Saturday, February 21, 2009

Writing Quirks #2 - A Parenthetical Universe

I'm a writer, I admit it. Word obsessed, check. Sentence junky, check. Grammar stickler, check. But do you have a secret? I do. I'm a rebel.

Yup, it's true. A rebel. Now, I'm not heading off to blow up the Deathstar. My rebellion is, uh, smaller in nature. And grammatical. I predict a massive following and world-wide revolution (note: "world" here actually denotes only the English-speaking components of said earthy world. Other languages can revolute on their own time). And my revolution is... just what I did in my last sentence. Did you see it? Groundbreaking! Earthshaking! Planetdestroying! Solarsystemtipping! Yes, I'm talking about parentheses. Or "brackets", if you prefer. Or should that be (brackets)?

Did it again!

Yes, I'm a rebel and I'm proud of it. I cast down my sticklerdom (for one instance only, I admit). I refuse to use the brackets properly. (As, you see, this is how you're supposed to do it) The traditional way just looks ugly and inelegant to me. So I won't do it. It defies logic. Doesn't it seem to attach the enclosed line to the second sentence rather than the first (when really it's commenting on the prior line)? That's why I totally disregard what's right and place my sentence ending punctuation after those brackets, so that everything's properly connected.

Yes, I'm a genius. You can stop applauding now, really, you're embarassing me. Really, please. I know, I know, you're enthusiastic, you want buttons and banners and slogans for the marches...

I know, I'm mad. What about you? Any conventions make you antsy? Got any stickler stories to share?

P.S. If you're a copyeditor, um, please don't letter bomb me. I have a wife and kids! They're much cuter than me! I forced them to wear the buttons, I swear!


Ms Kitty said...

Ink, you're a hoot. (Really!)

Ink said...

I'm a barn owl? Off to fly!

Ms Kitty said...

My fine feathered friend. (G) In the spirit of writing quirks I will give you an update from the wacky world of ABNA.

I've given and received a number of reviews on ABNA.

I've reviewed writers who have technical issues with PoV (like 1st person to Omni), use of present tense, shifting 1st person/3rd person POV, head hopping and ponderous pacing.

One contestant complained that the reviews they got were all 'critical and technical in nature' when 'I want to know how well I write.'

That kind of threw me for a loop. As if the technical aspect of writing was somehow unrelated to the prose on the page.

Obviously these folks don't have a crit group to set them straight. (G) I've urged them to join a writer's group, but never mentioned FM by name in a general review.

I was also aghast to see some one assure a contestant that 'you don't have to worry about spelling and grammar, your editor will take care of that for you."

No, a word processor will take care of that for you. Why on earth would anyone send a manuscript to an agent or an editor with red and green all over it expecting THEM to fix it?

It boggles the mind.

Bookworm1605 said...

Agggh! I'm back online! After nearly a week of vile suppression by the evil empire (Also known as AT&T internet service) I'm back!

And what a timely post. Yes, I'm with you! Except that I have no idea how or when to use parentheses (other than in blog posts) so I avoid them.

My personal rebellion involves the use of conjunctions to begin sentences. And also the liberal use of sentence fragments.

I read somewhere that despite the arrogant attempts of learned scholars to put down hard and fast rules to the written word, much of it is constantly in a state of change. Our speech patterns evolve (or devolve) and as a result everything else follows suit.

We as writers of fiction, more so than technical writers, pick up on these nuances and incorporate them into our work. Contractions, for example, were once frowned upon. (certain ones expecially but I ain't gonna name names) But now they are not only accepted but quite common. Again, in fiction more so than technical writing.

So keep up the good fight, Ink. You CAN make a difference!

Ink said...

"you don't have to worry about spelling and grammar, your editor will take care of that for you."

Think of all the editors that cringed when they read that! Poor blokes... though really it's the agents that are going to suffer first.

Are there some good bits of writing and critique too, or is it buried pretty deeply in the slush?


Welcome back to the land of the glowingly irradiated! Computer screens are like the sun... you need a bit of regular exposure or you start to go batty. It's true. I read it somewhere. On the internet. So we know it's good information.

I'll send you a button... wear it proudly!

Ms Kitty said...

Let's see if I can answer this without getting distracted.

Most of the excerpts I've read had serious technical issues with point of view and tense. I read a fantasy that was written in present tense. That was interesting.

I think I've reviewed 6 and read a dozen. Three were well written all the way through. Another - well it was a lovely story, (my favorite as far as plot went) but it was written with 2, 1st person POVs.

I suspect that the majority of the people who posted are looking for 'first-ever' feedback. The authors appear to be in their early 20's, the plots and voice very chick-lit. A lot of it reads like fan-fiction, complete with Mary Sue main characters.

The 'good stuff' has an older voice and a more 'classic' style to it.

My preview has 6 reviews and has been viewed 43 times. I'm at 4 stars. So far it's an interesting experiment.

I suspect that I was completely off base with my pitch. But we shall see.

Sarah Jensen said...

I love this blog!
I agree that punctuation looks better on the outside. And sometimes actually belongs there.
And I agree with Bookworm (welcome back) that sentence fragments are often necessary. Especially if you write fiction. I break the rules too.
Rebels rule!

QuiteLight said...

The abuse of parentheses is genetic, carried in the humour gene, often by the father. The condition is often aggravated by constant exposure to the works of Terry Pratchett (along with a fondness for footnote fetishes).

And if people can say "LOL!" out LOUD, I shall use parentheses however I wish!

Jane Smith said...

I always put brackets within the punctuation (like this). It looks far more elegant and is pretty standard here in the UK--and when I worked as an editor, on UK/USA coeditions, that's how my publishers wanted them done, too.

Ink, I am with you on the brackets front. You keep on doing them our way because it looks SO much better than the alternative.

Ink said...

Hey, Jane, thanks for chipping in! Nice to see the Revolution is growing. America, here we come...