. I'm so sorry that all this is going on with your son.

Sam said...

Ouch! don't know which hurts more, my forehead or my hand! ;-)

Izzybella said...

Hi, Clover. Not responding to the post--only the news Faith emailed me. Just wanted to let you know you are in my thoughts/prayers. Your family is beautiful and I hate that you're going through such hard times right now. Hope you know you are all very loved.