Monday, 15 July 2013

Sacrifice & Grammar Checks

Sacrifice! A shameful act but it's something that affects all writers in one way or another. Not just writers either. But here I am in the middle of summer and it's a glorious day here in the Lake District. People are out cycling past my home, and I can hear their banter carrying on the wind, gradually fading into the distance. I can feel the pull of the great outdoors and yet the essential call of the work waiting for me here at the computer. Edits! Does anyone truly enjoy editing? I much prefer writing. Editing is very much laborious and far too reminiscent of school and university. Still, moaning aside, it's not that bad. It's simply another side of being a writer and we just get on with it.

Recently I took some time out to perfect the first chapter of my novel for a writing competition - another sign of my writer's insecurity, desperate for some sign that my writing is going somewhere. Then, having ran this same chapter through one of those wonderful online grammar checkers, I uncovered 12 problems. So, I think it's fair to assume that I won't be hearing anything about the competition. It's so frustrating because I didn't even think of running an 'official' grammar check in the first place. So, this got me thinking - better late than never of course - how many of us actually use grammar checkers? From what I've read it seems that it's a popular choice among writers. It's rather like having your own editorial service or perhaps it's the next best thing. It's something I'm going to use from now on. It's not a question of spotting spelling mistakes or basic grammar issues. The grammar checker is great at highlighting cliches and repetition of words as well as incorrect use of prepositions and punctuation. It's so easy to make or to miss mistakes, especially when you're editing a manuscript over 100,000 words.

Naturally there is an element of shame in this (hangs head). After all, did Hemingway have the use of such wonderful delights at the click of a mouse? No, Jane Austen? Definitely not. Still, I must admit, it has the potential to take the sting out of editing, at least a little. So, I 'm off to 'murder my darlings,' and attempt some re-writing after running the Grammarly checker.  Hope everyone is having a good week and enjoying the sunshine. Incidentally, it was the English writer, Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch who originally used the phrase 'murder your darlings,' during a lecture he gave at Cambridge University over a century ago, in 1916. Coincidentally this happened to be during the Great War, and I can't help but wonder if Wilfred Owen or Siegfried Sassoon read the publication.