Adams and Coupland, American, autocorrect, C S Lewis, Charts, Cupertino, English, fiction, Ian M Pindar, King's Singers, language, Laurence Stern, mistakes, Robert Knight Series, spellchecker, thewritingIMP Jon Ronson, Top 10, writing
Ok, you know, I know, to try and put them in any sort order is completely subjective. But that’s what I’m going to do−my order based on my experiences and those around me. I have a countdown image of being a teenager and waiting with anticipation to see what immortal number 1 transpired in the charts, matched with equal measure of dread if we were out in the family car, as my dad could take no more; Punk, New Romanticism, Heavy Metal, etc, etc and the stereo was tuned with a deft flick to BBC Radio 2, with the muttered critical grumbling: “That’s not bloody music,” and a synchronised humph of the shoulders. Then to rub salt into the open lash marks of anguish ‘The King’s Singers’ would fill the air−God I hate ‘The King’s Singers’−I’ve earned the right, believe me−this is how parents ended up dead in lay-bys, with innocent children looking on!
So this is what I think of, even now when I see a countdown, with the exception of space liftoffs. You might not agree with me, but you have to concur it makes it a damn sight more interesting to have a countdown and not be wishy-washy−you might even want to over-dub a cheesy radio presenter’s voice over each number? Even have a guess at my top10? Your top10?
The main reason you will not agree if you are being analytical−there is no right way to write a great novel… but there are thousands of wrong ways. If there was, someone would write an algorithm program and we would be anesthetised with similar genre stories continually−more zombies, more vampires. We have publishing houses not prepared to take risks to do that! Money talks when it is not bleeding.
If you are writing a book that you want to read, it’s a safe bet someone else will want to read it is as well. If you are kept awake at night with ideas flying around your brain that excite you, good chance it will excite lots of others. I could tell you a way to write a genericish novel, following tried and trusted guidelines, that’s fine if that’s what you want to do: strong gripping start, compelling empathetic characters, no ‘ly’ adjectives, continual hooks and hangers, etc, etc. But tell that to the Douglases− Adams and Coupland, C S Lewis, Laurence Stern, etc. If the story, empathy, intrigue, entertainment, love, is compelling enough you will drag the reader along on a lead−that actually gives me an idea for a novel… but you’re better than that, great art exists for itself, that’s how art transforms rather than regurgitates. Better to fail in originality, than succeed in imitation, as the White-Whale-Writer once said.
You have to learn the rules before you decide to break them; some rules and conventions are best stuck to. Unfortunately when you start off, even if you know the rules and you break them, the reader thinks your amateurish, but hold your nerve, cream always rises to the top, and even if it doesn’t, you know the truth, you have still achieved.
So with a top 50, the mistakes at the ‘big end’ are going to be smaller and more trivial then the top 10, but just as important to know. Welcome to the charts fict-fans…
50. Autocorrect. The first thing we think of when we think of autocorrect is probably predictive phone text, the funniest examples are when everyday words are turned to rude ones. When even ‘the best excitement ever’ can turn to ‘the best excrement ever’. You may appear to be drying your goats, but it is probably your hair!
The autocorrect most writers are usually talking about is ‘The Cupertino effect’ in older versions of Microsoft word−so called as the English word cooperative (with no hyphen) got changed to ‘Cupertino.’
“The Cupertino with our Italian comrades proved very fruitful,” a German Nato Officer once wrote.
Another interesting fact here is ‘Cupertino with a capital ‘C’ appears to be spelt correct but not with a small one, it has that horrible red line underneath−should Cupertino be a proper noun (it just autocorrected when I tried to write it with a small ‘C’ − Word believes it should!
When I first started out the one that appeared with most annoying regularity was ‘from’ to ‘form.’ This is also a product of typing too fast as well. I rarely spotted these, but now, nearly always.
You have to be particularly careful with people’s names and foreign words. Even now I anally re-check names I am ‘certain’ are right if the red wave of uncertainty crenulates below.
You can turn the spellchecker off− go on, I dare you.
49. English-English vs American-English. Some say we are two peoples separated by one letter (but united by ‘our’ foreign policies!). In the star-spangled corner we have the ‘z’ (or zee) in the red-white-and-blue corner we have the ‘s’.
If you are an American you are probably thinking, ‘stupid God damn Limey.’ I have no objection to Americans using American-English, that is you right and heritage−it’s actually more logical. I do object, not enough to march or ‘staff’ the barricades though, when British writers use American words. I recently read Jon Ronson’s −Psychopath Test written in American-English, Ronson is as modern-British-neurotic as they come, (he’s actually Welsh). I suspect the publishing house made this decision for him based on market economics. If you’re going to labor, opps, labour at your British keyboard, stiff upper lip, bully-on, what, what.
With all these things the dominant culture normally wins through, let’s face it the reason why English is the Lingua Franca of the world is because of ‘The Empire’ and the dominance of The Good Ol’ U S of A.
How about turning the ‘set language’ spellchecker to English (United Kingdom) if you are British!
That’s all form me for this week as I have gone over the 1,000 word blog rule.
Next week the countdown continues.
Ian M Pindar’s latest books, under his real name are: ‘Hoofing It’ and ‘Hoofed,’ the first and second novels in The Robert Knight Series and on special offer. He has another three novels out this year.