Everybody’s Grammar

I recently wrote a book. It was a novel and the experience was not what I expected. During the writing I was reminded of two books I read in which the authors referred to the story writing experience in almost magical terms. It was understated in both instances as I now know after having had the experience. It was magical and I never thought what those authors expressed was meant to be literal (pun intended).

Publishing a book is not a magical experience at all. It is anticlimactic. In today’s book publishing industry, the cost to publish a book (I am not including the cost to write one) can only be recouped by the most successful authors and since there are so many authors these days the percentage of authors who make a profit on their books is quite small. There is a standard procedure, cost structure, and if followed even loosely it would cost several thousand dollars to bring a book to market. For self publishers of eBooks, editing can be one of the more costly parts of the process. It you sell your book at a modest price of say between $4 and $10, you would have to sell several hundred copies to break even.

I could not afford to have someone edit my book so I had to do it myself. I understand that this is not the preferred method but I know of nothing that is done as it should be in spite of costs, profits, sustainability and the list continues. There is a variety of software available to help with the editing process. I just assumed that the fundamentals of punctuation would be included in the basic versions of these programs, I was wrong. But what bothered me the most was the rules of grammar. One program always wanted a coma where it wasn’t necessary but was called for in grammar text books while another ignored commas in favor of sentence structure. The cruel (and capitalistic) part of all the software I looked at was the large number of corrections that were tallied but not shown to coerce you to purchase a key to unlock the the full program. Yes, I do understand that we all must make as much money as possible and there is nothing wrong with this marketing approach…

So, what I got out of all this was that vocabulary, sentence structure, and all the things that makes writing a creative, artistic process is to be regulated and style is only allowed to the extent that it falls within the rules of grammar. I even asked a person to give me a sample edit and cost schedule but they too just relied on some grammar rules they learned in books or college. Oh the hypocrisy!! Some of the most lauded books in English literature are nearly unintelligible but they get a pass since they went from being a novel to literature as specified by some college of literature. And of course when it is pointed out that famous author X edited his own material the standard reply is “you are no author X”. Such arrogance can steal your breath away.

You have to write like this.

The irony then is the complaint that so many of the new self publish works are terrible. At least some of that is because the authors are driven by a formula that allows for the most possible profits within a standard marketing format and genre. There are so, so many sites, videos and blogs about how to make money writing. It seems to me they are akin to telling an artist how to make money painting houses in lieu of pictures because it pays better. If life is truly reduced to that equation then prostitution should be legalized simply because it pays better than waiting tables.

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