The blurry lines of opinion and advice

When I write I’m inconsistent. I use filter words, incorrect grammar, typos, dialog and action tags, wordiness and contractions. These things and more, are all over the map. It causes flow issues for the reader. That’s okay, well not the flow issue, but the mistakes or “lazy” writing are there. If I spent every second I’m writing worrying about every technical aspect of writing I’d never get anything done. I would stress out, get anxious, panic and most likely stop enjoying writing altogether.

I’m not interested in gumming up my creative process with rules etc. etc. etc., blah, blah, blah.  That’s not to say they aren’t there, and that I don’t employ them while writing, I just don’t care.

I say this because I used to stress out before I wrote the book. I can’t write as real authors, I don’t know what to do to make it perfect. I didn’t, it was true. Then I didn’t care, I don’t need to do it their way. I wrote and wrote and when I was done, I revised and edited, learned and edited again.

One teensy little question sent me on a whirlwind research tour. Contractions. To use them or not? Well the answer to that was not simple at first. Everyone everywhere seemed to have an opinion and it was all divided. This, believe it or not, I found to be a hot topic with serious emotional/opinionated response in writers. No serious writer would ever use them, no modern self-respecting writer would not. And back and forth and back and forth, until I still had no idea.

There comes a time when the line between an opinion and advice becomes blurred. It’s called peer pressure, when someone passes off their opinion as a rule.

So, I asked an expert, an author and ex literary agent. He would know and he did.
“It doesn’t matter as long as you are consistent and it reads well.”
I wasn’t sure. “But what if the literary agent is anti-contractions?”
“Then they will still read the value of your work and if they want to represent you, they will suggest you take them out. You still don’t have to. It’s your book.”

Talk about a load off my back. It’s not as set in stone as I thought. As long as I’m flexible and not super attached it’s all good. Here is what I learned from my epic journey in the wonderful research world of, to contract or not to contract.

  1. Be consistent in your usage.
  2. Consistent doesn’t mean always or every time. It means consistent to your voice and how you write or want a character to speak.
  3. As long as the voice of your writing is good (Almost)nobody will notice
  4. Write how you want not how others tell you to
  5. If you don’t use contractions ever, because you are a die-hard anti, or took a die-hard’s advice, be consistent
  6. If you use them only in dialogue and never out, never use a contraction out of dialogue
  7. If you write how you talk and how most of the world is comfortable and contract within and out of dialog, be consistent to your voice. Whether you use: Do not do that or don’t do that. It will depend on how you want the sentence to sound, be read and or how the character talks.
  8. Don’t sacrifice your style or voice for word count.

There I think that’s it. BTW a lot of books I read use contractions when it works for their style.

My advice about contractions.
When someone gives you a version of their golden rule, don’t jump on board immediately. Take the time to find out the other side of that set in stone opinion.  Follow your instinct. It’s your writing not theirs.

-Sheryl

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