Writers. . .writing?

The FOX news ticker pisses me off.  Every day it’s there, scuttling across my screen, riddled with typos.  And somewhere, somebody is getting paid what I  am fairly certain is WAY more than I get, for turning out crappy copy, on a daily basis.

A few months ago, on a family trip to see the great grandma, I met my husband’s cousin for the first time.  I heard him talking as I came out into the room, and went just a tiny bit crazy.

“. . . so I guess you could say I’m responsible for all the live items on FOX,  like breaking news and the ticker, actually making it onto the TV”

The ticker?
My entrance into the living room was more lunge than anything else.

“You!  You are responsible for the ticker? Seriously?  Because every day I rant about how some jackass, who is paid way more than me, sucks at his job.  You’re the jackass? You’re, like number five on the list of top ten people that piss me off!”

It felt so good to finally tell the idiot exactly what I thought, because I hold far too much inside, and that’s just bad for my health.

Turns out he’s not the jackass who writes it, he’s just the techno geek that gets it from point A to my living room.  Thank God he’s a geek with a sense of humor.

Maybe it’s bizarre  to get so twitchy over something as inconsequential as a typo, but I can’t help it.  It’s hard wired.  I read a novel and see what, to me, is a glaring error, and my blood pressure goes up, just a tiny bit.

All mistakes in text, be it email or professionally edited material, drive me batty, but the worst offenders are in the pool of aspiring writers.  These actually make me not only talk out loud to myself, but carry on both sides of what can be a very agitated conversation.

You dug a what?  A whole?  A whole what?  Jesus, don’t you edit this stuff?

I ran spell check.   I don’t know why it didn’t pick that up.

Probably because spell check is a TOOL, not a psychic, hand-holding writing guide.  How in Hell is the computer supposed to know you have no concept of homonyms?

Yup.  Out loud.  In various voices.  At work.

It amazes me, the things I find as I peruse the writing websites.  And I can forgive a lot of mistakes on the writers’ sites.  After all, none of us are perfect, and there’s a lot to be said for professional editing.

Punctuation mistakes are nearly always forgivable, except for missing quotation marks, because really, how hard is it to know you need them?  It’s a one question deal – is someone saying this out loud?

Transposed letters I can forgive, too.  Especially if the new word is a real word, because your eyes will just skim it when you edit, making it read in the way you intended it to read.  Hell, I’m guilty of that one on this blog, and haven’t had the time (read: attention span) to go back and fix it.

It’s like that frigging email that’s been forwarded to me 80,000 times with the misspelled words, proving that the brain can translate words as they should be, rather than how they are.

Post after post, full of so many errors that I now have my own version of the Gong Show.  Error 1, and I pick up the hammer.  Error 2, and I bring my arm back.  Error 3, and you’re gone.

And if “Mary” turns into “Mika” halfway through, screw you, I’m not reading another word you write.

These people post on sites in an attempt to garner the attention of an agent or publisher, dreaming of being a writer.  And I’m not talking about blogs, either.  I’m talking about short stories, novellas and novel chapters, posted in writing groups as finished pieces, or pieces that just need to be “touched up.”

Referring to your male lead as “she” twice in three paragraphs isn’t a touch up, it’s gender confusion.  Drag Queen?  Transgender?

And PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD do not abbreviate as though you are TEXTING.  I saw this one – I’m not making it up: “She was running L8 for the 401.”  WHAT?  It was the opening line.

Then there are the stories that are told in the eloquently flowing prose, so verbose you can’t find a point anywhere amid the “sun reflecting off the clouds like a lover’s smile” and the “memories held close, a child from the past.”

Your metaphors and similes don’t mean squat if the reader can’t discern the point.

And that whole “plotless” nature of literature?  Yeah, you have to be pretty damn good for that to work for you.  And just so you know – you’re not that good.

Names so similar you have to read the passage three times to tell who’s doing what, complete failure at the art of verb conjugation, time jumps with no warning (in one paragraph!), drama queen reenactments of first dates from high school — so many words, so many stories, and so few of them are good.

It makes me sympathize with agents and publishing houses.  How many query letters do they receive with spelling errors or incomprehensible plot summaries?

This is why I’ve only managed to work up the courage to send out a handful of query letters to a couple of magazines for my short stuff.  I hold the longer works and the early reader too close to my heart, and I’m never completely, 100% happy with them.

I read, I edit, I save and close, thinking it’s wonderful.  Then I open it and re-read before submitting a query, and am struck by how one more minor tweak could make it better.  Or how I should check Strunk and White to be sure of something.

Because all of these people posting on the writing sites think theirs is wonderful.  And so many pieces aren’t good writing, aren’t writing, period.  So I wonder — maybe I suck, too?


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