Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A Pick Me Up

Tonight, I was feeling a bit glum about being stuck in my recliner.  Don't get me wrong I love my recliner, it is comfy and usually offers comfort when I'm in pain.  However, I have a lot going on but the doctor says - stay off your feet and rest - I pretty much have to.  Experience has taught me that resistance on this is never good.

Here I am feeling a bit down and out in my recliner.  I crocheted during the day creating a new pattern for a bag that I think I like a lot.  I finished off MI5 - damn them killing off my favorite character who had actually lasted ten seasons until the very last episode.  I was sitting in my recliner having answered emails and done a couple of other things feeling glum.

I look over and my Kindle Fire is sitting on the couch next to me.  I'm currently reading three books - Harry Potter 6 in my van as I drive; Lean In on my normal Kindle; and Wrede on Writing on my Kindle Fire.  I thought about playing backgammon on the Fire (another of my obsessions) but the book drew me in tonight.  I started reading and two hours later I'm feeling better about myself and about my writing.

Patricia Wrede is one of my favorite authors.  She writes fantasy and is fabulous.  I fall into her novels and don't want to come out even when she has finished them ever so wonderfully.  I almost always want more of her writing.  Last year she published a book on writing.

Writing books tend to be academic and well (apologies to all the teachers I know) boring.  I was going to give this book three chapters and move on to something else.  Well I can't stop turning pages.  I've read 15% of the book (it's an ebook so I don't know what page I'm on).  I LOVE her writing.  More than just her writing style though - she actually talks about writing in a way that isn't academic but is humorous and intelligent.

I said to one of my professors "You can't teach writing," to which I think she took a lot of offense.  You can teach parts of writing like grammar, syntax, sentence structure, and so on.  You can't teach where an idea comes from or how YOU as a writer will develop that.

Wrede talks about all of this.  She goes into the different possibilities and encourages the reader to find the way that works best for them.  I found myself in some of her descriptions which uplifted me because here was someone else who got what writing was for me.

Her humor and common sense shine through.  Her biggest piece of advice essentially is find what works for you and stick with it.  That isn't the only thing she talks about though.  She ranted (maybe a strong word but this could be because I rant about it when I read a book) about authors who need to improve their basic skills like grammar.  Here are two quotes from her discussion that I LOVE:

"A writer whose work is littered with sentence fragments and runons cannot make effective use of sentence fragments to increase tension, or pacing, or emphasis."

"If everything else is in standard English, dropping some unusual syntax, punctuation, or grammar into the text has an impact because of the change.  The less often the writer does it, the bigger the impact."

I'm a grammar nut.  I like to diagram sentences and I like to break the rules - all the time.  I know what proper grammar is - I just don't always like to use it.  I'd had this discussion with all of my professors with only one or two of them conceding that depending on the writing depended on the appropriateness of breaking the rules.

In academic and other professional writing, you absolutely must be grammatically correct.  However, when it comes to fiction, you don't have to be and when you aren't it can be a highly effective tool.

While I may be a grammar geek, I understand the effect ungrammatical work can have on the reader.  Oh and for those out there - if you find grammar (or other errors) in my writing - let me know.  I'll fix them.  I'm good but I'm nowhere near perfect.

If you're a writer and you want good advice, check out Wrede's book Wrede on Writing.  If you're not a writer, check it out anyways as it might give you some insight into your writing friends.  You could also check out her other books and stories.  She is an excellent writer.

Oh and no longer feeling glum.  She made me laugh, agree, and recognize myself in the way she talked about writers.  While I may be stuck in my recliner, I've still got things I can work on...

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