Monday, November 14, 2005

Style-wise, These are Trying Times

This past weekend, I’d resolved myself to set aside all book-related matters and relax – having just finished the first draft, it seemed a bit of a break was in order, and I thought a little distance would help with the editing process. My wife had tracked down a used copy of Blaylock’s The Last Coin (which, unless I’m much mistaken, is out of print and not terribly easy to come by), and it’s been forever since I was able to sleep in. Instead, the Blaylock sat unopened on my coffee table, and I was up before nine, plowing through style manuals, desperate to glean whatever I could from them before diving headlong into my manuscript. I read Bill Walsh’s Lapsing into a Comma cover to cover, perused The Gregg Reference Manual, and then dove in to that holiest-of-holies, Elements of Style by Strunk and White.

The problem with my style-sheet binge (inherent nerdiness-issues aside) is that I’ve already got my share of pet peeves regarding language and grammar; now, I’ve got the added burden of (transiently, at least) carrying around those of others as well. In this age of god-awful grammar and lazy internet-speak, I really don’t need to add to my list of irksome language transgressions.

One that’s really been driving me nuts is an ad for E-Loan, in which a guy is standing beside the road holding a sign that reads, “Honk. If you don’t like getting ripped off.” Periods. For no reason. Whatsoever. Tell me that’s not worlds of annoying.

Incidentally, the title of this post is cribbed from White’s essay on style, in which he dissects Thomas Paine’s classic line, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” A beautiful, stylish sentence if ever there was one. There are plenty of grammatically correct ways to achieve the same meaning, but what kind of crappy revolution begins with “Soulwise, these are trying times?”

Oh, and a couple of points of contention with the fair Professor Strunk – according to his rules, “Dickens’s Tale of Two Cities” is correct. For my money, that’s one ‘s’ too many, and one ‘A’ too few. Dickens never wrote a book called Tale of Two Cities, and if the ghost of Strunk himself came knocking at my door, he’d have a hell of a time convincing me otherwise.

Man, I’ve gotta get back to my book.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

The Angels' Share

Thirteen months ago, on a sunny Sunday morning, I sat down at my computer and started writing a novel entitled The Angels' Share. Today, at 12:04 to be precise, I finished.

To be honest, it took longer than I expected; but then, at 110, 850 words, it is longer than I expected as well. Which is good, I think. Elmore Leonard may have the skill to leave out the boring bits, but the rest of us have to (hopefully) remove them before the story sees the light of day.

Of course, it needs a good polish as well as a trim, but I recently discovered (much to my surprise) that I really enjoy the editing process. And besides, whatever else happens, I can never again say that I hope to one day write a novel. Yesterday, The Angels' Share was just an idea, bobbing incomplete around my head. Today it exists, in some form, at least. Now the trick is to make it the best version of itself I can manage.

So, in two weeks time, I will sit down, red pen and notebook in hand, and begin the editing process. In the end, I hope to have an 80,000-90,000 word novel that is taut, polished, and ready to let out into the world.

Tonight, however, I am going to have myself a drink.