I love you, comma!

I met a friend of mine for happy hour the other day. Said friend was supposed to be my NaNo buddy, but a number of things prevented her from actually participating this year. That didn’t stop her from offering encouragement, usually in the form of “I want to REEAAADDD it!”

So I was telling her about my experience when she chimed in with, yet again, her desire to read the completed manuscript of Iron Jewel. Eventually, I found myself agreeing to let her read Shadowdemon instead. Now why the hell did I do that?

Part of it had to do with, I think, the dissatisfaction I have with the completed project. I love the story, and the characters, and I’m beyond eager to move on to the next Remy tale. But there was just something about the completed story that doesn’t sit well. Maybe it’s because the final two books of the Shadodemon trilogy have more action in them than Iron Jewel. Or maybe it’s the trepidation I felt about cramming so much into the first book. It’s all necessary, or I think it’s all necessary, but having to focus on so much meant that while the plot lines felt complete, they didn’t exactly feel…compelling. Ugh. I hate admitting that.

A small part of it has to do with the fact that it is, yes, a paranormal romance, one in which there are scenes of a racy nature, and she’s a bit of a prude. Oh, she claims she can handle sex scenes as long as they aren’t rape scenes, but I remember her reaction to the Nora Roberts books I was stupid enough to leave lying around our apartment back when we were roommates. I need constructive feedback. Not the feedback of a ten year old. (Really, she’s not that bad, it just feels like it some times.)

And then there’s the part where the tiny voice in my head pipes up and reminds me that this friend has a minor in creative writing and yes, her opinion on my sentence structure would matter. Greatly. It’s something I need to hear, I know I do, but I’m afraid of it.

Maybe if I remove the comma key...

See, I’m in a stable long-term relationship with the comma. Comma and me, we’re likethis. I love comma, and comma obliges and peppers my writing without complaint. Occasionally I may cheat and use semicolon instead, and then comma gets mad and I have to replace it with a period.

I was reading through Iron Jewel and making frantic edits in preparation for a 25 word pitch contest (wasn’t selected, which is a bummer) and finally had to confront the obscene number of commas in my writing. Over on Scribophile, when I posted…oh, I think it was the first section of Vanishing for critique? One of the critiquers told me to remove all the commas and then go back through and insert only six or seven. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to rearrange sentences that already state exactly what you want them to say when you can’t use a frickin’ comma?

I’ve come to see that he was partly wrong. I’ve tried to pay more attention to the books I’m reading, studying the sentence structure and the language. They use commas. A lot of them. The difference is the cadence. Sometimes I go back through and re-read something I’ve written and it sounds very stilted. Or…not stilted, exactly. But it’s like I’m telling, only not really. It’s hard to explain. It just feels off. Problem is, I try and rewrite the sentence and it still doesn’t work, so I end up either with a) something worse or b) what I had in the first place.

I think the solution may not be to take a writing class (although I probably ought to find the time to do that) but to take a grammar course. Maybe I wouldn’t butcher the English language so badly if I understood it better.

Or maybe if I just keep writing, it will magically sort itself out.

*image via JobGoRound.com

2 thoughts on “I love you, comma!

  1. I think what you’re trying to do is bridge the distance between your own voice and the rules of grammar. You don’t want to sacrifice either one to satisfy the other. I think you’re doing the most important things – reading and analyzing work you respect and writing. And then writing some more.

  2. That was Chloe Neill’s advice, just to read and write a lot. A LOT. I’ve got the reading part down, and I’m working on the writing part…the BF was all, weren’t you going to take a break from writing after NaNo? Um, I did. Break’s over 🙂

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