When is Good Grammar Correct?

FeaturedWhen is Good Grammar Correct?

Every week I deal with different subjects in this blog. I also post my blog to my Facebook page at RFrederickRiddlesWorld. This week I am taking a look at Is Good Grammar Good Enough?

I have over time written a good deal about writing. I’ve covered numerous subjects including publishing and marketing. Having recently written TR Independent Books Guide to Writing I’ve decided to take one particular aspect of writing and focus on it. If you’d like a free copy of the book simply write me at marketing@tr-indbkstore.com, request the book by name and whether you want the Word version or PDF version. I will promptly email you a copy. This book is not available at retail.

In today’s blog I’d like to take a look at grammar, so I’ve copied the chapter that deals with the subject in general (other chapters deal with certain aspects).

So let’s talk grammar. If you were writing for a college course or a college professor you might be expected to write perfect grammar. Less than perfect might have disastrous consequences. But when you are writing novels good grammar may be more desirable than perfect grammar.

Huh?

To understand what I mean you must understand what perfect grammar is. In perfect grammar you are not allowed mistakes. In addition, perfect grammar has rules that must be followed religiously. It requires a very rigid structure. But good grammar may at times be perfect (as when the storyteller is narrating) and other times less than perfect (as when characters are talking or thinking). That’s a simplistic explanation but it will do for now.

Let me put it another way; perfect grammar is usually stilted whereas imperfect grammar brings a certain aliveness to the story. In a story with multiple characters you don’t want all your characters to sound alike.

In my speculative fiction series Christland there are robots and androids. There are also humans. Humans tend to use contractions like ‘isn’t’, ‘don’t’, or ‘haven’t’. But androids use a more perfect grammar and say ‘is not’, ‘do not’, or ‘have not’. Same meanings but spoken differently. I constantly check to make sure that the androids never use contractions unless desired.

It’s the same thing with humans. In the series World That Was I had Methuselah use an expression, ‘So God has said, so shall it be’. This becomes a phrase he uses and is therefore identified with him. No other character uses it.

Is it good grammar?

It doesn’t matter. It is something he says.

And that is an important distinction. When someone is talking or thinking their grammar may or may not be good let alone perfect, but it must be consistent! The only acceptable reason for inconsistency would be a change in the character like having matured, gotten educated, or some such thing. There must be a reason that the reader sees and understands!

So here is a chapter from the book.

Watch Your Grammar

Principle

Your grammar must be perfect!

Right?

Actually that depends on who you talk to and the specifics involved. Here is my take:

Generally speaking you want your grammar usage as correct as possible, but there are exceptions. For example, let’s say one of your characters only has a ninth grade education.

You would not want that character talking like a professor. For that matter, you really don’t want any of your characters to talk that way unless they actually are professors.

Now I don’t recommend that you try to imitate slang and accents, but just be cautious. Maybe allow a character to have a favorite saying. In Perished: The World That Was I had Methuselah with a favorite saying, “So God has said, so shall it be.”

Which brings up a related principle: Be consistent. If I later had someone else using that same phrase it could have been a jolt. Be consistent.

So here’s the principle: When you are dealing with conversation (or even thoughts) you can and should be less than perfect but consistent. Everything else should be perfect.

Aside from speaking, there is the matter of punctuation and spelling. With the tools available this should never be a problem, but it does occur. It is therefore necessary to check your spelling and punctuation as often as possible.

Tip: Be consistent. If Bob is talking like a country boy on page 2 and a professor on page 132 then you better have shown a transformation. Because your reader will spot inconsistencies.

Example

The boys is clothed alike. [This is poor grammar.]

The boys are clothed alike. [Much better.]

“You guys look the same.” [OK.]

“The boys is clothed alike,” Martha said. [OK, if this is consistent with Martha’s education and you’re emphasizing it.]

A rule of thumb is that grammar rules don’t have to be followed rigidly when verbal conversation is taking place or when someone is thinking. (This is an argument for emphasizing thoughts with italics.)

Tip: A rule of thumb is that grammar rules don’t have to be followed rigidly when verbal conversation is taking place or when someone is thinking.

Application

Both my wife and I try to watch our grammar usage. One of the tools we use is Microsoft Word’s grammar checker. It’s not perfect, but it helps. Also, we use the spell check, but it is not always up-to-date. So we make use of the ‘Add to Dictionary’ tool.

Other resources are grammar books (especially older versions that really emphasized good grammar), and the internet.

Make use of as many resources as needed. And pay attention to grammar and punctuation when editing.

Tip #2: Don’t use slang or social media language. It might be good on Twitter, Facebook, or other social media but not in a book unless the language belongs to the character(s).

That was the chapter on Grammar, but actually the subject of grammar is more extensive than that, which is why other chapters deal with some particulars of grammar. For instance, you can include scenes within that subject. The book has chapters on the Starting Scene, the Middle Scene, and the Ending Scene. You could also include viewpoint (there are chapters on the different viewpoints). Grammar is broad and yet specific.

One of the various resources (yes, there’s a chapter on that also) an author needs a Grammar book that includes capitalization, sentence structure, and a whole lot more.

But a key principle that you should remember is what was stated earlier: Generally speaking you want your grammar usage as correct as possible, but there are exceptions. It is your job as an author to find those exceptions, such as conversation, and use them to enliven your story!

Conclusion.

So, is good grammar good enough? Yes, if you’re careful and consistent.

Hope you enjoyed this little excursion into grammar. In the future I will periodically visit a subject found in the writing guide. In the meantime don’t forget that the book is free, easy to read, and the entire book is only 101 pages. And if you’d like to know more about our Writing Services simply request a free copy of our booklet TR Writing Services and we will send you a copy absolutely free and with no obligations.

VISIT MY AUTHOR’S PAGE TODAY: amazon.com/author/rfrederickriddle.

ARE YOU A BOOK REVIEWER? I am always looking for book reviews. Whether it is Perished The World That Was (Book One), World of Noah and the Ark (Book Two), World of Shem (Book Three), World of Abraham (Book Four) or Death Ship (Book One), Pauline A New Home (Book Two), Task Force Hunter (Book Three), or Black Death (Book Four), I value your reviews.

If you would like to review any of these books contact me at marketing@tr-indbkstore.com with the subject line indicating that desire. An example of an appropriate subject line would be: ‘Seek to review [book Title].’ In the email make sure to indicate your email address, your name, and the choice of copy (PDF or ePub).

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R Frederick Riddle is the Editor of TR Writing Services providing help to struggling and/or new authors to write and publish their books. In addition he is the author of several books and is best known for Christian Historical and Speculative Fiction. For more information on him or his books visit his Amazon Authors Page. He is also co-founder and Vice President of T&R Independent Books where his books are featured. To reply to any blog you have the option of commenting on a blog and/or sending an email to marketing@tr-indbkstore.com. You may also be interested in his Facebook page at RFrederickRiddlesWorld.

How to Write the Perfect Novel Every Time

FeaturedHow to Write the Perfect Novel Every Time

Monday through Friday I deal with different subjects in this blog. I also post my blog to my Facebook page at RFrederickRiddlesWorld. Wednesday’s I try to focus on the Church. This week I am taking a look at How to Write the Perfect Novel Every Time.
I’ll admit right up front that there is no such thing as a perfect novel. There are millions of readers out there and every one of them have their own idea of what constitutes a good or great novel.
So, perfect novel? No! Good, yes.
So what constitutes a good novel?
The answer to that also varies, but since I’m the one authoring this blog, let me give my take on the issue.
A good novel is a story that draws the reader into it, whose character(s) are interesting, the plot is believable, and where the writing makes it hard to put the book down.
Obviously there are other important aspects to a good novel. But as a general statement I think that covers it.
What about Grammar?
Good grammar is always needed. Not just good grammar, but good spelling as well. Bad grammar and spelling can hurt an otherwise good story. Spelling mistakes can be deadly as can grammar mistakes. You need to constantly work on your grammar and spelling.
But I would contend that good grammar and good spelling are included in the statement, “the writing makes it hard to put the book down.”
What about Character Development?
You want your characters to stand out whether they are good people or bad people. To do this requires you have characters that are strong or weak, but are consistently so. I once had a man critique a book of mine in which he claimed the character wasn’t consistent. The problem was that I was writing about two different and real people found in the Bible. They had the same exact name and lived in the same time. If he’d read the book through (he didn’t) he would have seen that. But he skipped around and concluded they were the same characters.
Although he was wrong in his conclusions, that is a legitimate concern. If your character is evil at the beginning you need the character to continue being evil unless there is a reason that causes that character to change. And the reader must see that reason!
But I would contend that Character Development is included in “characters are interesting.”
OK, I get it. But what about the story’s background?
When writing a novel it is crucial to have a strong background. Sometimes that background is easily found in research; sometimes the background requires deeper research. Background includes many things such as the setting, the customs, and much more. If writing about history then it needs to be historically accurate. If writing about the future, then it needs to be believable. My general statement includes two items that cover all of this: “draws the reader into it” and “is believable.”
For example, a story that takes place in ancient history may be a great story but collapses because a character may speak using modern slang or a character drinks from a glass when glass hadn’t been invented yet. This is a mistake that is jarring to the reader and immediately detracts from the story. In all likelihood the reader will put the book down.
Background is important and is in my statement.
OK, What about Sales?
We all want our novels to sell. The more book sales the better for us and our bank accounts. But sales tells very little about the book. For instance, there are great books out there that haven’t really sold well. Why? Because good sales need a good book but it also needs a good marketer!
There are also books out there that are of poor quality. Yet they get great reviews and their sales are out of this world. How can that be?
No matter how bad a book is written there are people who will enjoy them. That might account for some of the sales. In addition some great marketing may have been involved that created a buzz about the book. The result? The book goes viral.
Sales simply don’t tell you about the quality of the book.
Does Following Your Blog Help My Writing?
I try to write about writing once a week (usually Thursday). Some aspect of writing is covered in these blogs. So, yes, if you are reading this blog on a weekly basis you should be learning something you can use. I also write about publishing and marketing once a week. That’s usually on Fridays.
But I would recommend that you make use of multiple sources on the subject of writing. The more sources you have the more likelihood you’ll learn something new that will benefit you. I subscribe to several newsletters, blogs, etc. with that in mind.
Another thing you can and should do is keep writing. You’ve written your first book; it’s been published and now you are getting sales. Don’t stop there!
Keep writing. Start one or two more books and work on them. I believe that no matter what your sales are your writing will improve through the act of writing. Each book you finish should be better than the one before. And as you learn from others you would be incorporating that knowledge into your latest book.
Conclusion
You may never write the perfect novel. But if you study the art of writing, practice writing and publishing new books you should see a consistent growth and improvement in your writing. And if you’re like me the simple joy of writing grows with each novel you write!

VISIT MY AUTHOR’S PAGE TODAY: amazon.com/author/rfrederickriddle

ARE YOU A BOOK REVIEWER? I am always looking for book reviews. Whether it is Perished The World That Was (Book One), World of Noah and the Ark (Book Two), World of Shem (Book Three), World of Abraham (Book Four) or Death Ship (Book One), Pauline A New Home (Book Two), or Task Force Hunter (Book Three), I value your reviews.
If you would like to review any of these books contact me at marketing@tr-indbkstore.com with the subject line indicating that desire. An example of an appropriate subject line would be: ‘Seek to review [book Title].’ In the email make sure to indicate your email address, your name, and the choice of copy (PDF or ePub).

– – – – – – –

R Frederick Riddle is the author of several books and is best known for Christian Historical Fiction. For more information on him or his books visit his Amazon Authors Page. He is also co-founder and Vice President of T&R Independent Books where his books are featured. To reply to any blog you have the option of commenting on a blog and/or sending an email to marketing@tr-indbkstore.com. You may also be interested in his Facebook page at RFrederickRiddlesWorld.