Everything in moderation, including moderation.” ~ Julia Childs
My transition from technical writing to fiction presented obstacles. During my technical writing tenure, I mastered the use of a semicolon.
Learning its existence in school and typing it on the keyboard lack the satisfaction of knowing and mastering the using.
In previous posts, I mentioned a book proposal I’m massaging to completion. It’s nonfiction. Not my first love. My first love remains fiction. Writing it. Reading it. Loosing myself in it.
After several failed attempts to get my fiction traditionally published. I pursued the book doctor path.
While my voice remained in tact, passive voice was nixed. The rear view mirror reflected the last of the back story info dumps. And for God’s sake, semicolons have no place in fiction.
My stomach splashed landed near my knees. Not my beloved semicolon.
I felt like I threw away a memorable pair of black stilettos only to be replaced with beige flats. Safer but not nearly as fun.
My fiction ventured beyond third base. Holding hands with it now would never feel the same.
So much for my virginity.
My siblings know I’m pursing publication. They send me regular doses of encouragement.
Before Christmas, one of my sibling’s co-workers self-published a Christmas novella. I’m a Christmas junkie. The Christmas junkie received a personally autographed copy.
I added it to the stack on my nightstand.
Last Saturday black clouds sauntered in from the south. They disgorged two-inches of rain. What better time to read a quick novella?
When I read a book, I read every page of the book—including the title page, the ISBN number, the acknowledgments, even the type font used in the book.
I read the blurbs on the back jacket first. No blurb about the story, not even a log line.
Praise for the work filled the back jacket. The first contributor, a retired English teacher. The next credited blurb said, “Friend”. The third, the editor of the vanity press. The final blurb came from a former syndicated columnist, who is also a family member. Uh Oh.
If I’m going to improve my own work, I need to read the craft’s beginners as well as the craft’s masters.
This Christmas tale set the story in the 1850’s. The first three paragraphs of the book—the most grammatically correct sentences I’ve ever read.
The first paragraph spanned the length of the first page. It contained six of my beloved semicolons. The opening line of the story, ahead of the first semicolon, a play on Bulwer-Lytton’s, “It was a dark and stormy night,” only “It was daytime and beautiful”.
My inner editor went berserk.
I slogged to page five. Admired the grammar. Lost interest in the story. I wanted to know what made the story derail. I pulled out my red pen with the passion of Captain Ahab for the white whale.
My better half thought I derailed the crazy train.
Learning feels beautiful. Understanding feels powerful.
Sometimes I don’t take the time to thank those who have taught me the most.
If I ever meet the author, I will thank him for his lessons in craft. And I promise to be genuine and courteous and kind. And thank my sister for the unintended benefit of her gift. And thank the book doctor for widening my eyes.
Because I have a semicolon, and I’m not afraid to use it—in moderation. But not in fiction.
Until next week.