The Art of Reviewing: Part Five: Questions Answered

Author: Anastasia V. Pergakis // Category:

Okay, so today, I will be answering some questions that my wonderful followers have asked over the course of this series during the week.

Eric had a lot of questions - which is great! And some awesome questions too. Haley Jo had one as well and Dawn brought up a few good points that I'll address here too. So here we go!

Eric asked : In reviewing, how much lax do you give for style? In other words, I decide in my piece that I want to drop the trailing apostrophe in dialogue, e.g.: "I'm fixin to head to the pasture" rather than "I'm fixin' to head to the pasture." Or I create words that are self-explanatory, but not in MW. Or I violate grammar and structure rules while diving into a deep POV scene. Or I violate POV altogether by head-skipping during a rapid, continuous scene, in order to prevent loss of pace. Just asking how rigid you are with your reviews, and whether you consider the author's ~intent~ with the scene, and how violating the rules might have served a greater, intentional purpose.

Okay, point number one - dropping the apostrophe when it's substituted for the "g". I will point out that the apostrophe is missing every single time or say it's a typo, that you forgot the g. The apostrophe must be there to signal that the 'g' was dropped on purpose and not a typo. If it's not there, I'll assume the writer missed it by mistake, not on purpose and I will point it out.

Creating words that are self-explanatory. Eric was nice enough to provide an example for me so that I knew exactly what he meant. He said "On the making up of words, I sometimes take liberty with my descriptions. For instance, in a recent piece, a boy in the woods heard the squirrels chittering, chattering, chuttering, something along those lines. I once used the word yurk to describe someone vomiting."

Okay, in that context, I don't mind. In fact if I can easily discern the meaning behind the word, I usually don't even take note that 's it NOT a word. However, if the word doesn't make sense or gives me a different idea or image that what was obviously intended, then I point it out.

Now I want to take the time to talk about made up words for made up languages in fantasy and sci-fi novels. Those words, in my opinion, can of course be anything you want to make up. But I do feel they should be in italics to signify that they are made up and to be taken in context of the sentence.

Okay, Eric's next point - breaking grammar rules to get into a deep POV scene. Not okay. I'm sure that Eric disagrees as will a few other people but to me - breaking grammar rules does not HELP the story, it HINDERS it. Period.

Head skipping. I said this earlier, but head skipping is hard to pull off effectively. I can't do it myself but I can read something and tell when it is done right. It's having a smooth transition from head to another that makes the biggest difference. I hate to say it, but I haven't found many writers that can do it well.

Again, I don't think breaking rules serve any higher purpose in writing. While some rules can be bent based on genre or time period or even POV, generally I don't think breaking the rules entirely ever help a novel.

Okay, I hope that answers your questions Eric and I hope that you still feel like you want me to read your work! You also brought up an author that did not put quotations around their dialogue. I would never be able to read that book. I would be confused, the entire time wondering if it was just laziness on the author's part or what - but either way, I just wouldn't be able to pay attention to the plot or the dialogue itself and eventually I'd put it down.

Haley Jo asked if I reviewed differently based on what POV the work was written in. Meaning, do I review something written in 3rd person differently than written in 1st.

No I don't. I review exactly the same way. No matter the POV, the same rules apply. Tense, grammar, detail, speed, etc. All of that still come into play. Third person only differs because that is where changes in character POV can come into play, but even then I use the same techniques. My mind isn't in a different place. The only time I change how I review is the difference between fiction and non-fiction but even then, it's still pretty similar.

Dawn made a comment that made me remember that I forgot to mention about differences in author location. Meaning, I'm an American so I spell it "color" while a British person would spell it "colour". So, how do I review novels like that, that have slang I may not recognize?

I do know a few slang words from other countries as I spend a lot of time in chat online with other writers and I do read quite extensively. Other times I can discern the meaning based on the context of the sentence. When I don't know, I will highlight the word and make a note to the author that says something like "Not sure if is this slang that I as an American don't know. So I pointed it out just in case it wasn't."

If any one else has any questions, please post them below and I'll be glad to answer them for you! I love reviewing and helping other writers, so please let me know if anything this week left you confused or if you have general questions for me!

1 Response to "The Art of Reviewing: Part Five: Questions Answered"

Eric W. Trant Says :
April 17, 2010 at 6:50 AM

Harley: Thanks! I'm sure you would review the heck out of my work since I am stylistic at times. Depends on the piece. It's best not to over-do it, though, and I think that's where the disagreements come in.

A sentence fragment here or there is all right, but if it happens in every paragraph, or if an author uses the same style construct for similar scenes, then it gets monotonous.

I mentioned the apostrophe because Stephen King does that. Cormac McCarthy's books without quotes win Pulitzers.

But, you have to be King or McCarthy to pull that off!

Your points all go back to one thing though, and you said it: "... breaking grammar rules does not HELP the story, it HINDERS it. Period."

If it hinders the story or chunks the reader, cut it, and I would never disagree with or question a reviewer who said such.

I would much rather a reviewer/editor say, "This confused me. I couldn't follow what happened. You lost me."

As opposed to, "This construct/method is incorrect."

I know it's incorrect. But did it bump you out of the story, or did it aid in the flow?

Me, I read Cormac McCarthy's Pulitzer cannibal book The Road and was halfway through Child of God before I realized there weren't quotes around his dialogue! He is that smooth with it.

Thank you thank you THANK YOU for answering my questions! I'll be referencing these posts, so keep em near the top of your blog!

- Eric

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