Saturday, December 5, 2009

It is the ideas that count, not my English!

It amuses me the number of individuals I get to interact with that believe that they should be judged solely on their ideas and creativity, and that it does not matter how badly they string a sentence together. And I really want to locate this fantasy world that they inhabit where editors and readers are willing to struggle with a piece of writing to get at the meat of the ideas. It sounds like a marvelous place to visit, though I doubt that my Virgo sun would be happy there for long.

I first became painfully aware of this belief when dealing with one of my toxic writing friends (you know the type---they are your friend, but you do not dare talk about writing around them if you want to get anything written in the next month, aka wet blankets).

My friend had done a draft of a novel, and he wanted my opinion of it. After ten minutes of reading, I had finally moved onto the second page of the manuscript. Yes, I said ten minutes to hack my way though the first page.

Now if this manuscript had been on the slush pile, it would have gotten the form rejection slip on the first page, first paragraph, perhaps even first sentence. Before I could even address the ideas in the script, I had to give him feedback about how to write a proper sentence.

And what he told me was that it was unfair that he would be judged on solely on the basis of his ability to write a clear sentence; all he needed was an editor who was willing to work with him; his ideas were worth the effort.

Nice fantasy world, I told him. He ignored me; he does not believe that my writing and editing experience qualifies me to have an opinion. I seriously doubt that he would listen Stephen King, J. K. Rowling, or anyone else for that matter, if they told him the same thing.

The reason I have been thinking about this is that recently I gave someone feedback about their blog, and got told that they were more concerned with ideas than learning how to present their information in a reader-friendly format. Blog T (not its actual name, sorry to whoever is actually writing Blog T) has many attributes that are going to make me talk about it often; it will serve us well as an example of what not to do.

The writer may think that it should be only their ideas that should matter; but given the habits of readers, they are dead wrong. I wish them luck in actually finding the fantasy world they think exists, where readers and editors are willing to work at reading something and do not run off to better sites at the drop of a comma splice.

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