“Courtesy” or “Can You Write with All the Colors of the Wind?”

I took a break from the joys of book formatting* to maximize on the inspiration that smacked me in the face in the middle of that chore.

(* Not being fully sarcastic, here. I do rather enjoy arranging my words so they look as pretty as I can make ‘em. …Though I admit it’s a bit tiresome having to go through the same novella a dozen times in a week…)

There’s no shortage of opinions among writers, readers, and other pertinent people in the biz about what professional writing ought to look like. You’ll hear a lot of rules, regulations, and guidelines about stuff like italics, bold print, underlines, ALL CAPS, exclamation points!!!… the list goes on.

In my personal opinion, I think a writer ought to be able to use whatever typographic tools they wish to get their story across – and that goes for poor, maligned adverbs, too. An over-reliance on any of the features mentioned above can grow wearying on the eye and serve as a crutch for a feeble narrative, but used with thoughtfulness and intent, I call them all valid. To say you’re not allowed to ever use them is like telling a painter she can’t ever use a certain shade of yellow. And I’m not even particularly fond of yellow, but I believe it has its place.

Like I said, that’s my opinion. But I am well aware that others will feel differently. A page swimming in exclamation points may be as much of a turnoff for Reader X as conspicuously overused words or a lack of half-decent punctuation are to me.

(While we’re on the subject, it’s: “Whatever he said,” he said.

Not: “Whatever he said.” He said.

If you’ve made a habit of the latter, break it. Please. I can’t stand it.)

In the process of line-editing, I may come across a phrase that I’m perfectly okay with, but which I think might be likely to offend a reader’s sensibilities. In such cases, I’ll try to think of ways that I can modify it to be more widely acceptable.

Yeah, I know my rights. “The Swan Prince” is my book, to be self-published my way, and the number-one person I want to please with it is me.

That said, publishing a book isn’t just about throwing my authorial weight around with an “It’s my art! Take it or leave it!” attitude. It’s for the readers, too.

The School House Rock song never mentioned such rampant hate in the writer community.

The School House Rock song never mentioned such rampant hate in the writer community.

And in order to increase the chances that readers will like my story, I choose to extend them the “polite gesture or remark” of making the book as non-annoying for them as I feel I can. And if that means toning down the italics, all caps, and exclamations points a bit, I can live with that. Yes, that goes for adverbs, too.

(Don’t be sad, adverbs. I like you more than yellow.)

So yeah, those were the thoughts that hit me in the midst of proofreading. Feel free to share yours in the comments.

Also, if you’d like to get the jump on reviewing “The Swan Prince” before its May 31st release and/or post an author interview with me on your blog, mention that in the comments, too – or message me via my new website contact page. (:

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3 thoughts on ““Courtesy” or “Can You Write with All the Colors of the Wind?”

  1. “making the book as non-annoying for them as I feel I can.” <— Haha! How considerate of you 😉

    You make a good point about using whatever typographic tools we need to get our stories across. I've been told, for example, that I shouldn't use more than one exclamation mark per manuscript. ONE! Seriously? Not happening. My paintbox has more than one exclamation mark in it. At the same time, though, I'm not going to paint my whole manuscript with them because that would certainly annoy a lot of readers.
    Follow the "rules" up to a point (like the punctuation ones!). The rest, I think, are stylistic choices.

    • One exclamation mark per manuscript?? I’m not likely to get through a blog comment without two! By all means, Rachel, paint more freely than that! (:

  2. Pingback: Rule #3 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever | Jennifer M Eaton

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