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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.”

Srsly. I submitted a story to Warrior Wisewoman. Naturally, I thought it was perfect. I ran it by some beta readers, and they had some critiques, which I fixed, and THEN I was SURE it was perfect.

Roby James, editor of Warrior Wisewoman, didn’t think so. But here’s the thing: She didn’t just send it back, she sent it back and told me what she didn’t like. When an editor just sends something back, you can tell yourself it was just the wrong editor at the wrong time. When an editor says, “This story isn’t good enough, and here’s why,” there’s nothing to do but go, “OUCH!”

So I grumped for a while and whined for a while and grumped a little more, and now I’m all excited about opening up the story and giving it more. It was a great gift Ms. James gave me. Even if the story ends up being rejected again, or if I don’t make the deadline on the rewrite, I learned something about writing from her critique and I’ll learn something from reworking the story. I also learned something about the kind of stories she wants for her anthology–more than one can learn from just reading the stories that made the cut last year.

Here’s to editors, especially the ones who give critiques and second chances!


writing prompt: Take a story that didn’t sell and either expand it by 2,000 words or cut it by 2,000 words. Sure, you can!

I hereby pledge that this is the last time I sign up for the National Blog Posting Month challenge. I will never again PLEDGE to post every day. Here I am, obligated by my word that I will post today, and I have nothing to write about. True, that’s never stopped me before, but I’d rather drool nonsense because I can than because I must.

We’re up to our ears in cucumbers here. The corn did nothing, the rabbits ate the beans, but the yellow squash and cucumbers are about to invade the woods and mug the deer. I’ve made pickles until I can’t get anything else in the refrigerator. I’m making another batch today, taking some cucumbers to the Southern Indiana Writers meeting tonight, and taking some to church on Sunday to sell for charity. There are only so many cucumber pickles we can eat. Of course, our #3 daughter and her sons can help us out with that–they eat dill pickles like other people eat M&Ms.

Our #4 daughter called last night and we finished going over my comments on her book draft. A wonderfully clean draft–makes me jealous! I made chapter-by-chapter notes, and we’ll go over them another time. She’s great to work with; we wrote a fan fiction together once (Chicago Phoenix, somewhere on this blog) when she was a pre-teen, and she was great to work with as a collaborator. When she gets a chance to work with a real editor, she’ll be ready. She sticks up for what she wants to be the way it is and knows why she wants it that way, and she’s willing to consider that what she wants might not be right for the book and can judge the difference. Deft. That’s what she is: deft.

My next project is to get the other two books I had previously e-pubbed formatted for another e-publisher. Then I need to finish writing a synopsis that actually makes sense for my Big Fat Fantasy.

The other day, somebody who doesn’t write asked me, “How do you come up with ideas? How do you think up what to write about?” I was like, “The problem isn’t coming up with stuff to write about, it’s deciding which things to choose and which things to leave.”

And that’s enough of that.


writing prompt: Take any two random headlines from any sections of the newspaper (or online news source) and make up a story line that ties them together.


Here is where I ramble on about whatever happens to fall through my mind. I also have a professional site, where I post about my books, stories, news and appearances. Every month, I post a “Hot Flash” there–a story or prose poem of about 50 words. I hope you enjoy your visit. –Marian Allen

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