The punctuation goes inside the quotation marks.
The people asking for advice do not require rudimentary grammar lessons, nor am I, duty-bound as a “real writer” and all, sworn to deliver those lessons on a gleaming platter of sanctimony and pretentiousness.
It’s because that comment is, without a doubt, the one I get back most frequently from my editors… my poor abused editors (I love you all, please don’t leave me).
It’s not the advice other aspiring writers want, and I know it. They want to know about agents and contracts and advances and if I’ve started to practice my autograph yet. The answers to those questions are easy; you’re not ready yet.
Also–no one wants it.
Usually, I can chuckle and shrug it off with a “Not yet, hopefully soon!” but they push for a more definitive answer every once in a while. So I lay out the whole plan;
- finish the first draft
- do at least three rewrites
- go over it with a fine-tooth comb a couple more times for continuity
- polish it up
- do a round with beta readers
- compile feedback
- polish a bit more
- send it to an editor
- cry over the red-lines when it’s returned
- polish it again
- perhaps another round of beta
- at least one more professional edit
- another polish
- beg someone who isn’t ignoring my calls by this point to please read my book-just one more time
Only then does it get sent to an agent with a query letter that was obsessed over after following every single one of the specific rules for submissions. And then it sits, awaiting its fate; either the glowing acceptance of an agent… or a quiet death… alone and cold at the bottom of the big, dark slush pile.
It’s not the tale of quick fortune and easy fame that people were hoping for. I can tell from their glassy eyes and dead stares.
The rest of my advice is the same boring blah they’ve heard a dozen times before; write. A lot. And read even more.
I read writing craft books like they’re the only ones published. My work-in-progress looks more like a workbook than a manuscript, full of new skills being clumsily practiced on my unsuspecting characters. But it’s how I work; I read-then I do. It’s a habit I got into when learning to crochet; I’d learn a new stitch by starting a new dishcloth. By the time I was done, I had the stitch down pat, and I had a new dishcloth–same thing here; monkey read, monkey do.
Which leads me to this blog. I really do get asked for advice more often than I’m comfortable with, and it’s not because I’m a keeper of the secrets-there aren’t any secrets. I’m uncomfortable because I don’t feel like I know enough to be telling other people how to do this. But that’s not exactly true; granted, I do not have an advanced degree in writing, literature, or English. However, I did develop a passion for writing that has led me to study the art of the craft. I can share the things I’ve gleaned and the tricks I use. I can publicly revel in my embarrassing giddiness when I learn something new. I have no problem admitting that I don’t know something, and even less humility when finding the answer.
So feel free to follow along; maybe we can learn a few things from each other. This journey we’re on together will help me sort out the WIP that is my writing career. And one day, when someone asks you for advice, you can think back to this blog, and all the goofy stuff I’m apt to post, and you can tell them,
“The punctuation goes inside the quotation marks.”