Sunday, May 25, 2008

Can writers read for pleasure?

What I'm reading: Dead Silence by Brenda Novak

What I'm writing: Fozzie's book, Chapter 2

Since I'm back at intensive writing, and doing crits for my group, I find my reading for pleasure moves deeper into edit mode as well.

Most of these things have no effect on plot or storytelling, but they're things that slow my read. I wonder if anyone else notices or even cares.

I don't begin to consider myself a grammar guru, although I had a lot of basics pounded into my head by Miss Cook in junior high, and Mr. Holtby in high school. Lately, I've noticed that some of these lessons don't seem to matter anymore. Or else copy editors had different teachers. Our language is fluid, and constantly changing (my agent said the comma before "too" is no longer required and made me remove all of them which still waves red flags for me), so I wonder if there are other memos I've missed.

One 'rule' I learned is that two things can be compared, but in order to use the superlative it was absolutely required that there be three. When one of my writing partners critiqued a recent sub, she flagged the chair "nearer" the wall and said it should be nearest. I said there were only two chairs, so "nearer" should be correct. She said she'd never heard of that rule.

When I was in school, this is what we learned, and the way I still remember it:

Good, Better, Best. You can't have the best of two, or there will be red marks on your paper. So when I noticed a character talking about his youngest child, I assumed there would be at least three kids, and I kept waiting for a middle sibling to appear. But no, there were only two, and one was the youngest and one was the oldest.

And people are 'who', things are 'that'. So when I see "The man that was arrested" or, "the dog who ran away," my teeth clench.

Granted, these things don't affect the plot. But to me, I'm seeing those big red marks on the page and am pulled out of the story.

On a non-grammar note, research is another pet peeve. I don't know a lot, so when I see something I do know, I wonder why an author didn't take the time, or the copy editor let it slide. Number one biggie, because of my preferred genre, is characters who carry Gocks, yet click the safety off or on. Glocks just plain don't work that way. And revolvers don't have safeties either.

So, any other pet peeves, or am I the only one who even notices these things? Do you read differently as a writer? Can you turn off that internal editor?

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