Friday, 18 November 2011

18th November 2011 - Giving Writers Advice.

The eponymous title of this section is about a path fraught with danger. We’ve all done it, gone to a writing group, maybe a new one, maybe one we’ve been a member of for a long time, and opened our mouths to give a piece of advice.
Maybe it comes out a little more emphatically than was intended, but sometimes, with some groups, even if the recipient of the advice isn’t the issue, you have to be emphatic to get the point across to some of the others in the room, especially the deaf guy on the other side of the room, who’s turned his hearing aids off, and has his head down reading something on his Kindle.
This is what happened to me.
I was banging on about the need to differentiate between thoughts and narrative when formatting a passage. As it happens, our house standard is to put thoughts in italics, rather than single quotes, or leave them jumbled up with the narrative.
This author decided she didn’t agree. She’s perfectly entitled to, of course.
Today, I get messaged with a link to the blog of another author (more famous than me) who lists 9 pieces of advice you should ignore, which of course includes the point about italics.
It never ceases to amaze me how people see the blogosphere as the font of all knowledge. If you go looking I guarantee you can find someone who can contradict any opinion within a few minutes. I also guarantee that if you look for a few minutes longer you will find someone who will agree with the first opinion, and then someone who presents a third option entirely.
Indeed if you take 10 authors and ask them a formatting question I guarantee you’ll get at least 9 different answers.
The point this particular blogger and I agree on, is the essential need to differentiate thoughts from narrative, either, in our manner, by formatting, or in her manner, by wording. She does, however, clearly state, you should do what your editor wants so we’re in agreement on that too.
One final point on the whole italics question though. Suppose you put all the thoughts into italics in the manuscript and the editor decides they should be changed to normal text. How long does that take? A minute using global replace? No more, that’s for sure. Now think about trying to put them in if you’ve left them out. How long is that going to take? Hours... Days....
PS This blogger also makes a lot of sense on the subject of deliberate rather than accidental repetition. I can assure you all the repetitions above were entirely deliberate. Woe betide any accidental repetitions I hear at the group next week. LOL

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