A Couple of Lessons, Learned…

I suppose all writers must, from time to time, find themselves in the same place as I am at the moment.  Writing, after all, is not dissimilar to any other professional or artistic endeavour. Practice, exercise, and experience all lend new insights and provide the opportunity to improve and become better.

Writing a second novel has certainly helped me to gain a new perspective on what I’ve written in the past.  Well, I say that, but I’ve also recently had some very useful input and pointers from a fellow author, blogger, and distant friend:  J.E.Lowder.  (Thanks, Jay!)

Over the last week or so, whilst I wait for my Alpha Readers to work their way through Thunder, I’ve been revisiting Firebird.  Not just because of the ‘British Typography’ issues which needed to be corrected, but also because the current edition of Firebird now falls short of my own, personal, expectations.  Here are a couple of recent discoveries – maybe you already know about them, maybe not – I thought they were interesting enough to share on here:

1. Purist that I am, somewhen during Firebird’s many edits, I got bound up in my punctuation.  I laid out Firebird using a formal, almost classical, style which employs very few commas. Technically, this isn’t wrong.  But it doesn’t really suit a ‘casual’ storyline.

Most modern fiction is set out using – perhaps overusing – commas to provide staging points for the eye.  For instance it it not mandatory, as some would believe, for either of the two connecting words ‘and’ or ‘but’ to be prefaced by a comma.  To some extent, these commas are frowned upon – for exactly the same reasons as it is ‘not preferred’ to begin sentences with either word – but the result can often be long, unbroken, sentences which provide no easy reference point for back-tracking and re-reading.  As an aside, the one before an ‘and’ is called a Serial or Oxford Comma.

2. In an attempt to avoid word repetition – which is a pet hate of mine – I did two things:

– I occasionally used overly complex alternative words which, when combined with the formal punctuation, run the risk of coming across as ‘trying to be too clever’…

– Worse, I used first and second names to refer to the characters throughout.  This, interestingly, seems to have several unexpected side-effects: it forces readers to focus harder than necessary on getting to know the characters when the book is mainly plot-driven; it makes the book harder to read – see above comment re: casual storyline; and finally, the use of first names – outside of dialogue – seems to impose a deeper level of implied intimacy, between reader and character, than a reader might want.

Anyway, re-editing the manuscript has been an interesting exercise.  I’m almost finished and will republish it soon.  Unfortunately, there’s not much I can do about the several thousand copies that are already floating around in the electronic-ether, except to apologise for making the book a little harder to read than it perhaps needed to be, and to say thank-you again to everyone who has read it so far.

Hopefully future readers will find they have an easier time…

About anthonybellaleigh

Writing to amuse myself and entertain others. (https://anthonybellaleigh.wordpress.com)

Posted on June 15, 2012, in Books, Firebird, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Hopefully, as writers, we always get better. But I don’t think there are many “perfect” novels out there. We could spend a lifetime making one book better or move on and learn more from the next book. I think it’s a good sign that you’re growing, but that doesn’t mean that your early books aren’t appealing.


  2. Oh, you are singing to my tune here! I can honestly spend an entire day worrying about the placing of a comma, moving it back and forth, replacing it with a semi c, taking it out altogether. I suspect I may be slightly anal. I can’t seem to help it. Currently I’m using a more natural style, writing first person, trying to capture normal speech rhythms with a lot of commas and dashes. I personally have an aversion to a too-correct style; Henry James is my worst nightmare.


    • :) thanks for the comment, Maya. It’s reassuring to hear that there are several of us all wrestling with our punctuation! I too am tending toward a more natural style nowadays. Good luck with whatever you’re working on!


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