aliensoul77's picture
aliensoul77 from a cold distant star is reading the writing on the wall. November 17, 2011 - 11:46pm

At first I didn't want to join a writer's community because I honestly felt like writing was something deeply personal and meant to be done alone in a dark room or something.  Then I realized that by sharing with others you can grow and improve but sometimes it's also very humbling and when you have so many different opinions like one person says they like this element of a story and another person says they don't, it can get confusing.  At what point should you remain true to yourself and your tone of writing before you become a collosal douche and refuse to change.  I want to become a better writer but sometimes I admit my ego gets in the way and part of me wants to ignore the criticisms but I'm trying to be better about it because I really don't want to be one of those guys who can't hear anything bad about their work or they freak out.  I would like to believe everyone in this writing community feels we are on equal ground as writers and all have potential or do you think some people should be told to give up on writing if they really aren't that good at it?  I know my major flaws as a writer which prevent me from writing a full length novel, it's not that I have ADD or I can't focus but it's hard for me to maintain a tone in my writing where it all flows consistently for hundreds of pages.  So before this sounds like endless rambling, I guess the question I want to pose to everyone to make me feel a little bit better about myself since I admitted my flaws.  What do you see as your greatest flaws as a writer and what are your strengths in your opinion?  Is grammar really important or is the core of the subject matter?


ps.  if you are able to analyze yourself honestly, you get an invisible litreactor toolkit full of magic pencils that only write perfect sentences.   It will be mailed to you in two to five years.

Limbless K9's picture
Limbless K9 from Oregon is reading Wraeththu November 18, 2011 - 2:02am

My biggest flaw is I procrasitnate. I wait forever to start projects. I also freeze up when I'm staring at a blank page. I start to over analyze things and end up not writing because of it. Those are my two biggest writing flaws. There's plenty of little ones I have and haven't discovered yet. 

aliensoul77's picture
aliensoul77 from a cold distant star is reading the writing on the wall. November 18, 2011 - 2:50am

Well if you need help getting motivated writing the story for the anthology let me know.

Fylh's picture
Fylh from from from is reading is from is reading is reading is reading reading is reading November 18, 2011 - 3:24am

I'll answer in more depth when I get home, but, perhaps unsurprisingly, I'm going to go with: If you can't master the grammatical aspects of your writing, you're already hurting yourself.

Definitions of pretentiousness vary. I call a writer pretentious when he's clearly putting on airs and fails to convince me. Calling a writer who takes grammar seriously "pretentious" is like saying a musician who knows his scales is pretentious.

Flaminia Ferina's picture
Flaminia Ferina from Umbria is reading stuff November 18, 2011 - 4:29am

Hi everybody, I'm Flaminia and my biggest flaw as a writer is that I don't know which my flaws as a writer are. I'm stuck at Step 3 and turned my life and will to Frankie (that's how I call and understand God), trying to make an inventory of myself. But I fear.

No, actually not.

Well, I know that English grammar is an issue, but I'm also trying to create a new language - this makes me pretentious. A lot. But there's this language that is only mine and I'm sorry, readers will have to learn it if they want to know something from me and this brings us to the following point: will people care learning something from THIS writer? My hope is that I can give more than I take.

After all, what's a writer without pretentiousness? I mean, writing fiction is like going to war: you must be crazy to even think you'll really do it.

That said, I'm learning grammar like it has to be, so that I can forget it in the future and make my own; because I'll know the rules. If somebody wants to read me before I learn, then the better.

Ok, so I know one of my flaws. For the ones I don't know yet I'm here, submitting and reviewing. And posting.

But humble? I don't want to be humble. Humble people find anwers in a church. I want to be generous - it's different. I like to find answers in other people's happiness.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. AND grammar books.

JonnyGibbings's picture
JonnyGibbings November 18, 2011 - 5:49am

I think far too many critics and writers care too much about spelling and grammar. My book has poor grammar and spelling. This is deliberate, as it adds character to the, err, character. One critic went off about it, but he didn't see the warning in the front. Language should be liquid, it changes. We all change how we speak. If to a boss or interview, we talk more posh, don't round off our vowels. But in a taxi, you might speak a little less highbrow, sounding local to not get ripped off. How I talk to my mates and press is different. I think it can ad texture and depth to your work.

My character is a fuck up, an epic fuck up. I wanted some of that to seep through to the pages (See my blog But, I couldn't read or write till my late teens. It still amazes me "Fish" can be singular, plural or an adjective. I love Trainspotting and Clockwork Orange - both brave with their use of language. Travolta says he can't get a character till he gets the walk right (Was talking about pulp fiction), how the writing is presented, to me is the same.
So far I have met far too many pretentious twats, in the author things I've been sent too (again, peek at my blog). I've met superstar's like Lee Child (sold millions) who is spot on, down to earth. And the dick-neck, new, I-wanna-be-taken-seriously authors who are utter dog cocks, who think they are the shit. Do your own thing I say. Work with your audience, I know academics will hate my book.

As for flaws… where do I start!! Self doubt, lazy, work shy, couldn't give a fuck what people think (and you should, there is a team of folk at my publishers that have to deal with a lot). Can't do a synopsis. Won't do a synopsis, sounds to much like a cervical tumour. Can't do structure. Asked for an outline of my follow up book, I replied "It's about fucking"

Too many I have met at these things want to me celebrated, not their work. Want a Costa Award, or a Booker or any other, want to be a great. Who cares. Write your shit how you like it. It will be like the shit you read. The people who like the shit you liked, will hopefully like the shit you've written and buy your shit. Places like this are fantastic, cos you can develop along with your audience, so when you pitch to an agent, who lets face it, is looking for safe, cookery, fuzzy-family shit like one day. Because you can hit them with a manuscript AND a list of reviews and a mass of readers. It's all about shit.

Sorry for shitting on, I'm a bit pissed! If you want to have a peek - yer:

postpomo's picture
postpomo from Canada is reading words words words November 18, 2011 - 6:11am

@aliensoul777 - I've got the same inconsistency of tone thing going on with longer pieces, and I'm not nearly eloquent enough to write short pieces. And I binge write. I'll write fifty pages in two days and then nothing for weeks. If I find the discipline to sit down and write for one hour, or churn out five pages a day (or something), then it might help... we'll have to see. keywords: inconsistent, ineloquent, binger, undisciplined.

as far as taking or leaving criticism - definitely pay attention if different reviewers all flag the same thing. If you feel the thing is necessary and don't want to change it, then maybe you can find some means of supporting it elsewhere in your story. A little acknowledgement goes a long way.

If you think that writing means puts you on a special pedestal above the everyday schlubbs who don't think about the world as deeply, don't reflect introspectively and can't spell worth a damn, then the road to pretention is paved with your pages.

as for grammar - if poor grammar takes the reader out of the story, then it's a problem. If it doesn't then who cares? English is flexible enough that we can get our point across while abusing the rules of grammar, but no one wants to suffer through sloppy writing (at least, I don't).


mutterhals's picture
mutterhals from Pittsburgh November 18, 2011 - 6:50am

I've been drawing since I was a little kid and it's completely free of ego, I just do it to please myself. I'd like to be able to write that way but can't. I can't take myself out of the equation. Every criticism feels like a direct assault on me. That's one thing I have to get over, another is description, I'm pretty weak on that, though I can write the shit out of some dialogue. I just look at it as a learning process, as long as I keep getting better I'll keep doing it.

Brandon's picture
Brandon from KCMO is reading Made to Break November 18, 2011 - 7:01am

See, I'm the inverse of Jonny.  I think the idea of writing with poor grammar and punctuation and saying that this is actually a character-builder is pretentious, and this is the second time I've come across it on here.

I'm not going to get into a big debate about whether it's right or wrong, because that's just going to be a waste of my time.  Clearly, you've made your decision, and I gain nothing by trying to change it.  I'll just say what I told the other kid in workshop: prepare to hear about it in your reviews for the rest of the book's life, and good luck trying to sell it.  Even though you may not care, the reader/the agent/the critic/the publisher will.

aliensoul77's picture
aliensoul77 from a cold distant star is reading the writing on the wall. November 18, 2011 - 7:02am

I will admit in my early 20's I was a pretentious cunt. I thought my ability to write elevated me above others and I got published and became more insufferable. Now I realize that writing is about small personal victories. I know my work won't appeal to everyone and I'm ok with that. I guess I just feel bad because as of late I've been told I write women badly. They are either nymphos or sociopaths so I guess I need to change my ideas about the female psyche. I always believed I had a lot of respect for women but now I realize I am writing my female characters the way guys think women are and not true reality. Plus my straight male characters are too damn cocky. Maybe I'm out of touch with the dating scene. This may be off topic but ladies, how do you show a guy you are interested without "showing" him? And guys, how do you really talk about women when you are alone with your buddies cause I was told I was unfair to men by painting all straight dudes as secret sounds like I am literally an alien, I should know this stuff but I really don't. I've never had normal friends.

JonnyGibbings's picture
JonnyGibbings November 18, 2011 - 7:56am

Well, we'll see if your right about the critics n shit Brandon. As for the publisher, the book is prepping for the digital version now, it's been though the long editorial process, and they are aware of the concept and behind it. So far though, the Hard/paper version is due out in March, but have had to double the initial print run due to the pre-oder amount. So far, the reviews have been fookin great!

postpomo's picture
postpomo from Canada is reading words words words November 18, 2011 - 8:09am

@aliensoul - writing characters of the opposite sex is a challenge - and very few pull it off - I'd say check out the Book of Negroes or anything by Rohinton Mistry - I don't know how they do it, but those bastards write women characters particularly well. Mistry's characters are like people.


Fylh's picture
Fylh from from from is reading is from is reading is reading is reading reading is reading November 18, 2011 - 8:12am

The thing about spelling and grammar and syntax is that if you don't know any of that, then you're probably not going to be a very interesting writer. Sure, there will be exceptions. So what? Why not just sit down for a few weeks and learn the art of rhetoric, learn how to spell, how to construct a sentence — you know, all that stuff that serious writers end up having to learn before they're any good?

How are you going to write a proposal to an editor if you can't even spell? You think it's quirky? It isn't, it's annoying and boring.

If you can't get "there", "they're" and "their" right without thinking about it, learn it or stop writing. Sounds harsh, sure, but there's a good deal of writers out there already and we may as well start culling those who don't take writing as seriously as they think they do.

It doesn't mean you're a terrible human being if you can't spell properly. It means you should learn to spell properly and help fight the surge of stupidity that the internet has allowed into public discourse.

Now, what do I sound like to you? Pretentious? Maybe. This does not upset me. Point final.

I just sold a book with a lot of weird things in it. One of them is that I don't capitalize the first word of any sentence of dialogue, and there is not a single full stop in the dialogue, either. The rest of the writing is perfectly normal. Was there a need to do things this way? Some people will say no. I think there was a need. I could explain it but it's not very interesting outside my head. The point is: Sure, you can break conventions. You can spell things phunney! But if someone points out that you mispelled "funny" — you'd better not look surprised about it.

MattF's picture
MattF from Tokyo is reading Borges' Collected Fictions November 18, 2011 - 9:38am

It's much easier to do something poorly and explain why you did it poorly, than to do something well and explain how you did it well.  Unfortunately, this is the age of ease and grammar be damned...

Bekanator's picture
Bekanator from Kamloops, British Columbia is reading Ugly Girls by Lindsay Hunter November 18, 2011 - 9:57am

@aliensoul77 - Psychology, psychology, psychology!  Read into it, do a bit of research.  I think a lot of sexual tension is about how the individual feels and how they act as a result of that feeling based on their background and upbriging, as opposed to the message they're trying to portray to the person he or she is interested in.  We're all human, and I think males and females both act the same for the most part.  Factor in a few sociological influences and then you get the sterotypes between the two genders.  But it all starts with the psyche (ex. this guy grew up with divorced parents and his father was always talking shit about how his mother "always gets what she wants" and that's why he has this sort of hostility towards women) as opposed to the stereotype (ex. all guys are douchebags).

That said, I believe that's where my writing pretentiousness lies, is in character.  I believe it's my strong point, is drawing realistic characters, so my main probelem is that I judge work that doesn't seem quite realistic.  I think work is terrible when characters aren't portrayed in a strong way (both in literature and in film/television), although I have been broadening my horizons a bit since I started at The Cult.  I tend to fall into a certain niche and never much venture out of it.  Most of the stories I read are very human, very realistic, and even when I'm writing and the story that comes out seems sterotypical, I beat myself to death over it, trying to dig deeper into a story. 

It wasn't until I started getting criticism on my work that I started to become a little less jaded.  No, I don't know everything about character, and some people know more than I do.  Really, writing is more about sharing and contribution than it is about creating something brilliant and feeling great about "sending a message through a story".  That was why I found Chuck so inspirsing, is because he constantly talks about writing as a community endeavor, and not one where you spend all your time segregated and alone, believing you're the greatest fucking writer of all damn time.

Nick Wilczynski's picture
Nick Wilczynski from Greensboro, NC is reading A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin November 18, 2011 - 11:04am

I think you have a tendency to see things in terms of 2 competing and irreconcilable absolutes, and I think that sometimes it holds you back bro. Do not forget that a dialectic exists in order to resolve the thesis and antithesis into a synthesis, not to permit them to battle back and forth for all of eternity.

Take the success thread, for instance, and this one.

Humility and Pretension can co-exist in the same person at the same time, there is nothing wrong with either self-confidence or in knowing one's limitations.

I remember feeling real humbled after I first started doing workshopping here, but you need stuff like that to motivate you to buckle down.

Knowing what to take from the workshop is an important skill of taste, and of knowing your core audience (the people you will try to sell this story to), it's as crucial as knowing what to put in the first draft. Just break down the advice that constitutes the total post/review into its component parts, divide those parts up categorically (grammar, structure, plot mechanics, tone, character, etc.) and then decide whether or not to and how best to apply each individual component in an organized way.

Grammar is important. Very important. Jesus Christ, I love punk rock too guys, but the time has passed for that sort of silliness and we should all learn to play our fucking instruments. Again, this is not an absolute choice. These structures change over time, different minds approach things differently, and you have to understand where exactly you want to be within that vast and ever shifting sea of compromises. But I strongly reccomend that you position yourself firmly within legible territory, just for the sake of your reader. Legible territory is charted out in manuals of style and grammar, so even if you want to defy those conventions you had better get real familiar with them. The subjectivity of Art is no justification for laziness.

Liana's picture
Liana from Romania and Texas is reading Naked Lunch November 18, 2011 - 11:10am

@ aliensoul

I think you have to have a big ego and believe in yourself before anyone else starts believing in you. Develop a THICK skin, but like armor-thick, and don't be too influenced by all the criticism. This is the point of a workshop, trying to get as much feedback as possible, then sitting down and thinking to yourself, which of this feedback makes sense to me? I've had really bad feedback sometimes and all I could think was "my story is better than this feedback." Sadly, some of that negative feedback came from family members or friends who wanted to be "honest" but weren't very tactful so for a day I'd feel really bad, think I'd throw the story away, then after I calmed down I started to ask myself what may be true of what they told me and how can I redeem the story and make it better.

The story that you thought got too much criticism may need a few things to be made more subtle, more complex. You wrote it quickly, now you have a chance to let time work in your favor. I'd say let it sit for a couple of weeks, then go back to it. Revision may be even more important than the writing itself.

As for ego, as I said you should have a huge ego, otherwise you won't motivate yourself to write. Challenge yourself and say "they think I don't know female psychology? I'll make a point of writing something that figures that out." Write outside of your comfort zone - that's one thing I learned in the Zen workshop.

The trick is, don't SHOW a big ego. If you do, you'll start getting on people's nerves. Not "you" personally but generally speaking big egos are not dearly beloved to others. Too little ego may also come across in a negative way to others.

Question is, who am I to pretend to know these things? It's just an opinion, in the end, just like everything else we say in these posts.


.'s picture
. November 18, 2011 - 11:11am

I've considered majoring in English just to improve my grammar. I have a basic understanding of grammar and my Elements Of Style book but I'm no editor. I probably would be pretentious but I'm constantly messing up grammar in my rushed frenzy of writing the first draft. Maybe I can be pretentious when I get a MFA.

Actually I sound pretentious now. Damn. Is it even possible to be pretentious in writing without being pretentious in life? I don't think so.

postpomo's picture
postpomo from Canada is reading words words words November 18, 2011 - 12:33pm

@jack's username - the only grammar we covered in university was a sheet of common mistakes that one prof handed out. it's its, they're their there, affect effect type of stuff. that was all. I don't think a university English program is the place to learn grammar (although it all depends on the university and the program).

Michael Swan's Practical English Usage is my grammar bible. Anytime I forget how to use a hyphen, or what takes a capital and what doesn't he's my go-to guy.

aliensoul77's picture
aliensoul77 from a cold distant star is reading the writing on the wall. November 18, 2011 - 1:37pm

Thanks everyone for the great feedback. I think its okay to use bad grammer if it fits the story. I mean if its first person and a dialect issue. It may not always be fun to read though but books like The Color Purple and others use dialect to illustrate the character's uneducated state.

Renfield's picture
Renfield from Hell is reading 20th Century Ghosts November 18, 2011 - 3:51pm

You need to know the rules first to break them. That's all I can really say regarding grammar. If spelling is a serious problem for you and you do not have some disability to explain it, you probably don't read enough and should just leave. (Though don't ask me to spell unnecessary, that word was my bane for years.)

I'm fairly sure I have a pretty decent grasp on grammar, I don't have the shits hardwired in my brain or anything, but enough to get by without being totally embarrassing. I will give myself a lot of leeway on the syntax on first drafts, but I try to do it aware of what I'm experimenting with. As long as it sounds really good and has clarity, that's step one.

You probably have to be a little pretentious to want to write in the first place. Thinking that anyone gives a single shit about a word you say, there's got to be a little pretension/delusion behind that. Or just simple ignorance. The difference between a humble writer and a pretentious writer is that when you praise someone's story, the humble writer will reply with Thank you kindly, I appreciate that, whereas if you praise my story I would tell you Yeah, I know.

Chester Pane's picture
Chester Pane from Portland, Oregon is reading The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz November 18, 2011 - 4:27pm

@Phil: What if someone misspells misspell? Now that would be punny.

Renfield's picture
Renfield from Hell is reading 20th Century Ghosts November 18, 2011 - 4:32pm


Chester Pane's picture
Chester Pane from Portland, Oregon is reading The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz November 18, 2011 - 4:38pm



CJ Roberts's picture
CJ Roberts from Salem, MA is reading November 18, 2011 - 4:50pm

Humble or pretentious. The work has its own life. You write a thing that everyone praises while you scratch your head and wonder if they're idiots because you know it sucks. Then a masterful opus bellows from you like a symphony on MDT and the world shrugs and moves on. Is that pretension, to think that something you create will elicit a certain reaction? I don't want to shock you or inspire you or waylay you with my presence as a being of ink and despair. I just want my life to mean I finished something at the end and it was half a creamer better than mediocre because brilliant has always been a post humous engagement strategy.

Renfield's picture
Renfield from Hell is reading 20th Century Ghosts November 18, 2011 - 5:28pm

a being of ink and despair




Fylh's picture
Fylh from from from is reading is from is reading is reading is reading reading is reading November 18, 2011 - 6:01pm

@ Chester


Fylh's picture
Fylh from from from is reading is from is reading is reading is reading reading is reading November 18, 2011 - 6:05pm

This brings me to something I'm curious about — when you (any of you) post on LR, does your browser stop correcting what you type? My autocorrect function works fine everywhere else, but not on LR. It's a bit strange.

Chester Pane's picture
Chester Pane from Portland, Oregon is reading The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz November 18, 2011 - 6:13pm


First off Danny boy I can't help but feel that my review of your most recent workshop submission is partly to blame for giving birth to this bloody thread. But perhaps that's just my narcissism creeping into the throbbing erection of my vainglorious ego.

I admit that I didn't pull any punches on your work during the course of my review. Fact is I try to be as honest as possible with everything I read or review approaching it as objectively as possible. I'm not sorry for my voracity nor do I apologize. I do it because I hope that you'd do the same for me. And because more than anything I want to help. Someone who writes as well as you do deserves no less.

The fact is I scrutinize everything I read to the best of my ability (irregardless of my inherent lack of erudition) and can only use that as a basis to assist you and other fellow writers who seek to improve their craft. Of course I don't proclaim to have all of the answers, if any of them. I can only hope that one thing I suggest might contribute to helping you become the writer you aspire to be and the person your cat thinks you are.

Personally I think you write very well and should continue to beat yourself up just like the rest of us. No pain no gain. So keep up the good work in that department.


On this topic of grammar and so-called 'proper' writing I would tend to agree with Rennie and Tietz (sounds like a good column if you ask me). Recently I attended a discussion called Pushing the Limits of Form in Fiction panelled by Jennifer Egan ( Pulitzer prize-winning author of a visit from the goon squad), Elissa Schappell (author and co-founder of Tin House) and John Freeman (author, editor of Granta and former president of National Book Critics Circle). 

All of these writers have on occasion expanded the borders of what is considered proper form. Egan's powerpoint presentation in her Pulitzer Prize winning novel is just one example of how these writers are successfully experimenting with traditional literary paradigms. 

Egan made this analogous point to which all agreed: Picasso, considered a father of cubism (and thereby modernism and deconstructivism) first mastered all of the technical skills required to compose shape, line, color and composition before dismantling and reconfiguring them all. 

In other words, strive to learn grammar, composition and spelling (with the internet there really is no excuse for misspelling) to the best of your ability first, then experiment with it. That way you will be acutely aware (as Phil suggests above) of the mods you're creating. Anything else is just naïve. Which is fine if that's what you want your writing to be. But, like with anything else, doesn't it make more sense to be aware?

As a writer you will have to face the question of what you want forever, or at least until you stop writing or die. In the end it is what you want that matters. But more frequently than not you will need the help of others in order to find out the answers for yourself.

When you find them out let me know because I wish to know them too.


Pretentious: Attempting to impress by affecting greater importance, talent, culture, etc., than is actually possessed

synonyms: affected, arty, assuming, aureate, big*, bombastic, chester pane, chichi*, conspicuous, euphuistic, exaggerated, extravagant, feigned, flamboyant, flashy, flaunting, flowery, gaudy, grandiloquent, grandiose, high-flown, high-sounding, highfaluting, hollow, imposing, inflated, jazzy, la-di-da, lofty, magniloquent, mincing, ornate, ostentatious, overambitious, overblown, pompous, puffed up, put-on, rhetorical, showy, specious, splashy, stilted, swank, too-too, tumid, turgid, utopian, vainglorious



Chester Pane's picture
Chester Pane from Portland, Oregon is reading The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz November 18, 2011 - 6:28pm


I know your an artist but what am I?

Yeah, no auto correct as evidenced by 'your' above. I fiddled around with the LR spell check too. It works. So does the make my posts read enchanting, witty and brilliant button. Now there's really no reason why all of us won't be famous by tomorrow.

By the way it sounds like you accepted that book contract eh? GJ.

Fylh's picture
Fylh from from from is reading is from is reading is reading is reading reading is reading November 18, 2011 - 6:36pm

I did indeed. :)

Liana's picture
Liana from Romania and Texas is reading Naked Lunch November 18, 2011 - 6:38pm

Chester I'd be embarrassed with your lack of erudition if I was you. Really.

I second @Chester comments on grammar and I'll make another analogy: Derrida is the big guy of deconstruction, but his students thought he was very boring because he insisted they read all the classic stuff, starting with Plato. They kept asking him to get to the juicy stuff, the deconstructive stuff where he takes apart all of that tradition and centered thought and all that. Derrida told them: you can't deconstruct something you don't have thorough knowledge of. I think it's the same with grammar - and I don't think saying that makes anyone pretentious.

PS welcome back to the snake, Chestre! 

Chester Pane's picture
Chester Pane from Portland, Oregon is reading The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz November 18, 2011 - 7:36pm


That's actually an even better analogy, especially considering were discussing writing here. So true.

I'm waiting for the day when The estate of Francis Bacon slaps a cease and desist order on me for using it. It has started to show up in images attributed to me, which I am not so sure is a good thing.


aliensoul77's picture
aliensoul77 from a cold distant star is reading the writing on the wall. November 18, 2011 - 8:10pm

@Chester, no, it wasn't just you.  I get down on myself when I get one bad review and then I got like ten lol.  It has nothing to do with your, um, throbbing erection but I liked what you were trying to do there.


Okay, so what if the main character is a child?  Do you think it's okay to write to that perspective spelling and grammar and pronunciation wise?  

I know Stephen King has a big thing with Maine accents.  Or is that only okay with dialogue?


Examples:   My name is Emily Ann.  I am seven years old.  I gots a puppy named Charlie.  I bashed in his little head.

"Nah, whata do tha for ya brotha!"

Chester Pane's picture
Chester Pane from Portland, Oregon is reading The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz November 18, 2011 - 9:10pm

I think that not only is that ok, but that approach can be highly effective. I don't think that Brandon or Rennie or Phil or Liana is talking about that variety of grammar tweaking. That would be a conscious move to create a particular literary effect. 

 I may be wrong, but my understanding around this discussion of grammar and spelling concerns being ignorant of it from the get go. Disregarding educating onesself altogether as if that somehow goes against the 'establishment' thereby creating a purer or more cutting edge result. 

I encountered the same thing in visual arts. Those who thought not knowing the fundamental led them to a purer creation. In my opinion the work was ignorant with no real basis in anything.

Now I have nothing against self-teaching if that means devouring books on any given subject. That should be applauded and is one of the surest ways to success there is--reading I mean. But to just put blinders and earplugs on and declare to know it all is ludicrous. 

Although I wish anyone who tries that approach all the luck in the world, I will never completely respect them because I will carry the knowledge that there are giant gaping holes in their argument.

It's like claiming that it's not necessary to understand the grammar of a foreign language in order to write fluently in it. And we are not even talking about a foreign language here. Well, at least not most of us anyway. 


ReneeAPickup's picture
Class Facilitator
ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading Wanderers by Chuck Wendig November 19, 2011 - 12:02am

My biggest flaw is that I recognize the really brilliant moments in my writing, and then feel like everything else i write is somewhere just below mediocre. I have no confidence. All my longer pieces have one or two bits that i just LOVE, and would happily show to anyone, at any time, and when I receive positive feedback I feel like "yeah...I know"...but the rest? Oh God..the rest. I am terrified to share it, and absolutely gobsmacked when anyone enjoys it. Makes it hard to stay motivated. I give up on characters, stories, sub plots, a lot. I hit a hard part to write and allow myself to fill it with fluff instead of putting something down that won't be as BRILLIANT as I think it should be... I hope I am a better writer than I think I am...or I've wasted a lot of fucking time.

Raelyn's picture
Raelyn from California is reading The Liars' Club November 19, 2011 - 4:03am

I'm in the 'I have no confidence' boat. Lately everything I've written has been a homework assignment for the Zen Mind or 200 Proof class. My routine is: write it, rewrite it, rewrite it, rewrite it, sigh, post it. When I get feedback from people saying how much they liked it, I can't help but think there's a conspiracy against me (you can't possibly like this!). 

In the past month I've discovered my weakness is writing in passive voice. I think in passive voice. Also I make stupid mistakes like using 'conscious' instead of 'conscience'...yeah, it's embarrassing. Especially since I spent every lunch in high school tutoring other students in grammar. I hang my head in shame. 

JonnyGibbings's picture
JonnyGibbings November 20, 2011 - 5:51am

Hey all, a quick thanks for all your comments on the spelling issue. I'ver been musing this with the publishers. Just to clear one aspect up, I think one was saying 'learn to spell' making the assumption that the spelling was genuine errors, of which, that as the effect we wanted to achieve. However, my publisher 'Cutting Edge Press' is a new(ish) company, formed from some big names that have had a 'Jerry Maguire' moment and got sick of cookery, middle of the road, safe, dull junk pumped out. So Even if the mistakes were genuine, and the spell check didn't pick them up, it still as gone through a sub-editor, editor, proof reader and publishing head. Thewn to test readers. So, the errors are genuinely deliberate. That said, thats all a load of floppy cock shit if it pisses the reader off to such a degree. So your comments have been a huge help, and have shown the publishers this thread.

The idea, without giving too much away, is the spelling errors creep in when the character is fucked up on Ketamine (he's an adict) and straghtens out when not. Essentially, he gets accidently wantrted for rapes, hunted by a ukranian mafia, pursued by a london drug cartel, wanted by the police for murder, rape and another police team for the supply of drugs. And forced to have sex with a wheelchair bound nymphomaniac. The character is a mess, and all the above is by accident. The spelling, was thought to add texture. SO... the errors my be cut.

Their thinking is that they will run the ebook first (as was the plan) and if the reaction to it is poor, clean it for the hardback and paper back option. So will see, But, again, has been a big help, so thanks again.

Fylh's picture
Fylh from from from is reading is from is reading is reading is reading reading is reading November 20, 2011 - 5:55am

So are the errors in your posts deliberate too?

We all make mistakes, spelling-wise. It's really not a big deal. The problem is when people try to appropriate that as a sort of aesthetic. That's when it gets boring and annoying.

I wouldn't refuse to read a book that contained bad spelling if that was a necessary part of the book. I'd probably not want to take on a manuscript full of unintentional errors, though.

JonnyGibbings's picture
JonnyGibbings November 20, 2011 - 6:16am

No the errors in my post is because I'm a bit of a dullard, and type way too fast lol! However, some of the ones in the book are too overt. Having scanned it back with the publishers. The Their, There, They're seems just ignorant, so are looking at amending some of these. I don't mind the less annoying ones like 'seen' when it should be 'scene' because somehow it seems more deliberate.
There is a lot of phonetic spelling with the Ukrainian part, and lots of gags around language itself. So they felt it complemented it. Have to say I am in two minds now. Originally, I wanted to do it typographically, but this is going to be used in a future project. So, as the character slips into an alternate personality, the font changes.

Fylh's picture
Fylh from from from is reading is from is reading is reading is reading reading is reading November 20, 2011 - 6:37am

Well, it looks like you're thinking it through, so I can only wish you luck with it. Congrats on finding this publisher, too; on their end, it's a bit of a risky move to publish a book full of typos and stuff. It's cool they're willing.

Vonnegut Check's picture
Vonnegut Check from Baltimore November 21, 2011 - 3:13am

One last thing to add here. While there are techniques such as burnt tongue which deliberately "burns" the language to slow the reader down, I've also read the book Microserfs by Coupland which was purposefully riddled with typographical errors. So finding a publisher for such a book is definitely not out of the realm of possibilites.

Renfield's picture
Renfield from Hell is reading 20th Century Ghosts November 20, 2011 - 9:54am

Coupland has clout.

Chester Pane's picture
Chester Pane from Portland, Oregon is reading The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz November 20, 2011 - 10:31am

“’Nelly,’ he said, ‘we’s hae a Crahnr’s ‘quest enah, at ahr folks. One on ‘ems a’most gotten his finger cut off wi’ haudin’ t’ other froo’ sticking hisseln loike a cawlf. That’s maister, yah knaw, ut’s soa up uh going tuh t’ grand ‘sizes. He’s noan feared uh t’ Bench uh judges, norther Paul, nur Peter, nur John, nur Mathew, nur noaon ‘em, nut he! He fair likes he langs tuh set his brazened face agean ‘em! And yon bonny lad Heathcliff, yah mind, he’s a rare un! He can girn a laugh, as weel’s onybody at a raight divil’s jest. Does he niver say nowt of his fine living amang us, when he goads tuh t’ Grange? This is t’ way on ‘t – up at sun-dahn; dice, brandy, cloised shutters, und can’le lught till next day, at nooin – then, t’ fooil gangs banning un raving tuh his cham’er, makking dacent fowks dig thur fingers i’ thur lugs fur varry shaume; un th’ knave, wah, he carn cahnt his brass, un’ ate, un’ sleep, un’ off tuh his neighbour’s tuh gossip wi’ t’ wife. I’ course, he tells Dam Catherine hah hor fathur’s goold runs intuh his pocket, and her fathur’s son gallops dan t’Broad road, while he flees afore tuh oppen t’ pikes?’

Liana's picture
Liana from Romania and Texas is reading Naked Lunch November 20, 2011 - 12:42pm

Read Pygmy for deliberate misuse of English! And a charming misuse at that.

missesdash's picture
missesdash from Paris is reading The Informers November 20, 2011 - 10:38pm

I'm with the "learn the rules before you break them" crowd.

And honestly, the difference is discernible. I wrote a novel in first person and the narrator is illiterate, so there are tons of grammar issues. But it's obviously all deliberate, and my agent hasn't even mentioned it. When it's not on purpose, it's inconsistent and kind of ugly. Even my grammar "mistakes" have a certain rhythm.

I honestly don't think writing is something everything can do well. I do think people can grow as writers and encourage them to do so. But I definitely don't sugar coat when I give critiques. If it's garbage, I'll explain why, but I'm not going to smash it in the middle of a compliment sandwich.

Too many people rush out to get published before they're ready. It reminds me an episode of american idol. You're watching this person sing and they're absolutely horrible. But they've got this look on their face and you realize it: they actually think they're talented.

And not "they think they're pretty good." They think they've got something so exceptional, that other people should be willing to pay for it.

Geesh, talk about deluded.

Right, so, I'm pretentious.

Dean Blake's picture
Dean Blake from Australia is reading November 21, 2011 - 5:15am

I agree with JonnyGibbings when he says you need to know the rules before you break them.

What is humble writing? What is good writing? It really depends on who you are, what your goals are with your writing, which works inspire you, what kind of substances you consume (if any) and what kind of people you hang out with.



Dave Hanson's picture
Dave Hanson from Connecticut is reading Incredibly pulpy fantasy and sci-fi November 21, 2011 - 5:58pm

I like Bukowski's take on it, personally:

"what makes a man a
"well," I said, "it's simple, it's either you
get it down on paper or you jump off a

Fylh's picture
Fylh from from from is reading is from is reading is reading is reading reading is reading November 21, 2011 - 5:59pm

If only he'd jumped off a bridge.

Renfield's picture
Renfield from Hell is reading 20th Century Ghosts November 21, 2011 - 7:06pm

I've jumped off many bridges, it hasn't helped my writing any though I have a distinct fear of landing on the ground.

aliensoul77's picture
aliensoul77 from a cold distant star is reading the writing on the wall. November 21, 2011 - 7:25pm

I'm guessing you aren't a Bukowski fan, Phil.