You don't have to be brilliant at writing to write a great novel.
Several authors are fantastic at building a story arc, creating gripping plot lines with believable characters, but are not so hot at sentence construction or grammar.
And that's okay – because there are people out there who can help you.
From the developmental editor, who will steer you in the right direction when it comes to plotting your book, to the copy editor who cleans up spelling and grammar, there is a wealth of experts out there who are on your side, and just as invested in your book as you are.
Here's an excerpt from a really gripping book I edited recently. The author knew her story was good (and it really is) but wanted the grammar and punctuation cleaned up.
I spent a little time reading through and changed the opening paragraphs from this:
Eight-year-old Daniel Edgar lay on his bed, sore from the welts from his father’s belt. He had overslept by five minutes making him late for breakfast, his father was livid. He tried not to give him the satisfaction of tears, had taken it like a man until he got to the sanctuary of his room where he let all of his emotion unleash. Half an hour later he heard the sound of his mother Mary entering the room, she rushed over to him, kissing his head and soothing him, she softly cried. “Why did you have to be late?” She whispered, “You know how mad that makes him. She gave Daniel some paper and pencils, “maybe you can do some drawing?”
Eight-year-old Daniel Edgar lay on his bed, sore from the welts left by his father’s belt. He had overslept by five minutes, making him late for breakfast – the welts were a mark of his father’s anger.
So many people have great ideas for a story but think they can't write; they're no good at it.
Just have a go! Sit down and type without looking at what you're writing.
Dictate your copy out loud into a speech-to-text app.
It's such an achievement just getting your story down on paper.
Read it through; get a friend to read it through. Does it have potential? Could it become a real book? Will it have readers laughing, crying or hiding behind the sofa?
Then consider getting a professional on board to whip it into shape and, voila, you have a manuscript.
Words that people get confused, part XIII
Predominately and predominantly.
I was going to write a nice little piece about the difference between the words ‘predominately’ and ‘predominantly’, explaining that people often confuse them and that’s understandable.
But now I’ve done some research to underpin my own knowledge and that has thrown up a few issues which actually undermine my knowledge, so this piece will now be a short essay on the evolution of language and how even experts can get caught out…
To begin at the beginning, as a great poet* once said…
I heard someone use the word ‘predominately’ in what I thought was the wrong context, saying something consisted ‘predominately’ of something else.
Ha, I thought, they mean ‘predominantly’.
Let’s look at the definitions:
predominate | prɪˈdɒmɪneɪt | verb [no object]
predominant | prɪˈdɒmɪn(ə)nt | adjective
Now, what I believed, and what the definitions show here, is that something can predominate in a given situation but it doesn’t do it ‘predominately’.
For example, wrens predominate (verb) in the UK as a bird species. They are the predominant (adjective) species. Birds in the UK are predominantly (adverb) wrens.
Fairly cut and dried, yes?
Turns out, ‘predominately’ can be used in place of ‘predominantly’. They mean the same thing!
I dove deeper into this lexiconic conundrum.
US dictionary Merriam-Webster states that the two words can be used interchangeably, which proves to be a contentious position, judging by the comments left on its web page.
The online Cambridge Dictionary, despite providing examples of the word ‘predominately’ used in sentences, says the word isn’t in the Cambridge Dictionary yet.
Wiktionary states that, though ‘predominately’ is the older word (by 100 years, being recorded in use as far back as 1594), ‘predominantly’ is now preferred.
It seems that what happened is that English, having as its foundation several squillion other languages, took two words meaning the same thing from two different languages and kept them both, like a vocab hoarder.
Predominantly is derived from Middle French, while predominately is derived from Medieval Latin.
I think we need to do a little Marie Kondo clear-out of our language so we don’t keep getting confused.
In the meantime, of the two words, the one I will predominantly be using is…
* Dylan Thomas.
This is the bit where I write about wordy and linguistic things that take my fancy...