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Why Take the Chance?

by Fay Lamb

Stick around the business long enough and you’re going to find an exception to every rule. You know, the best-selling author who says, “I don’t worry about grammar and punctuation. I just tell the story and let a copyeditor deal with the rest.” Sure, it happens. Someone writes a novel that is so intriguing an editor overlooks the details, but how often does that actually occur?

As a writer, it is important to present the best product possible. Your manuscript must show up on the editor’s desk dressed for success. Without proper knowledge of grammar, spelling, and punctuation, though, a manuscript often shows up looking as if it’s attending a luau.

A well-written story in which the author shows a command of punctuation, grammar, and spelling has advantages over those with only a strong storyline to back it up. First, a well-edited manuscript speaks loudly to the editor. What does it say?

First of all, it tells an editor that the author has taken time to study the details of storytelling. They haven’t taken the hurried route, slapped a novel together, and sent it out half-dressed, hoping that the story alone will sell the manuscript.

Secondly, it shouts to the editor that a writer cares about her manuscript. She’s taken the time to adorn it with the right accessories.

An author who has shown a command of the nitty-gritty details-those elements that aren’t as fun as the telling of the story, can also expect to get away with breaking the rules of grammar and punctuation. The emphasis of a perfectly placed comma, when it goes against the rules, will standout to the editor, let him know that the author not only has a knowledge of the rules but she also knows how to break those rules with pizzazz.

Many new authors ask the question, “If so-and-so best-selling novelist can break the rules, why can’t I?”

There are a couple of reasons so-and-so best-selling novelist can get away with the skirting of rules: one, they may have been in the business longer than you’ve been alive. The rules that we follow now may have changed with time. Best-selling novelist has a track records, and a publisher isn’t about to make her change her winning ways. Two, what the young author may see as a breaking of the rules may just be style and voice. Among other elements, style and voice are created when an author knows the rules and how to break them for optimal affect. How can a writer who hasn’t studied the rules know when it is best to break them?

When an individual shows up for a job interview wearing shorts and sandals amidst a plethora of other candidates dressed in suits and ties, that person isn’t likely to win a coveted position.

The same holds true for a proposal. Why take the chance of sending it dressed in a sundress and floppy hat? A manuscript should be adorned with the proper accessories and dressed to impress.

Fay Lamb 2013Fay Lamb is an acquisition editor for Pelican Book Group and an author whose emotionally charged stories remind the reader that God is always in the details. Fay has recently contracted with Write Integrity Press for two four-book series. Stalking Willow, the first in the Amazing Grace romantic suspense series will release in May 2013 and Charisse, the first novel in her The Ties That Bind contemporary romance series releases in July 2013.

Fay is a past-secretary for American Christian Fiction Writers. She served for four years as the moderator for ACFW’s critique group, Scribes. For her volunteer efforts for ACFW, she received the Service Members Award in 2010. She was also a semi-finalist that year in the ACFW Genesis Contest.

Fay and her husband, Marc, reside in Titusville, Florida, where multi-generations of their families have lived. The legacy continues with their two married sons and five grandchildren.

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3 Responses to Why Take the Chance?

  1. Fay, Excellent advice. Thanks for sharing it (and for your service as a member of the Operating Board).

  2. Karla Akins says:

    Hi, Fay! :::waving from behind her galley::: Great post!

  3. Linda Strawn says:

    Wonderful post, Fay. I’ll be sure to mind my grammar and where I place those commas *wink* Thanks for all your help in those areas!