I’ve had this discussion with people recently and I’ve read discussions in various fora (plural of forum is fora, not forums. You’re welcome.) lately.
YES, an engrossing story and compelling characters are important. Being able to tell a story with impact and heart cannot be taught, and is the soul of moving and memorable writing.
But that thing somebody told you about, “Don’t worry about the spelling and punctuation and stuff–that’s what editors are for”–you know, that thing? NOT! Let me put that another way: WAY NOT!!!!!
I’m currently doing line edits of EEL’S REVERENCE. That means, my children, that I have to go through the copy, embarassed about how many technical errors I didn’t catch the first sebbenty-lebben times I went through it. Punctuation errors, spelling errors, words left out (or left in, after I changed part of a sentence)…. I’ve been SO irritated, when reading a published book, to find sloppy editing, and I’ve growled at the “editor” about it. Now I find that I’M supposed to be the one to catch those things!
So remember: If you should buy a copy of EEL’S REVERENCE, and if you should find any technical errors in it…. Um, yeah, um, BLAME MY EDITOR! Gosh, why didn’t he catch that stuff? Yeah, yeah, I have been ill served. Not my fault. Totally.
The good news is, spelling, punctuation, word choice, grammar–all the technical skills–CAN be taught.
Get yourself a good current style book or book about writing. Look on the internet. Here are some good sites I found in a few minutes of Googling:
Do your best, but write with heart and clarity and you’ll carry most of your readers with you.
writing prompt: Have a character write another character a note which has a different meaning than intended because of a spelling, grammatical or punctuation error. The classic example might be a note from your wife, who has left to visit her mother: love you leaving you turkey. “Love you? Leaving you, Turkey!” is quite a bit different from “Love you! Leaving you turkey.”