Proper English

I adore the creativity and diversity in language.

English particularly causes such passionate debates. Many folks have definitive rules in their minds—especially those of us working in literature—regardless of which wrung we stand.

I am a massive fan of dialects in life and literature. It’s something that took me a long time to appreciate. As a child, I was taught that regional dialects were a bastardisation of English—they were regarded as dirty. And my young brain felt this to the core—I was stupid or dirty to speak it. This conditioning ran deep, to the point my ears winced towards hearing my own tongue spoken. Growing up in east Glasgow, I was in perpetual horror about how we spoke—our nature, our dialect and culture. I hate that I bought into this attitude hammered in by teachers from such a tender age—devastatingly poor teaching. It prompts self-hate that poisons roots. It’s archaic; the flogging for the so-called incorrect use of English has created ruin in countries like my own. It’s wiped out beautiful languages, demolishing roots of nations and cultures that should have been embraced. The Celtic nations around England have felt this deeply.

In writing, clever use of dialect, particularly in dialogue, adds character authenticity—showcasing communicative repertoire as displayed in real-life. And I am not against it in the narration either, if it fits the work, showcase that diversity with confidence.

Not all readers will ‘get it’, unless it’s a dialect they have experienced. Here, there is a preference for proper English, i.e. Standard British, American or Canadian English. Where the use of non-standard variants, dialects and colloquialisms are branded as errors and bad English. This labelling displays a lack of understanding, ignorance and/or prejudices, or simply the increased reading challenge can create a defensive attitude in a reader. People often feel stupid when they don’t understand something they think they should, so instead of putting the work in, the go-to is to attack the writer for their use of improper language. I’ve struggled too but taking in a piece that incorporates real-life diversity colours literature in a way that standardising the use of English can never do. Writing, storytelling, communication is an art-form — it’s not a flat pack piece of furniture that must be constructed one way. This is especially true of fiction writing. Embracing linguistic diversity is how we can travel the world together without leaving the reading nook. This is how we learn. And no one is above that. Language and how we communicate are ever-changing, and why shouldn’t they?

Gatekeepers of English, who respect and guard the practice of Standard English only, don’t understand or appreciate the beautiful complexity of diversity in language.

What Kind of Editing do I Need?

Word Refinery

When considering editing services, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when varying terms, price points, and marketing techniques are at play.

Fiction editing can be funnelled down to two distinct types and the pre-publication quality check of proofreading.

Developmental Editing (Structural Editing or Substantive Editing).

This level of editing historically took place before the writing of the manuscript. Now, it is often the first stage of professional editing once the manuscript is complete. Here your editor will deep dive into the story details and consider various aspects, including structure, pacing, information checking, analysing plot details and execution, the relevance of sub-plots to the entire story, characterisation, setting and delivery.

In most cases, this involves some back and forth between the writer and editor. The editor will offer ‘suggestions’ for the writer to consider to improve the execution — some rewriting may be involved here. Depending on the agreement and relationship, the editor may complete this or support the writer in these changes.

This type of editing requires trust and clear communication between the parties. It is much more involved, therefore denotes more hours of detailed work and a higher fee.

Copy Editing (Line Editing).

This aspect of editing is essential and consists of two key stages. The first is the baseline edit. This aspect focuses on correcting grammar, punctuation usage, spelling corrections, etc. The second stage is the line edit. As the title suggests, this requires the editor to comb and refine the piece line by line, examining specific word choices, sentence structure, clarity, and style. Editors will perform multiple passes on a piece before delivering it back to their client.

Proofreading (Proofing).

Following these two types of editing is the pre-publication quality check. Proofreading is often misinterpreted as editing. It is not. The role involves marking corrections that have slipped through the editing process. Proofreading focuses on spelling, punctuation, spacing, consistency of page style, page numeration, etc. Proofreading is not a substitute for editing.

When hiring an editor, it is essential to understand the differences to make an informed decision and expectations are managed. The process of editing a manuscript is highly involved, time-consuming and vital in supporting writers present a piece that appeals to their target audience. The result should be a fully realised story that connects and engages with its target readers. A product that the writer can be proud of having under their name.

Things I ‘Should’ Be Doing

The End of 2021 is Beckoning

Instead of ploughing into the to-do list, which has a terrible habit of expanding, I am writing this. It helps to organise the brain, maybe. I opened up my submission spreadsheet and there’s hardly any writing submissions outstanding! It’s almost dry! This gave me a bit of a ‘must write, must submit’ moment. No, I shouldn’t. I’ve enough to keep going and hope to tie it all up to start 2022 with key priorities from which I will resist deviation. I will resist. I must resist! My wandering eye needs reigned in!
Wrapping up 2021, so far, I’ve had stories published with Black Ink Fiction, Books of Horror, Crimson Pinnacle Press, Horror Sleaze Trash, Insignia Stories, Iron Faerie Publishing, KJK Publishing, The Evil Cookie Publishing, The Macabre Ladies, Sirens Call Publications and have published my collection, Murmur: Collected Horror. And I have a few pieces of work pinned — don’t we always?!
Writing aside, I’ve been studying, proofread several titles, completed developmental editing work, created promotional materials including written copy and graphics, written forewords, completed interviews, edited KJK Publishing’s 2021 releases (The Horror Collection: Extreme Edition, The Horror Collection: Ruby Edition, The Horror Collection: Yellow Edition and Halloween Land) — with another two scheduled for release by the end of the year, and it’s not over yet!
So, I’m back to trying to pull focus into what I MUST tie up, on top of editing before 2022, which includes finishing up a couple of writing projects. With less than three months left it’ll be over before we know it.
I am going in firmer in 2022 with what I take on. My novel (that I had hoped to finish this year) didn’t get much attention due to other projects swaying my eye and life doing its curveball of mayhem routine, so that will be at the forefront of my list. I am starting a degree course in January, which will require much attention. I will be collaborating on two projects, one with another (damn talented) woman in horror, Ruthann Jagge (who, if you haven’t, you MUST check out) — I cannot wait to see what we create together. And another exciting collaboration with the one and only Kevin J. Kennedy, another indie story weaver who should be on your reading list. There’s more pencilled in, but the priorities are in bloody ink!

2022 Collaboration Tease.
2022 Collaboration Tease.
Landing in 2021.