Saturday, 12 November 2016

Peevish Rants and Ranting Peeves: All About Writing (Blog Hop Ed.)

I knew I had peeves about writing, but until I started this post, I'd never realised how many I had - and how very strongly I felt about them.

So many in fact, I had to stop myself degenerating from peevish to rantish. I may or may not have succeeded on this last point, so consider yourselves warned.

The inspiration for this post comes via the very-cool Larysia and the inimitably-joyous JD Estrada. They have each made excellent points about their particular writing peeves in their blogs - in admirably un-peevish ways - which are well worth reading. Check out Larysia's here and JD's here. In fact, while you're there, take the time and check out their blogs more generally.


Here are some of my pet peeves, dusted to remove excess rantishness/peevage.

The Peeve is in the Proofing
You're painting a picture with your words. Sentences, punctuation and paragraphs convey the essential details of your picture. Things like:
- typos of the "your"/"you're" and "there"/"their" variety
- apostrophes vs plurals
- hideous paragraphing (especially for dialogue)
- using commas where you should be using full stops, and
- jumping between tenses
are like horrible interruptions. These sorts of errors are utterly aargh-inducing to me, and should not be allowed to slip through to a final version of anything. Ever. Never underestimate how much these sorts of errors can jar the reader out of the flow of your story. They crack, disrupt and break that picture you're trying to paint. More than a couple of these, and you've lost me as a reader.

Create Consistency (aka "I will remember the baby")
This is a huge one for me. If I'm investing my time and energy in understanding your world, please, please, please make it consistent and convincing.

Loose Ends: if you're including little details in your story, I think you need to resolve them somehow. Don't have the protagonist fight to use rationed electricity to give the baby on life support its life-saving operation in one chapter, and then have an EMP pulse knock out all power two chapters later, but without mentioning the baby again. I will remember the baby. Even if no-one else does. The story might have moved on to another country, but I'll still be stewing about the baby.

Ringing True: Whatever type of world you're creating, decide on your logic for that world and stick to it. If it's a world with 3 suns, how does time get counted? If you've got an overtly-bullied-protagonist, how is the bullying allowed to happen? It can't happen in a vacuum: are the powers-that-be ignorant / complicit? Are people deliberately / uncomfortably turning a blind eye? If your protagonist and their love interest are having an argument, are their stances in line with their characters? If your protagonist has kids, let the kids make frequent appearances. Show me the baby; I need to believe and care.

Full-Circle: If the protagonist's early experiences are drawn out in excruciating detail before they get to their goal/reward/denouement,  I really like getting a taste of the post-journey dynamics too. So, if the protagonist has battled detailed complex political dynamics/ bullies/ tedium of indentured labour, and then their journey ends with them coming full circle back to the place they started from - but with them changed/ with the reward/ with the love interest/ full of agency... DON'T JUST FINISH THE STORY THERE. What happens to all the dynamics which drove the protagonist to start their journey?!! How do the dynamics get negotiated/resolved? What happened to the baby? Come on, I'm invested! I need to know!

In case you haven't worked it out by now, yes, the details matter to me. If I'm like this with books, you can bet I'm a nightmare to watch movies and TV series with. "But what about X?" "Hang on, what was the point of Y?" "Wait, are you seriously trying to make me believe they haven't yet realised that..." Oh yes. I'm a nightmare. If I'm invested, I care.

I'm lucky to have met some great writing folk on Twitter. I look forward to reading their tweets, their micro-fics, their short stories, their blogs and their books. But there are also some ... let's call them 'quirky' patterns of behaviour in Twitterland.

The Auto-DM
Both Larysia and JD mentioned this. I'm no exception. Sending your new followers an auto-direct-message (usually plugging your book or your facebook page) is an obnoxious, aggravating thing to do. I haven't yet immediately un-followed these folk, but I've been tempted. It's like meeting someone and shaking their right hand while they stick a spammy flyer under my nose with their left hand. All I want to do is shove the spammy flyer back in their face. With force.

Twitter by Numbers
I recently realised I'd ended up following a barrel-full of writer-type people on Twitter who had some stark similarities. They all had a book or two out. They had anywhere between 1K and 10K follower/followings. Their books featured in their pinned tweets, which included some graphic text announcing it as a "5* read", and a link to their website. Their timelines featured endless retweets (RTs) of other authors' book plugs and/or endless postings of online articles (sometimes related to writing).

There is nothing personal or engaging about these accounts. They just seem to be collecting followers while trying to look active. If this approach is helping any of these authors in any way, I'll be really surprised. I went through my timeline recently and if any of these accounts had no interaction / engagement / conversation with anyone in their 10 most recent tweets, I unfollowed. I ended up unfollowing en masse.

I see the author as the brand. You need to be there in your own words. Feel free to RT stuff that you find genuinely interesting, of course. But you need to have your own words and interactions on your timeline - at least sometimes. I'll be far more likely to clink on the links to your books after I become familiar with you as the person, and then as the author. Otherwise, I will not care about your pinned tweet from 2014 telling me you're a "Best-Selling Author".

Group Thank-Yous
Ok, this one I know I'm probably overreacting to. But I get peevish about it, so I'm including it.

Some hashtag writing games on Twitter (where you're invited to post lines from your novels/works-in-progress around broad themes) have a subculture of giving group thank-yous to those who have liked and/or RT-ed their words. It's a nice gesture, in theory. In practice, this means my notifications list gets clogged as those thanked are now obligated to politely like, comment or RT the 'thank you' in turn.

I don't want the thank-yous. You don't have to thank me for liking your words. For me, the thank-yous are always implied. If you want to thank people, check out their timeline, their writing, their micro-fics, and if you enjoy something, like it, RT it, or follow the person.

*Takes a deep breath*

I could keep going. But I will stop here before I go from peevish to rantish to obnoxious. Or maybe I already have. In which case, it also seems wise to stop.

And on a much nicer note, here are some of the lovely writery people I've met via Twitter. They are fantastic writers, generous with their words and their time, and your world will be all the better for knowing them. Have I mentioned they write too? It's truly worth checking out their Twitter timelines and/or their blogs and be inspired:

Maria Carvalho: An amazing writer, forensic proofreader, empress of puns, empathic human being, and the kind of all-round brilliant lighthearted spirit the world needs more of. Check out her Amazon page too.

Cedrix E. Clarke: A wonderful wordsmith, delightful pun-dit, disciplined and inspirational writer and a kind soul. Check out one of his stories here.

Jess West: A sassy, sarcky word-whipper. She has been ridiculously generous with her time and advice to me (Thank you, Jess!) She is an awesome editor, and will kick your writing's butt into shape. Check out her website here.

Nillu Nasser Stelter: A lovely writer and human spirit. If you want to see what beautiful writing looks like, you must visit Nillu's blog. The last line of her poem will stay with me forever.

I hope you're able to visit some of these amazing folks' work. I guarantee their words will make up for any of my excessive peevishness.

Happy writing (and don't forget the baby!)

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