Over the past year or so, five or six different fictionpress writers have asked me to type up various rules of grammar for them. I've willingly done this, since, as anyone who's gotten a review from me knows, I'm a grammar queen. Or a grammar Nazi, depending on who you talk to! But I'm getting rather tired of typing up individual emails, so I decided to start this page instead. It's not a real story, so if you want something just for entertainment, go read one of my other pieces.
This collection is going to be merely an explanation of grammar and the editing process, for those who are interested. I'll probably add to it slowly, whenever someone else asks me about something. In other words, if you have a question, drop me a line and I'll put the answer up here.
But please, bear in mind that while I am good at grammar, I'm not an English teacher. I'm an aerospace engineer, so most of my grammar 'rules' tend to be based upon practicality and common sense, not official studies in English. I probably won't use the right terms for things. (I had a reviewer once who commented on how impressed he was with the fact that my writing had no 'split infinitives'. I admit that I had to reply, "Thanks! What's a split infinitive?") As such, if you're reading this and come across anything that's got a real name to it, let me know and I'll update it. Also, if you find any actual mistakes, PLEASE let me know. I don't want to mislead people unintentionally.
That being said, I hope this grammar review proves helpful! Please let me know what you think, and if I'm understandable.
SECTION ONE: HOW TO EDIT YOUR OWN WORK
One of the things that most irritates me when I'm reading a poem or story on fictionpress is silly mistakes. I don't mean actual grammar mistakes, which are at least understandable, but rather things like typos and missing periods and misspelled words. Things that, when you get right down to it, everybody knows about. We're not talking rocket science here.
So the first thing I want to talk about, before I even get on to the subject of grammar, is the importance of reviewing your work before you post it. If I click randomly on a story and start reading it, and there are five typos in the first paragraph, I'm probably going to shake my head, mutter some curses at the author, and find a new story. Some people out there might think that's mean, but the way I look at it, if the author can't put enough effort into his work to proofread it, then I don't need to spend my time reading and reviewing it, either. Work in, work out.
That said, let's talk about how to get those nasty, stupid mistakes out of an otherwise good piece of writing. Now, there are probably lots and lots of different ways to do this, and some will work better for different people. I'm just going to tell you my way, since it seems to catch most of the problems fairly quickly, at least for me.
The first thing to do once you finish typing up a piece is to PUT IT AWAY for at least an hour. Preferably a day. Whatever you do, don't just post it the instant you finish writing it. If you do, I guarantee it'll be riddled with typos and silly mistakes, just because the mind usually works faster than the fingers that are typing on the keys. Instead, save it and get away from the computer for a little while. This isn't a term paper; there's no deadline, so don't rush it! Let your mind rest for a little bit before you go back to clean it up and post it.
Then, after you've eaten your gigantic dish of ice cream or had a swim or something, come back to the computer. The first thing you should do when you sit down is to RUN SPELLCHECK. I know: it's not perfect, and when you're writing fantasy like I do, it tends to mangle all your characters' names. My suggestion is to add those names and any other fantasy-like or technical terms you use frequently to the dictionary yourself, if it's on your home computer. That way it catches it when you spell "Meneschach" (one of my characters' names) as "Meneshach" and such things, in addition to regular spelling errors. Anyhow, run spell check on it, and let it tell you that even after a lifetime of loving and studying space, you still can't spell the word 'satellite' (don't laugh – it's true!). Hopefully it'll catch a bunch of typos as well. If you like grammar check, you can run that too, but take its advice with a grain of salt. Especially if there are strange terms in the sentence in question!
Now that the computer's done all it can, it's your turn. Hopefully you're sitting alone in the room at this point, because otherwise people are going to start looking at you funny. The reason is this: the best way I have ever found to check over your own work is to READ IT ALOUD. Why aloud, you ask? Because if you read it silently, you'll tend to read whatever should be on the page, not what's really there. I tend to skip words when I type, and when I read through the paragraph silently, I don't always catch them. After all, if the sentence doesn't make sense without a 'the', then clearly I must have put one in, right? Wrong. If you read your own work silently, you're going to end up skimming more than reading and that's when you miss the mistakes.
So sit down, give an evil glare to anyone in the vicinity who might laugh, and start pretending your story is a play. Become the narrator. Give your characters voices. Smile when they smile and grimace when they grimace. I wouldn't suggest teleporting when they teleport, but hey, if you can make it work, all the more to you! Anyhow, while you're performing your play, keep a careful eye on the text. Make sure you PRONOUNCE EVERY WORD. Did you drop a 'the' over there? Add it back in. Maybe you typed 'chain' instead of 'chair'? Fix it. Do you have a sentence that accidentally ended in a comma instead of a period? Slap your right hand for slipping off the proper key, then put the correct punctuation in. If you take your time with it, this technique should pick up 90 of that kind of mistake.
It's also really good at helping you LEARN ABOUT YOUR CHARACTERS. If you start thinking to yourself, "Hey! Meneschach would never use the word 'fatso'!" then it's time to change the script and make him pick a different word. Put yourself in your characters' minds, and make sure they move, think, and talk accordingly. That's one of the reasons I really like this technique – it combines silly-mistake-proofing with plot-and-content-proofing. "Ahhh..." sighs the engineer in me, "it's so nice and efficient!"
Alrighty. By the time you've finished this, it's probably pretty late. At least, if you're a night owl like me. Either way, you're probably getting pretty sick of staring at your chapter. So run spellcheck again (in case you mistyped something when you corrected it) and save the file. Now you're done with your part of the primary editing process. The next thing to do is to GET SOMEONE ELSE TO READ IT. The best type of editor is a friend or family member who knows you well, and will be both honest with your mistakes and sincere in their praise. Better yet, find a friend who also writes and switch drafts.
Of course, such editors don't grow on trees, and sometimes giving a copy to dear old Mom just isn't the best idea (especially if there's both a girl and a boy in the story, or maybe, just once, you used the word 'damn'). In that case, there's only one thing to do: POST IT ON FICTIONPRESS. Yep, that's what it's there for! Now it's time to sit back and wait to see what other people think.
And I think that now's about the time to mention the fact that you're going to miss some of your mistakes, no matter what you do. Hopefully you caught most of the silly ones, so that people will just comment on those mistakes left, and not give up on your story altogether. But when someone does give you a review saying, "Hey this was great, but check out that last sentence in the second paragraph," take it in stride. Don't get angry at them for picking apart your story (assuming their criticism is reasonable and explained). And for heaven's sake, LISTEN TO YOUR EDITORS. No, they're not going to be right all the time. But when they suggest something, go take a look at your story and see if what they said makes sense. Oftentimes, it will. If so, change it. Then write a nice email back to them saying 'thank you', or else review something of theirs.
Which brings me to the last major point of my little essay. When you read on fictionpress, please REVIEW OTHER PEOPLE'S WORKS. Not only does it help them become better writers, but it also encourages them to return the favor and review something of yours. If you can find another writer of about your skill level, then the best thing for both of you is if you keep swapping reviews. And make them decent ones. A review that says, "This is really cool!" is complimentary and encouraging to receive, but it doesn't help improve an author's writing. Instead, make that review something like, "This is really cool! But I don't understand why your character's so afraid of the forest." Or maybe "This is really cool! But the sentence starting with 'He cried out and grabbed the bag...' sounds awkward." Things like that both encourage and help, which, when you get right down to it, is the reason we all post on fictionpress, anyhow.
One final thing: make sure that you edit your story's summary (the little advertisement-thingy, I mean) in the same manner. Fictionpress might mess up the formatting and punctuation in it, but make sure there aren't any typos or misspelled words in it. After all, it's the first thing people will see of your story, and you want to start them off on the right foot.
There you go. My method for reviewing your own works. Hope it helps you out!