The skill of writing
Writing is both an art and a skill. Most writers consider themselves storytellers, emphasizing the art of writing rather than the skill. As the author of a single published novel, Away from the Spotlight, I do not profess to be an expert in the “art” of writing. However, as an attorney and business consultant for a number of years, I do profess to be an expert in the “skill” of writing.
Voice of the Narrator
In the business context, a writer communicates more than content alone. The writer is communicating additional subtext that includes his or her level of intelligence, education, personality and style, and how much attention to detail he or she has. This also is true of fiction writing in that the narrator of a story, whether the author or a character, is communicating these same things.
I wrote Away from the Spotlight in first-person narrative style from the point of view of a twenty-four year-old law student from California. Consequently, the voice of the narrator needed to sound relatively young; use idioms appropriate for the narrator’s sex, age, nationality and location; and sound as articulate as would be expected of a law student.
As a writer, research is almost always necessary. If a writer uses real people, places and/or things, enough research is necessary to ensure accuracy. This also includes research to ensure that the voice of the narrator is correct if he or she is someone other than the author. If a writer uses strictly fictional people, places and/or things, research still may be necessary to ensure a realistic portrayal, particularly when based upon a real person, place and/or thing.
If a writer details a complex series of events or often references past events, an outline or timeline is helpful to prevent mistakes. This outline or timeline can be prepared beforehand, while writing, or afterward to check for consistency.
Form – Grammar, Punctuation and E-Publishing Format
The appropriate amount of time and attention should be given to the form of the novel. In the business context, sloppy grammar and editing can cause a reader to lose the message while focusing on the errors in form or fail to trust the message due to a perceived lack of attention to detail. In the context of fiction writing, obvious mistakes pull the reader out of the story while he or she considers the issue in the writing itself. If the mistakes are too frequent, the writer runs the risk that the reader may stop reading the story entirely.
All writers should reacquaint themselves with the rules of grammar and punctuation. Improper grammar is fine when it comes to internal thoughts and dialogue because people don’t necessarily think or speak in complete, grammatically-correct English. However, the grammar should be correct in the narrative. As an example, the phrase, “between you and I,” is not correct; the correct phrase is “between you and me.” Whether or not to use the incorrect version of that phrase depends upon whether using incorrect grammar is appropriate for the speaker. With respect to punctuation, a common issue is the use of commas. For example, commas are required when a sentence is commenced with “also,” “however,” and “nevertheless.” As another example, commas belong on the inside of quotes (see the previous sentence for examples).
On a final note regarding form, even if the writer does not personally format the novel for e-publishing, the writer should check to ensure it is properly formatted to the extent possible. Note, however, that some issues are difficult, if not impossible, to fix. In some versions of Away from the Spotlight, such as on the Kindle app on my iPad, my copyright page is perfectly centered. On my Kindle Fire, however, the first line is left-justified. It drives me crazy, but I can’t seem to fix it.
Avoid Unnecessary Criticism
While the advice noted above is common-sense, a writer often can become so focused on the story itself that considerations of form and structure are not given their due. If the advice is taken to heart, however, a writer may never have to suffer the critique, “It’s a good story, but . . .”
Guest post by Tamara Carlisle. Tamara Carlisle is a former attorney and business consultant. Away from the Spotlight is her first published work of fiction. She currently is working on two additional novels: one is about love in the music industry and the other is a work of paranormal fiction. Tamara currently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area with her British husband and daughter. For further information, go to http://www.tamaracarlisle.com.
Library Thing: http://www.librarything.com/author/carlisletamara
Tamara will be awarding two $25 Amazon GCs to randomly drawn commenters during the tour, so I encourage you to follow the tour and comment; the more you comment, the better your chances of winning. The tour dates can be found here: http://goddessfishpromotions.blogspot.com/2012/08/virtual-book-tour-away-from-spotlight.html