Grammar matters. The rules of writing are there for a reason and should be adhered to. Just as with the law, lack of knowledge is not a valid defence. Grammatical errors grate like a nail on a blackboard when encountered by those in the know. By definition, good writing does not contain bad grammar.
I am not an English scholar. My primary degree is in Computer Science, a discipline that also requires attention to detail. Programmers need to be careful, methodical and stick to a strictly defined language and structure. I never was much good at programming.
Where I excelled was in analysis and design. I could come up with ideas and communicate them to the staff who used the systems. I understood that experts speak different languages, and that these differ more radically than just commonly used jargon or acronyms. What one considers intuitive another will need to have explained from first principles. I was a bridge between departments, writing clear proposals that the users could understand and detailed specifications that the programmers could work with. Creating precise documents for others to refer to was a big part of my job.
Where does fiction writing fit into all of this? I have so many ideas for the stories that I create over on my Dreams and Demons blog but am being pulled up on my execution, on my grammar. Readers are kind enough to give me positive feedback on the micro and flash fiction that I write, but under new moderation rules at one of the sites that I submit to it is being rejected for falling foul of language rules.
This site is known for the quality of its writing. If standards are to be maintained then somebody has to weed out the submissions that are not good enough, the participants who have no idea what a comma splice is and who play fast and loose with their comma usage in general. Contributors know from the clearly stated rules that this can happen.
For me it is not about rushing a piece or neglecting to proof read. I read and reread my work until I can barely see the words. I Google the rules and try to understand, run my work through on line grammar checkers in the hope that they can help. Still it seems those pesky errors slip through. My lack of knowledge is no excuse, but I am at a loss as to what to do next.
Do I seek out another fiction site to play at? Do I keep submitting entries in the hope that one week my random scattering of commas will pass muster, that my sentence structure will improve? To those of you who feel irritated that I don’t just go away and learn the rules, I have been trying to do that all my life.
This week I was rejected by the two grids (micro and flash fiction) that I tried to enter. I won’t pretend that this didn’t hurt, although I appreciate why it was done. If you would like to read the submissions that passed muster check out The Speakeasy for flash fiction and yeah write weekly writing challenge for micro-stories and non-fiction. If you read all the entries on a grid then you can vote for your favourites. These writers are good.
Try the Penguin Writers’ Manual and just work through it. I also have a few basic work sheets that might help if you’d like to see them?
Oh Beth thank you for offering practical help. I will look out for that book and would certainly like to see your worksheets. It is frustrating knowing that my grammar is poor and not knowing how to fix it. Grammar matters!
Hey, I missed your work on the grids this week! But since I’m following Dreams and Demons, I’ll catch up with you there. I don’t have any advice on whether to keep submitting to the grids or to try elsewhere…audience is one thing, but the need to express yourself and get those stories out is the main thing!
p.s. I hope you won’t truly think of it as “not good enough.” Maybe just “not matching the particular requirements at this particular site at this particular moment.”
Thank you for your kind words. I don’t doubt that my writing contains grammatical errors, I guess I just didn’t realise that they were bad enough to warrant rejection. Having made the effort to create the entries I feel sad about not being on the grids, although I am trying to free up the time to read everyone else’s submissions. Feeling a bit deflated but I’m sure I will get through that quickly enough.
Feeling deflated: I know it well. 🙂
Hi, Jackie! If you ever have a question about one of your love letters, you should always feel free to contact one of the editors. We know you’re not a bad writer (your gargleblaster “Monkey” was one of my favorites that week) and if we’re not clear about what we’re looking for, we’re happy to help you figure it out. Beth’s suggestion of the Penguin manual is good, too. I think of writing like jazz music- once you have a solid foundation of the rules, you can start riffing on them.
Good to know that sometimes my writing is fine 🙂 I have had comments on commas before so know I have issues there, just not how to fix them (I have ordered the Penguin book!). I didn’t get a love letter for my Speakeasy entry but it’s not on the grid. I think I was flummoxed by this week’s events because I had never heard of some of the rules I failed. My fail, my responsibility to learn. I like your music analogy, just feel a bit bewildered by the new requirements. Thank you for reading and offering support, I appreciate it.
If you’re looking for someone to shoot posts to for grammar feedback, I’d try my best to help. Although I got shot down this week too, so maybe I’m not the best candidate.
That is a very kind offer – thank you. Getting shot down – sorry it happened to you too, but that just about sums up how it feels. I know we can learn from this, but some lessons are hard.