I have finally, after four rewrites and several beta-readers, sent the manuscript of Sowing Promises to my editor. The book will be a sequel to Ploughing Through Rainbows, and the first draft of Promises (which at the time felt ‘finished’) was completed many months ago, before I even published Rainbows. My point is this, being an author, and creating wonderful stories is great fun however, before we sell those stories to the public, we need to do a lot of work—work which is mostly boring and frustrating, and in some cases, when an editor tells us that something which we love really doesn’t work, we need to take a big breath and accept the criticism, change the manuscript and move on.
Now, I read a lot of books, of many different genres by both famous and unheard-off authors, and just about the only thing which makes me stop reading a book before the end, is bad grammar. I was not particularly well educated as a child; my English lessons consisted of telling us to ‘be creative’ and very little teaching of formal English grammar. But it matters. It matters a lot. Anyone who plans to publish their work, really needs to invest in an editor who has better knowledge of formal English than they do, and they also need to work hard to improve their own understanding of some of the ‘rules’ (even though, when writing a novel, many of the ‘rules’ can be broken in the name of building tension and creating an atmosphere). I will tell you a few of my pet hates, which is very brave of me because when writing, even when you know the rules, it is so very easy to make an error, and when writing about grammar, someone else is sure to spot them!
One common error is apostrophe s. This one is easy. If something belongs to someone, the someone has apostrophe s. So ask yourself, ‘who does it belong to?’ and add apostrophe s. “The boys shoes”—who do the shoes belong to? The boy? Then write “The boy’s shoes.” More than one boy? So the shoes belong to the boys? Then write “The boys’s shoes”. In English, we don’t like s’s because it looks ugly, so take away the second s but leave the apostrophe: “The boys’ shoes.”
One thing I learnt very recently was the use of superlatives. This is the fancy name for when you have the most of something, and the rule is, you cannot use a superlative unless there are more than two. So, two brothers playing croquet? Neither can be ‘the best’ one can be ‘better than’ the other, or the ‘better player’ –but not ‘the best’. If however, their father plays too, then he can be ‘the best’ because there are now more than two players. If you have two children, one can be the older child, but he cannot be ‘the oldest’ nor ‘the eldest’ because there are only two.
There is another rule about the use of ‘less’ and fewer’. If you can easily count the items, use fewer. If there are too many to count, use less. You will now be irritated every time you visit the supermarket, and see the Express Checkout till, which is sure to be (wrongly) labelled “Five Items or less” (however, we have seen it so many times, that ‘Five items or fewer’ simply seems wrong!)
I hope you write well this week.
Love, Anne x