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I finally figured out why I always often get into mega fights disagreements with my copyeditors.
Thus far all my novels have been in first person or limited third. I view these as the colloquial points of view and write them to mimic the character’s speaking voice as much as possible. That way, if I do it right, the reader will feel like the protag is talking to them because the language I use is conversational.
And there I fall into arguments with many copyeditors (not all of them—certainly not YOU). They wants everything to be gramatically correct and conform to house style. I wants for it to be colloquial, flowing, rhythmic language. Sometimes that means flouting conventional grammar rules and house style.
And leads to stet wars.
I also don’t believe that any one word is inherently “weak”. I do not believe there are “weak” adjectives or verbs or nouns. Or anything. Even words like “good” or “nice” have their place. Their use reveals a tonne about the character saying them.
There are very few grammar rules or commandments that I think are always and for all time. I is all about context. One of the reasons I love the English language so much is on account of how crazy flexible it is. I can bend and twist it. Sometimes make it go SNAP and BANG and BROKEN. But it always bounces back good and nice.
It’s the job of copyeditors to disagree with me. Which is for the best. Having them query my language messing, forces me to check that I’m doing what I think I’m doing, and that it actually works.
I can’t believe it took me so long to figure out why me and they is so often at loggerheads. It’s because our jobs be quite different.
Which is a good thing. Excellent even.
Posted by Justine at 0:00, 14 October 2008 under Words & Language, Writing life, Writing process | 8 Comments »
As a reader and almost never someone who Writes, this is my preferred reading style. I’m never going to be someone who appreciates perfectly grammatical text – I want to be immersed and drawn in and I want to leave the real world behind. Bring it on and then some baby.
October 14th, 2008 at 12:41 AM
Boy howdy did you have fun writing that!
As a copyeditor (no, not one of yours) I got dizzy. But I’m actually totally with you on this–I’m a firm believer that you write first to an *audience*. (Of course, who exactly the audience is can get confusing….)
October 14th, 2008 at 2:00 AM
Here’s the word/ pic that makes me laugh on stet:
I am a fan of the ‘stet _please_’ here. Because I am both nice and good. And I never start a sentence with a subordinating conjunction.
October 14th, 2008 at 8:13 AM
4. Justine Says:
Amber: But that photo proves that all writers are insane! (And also I am with you on never doing that conjunction thing.)
October 14th, 2008 at 8:25 AM
:One of the reasons I love the English language so much is on account of how crazy flexible it is. I can bend and twist it. Sometimes make it go SNAP and BANG and BROKEN. But it always bounces back good and nice.:
This bit is so great.
October 14th, 2008 at 8:34 PM
I suppose it’s a good thing we can stet the manuscripts while not actually in front of the copy editor. I’m sure my spine would give way under their stern gaze and I’d be left wibbling and going, “Oh, I’m sorry, I’ll never do it again.”
October 15th, 2008 at 3:21 PM
Well, that’s interesting. Sloppy grammar and bad sentence structure in books is a pet peeve of mine, but I do make a distinction between character voice and omniscient narrator. I only recently discovered your books, Justine, but I have been impressed with your sentence structure and easy flow. I find the grammar glitches minimal and appropriate to the character voices. Which maybe means you and your copy editor end up being a great team?
October 16th, 2008 at 8:58 AM
And this is exactly why I do not, and do not aspire to, copy-edit fiction. It’s hard.
By comparison, scholarly journals are easy: you get a style sheet, and you follow it. The text has to be correct and clear. There are rules. By and large, if authors hate you, it’s because they were sloppy and you called them on it, not because you played havoc with their narrative voice.
As a writer, much as I look forward to someday selling my work and seeing it with covers on, I rather dread the copy-editing encounter, because I can imagine the kinds of pointed questions I’ll have to answer .
October 24th, 2008 at 10:50 AM
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