I CAN’T WRITE PROPER

I am feeling quite depressed at the moment. Why? Once upon a time, I thought I could write. Not as well as Tolstoy, or Shakespeare, but the average, everyday stuff. This is a good thing, I thought I’m not particularly good at anything else. Don’t ask me to draw a smiley face, or cook gourmet meals, I plant, nurture and watch the green leafy things die, I’m best in the back row of the chorus (or off stage altogether) and … I could go on and on about my lack of accomplishments, but I’ll spare you.

At least I can write, pop words onto paper in reasonable order, tell stories and the extra bonus is I can do that as long as I have wiggly fingers and the mental capacity – unlike those super sporty people whose career is on the downward slope by the time they’re 25.

My belief in my one and only ability- I won’t go so far as to call it a talent – was reinforced by all the people who paid me to write: important people who ran banks, government departments, magazines and newspapers, radio and television, corporations and educational institutions. And I mean pay, yes real money not the pennies Amazon dribble into my bank account at the end of each month. This big money paid the rent, bought food, clothed us and put petrol in the tank. It even paid for the odd cruise and trips abroad. It continued for almost 40 years until I retired and began to write books.

library

Now, I know that was all an illusion because ‘I can’t write ‘proper.’ How do I know this? I only have to look at my editor’s red pen marks on my drafts of Amie book 4. Frankly, that is all I can see, a sea of red, it’s almost impossible to make out the underlying black print under all the corrections. For example, I’m a victim of ‘tautology’ – yes I had to look that up too – Horrors, I use five words when I should be using only two! I sprinkle commas all over the place where they shouldn’t be and leave them out where they are an absolute must.

Now what I want to know is, who are these faceless little, grey men who sit somewhere declaring that this sentence is correct, while that sentence is not? I know that the French literary people meet once a year and discuss the purity of their language and decide to ban such abominations as ‘le sandwich‘ and ‘le weekend‘ so I must assume there is a similar gathering of English speaking experts who do the same?

The rules seem to multiply and change daily.  Nowadays you must never, ever start a sentence with an -ly word eg. ‘Suddenly the silence of the night was shattered by the roar of …”  NO! NO.! NO! Adverbs are out this season, you must find a different word. No longer can we put she walked slowly – even if that is what she is doing – it must be shuffled, or ambled or sauntered or another simile. But what if she is approaching the gallows  – her last few steps on this earth – would she really amble or saunter towards the hangman’s noose? She might shuffle of course, but we want to convey that she approached with dignity and courage. Heaven forbid we put She walked slowly and courageously to her death

Ans when did it become necessary to hyphenate every thing in sight? I don’t remember reading nine-year-old in books when I was younger? Why is nine year old wrong? Grammarly has just put a huge, fat red line under it for me.

English is such a precise language. I read somewhere that it has more words than any other and each one is precise and conveys a slightly different meaning to any other word.

And as writers, we all know there is an army of grammar nazis out there just waiting to pounce on our books and complain. Some writing is obviously wrong – we was sat – is a great example (who sat them if they weren’t inanimate objects?)  But real people in the real world do say that. Looking at this paragraph, I remember being told in English class you never, ever, ever start a sentence with AND or BUT – they are conjunctions or joining words – now you see it all the time.

Punctuation has also undergone a shake up. Colons and semi colons are rare, the looooong dash is now popping up all over the place. It has even got a name to differentiate it from the short dash.

I despair, I really do.  I know my editor is right, she’s got dozens of English and editing degrees and stuff to prove it, and I know once Amie 4 is out there no grammar nazi will dare criticise it. But I’m not sure it’s quite the (incorrect) way I write anymore and I quite liked my ‘chatty, who the hell cares if I use too many words, I write as I talk’ sort of way.

I love my editor I really do, despite my moans, I couldn’t do without her, she’s really the best.

I’m not sure what the answer is. Do we blaze a new trail of English as what she is wrote and spoken in the 21st century?  Or do we blindly follow the rules?

What do you do? Right now, I’m off to get my dark glasses so I can continue editing.

We have still to finalise the cover, which do you prefer?

Have a great week and take care.

My Editor

I am not the only one flying to the United States next month. My dear friend (she has become a really good friend) Gabi Plumm is also going to America with her partner Peter Marsh. Why? Because they have been invited to showcase two of their films at the Friday Harbour Festival on St Juan Island Washington state. Cousins across the sea and the first Skeletons in the Cupboard have been chosen to be screened. (You can check them out below).

Gabi Plumm

Not sure how I first connected with Gabi, through social media of course as we’ve never met (she is in Cairns Australia and I’m in Spain)  – but it’s on the cards. I count her as one of my most supportive friends.

A little bit about Gabi.

Born in the UK, Gabi spent many years in France and Spain before emigrating to Australia, in 1987.

Gabi’s history is marked by the astonishing discovery, aged 34, that she’d been adopted and obviously, never told. The ensuing quest for her birth parents lead Gabi into unexpected waters, and finding her mother, a sister and two brothers, gave her a sense of identity and place, she’d never had before. With the understanding of the source of her talents, abilities, and leanings, she set about writing her memoir —rather badly as she now admits— but once written, the catharsis of the autobiography Registered Under Another Name (2007) sparked an ongoing interest in writing and editing. She has also written a series of eight children’s stories entitled The Two Jays of Dribblepit which languishes like so many others, in Amazon’s darkest corners.

I have read these and they are great, so check them out! Perfect for kids aged around 9.     https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OUSZC4W

The Two Jays of Dribblepit: Book 1: The Present, the Dog and the Drain by [Plumm, Gabi, Phillips, Liam]

With two grown sons who are Professional Tennis Coaches living in America, and a partner, Peter, with whom she makes documentary films, Gabi has found time to consolidate her talents by achieving a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing, specialising in Editing. These talents she put towards scriptwriting for their films (details below), in which she also performs as narrator and presenter, as well as editing a variety of manuscripts and websites.

In her spare time, she runs a small B & B and teaches Pickleball to ex-tennis players who, like her, can no longer charge about a tennis court or handle over-arm serving.

This is Gabi’s author page. https://www.amazon.com/Gabi-Plumm/e/B00NO7B0CS

The growing list of authors she loves to work for is small but special, and her documentary films about the early people of the Pacific continue to glean thousands of views and comments daily.

Films:

Aboriginal Pride (2012)

Cousins Across the Sea, The Director’s Cut (2013)

New Zealand: Skeletons in the Cupboard. Episode 1: The Redheads (2015)

Skeletons in the Cupboard, Episode 2: Under the Carpet (2016)

So we also have a filming background in common, and she understands my strange use of commas in all the wrong places! For every edit she has gone the extra mile, and is currently recording book trailers for all my books – and I never even asked her!

Sadly, we’ll miss each other in America – miles apart and the wrong dayes, but one day Gabi …!

Lucinda