Monday, October 11, 2010


I know I've neglected a lot of things lately, but this is downright annoying. I'm out of ink. I attempted to print a few pictures I've taken lately and discovered I've neglected to update my ink supply. That's one of those details I usually watch closely.

As a writer, details are something I try to watch closely, but like my ink supply, I sometimes get careless. I double check facts; I watch spelling and grammar like a hawk, but my punctuation has been known to be on the careless side. I know the rules; I really do. That doesn't mean I follow them. I throw in commas wherever it seems natural to pause, I'm generous with semi colons and I can never quite remember when to use an em dash and when to let thoughts trail off in three little dots. I always think that when I finish a manuscript, I'll fix the punctuation, but too often I miss something. (By the way, Annette Lyon currently has a great mini-lesson on semi colons on her blog).

I love authors who work realistic details into the background or setting, use details to make a procedure clear, or add these bits to make a character someone the reader can relate to. Without these tidbits, a novel becomes like the pictures I tried to print this morning, blurred streaks of gray. Yes, a story can get bogged down in too much trivia, but a careful writer learns the details of the setting for his/her story, studies the occupation, time period, and social customs the character would know, and develops a character whose physical description and idiosyncrasies remain constant--unless there is a deliberate change for plot-related reasons.

Getting the details right involves research, reviewing facts, and paying attention. I know my editor would appreciate more careful attention to detail in the way I use punctuation and as a reviewer who has recently read some really poor novels and some really good ones, I think I can safely say readers will show their appreciation for better attention to details, on writers and editors parts, by repeat purchases of books by those authors who watch the details.

Now about those pictures I tried to print. Until I get to a store that sells ink, this is the best I can do.

First trophy!My grandson, Brandon's first soccer team.

P.S. The current contest ends this Friday, so get those comments made.


Janice said...

The nice part of writing is you can go back and fill in the details. It's more of a building process.
And can I just say, Mom, I can't believe you would ever misuse a comma or not follow the rules. Not after all the papers I've given to you for proofreading that came back more red than black!

Mindi said...

I love books that have enough detail to help me see the scene, but not so much that it gets cumbersome to get through. I want a good idea while being allowed to fill in some of the details with what I know. Does that even make sense? I want to know if we're in a pine forest vs. an oak forest and that there are smaller plants around, but don't get into too much detail. I know what an oak tree and a pine tree look like, I don't want a page on the details of the leaves. Telling me that the sun is shining through the leaves is sufficient, I don't want another page on all the colors and shades. I know what the sun looks like when it shines through the trees. I like it even more when the characters go somewhere unfamiliar, then its ok to add a little more detail, but still, don't go too overboard. Let me imagine some.

Elizabeth said...

Such cute pictures! Hope everything is getting settled into a new normal for you. :D