Recently, I have been struggling with the balance between grammar and flow. I want both, but I’m never going to get it. Never mind that when writing novels, there’s a level of leniency that is expected. A lot.
(See what I did there?)
I would love to be one of those rare individuals who can write a nearly perfect manuscript. I’m not. Commas pepper my work like germs in a hospital. I constantly fight to keep them at bay, use the good ones when I can, and purge the rest with the strongest cleanser I can find – the delete key! With every book I write, I get a bit better. I’m still not great about avoiding the automated pinky swipe that plops another little mark on the page.
Then there’s the habit typing. Chance/change. Now/not. Thing/thong (which can get very awkward in some books). My fingers just do their thing, and I trust that pretty little red line to let me know when I’ve made a horrible mistake. It doesn’t always happen. Not even my litany of proofing software can beat all the human errors I slide into my work.
That’s why I have an editor. And yet, while she does a great job, there comes a balance. There are times when I have to say, “Nope, not changing that,” because it is too vital to the story. Sometimes it’s verbal ticks of a character. Others, it’s the harsh sentence fragment used for effect (see “A lot” above).
The point of a book isn’t to be grammatically correct. I mean, let’s be honest – how many readers will see half the flaws that make my skin crawl? Readers aren’t writers (usually). They are investing their time and money into the story, not the nuances between a semicolon and a period. They could care less if I use an en dash or an em dash. What they want is to experience the journey, complete with the emotional rollercoaster of a damned good book. I want to give it to them.
And so, I continue to learn. I struggle with every note my editor sends back. Now that I’m discarding as many grammar changes as I’m keeping, I feel nervous. Part of me knows it’s due to growing up as a writer, but part still has an insatiable urge to “make it perfect”. Sadly, such a thing will never exist. Someone will always miss the point I try to make. Someone will always think that a different way of doing it will be better. It’s my job to make the decision about what my book needs.
It makes me nervous and insecure. I’m not yet good enough to ignore the opinions of others. I probably never will be. I’m blind to the flaws in my own work, as every artist is. But I’ve grown just enough that I am wondering if sometimes I’m more right than wrong. It’s a balancing act, but right now, I’m not worried about falling.
Ask me again tomorrow.