I know I’m a small fry in the writing and blogging communities, but I’ve been around long enough to learn a thing or two. These days I find it easier to spot marks of amateurism in someone’s space online, particularly since I often commit such faux pas myself. Because I tend to make my own mistakes, I generally try to be forgiving when other people do. However, I have a set of habits, design features, etc. that really bother me.
White text on a black background. I hate this. I don’t know about you guys, but reading a blog with this colour scheme makes me see stripes.
Massive paragraphs. It’s so easy to get lost and makes skimming impossible. This is something I used to do all the time and I have to make an effort to break up my paragraphs to prevent it from happening again.
Not proofreading. Often the little, annoying mistakes will be picked up by the inbuilt spellcheck most blogging sites and some web browsers provide. It’s one thing to make a typo every so often, but most of the time error-ridden posts simply haven’t been proofread, resulting in a number of errors beyond what could possibly be acceptable.
Internet-speak. While I occasionally use “lol” and emoticons in my blogs and comments, I try to do this sparingly. What is really the problem here is replacing words with numbers or omitting letters, such as “you” becoming “u”. Unless you’re texting your friends or absolutely have to use this to cut down on Twitter characters, just don’t do it. It looks tacky.
Not researching articles. For your average blog post, this normally isn’t an issue, but I’ve been seeing this happen more and more often in places such as professional news websites, particularly editorials and opinion pieces. Yes, you can have an opinion, but that does not mean you don’t do legitimate research to back up your arguments. That’s the biggest thing that irritates me about anti-YA articles.
I think that covers the main issues. Most of it really is just common sense. We all make mistakes sometimes (I do more than most), but we owe it to ourselves to make our blogs, articles and the like the best they can be. After all, this is how we communicate online. Our writing represents who we are.
I haven’t been using Microsoft Word’s spellcheck on my novel for a while, as engrossed as I was in edits. When I did use it, I realized how bad I am at picking out duplicate words. Also, since I’m changing my manuscript to fit American spelling, the spellcheck picked up a few errant u‘s left behind in words that have them in English and Australian spelling but not in American. Maybe I should use the spellcheck a little more often to save me the grief.
In other news, I’m pretty sure the second half of my manuscript is stronger than the first. Damn.
I’ve started a contest on WritersCafe and even though I specifically asked for the entries to be polished and checked for spelling and grammar issues, some entries have ignored this. The correct usage of spelling and punctuation is such a basic requirement of writing, so here I’m going to collect some links to proper grammar and, if I find any, spelling.
I decided I wanted to write longer works when I was twelve, back when I wrote Harry Potter fanfiction. I looked around at fanfiction websites and found that most of them let almost anyone submit anything. I found one site that had specific guidelines and a rejection/acceptance system that worked for me. At this point in my life, I was a good speller but my grammar was atrocious. I was constantly rejected for this (and for making the characters behave out of character because I wasn’t intentionally writing them that way for comedic effect or as part of an alternate universe), particularly for my dreadful dialogue punctuation. Then one day one of the moderators actually decided to help me.
That’s how I learned to punctuate dialogue, pay more attention to character behaviour, structure paragraphs and create a smoother storyline that doesn’t involve jumping from viewpoint to viewpoint. My works started getting accepted while I was thirteen and for two years, until I turned fifteen almost to the day, I happily worked on a mammoth piece of fanfiction where I created Valora, the main love interest in the novel I’m currently working on, and a different magic system from the one in Harry Potter canon.
I never finished that story, but what I gained from it springboarded me into writing my own work. To this day I see many writers my age having trouble with the same things I did and I can’t help but be grateful for all the help I received when I was just starting out.
While it’s true that in professional writing, very few rejection letters come with advice, there’s a chance that the ones that do can really help your writing. I plan to finish and submit Coldfire to agents this year so I may have a chance to put my money where my mouth is. Fingers crossed that my perfectionism when it comes to my novel will pay off…